Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail – Sedona, Arizona

in Arizona

When a trail has a name like Thunder Mountain how can you pass it up? For my birthday this year I requested a trip to my happy place (also known as Sedona, Arizona) with a hike and a good beer afterwards. And Sedona never disappoints! We hiked a portion of Thunder Mountain Trail and veered off onto Lower Chimney Rock Trail to make a loop (part of the North Urban Trail system.) Plus, there was a very cool surprise near the beginning of Thunder Mountain Trail.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

To start we parked in the trailhead parking lot that is located on Thunder Mountain Road (34.8720° N, 111.8123° W). Please note that a Red Rock pass is not required at this trailhead.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

The trailhead had no restrooms or potable water, but it did have a nice little board with more information and a doggie station. Dogs are obviously welcome as long as they are leashed and their waste is packed out. And with that awesome doggie station – there is literally no excuse not to do so.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

I’ll admit this was the first time I saw a “No Drone Zone” sign and it sort of cracked me up.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

We opted to do the moderate 3 mile version of this loop that starts out on Thunder Mountain Trail and loops around to Lower Chimney Rock Trail. The loop you take actually looks like a figure eight if you see it from above. Including stopping for lunch and other sight-seeing we took about 3 hours to complete this loop.

To begin you start out pointed towards Thunder Mountain Trail.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

The trail is slightly uphill and set just outside a suburban neighborhood. It was a bit weird to see people’s backyards so close to a trail.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

We noticed this bird circling the rock. I couldn’t quite make out what kind of bird it was due to the distance, but definitely a hawk of some sort.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

And then the hawk landed on the side of the butte and we realized its nest was there.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

It was at this point that we kept seeing brightly colored flags. We were wondering what they were, but couldn’t quite tell from the distance we were at. So we continued on Thunder Mountain Trail.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

And then we started to see the rock cairns. It’s very common to find rock cairns in Sedona because of all the people who come there for the energy vortexes. It was odd to see them so far away from a known vortex site though. We followed the trail just to see what was up with the cairns and flags.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

There were SO MANY rock cairns. More than I’d ever seen in one place before – even at all of the vortex sites.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

And then we cleared the trees and saw this.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

It turns out that buried in this suburban neighborhood and connected to this trail, there is the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. We took some time to check it out.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

My youngest loved these metal spinners.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

After a quick stop and a restroom break (there are vault toilets available at the Peace Park), we got back on Thunder Mountain Trail.

The trail went from a very slight elevation to a rather steep climb in a hurry.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

At this point, the trail turns and is actually rock steps up the side of the hill.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

After the steep uphill climb, we decided it was time for lunch and took a break to have our picnic lunch here on these rocks. The view was amazing as you can see.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Here’s a shot of Chimney Rock.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

After getting back on the trail, this is what you see when you come out of the trees.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail
And here’s the point where you switch over to Chimney Rock Trail. The signage doesn’t indicate the lower part until you come to a ‘Y’ in the trail further on.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Look at this lovely Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) that was sitting right next to the trail. My fourth grader just got done with a hiking field trip where the students were asked to identify specific desert plants and the hedgehog was one of them. So we couldn’t help but notice how great looking this one was.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Here’s another shot of Chimney Rock from below. My thought was that we were pretty far below it so the trail was aptly named (Lower Chimney Rock).

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

At this point, we had a decision to make. We could venture up the Summit Trail for a great view (and a very steep climb) or continue along the very flat and even Lower Chimney Rock Trail. Due to a six year old who was almost worn out – we decided to stick to Lower Chimney Rock Trail. But the next time we hit this trail, we’re going up to the Summit!

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Even though the trail was very flat, there were still great views to be had.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

The trail loops you right back to the trailhead parking lot.

Thunder Mountain Trail/Lower Chimney Rock Trail

For more information – please check out the National Forest Service site for Coconino National Forest – North Urban Trail System – West.

I absolutely loved this part of Sedona! Happy hiking!

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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