best places to hike in Sedona, Arizona

The 12 Best Places to Hike in Sedona, Arizona (All-Time Picks!)

For adventurers of all levels, the best Sedona hikes offer an outdoor experience like no other. 

Sedona is home to beautiful red rock formations, thick pine forests, and majestic canyon walls. From Sedona, you can access the entire Red Rock State Park through various trailheads. This state park is home to a variety of environments – you can experience the desert in one canyon and a cool forest in the next.

In addition, you can take your hikes in Sedona all the way to Flagstaff, AZ via the Coconino National Forest.

There are many things to do in Sedona, including birdwatching, outdoor picnics, and biking. However, exploring the hiking trails is one of the best ways to experience the area and its wonderful vistas.

As you make your way to Sedona, you’ll be able to pick out different mountain peaks and naturally formed arches from miles away. Whether you’re just starting out or already a veteran hiker, you’ll find plenty of trails to choose from.

To help you plan your trip to this beautiful place, here are 12 top-rated hikes in Sedona of all time:

1. Fay Canyon

Fay Canyon
Photo by Aarya Tyagi on Unsplash

With an elevation gain of just 190 feet, this 2.4-mile trail will take you through the heart of Fay Canyon, which is in one of the most stunning parts of Sedona.

Be ready to get up close and personal with the red rocks while walking below hanging gardens and cliff walls.

This trail is perfect for all kinds of hikers, even children and pets, and you’ll be able to see a variety of plant life and wildlife. The path is mostly smooth and there are no major uphill slopes you’ll need to conquer; however, expect some moderate inclines throughout the hike. Also, the path is shaded by trees throughout which offer much-needed relief from the scorching Arizona sun.

The Fay Canyon Trail concludes at a towering rock formation guarded by imposing walls on both sides. Here, you’ll also find large boulders which you can climb if you’re looking for an extra challenge.

2. Cathedral Rock Trail

This hiking trail gets its name from the large cathedral rocks which surround the pathway at the top of the hike. These standing stones are some of the most beautiful rock structures in Sedona, and you’ll feel as if you’re walking into a National Geographic magazine while ascending to the top.

Considered one of the best hikes in Sedona, it’s about a mile round-trip with an elevation of 550 feet, and runs up the side of Cathedral Rock on the east side. 

Compared to the Fay Canyon, the Cathedral Rock Hike is more challenging because of several steeper sections. Expect to use your hands and feet to pull yourself up in some places.

There are several points during this hike where you’ll have an excellent view of the surrounding landscape, including Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop. You can also see into the Mogollon Rim.

Here, you’ll also find one of the most famous vortexes in Sedona, which is supposed to be in the saddle of Cathedral Rock.

Sedona vortexes are places where the energy of the Earth’s power center is said to flow into you. This helps with meditation and spiritual work, but has also been said to cure physical ailments like depression or chronic pain.

Walking into the Cathedral Rock vortex is like walking into another dimension and if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, it’s a place where you can recenter yourself.

The Cathedral Rock Hike Trailhead is off Highway 179, halfway down Back O’ Beyond Road. You’ll find it between the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona.

3. Soldier Pass Trailhead

The Soldier Pass trail is not only one of the best hikes in Sedona, but also one of the most interesting ones. 

Along the trail, you’ll find key sites like the gorgeous Seven Sacred Pools, which are a religious site for the area’s indigenous population. The massive Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole lies along the hike as well.

Soldier Pass encompasses a 4.1-mile loop trail with a 600 feet total elevation gain. It’s usually not as crowded as other hikes.

If you’re bringing a car with you, note that the trailhead has a tiny parking lot, which can only fit eight up to 10 cars. 

There is no street parking within half a mile (because of the complaints from residents). If you can’t find parking, you’ll have to drive another mile round-trip.

You’ll find Soldier Pass in West Sedona, along Shadow Rock Drive.

