Sedona is one of the hiking capitals of the South-West, with so many trails that despite visiting three times we still have so many more we want to do! In the heart of Red Rock country, even a short stroll is stunningly beautiful and you’ll get neck ache from staring up at those incredible mountains.
It’s one of our favourite places in America and somewhere that we know we’ll be returning to. Make sure you put it on your Arizona itinerary.
Best Sedona Hikes
Sedona is a hiking mecca and there’s a hike for everyone here - long & strenuous, flat & easy, ones with historic Indian ruins, beautifully scenic ones and some which become a rock climbing expedition.
These are a few of our favourites, we’ll also add a couple of suggestions for more trails that were on our list but that we didn’t make it on this time round.
Caution - If you are visiting in the summer we recommend starting your hikes very early or later in the day and taking a lot of water with you as it can get incredibly hot. The majority of trails in Sedona are very exposed, meaning you will feel the full brunt of the Arizona sun.
The local’s favourite - Bear Mountain
Distance - 6 miles (9.5 km) out & back
Time - 4 hours 45
Elevation - 682 metres
Difficulty - Hard & very exposed (bring sunscreen and plenty of water)
Starting & End Point - Doe Mountain/Bear Mountain car park
Fees - Free with National Park Pass, otherwise $5 parking fee
The photos of Bear Mountain don’t do justice to how good the views are on this trail. Once you’ve climbed over the first peak, you’ll have panoramic views of the whole area that are unparalleled. On one side you’ll see down into Fay’s Canyon, a beautiful area with deep red walls and rock formations which look good from the ground, but even better from above.
When you ask a lot of locals, Bear Mountain always comes up as one of their recommended Sedona hikes.
The views on the other side are also amazing (though not quite as good) and showcase the desert and out to the far away mountains in the distance. This is a hike that is ever changing and keeps you always waiting the next epic view. We loved it.
It is also a good trail to do after rain as a lot of the path is rock and there are few areas which turn boggy. We know because we hiked it the day after some pretty bad flash flooding. I’d been worried that the rock might be slippery but it wasn’t (or not any more so from having been wet anyway).
The hike to Bear Mountain is steep, long and strenuous. Before we started, we thought that it wouldn’t take too long to hike 4.5 miles, laughing at the sign that it takes 5 hours. We returned 4 hours 45 minutes later………
The track takes you over three small peaks, all of which are false summits. The first at the top of a beautiful red cliff with a waterfall that marks the start of the very steep ascent.
After this you feel like you’re on a plateau on top of the mountain, but the truth is that you face quite a few uphill climbs before reaching the top. The views all the way are spectacular and make for great motivation, but the trail is pretty smooth and steep, so you may want to take your time, especially on the way down.
The top is marked by an “end of trail sign” and a stunning view across to the gorgeous snow capped mountains (see the pic below). Most people chose to have lunch here and admire the panoramic views before heading back. I can think of worse lunch spots….
Bear Mountain Parking
The car park for Bear Mountain is shared with those wanting to hike to Doe Mountain on Boynton Pass Road. There is a decent amount of space here, so you shouldn’t have to worry about arriving at the crack of dawn to get a car parking space!
For the best photo op in Sedona - Devil’s Bridge
Distance - 3.6 miles (5.8km) - out & back trail
Time - Two hours
Elevation - 104 metres
Difficulty - Easy to moderate (flat for the most part, with an uphill section at the end)
Starting & End Point - Devil’s Bridge Trail Head car park
Fee - None
It’s safe to say that the Devil’s Bridge is the most popular Sedona hikes for one reason - the epic view at the end. Once you lay eyes on it you’ll understand why so many people want to visit.
The bridge looks precarious side on: incredibly high, narrow and with a few cracks that make it look like it could collapse at any moment. However, it is regularly checked and is safe to visit - just make sure you take care when going on the bridge!
The walk to the Bridge is pleasant, but not as good as any other on this list. We loved this walk but it’s definitely all about that incredible destination. The views all around are beautiful though, it’s Sedona after all, and you’ll see those unique red cliffs, but the majority of the path is along a 4x4 track and it can get really busy (with people not cars on our visit thank goodness).
If you’re short on time, the Devil’s Bridge should be high on your list. The views from the bridge make up for the mediocre trail and it’s pretty easy going (apart from the steep section at the end).
