Amblers Hike Teacup Trail

February 01, 2019

By Michael McCaffrey

The hikers’ view of Teacup Rock as seen from the Teacup Trail. This distinctive, highly-eroded rock formation is thought by some people to resemble a tea cup. It is located just to the west of Coffee Pot Rock.

“If everyone in the world took care of each other the way folks do out on the trail, and if everyone approached each day with as much hope and optimism as hikers do, the world would be a better place.” wrote Jon Tullis in, Walk Think Write: Midlife Passages on Oregon’s Pacific Crest Trail.

There can be no better quote than this to describe the Amblers group of the Sedona Westerners’ hikers that gathered for a Thursday morning Coffee Pot-Soldier Pass hike.  The conversation and camaraderie were in full swing as we entered the Little Elf Trailhead -- the name alone conjures the mood for this magical iconic tour.

This trail is described as one of the “best bang for your buck” hikes in Hiking Hotspot: The Teacup Trail in Sedona, Arizona, by Maureen Therese and the trail lives up to the hype.

As we pass by the din of the Little Elf drainage project (this final phase involves construction of a sediment basin upstream of the 72-inch diameter pipe’s inlet structure, on a city parcel west of the Sugarloaf trailhead parking area) we are greeted with the solitary chirp of one of the resident Phainopepla, competing with the hikers’ conversations.  This initial start of the hike offers stunning views in all directions.  To the west is the tri-partite tower of Chimney Rock, beckoning to Lizard Head and the peak of Thunder Mountain, to the east the flank of Sugarloaf, tempting us to its summit, and to the northeast the range that terminates in Coffee Pot Rock, and somewhere in this area, a scene was filmed from the original western movie, “3:10 To Yuma,” featuring Coffee Pot Rock and Chimney Rock.

Rounding the loaf-like hump of Sugarloaf, the vista opens out to views of Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Airport Mesa, and the great sinkhole of Devil’s Kitchen, as well as the nearby views of the cave in the shadow of Thunder Mountain and the rock formation that bears the name, Teacup.  “Where is the Teacup?” somebody asked.  I think you possibly might have to close one eye, scrunch up the other, and stand on your head to see it as a tea cup.  It more closely resembles a cremation urn, a turban, or a bedpost finial, than something you would sip afternoon tea from!

We head off to our turnaround point at the sinkhole and are treated to not only spectacular views, but to the diverse desert plant life that imparts an almost lush look to the trail as it meanders to our destination.

Mormon Tea, Crucifixion Thorn (Kenosha), Manzanita, Junipers (assorted), and Pine are just a few of the plants observed.  And while we were certainly out of the wildflower season, there were a few hangers-on that caught the eye: the subtle blue of a low-lying verbena and the bushy button-white of Mariola.  Even though there is a scarcity of wildflowers at this time of year, there is such a plethora of other desert plant life that it certainly can distract you from the exquisite views.

The trail continued its pleasant meander and the topics of conversation were quite far-ranging: Boles, Pella Iowa, Grand Canyon, Bass Trail, rafting the Colorado, rescuing the Kolb Brothers, Ohio, etc., but finally we arrived at the sinkhole for our well-deserved lunch break.  A few brave souls meandered up to the widening crack of another slab that at some point will join its brothers in the hole below.  “Nine inches” someone shouted, implying a wider gap than the last time they measured.  Fortunately for our intrepid crew, the slab did not descend into the abyss while we were still there.

We returned the way we came to complete this 4.3-mile, easy hike which included some of Sedona’s iconic landmarks.  Special thanks were given to hike leaders Mary and Michael McCaffrey, and tailgaters Celeste Rubanick and Hal Frank, for a delightful hike.  “A day like this is like somebody giving you a present,” wrote Betty Smith, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

If you are interested in joining the hiking club, please visit the Sedona Westerners’ website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 14, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Written by Michael McCaffrey.

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