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Twin Buttes Loop, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona SE
4 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Loop 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,500 feet
Elevation Gain 262 feet
Accumulated Gain 673 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.37
Backpack No
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18  2018-05-26 Nightstalker
2  2016-12-10
High on the Hog Trail - Sedona
2  2016-11-11
High on the Hog Trail - Sedona
4  2016-11-05
High on the Hog Trail - Sedona
48  2016-05-22
Twin Buttes Loop via the Hogs
8  2016-03-19
Submarine Rock
1  2016-03-12
High on the Hog Trail - Sedona
Author pbaenzig
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 28
Photos 211
Trips 20 map ( 96 miles )
Age 82 Male Gender
Location Sedona, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Feb → 7 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:08am - 6:37pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Hike at the foot of cliffs
by pbaenzig

Driving up 179 towards Sedona, past the Village of Oak Creek, past Bell Rock and Court House Butte, the Twin Buttes are on your right. At the foot of the west butte is the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross. Behind the east butte is the (in)famous Chicken Point where at times a dozen Pink Jeeps congregate. The Twin Buttes Loop is a delightful short loop hike around the two buttes. About half the hike is on unoffical trails, the rest follows Forest Service trails. All of the hike is visually stimulating because you're walking close to foot of the Twin Buttes red rock cliffs.

The hike starts at the Mystic Trail trail head, at the T-junction of Chapel Road and Antelope Drive. There is parking for about three cars on the north (left) shoulder of Chapel Road and some more parking on Antelope Drive. As soon as you cross the fence, Mystic Trail goes off to the east (right), parallel to the road. A very short way later the trail turns sharply to the north (left); don't follow the trail at this point! Look carefully and you'll see a faint "blocked" trail continuing on a bit to the right. There are branches across the path, but only for the first dozen yards or so. From then on the trail becomes clear and reasonably easy to follow. It climbs a few feet still basically going east towards the foot of the east butte, then it turns left (north) and follows the cliff face of the butte.

I call this trail "Upper Mystic Trail" because it parallels the Mystic Trail. It's used by some locals to walk their dogs, but you rarely encounter anybody. Bikers use it, too, because it connects to a wonderful bike trail. But again, I've seen the bike tracks but have rarely encountered a bike. It's a much more interesting trail than the Mystic Trail because it isn't so wide and because it's closer to the butte. The trail goes reasonably straight north, following a bit the contours of the land. It meanders here and there and it's a bit faint in spots, but for almost a mile it keeps on going mostly north.

Just short of a mile into the hike the trail turns to the right (east) and starts switchbacking a bit to gain some elevation. At this point the trail becomes very distinct and you can tell that some people worked hard to build the trail. It is a well built trail, not just a path trodden by many feet and bike tires. It leads smoothly through some reasonably challenging terrain, always offering new vistas.

There is a bit of story here: depending on when you happen to come along this trail you may find it in great shape or you may find it partly ripped apart and turned into an obstacle course with dead branches. While I personally think that this trail is a great trail that fills a need, the Forest Service doesn't think so (not invented here). They periodically attack and destroy the trail, "renaturalize it" in their parlance. Then during the next few weeks and months the obstacles mysteriously disappear and the trail gets repaired. And no, I have not been involved in the construction and repair of the trail; I'm just an observer and frequent hiker.

The trail keeps on climbing and weaving its way through slick rock and small cliffs. No scary drop offs, but lots of beautiful cliffs and rocks. At about 1.5 miles from the trail head you come to Cemetery Ridge (because it overlooks the cemetery). From this ridge you have a great view over parts of Sedona and, in the other direction, into the valley at the foot of Munds Mountain. There are about five trails coming together at this spot: First, the trail you've just come up on. Just to your left, a trail climbs back down to the cemetery. A few steps further on, another trail goes off to the left (north) towards Battlement Mesa, the rock formation to your left. You can follow this very faint trail to some great view points, but it's a dead end. A few more steps and the trail splits -- one branch goes straight ahead down a bit of a gully, the other branch goes a bit to the right and then rightaway splits again. The left branch is of no particular interest, it just parallels the trail down the gully but isn't as interesting, the right branch however leads up to the Twin Buttes Saddle which you see to your right. The trail to the saddle is easy to follow even though quite steep in places. If you have the time (and energy), this one mile side excursion is well worth it; the view from the Twin Buttes Saddle down onto the Chapel of the Holy Cross is spectacular. The other side of the saddle is almost vertical. I'm told there is a non-technical way down but I've never tried it. From the saddle you can also bushwhack and scramble up to the east or west butte, but again, I've haven't tried this yet.

