Hike Sedona: Chapel Trail

The Nuns formation as seen from the Chapel Trail.

Want to walk in the footsteps of movie stars and enjoy red rock views at the same time? Take a jaunt through Little Horse Park.



Some of the most iconic movie locations in Red Rock Country are located in the region once known as Little Horse Park. You and I know it as the Chapel Area. Several trails in the vicnity offer up the same views you’ve seen on the big screen. Little Horse Trail is undoubtedly the most popular of the bunch, but we have a fondness for the Chapel Trail, which branches off from Little Horse and hugs the base of the red rocks. Hike this trail if you want to get in touch with your inner Joan Crawford for a couple of hours.

Begin your hike on Bell Rock Pathway at the Little Horse Trailhead on SR 179. After hiking for just 0.36 mile, Little Horse Trail branches to the left. Take it. The route leads toward Lee Mountain, commonly referred to as The Mermaid formation. The trail meets a dry wash after you’ve been hiking half a mile; follow the signs, walk a few steps up the wash and the trail continues to the right. Now you’re heading toward the towering Nuns formation, named because of its proximity to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, one of Sedona’s most beloved sites. The trail climbs steadily in this area and soon offers up views of Cathedral Rock and the aforementioned chapel.

One mile into your hike, the Llama Trail, popular with mountain bikers, branches off to your right. You’ll finally find the Chapel Trail 1.5 miles from the trailhead, on your left. The trail is narrow, and you normally don’t find a glut of hikers in this area. Look to your left for the same stunning views of Cathedral Rock, Castle Rock, Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock that inspired Hollywood directors so many years ago. An unspoiled forest of evergreens is the only thing between you and the red rocks (or so it seems). Between 1930 and 1968, 36 movies were filmed in the area, including Johnny Guitar starring Joan Crawford, Angel and the Badman with John Wayne and Stay Away, Joe, featuring Elvis Presley. Obviously you’re in good company in this area.

Unfortunately, you only have to walk a few more steps before neighborhoods and SR 179 come into view. The trail continues to traverse cactus-studded terrain until it ends at the Chapel of the Holy Cross parking lot, 2.2 miles from where you began. Explore the chapel, which also offers some magnificent views, and return to the trailhead for a 4.4-mile round-trip hike and a brief trek through Sedona’s film legacy.

MORE SEDONA HIKES: Hike of the Month archive, 10 favorite hikes, Sedona day hikes, Mt. Humphreys

MORE SEDONA MOVIE HISTORY: Johnny Depp in Dead Man, the last western film set, the making of Johnny Guitar, Sedona movie locations today, Oscar winner shooting spot, an interview with Tony Curtis, Sedona’s film legacy, an interview with Beatrice Welles

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEDONA’S FILM LEGACY? Purchase a copy of Arizona’s Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona’s Forgotten Film History 1923-1973

Comments are closed.