Hiking the amazing Chimney Rock Trail and Little Sugarloaf Trail loop from Thunder Mountain Trailhead is one of our top hidden gems for those looking to escape the relentless crowds of the most popular hikes in Sedona.
Is it worth adding Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf to your Sedona hiking itinerary?
Yes! We have personally hiked almost every trail in Sedona and this almost unheard of route was one of favorites. If you hike up to Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf before dawn, you will be in for one of the best sunrise spots in Sedona.
In this guide we will show you:
- Where to park for the loop trail
- Which pass you need to display
- Sunrise hiking guide to Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail
- Photos of Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail at sunrise
Let’s hike Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail to a spectacular sunrise in Sedona, Arizona!
Chimney Rock is a distinctive red rock formation that can be seen from many other hikes and viewpoints across Sedona.
From close up, the formation is shaped like three gigantic fingers sticking up into the sky, but from afar it appears like the sail (fin) of a submarine.
We saw Chimney Rock several times as we walked other nearby trails and as we were ticking off the long list of best things to do in Sedona.
Chimney Rock Trail is located on the outskirts of West Sedona and we knew it would make a perfect sunrise vantage point.
Little Sugarloaf is a nondescript, easy to miss and little known hike on the same loop as Chimney Rock. In fact, we had never heard of it, seen it written in any guide or any list of hikes in Sedona.
However, it turns out Little Sugarloaf offers some of the most expansive views over Sedona and it has a much easier ascent when compared to nearby (and more popular) Chimney Rock.
Looking for hiking inspiration? Read our popular guide to the 50 best hikes in the USA next!
Thunder Mountain Trailhead
You will park and begin you hike at Thunder Mountain Trailhead in order to access both Chimney Rock Trail and Little Sugarloaf Trail.
It is important to know that Thunder Mountain Trail leads to a very hard hike to Thunder Mountain via South Scramble. This should only be considered by the strongest hikers.
Thunder Mountain is more commonly known as Capitol Butte and is widely regarded as the hardest hike in Sedona.
Continuing even further on Thunder Mountain Trail beyond the South Scramble trail, you would eventually join Teacup Trail and an off-trail route to the hidden Sedona Keyhole Cave.
We have included Keyhole Cave in our popular guide to the best Sedona caves.
Hiking Route And Statistics
Follow these exact directions for hiking the Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail loop route efficiently, so you make the most of both summit vistas for sunrise or any time of day:
- Park at Thunder Mountain Trailhead
- Start on Thunder Mountain Trail
- Turn left at the fork onto Lower Chimney Rock Trail
- Summit Little Sugarloaf in time for sunrise
- Descend and join Upper Chimney Rock Trail walking clockwise
- Summit Chimney Rock
- Descend and re-join Upper Chimney Rock Trail continuing clockwise
- Transition back onto Thunder Mountain Trail
- Return to Thunder Mountain Trailhead
Note: You could add the full Lower Chimney Rock loop trail to make it a longer hike. This would mean you completely circle Little Sugarloaf.
If you hike the exact route we suggest above, here are the Chimney Rock Trail and Little Sugarloaf Trail hiking statistics you can expect:
- Trail Distance: 2.3 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 800 feet
- Hike Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Required: 2.5 hours
Map Of Little Sugarloaf And Chimney Rock Trail In Sedona
The map above shows the exact route to follow when hiking the Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock loop trail for sunrise in Sedona, Arizona.
- Black Circles – Two trailhead options
- Blue Line – Loop route to follow
- Red Lines – Summit spur trails
- Numbers – Order to follow trail
Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf At Sunrise
Chimney Rock is a wonderful place to watch a spectacular sunrise over Sedona, Arizona. But is it the best sunrise vantage point in the immediate area?
Well, it wasn’t until we were stood at the summit of Chimney Rock at sunrise that we saw a mound with a flat table top surface and realized it was a better vantage point for us to see the sun rising over Sedona.
Both Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf summits would also make for fantastic Sedona sunset locations if you don’t think you can make a sunrise.