If you want more information about the famous Devil’s Bridge Sedona, then check out our detailed blog about the trail.
Devil’s Bridge Parking
The car park and trailhead for Devil’s Bridge is about seven miles away from the centre of Sedona and can be found along Vultee Arch Road. You won’t have a problem spotting it, it will be the place where cars are parked along the road leading up to it.
Parking can be a struggle here - especially in the middle of the day.
If you are parking in the 4x4 car park it was tiny but very few people seem to use it so it had space both times we passed by.
The Instagrammer’s favourite - Cathedral Rock
Distance - 1.5 miles (2.44km) - out & back trail
Time - 1 hour 30 (including time to admire the view!)
Elevation - 229m
Difficulty - Moderate. A lot of sections are fine, but some steep scrambles
Starting & End Point - Cathedral Rock Car Park
Fee - $5 if you don’t have a National Parks Annual Pass
The Cathedral Rock Trail is one of the most popular Sedona hikes and also one of the shortest. In truth, we wouldn’t really classify it as a hike as the majority of it is a scramble up smooth, steep rock and gullies. It’s a lot of fun and makes a nice change from an ordinary trail. If you time your hike right the view from the top offers the most stunning sunset views, an excellent reward for your efforts.
It is relatively steep, but there are plenty of places to stop and admire the views, aka catch your breath.
The start of the trail crosses a wash before greeting you with the mission ahead - this steep path.
The hardest part of the whole trail is the upcoming gully. This is a really tricky part to navigate as essentially you are relying on jamming your feet into cracks and hoping they hold! It is about 100 metres long, so persevere as things get a bit easier after this.
The gully is also quite tricky on the way down as your momentum and gravity will be taking you down! Once you’ve conquered the gully there are a few more smooth and steep rock sections to climb, but they are easier than what you’ve climbed so far. It isn’t long before you get these beautiful sunset views!
Once you’re at the top, there’s a path that leads to another area which fewer people explore. Simply turn left at the top and you’ll find a path that winds up hill to a huge rock formation. Light-wise this is a better place to go to if you decide to climb Cathedral Rock in the morning. At sunrise it would no doubt be spectacular.
Cathedral Rock Parking
Cathedral Rock is close to Bell Rock and is one of the most popular places in Sedona and the car park here is small! There are overflow car parks, but you may have to park on the road. This isn’t too big a problem in the off season as the road is pretty quiet but it could be trickier in high season.
The wow factor without having to get a sweat on - Fay Canyon
Distance - 3 miles (4.75 km) - out & back trail
Time - 1 hour 45
Elevation - 100 m
Difficulty - Easy and entirely flat (if you don’t go off the track)
Starting & End Point - Fay Canyon Car Park
Fee - No fee
Fay Canyon is a beautiful and primarily flat track that is a great introduction to hiking in Sedona. This was the first hike we did and it wowed us.
The marked path is almost entirely flat and winds through pretty forest, opening out at certain points to offer stunning views of the canyon. We hiked in winter so sun wasn’t a problem for us but this would be a good walk in hot weather as the trail is nicely shaded.
The path will continue until a dried up riverbed with a sign that says “End of Marked Trail”. You can simply turn around here, but we recommend that you don’t because you’ll miss the highlight of the trail - this view.
Cross the river bed and start hiking up the red rock. There are some steps cut out into the rock and whilst most people will be able to do it, the path becomes a lot narrower and not so well defined. Once at the top of this rocky section you can continue along for quite a while into the canyon.
Or you can simply enjoy the many amazing views that aren’t far from the top of the path!
Fay Canyon Parking
Fay Canyon has its own car park that is 8 miles from the centre of Sedona and should take 18 minutes to drive to. The trail starts across the road from the car park.
Gorgeous panoramic views of the town - Teacup/Sugarloaf Loop Trail
Distance - 2 miles (3.35km) loop trail
Time - 1 hour
Elevation - 116m
Difficulty - Easy
Starting & End Point - Sugarloaf Trailhead car park
Fee - Free
The Sugarloaf and Tea Cup Trail starts from a car park in the middle of a housing estate, making you question whether you have come to the right place! A few metres later and you’re in the middle of red rock country again, with cliffs all round you and cacti by the dozen.
