If you haven’t heard yet, Sedona, Arizona, is one of the best hiking destinations in the United States. In the heart of red rock country, the region is teeming with moderate day hikes that make it an accessible spot for all hikers, families included.
Epic views are standard along the best Sedona hiking trails. Many trails begin in vast valleys, enveloped by soaring red rock walls and a smattering of pinyon pines. Soon you’ll end up in the heavens and on top of glorious mesas, looking down on the spectacular world below.
The beauty of Sedona’s hiking trails is that there is something for each level of hiker. Regardless of whether you visit with kids and are looking for something a little easier or you are a die-hard hiker looking for a challenge, you will not be disappointed in Sedona.
Best Hiking Trails in Sedona
From the classic and popular Cathedral Rock to the beauty of the sacred pools, all of these hikes in Sedona will leave you wanting more. There are a lot of hiking trails in this part of Arizona and each person has the ones they like the best. These are our favorite Sedona hiking trails and hopefully, they become yours as well.
Those who visit Sedona will also be blessed with a charming small town that has a delightful art scene, plus the Verde Valley Wine Trail. So after your hike, freshen up and enjoy some local culture.
1. Cathedral Rock
One of the most popular hikes in Sedona, Cathedral Rock, encapsulates what the region is all about. The out-and-back trek takes you by majestic red rocks and specks of green among the arid colors, with vast walls creating the perfect backdrop.
The Cathedral Rock trail length makes it accessible to all hikers, young and old. The hike is steep in parts and will require some brief rock scrambling along the way.
However, the good news is it takes less than a mile to hike up the east side of Cathedral Rock, to where you’ll find your first taste of Sedona’s epic views.
The trail doesn’t lead to the summit, instead, you’ll soon find yourself sitting on a saddle. To either side, will be two soaring red rock towers like the flanks of a grand church.
From your elevated viewpoint, you’ll be able to see the iconic Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte with the rolling Wild West landscape spread out before you like a delicious buffet.
Before returning to the trailhead, see if you can feel one of Sedona’s four renowned vortexes at work. They’re supposed to cause a slight tingling sensation and promote inner healing.
2. Bear Mountain Trail
Cathedral Rock is one of the best moderate hikes in Sedona. But if you’re in the mood for a thigh-burning, sweat-inducing climb under the searing Arizona sun, then make your way to the trailhead of the Bear Mountain Trail.
Despite only being 5 miles long, the hike to the summit of Bear Mountain comes with substantial elevation gain. You’ll want to pack plenty of water and give yourself ample time to rest as you meander your way to the top.
You’ll begin down in the valley, with the pines soaring over you. Yet they’re mere dwarfs compared to the vast rock walls that stand in the distance. It’s an intimidating sight, yet for us Type 2 hikers, this is the stuff dreams are made of.
All of the sweat and leg-numbing climb is immediately worth it as you stand on the peak. A lot of hiking in Sedona brings you to beautiful red rock scenery, but few offer a true summit-bagging experience. This is the best of them.
Bear Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in the region and rewards you with enviable views of the majestic Mogollon Rim and the distant San Francisco Peaks, which are often snow-capped.
3. Boynton Canyon Trail
Long, but not as difficult as the Bear Mountain Trail, the Boynton Canyon Trail is packed with highlights. By combining this hike with the Boynton Vista Trail and the Subway Cave, you’ll see some of the best sights in town on an exciting 7.5-mile adventure.
With the thighs still burning after that big climb, you’ll be happy to know that the Boynton Canyon Trail is mostly flat. The moderate hike takes you through a relatively lush valley of pinyon pines with the towering canyon walls providing some pleasant respite from the sun.
As you walk along the trail, give yourself some time to complete a detour on the Boynton Vista Trail. This leads to fabulous views down to the valley and the always stunning red rocks. It’s here you can also visit the Subway Cave. This cave is akin to a tunnel through the rocks leading to a unique vista.
Back on the main trail, continue along the flat trail until it begins to snake its way up to a viewpoint. Get out your lunch, kick back and enjoy the sights of Mescal Mountain, Deadman’s Pass, and the rest of Boynton Canyon.
4. Devils Bridge
Devils Bridge exists atop almost all lists of the best hikes in Sedona. For good reason. It offers a scene straight out of Arches National Park, with its natural sandstone arch bridging two red rock towers.
The striking sight is the busiest photography spot in the region and by adding on the easy approach trail, you can see why it’s so popular.
Getting to Devils Bridge is simple, with just a couple of miles between the trailhead and the landmark. It’s a hike for everyone. In fact, the only difficult part of the easy hike is trying to navigate the crowds.
Getting to the trail early will help, but not as much as in other major hiking destinations. The parking lot on Dry Creek Road fills up in a blink of an eye. But such is the reward at the end of the hike, that it’s always worth the trouble.
When Devils Bridge comes into view, it will stop you in your tracks. You’ll then see the stairs taking you up to the bridge proper, where you can safely walk from one side to the other. Just be prepared to wait in line.