During the day, both viewpoints would be significantly less impressive, so try to make sunrise or sunset if possible.
Watching a stunning sunrise here is easily one of the best things you can see in Sedona and here’s what you can expect.
Sunrise At Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock is a fabulous Sedona sunrise spot with far reaching views. But those views are limited to around 230 degrees because you are backed right up against the red rock spires of Chimney Rock itself.
You have around 180 degrees in view as you look southeast from the summit. It is enough to watch the sun rising slightly to the left side of the airport runway on the flat ridge at Sedona Airport Mesa.
But you then have to carefully move around the rock spires to open up the northwest view to watch the sheer red rock face of Doe Mountain glowing red at dawn.
It is amazing, but it requires you to navigate steep banks of dirt for the more extensive view.
Sunrise At Little Sugarloaf
Just a short walk away from Chimney Rock you can climb an easier ascent to reach the summit of Little Sugarloaf. This vantage point offers 360 degree views and gets you even closer to the action.
The flat table top summit means you can walk around for views in all directions with ease and your view is always completely unobstructed.
Plus, you get to watch the iconic Chimney Rock spires light up under sunlight.
Along with hiking Cathedral Rock and Doe Mountain for sunrise, we would say Little Sugarloaf is up there with the best sunrise locations in Sedona.
All three sunrise spots are unmissable for photographers planning the perfect Sedona itinerary.
Where To Park For Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf Trail
Thunder Mountain Trailhead parking lot is the larger and more convenient place to park for hiking either or both of Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf.
But there is a small alternative parking area at Andante Trailhead in case Thunder Mountain parking is full.
This smaller lot is where we parked to hike Chimney Rock for sunrise as it is closer to the Chimney Rock ascent.
However, we are recommending Little Sugarloaf as the better sunrise spot, so we would suggest parking at Thunder Mountain Trailhead as it is closer to the Little Sugarloaf ascent.
Thunder Mountain Trailhead Parking
Here’s how to reach Thunder Mountain Trail parking lot from your accommodation in Sedona:
- Head east or west or AZ-89A depending on which side of Sedona you are staying
- Turn onto Andante Drive
- Turn left onto Thunder Mountain Road
- Turn right into a small parking area
- Here’s the Thunder Mountain parking lot Google Maps location
Andante Trailhead Parking
Here’s how to reach Andante Trailhead:
- Head east or west or AZ-89A depending on which side of Sedona you are staying
- Turn onto Andante Drive
- Follow it all the way to the end and turn into a narrow gravel path leading to 6 or 7 parking spaces
- Here’s the Andante parking lot Google Maps location
Do You Need A Pass To Hike Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf Trail In Sedona?
No, you do not need to display either a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Interagency Pass on your vehicle dashboard to hike Thunder Mountain Trail, Little Sugarloaf or Chimney Rock in Sedona.
Are you planning to hike other trails on your visit to Sedona? See this list of places requiring a pass to be displayed for details.
Despite not needing a pass to hike Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf, chances are high you will need to know about passes for your visit.
Here’s the important information you need to know about passes for hiking in Sedona.
Red Rock Pass
You can buy a Red Rock Pass at this specific recreation.gov site in advance, or you can buy one at a ticket machine when you arrive in person at either parking lot listed further in this guide.
Red Rock Pass options include:
- 1 Day Red Rock Pass – $5
- 7 Day Red Rock Pass – $15
- Red Rock Annual Pass – $20
If you plan to hike more trails around Sedona over a period of 2 – 7 days, you should buy the 7 day pass because you will need it at many other trailheads in the area.
America The Beautiful Pass
Are you a regular visitor to US National Parks and Monuments?
It’s highly likely you already have an annual National Parks pass, which is also known as America the Beautiful or the Interagency Pass.
Don’t have one yet?
Read our guide on why America the Beautiful national parks pass is one of the best things you can buy if you plan to visit multiple parks in the next year.
Instead of buying a Red Rock Pass you can simply display your America the Beautiful Pass at trailheads throughout Sedona.
