There are myriad reasons why the Little Horse Trail is one of the most popular hiking routes in Sedona, Arizona.
Epic vistas, connectivity with the Bell Rock Pathway system of trails, iconic rock formations and rich botanical diversity combine for a classic red rock country trek.
The well-known and heavily traveled path in Coconino National Forest really draws the crowds and finding parking at the trailhead can be a challenge, especially on weekends.
The recently introduced Sedona Shuttle offers a convenient solution to parking quagmires at many of Sedona’s most beloved trails, including this one. So, grab a seat and avoid the headaches as well as the trailhead parking fee.
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Springtime is the optimal window to experience Little Horse in its full-blown wildflower color storm.
Situated just outside the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area, the hike begins with a 0.3-mile walk on the wide Bell Rock Pathway where views of Cathedral Rock tower above vivid russet cliffs to the west.
This sunny segment is fringed with globemallow, antelope horns, blackfoot daisies, sego lilies, evening primroses and fuzzy fleatherplume shrubs.
Head left at the signed Little Horse junction and follow the trail as it descends into a steep-walled drainage.
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Once through the stony corridor, the trail begins a steady uphill climb on staircase-like sandstone slabs, twisting among blooming cliffrose shrubs that emit a pungent fragrance that most folks either love or hate. This polarizing aroma competes with the softer lilac notes of the Gregg’s ceanothus bush and the subtle orange bouquet of cliff fendlerbush.
The desert blooms provide olfactory distractions worthy of taking a moment to breathe in.
Ducking among pockets of cypress, piñon and fir, breaks in the tree cover frame views of the Chapel of the Holy Cross plus the iconic Madonna and the Nuns, Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte rock formations before meeting the turnoff for an optional side trip up to Chicken Point.
The not-to-be missed spur path flanked by yucca and gangly agave stalks culminates on a rounded sandstone mound bolstered by striated, weather-worn spires and views that extend to the distant Bradshaw Mountains.
A stream of visitors doing handstands and yoga poses on a stone outcropping is the closing act at trail’s end.
Length: 3.6 miles round trip.
Elevation: 4,240-4,400 feet.
Getting there: From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take Exit 298 for Sedona. Go northwest on State Route 179 to near mile marker 308 and turn right into the Little Horse trailhead parking lot. There is a restroom at the trailhead.
Read more of Mare Czinar’s hikes at http://arizonahiking.blogspot.com.