5. West Fork Trail (Oak Creek Canyon)
Running along the edge of Oak Creek, the West Fork Trail is a different experience from all the hikes in our guide. The creek which flows along the valley of Oak Creek Canyon first carved the walls and now provides a home for plenty of vegetation.
The trail sticks to the creek for almost the entirety, granting plenty of shade and the lovely sound of the water trickling by. You’ll even have to cross Oak Creek on a number of occasions.
If the sun is beating down more than usual, you can always pivot to this trail to escape the heat without missing a day of hiking. Plus with minimal elevation gain, it’s one of the easiest long hiking trails in Sedona.
Highlights of the trek include the artistic carving of the creek that sees the canyon curl up like a wave in certain sections. It helps to showcase different layers of sediment and a range of oxidized colors. If you’re up for a serious adventure, continue past the turnaround point and complete another 4 miles to the end of the canyon.
6. Fay Canyon Trail
If you want to sneak in a quick in and out hike without minimizing spectacular scenery, the Fay Canyon Trail is a fantastic option. The 2.5-mile round trip takes you through some majestic landscapes with tall red rock cliffs standing tall to your left and right.
Along the hiking trail, you’ll discover a brilliant array of vegetation to complement the colorful rock. The native flora includes rows of cacti and yucca, along with vibrant arid wildflowers that transform the environment into a desert rainbow.
As much of the vegetation is above you along the rising walls, you’ll feel surrounded by the resplendent work of mother nature. It all comes to a head, however, once the sublime Fay Canyon Arch comes into view. Hikers can take a short detour to stand at its base.
At the turnaround point of the main trail, continue on and complete some light rock scrambling to an elevated viewpoint. From there, you’ll look back at the picturesque canyon along with Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock.
7. Soldier Pass Trail (Seven Sacred Pools)
Similar to the Boynton Canyon trek, the Solider Pass Trail is a hike that leads to a series of memorable landmarks. The relatively easy hike has minimal elevation gain across the 4-mile loop trail. You may be surprised to hear then that Soldier Pass Trail tends to not be as crowded as some of the other top hikes in Sedona.
The spectacular trail takes you through the heart of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. One of the first highlights is the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole. The huge landmark is an arresting sight, best explained by the signs along its eastern edge.
Next up along the trail is the beloved Seven Sacred Pools. It’s particularly dramatic after rain. At its best, it features cascading waterfalls and even a spot to sit, get wet and cool off.
Hikers can also add on a short detour to Soldier Pass cave before continuing on to complete the loop.
For those driving to the trail, the trailhead parking lot is minimal. You can combine this hike with Brins Mesa and park at the larger Brins Mesa Trailhead.
8. Bell Rock
The Bell Rock climb is one that should be placed high on your Sedona hiking itinerary. The out and back hike is easy and leads to one of the region’s most eye-catching landmarks.
As the name suggests, this red rock structure is shaped like a bell. It’s one of those sights that’s easy to recognize from various viewpoints around Sedona. But once you’ve seen it from a distance, you’ll want an up-close perspective.
In addition to seeing Bell Rock, the trail itself is a lot of fun. The family-friendly hike starts off moderate until you reach the base of the rock. From there, the trail disappears, and it’s off to the races as the entire family starts a leisurely rock scramble up the side of Bell Rock.
Go as far as you’re comfortable as you can’t reach the summit. Not that it matters, because the views from halfway will be one you’ll remember for a long time.
In order to begin the Bell Rock climb, you’ll first walk along the Pathway Trail.
9. Doe Mountain Trail
Hikers will find the classic mesas of Arizona on the wonderful Doe Mountain Trail. A mesa is an isolated, flat-top rock formation surrounded by dramatic escarpments. They aren’t in short supply around Sedona, but Doe Mountain brings you to one of the best.
Along the trail, you’ll be blessed with solitude, a rare trait among the best hikes in Sedona. The brief trek is just over a mile long, yet brings you to remote vistas at the summit of Doe Mountain.
After your climb to the top of the stunning mesa, you’ll have some pleasant flat walking, as you stroll from one end to the other. With the valley far below, it’s as if you’re wandering along an elevated platform hanging from the heavens.
From such heights, there isn’t much you can’t see from the Doe Mountain peak. Bask in the panoramic views that showcase Fay Canyon, Bear Mountain, and Chimney Rock in all their resplendent glory.
10. Munds Wagon Trail
Not so much for the trail itself, but for where it ends, Munds Wagon Trail is one for the books. The 8-mile out and back hike takes you to Carousel Rock, aka, the Merry Go Round Rock. It’s here that you’ll often find hikers proposing or taking their wedding photos. Once you see the views, you’ll understand why.
There are two ways to get to Carousel Rock. The other option is a shorter trail leaving from further along Schnebly Hill Rd. But unless you have a four-wheel drive, it’s best to stick to the status quo.
The Munds Wagon Trail has a decent elevation gain spread across the first four miles. Along the way, you’ll pass another memorable site, a rock formation called Cow Pies.
But don’t stop until you reach Carousel Walk. Break out the trail mix and take in the exceptional scenery inclusive of Munds Mountain and Bear Wallow Canyon.
