Thunder Mountain Trail is a gem of a hike that meanders along the base of its namesake, also known as Capitol Butte or Grey Mountain. Though there isn’t a ton of shade along the trail, it’s a short, easy jaunt with trailheads on both ends, which makes it a four-season hike. It’s a 4-mile round-trip, or you can leave a car at each trailhead and turn it into an easy 2-mile walk. If that’s the case, we recommend starting your hike at the Sugarloaf Trailhead on Buena Vista Drive because it’s a downhill journey in that direction.
From the Buena Vista trailhead, the hike begins on Teacup Trail, which heads straight toward towering Thunder Mountain, the monolith that dominates all of West Sedona. You’ll hike Teacup for 0.34 mile before you come to the intersection of Teacup and Thunder Mountain trails. Turn left on Thunder Mountain. For the remainder of the hike, you’ll be marching southwest with Thunder Mountain to your right and Coffee Pot Rock behind you. Chimney Rock is directly in front of you; this hike offers up stellar views of that spire. This is as close as you can get to Thunder Mountain without climbing it, and the up-close-and-personal views will impress everyone in your party. The trail makes its way through the usual Sedona vegetation: juniper trees, prickly pear cactus, Mormon tea shrubs and yucca plants. After it rains, you’ll spot tiny wildflowers.
Thunder Mountain Trail intersects with Andante Trail 0.58 miles into the hike and then Lower Chimney Rock Loop 1.34 miles from the trailhead. Just before the Lower Chimney Rock junction there’s a short trail off to the left that leads to Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a favorite local meditation spot. If you have time, it’s worth a visit. Thunder Mountain Trail ends at a trailhead on Thunder Mountain Road, 1.98 miles from the Sugar Loaf Trailhead. If you return the way you came, you will have a couple of short hills to navigate, so keep that in mind when planning your day. As with any summer hike, we recommend venturing out early in the morning or early in the evening.