11 Best Hikes & Trails in Sedona, Arizona

posted in: Hiking | 0

Sedona Arizona: The Day Hike Capital of America

Known as the ‘Day Hike Capital America’, Sedona’s abundance of gorgeous trails set against the backdrop of majestic Red Rocks attract adventure seekers year-round. Just south of Flagstaff in northern Arizona, Sedona welcomes in 3-4 million visitors per year despite only having a population of 10k. Sedona’s main attraction is its array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails. The best hikes in Sedona and the surrounding area are described in detail below. 

Red Rock Pass

Leaving a vehicle at many of the best hikes in Sedona will require the purchase of a Red Rock Pass. The Red Rock Pass program is a conservation tool that was designed to protect and maintain the scenic landscape for visitors today and in the future. Passes can be purchased online at Recreation.gov. You will not need to print or bring a copy of your pass; rather the license plate that is entered at the time of purchase will be used to ensure vehicles are properly compliant. 

Near the Sedona Area

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona AZ 2015
Oak Creek Canyon, Photo by Don Graham

Oak Creek Canyon is a gorge carved into the edge of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau along the Oak Creek Fault. The canyon is approximately 12 miles long and located in northern Arizona between Sedona and Flagstaff. Oak Creek Canyon is often called the smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon because of its comparable features and scenic beauty. 

Oak Creek flows year-round along the bottom of the Canyon, providing water for plants and wildlife, as well as fishing and swimming opportunities. It continues on through Sedona, Arizona, meeting up with the Verde River southeast of Cottonwood, Arizona.

The depth of the canyon ranges from 800 to 2000 feet, with trails providing access from the Canyon’s bottom up to the 6500-foot eastern rim and 7200-foot western rim. Trails on the west side of the Canyon head into Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.

Coconino National Forest

Mogollon Rim Sunset
Mogollon Rim Sunset, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Sedona is located within Coconino National Forest which also surrounds Flagstaff. It is 1 of 6 national forests in Arizona and is one of the most beautiful and diverse in the entire country. Landscapes here range from the desert, to ponderosa forests, to the classic Arizona red rocks of Sedona. Coconino comprises 3 districts that each possess their own diverse areas. 

Best Hikes in Coconino National Forest

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park  AZ.
Grand Canyon National Park, Photo by Bernard Spragg. NZ

Everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon National Park, seen its pictures, or flown over it, but only those that visit in person know what it is really like. The beauty of the canyon must be witnessed first hand at least one time in your life! The Grand Canyon is about a 2 hour and 15 minute drive north of Sedona. 

12 Best Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

Flagstaff, Arizona

The Scenic Route
The Scenic Route, Photo by G. Lamar Yancy

Flagstaff is about 45 minutes north of Sedona and is another popular hiking destination in northern Arizona. Flagstaff sits at about 7,000 feet elevation, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,637 feet, is about 10 miles north of Flagstaff in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

12 Best Hikes & Trails in Flagstaff, Arizona

Click here for more National Park or National Forest hikes!
You can also view some of our most popular Gear Recommendations here!

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes & Trails in Sedona, Arizona

1. Fay Canyon Trail 

Fay Canyon
Fay Canyon, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Fay Canyon Trail is a favorite Sedona trail for many who prefer a short hike with minimal elevation gain or who enjoy the grandeur of red sandstone walls towering overhead. About halfway down the trail, a short spur breaks off to Fay Canyon Arch. This section to the arch is pretty steep but well worth the effort. Continue along the canyon walls where it eventually dead ends at a red Supai sandstone cliff. Hikers can explore a bit beyond the ‘official end’ of the trail for nice views of the surrounding area. 

  • 2.3 miles out and back
  • 450′ elevation gain
  • Moderate 

2. Devil’s Bridge Trail

Devil's bridge, Sedona
Devil’s Bridge Sedona, Photo by Michael Kwok

Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area. Don’t let its name fool you: it’s one of the most heavenly sights in an area famous for them. From a trailhead elevation of 4,600 feet, there’s a mere 400 foot climb in altitude during this moderately difficult, 4 mile round trip trek. The journey to reach the top won’t leave you breathless — but we would never say the same about the views you’ll witness when you finally get there.

This popular hike has attractions for both casual hikers who lack the desire or the stamina to stray too far from civilization, and the more adventurous outdoors enthusiasts. Starting at the parking area, follow the trail marker that points the way to Devil’s Bridge Trail. You’ll find the early going effortless; the trail, originally built for jeep travel, is smooth and clear and leads you through washes filled with juniper and prickly pear cactus. The path slowly inclines uphill, gently growing more steep as you progress. There’s some beautiful scenery to absorb as you proceed upward, but you’ve still got a ways to go before you get to see Devil’s Bridge itself. Keep going, and you’ll reach yet another level that leads directly to Devil’s Bridge. If you have the nerve, you can walk across the top; once you’re on it you’ll find it’s not such a tough walk. But use caution and exercise some common sense; it’s a long way down.