The track is very flat apart from the short ascent to the summit of Sugar Loaf. The views from here are spectacular offering you a good look at how the town is entirely surrounded by mountains. You get above the powerlines and can see Coffee Pot Mountain and hundreds of other epic rock formations.
From here you can return to the Teacup Trail for some more pretty views. It isn’t much further on and is flat all the way. It’s a very easy trail and one that you can squeeze in if you only have an hour to spare.
Sugarloaf & Tea Cup Trail Parking
The trails for this hike start at the car park on Buena Vista Drive. This is only 3 miles away from Sedona and should take 5-10 minutes to drive to.
The drawback is that the car park is tiny and even in February it was full. It didn’t take long for someone to leave but in high season you would probably need to come early or late.
A leisurely loop - Courthouse Butte Loop
Distance - 4 miles (6.5km) Loop Trail
Time - 1 hours 50
Elevation - 242 metres
Difficulty - Easy to moderate (some uphill, but not much).
Starting & End Point - Courthouse Vista Car Park
Fees - $5 parking fee, otherwise free with Annual National Parks Pass
If you’re craving a longer hike without the monstrous incline of Bear Mountain, then head to Courthouse Vista and hike the Courthouse Butte Loop. This 5.2 mile trail will take you round Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock, two of the most famous rock formations in Sedona. You’ll also get glimpses of Cathedral Rock and some beautiful views of the rest of Sedona.
Starting at Courthouse Vista car park, take the Bell Rock Pathway and then follow signs for the Courthouse Loop. It isn’t too hard to keep track of the path, but there are quite a few diversions along the way which could send you off course!
What we liked about this trail is that you got so many different angles of both rocks and very few people were here compared to many other Sedona hikes. The hike is predominantly flat so it’s a nice easy trail that still offers the kind of amazing views you would normally have to climb for.
If the Courthouse Loop wasn’t enough, then add in the Bell Rock climb for a fun scramble!
Courthouse Butte Loop
The best place to park for the Courthouse Butte Loop is at Courthouse Vista which is almost 6 miles outside of Sedona (it should take about 10 minutes to drive to). Parking is free is you have a National Parks Annual Pass, otherwise it is $5.
The one with an adrenaline rush - Bell Rock Climb
Distance - 1 mile (1.8 km) out & back
Time - About 45 - 50 minutes
Elevation - 100 metres +
Difficulty - Moderate - Hard. You’ll be scrambling up slippery sections and narrow paths. Not for the faint hearted.
Starting & End Point - Courthouse Vista Car Park or Courthouse Loop
Fees - $5 Car Park fee or free with National Parks Annual Pass
We combined the Bell Rock Summit hike with the Courthouse Loop as the cherry on top of a fun hike! This isn’t so much of a hike though as a scramble.
At first the path is pretty flat, but soon you’ll need to test your scrambling skills as you’ll be climbing up some steep slopes and over rocks.
You can get about three quarters of the way up before you’d need to start rock climbing! Very few people make it to the top and we didn’t even see anyone trying. The views are magnificent from very early on so however much of the trail you feel comfortable with will be worth it.
If you don’t fancy going too far or get put off by how steep it is, the above photo shows the view at around halfway up which we thought was spectacular.
If your shoes have good grip the rock itself is not really slippery (although we wouldn’t try it when it’s wet), the difficulty comes after around halfway up when the ledges become much more narrow and the drop feels very real! I only got just over halfway up and Joe got quite a bit further before we turned back and we still thought it was a fantastic hike.
Read next: How bad are Upper Antelope Canyon tours?
The best sunset spot in Sedona - Baby Bell Rock
Distance - 1 mile out and back trail
Time - 25 minutes
Elevation - 50 metres
Difficulty - Easy
Starting & End Point - Courthouse Vista Car Park
Fees - $5 Car Park fee, otherwise free with the Annual National Parks Pass
Sadly, we didn’t quite make it to Baby Bell Rock for sunset. We got within 100 metres of the rock, we couldn’t find the path to the top and the sky started going all kinds of beautiful colours, so we settled for just below it.
This isn’t such a bad consolation view.
However, we did return the next day to find the path to Baby Bell Rock and the view. This is what it looks like (just picture it being at the end of the day with the colour of above!).
