register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn, AZ

233 36 3
Guide 36 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NW
4 of 5 by 10
Warning! Technical climbing skills required. Risks include serious injury to death.  Risks are not eliminated by skill.
Climb Consensus (36) → View
Difficulty 4th
Climb II Boulder
Rock Sandstone Good
Length 50 ft 4 Pitches
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,646 feet
Elevation Gain 1,702 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 - 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.31
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
5  2018-04-21 BobP
6  2016-11-19 friendofThunderg
7  2016-03-05 nikorock28
6  2015-06-01 BobP
3  2014-07-24 joebartels
8  2014-04-05 sbkelley
4  2014-04-05 neurolizer
5  2013-04-27 The_Eagle
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,615 map ( 9,681 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:16am - 6:23pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Soak up Sedona!
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
Capitol Butte is a seldom climbed mountain just west of Sedona's main strip. It separates the 89A corridor from the hikes of west Sedona. It is pretty much the only highpoint in Sedona that is right in the center of it all, and I think it has the best views in town. Unfortunately, its not an easy hike. Instead, it is a challenging non-technical climb to what will be a well earned summit.

The Route
From the trailhead at the end of Andante Drive, hike the Andante Trail northeast from the parking area. After around 1000 feet of hiking you'll come to an obvious cross trail. Take the cross trail towards the lower slopes of Capitol Butte. The trail starts out easy, but gets harder as you approach the base of Capitol Butte. As you move closer you will notice that the rough trail is taking you to an exposed area where you will make the first climb up on to a ledge. From below the climb up this pitch may look impossible, but as the trail takes you closer it becomes clear that you will be climbing up a small angled ledge which is exposed, but very possible to climb.

One you have gained the first section, continue past the 20 foot long ledge and proceed on and pass by a pinyon. Then you want to look for the almost absent trail and head up hill. This first section that you have passed through is the most exposed and challenging part of climbing you'll encounter on the route, and it will probably scare most people off. Nothing else on the rest of the route is this exposed, so don't get too concerned.

The next part of the climb is mostly class 2 and the trail is hard to follow at times. The general path initially continues west before turning back east and your path may weave up hill irregularly. If you are following a trail but unsure, look for one of these two small climbs: A or B. Either one will be closer to the view point than the end of the far switchback, and both will take you up to the view point which is just before you meet the rough trail coming up from the southeast drain. The view point is also directly above the first pitch of climbing.

After you meet the obvious trail coming up from the southeast drain you will climb for quite a while on a fairly well defined trail that goes back and forth between class 2 and 3. There aren't many places to go off trail to on this climb, so if you get into a really narrow or expose area, turn back and look for the trail again. You might need to probe, and some confusing rock scrambling may be needed, but there really isn't too much that is all that difficult until you reach the chimney.

The Chimney is the last bit of climbing you should encounter and the trail pretty much heads right for it. It isn't all that bad going up, but it can be a little hard to go down. Make sure you think you can climb down it before going up. Looking down from on top of the chimney. From the chimney you come to a small saddle, and then it is a short stretch of trail to the summit. This is the view looking down from the saddle. You are a couple of hundred vertical feet above the chimney. Everything above the saddle is class 2 and pretty straight forward. If you think you are off route, just head up. Perhaps that is too simplistic.

Going Down
After you've made the summit and spent some time soaking in the magnificent views you'll need to start heading down. Its pretty much the same as going up, except backwards and it is a little harder. Some of the rock is angled down and can be very slippery when descending. The route is easier to see, and it might be easier to see the trail if you had trouble coming up. If you don't want to down climb the first section you came up, you can take the southeast drain. I have no experience with it, but I can say that I have heard it is much easier than the south face, but also much brushier.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike & climb trip to support this local community.

2009-05-02 Jim_H
  • Capitol Butte South Face - MAP
    guide related
    Capitol Butte South Face - MAP
  • Sedona Trails 2018
    region related
    Sedona Trails 2018
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 15 deeper Triplog Reviews
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Fun hike. Missed the angled slope and descended to the tower and had to backtrack and regain aeg. I went up the correct chimney this time which was way easier. The correct route is pretty much class 2 but still pretty fun albeit a lot less spicy then last time. All in all it was good to get a hike in that I enjoyed a few years ago. Weather was great and the views were awesome. The SF Peaks were showing the signs of a light snow year. Didn't see any other hikers, but saw 6 mountain bikers in the lower trail section.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
I thought about doing this one for Veteran's Day, but opted for a hike with the dogs instead. However, I did drive by it and thought it looked like a pretty fun hike/climb. With Saturday mornings being unavailable to me, it also seemed like a perfect short afternoon hike.