From Cemetery Ridge you follow the trail down the little gully heading straight east. You'll be walking mostly on slick rock with only occasional detours when the rock ends or drops off to steeply. You keep on going down. Once you come to the "end" of the slick rock, the trail goes off to the right for a bit, but then picks up some slick rock again. Follow this slick rock to the end. You'll see the main trail continuing on straight ahead but you should look to your right, up a small ravine. You'll see a faint trail climbing up the left side of the little gully. After a little while the trail becomes more distinct, meandering around and over rocks, through Arizona Cypress forests. The trail climbs initially, but then levels off and follows the contours of the land heading generally south. You'll have great views down onto Broken Arrow Trail and the Pink Jeep road paralleling it. You may even hear the screeches of the tourists in the Jeeps. And of course you'll see the Jeeps below you.

At about two miles into the hike, you'll see Jeep tire marks on the rock to your left, a wire cage cairn in front of you and you're back on an official trail. From now on, the hike follows Forest Service trails, initially Broken Arrows Trail continuing south to Chicken Point. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. Once you're past Chicken Point with the crowds and the Jeeps (unless you're there very early, then you may have it to yourself), the trail changes name to Little Horse Trail and veers for a short while to the left. You follow this trail around a curve to the bottom of the big Chicken Point rock, then keep on going southwest at the foot of the Two Nuns (rock formations which are part of the east butte).

At about three miles into the hike you come to the marked intersection with Chapel Trail. Little Horse Trail continues on to the left towards the trail head on SR 179. Chapel Trail goes off to the right, following the foot of the butte. The trail is essentially level, just going up and down a bit as the terrain requires. You'll soon have a great view on the right up towards Twin Buttes Saddle. Chapel Trail is generally not busy because there is no parking for the trail at the Chapel end. The Chapel guards its scarce parking spots jealously and will tow you if you park there for hiking purposes.

Once you get to the Chapel, you might as well visit it if you aren't too sweaty. If you decide against this, you turn left and follow the road to the gate. You continue on the road (Chapel Road), past Dracula's Castle (a monstrosity of a house under permanent construction on your left). In less than a quarter mile you'll come to the Mystic Trail Head at the intersection of Antelope Drive and Chapel Road. Total length of the hike is less than four miles.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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2006-07-08 pbaenzig
  • Sedona Trails 2018
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    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 Triplog Reviews
Twin Buttes Loop
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Ah..first trail run in a wind tunnel. :sweat:

We were supposed to get snow Christmas day so I wasn't sure I could get a run in that day. So even though it was overcast and the the winds were supposed to be in the high 20s, I decided to go for a trailrun. :y:

The forecast called for rain at around 11am (halfway through my run) but didn't actually get some precipitation until after 12nn. Saw a few groups of hikers already going down on my way up Chicken Point and only saw 2 other groups at Broken Arrow.

Winds were supposed to be in the high 20s, I thought no big deal. :o
By the time I made it up to Chicken Point things got real. I had to run after my cap about 20 yards after the wind blew it off my head (time to wear it under the hood?). Reminded me of the summit of Wheeler Peak those gusts. ... nenk (warning if you are wearing headphones you might want to turn it down a little bit). No debris though for the duration of the run. Winds eventually calmed down at the juncture of Chapel Trail. I saw only 1 other group of hikers going up as I was going down. The guy had a tripod..wonder how that photo shoot turned out. :D

The trail was not muddy at all, just nice and cushy beneath my feet. Surprisingly there were a few Pink Jeep tours out on the trail that day. I did not see any at Chicken Point by the time I was heading back.
Clouds were big and gray, sun peeking just slightly, it snowed later that afternoon.
Twin Buttes Loop
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Twin Buttes Loop via the Hogs
I had put together a Broken Arrow hike for a day hike last year but it never came to fruition due to weather. After realizing the error in our thoughts that we could handle mid 30s and wind at Camp May south of Mormon Lake, I went back to fine tuning a route for us to take on Sunday. I spent several hours with route manager and on the MTBproject site uploading some of their routes, I put together a map and then decided we would do the southern half this time. That way we could check out some of the other sites along the way.

