Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

April 10, 2015

Bell Rock Courthouse Butte


by Michael Henry

A hike around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte only requires about two to three hours of a hiker’s time. On a Sunday afternoon, , twelve members of Sedona Westerners’ Drovers group ventured around this very iconic set of landmarks located immediately north of the Village of Oak Creek. The hike was led by Everett Davidson and the group’s Tailgater was Cy Elliott.

Hiking around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte is popular among Sedona’s visitors and residents alike. The hike is not difficult as the trail is well-marked and well-maintained, with only a combined elevation gain of approximately 400 feet. While on this hike, one will encounter many photo opportunities within the Munds Mountain Wilderness area as well as vast vistas of the Cathedral Rock, the Chapel Area and Thunder Mountain.

The View of Rabbit Ears from the Muffin.

According to local lore, today’s Courthouse Butte used to be known as Cathedral Rock and today’s Cathedral Rock used to be named Courthouse Butte. But a 1920’s mapmaker confused the names of the formations. While the mapmaker’s error continues to be source of local debate, the hike described in this article uses the names printed on the current U. S. Forest Service maps.

On this particular day, the Sedona Westerners started at the Bell Rock Vista parking lot, following the Bell Rock Path trail. After a short distance, a trail sign directed the group to branch off to the right and follow the Big Park Loop trail. The Drovers followed the Big Park Loop trail as it traversed the southern side of Courthouse Butte until the trail came to a wide arroyo. Big Park Loop and Courthouse Butte Trails intersect at this point, and the group followed Courthouse Butte Loop trail to the left. For a short time the dirt trail followed a very picturesque path along the side of the arroyo. (It should be noted, if there is no running water in the arroyo, hikers can follow the arroyo until it intersects with the Courthouse Butte Trial.) The trail began a gentle ascent and circled around Courthouse Butte toward the north. Of particular note, the view of the Rabbit Ears rock formation was quite pronounced at this point of the hike.

The trail reached an open space and The Muffin (aka Spaceship Rock) was the prominent trailside feature. Here, the Drovers chose to pause and enjoy a light snack on top to the rock. Several of the members demonstrated their athletic prowess and yoga skills by posing on a large flat-topped boulder that rested on the top of The Muffin.

After resuming the hike, the Drovers hiked approximately another mile to where the Courthouse Butte Loop and Bell Rock Pathway trails converged. Because the Baby Bell rock formation was located next to this trail convergence the group decided add a little more challenge to the hike by following a path up Baby Bell. The vistas encountered on Baby Bell, when combined with the view from The Muffin serve to almost complete a 360 degree panorama of the area.

The day’s 4.5 mile hike ended with a leisurely walk along the Bell Rock Pathway back to the Bell Rock Vista parking lot.

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, April 9, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.