The great thing about Baby Bell Rock is that is positioned perfectly in the middle of some of Sedona’s most famous sights. From the top you are surrounded by Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte and Cathedral Rock. There are few better places to be in Sedona in the late afternoon.
We recommend going a little before sunset you don’t have a rush trying to find the not so obvious path to Baby Bell Rock! You will need to take Bell Rock Pathway and start heading left (east) towards Butte Rock. Just before you get to Butte Rock you should see a small hill you can go up and a path that will lead you round the back of the rock and up to the top. If you don’t mind about being here for sunset then it’s directly off the Courthouse Butte Loop and is an easy, short addition to that trail.
Parking for Baby Bell Rock
The best place to park for Baby Bell Rock is at Courthouse Vista which is almost 6 miles outside of Sedona (it should take about 10 minutes to drive to). Parking is free if you have a National Parks Annual Pass, otherwise it is $5.
The second most photographed view in Arizona - Red Rock Crossing (Track closed, but view open)
Due to recent floods and storms, the Red Rock Crossing Track from the usual start point at Crescent Moon has closed and when we spoke to Parks staff they didn’t know if it would reopen. This is due to the natural rocks which created stepping stones across the river being washed away.
In the summer or warmer weather, you may still be able to cross the river - just check to see that it isn’t flowing too fast.
However, you can still get to one of the most famous views in Sedona. The one below.
Granted, we don’t think this is worth the $10 entry fee the park charges (and they didn’t tell us the path wasn’t accessible when we were paying - tut tut).
If you’re desperate to see that famous view then go for it but go in the knowledge that you will only really get a photograph for your money. Having said that if you are interested in Vortexes there is one on this site which is around a ten minute walk from the car park. We went to this spot by accident when looking for the trail we later found out to be closed.
Red Rock Crossing Parking
The car park for the famous viewpoint is at Crescent Moon Ranch which charges $10 per car (even if you have a National Parks pass). It is 7 miles from Sedona and should take 15 minutes.
If you want to walk the Red Rock Crossing we think you can still get there from the other side of the river by heading to Verde Valley School Road. It is a lot further away from the centre of Sedona (12 miles) and should take about 20 minutes to drive to. You can find it on the map below.
Other hikes that are still on our list
We had some flash flooding during our visit to Sedona so we missed a few trails that we’d been planning on doing and one that isn’t really suitable for a winter visit.
West Fork Trail - this is supposed to be one of the best hikes in Sedona but is not great in winter (when we visited) due to the number of times you have to cross the creek and the high water flow and ice. In the warmer months all those creek crossings would no doubt be heavenly!
Wilson Mountain - this was recommended to us by a local we met on Bear Mountain. It is a fairly hefty climb but one of the quieter Sedona trails without compromising on epic views.
Munds Wagon Trail - this was also recommended to us on the Bear Mountain trail by frequent Sedona visitors. It’s another fairly long trail but less well known than many others so again it will be quieter than most. It has some pretty fantastic views including Carousel Rock which looks like it makes for a great photo op. They warned us though that after rain this trail gets seriously muddy so save it for a dry spell.
What to pack for Sedona
We recommend stocking up on hiking gear to make sure you’re comfortable on the trails. We both wear Merrells and they have served us well for years. We also use Osprey backpacks and carry a resuseable water bottle to cut down on single use plastics.
You can check out our recommendations on Amazon below.
Where to stay in Sedona
Sedona Summit Diamond Resorts
We’re not sure why but every time we came to Sedona the Diamond Resorts were offering the best deals! There are a few Diamond Resorts to choose from in Sedona (we also stayed in The Ridge on Sedona Golf Resort which was good but not quite as good as the Summit), all of which offer large rooms, a brilliant kitchenette (with cooking tops, fully stocked pots & pans etc and amenities like a coffee maker).
However, our favourite was the Sedona Summit due to its location (its pretty close to the main town) and the stunning hot tub views it offers. After a long day’s hiking, it was heaven.
The rooms were really good value and spacious which made them perfect to retreat to. We’ve visited Sedona three times and always booked a Diamond Resort. One bugbear though is that the properties are time share and therefore expect to receive a sales pitch!
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Are you planning a trip to Sedona? Where is your favourite hike in Red Rock Country? Let us know in the comments below!