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Monday, September 24, 2018


The Rector Connector opened in January 2018.
Silverleaf nightshade grows in sunny spots on the trail.
Scenic spot on Rector Connector.
A new trail has debuted in a hub of Red Rock Country old standards.  Lodged in the middle of the Big Park Trails system just north of the Village of Oak Creek, the Rector Connector fills a void in the loop-centric routes that orbit iconic Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. 
Rector Connector spins off Courthouse Butte Loop.
For years, trail users who were unhappy that the Coconino National Forest trails went around, but not between the massive rock formations along State Route 179 had been blazing their own routes creating unsustainable, dangerous paths that damaged the sensitive environment. 
View of Bell Rock from Rector Connector.
In January 2018, Friends of the Forest—a non-profit Sedona organization that promotes stewardship of area public lands through financial and volunteer labor support --under the tutelage of the Forest Service, remedied the dilemma by wrangling a former social trail into a system-sanctioned route.
Rector Connector passes below Courthouse Butte.
Named for Gene and Darl Rector who have logged thousands of volunteer trail-work hours over more than 20 years, the mile-long path follows a gorge and slick rock passages in the space between the sedimentary stone behemoths. 
A slick rock passage on Rector Connector.
To find the new connector from the Bell Rock Vista trailhead, hike 0.6-mile north to the Courthouse Butte Loop junction. Turn right and go 0.2-mile to the junction.  The trail spins away from airy high-desert savannas and dives into a cypress-and-pine-shaded corridor with steep drop offs on the west and the hulking form of Courthouse Butte to the east. Roughly halfway through, the trail enters Munds Mountain Wilderness and begins a steady ascent on bare rock to an exposed saddle. 
The trail passes between Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.
A wide landing of rounded sandstone at this highpoint gap provides a perfect platform to enjoy views of Horse Mesa to the south and the familiar forms of Thunder Mountain (Capitol Butte) Cathedral Rock and the flat-topped profiles of Wilson Mountain and Brins Mesa in the north. 
Use Bell Rock Pathway to make a loop hike.
From this point, the route winds down the smooth north flanks of Bell Rock where basket carins (rock wired into drum-shaped posts) mark the way among sparse vegetation and stony bends.
Watch for lizards sunning themselves on sandstone ledges.
Where the trail exits the wilderness area, pick up Bell Rock Pathway heading south for a 3-mile loop. Otherwise, consult the forest service map for dozens of add-on opportunities. 
Stay on designated trails to protect the wilderness.
Looking south from Rector Connector.
Part of the trail is in Munds Mountain Wilderness.
LENGTH: 3-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 4130 - 4411 feet
Bell Rock Vista Trailhead, Oak Creek.
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to exit 298 (Sedona/Oak Creek). Veer left (west) and follow State Route 179 to just past milepost 307 and turn right into the parking area.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest
Friends of the Forest:

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