Sedona is often dubbed the hiker’s paradise. And with more trails than you can possibly count, all of which offer spectacular views no matter where you look, it’s pointless to argue with that statement.
With the gorgeous red rocks, thrilling climbs and easy loops, Sedona is full of hiking trails for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner looking to get into hiking or a seasoned veteran who wants to take on some of the most difficult trails, you will definitely find at least one hike you will love in our guide to the best hikes in Sedona!
Bring lots of sunscreen. The sun in Arizona is no joke – if you don’t apply high SPF sunscreen several times a day, you will easily blend in with those red rocks. And if you don’t want to deal with painful sunburns and possible sun damage, this is an absolute must. Also, it’s very important to stay properly hydrated especially under the scorching sun, so bring lots of water on the hikes. You won’t find that many natural sources in Sedona – it’s a desert after all.
If you want to explore as many trails as you can in Sedona on your own time, your best option is to rent a car. There are parking lots close to most of the trailheads, so driving on your own is by far the most convenient option. If you are able to, we highly recommend you rent an SUV or anything that’s good off-road – lots of roads in Sedona are suitable only for high-clearance vehicles, and your rented sedan wouldn’t be able to handle to rocky paths. At least not without a hundred different scrapes and very expensive damages.
What about the fauna? Scorpions, rattlesnakes and tarantulas are very common in Arizona, but you’re more likely to encounter them in your accommodation than on the hiking trails. The trails are usually populated, and creatures tend to stay away from large groups of people. Don’t put your hands in any crevices if you can’t see inside, since scorpions tend to hide in dark places during the daylight and don’t pick up any rocks you haven’t kicked over with your feet. If you hear a rattlesnake, stop in your tracks and try to locate it and then back away. As for the tarantulas… I hear flame throwers are your best friend in that scenario.
The Devil’s Bridge is a thrilling hike that rewards you with some of the best views in Sedona. And it’s not even that difficult – the elevation gain is pretty okay considering the length of the hike, and you’re free to bring along your dog.
Devil’s Bridge is actually a sandstone arch, the largest of its kind in Sedona. The trail takes you over the arch, and offers some wonderful scenic views along the way. One thing to keep in mind is that the view below can be a bit terrifying, so you might want to skip this one if you have a crippling fear of heights. Or just don’t look down when you’re crossing the arch and you should be fine.
The trail itself is not really difficult or technically demanding – the terrain is rocky at times, but mostly you’re just following dirt paths and paved roads. The trailhead is at Dry Creek Road – if you have a high-clearance vehicle you can make it all the way to the sign that indicated the start of Devil’s Bridge trail. If you have a low clearance vehicle you’ll have to park it about a mile before and follow the paved and dirt roads to the official trailhead.
The Cathedral Rock trail is probably one of the most popular hikes in Sedona. The trail rewards you with some spectacular views, but it’s definitely not one for beginners. Don’t let the short length of the trail fool you – with very rocky terrain and some demanding climbs, this is suitable only for experienced hikers with previous climbing experience.
The trailhead is easily accessible from Back O’Beyond Road, as well as Baldwin and Templeton trails. From there, it’s only about half an hour to the Cathedral Rock – the climb is very steep and good hiking boots are a must. Don’t even think about wearing open toed sandals – the steep rocky terrain requires closed shoes with great grip and traction.
The views of red rocks from the Cathedral Rock are absolutely magnificent – even if you only need an hour to hike to the rock and back, plan to spend at least an extra hour just admiring the vista and snapping photos of everything. The views are particularly stunning during sunset but that’s no secret – remember that this is one of the most popular trails in Sedona, and it’s packed pretty often. If you want to avoid the large crowds, it might be a good idea to do the trail in the wee hours of the morning – sunrises over the red rocks are just as mesmerizing as the sunsets.
The West Fork trail is an easy hike even beginners can do – perfect if you want to discover the beauty of the Red Rock country, but don’t really have lots of hiking experience. You can also bring dogs on the trail, but they need to be leashed at all times – the fine for letting them off the leash is a whooping $5,000!
The total elevation gain is only 250 meters, which is barely noticeable on an 11-kilometer trail. That, paired with the relatively smooth terrain is the main reason why this trail is rated as easy. The only thing that might be an issue is that it’s not marked very well, but if you just follow the creek you shouldn’t have any problems staying on the trail.
One of the best things about this trail is that it’s very shaded, with the trees and steep canyon walls protecting you from the harsh Arizona sun. This is a medium length out and back trail that follows sandy trails and crosses 13 separate rivers. The crossings are usually very simple unless the waters are high.
You’ll know that you’ve reached the end of the trail when the canyon walls close in on you. Once there’s nowhere left to go without getting wet, that’s it! Enjoy the spectacular views and snap lots of photos before you head back.
The Airport Loop trail is exactly what it sounds like – a circuit trail around Sedona Airport. This is perfect for those of you who are just dying to get on the trails as soon as they land in Arizona – we’d recommend leaving your luggage first, unless you’re a seasoned backpacker.
It’s a great way to get yourself acquainted with the gorgeous sights that await once you start exploring the rest of Sedona over the next several days. The loop trail is rated as moderate because of the rocky terrain, and it’s a bit rough for beginners. But you should be able to do it even if you’re a newbie to hiking – just be careful where you’re stepping, and hike at your own pace. Also, bring hiking poles – those will help deal with the rocky terrain and keep you from stubbing your toes every other step. The total elevation gain is only 127 meters, so it’s not a very strenuous trail in that sense.