I hiked with Jackie and the dogs for the trail portion and the section of trail we started going on until I realized it was the wrong way. After that, I started the steep scramble and Jackie and the pups headed for Chimney Rock. A perfect his, her, hike combo IMO. I did a lot of reading up on this hike and although I did take the wrong way a few times and had to stop and mull over the route on more than one occasion, I handled it pretty well and there were no big surprises. I did a screen shot of all the climbs mentioned in the description and that along with its detailed directions helped a lot. I did not really fly up, but I had already ran a two hour practice that morning and it was a tad warm on the south face, so I was not rushing. There were a few people on the summit, however, they had come up the other way. The hike down is fast and the route is much easier to pick up. Jackie and the pups met me at the bottom of the steep stuff and we finished up together.

A great hike and fun climb, hard to believe so much fun could sit right there in the middle of Sedona. Great views as one would expect too.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Fell in love with this one 5 years ago when Hodlofski showed JR1 and I the route. Bruce and I bombed out last year getting off trail. This year jj and I got lucky in that a hot day was getting afternoon relief from a monsoon season storm pressing out nearby. Not the typical breaking off the rim, rather busting out over Mingus. Earlier I saw the thunderhead building expecting it would collapse.

The use trails heading up to the notch are getting more defined. Still a steep one, I was sweating buckets. With several c4 hikes to compare now this is definitely c3. The little stretch just after the notch is probably the sketchiest exposure and it's not bad. Not sure where Bruce and I dropped the ball. Just serves as a reminder things can get ugly if you stray from the route.

The chimney further up has a second option. Head half way up then go over to the right and up. I noticed a cairn and it worked out. The trade off verse the chimney is a blitz of exposure ( mainly noticed going down ). It's quicker in you can keep on cruising. If you are skittish I'd recommend staying in the safe chimney slot for heading down.

jj said the glass summit register was busted and found a newish yet weathering-fast notebook. Shout out to a 50 year old guy named Todd. He must live nearby and hike this one often based on the register.

On a cooler day with the route down I think 1.5 hours would be doable at a moderate pace.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Scott and Richard already put this trip into words and since I didn't bring a camera I guess everyone will have to settle for the ones they posted. Don't you just love when you go on trips you know nothing about, don't look into it at all, just follow everyone else the entire time, and never have a care in the world? Doesn't happen to me too often so I enjoyed it.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Went up the South Face and tried to go down the Southwest Ridge but ended up in a northwest facing gully instead. The south face is fun and the top part of the northwest ridge was pretty neat too, but I recommend avoiding the northwest gully as the ridge would have been much more enjoyable.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
I did a great job of conning Bruce into to doing this instead of completing our planned hike. Then failed miserably delivering the goods. After convincing him the worst part was 1/3 of the way in I taught him how to really be scared for his life. We were just slightly off but there is huge difference in slight on the south face.

Fortunately we did get back on track. Unfortunately daylight was running out. We made the wise choice heading back, ending right about sunset.

Postcard late afternoon views from halfway up still made this one worthy.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Get comfortable, this one's a Doozy! :lol: Poor Nick, if he had known this Trail, he could have been up and down in 4 hours and missed my series of Train Wrecks! :D Personally, if I had to rate this trail, I would rate it more difficult than either Flat Iron or Picketpost, by far...But that's me...It may be "shorter", but it pretty much kicked my Pumpkin, both physically and mentally. ;)

I had driven about 10 miles when Jim called and cancelled because he was sick, but I had copied the Description and the GPS Route, so I had most of the information that I would need to go at it anyway. I don't have a GPS, which probably hurt us later, but I use the topo on the Route Map to help guide me. I give Nick a quick call and tell him I'm going for it anyway and Nick agrees to meet me there a little earlier than our "designated" start time. Starting earlier proved invaluable as we were through the worst part before we had to break out the lights...I had been looking forward to this hike all week, so I was going to make the attempt, do or die. I guess I'm just stubborn...