4. Mescal

Photo by W K on Unsplash

If you’re looking for an excellent Sedona hike that doubles as a terrific biking trail, Mescal is a perfect choice. This Sedona hiking path is a 2.4 miles out and back trail and an elevation gain of a little over 200 feet.

One of the best parts about Mescal is that it’s very wide and flat, making it perfect for families with small children or people who want an easier path. Do watch out for mountain bikes, though!

The route hugs Mescal Mountain’s skirt, and you’ll have a stunning panorama of Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte from the ledge of an enormous rock tower.

Around March, you’ll find this path dotted with wildflowers and plants like ocotillo.

A sign on Long Canyon Road marks the start of the route, across from the Chuckwagon Trailhead.

5. Bear Mountain Trail

If you’re a seasoned hiker searching for a serious challenge, you’ll want to consider Bear Mountain. It’s a strenuous route full of tricky terrain, with an elevation gain of about 1,975 feet over a 4.3 miles round-trip.

But once you find your rhythm at the top, it’s worth it because of the 360-degree views available from this rugged summit. 

Witness the San Francisco Peaks’ extinct volcanoes, the Mogollon Rim, Doe Mountain, Courthouse Butte, and even the eerie ghost town of Jerome.

To get to the Bear Mountain Trail, you’ll want to start at the parking lot at the Doe Mountain trailhead, which you can find just off Boynton Pass Road.

6. Bell Rock Pathway

Like Mescal, this Sedona hiking trail is wide enough to accommodate cyclists, making it a truly multi-use path for hikers and bikers alike. 

You’ll quickly spot this unmistakable bell-shaped rock formation near the Oak Creek village, along Highway 179.

Don’t let the sloping walls fool you: they may look steep, but the Bell Rock path trail is beginner-friendly!

The Bell Rock Trail begins at the Bell Rock Vista parking lot and extends to the Courthouse Vista parking area. One way, this section runs one way for about 3.6 miles. If you want to save time, park at the Courthouse Vista and do the first 1.5 miles. Then, simply return the same way.

7. Doe Mountain Trail

This 1.2-mile out-and-back Sedona hike starts at the Doe Mountain Trailhead, which you can find off the Boynton Pass Road. 

The elevation gain is 425 feet, with a gradual ascent until you reach Doe Mountain’s flat top. After this, the path trail runs level from one end of the mesa to the next.

On this extraordinary mountain trek, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the area. At certain points on the journey, including when crossing above canyons and below cliffs, the mountaintop looks completely divorced from the valley below, as though it were a world all to its own. However, you can still see wildlife like rabbits and birds.

Doe Mountain Trail is quite popular, but there are also pockets of solitude dotting the climb. Get ready for views that span all directions, including Fay Canyon, Mescal Mountain, Fay Canyon, and Courthouse Butte.

8. Boynton Canyon

Nestled into the Boynton Canyon trail is one of the strongest vortexes in all of Sedona. If you’re looking for a spiritually energizing hike, you’ll want to add this path to your list.

The vortex is near the start of the hiking path, so no need to look hard for it! Take the Boynton Vista trail, which goes half a mile to the base of a rock spire where this crackling energy can be felt.

As for the hike itself, you’re looking at a 6.1-mile out and back hike that meanders through several forest types, with outstanding views of the canyon all the way through.

Expect open sun for the first three quarters. After that, you’ll find yourself surrounded by small trees that give way to looming pine trees with ample shade to cool down and relax.

9. Devil’s Bridge Trail

Devil's Bridge Trail
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The Devil’s Bridge path is a crowd-favorite, so don’t be surprised if you share the trail with countless other hikers and even mountain bikes, ATVs, and jeeps!

Despite the name, the only thing you’re in for is a devilishly good time! This 4.2-mile out and back trail is perfect for hikers of all ages and levels. It’s a terrific choice if this is your first time hiking Sedona or you’re exploring with family and little kids.

Follow the Devil’s Bridge hiking path, and you’ll end up in a magnificent arch made of natural sandstone. 

