The Mountains of Arizona
Munds Mountain & Schnebly Hill • Highpoint: Munds Mountain Wilderness
• Red Rocks of Sedona, Coconino Nat'l Forest
• Coconino County

Munds Mountain, Arizona
This is where FR-801 ends, still over a mile from the lip of the canyon. It is typical of the forest that I hiked through
Munds Mountain, Arizona
First view of Munds Mountain
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Now closer
Munds Mountain, Arizona
From near the edge of the plateau
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Closer still
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Viewed from within the small saddle connecting the peak to the Coconino Plateau
Munds Mountain, Arizona
View south through Jack's Canyon
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Upper trail of Munds Mountain
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Summit trees and rock
Munds Mountain, Arizona
General view of the summit area
Munds Mountain, Arizona
View of the Coconino Plateau, from whence I hiked
Munds Mountain, Arizona
Scnebly Hill Road and Red Rocks
Munds Mountain, Arizona
More glorious Red Rocks
Munds Mountain, Arizona
View down the trail
Schnebly Hill, Arizona
Schnebly Hill summit

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Date: November 1, 2020 • Elevation: 6,834 feet • Prominence: 474 feet • Distance: 9 miles • Time: 5 hours • Gain: 904 feet (gross) • Conditions: Sunny and warm with a few clouds


Munds Mountain is a narrow plateau-peak surrounded by sandstone cliffs, on the east edge of the Red Rocks of Sedona superset of hills, spires and peaks. It actually gets its own wilderness, the eponymous Munds Mountain Wilderness. There are a few ways to approach the peak, via trailheads down in the canyons near Sedona, or from the adjoining Coconino Plateau via Schnebly Hill Road, or variations of forest roads thereof.

It made sense for me to come in from the east, from the Coconino Plateau, rather than deal with Sedona traffic. I left Payson about 7:45 a.m., got gas and drinks, and followed AZ-87 to AZ-260 to Interstate-17, then northbound up the grade into the tall pines, exiting at the Schnebly Hill Exit (Exit 320). I followed Schnebly Hill Road in about two miles, looking for Coconino Forest Road 801, my chosen route to the summit.

Schnebly Hill Road is a famous scenic drive, a dirt track that connects the Coconino Plateau and Sedona, featuring a narrow shelf road that steeply descends the cliffs of the Coconino Plateau. I have not driven this road yet. There is a parking area just before the road drops down below the cliff edge. Many people start their hike from here, following lesser tracks and trails.

But not me. I wanted FR-801 for a couple reasons: first, the forest service's topographical map showed it to be a "better" road, so I hoped I could drive in a mile or two, and second, I wanted to tag Schnebly Hill's highpoint, which lies a half-mile east of FR-801. Schnebly Hill Road itself was dirt and bumpy, but manageable. I turned onto FR-801 and was chagrined to see it full of rocks almost immediately. I walked it a little to see if it improved, but it did not appear to. So I parked in a small opening with a fire ring. I would have to start my hike from here, elevation about 6,490 feet. I was looking at 4.5 miles to the summit.

I started walking at 9:30 a.m., the day warm and pleasant, with sun and a few clouds. In the sun, the warmth was evident, but in the shade, it was cool. I started hoofing along FR-801, following it south and southwest for about 2.5 miles. The road gains to about 6,600 feet before making a long, slow drop, almost imperceptible. The relative flatness of the road meant I could walk quickly, but the road itself was often full of rocks, big ones and small ones. I turned my ankles more than once, but I made good time.

FR-801 ends, branching into two tracks. I stayed straight (FR-9495F) and ten minutes later, came to another split. Both branches were labelled the same: FR-9494F. I went left, followed it up a slight rise, then down slightly, now into spotty pinon and juniper woodland with open meadows. Along the way, I had my first good views of Munds Mountain, rising above the trees, shaped like a big breadloaf. I followed the road until it came to Committee Tank, then bent left along a fence line, intersecting the Hot Loop Trail. I had hiked about 3.5 mile to here, the edge of the plateau.

I passed through a wire gate, now on the Hot Loop Trail. The trail gently drops to the saddle connecting Munds Mountain to the Coconino Plateau. The trail was wide and in good shape, albeit sandy, but it had steep drops, the kind where a slip could mean a long tumble downhill. I was soon at the saddle. The Jacks Canyon trail goes left (south) here, downhill into Jacks Canyon. The Munds Mountain Trail (#77) goes uphill, marked by a metallic sign. There are actually two trails here but they merge again about 30 feet uphill.

The trail here essentially weaves up through the tiered sandstone cliff bands of Munds Mountain. The trail was sandy and steep and sometimes loose, and often branched, to where I had to guess at times which was the proper trail. The hiking was not difficult, but a few segments had enough exposure to keep my attention. A couple spots were marked with cairns, helping me stay on route. But all this did not take long. Soon, I was up into the trees again, the trail surmounting the lower ridge and moderating in gradient.

The next segment was interesting: the trail runs atop a rocky spine, about six feet wide, with cliffs on both sides. Although there were plenty of trees and brush here, one slip could have been very bad news. Then the trail comes to a wide spot shaded in the low forest. I stopped briefly here to rest and admire the red rock formations --- and Schnebly Hill Road --- down below.

