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Monday, August 29, 2016


Madonna and Two Nuns as seen from Llama Trail
Some of Arizona's most beautiful hiking trails reside miles beyond the vestiges of civilization along impossibly convoluted, tire-eating backroads. For those with a vehicle robust enough for the journey, the payoff is a kind of solitude unique to Arizona's remote regions. If you're driving a compact sedan, your destination options are more limited, but there are places where its possible to park at a groomed trailhead off a paved byway and still unplug from the masses. Once such destination departs from the heavily used Little Horse trailhead in Sedona.
Cathedral Rock on horizon
A quick assessment of the crowded parking lot might lead you to doubt the claim that peace and quite lie beyond the throngs of camera totting tourists and scampering kids. However, in less than a mile, the Llama Trail veers away from the mobs of hikers who mostly stick to the main routes leading to Chicken Point and Bell Rock. Originally blazed by mountain bikers, this alternative route covers much of the same territory as the big name trails but without the elbow-to-elbow traffic. It's still a major thruway for bikers, who relish the fast slick rock and wavy earth, so stay alert especially near blind turns. Although not entirely insulated from the hum of vehicles on Highway 179, Llama Trail rubs the boundary of Munds Mountain Wilderness and the plumb walls of Lee Mountain. It's just rough around the edges enough for a feral yet familiar ambiance. You'll never feel lost here because world famous rock formations visible throughout the hike help with orientation. Madonna and the Nuns plus Capitol Butte guard the north, while Courthouse and Bell Rocks anchor the southern horizon. To the west, the unmistakable spires of Cathedral Rock blush pink at sunset. There are several ways to tie the trail into a day hike. Here's one to try.
From the trailhead, follow Bell Rock Pathway 0.3 mile south and turn left onto Little Horse Trail. Hike 0.6 mile to the Llama Trail junction on the right. Hike 2.6 miles to Baby Bell Trail, turn right and go 0.2 mile back to Bell Rock Pathway and follow it 1.7 miles back to the trailhead.
Take this turn to bypass the crowds
LENGTH: 5.4 mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4240' - 4400'
FEE: A Red Rock Pass is required to park.
From Phoenix, travel north on Interstate 17 to the Sedona-Oak Creek/State Route 179 exit 298. Head west (left) on SR179 and continue to the Little Horse trailhead on the right at milepost 308.9.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

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