Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Outdoors: Sedona's mellow Jim Thompson Trail certainly is buzz-worthy
alert top story

Outdoors: Sedona's mellow Jim Thompson Trail certainly is buzz-worthy


Finally, at long last, after an epic quest worthy of Hesse’s Siddartha or some such New Agey icon, after too many Sedona-sized disappointments to recount here, I have experienced the power of a vortex. I felt a current flowing within me, electromagnetic waves connecting with my corpus at some deep cellular level. I was, in a word, buzzing.

Oh, sorry. Turns out I was just going under some power lines on the Jim Thompson Trail.

Never mind. Carry on.

I kid my New Age friends because I envy them. In my wanderings to various purported vortex spots in Red Rock country, I have felt … well, nothing ethereal or otherworldly. My loss, I guess.

But I’m here to tell you that, approached with the right attitude, you can be transformed on even so prosaic a path as Sedona’s Jim Thompson Trail, which connects Wilson Canyon and Midgley Bridge to the northeast to the top of Mormon Canyon to the west and is far from any "documented" vortexes.

There is a distinct Old West vibe to this trek, what with the rutilant rock formations towering above and the remains of the original wagon road the eponymous settler/squatter built in the late 1800s to connect his digs in Oak Creek Canyon to his second home in what is now Sedona.

I like to imagine corseted women and chap-clad men — or vice versa, since this is Sedona — forging onward along the ridge, communing with the juniper and Arizona cypress, fanning themselves because then, as now, shade was scarce.

And I like to think of the wagons as tricked out Pink Jeeps of their day, ferrying pioneer folk to tourist spots like Steamboat Rock and the canyon where a bear exacted its revenge on renowned bear hunter Richard Wilson, Thompson’s hired hand. Talk about an out-of-body experience for Wilson, when that grizzly got its mass of swirling energy going and chewed off the guy's face.

You have lots of time to mull such historical footnotes as you make footprints along the Jim Thompson Trail. It is 3.2 miles, point-to-point and, as sometimes is the case, the same views look different depending on which way you’re going.

Support Local Journalism

Your membership makes our reporting possible.

Though my GPS device measured 555 feet of elevation gain, it’s actually a kind of mellow trail, absent some of the hellacious rockiness of many Sedona trails.

So you can just cruise on by, crane your neck to the west and wonder why you can’t quite make out the nautical shape for which Steamboat Rock is named. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but to me, about half of the Rorschach Test-like naming of Sedona rocks simply don’t resemble their monikers.

On the Jim Thompson Trail, at least, I got 50% of the landmarks correct. The Fin, a popular climbing spot, was absolutely fin-like. Steamboat Rock? Not so much.

What is easily recognized along the Jim Thompson Trail are some of Sedona’s developed landmarks.

Midgley Bridge, for one.

If you start the out-and-back at Midgley Bridge — which I recommend, despite the scant parking right off Highway 89A — you’ll get a considerable chunk of the climbing out of the way in the first mile and be rewarded with a nice view of the bridge from on high.

That's followed by a relatively flat second mile and a mild uphill heading to the other trailhead at the end of Jordan Road and Park Ridge Drive before turning around and retracing your steps with what feels like slightly more downhill upon return. And geology buffs, too, will like how the red soil of the Schnebly Hill sandstone formation gradually gives way to the sandier, whiter Coconino rock formation, easier on the joints to traverse, by the way.

Either way, though, there are views of the developed city of Sedona down below, jutting landmarks both natural and man-made.

My only complaint is that the Jim Thompson Trail is too short. With a path so navigable, you yearn for more. There are ways to lengthen the trek and turn it into a lollipop loop by veering off on the Jordan Trail and curving around on the Cibola Pass Trail, but that’s rockier, steeper and about 2 ½ miles longer than the Thompson out-and-back.

Go ahead, knock yourself out. And don’t fret about the low-level EMF exposure from the power lines; just consider it a poor man’s vortex.


Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Feature Writer, Community/Calendar Editor

Sam McManis is an Arizona Daily Sun features writer and the author of two books: “Running to Glory: An Unlikely Team, A Challenging Season and Chasing the American Dream" and “Crossing California: A Cultural Topography of a State of Wonder and Weirdness.”

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News

Breaking News (FlagLive!)