I met Nick at the TH and we got started. There really is very little "warm up" hiking before you really start getting into the steep stuff. After you start getting steep, the Trail starts to take on the appearance of a drainage of sorts. Lots and Lots of loose rock. It felt like it took twice as much energy for every step, plus the "up". Nick is moving faster and I finally tell him to just keep going and not stop and wait for me. He does, but waits for me at all the difficult spots, thanks Nick! Between the facts that I get winded easily anyway, I'm sliding some and possibly the higher altitude, I really felt like a snail today, but I kept going...

Get to the first difficult pitch that really smacks of exposure, but I just didn't look down and was fine. We got it handled and Nick went up the Trail some to scout it out. We found a cairned "shortcut" that bypasses a saddle and up and over we go. I find Nick a short time later, lounging in the first nice spot of shade. It was a little warm today, even up in Sedona. Big View of the Southeast Drainage from here. Take some pics and off we go. The Trail is either scrambling and traversing Sandstone ledges or walking/scrambling over loose and somewhat loose rock, the entire way. No Sticky Rock here, it's all sandstone and slate, very smooth so traction was poor and if you stepped on a loose plate of it, you immediately started "sledding" downhill. It was hard not to step on it in places. :?

Caught up with Nick again :lol: and he is unsure of the best route and not finding any cairns here and it appears that we need to do a little climbing through a slot. So with a little effort, we get it done and keep moving. Still plugging along, I catch up to Nick again, :sweat: and we are at the "Chimney". I look and think that maybe this would be a good place to try my second ever attempt at "stemming". My first, was at Peak 5024 without success, I ran out of rock before I got high enough. This Gap looked absolutely perfect to try it again. Nick had not heard the term before, so I explained it. He decided to go up first, in the traditional way, and did very well. My turn and I'm just hoping I succeed and don't look too stupid as now I have an interested audience. :o I couldn't believe how easy and smooth it went. You'd have thought I'd done it 1000 times. :D I actually impressed myself! It must have had some effect on Nick because he jumps right back down in the slot so he can try it. :lol:

Now that we are done laughing about that, Nick is getting Summit fever as we are now getting close, so he takes off. I continue my slog and finally get to the top, with Nick there to greet me. There are four other people on the Summit and they are camped at the Summit Log so I find another nice area a little ways away and start snapping pictures. The 360 view of Sedona are amAZing! Worth every slip and slide! :D The four people eventually leave and we go over and sign the Summit Log, Nick's first. : app : The Log is full, so I whip out a small notebook that I carry and contribute it to the jar. Guess what Nick, the pack is now 2 oz lighter! :sweat:

It is starting to get late and we head back down, hoping that we can at least get the scrambling and climbing out of the way before dark. If the Trail was loose before, now it's much worse going down. Even the "fixed" rocks are flat and smooth and the least bit of sand or dirt on them makes them incredibly slick. And, of course, I'm still wearing my less than favorite boots. One of the reasons I don't like these boots is that I don't feel that the Tread Pattern is as "gripping" and now I'm really regretting not having my other boots. I fell on my pumpkin at least twice before we hit the last climb with the "nice" exposure. And I certainly will not win any "Grace" awards for those falls either! :) I feel as much like a snail going down as I did going up, and that's unusual, even for me...

And let's add insult to injury!!! :lol: About halfway down, we are on our butts sliding again and I feel my pants rip. I had worn my older, holier pants for this trip anyway, and was not really worried if they got more holes in them, but unfortunately, they decided to go just below my right "cheek" pocket! :oops: And every time I sat, from then on, the rip got bigger and bigger. I officially designated Nick as the "full time" leader at that point, so I wasn't "mooning" him the rest of the way down the hill! :lol: I think we both found it was better for him to dodge a few rocks from me being uphill of him, than for him to have to look at that, all the way down. :o

I finally "slide in" to the last big climb with the exposure issue. I had no problem climbing down the gap area, but suddenly as I'm traversing the ledge, somehow the Exposure hits me and I freeze. Not a good feeling at all. :( I'm usually ok, but I think the combination of going downhill, (you can't help but look down), the total loss of footing and boot confidence, the fast fading light and probably fatigue, just caught up to me all at once, in the worst place possible! I literally froze and was afraid to move. Nick became concerned, but wasn't sure what to do except talk to me. I closed my eyes and had a serious talk with myself and got myself moving again, luckily, in the right direction! Whew! I actually had another issue with even less exposure further down, which is so unlike me! But I persevered and got through it again. Ok, now I'm seriously becoming a basket case!

