Best Hikes in Coconino National Forest (AZ)

Coconino National Forest Overview

Coconino National Forest is located in central Arizona around Flagstaff and Sedona. It is 1 of 6 national forests in Arizona and is surrounded by Kaibab National Forest to the north, Prescott National Forest to the west, Tonto National Forest the south, and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest to the southeast. The forest 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. The best hikes in Coconino National Forest listed below are incredible but do not let that dissuade you from trying any other 100s of trails that might interest you. This is a beautiful part of the country so you cannot really go wrong no matter what you pick!

Coconino National Forest Districts

The Flagstaff District (northern-most) encompasses the land around the Flagstaff area from Mormon Lake and Anderson Mesa to north of the San Francisco Peaks. The San Francisco Peaks are one of the famous highlights of this forest and can be found in the now dormant volcanic field surrounding Flagstaff. They contain the top 4 highest peaks in the state of Arizona including Humphrey’s Peak (12,633′) as the tallest.

The Mogollon Rim District stretches across the entire forest and provides some of the best views in Arizona. The rim forms at the southern border of the Colorado Plateau and in some areas the elevation drops as much as 2000′.

Finally, the Red Rock District centers on the town of Sedona and encompasses the famous red rock mesas, buttes, and canyons that have attracted visitors to this area for decades. Even if you’re not planning on doing any hikes in Coconino National Forest, this area has plenty to offer in terms of sightseeing.

StateArizona
Nearest Metro AreaFlagstaff, AZ
Area Size1,856,038 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails762 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Coconino National Forest

(*** = Best Hikes in Coconino National Forest)

Bear Mountain Trail – 4.6 miles Out and Back
Bear Mountain Trail No. 54
Bear Mountain Trail No. 54, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Steep and strenuous hike but more than worth it for the views along the way. You’re hiking to the top of Bear Mountain so you’ll be climbing up rocky switchbacks on your way to the top.

Bell Trail – 6.6 miles Out and Back
Bell Trail
Bell Trail, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Popular trail especially during the summer months that travels through a desert canyon to the Wet Beaver Creek crossing. The trail continues on for 11 miles in total however most hikers turn around at this point.

Cathedral Rock Trail*** – 1.5 miles Out and Back 
Cathedral Rock Trail No. 170
Cathedral Rock Trail No. 170, Photo by Coconino National Forest

One of the most popular trails in Arizona. You’ll be hiking up to the top of the rock so there is going to be a lot of climbing; 700′ in 1/2 a mile. No technical skill is required but it is still an extremely steep ascent. The 1.5 miles should take every bit of 2 hours to complete. There are great views along the way and an incredible view from the top.

Courthouse Butte Loop – 4.2 miles Loop
Panorama of south side of Courthouse Butte
Panorama of South Side of Courthouse Butte, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Beautiful hike around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Flat enough for all skill levels to enjoy the classic red rock landscape that Sedona has to offer.

Devil’s Bridge Trail*** – 1.8 miles Out and Back
Devil’s Bridge Trail No. 170, Photo by Department of Agriculture

Very popular trail to Devil’s Bridge, the largest sandstone arch in the Sedona area. Natural staircases take you to the top of the bridge which you can actually walk across!

Doe Mountain Trail – 1.3 miles Out and Back
Doe Mountain Trail No. 60
Doe Mountain Trail No. 60, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Switchbacks leads you to the top of this low, flat-topped mesa which provides ample views of the surrounding area

Fay Canyon Trail – 2.2 miles Out and Back
Fay Canyon
Fay Canyon, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Near Doe Mountain Trail, this is another great low elevation gain hike that isn’t quite as heavily trafficked as other trails in the area. The small, hidden canyon provides great views of the surrounding cliffs.

Humphrey’s Peak Trail*** – 9.2 miles Out and Back
Humphreys Peak, San Francisco Peaks
Humphreys Peak, San Francisco Peaks, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Difficult hike to the top of the highest point in Arizona that you won’t want to pass up! The views from the top and along the way can’t be beat; you can even see the Grand Canyon from the summit on a clear day.

Soldier Pass Trail*** – 4.5 miles Out and Back
Soldier Pass Trail No. 66
Soldier Pass Trail No. 66, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Great hike with minimal elevation gain. Early on you pass Devil’s Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. There are beautiful views to the north of Sedona and to the south of the Mogollon Rim.

West Fork Trail – 6.4 miles Out and Back
West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon
West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, Photo by Coconino National Forest

Cliffs tower above the trail as you hike along the west fork of Oak Creek. This is easily one of the more popular hikes in the Sedona area. The trail comes to an end with the canyon walls close in on you; some choose to continue on by hiking through the stream bed!

Featured Image: Coconino National Forest, Photo by Department of Agriculture

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3 Responses

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    […] National Forest in Arizona; overshadowed by its brethren to the east: Tonto, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Coconino. The forest lies in between the Northern Arizona’s plateaus and Southern Arizona’s deserts […]

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