Exploring Bell Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Schnebly Hill & Tlaquepaque - Sedona, Arizona
Updated: Feb 16
On our second day of this trip to Sedona we did a little hiking as well as visiting other attractions in the area such as the Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Shopping Village.
Ever heard of Vvortex? You might not know about the vortexes in Sedona, but they are actually internationally known as meditation sites. They are a kind of earth energy of which they say "you can get a lift just by coming into town". We all need a little lift in life, don't we? (spiritually, not by any other means, just saying).
I say that you can get high just by looking at the amazing landscapes in Sedona. As John Muir said, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks" . He should know, he dedicated his life understanding nature. Indeed, nature's wonders have the power to inspire and uplift one's person, that's why we keep seeking them.
BELL ROCK & COURT HOUSE BUTTE
We started the day walking to Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. I said "walk" and not hike because we didn't really hike here since we are saving it for Schuerman Mountain. Located between the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona, north of Highway 179, a major access route from I-17 to Sedona.
There are two parking areas: from the south (Bell Rock Pathway and Vista) and from the north (Courthouse Vista). A pass is required to park. If you have an "America the Beautiful" pass then it 's free, one of the perks of being a senior.
Coming from the Village of Oak Creek, we parked at the south trailhead. You won’t miss the Bell Rock since it resembles a giant a bell, hence the name.
Geologically, Bell Rock (adjacent to Courthouse Butte) is a butte composed of horizontally bedded sedimentary rock of the Permian Supai Formation (part of the Schnebly Hill formation of sandstone and limestone). It was shaped by wind and water millions of years ago, after land rose above the sea.
Bell Rock is one of the most prominent Sedona vortex sites. It was a prime gathering spot during 1987’s “Harmonic Convergence”, a name given to one of the world’s first globally synchronized events (meditation, music and dance), based on the ancient Mayan Calendar. The event was said to have closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of the planets. It was a massive event, even big names such as John Denver and Shirley MacLaine attended.
They expected UFO sightings or communications with extraterrestrials. That did not happen, but this event apparently became the turning point for the culture and economy of Sedona.
There are trails at Bell Rock which connect to different routes. The Bell Rock Loop Trail is a direct access to the Bell Rock Formation itself, about 1 to 1.5 miles. If you are aiming for a view, there is an easy to moderate 3.6 mile trail along the Bell Rock Pathway. On this same trail is a sign that connects to Courthouse Loop Butte Trail.
These are popular trails among hikers, bikers, joggers and vortex seekers. You might not find the solitude you seek. To avoid the crowds, we usually come to popular places early, and we almost always have the place to ourselves. Also, it's nice to start the day early so there will be plenty of time to explore other attractions, maximizing the limited time we have.
CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS
After Bell Rock, we visited the landmark of Sedona, the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This chapel was built into the buttes of Sedona, commissioned by a local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. In 1932 she was inspired by the newly constructed Empire State Building to build this chapel.
The chapel was initially planned to be built in Budapest, Hungary (with the help of Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright), but was aborted due to the imminent beginning of World War II. She decided to build the chapel in her native region instead.
Richard Hein was chosen as project architect, and the design was executed by architect August K. Strotz, both from the firm of Anshen & Allen. The chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land (the late Senator Barry Goldwater assisted Staude in obtaining a special-use permit).
The chapel was built in 18 months at a cost of $300,000. When completed in 1956, it rose 70 feet above the red rock cliff. It is run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, as a part of St. John Vianney Parish in Sedona.
The American Institute of Architects gave the Chapel its Award of Honor in 1957. In Marguerite Brunswig Staude's words, "Though Catholic in faith, as a work of art the Chapel has a universal appeal. Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality."
In 2007, Arizonans voted the Chapel to be one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona.
SCHNEBLY HIILL ROAD
Before heading out to lunch we made another stop. Following up the Schnebly Hill Road we arrived at the Schnebly Hill Trailhead. But we didn't hike here, just walked a short way to a viewpoint where we could take some pictures.
The Schnebly Hill Road is one of the most scenic routes in the Sedona area. It was a former cow trail, which became the main route from Sedona to Flagstaff before being replaced by the Oak Creek Canyon Road (US-89A) in 1914.
This road continues past the trailhead where four wheel drive is required. We brought our car instead of the truck, so going up to the Schnebly Hill Vista was definitely out. Anyways, we couldn't do it all within the limited time we had and down by the trailhead we got plenty of photo ops as well.
DINING IN SEDONA
We stayed outside of town, in the Village of Oak Creek, but we didn’t have to drive to have dinner. Nearby, just a short walking distance is a Thai Restaurant called Tara Thai. I did not take photos (it was dark) and don’t remember what we ordered (it's hard when it comes to Asian food), but I remember the food was delicious, healthy and reasonably priced. We dined there again the next night.
When it comes to food, I'm more adventurous, and mostly likely to order food that I haven't had before. Though I've had tuna sandwiches before, the tuna was from a can. This one was a slab of fresh grilled Yellow Fin Tuna, on toasted wheat berry bread. Sounds fancy doesn't it? I washed it down with cold tea (no alcohol for me) and it was a great lunch.
For lunch, we ate at Oak Creek Brewery and Grill, located in historic Tlaquepaque. So, being a German, my husband Hermann, is so predictable when it comes to food. He didn't even look hard to find what he likes. He ordered the Brewmaster’s Bomber, which is Bratwurst with sauerkraut on sourdough, with a side of onion rings. Plus, dark beer, of course, to quench his thirst (see photo).
After that satisfying meal and with our energy restored, we walked around Tlaquepaque (pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh), the Arts and Crafts Shopping Village of Sedona at the very heart of Sedona beside Oak Creek. Tlaquepaque, meaning the "best of everything," has been Sedona's landmark since the 1970's. It is said to be the most distinctive shopping experience to be found in the Southwest.
The village was fashioned after a traditional village in Mexico called Tlaquepaque. Its vine-covered stucco walls, cobble-stoned walkways and arched entryways was meant to look like it has been there for centuries. The area has beautiful natural surroundings, shaded by sycamore trees.
It is a nice shopping area offering various one-of-a-kind gift items, arts and crafts to take home. You would want to spend time exploring here after exploring nature. You might spend more, but it is probably worth it.
We couldn't possibly leave Sedona without at least doing a little hiking, so we headed next to Schuerman Mountain.