There are two ways to experience the arch: walk below and take the stairs to the top, or walk directly on top of the arch. The trail becomes steeper and narrow as you come closer to the arch.

Remember to wear sunscreen, as the open sun will be on you for most of the hike, and take water and a snack to refuel as you go.

Planning to go on a weekend? You’ll have to leave your car at the parking area off Dry Creek Road, but vacant slots are scarce. To avoid the crowds, start at the Chuckwagon Trailhead instead.

10. Courthouse Butte Loop

There’s a bit of everything at the Courthouse Butte Loop! Think endless views of the Bell Rock, Mogollon Rim, and even a rock shaped like a spaceship near the end of the trail.

Hikers congregate mostly around the Bell Rock section, so if you’re craving solitude, go a little further. This 3.9-mile loop is only moderately difficult, and most of the path is level ground with an elevation gain of about 350 feet.

You have two parking choices: the smaller Courthouse Vista parking area or the Bell Rock Vista parking lot if the former is full.

11. Airport Mesa Trail/Airport Loop Trail

With a name like Airport, you know this path will lead you to some spectacular views!

The 3.5-mile trail boasts 200 feet of elevation gain and takes you from open desert landscapes to red rock spires bursting up from the earth. You’ll go above the valley and along the Airport Mesa’s edge for a bird’s-eye view of the city and beyond.

Planning to take children on the hike? You may want to choose a less challenging trail, because there are a few drop-offers along the path. There’s very little shade along the Airport Loop Trail, so be ready for some intense sun.

At the beginning of the Airport Mesa Trail is the Airport Overlook, which is a short way from the lookout. It’s also where you can find one of Sedona’s famed energy vortexes.

12. West Fork Trail

With rated difficulty easy, the West Fork Trail isn’t just one of the best hikes in Sedona, but the entire United States. You’ll find it in the gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon.

Unlike other Sedona trails, West Fork has plenty of water, shade, and tree cover. It crosses and runs along the West Fork Creek, and the rushing water has sculpted breath-taking rock formations throughout the area.

It’s 6.9 miles with a total elevation gain 400 feet. One of the best things about the West Fork Trail is that it’s an in and out path, which means you can trim your hike duration or explore the full length of the trail.

You’ll find the trailhead along 89A, which is 11 miles north of Sedona going towards Flagstaff.

What To Pack For Hiking Sedona Trails

What To Pack For Hiking Sedona Trails
Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

Before you head out for your hike, make sure you’ve packed appropriately: you’re going to be in direct sunlight most of the time and you’ll want to stay safe and comfortable.

Here’s a list of things you might consider throwing into your pack:

  • Comfortable and broken-in hiking boots (or any durable pair of hiking shoes)
  • A brimmed hat you can pull down to block you from the sun
  • Clothing you can layer
  • Sunscreen and lip balm (choose high SPF for maximum sun protection)
  • Plenty of water
  • Bug spray
  • Light and filling snacks such as nuts, beef jerky, protein bars, or granola you can eat while you walk
  • A camera you won’t mind getting the occasional splash of water on
  • Sunglasses you’re okay with getting misted on occasionally
  • If you get cold easily, think of bringing a lightweight fleece you can throw on
  • A waterproof jacket you’ll be able to zip up if it rains
  • Compass and map of the Sedona hiking area

What’s the best time to visit Sedona, AZ?

Generally, the best time to visit Sedona, AZ is from March to May. The temperatures are warm and mild, but not scorching. Additionally, the area’s flora is usually in full bloom during this time.

However, there’s actually no bad time to visit this desert town, because the weather is great all year long.

The only downside is that you’re more likely to experience rainfall during the summer months.

The busiest seasons for Sedona are spring and fall, because it’s pretty impossible to resist the area’s vibrant blue skies and cool temps during these months.

Since these are incredibly popular times, however, keep in mind the room rates may be higher than usual and parking may be a little challenging.

If you’re hunting for deals, consider visiting Sedona during the winter!