The views from this loop are absolutely incredible, and they’re bound to make you happy even if it’s a particularly hot day. It’s recommended that you bring a hat when doing this hike because there’s not really any shade on the trail, and you are exposed to the scorching Arizona sun.
The Soldier Pass trail is another moderate hike in Coconino National Forest. The out and back trail is rated as moderate due to the rocky terrain, but the total elevation gain is just around 190 meters, so it’s not too bad. The one thing about the trail that tends to be challenging for beginners is that it’s not very well marked. If you don’t know exactly where you are it is easy to get lost, so check your GPS every so often to make sure you’re staying on the trail.
The Soldier Pass actually crosses the Seven Sacred Pools, so you’re getting a lot of experience value from the one hike. Those are small pools of water inside the rocks and they’re a pretty majestic sight, especially in the middle of the dessert.
The trail then continues until it reaches the Soldier’s Arch, which features a massive sinkhole and a cave. They’re both pretty amazing sights, and they make the tiring hike entirely worth it.
This particular hiking trail is only accessible after 8 AM. The thing is, you will find the small parking lot near the trailhead full even before then. If you can’t find a parking space there, it’s best to head to the parking lot near Jordan Trailhead – it’s much larger, and from there it’s just a short walk to the Soldier Pass trailhead.
The Bear Mountain trail is a challenging hike that rewards you with spectacular panoramic views of the red rocks and the rest of Arizona landscape. The trailhead is at Boynton Pass Road and it’s very easy to find since it is marked with a sign. The rest of the trail is also well marked and easy to follow.
The trail is rather difficult and it’s definitely not suitable for newbies – at times it’s pure rock, with an almost vertical drop. You will need really good hiking boots with great traction, and we’d also recommend you bring a windbreaker since it can be quite windy and cold once you reach the summit.
The best tip we can give you for this hike is to bring lots of water – more than you think you will need. There are no water sources along the trail and it’s a pretty steep ascent. Over 600 meters is a lot for a 2-hour hike, especially under the scorching sun with no shade to protect you. A hat would also be a good idea, as it will keep you from looking like a tomato.
Boynton Canyon happens to be one of Sedona’s most popular hikes with breathtaking views of the red rocks. The hike normally takes around 3 hours, but plan to spend a lot more time if you’re going to make stops along the way to take photos and admire the scenic vistas.
The trailhead is on Boynton Pass Road, just north of the parking lot next to the entrance. This isn’t a very difficult trail – the total elevation gain is less than 250 meters, which is pretty good for a 10-kilometer hike. It’s not a very technically demanding trail; in fact, it’s perfectly suitable for children and leashed dogs. It is a bit rocky at times but nothing you can’t handle in good hiking shoes. The trickiest part is at the very end of the trail, when you have to scramble up rocks to reach the official end. The effort is worth it because the views from the top are just magnificent.
Shortly after you’ve turned left onto the Boynton Canyon trail you have an opportunity for a great detour – you can climb one of the red rocks for great views of the canyon. We highly recommend this if you have any experience in climbing since it’s a wonderful sight.
One of the more popular hikes in Sedona is the Fay Canyon trail. That’s largely due to the fact that it’s a simple trail suitable even for beginners for the most part. And because it rewards you with some amazing views once you get to the end, but also along the way. Plus, there’s lots of shade on the trail, making it one of the best options for hot summer days when you really want to stay out of the sun.
The main trail is very flat and simple, with a few rocky segments as you cross over the creek bed. It’s when you reach the end of the trail that things get tricky – if you want to see the views from the top, you’re in for a scramble! But it’s still not a technically demanding climb. You don’t need a rope, just some good hiking shoes and previous climbing experience.
The wildlife is actually more dangerous than the trail itself. You might see a bobcat along the way and you should definitely watch out for bears – if you’re a total newbie to hiking, it’s highly recommended that you do this one with a guide, or at least someone who knows what to do when there are wild animals around.
The Doe Mountain trail is an easy climb most people can do. The trail is accessible all year round, and doesn’t take more than an hour to reach the end – as long as you wear some good hiking boots, you shouldn’t have any issues climbing to the top.
The trail is well marked so it’s very easy to follow and there are shade spots along the way. These are perfect if you need a breather, especially if you decided to bring your dog along for the hike. Also, the Doe Mountain trail features a lot of switchbacks that make climbing uphill a bit easier. You are gaining 150 meters of elevation in just an hour – that’s the only reason why this trail is usually rated as moderate. There’s some scrambling at the end of the trail but it’s nothing too strenuous.
At the top, you are rewarded with spectacular 360 views. There’s also a pretty big area to explore, if you’re not doing the hike just for panoramic views of Sedona. However, there’s not really any shade at the top so definitely bring a hat and lots of sunscreen! It might be best to do this hike before sunrise or sunset, partly for the spectacular views and partly because you won’t be in the sun all the time.
The Secret Canyon trail is one of the best and most popular longer hikes Sedona has to offer. It’s rated as moderate due to the length – nearly 16 kilometers of rocky canyon bottom is not exactly beginner-friendly.
This trail leads you into Red Rock-Secret Wilderness, through a wide and almost flat canyon. The views along the way are amazing, but there’s not really any shade – if you plan to do the hike in the middle of the day you’ll need lots of water, sunscreen and a hat. The good news is that it’s not like that the entire way – at around the 8-kilometer mark you will be surrounded by oak trees and ponderosa.
You’ll pass by a deep ravine and pools in solid rock. It’s a very rewarding trail with opportunities for bird watching, spectacular flora and some of the best scenic views in the area. The only problem is that not everyone can get to the trailhead – high clearance vehicle is a must as the road is very primitive and rocky.