Two things I learned from my time on Route Manager: it's hard to join routes sometimes as it will join you back to the TH. One thing everyone should know when you fiddle with Route Manager is to save your work as you go. Second I put in way points at both trails when they would intersect so HAZel would go off incessantly when we hit an intersection. So use only one waypoint for the intersection such as at the Broken Arrow and White Line rather than one waypoint at each (as I didn't know which way for sure we would approach an intersection so I wanted to cover my bases ](*,) ). Kelly found HAZel very amusing today. A couple times I was thinking a shotgun might be an appropriate end to her ranting (HAZel that is).

Now onto the hike. All I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW. What an awesome day of hiking! The trails are in wonderful shape everywhere. The Hog Trails are particularly impressive with some of the natural paving stones they did. I'm sure some of this extra fine construction would not have been done if it were just hikers but since they are biking trails, a little extra effort was obviously used which is just fine with us (especially on Hog Heaven).

We started from the Little Horse TH so that way you don't have to go into Sedona. It was a nice morning as we ambled our way toward and onto the Little Horse Trail which goes on the northeast side of Little Horse Park. Your views are of the Two Nuns to the NE and Lee Mountain to the east. While looking at one of the trail map signs a local asked if we had any questions and told us about a little side trail we could take off of from Marg's Draw (that's for next time). Soon you are walking alongside and in a drainage. Sedona has the bestest drainages; Kelly and I are always impressed by them. It started getting windier as we gained elevation and made our way to Chicken Point. We didn't beat the jeeps but that's okay. We took some obligatory pics and then continued on to Broken Arrow Trail.

I knew the White Line was near and then I recall HAZel was babbling but I wasn't listening (it was also very windy and hard to hear). So part way along the Broken Arrow I asked Kelly if we could go back and try to find the White Line and she was game. The White Line is almost immediately at the Broken Arrow/Little Horse intersection behind Chicken Point. You can see the white line in the rock too. So up we went and though we didn't follow the route because I didn't include it on my map, we just kept going vertical.

We missed part of the route that went off to the right and just went straight up. We would see bike tire marks so figured we were close enough. There really aren't any cairns up here so you're on your own. (However, if you add the route to your map, you can follow it). The views over to Munds Mountain are pretty cool up here but it was SUPER windy so we went down. Oh, I heard one of the jeep drivers call the mountain (when you're looking north at it) a camel but I thot it looked more like a snail. Apparently The White Line is notorious for this :o :

We continued on the Broken Arrow north to the Submarine Rock but took a slight detour over to another little formation that I found out is called Mushroom Rock. Of course Kelly climbed up to the top; I just circled it. Other folks came by so we took on our way. It's kind of sad how the tires have turned the red bedrock to black. From here you can make a beeline for Submarine Rock but Kelly and I continued to follow the trail. It intersects with the Hogs but we would come back to that. The trail starts to descend and you cross thru some cypress forest and bedrock before coming to the road. You cross that and go down and up a drainage. Here you make your way around the other side (east) of the submarine. I found the birds to be very active through this forested part of the trail. You eventually end up at what I think is the stern and you climb up on it.

There weren't too many people aboard so we wandered around admiring its enormity. There were great 360 views from here. I got one really awesome photo; well several actually ;) . The agaves had buds but were not blooming yet. They sure were pretty though. We continued north on the sub and went up to the bow. It was super windy and a bit chilly so we went off the side to have our snack and take a quick break. It was nice and cozy in the cubby hole we found. Getting up and down from the bow on the south is just a little tricky.

Well that was fun. So we walked back to the stern and took our trail back to Broken Arrow where we headed south from the intersection to get to the Hog Trails (I think these are new as of 2014?). There were some pretty cactus blooming along the way and a person-sized agave that distracted us. The Hog intersection is slightly up from the Broken Arrow on some bedrock. The view from this intersection is pretty nice as well. So now it was time to see what High on the Hog was all about as it took us toward Hog Heaven (FYI these are one way trails for bikers E to W). I found this interesting when researching:
High on the Hog and Hog Heaven are rated double black diamond for bikers. This is the international symbol to make sure your affairs are in order before you start.

High on the Hog trail continues back to the northwest and almost immediately reminded us of the Hangover Trail. The views of the Munds Wilderness are simply outstanding :y: . The trail hugs the side of the butte as it contours very nicely to join you up with Hog Heaven in 1/3rd of a mile. There is also the intersection with the Twin Buttes Trail.