How to Get to Sedona, AZ from Phoenix

Getting to Sedona is easy! Starting from Phoenix, you can reach the town by private car, by joining a tour, by riding a private shuttle, or hiring a private shuttle.

Option 1: Driving yourself

To drive to Sedona from Phoenix, you just take Interstate 17 and head north (or take Interstate 10). There’s only one exit on the entire drive: exit 298 to Highway AZ-179.

Getting to Sedona is as scenic as the town itself. For instance, enjoy the view of flat and endless desserts plus Saguaro cacti going up hillsides!

If you plan to take your car, keep in mind that parking can be difficult at times.

Option 2: Joining a tour from Phoenix

Don’t want to drive? Try joining a tour! It’s one of the most convenient ways to get to Sedona and see all the highlights.

The best tours will mix the town’s natural treasures with running commentary on the area’s ancient history, plus stops at key places in town. Everything will be arranged for you as well, from pick up and drop off, to admissions.

Option 3: Riding a shuttle bus from Phoenix to Sedona

Riding a shuttle bus is one of the cheapest ways of getting to Sedona, especially if you’re only dropping by for a day trip. You can catch one from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport several times a day.

Option 4: Riding a private shuttle from Phoenix to Sedona

The ultimate in convenience – especially if you don’t mind spending a little extra – is by private shuttle. They will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off at your destination in full comfort.

Make sure to check with your operator if you want to make stops along the way.

Don’t Forget Your Red Rock Pass!

The Red Rock Pass is a special permit required for recreation on certain parts of National Forest land in Red Rock Country. 

You can get one online or on-site. Physical passes must be displayed on the vehicles parked in the area, or you’ll face a citation.

FAQs about the Red Rock Pass:

How much is a Red Rock Pass?

As of the time of this writing, you can purchase one for $5 (day pass), $15 (weekly pass), and $20 (monthly pass).

Are the Red Rock Pass and America the Beautiful Pass the same?

Yes. The Red Rock Pass is also known as America the Beautiful Interagency Pass and Golden Access.

Which Sedona hiking trails require a Red Rock Pass?

Currently, you need the Red Rock Pass for 19 day-use sites all over the Red Rock Ranger District. This includes the following trails:

  • Bear Mountain
  • Cathedral Rock
  • Little Horse
  • Courthouse Butte
  • Boynton
  • Doe Mountain
  • Bell Rock Vista

What does the Red Rock Pass include?

Aside from access to covered areas, you also get to enjoy enhanced recreation amenities through the Red Rock Pass. This includes hiking trails, picnic areas, maintained roads, restroom facilities, and more.

Where can you buy a Red Rock Pass?

You can buy a Red Rock Pass online or through local vendors.

What Else Can You Do in Sedona, AZ?

Got your fill of the best hikes in Sedona? Don’t leave just yet! 

There are tons more things you can do in Sedona, AZ to fill up your schedule. Check out these other activities you might enjoy during your stay:

Chapel of the Holy Cross

This stunning, world-renowned chapel Catholic chapel is an architectural marvel designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude. It’s built into the rock face of a cliff, with a spire that soars up to 250 ft.

The Palatki Heritage Site

The Palatki Heritage Site offers an intimate look into the ancient history of Sedona. 

The site itself is situated on a small, fortified mesa and is surrounded by beautiful rock formations that you can explore as you learn about the Sinagua tribe that once lived in this area.

Within the site, you can see 6, 000-year-old cave paintings, painted alcoves, cliff-side dwellings, and other beautiful ruins.

Sedona Heritage Museum

Located in the Jordan Historical Park, this museum will take you deep into Sedona’s past dating as far back as 1876.

The Sedona Heritage Museum is a lovely place to escape the summer heat. It features exhibits on the cowboy lifestyle, flourishing orchards, and the area’s significant cinematic history as well as tours of its iconic movie sets from the height of the Western era in the 1960s and 1970s.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village

The Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village is a destination you don’t want to miss while you’re in Sedona, AZ. 

