A woman stands on a flat hill top looking out towards a towering red rock cliff in the distance with green shrubs in the foreground.

Hiking Little Sugarloaf Summit | Sedona's Most Underrated Trail

There's no shortage of amazing trails in Sedona, but nothing beats Little Sugarloaf Summit when it comes to a quick hike with a beautiful view at the top.

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It's known for its beautiful landscapes, iconic red rock cliffs, and sunny days. The best way to see Sedona is from up above, which is exactly why you should head up to the top of Little Sugarloaf.

We've hiked dozens of trails in the Sedona area and Little Sugarloaf is still one of our favorites. The sunset views here looking over town, with gorgeous layers of red rock all around, are just stunning. For such a short hike, there's no beating the pay off at the top.

We've put together this detailed guide based on our own experience, with everything you need to know about hitting the trail. Read on to find out how to get to the trailhead, the best time of day and year to go, and what to bring along.

A man stands on the edge of a red rock hill top with the sun setting over a high desert landscape in the background.

Where is Little Sugarloaf?

The trail to reach Little Sugarloaf's summit is located in west Sedona. The peak itself stands out alone, separated from a wall of red rock mountains along the northern boundary of Sedona.

You can reach the trailhead off Thunder Mountain Road, about a four minute drive from the center of town.

Don't confuse Little Sugarloaf with Sugarloaf Mountain, a slightly taller peak that sits about 1 mile to the east.

Thanks to its proximity to the town of Sedona and elevation, Little Sugarloaf makes a perfect place for a quick hike to take in the surrounding area.

Trail Stats

Little Sugarloaf is a relatively short and easy hike, finishing with a steep but moderate scramble near the top.

Even if it seems a bit challenging on the way up, trust us, the views from the top make it all worth it.

In total, from the Thunder Mountain Trailhead it clocks in at 1.1 miles round-trip. The elevation gain is 301 feet.

Best Time to Hike Little Sugarloaf

Generally speaking, October through May is the best time to go hiking in Sedona.

The average highs stick around the 60s and 70s, with little rain.

March through May the desert will be in bloom and you'll see wildflowers along the trail, but high season will bring more people with it.

The best time of the year to avoid crowds is during the winter, between December and February. Temperatures will be chilly and there's a chance of encountering some ice and snow, but it's still fantastic for hiking during the day.

The best time of day to take in the views from Little Sugarloaf's summit is definitely at sunset. The golden evening light hitting the distant mountains on the other side of Sedona, lighting up the red rock landscape, is breathtaking.

A panoramic view from an elevated hill top looking out on Sedona Arizona during a golden sunset with red rock cliffs illuminated in the distance.

What to Expect on the Little Sugarloaf Hike

Start by taking the Thunder Mountain Trail to the north, entering from the west side of the parking area.

Follow the path along a very flat route, continuing left at a fork, for about 0.3 miles. At the second trail junction you'll see a sign pointing you toward the summit.

Here the elevation will begin to pick up gradually as you make your way up the hill.

It's worth noting that the ascent up the side of the hill is not very well marked. You'll notice several worn foot paths leading up. Be sure to stay on one of these trails, taking the easiest route you can find, but know that they'll all end up at the same destination.

Near the summit you'll encounter some especially steep sections with loose crumbly soil. It's nothing dangerous or sketchy, so just push on and you'll soon be rewarded with some of the best views in the area.

At the top is an area of slickrock with amazing panoramic views of Sedona. From here you have a great look at Chimney Rock, the closest formation to the northeast, and Capitol Butte, the tall peak just beyond that. You can see the Airport Mesa on the other side of town and even Cathedral Rock.

On the descent, be careful and take your time to find solid footing, keeping an eye out for loose soil.

A woman walks away down a red soil trail through dense shrubs with red cliffs in the distance.

Things to Know Before Hiking Little Sugarloaf

Parking

Parking is free, but the lot is small so spaces are limited. There's also no street parking in the immediate area.

The good news is that this is one of the less crowded trails in Sedona, so you're much more likely to find available parking here.

When we visited for sunset in the early spring there was almost no one else there.

Fees

There's no fee to hike Little Sugarloaf Summit or the other trails starting at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead.

If you plan on doing some of the other amazing hikes around Sedona, check whether or not they're on National Forest land. If so, you'll need either a Red Rock Pass (Daily $5, Weekly $15, Annual $20) or a National Park Interagency Pass. The advantage to the interagency pass is that for $80 you get access to 2,000 sites, including most national parks.

Restroom

There's no restroom at the trailhead, so make sure you stop somewhere before heading out.

Weather

Sedona only sees measurable rain about 60 days out of the year. That leaves pretty good odds that you'll have a sunny hike. Even in the winter, average monthly rainfall is just 2 inches.

The temperatures will be mild October through May, with average highs in the 60s, but it can drop down into the 30s after sunset.

During the late spring and summer months you'll want to prepare for highs in the upper 90s. With the harsh sun it can be dangerous to hit the trail during the heat of the day, so plan a summer hike for first thing in the morning and always stay hydrated.

What to Bring to Sedona

Sunscreen

The sun can be a real scorcher in Sedona's desert environment. Bring plenty of sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and consider some lightweight clothes with SPF.

Water

Even on a short hike like Little Sugarloaf you should carry about a half liter of water for every hour of activity. On hot summer days, bring plenty more. Consider a CamelBak or small daypack with a hydration bladder so you don't have to carry around a bottle while hiking.

Proper footwear

Sturdy hiking boots with good traction are essential for hiking in Sedona. On the crumbly sandstone that you'll encounter in the area it's easy to loose your footing, especially on steep sections like at the top of Little Sugarloaf.

Areas of slickrock, like on the summit, are also very slippery when there's been rain.

If you're heading out during the winter, pack a set of traction devices, since it has been known to snow in Sedona. While hiking once in February we were glad we had ours with us, otherwise we would've had to turn back on more than one of the trails.

Headlamp

Since some of the best views in Sedona are at sunset, you'll need to be prepared for the hike back to your vehicle in the dark. Bring along a trustworthy headlamp that's fully charged or have some spare batteries on hand as well. We've been using this one from Black Diamond and are really pleased with it.

Other Hikes to do in Sedona

Some of our other favorites hikes around Sedona include Cathedral Rock and Doe Mountain.

It's wildly popular, so you'll need to plan ahead for the crowds and consider taking a complimentary shuttle, but Cathedral Rock is one hike that definitely lives up to the hype.

Doe Mountain is an easy, 1.5 mile hike up to the top of a wide mesa, with more excellent panoramic views.

If you want to extend your hiking before or after doing Little Sugarloaf you won't have to venture far to add on Chimney Rock Pass or Sugarloaf Loop.

For a little more of a challenge, consider trekking out to Subway Cave. You'll need to take an unmarked detour about 3 miles into the Boynton Canyon Trail.

A woman stands along the edge of a narrow tunnel shaped red rock cave in Sedona Arizona.A woman stands in the distance down a red soil trail leading to tall and dramatic sandstone cliffs being lit by a golden sunset.

Planning a trip to Sedona? Save this hike for later!

A trail with a wooden sign in the foreground and red rock cliffs in the distance with text overlay that says 'Little Sugarloaf Sedona Arizona'

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