We get to the bottom of the actual mountain and fairly quickly after that, have to break out the lights. Nick is still leading, there is only one moon he really wants to see and I'm not it. :lol: We are following what we believe is still the Trail, even though it again resembles a drainage, trying to keep an eye out for when a slightly more normal trail appears and takes off to the right. As we continue down the loose rock, my right foot looses grip again and down I go! Only this time, my left leg was still back and stuck, so I fall right on my left leg which is stuck in a pretty awkward position. Instant knee pain hits. :o I am now unloading a series of expletives not suitable for this site when Nick gets back to me. I'm still in pain with my leg stuck behind me and I'm deathly afraid to move it. Nick is firing questions about what I think I may have done and I'm still trying to work through the pain. After a couple of minutes it eases up a tad, and I decide to try to straighten out my leg. I get it out straight and it starts feeling much better.:pray: After a couple of more minutes, I realize that it's going to be ok and with Nick's help, get to my feet and it's ok. (I think I know what caused the pain, but I won't bore you with the details).

We continue on, still not finding where the trail goes right, towards the parking lot. We know pretty much where the lot is, but can't find a clear path to get there. We finally say, WTH, and get out of the drainage and start bushwacking west. This turned into a little more of a bushwack than we would certainly would have liked and we found plenty of catclaw while we were at it! :yuck: After what seemed like an eternity of catclaw and drainage up and downs we finally found a trail that seemed to go the direction we wanted to go and after 200 ft on it, we were back to the cars. Funny how that trail showed up in the parking lot in a different place than the one we left on. :sweat: :lol:

Utter relief on my part that the Train Wreck has finally hit the station. Probably my worst showing on a hike! :roll: I felt like a real wimp. But Nick was fabulous. He was patient and a very good sport about the whole thing. :thanx: :worthy:

If someone asked me to hike that again in the next few weeks, I would have to turn them down. My confidence has been shaken up a little. But someday, I'll come back to this Butte and find a way to kick it in the pumpkin! The views at the top are too noteworthy to never do this hike again. It just doesn't get much better than that. Did I have a good time? Although it may be hard to tell reading this Log, yes, I did, and I loved the challenge of it all, especially the climbing. I just had trouble rising up to the occasion on this day. I'll be back....
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Nice day for a hike in Sedona! Got out early and had a nice time. This was a fun and challenging hike with a great reward at the top, splendid views! Hung out at the top for about 30 min. Took me 1.5 hours to get to the top and an hour to get down. Met some hikers on the way down and one of them was dressed like he was out for a hike in a park; he had slacks on and a nice button down shirt and he was in his late 50's or early 60's. He said that he does this hike once a month, that is why it looked like he was taking a walk in the park. There was a register at the top and I was surprised that so many people get up and do this hike, there was a family that signed in and they had an 8 yr old and 10 yr old and said they did great. Overall a fun hike on a beautiful day!
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
I had wanted to do this again for a while and had planned on doing it over the MLK weekend. I was sick then, so this was the first day I had available to do it. The winter storms have been cruel to Capitol, and the trails are really eroded. In some spots they are back to being washes. Hiking with temperatures in the 50s felt hot to me, especially since I was in teens the prior evening. It was pretty nice out and I took a few pics.
Capitol Butte South Face aka Thunder Mtn
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
I really wanted to do this climb so I got Jim to go out there with me. I almost turned back at the first pitch but Jim coached me into doing it. In hindsight, I should've given him my camera to get a picture of me soiling my pants :sk: . I was shaking in my boots coming away from it, definitely pushed my level of comfort a little over the edge. Jim took my picture grinning like an idiot coming up the chimney. As always, views from the summit rocked. Signed the summit register (has yet to be stolen). Going down Jim tried to coerce me into going back down the first pitch, I maintained my decision to take the south-east drainage. Thanks to Jim for showing me the route and being patient with my fear of heights.

Permit $$
Red Rock Pass - may or may not be required. Go to Red Rock Pass then check "When is a Red Rock Pass Required?". If you have questions contact the Coconino forest service.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike & climb trip
From the junction of 89A and SR 179 in Sedona, head south on 89A towards Cottonwood. Turn north (right) onto Andante Drive, which where the Circle K/ Shell is, and proceed to the trailhead which is at the end of the road.
page created by Jim_H on May 02 2009 5:19 pm
help comment issue

end of page marker