Surrounded by lush trees, this shopping area looks like an authentic Mexican village, starring cobbled paths and stone arches.

In here, you’ll find 50+ shops and galleries bursting with creative works from local artists including ceramics, photographs, sculptures, and more.

Slide Rock State Park

Located near Sedona, you can visit Slide Rock for a fun day in nature that the whole family will enjoy. 

The park features a natural rock slide that you can slide down into Oak Creek, where you can take a refreshing swim before heading back up to the top.

Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park

Refresh your spirit and find some inner peace at Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park!

The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park is a wonderfully tranquil location nestled within 14 acres of desert. 

This spot at the foot of Thunder Mountain, close to towering Chimney Rock, is too beautiful to miss out on for the ultimate relaxing getaway.

At the center of this quiet oasis is a 36-foot enlightenment stupa, which is named for Buddha Amitabha. The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park is one of Sedona’s foremost places of spiritual healing and transformation, with an overflowing treasure trove of sacred relics and ritual offerings.

Quick FAQs about the Best Hikes in Sedona

Quick FAQs about the Best Hikes in Sedona
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Where is Sedona?

Sedona is in the state of Arizona, about 120 miles north of Phoenix. It’s famous for its majestic red rock formations, vortexes, and breath-taking natural beauty. 

Sedona is also a popular destination for outdoor activities, most notably hiking, biking, and camping.

Are there easy hikes in Sedona?

Absolutely. Sedona has an extensive trail network, making it possible for you to choose hikes of varying difficulty levels.

For instance, the Mescal Trail is an easy hike that you can do on your own or with a guide, starting at either the Mescal Trailhead or the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. It isn’t too demanding, but you’re still treated to stunning views.

The Fay Canyon Trail is also very easy, and you don’t need a guide to do it. You can complete it as a loop or as an out-and-back hike.

What’s the easiest hike in Sedona?

Aside from the Mescal and the Fay Canyon Trail, consider the Sugarloaf Loop, the Little Horse Trail, or the Margs Draw Trail.

How long does it take to hike Devil’s Bridge in Sedona?

This fairly short trail will take average hikers around 2 to 3 hours. However, expect to end up spending more time than that, especially when there’s a shortage of parking options.

What’s the hardest hike in Sedona?

Many consider Bear Mountain path to be one of the hardest trails in Sedona. Even the most seasoned hikers find its elevation and terrain difficult to navigate. However, it also rewards persistent hikers with unparalleled views that only get more beautiful as you ascend the trail.

Where can you find the highest elevation gain in Sedona, AZ?

At 7,122 feet, Wilson Mountain boasts the highest elevation gain in all of Sedona’s hiking trails. Fantastic if you’re looking for the finest views in the area!

How many miles round trip is the West Fork Trail?

West Fork Trail hiking path is around 6 miles round trip.

Is hiking in Sedona free?

For the most part, you can hike in Sedona without having to pay a cent, although you may have to look around for parking.

Do you need a pass to hike in Sedona?

Again, hiking in certain areas of Sedona is free. In others, you may need to pay for a Red Rock Pass.

Where is the strongest vortex in Sedona?

The Boynton Canyon Vortex is considered the strongest vortex in Sedona.

Can you go camping in Sedona?

No, camping in the immediate area around Sedona is not allowed. However, there are designated campgrounds for day and overnight camping. You’ll find this area marked on the Red Rock Country map.

BookOnBoard’s Guide to the Best Sedona Hikes

With its incredible views, unique rock formations, and sprawling forests sprawling across the mountains, it is easy to see why Sedona is one of the greatest hiking destinations in the US.

Roam its trails and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn about the area’s rich history, discover local legends, and enjoy a tranquil escape from the buzz of everyday life.

Planning an upcoming hiking adventure in AZ? Don’t forget to add BookOnBoard’s best hikes in Sedona to your itinerary! Stay safe and enjoy!

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