Sedona, famous for its gorgeous red rock buttes and pine forest, was our destination for part of a day on a recent Arizona trip. We’d driven down the narrow, winding Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive (one of the top scenic drives in the United States) from Flagstaff and had a half day on our hands to hike. Traffic is bad in Sedona so John and I were both trying to avoid retracing our steps – and so nixed a trip back up in the canyon to hike. 

We did a quick bit of research over lunch and picked what I would call the best hike in Sedona – The Courthouse Butte hike. It offers stunning desert scenery over its’ entire length.  

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

You can go in either direction around the Courthouse Butte – and and combine the hike with other trails

What makes Courthouse Butte the best hike in Sedona

The trailhead is easy to find and is only about a 10 minute drive south of town. You’ll have to pay $5 for parking. Study the map at the trailhead before you take off to orient yourself. (Helpful hint: I always take a photo of any maps at the trailhead just in case the trail later on is poorly signed. We’ve saved a lot of backtracking by doing this.)

The Courthouse Butte hike is an easy five mile loop with only 200 feet of elevation gain. I wouldn’t have guessed there was even that much. We hiked it in a counter-clockwise direction but both ways would be completely fine – and every foot of the trail is pretty. There are quite a number of trails – heading north and south off the Courthouse Butte trail which would be a treat to explore if you had the time. Stop and read the signs to make sure you’re on the right trail before you continue. In hindsight I wish we’d had a whole day to hike as we would have liked to include several of the loop hikes to the north.

We did this hike at the end of October and it was still hot. If your blood runs cold, you’d probably love the hiking in Sedona come winter. As a word of warning for warm weather hikes, carry a lot of water, sunscreen and a sunhat. Now that I know how busy it is on a weekday I’d recommend an early start on the weekend so you can snag a parking space.

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

Part of the trail is shared with mountain bikes

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

There’s something new of interest every time you turn the corner

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

Erosion produces many shapes in Sedona

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

The trail around the Courthouse Butte has very little elevation gain

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

The old trees you see must have some incredible stories to tell

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

You’ll find signage wherever there’s an intersection

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

Some of the views are truly spectacular

The Stunning Courthouse Butte Hike in Sedona

Even in late October it was a hot hike so don’t forget the water and sunhat

Getting to the trailhead for the Courthouse Butte hike

From downtown Sedona follow Highway 179 S for 5.4 miles (assuming the start point is the intersection of Jordan Road and Route 89A) to the Bell Rock parking lot – which will be on your left. Start watching for the turnoff shortly after you pass the turnoff to which will be on your right. If you have time take a few minutes to check out the view from Yavapai Point.

More Arizona Hikes You Might Like

The best hike in Sedona, Arizona

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada. Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Jackie Smith says:

    This is a keeper of a post. Love hiking in AZ and this is our kind of hike!

  • Marcia says:

    Hey Leigh,

    This really is a pretty hike – and it doesn’t sound too taxing. Love the colors of the rocks and how they contrast with the skies and vegetation.
    – Marcia

  • cindy says:

    Oooh! A hike I think I could do – and it looks gorgeous. (Actually, I think we were planning to do this one and got sidetracked.) Glad to see you learned the #1 trick to not going crazy in Sedona traffic – avoiding it! Love the tip on photographing the trail sign in case there isn’t one where you need it later. So obvious, but I’d never thought of that!

    • @Cindy I have been to Sedona several times and although the setting will always be lovely, the traffic has definitely become an issue. Taking a photo of a map really helps on so many levels – especially when you can blow it up so easily on your phone screen.

  • Justin says:

    I just did this hike earlier today and it was beautiful – thanks for writing about it, Leigh. And despite being more than a month after your visit, it’s still hot! Over the last few days I’ve done a number of hikes and runs around Sedona and even though this has been one of the easiest, it’s also one of the most scenic.

  • Marble Mountain Ranch says:

    In hiking you can really explore many things. The beautiful views, scenery and the view of the landscapes. You will really appreciate the beauty of nature when you are hiking on the mountains.

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