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Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf: Stunning Sedona Sunrise Hike

Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf: Stunning Sedona Sunrise Hike

Hiking to Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf is a fantastic loop trail for anyone looking to escape the relentless crowds on the most popular hikes in Sedona.

Is it worth adding this quiet and relatively unheard of loop to your Sedona hiking itinerary?

We think the Chimney Rock / Little Sugarloaf loop is hugely underrated and would categorize the hike as a true hidden gem. If you can make it up here before dawn, you will be in for a special sunrise.

In this guide we will cover:

  • Where to park for the loop trail
  • Which pass you need to display
  • Sunrise guide to both Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf
  • Complete hiking walkthrough
  • Photos of the trails at sunrise

Let’s hike Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf for a spectacular sunrise in Sedona, Arizona!

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Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock from below at dawn in Sedona Arizona
Spires of Chimney Rock as seen from below on the Upper Chimney Rock Trail

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 even from parts of town. It is located on the outskirts of West Sedona and we knew it would make a perfect sunrise vantage point.

Little Sugarloaf

Hiker at the top of Little Sugarloaf trail in Sedona with a bright blue background at dawn
Kristen at the top of Little Sugarloaf

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 list of hikes in Sedona.

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.

Little Sugarloaf is one of our top off the beaten path recommendations for visitors to Sedona.

Thunder Mountain Trail

Little Sugarloaf as seen from Thunder Mountain Trail
Little Sugarloaf as seen from Thunder Mountain Trail

You will be hiking on Thunder Mountain Trail during sections of the Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Loop. However, this trail is a separate hike and should only be considered by the strongest hikers.

Thunder Mountain Trail leads beyond Chimney Rock and up Thunder Mountain via South Scramble. 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 Keyhole Cave.

Hiking Route And Statistics

Route

Here’s exactly how we would suggest hiking this loop route efficiently to 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

You could add the full Lower Chimney Rock loop trail to make it a longer hike. This would mean you completely circle Little Sugarloaf.

Statistics

If you hike the exact route we suggest above, here are the 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 Hike In Sedona

Map of the Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf hiking trail in Sedona Arizona route numbered points marking the directions to follow at sunrise for both summits
Map of the exact route to take for Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock at sunrise

The map above shows the exact route to follow when hiking the Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock loop trail for sunrise in Sedona, Arizona.

Map key:

  • 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. Try to make sunrise or sunset if possible.

We did sunrise and highly recommend it. Here’s what you can expect at both:

Sunrise At Chimney Rock

Hike watching sunrise from a rock under sunlight in northern arizona
Stunning view over Sedona from Chimney Rock at sunrise

Chimney Rock is a fabulous sunrise spot with far reaching views over Sedona. 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

Hiker sat on a flat rock watching sunrise over a tree filled landscape on a cold but sunny morning
Expansive 360 degree viewpoint from Little Sugarloaf summit

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.

Where To Park For Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf

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 Andante Trail markers
Thunder Mountain and Andante Trailheads direction signs

Thunder Mountain 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 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.

Chimney Rock Spires looking like three fingers sticking into the air sunrise in Sedona
Chimney Rock appearing like three fingers sticking up into the sky

Hiking Apps

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 Hike 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.

Park Up And Get Right Onto Thunder Mountain Trail

Parking lot andante trail in northern arizona
Small parking lot at Andante Trailhead in Sedona

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.

Lower Chimney Rock Trail

Hiking a trail in northern arizona on a cold but sunny day surrounded by trees and red rocks
Hot air balloons taking off after sunrise in Sedona

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.

Little Sugarloaf

Hiker stood on edge of Little Sugarloaf summit overlooking Chimney Rock at dawn
Mark stood on the edge of Little Sugarloaf summit overlooking Chimney Rock after sunrise

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, Airport Mesa, downtown Sedona, Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, Cathedral Rock, Doe Mountain, Boynton Canyon and Chimney Rock.

Upper Chimney Rock Trail

Hiking a dirt path at dawn in Arizona sunlight and shadows
Little Sugarloaf as seen from 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.

Chimney Rock

Hiker at the base of Chimney Rock spires in Sedona Arizona at sunrise looking up for perspective
Kristen at the base of Chimney Rock spires looking up for perspective

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 Schebly Hill.

Head Back To Your Car

Fun photo of a rock formation in shadow creating a pyramid shape at dawn
Fun photo of Chimney Rock at sunrise creating a pyramid shaped shadow

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 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 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.

Season

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.

No matter which season you visit, try to avoid hiking on weekends, during holidays and through the 10am-3pm rush.

Stunning sunrise soft light colors glowing over Sedona from Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf hiking trail
Stunning soft light sunrise colors lighting up red rocks in Sedona from Chimney Rock summit

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

  1. Park at Thunder Mountain and start with Little Sugarloaf to arrive before sunrise
  2. Take a packed breakfast to enjoy with your back up against Chimney Rock
  3. Look out for wildlife if you hike for sunrise, we saw several coyotes and deer
  4. Don’t forget your tripod if you plan to shoot sunrise photography in low light
  5. Look out for hot air balloons rising to the west at dawn

Sedona Arizona Visitor Summary

Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most asked questions about hiking Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf in Sedona.

Is The Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf Loop An Easy Hike?

Hiking a loop to summit both Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock is moderately difficult. Little Sugarloaf is easier to summit, with a less steep ascent that is well beaten.

The climb up to Chimney Rock is steep at the end and would be treacherous after or during heavy rainfall.

Is It Worth Including Chimney Rock And Little Sugarloaf To Your Sedona Hiking Wishlist?

From a purely hiking perspective, we don’t think this loop trail is particularly exciting or fun. However, the views and photography opportunities from both Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf are remarkable.

The increasing popularity of hiking to the best caves in Sedona means very few visitors will hike this short loop hike to Little Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock. As a result, you can enjoy some of the very best views over Sedona without having to battle through the crowds.

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

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.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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