Do you use any of the best hiking apps for beginners and pros for offline maps and tracking your hikes?
We always download offline maps onto our premium Gaia GPS app so we can keep track of our location on hiking trails. All Trails has a similar app but we have found Gaia to be excellent for navigation.
Our offline map app worked great for finding the Chimney Rock trail ascent and navigating back down to Upper Chimney Rock Trail.
Use our exclusive 20% discount link to get your GAIA GPS premium account at a bargain price.
Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock Sunrise Trail Walkthrough
Let’s get into the Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock sunrise hiking walkthrough, including photos for every step.
It is important to note that we hiked this route in the reverse order to what we are recommending. Little Sugarloaf has the better sunrise location so we will begin there, before moving onto Chimney Rock.
If you aren’t hiking this loop route for sunrise, it doesn’t matter which way around you summit both trails or which parking lot you use.
1. Park Up And Get Right Onto Thunder Mountain Trail
Check sunrise times in Sedona the night before and plan to arrive at Thunder Mountain or Andante Trailhead parking lot at least 45 minutes before sunrise.
We parked in one of the very limited spaces at Andante Trailhead but we recommend you park at Thunder Mountain instead so you have easier access to Little Sugarloaf.
Take Thunder Mountain Trail forking right out of the parking lot to begin the hike.
2. Lower Chimney Rock Trail
After just 0.1 mile and 2 minutes you will reach another fork in the trail. Take the left spur onto Lower Chimney Rock Trail.
Follow the trail for around 5 minutes as you gain some elevation before reaching a right turn. Don’t take the right turn, continue for 30 seconds until you see a left turn leading up to Little Sugarloaf.
3. Little Sugarloaf
The climb up to Little Sugarloaf is reasonably straight forward. It is narrow and there are some steeper sections but it doesn’t last long.
Once you reach the summit, you will be standing on a large, open and flat plateau. There’s plenty of room up here but hopefully you’ll have the place to yourself at sunrise.
Walk over to the far side of the plateau and you will see there’s another plateau you can access. This second summit is slightly lower, so you will need to jump down a big step to reach it.
You have astounding wide open 360 degree views over:
- Schnebly Hill Road Jeep trail
- Airport Mesa
- Downtown Sedona
- Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte
- Cathedral Rock
- Doe Mountain
- Boynton Canyon
- Chimney Rock
4. Upper Chimney Rock Trail
Carefully descend Little Sugarloaf back to the main trail. Take a right and quick left onto Upper Chimney Rock Trail. This is the path you saw earlier but didn’t take.
Follow this trail for 0.6 miles, which should take you around 15 minutes as there is some elevation to gain before the spur trail ascent to summit Chimney Rock.
5. Chimney Rock
The ascent to Chimney Rock is steep and only partly maintained. You will need good grips and traction on your shoes to avoid slipping on loose stones and hard packed dirt.
Follow the beaten path and once you’re close to the base of the spires, you can forge your own route to the base.
The final push is challenging and lung busting!
Once you summit, you have a higher elevation but less in view when compared to Little Sugarloaf. You can see Airport Mesa but you can’t see Schnebly Hill.
6. Head Back To Your Car
Descend very carefully from the base of Chimney Rock spires back to the main trail. Turn right to continue following Upper Chimney Rock Trail.
Andante Trailhead and parking lot is just 0.3 miles from the Chimney Rock spur trail, or it is another 0.5 miles to reach Thunder Mountain Trail. The going is gradual downhill to finish the loop hike.
Once you turn left back onto Thunder Mountain Trail it is just 0.1 miles back to the parking lot.
Chimney Rock And Sugarloaf Mountain Trail Pros And Cons
- Spectacular Sedona sunrise views
- Very quiet compared to more popular hikes
- Quick and easy to access from town
- Limited parking at Andante Trailhead
- Chimney Rock ascent is steep and unmarked
- Views not as impressive if hiked during the day
Best Time To Hike Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf Trail In Sedona
Time Of Day
Sunrise and sunset are both wonderful times to summit either rock formation. Crowds will be at a minimum and your photographs at dawn and dusk will be stunning.