This is one of the most popular trails in the Sedona area so it’s a good idea to arrive at the parking lot early in the morning as spaces can fill up by 7am. Keep in mind there are 2 starting points to choose from: Mescal Trailhead or the more popular, Dry Creek Trailhead

  • 4.0 miles out and back
  • 500′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

3. Cathedral Rock Trail 

Milky Way over Cathedral Rock
Milky Way over Cathedral Rock, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Cathedral Rock is a popular trail in the Sedona area because of its short distance and picturesque views. Despite the distance, this ‘hike’ should be considered moderate to strenuous in difficulty as you will be scrambling on hands and knees for several sections of the ascent. The hike down can be more of a challenge than the climb up. 

Cairns will show the way to the top which climbs steeply to the saddle between to rock spires. An unmaintained path gives way to a couple more short climbs with more incredible views. Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona so you will likely run into a crowd no matter what time you visit. The best times of the day to arrive would either be for sunrise or sunset. 

  • 1.2 miles out and back
  • 700′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

4. Birthing Cave

Birthing Cave 1
Birthing Cave, Photo by Sophie Wecht

One of Sedona’s most unique easy trails is the hike to Birthing Cave. The trail is mostly flat until you reach the mouth of the cave where it requires a bit of a moderate climb to actually get inside. Once you are inside the cave you can climb up on the ledges to get a beautiful view of the red rocks of Sedona in the distance. The best time of the day to visit Birthing Cave is in the late afternoon when the sun starts to go down and the crowds start to disperse. The trailhead is located next to a small parking lot on Long Canyon Road. 

  • 2.0 miles out and back
  • 250′ elevation gain
  • Easy

5. Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop

The Bell Rock - Sedona Arizona
Bell Rock, Photo by G. Lamar Yancy

This is an easy hike with great views of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, 2 of the best places to visit in Sedona’s Red Rock Country. With minimal elevation gain, the loop could easily be completed in 2 – 2.5 hours allowing you to tackle more day hikes nearby. The loop is exposed and can get extremely hot during the summer months. Start the hike from the parking lot for Courthouse Vista Trailhead north of Bell Rock. 

  • 3.6 mile loop
  • 350′ elevation gain 
  • Moderate

6. Bear Mountain Trail 

Bear Mountain Trail No. 54
Bear Mountain Trail No. 54, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

The strenuous hike to the top of Bear Mountain is mostly unshaded, steep, and difficult in places. However, the trail provides spectacular views the entire way, and offers many rewarding turn-around points for those who don’t wish to tackle the entire hike. About 1/4 mile in, the trail starts ascending steep and rocky switchbacks before leveling out again. This happens a couple times before climbing to a false summit with views of Fay Canyon to the northeast. Finally, the trail climbs to the true summit of Bear Mountain with great panoramic views. This is one of the more strenuous Sedona trails but is a good choice for anyone in decent shape and presents beautiful views of the Red Rocks and San Francisco Peaks in the distance. The best time of day to tackle this climb is first thing in the morning so you can hopefully catch the sunrise from the top! 

  • 4.6 miles out and back
  • 2,000′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous

7. Soldier Pass Trail & Brins Mesa Loop

Sedona Brins Mesa Panorama 2020
Sedona Brins Mesa Panorama, Photo by Ben Cappellacci

This loop combines some of the best trails in the Sedona area and passes several incredible features including the popular, Seven Sacred Pools. There is a lot of sun exposure throughout the loop so try to start early in the day if possible. The trailhead begins in an urban setting in northeast Sedona but the parking lot has very limited spaces available. There is a free shuttle option provided by the city of Sedona that offers to drive people to the Soldier Pass Trailhead should it be too crowded. 

The first half of this popular trail is often quite busy as visitors first climb to the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole. The sinkhole is about 660′ deep, but enters a cave that adds 180′, for a total of 840′. From here the trail goes over level ground before coming along to Seven Sacred Pools. The Seven Sacred Pools are naturally carved into the red sandstone and incredible to look at with water trickling from one pool to the next. 

The loop has more amazing features to offer though as hikers will continue on to a short spur trail that takes them to Soldier Pass Arch. The arch or arches are nestled against the side of a cliff and for good reason are often referred to as the Solder Pass Cave. The trail becomes increasingly steep and rocky as it climbs to the pass. Nearing 2 miles, it levels out on top of Brins Mesa, then continues for another 1/4 miles where it intersects Brins Mesa Trail. Brins Mesa  leads you right out into the open where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the spectacular red rock formations for which the Sedona area and Oak Creek Canyon are famous. Bring along a map to help you identify Coffee Pot Rock, Wilson Mountain, Chimney Rock and more. This part of the loop is a lesser known trail in Sedona’s Red Rocks Secret Mountain Wilderness but provide some of the best views around. The return hike along Cibola Pass Trail continues to offer great views of the red rocks surrounding this beautiful area. 

