Hiking Hotspot: Bell Rock Pathway in Sedona
Bell Rock is one of Sedona’s most popular hiking trails. Aside from the picturesque views of Sedona’s towering red rock formations, Bell Rock is also one of the 4 major vortex sites, making it one of the go-to trails for new tourists to the area. The trail is scenic with nice views of both Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Although the trail is pretty easy (mostly flat), it is very long (about 7 miles total), and therefore, quite exhausting especially on hot, sunny days.
The hike is a great choice for fitness buffs who want to get in a long hike, run, or bike ride as the terrain is very flat. In fact, it is known as one of the best beginner mountain biking trails in Sedona. Even though the terrain is easier than other choices in town, you will definitely be more exhausted due to the extended time out in the sunny, dry desert. Definitely bring with plenty of water and a few salty snacks and plan about 3 hours to complete the entire journey if walking.
A Sedona Vortex hike
One of the most interesting aspects of this hike is that it is known to be the strongest of 4 vortex hikes in the area (Airport Mesa, Boynton Canyon, and Cathedral Rock are the 3 others). A Sedona vortex is an area of increased energy. Supposedly, the presence of a twisted juniper tree (as seen in the photos below) means a site of enhanced vortex energy. The whole hike is considered a vortex site, although the energy is considered especially intense around these unique twisted trees. Many people have claimed to feel a certain spiritual energy when standing in the vortex area.
Sedona is now regarded as an area of spiritual healing, and thus, is popular with the New Age community and others interested in alternate healing methods.
Vortexes are said to strengthen either the masculine or feminine side, or provide a balance of both. Feminine vortex sites are said to enhance the feeling of calmness, while masculine vortexes can make you feel energized. Many people come from around the world to check out these vortex hikes. Some report a feeling of peace or even a special healing power when they hike in these areas. Because Bell Rock is a combination of both masculine and feminine energies, it is thought to provide a yin/yang balance.
On an interesting side note, Bell Rock is known to be a hotspot for paranormal activity and UFO sightings. To date, dozens of UFOs have been sighted. A few companies even offer special UFO tours! Even more, Sedona itself is one of the top places in the country for UFO sightings! This is not all that weird, considering that Sedona in general feels like a weird place where basically anything can happen!
Whether or not vortex sites are real or were created to draw extra tourists to the Sedona area, there really is something special about these amazing red rock formations. As you take your stroll, you will definitely feel a strong connection with nature, which comes from being surrounded by such majestic towering rock formations with the absence of any commercialization. Perhaps, that is the real benefit of hiking in Sedona :-).
The detour to the Bell Rock Climb, a strenuous trek to the top of Bell Rock
You will see a Bell Rock climb sign after a mile or so of easy walking along the Bell Rock Pathway. This is a detour trail which is much more difficult. This trail is about 0.7 miles long, although it is very steep and quite dangerous (more hikers fall on this trail than any other in Sedona). You can hike up as much as you are comfortable.
The first portion of this trail is quite easy, although it gets much steeper and harder the higher up you go (using your hands and feet to climb rocks, having others push you up, scary drops, loose rocks, etc.) Although you will see many people climbing up without a second thought, the choice is up to whether or not you want to take the risk. You can get a great panoramic overview (like the one below) by just climbing up a little bit.
If you are scared of heights/just want to take it easy for the day, I recommend continuing on the Bell Rock Pathway, snapping a few photos, and skipping the dangerous climb of the Bell Rock trail.
At the start of the hike it will be pretty congested, especially if you visit on a weekend. However, once you pass the Bell Rock climb area (where many hikers will either stop and turn around, continue on to the Courthouse Butte trail, or spend their time climbing up the rocks), it becomes a peaceful, very desolate journey into nature. The nice thing about the Bell Rock Pathway is that the views are completely different in either direction, so you get a new view on the way back.
A few more great views along the path…
Overall, Bell Rock is a nice choice for first time Sedona visitors who want to explore a vortex site. The hike is far from the most scenic in the area (in my opinion, Boynton Canyon, Devil’s Bridge, and Little Horse are far prettier and more interesting), however, it’s a great choice for the Sedona visitor looking for a relatively easy, long workout without any climbing required.
There are many trails that connect to Bell Rock such as Courthouse Butte, so if you want to continue hiking even longer, or explore other trails, that’s always a possibility. Also, Bell Rock is a popular mountain biking trail for beginners due to the lack of any major hills. Long distance running is also popular.
*There is not much shade on this trail. Bring plenty of water. Hydrate yourself frequently. Eat salty snacks to balance electrolytes.
*Plan your hike outside of the summer season, as even a spring hike is bearing on intolerable. Fall and winter are great times to enjoy this hike due to the lack of crowds and cooler temperatures.
*Wear a hat and apply plenty of sunscreen.
*Give yourself at least 3 miles to complete the whole trail.
*Watch the signage carefully and follow the cairns. There are many other trails that connect to Bell Rock Pathway and you want to follow your intended trail. Also be aware that the Bell Rock Trail (climb) is a different hike, so adding this into your journey will be another mile and a half or so if you decide to go all the way up.
*If you want a more scenic hike (and more difficult), connect to the Courthouse Butte trail instead of continuing on the Bell Rock Pathway. Just follow the trails signs. Courthouse is about 5 miles roundtrip.
*Arrive early especially on weekends. If you arrive after 10am, you may be waiting on a parking spot for a while.
You must purchase a Red Rock pass or display your Annual National Parks “America the Beautiful” pass. A daily Red Rock pass is $5, or you can purchase an annual pass for $20. A better option is to purchase an Annual National Park pass, which gains you entry into all Red Rock Country hiking areas as well as all national parks and monuments for the year.