Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Little Horse Trail/Chapel Trail – Sedona, Arizona

in Arizona

I will admit that I only picked Little Horse Trail because it ended on something called Chicken Point. How cool of a name is that for an area? Lucky for me – you pretty much can’t go wrong when hiking in and around Sedona and these trails did not disappoint. You can see Chicken Point in the image below. If you look closely you’ll see the little dots that are people.

Little Horse TrailWe originally set out to do only Little Horse Trail (1.5 miles out and back), but ended up tacking on Chapel Trail because it wasn’t too long (only 1 mile out and back) and it branches directly off of Little Horse. We went on this hike in October thinking it would have cooled down enough to be comfortable, but it was still in the 80’s so quite toasty. These trails are both kid and leashed dog friendly (just make sure you pack out what Fido leaves on the trail.)

To access these trails we parked in the Little Horse Trailhead parking lot just off of Highway 179. The parking lot is paved with vault toilet restrooms, but no potable water. Since it’s off of Highway 179 (i.e. the main entrance point into Sedona) it can get very busy. Although since this particular trailhead parking lot is one of the last ones as you wind your way towards Sedona – it’s less crowded than others.

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

You will need a Red Rock pass or America the Beautiful pass to park here. Luckily, there is a Red Rock pass dispenser right in the parking lot.

Little Horse Trail

To get started – you head onto the Bell Rock Pathway trail right from the parking lot.

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

Bell Rock Pathway Trail runs fairly close to the highway, but then begins to veer off towards the ‘Y’ where you’ll head towards Little Horse. Notice you can see Bell Rock sitting so pretty in the distance (it’s the rock formation on the right in the shot below).

Little Horse Trail

Keep watching for signs to ensure you’re heading the right direction. This particular area of Sedona is flush with trails (most of them interconnected) so it’s fairly easy to wander down the wrong trail if you’re not paying attention. This is the point at which you head onto Little Horse Trail itself.

Little Horse Trail

This first part of the trail is very exposed and flat – which makes it great for winter, but very HOT at other times. It is very important to bring enough water for yourself and others in your party.

Little Horse Trail

The trail begins to turn at this rocky wash area.

Little Horse Trail

You turn sharply and climb right on out of the wash area.

Little Horse Trail

And then the trail smooths out again, but with a very slight elevation gain.

Little Horse Trail

As you keep hiking, the views from all sides of the trail are gorgeous. I can never get enough red rocks.

Little Horse Trail

And here’s a shot looking back down the trail. See Cathedral Rock in the distance?

Little Horse Trail

Just a little bit farther down the trail and you can see the Twin Nuns (they are the two rock formations of the same height on the left in the shot below.)

Little Horse Trail

Here’s the turn off point for Llama Trail, but we kept going on Little Horse.

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

We had to stop for a few minutes to wet the dogs down and hang in the shade. Poor Maia was cooking!

Little Horse Trail

See how much closer we are to the Twin Nuns? Chicken Point is the flat spot dead center in this picture.

Little Horse Trail

And here’s the turn off point for Chapel Trail (we’ll come back to that after we visit Chicken Point.)

Little Horse Trail

The trail continues with a very gradual climb.

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

Here’s a shot looking back down the trail.

Little Horse Trail

At this point, you get your first really close up view of Chicken Point. The rounded spaceship looking rock on the right is Chicken Point.

Little Horse Trail

The trail continues to wrap around it so the climb is never too intense.

Little Horse Trail

It’s really hard to tell how huge Chicken Point is. I love this shot because the tiny little speck at the end of the arrow is a person standing up there. I think it helps you to get a feel for just how large this rock formation really is.

Little Horse Trail

Here’s the very last turn before you actually get out onto Chicken Point. You can see the Twin Nuns rising up above it.

Little Horse Trail

The views when you’re standing out on the rock are AMAZING. Honestly, the only downside to this trail is that it happens to be accessible to the Pink Jeep Tours that are so popular in Sedona via Broken Arrow Road. We didn’t realize this until we were up there on the point gazing around and a few jeeps pulled up and unloaded a whole lotta people. Augh.

Luckily, the tours only stick around for 15-20 minutes, but it’s a whole bunch of people all at once and it definitely detracted from the beauty of the trail for us.

Little Horse Trail

Nevertheless, the scenery and views when you’re standing out on the rock are wonderful. Plus, it’s a great spot to cool off, grab a snack, and find some calm. Several people were further out on the rock meditating while we were there. I’m not sure how they managed to tune out the jeep tours, but the more power to them for it.

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

Little Horse Trail

Even though we were all pretty hot, cooling off at Chicken Point rejuvenated us so we decided to venture down to Chapel Trail and check it out. We simply followed back along Little Horse Trail until we got to the turn off point.

Chapel Trail

A little greater earless lizard posed for me on a rock so I had to take his picture.

Little Horse Trail

Greater Earless Lizard

We found Chapel Trail to be very exposed (i.e. hot) with little shade.

Chapel Trail

Chapel Trail

Great views though!

Chapel Trail

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by the trail name – Chapel Trail leads you to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel built right into the buttes. For more information, the Wikipedia article on the Chapel of the Holy Cross is great.

When you reach the trail’s end – there is a little gate that lets you out onto a windy paved lane. The paved area leads you up to the Chapel itself. There are several levels of parking, but the one at the top is reserved for handicapped spaces. If you visit the Chapel via road instead of trail, you can park in a lower parking lot and take a little shuttle cart to the top.

The image below is where the little gate to the paved area is located.

Chapel Trail

This is the side of the Chapel or what you see when you get to the top of the winding paved road.

Chapel Trail

Chapel Trail

Here is the uppermost parking lot.

Chapel Trail

As you go up the curvy sidewalk to the Chapel there is a gorgeous little mini garden off to one side.

Chapel Trail

And here’s the Chapel itself. I peeked inside and was surprised by just how small it is. The inside of this level is the main chapel and there is also a lower level with a gift shop and other rooms. You can go inside and light a candle for a small donation. As you can see from the picture below – it’s a popular place to visit.

Chapel Trail

Once we’d had our fill of the sites at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, we got back on the trail and followed it back to Little Horse Trail. We took Little Horse to the Bell Rock Pathway and back to the parking lot. All told it took us around 3 ½ hours including time spent at Chicken Point and the Chapel.

The Chapel was worth a visit, but I’m not sure we’ll ever go back. However, Chicken Point is a must return destination. For more information – visit the USDA site for Coconino National Forest – Little Horse Trail.

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.

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