  • 5.5 mile loop
  • 850′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

8. Boynton Canyon Trail

Subway Cave, Photo by Vasilis Karkalas

Boynton Canyon Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona but not just because of the of the outstanding scenery of the red rocks along the way. It is so popular because of the unmarked, short side trail to one of the most photographed spots in the entire Sedona area, Subway Cave

The trail starts out along Sedona’s Enchantment Resort then quickly returns to the canyon floor where the walking is pleasant and easy. About a mile before the end of the trail, an unmarked but relatively easy to find spur trail heads north to Subway Cave. The include to the inside of the cave requires a bit of a rock scramble but should be manageable for most. You will likely be sharing the area with several others so you may have to wait your turn for a good picture unless you come early enough in the day or during the off-season. Boynton Canyon Trail itself is a great hike but the views from Subway Cave are impossible to pass up. Be respectful of the area as it is unmaintained by the US Forest Service and has the remains of several ancient ruins. 

  • 7.6 miles out and back (including spur to Subway Cave)
  • 1,200′ elevation gain
  • Moderate 

9. West Fork Trail

West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon No. 108
West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon No. 108, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

The West Fork of Oak Creek Trail is one of the most popular trails in Coconino National Forest. As the name suggests, this trail leads you along the beautiful stream of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. Along the way there are about 20+ water crossings so wear some good socks and shoes that you don’t mind to get wet. However, depending on the time of the year, you should be able to stone step across to stay dry. The trail itself is relatively flat and well marked. There is stunning scenery along the way and an opportunity to continue exploring beyond the end of the maintained trail. Spring is considered the best time of year to visit but no matter when you are here, the trail is likely to be crowded so try arriving early! West Fork Trail is a great trail for families looking to explore in Sedona and don’t mind a little extra distance though you can turn around at any point. 

  • 6.5 miles out and back
  • 650′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

10. Wilson Mountain Trail

Wilson Mountain Sunset, Sedona, AZ 7-13
Wilson Mountain Sunset, Photo by Don Graham

This hike heads straight up Wilson Mountain for some of the most panoramic views in the Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona area. The incredible views come at a cost though as this steep climb ascends over 2400′ on your way to the top of the tallest mountain in the Sedona area. The views keep getting better and better as you go. The trail initially climbs up to the First Bench of Wilson Mountain at around 6,200′. From there you can venture on to 2 incredible overlooks: Sedona Overlook (this spurs off of Wilson Mountain Trail) and North Canyon Overlook. At the top you’ll be rewarded with views that stretch over hundreds of square miles of scenic canyon country and include Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Coffee Pot Rock, Capitol Butte, Sterling Canyon and the Verde Valley. Keep in mind that most of the hike is exposed and can get extremely hot during the summer months – be sure to bring plenty of water as it will take at least half of the day to complete. 

  • 11.8 miles out and back
  • 2,450′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous

11. Doe Mountain Trail

Doe Mountain Trail No. 60
Doe Mountain Trail No. 60, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Doe Mountain Trail is a great option for both families and those seeking a more adventurous trail. The trail switchbacks up the north side of the flat-topped mesa that offers beautiful views of the surrounding red rocks. From the top, hikers can see panoramic views of Bear Mountain, Wilson Mountain, Boynton Canyon, and Chimney Rock. If you are wanting a little more adventure once you reach the top, an unmaintained trail loops around the edge of the mesa requiring a couple scrambles around some steep drop-offs. 

  • 2.6 mile loop
  • 650′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

Best Hiking Trails in the Sedona Area

Easy Hikes

Sedona landscape. Arizona.
Sedona Landscape, Photo by Bernard Spragg. NZ

Birthing Cave: 2.0 miles out and back with 250′ elevation gain

Doe Mountain: 2.6 mile loop with 650′ elevation gain

Short Hikes

Doe Mountain Trail No. 60
Doe Mountain Trail No. 60, Photo by Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Birthing Cave: 2.0 miles out and back with 250′ elevation gain

Doe Mountain: 2.6 mile loop with 650′ elevation gain

Cathedral Rock: 1.2 miles out and back with 700′ elevation gain

Fay Canyon: 2.3 miles out and back with 450′ elevation gain

Favorite Hikes

Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona
Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona, Photo by Bely Medved

Fay Canyon: 2.3 miles out and back with 450′ elevation gain

Devils Bridge: 4.0 miles out and back with 500′ elevation gain

Cathedral Rock: 1.2 miles out and back with 700′ elevation gain

Soldier Pass Trail & Brins Mesa Loop: 5.5 mile loop 850′ elevation gain

HEY YOU, reading this page! Help me, help you – we make a small commission every time an item or piece of gear is purchased after clicking on the links on our GEAR RECOMMENDATIONS page. If you are in need of some new BOOTS, a new TENT or SLEEPING BAG, TREK POLES, etc. please consider buying after clicking on one of the links on our site! At no additional cost to you, it helps us keep posting more great hiking recommendations for our readers! Happy Hiking!

Featured Image: Sedona, Arizona, Photo by G. Lamar Yancy

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on: