South Face

Page Type
Arizona, United States, North America
Route Type:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Half a day
moderate to low
Rock Difficulty:
Class 4
Number of Pitches:

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South Face
Created On: May 2, 2009
Last Edited On: Sep 4, 2010


This is the route that will take you directly up the south face of Capitol Butte. Its is the hardest non-technical route on the mountain. It is a mix of class 4 climbing and mostly class 2 and 3 climbing.

Getting There

Start at the Andante Drive trailhead which is at the end of Andante Drive. Andante Drive is west of 89A and is accessed about 1/4 south of McDonald's in Sedona.

Route Description

From the trailhead at the end of Andante Drive, hike the Andante Trail northeast from the parking area. After around 1000 feet of hiking you'll come to an obvious cross trail. Take the cross trail towards the lower slopes of Capitol Butte. The trail starts out easy, but gets harder as you approach the base of Capitol Butte. As you move closer you will notice that the rough trail is taking you to an exposed area where you will make the first climb up on to a ledge. From below the climb up this pitch may look impossible, but as the trail takes you closer it becomes clear that you will be climbing up a small angled ledge which is exposed, but very possible to climb.
The first pitch.The first pitch or ledge of climbing.

One you have gained the first section, continue past the 20 foot long ledge and proceed past a pinyon. Then you want to look for the almost absent trail and head up hill. This first section that you have passed through is the most exposed and challenging part of climbing you'll encounter on the route, and it will probably scare some people off. Nothing else on the rest of the route is this exposed.

The next part of the climb is mostly class 2 and the trail is hard to follow at times. The general path initially continues west before turning back east and your path may weave up hill irregularly. You will need to climb up to another area, or large ledge, which will take you up to the view point which is just before you meet the rough trail coming up from the southeast drain. There are several ways to do this, and your way may vary according to the trail you follow.
The View PointAt the view point.

After you meet the obvious trail coming up from the southeast drain you will climb for quite a while on a fairly well defined trail that goes back and forth between class 2 and 3. There aren't many places to go off trail to on this climb, so if you get into a really narrow or exposed area, turn back and look for the trail again. You might need to probe, and some confusing rock scrambling may be needed, but there really isn't too much that is all that difficult until you reach the chimney.

The summer of 2010 has seen a lot of heavy rain in Sedona, and Capitol Butte seems to have been no exception. Consequently, erosion has been bad. In places the trail is harder to find, and it is getting steeper and rougher between the southeast drain and the chimney. Don't expect to have an easy hike up this section.
Looking up at the chimney.The chimney from below.

The Chimney is the last bit of climbing you should encounter and the trail pretty much heads right for it. It isn't all that bad going up, but it can be a little hard to go down. Make sure you think you can climb down it before going up. From the chimney you come to a small saddle, and then it is a short stretch of trail to the summit. You are a couple of hundred vertical feet above the chimney at the saddle. Everything above the saddle is class 2 and pretty straight forward.
SW view off of Capitol ButteThe Summit View

Essential Gear

A helmet is optional. I don't bring one, but I have launched rocks downhill while descending. This route sees few people.

Red Rocks Passes

The five dollar daily Red Rocks Passes are available at several trailheads and other places in Sedona. If staying for more than one day, a 10 dollar weekly pass may be preferable. If you visit Sedona often, a 20 dollar yearly pass can be obtained. I have purchased mine at the Safeway on 89A. If you have a National Parks Pass, it should double as a Red Rocks Pass.

South Face

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