If you’re not interested in photography, summiting during the day would be fine, but the magic and beauty of the vista would be diminished.
If you visit Sedona in Spring or Fall when it is at peak tourist season, you may find both Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock to be reasonably busy.
Winter and Summer offer quieter periods in Sedona, which means you have more chance getting parked up without issue and enjoying the summit views in solitude.
We visited Sedona in December and benefited from later sunrise times with crowds at a minimum.
No matter which season you visit, try to avoid hiking on weekends, during holidays and through the 10am-3pm rush.
What To Pack For Hiking Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf
- Footwear – Footwear with good grips and traction are essential for climbing the steep unmarked spur trail ascent to the base of Chimney Rock.
- Water – Always carry water on hikes in Sedona. You can get away with carrying less if you summit these rock formations at sunrise, otherwise take plenty of fluids.
- Sun protection – Sunglasses, sun hats, long layers and sunscreen are vital if you are visiting Sedona in Summer. The entirety of Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock will be exposed during your hike, unless you summit at sunrise when the sun isn’t strong enough to cause damage.
- Winter – Early starts are cold in Sedona during Winter. Even on sunny mornings like we had, coats, gloves and hats were required until temperatures warmed around mid morning.
5 Tips For Hiking Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail
- Park at Thunder Mountain and start with Little Sugarloaf to arrive before sunrise
- Take a packed breakfast to enjoy with your back up against Chimney Rock
- Look out for wildlife if you hike for sunrise, we saw several coyotes and deer
- Don’t forget your tripod if you plan to shoot sunrise photography in low light
- Look out for hot air balloons rising to the west at dawn
Sedona Arizona Visitor Summary
How to get around – Sedona is small but you’ll need a car to access the best hikes to the north and south of town. If you want to get to the hard to reach places, you should hire a jeep.
When to visit – Spring and Fall are the best seasons to visit Sedona, but they come with a higher price tag and more crowds. Winter is a fantastic time to avoid both.
Where to stay in – Accommodation is expensive in Sedona, but there are plenty of very high quality places to stay including Matterhorn Inn, Lantern Light Inn, Arabella Hotel, Whispering Creek B&B and The Suites at Sedona.
Popular things to do – Sedona is one of the best places to hike in the US, but it is also a wonderful place to get off-road in a jeep, shoot stunning photography, visit historic sites and drink wine.
Chimney Rock + Little Sugarloaf Trail FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most asked questions about hiking Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf in Sedona.
Chimney Rock is a moderately difficult hike with a steep climb on unmarked trail to reach the summit. Nearby Little Sugarloaf is easier to summit and has the same stunning views.
Hikers should plan for around 1.5 – 2 hours to hike Chimney Rock Trail in Sedona. Views from the summit are fantastic and should be enjoyed for at least 15-20 minutes. We recommend combining Little Sugarloaf with Chimney Rock to make a 3 hour roundtrip loop hike.
More From Sedona
Cathedral Rock – Sedona is filled with amazing hikes but Cathedral Rock Trail is one of the most iconic. If you’re short on time, this is the adventure hike for you.
Bell Rock – Hike the Bell Rock Courthouse Butte Loop Trail for stunning Sedona views, a fun slick rock climb and our hidden loop half way up the formation.
Boynton Canyon – Exactly how to find the famous Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon Trail, the most photographed cave in Sedona.
Birthing Cave – The easiest cave to reach in Sedona is Birthing Cave on Long Canyon Trail, ending with amazing views and a crowd free climax.
Soldier Pass – Hike to Devils Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools before climbing into Soldier Pass Cave on the family friendly Solider Pass Trail in Sedona.
More From The Southwest
Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona travel guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.
We hope this sunrise hiking guide for Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf helps with planning your visit to Sedona, Arizona!
Please let us know if you have any questions about hiking Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
Their work has been featured in USA Today, Gestalten, Get Your Guide, CityPASS and Condé Nast Traveler along with various other publications.