I followed the trail uphill again into the trees, then through a thicket of mountain oak, then ... finally, the top. The trail levels quickly and now I was on top the broad and flat plateau-top of Munds Mountain. It was lovely up here, with scattered juniper and pinon, mountain oak and grass meadows. The top took some time locating. The trail crosses a meadow, and the top was a little east of the trail, about a fifteen-foot gain. I stepped on about ten rocks, then found the "top" cairn and summit register on a rock partially hidden by a bush. I signed in, but I suspect many summiters never see this cairn. It seemed to me that the top, such as it was, was any high rock in a fifty-foot radius from the cairn.

The views were nice up here. At the top itself, all I could see was nearby trees, but nearby there were great perches to view down over the lower canyons and plateaus. It was 11:59 a.m. when I finally sat down at the cairn-rock and took a 15-minute break. The day was warm but enjoyable, not uncomfortable at all. I was in no hurry, other than the knowledge I still had to hike out the 4.5 miles to my vehicle. It was good medicine to sit on the rock all by myself, the mountain my own for the moment.

Hiking down, I followed the trail, going slow and using my fifth point of contact in the slippier and slidier sections. I was soon back up on the Coconino Plateau, taking my time walking out the roads back to my car. I took advantage of a few shady spots with good sitting rocks to rest and drink.

I was within a mile of my car and generally fatigued by now. But my day wasn't yet done. Schnebly Hill's meager summit beckoned...

Schnebly Hill
• Coconino Plateau
• Coconino National Forest

Elevation: 6,704 feet • Prominence: 340 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Gain: 104 feet • Time: 30 minutes


Schnebly Hill is the name given to the large lobe of the Coconino Plateau that fronts the cliffs forming the eastern boundary of the Sedona-Red Rocks. The highpoint is a spot elevation of 6,704 feet in the forest, set back about two miles from the cliff's edge. There is nothing remarkable about this hilltop and I would just as soon walk right past it. But it is a ranked summit, so I would be compelled to tag it. It was only a half mile away and easy to get, so I went for it.

I followed FR-9460H in about a quarter mile. The road is blocked by a fallen tree and it does not appear any vehicle has driven on it in years. The road is covered over in pine needles and often hard to discern. I kept on it until I could not see it any more, then angled to my left (northeast) and uphill through the trees, sensing any uphill that I could. I came to a large opening that felt "right", then fortuitously found a cairn and a register. This was the top. I had enough open space to look in all directions and I could see the ground drop off, albeit slowly. This was good enough for me. I signed in (first to sign in in about 3 years) and walked right back out to the main road. This side trip added a mile and about 30 minutes to my day.

Frankly, I would not recommend this hilltop as a hike unless you're in the area anyway. It is not interesting.

Once back on the main road, I had about three-quarters of a mile hike back to my vehicle. I arrived at 2:30 p.m., a five-hour day overall, and faster than I was expecting. I didn't linger much. I changed into more comfortable clothes and drove out, taking a scenic route home through Stoneman Lake, catching Lake Mary Road and Highway AZ-87 that way.

Some discussion items:

The route I took: FR-801 was consistently rocky from the start, not necessarily the biggest rocks, but just a lot of rocks to where driving the road meant I would be going slower than if I walked. My car (Subaru Forester) has good clearance, but not necessarily the best tires. A Jeep would probably be fine. A bigger SUV might get in a mile or two. The roads from where FR-801 ended were a couple points worse in quality and would definitely need a Jeep.

Had I not been interested in tagging Schnebly Hill's summit, I may have driven to the Schnebly Hill Overlook and hiked Munds Mountain from there. It would be a shorter hike (by about 3 miles overall), and it is the route given in most online sites such as Summitpost and HikeArizona. Unless you have a Jeep or similar, FR-801 may be safely ignored. But I enjoyed the hike along it. No one goes in from here, there were no campers, and I had the whole place to myself.

The names: Munds and Schnebly are two family names, for people instrumental in the region's early history. William Munds was a rancher who helped get Coconino County created in 1891. The Schneblys were a married couple, Carl and Sedona, who settled in Oak Creek Canyon in the 1890s. Carl Schnebly was a farmer who needed a way to get his produce to Flagstaff. The Schnebly Hill Road was put in about 1900-1901, and still is there today, now a scenic drive. The town down below grew as people discovered what a lovely place it was. One of the original proposed names for the Post Office was Schnebly's Station, but it was wisely rejected. The new name selected was Sedona. To me, "Red Rocks of Sedona" sounds better than "Red Rocks of Schnebly's Station". Sedona Schnebly died in 1950.

The maps & navigation: The older topographical maps don't show many of the roads and tracks, while the newer Forest Service topos do show these roads, but not always marked by their numbers. For the most part, things matched up well, and I never felt uncertain at any junction, except for the Y-junction where both are signed the same road number. I followed my senses and never had an issue, never got lost or up a dead end, and I did not use a GPS either. Navigation was very easy and straight-forward.

(c) 2020 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.