Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 5, 2014

A Hike Through Sedona History


by Curt Kommer

These days a drive up Schnebly Hill Road is not for the faint of heart. Even in the most capable high-clearance vehicle it is still a spleen-jarring endurance test. Last Saturday, three car-loads of Sedona Westerner hikers bounced their way up from the Y to the Schnebly Hill Trailhead for a long and challenging "Roughrider" hike onto Munds Mountain. As rough as they are, it's easy to take for granted both the road and the trail that we currently use for this hike, but the Schnebly Hill Road (and Trail) were the products of years of back-breaking labor by three of Sedona's founding families: The Munds, Loys, and Thompsons.

The road began as a cattle trail in the late 1800's, moving stock to and from Flagstaff. By going straight East from Sedona, up to the Rim, they could cut 35 miles off their usual trip. In 1896 the Munds family began improving and expanding on the existing rough track but the project was too much for them, despite their 10 children pitching in and help from the neighboring Loy family. Sedona pioneer J.J. Thompson then stepped in, and with support from Coconino County was able to complete most of the road by 1902. The Schnebly Hill Trail, branching off the current road, initially follows the original route of the road as it wound its way up to the Mogollon Rim. From there it reflects the cattle trails that were used over 100 years ago to find grazing areas on Munds Mountain. The trail ascends almost 2000 feet onto the mountain plateau and then follows the broad ridge to an extraordinary lookout.

The top of Munds Mountain is peppered with history. Old cattle pens and tanks, cowboy camps, and rusty remnants of iron tools dot the landscape. As the trail ascends gradually to the top, following the old road, there is another site that offers a different side of Sedona's past. Off to the side of the trail is the tall remnant of a stone fireplace and chimney. Legend has it that these were constructed and used as a set for the 1930 film "The Last of the Duanes" (starring Myrna Loy and George O'Brien), which was made as a sequel to the famous "Riders of the Purple Sage".

Westerners Brad Bell and Barbara O'Connor led this hike, and stayed remarkably patient as the hikers lingered to "ooh and aah" over each of the spectacular views. The day offered everything the Westerners hope for: a challenging hike with good friends made even more special by knowing we were re-tracing the steps of those hard-working pioneers that founded Sedona. Just in case that wasn't enough, the leaders also handed out candy treats to reward the hikers for staying well-hydrated on a hot day.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.