You now are heading west on Hog Heaven. The slick rock along a couple sections of this trail are pretty cool and as you look to the north you can see the Crimson Cliffs and Wilson Mountain. A little further along as you get closer to the pass we were enamored with the pools of water and the cliffs across the way with their geographic horizontal lines and varnished vertical lines. Soon you reach the saddle which puts you between the Twin Buttes to your south. You contour around the side as you make your way slightly down Hog Heaven. Here is where some of that fancy paver construction came into play that even included banking. Kelly and I were duly impressed by these. As you unwrapped around the other side the views to the NE mountains opened up. After getting distracted by cute lizard pics, we stared in amazement as more and more of those mountains appeared. It was the most beautiful rock outcropping (a finger of Munds Mountain where Marg's Draw is). But wait it gets better cuz as you continue along you can now see the Capitol Butte area too.

In slightly under a mile you reach the intersection with Hog Wash Trail (yes HAZel, we heard you the first two times). You can take the Hog Wash east back to Broken Arrow if you choose but our loop continues winding around the west side of the Twin Buttes. After walking thru a little more of the forest we came to Pig Tail Trail. As we were hiking on this I had found an old route from the Twin Buttes Loop hike desc GPS one could take instead of dropping onto Mystic. Well that route doesn't exist anymore as it's been blocked off so we ended up having to take Mystic. Once we were down to the floor level of course the terrain changed from the trees to the bushes and prickly pear. We took a break before turning south; across the way was Airport Butte.

We intersected up with the Mystic Trail and took it south to Chapel Road. We ran into a family just starting their hike for the day. You do have views of Cathedral Rock but the lighting was not the best at this time of day. Once at the road, you do gotta pay attention to the traffic as there isn't much space to walk. I did find where the old trail came out. On the way to the Chapel I found it easier walking on the south side and I'm sure glad I did as the house with the telescope dome had an incredible garden 8) to spy on. The driveways were quite impressive too.

The Chapel parking area was very crowded. The picketpost gate to the trail is off to the east side of the parking lot. From here you head east below the Twin Butte on the Chapel Trail. It climbs a bit but has lots to show you along the way including views of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock to the south. The trail is a little rockier in sections. We passed what we think was an intersection to a climbing trail. We did encounter a small hiking group during this part of the hike before reaching the intersection of Little Horse in about 3/4 mile from the Chapel area.

With a mile and 1/2 left and a beer calling my name, I pretty much tucked my camera away :o to finish off this hike for the day. It ended up being a little longer than I had planned but that's okay as it was a more than awesome day of hiking in Red Rock Country. The trails are great and the views outstanding.

As we made our left turn on the highway, Kelly's friends happened to be in the vehicle right in front of us. We had texted them on our last break to see if we could meet up (they had been climbing). Well they usually go to the Pizza Place across from the Blue Moon (where I normally go) so we went to Famous Pizza. It was nice to meet up with them (altho I had met Fletch at the johnr1 service).

I have to say some of my pics are beautiful. The video, unfortunately, has the dust on the lens issue; hopefully that's temporary. Panasonic sent me a survey to complete about my last service. Needless to say they got a polite earful as I used every word count they allowed.

Bell Rock Pathyway, Little Horse Trail - ... ME_M
Little Horse Trail Part 2 - ... mbOI
White Line and Broken Arrow - ... TNa0
Broken Arrow to the Sub - ... BwQo
The Submarine - ... bDwE
Sub to Hog Trails - ... sox4
High on the Hog - ... UbtE
Hog Heaven - ... jM7A
Hog Heaven Part 2 - ... M7kI
Hog Wash to Chapel Hill - ... VxIo
Chapel Trail - ... 1moE
Twin Buttes Loop
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After having work Saturday morning, I drove north to Sedona to grab a quick hike before sunset. I ended up taking the slightly longer lower Twin Butte loop that took me thru a couple neighborhoods, along AZ179, and bypassed the saddle completely... :? It was still a very enjoyable hike, but it would have been better if I stuck closer to the buttes. I also made the sidetrip out to Submarine rock, which was probably the highlight of the hike. :)

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
From Phoenix take I-17 north to the Sedona exit. Take SR 179 towards Sedona, going past the Village of Oak Creek and past Bell Rock and Court House Butte. Shortly before Sedona proper you will see a sign on the right "Chapel 700 ft" with a deceleration lane. Turn right onto Chapel Road for less than 1/4 mile to where Antelope Drive comes into Chapel Rd from the right. The trail head for Mystic Trail and the loop is opposite Antelope Drive on the left side of Chapel Rd. Parking for about three cars on the wide left shoulder of Chapel Rd. If there isn't any space there, you can park on the side of the road on Antelope Drive.
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