11. Brins Mesa Trail
Just north of Uptown Sedona, Brins Mesa Trail is a great compliment to your time at Soldier Pass. In fact, many hikers choose to combine the two into a larger loop.
But the Brins Mesa Trail deserves a spot of its own on our list of hikes in Sedona. The mix of juniper forests and red rock walls are spellbinding, while the relative ease of the hike makes it one for the whole family to enjoy.
You’ll start at the Jim Thompson Trailhead and embark on a well-worn trail that is easy to follow. The trek starts off fairly flat and leads you to the only stretch of elevation gain on the hike. You’ll quickly get swept up to great heights, with the ever-improving vistas providing plenty of motivation.
Soon you’ll arrive at what’s akin to a grass meadow that carpets the mesa. If it wasn’t for the surrounding red rock country, you’d think you were in the high alpine. Hikers can take in the views, or scramble up to an adjoining ridge.
12. Airport Mesa Trail
Desert sunsets are the best sunsets. Many of the best hiking trails in Sedona have majestic views that grow even more spectacular as the sun touches down on the horizon. But if there were to be one hike that you do specifically at sunset, make it the Airport Mesa Trail.
The loop trail begins with a brief climb up to a saddle where you’ll start climbing along the edge of the phenomenal mesa. Along the way, you’ll be able to spot the lower Oak Creek Valley before you cross basalt boulders to the top of the ridge.
From there, the trail remains flat as you cross the tablelands with startling views of West Sedona, the famed Red Rock Loop Road, with most of Sedona’s major landmarks in sight.
With the hike now complete, kick back at the Airport Mesa Scenic Lookout Point for the best sunset spot in town. See the fading light splash across the red rock scenery, creating a mix of color and shade while the lights of the town slowly flicker on.
13. Mescal Mountain
Popular among mountain bikers, the Mescal Mountain Trail swings around the mountainside, bringing you to fabulous views of a bowl-shaped valley below, plus another memorable sandstone mesa.
As it’s well-frequented by riders, Mescal Mountain isn’t overly crowded with hikers. So for the most part, you should have the trail to yourself, allowing you to meander your way up the mountain’s precipice in peace.
The trail is well worn, making it easy to follow. However, as it is slick rock, be aware of your grip if you are hiking are recent rain. The switchback nature of the hike means the elevation gain is steady.
It won’t take long to be among the clouds and look down at the vast valley that also includes Cathedral Rock.
14. The Birthing Cave
The Birthing Cave is found at the end of a short and sweet hike that ends with one of the best photo spots in Sedona.
In order to reach the iconic cave, you’ll need to hike for about half a mile along the Long Canyon Trail. The path is mostly flat and easy to follow. Soon you’ll reach a fork where you’ll turn left along a more narrow trail that heads straight for the towering cliffs.
As you get closer to the cliffs, the Birthing Cave will come into view. But in order to stand inside, you’ll need to do a bit of rock scrambling. The cave is surprisingly large, with views of the gorgeous Sedona valley spread out at its end.
15. Wilson Canyon Trail
Beginning at the famous Midgley Bridge, the Wilson Canyon Trail starts off with a bang. The strength of this hike is that it packs some fantastic scenery into a short hike. With so much to do in the surrounding area, it’s a great way to start or end the day.
The Wilson Canyon Trail provides hikers with quite a lot of shade, by Sedona standards. If you want to cool off even more, the path is just a brief stroll from a nearby creek.
With little elevation gain, it’s a relaxed hike through beautiful nature. If you’re looking to add more family-friendly hikes to the itinerary, then you’ll be happy to know that the Wilson Canyon Trail is great for all ages.
16. Courthouse Butte
Last but certainly not least, Courthouse Butte is a famous Sedona landmark that you have to see in person. Sure, Courthouse Butte has a habit of showing up at many of the best viewpoints around town. But to really do it justice, you must hike the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail.
It’s a hike where the views start early and don’t let up to the very end. Not only will you be able to admire the butte from close range, but you’ll also see the momentous Mogollon Rim plus plenty of sightings of the beautiful Bell Rock.
With the famous domed rock nearby, the beginning of this trail is the same that first led you to Bell Rock. But as the crowds go left, you’ll continue right and walk slightly uphill.
Having escaped the crowds, an air of peace sweeps across the landscape. Soon you’ll be able to see Horse Mesa and the beguiling Spaceship Rock. Continue on until you’re back to where you started.
Tips for Hikers
With the best hiking trails in Sedona covered, let’s explore some logistics and how to make the most of the experience.
Grab a Red Rock Pass
The Red Rock Pass is a necessity if you want to complete almost all of the above hikes. Many trailheads have machines to purchase the pass and they cost $5 per day or $15 for the week. As an alternative, you can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass. The latter gives you access to 2,000 recreational sites around the United States.
Word is well and truly out about Sedona. It’s become a hiking mecca and crowds make a regular pilgrimage to the Arizonan town to see the sights and hike the memorable trails. It’s almost impossible to avoid the crowds at places such as Devils Bridge. But you can give yourself a shot by starting early, taking a break for lunch, and doing another hike around sunset. This also gives you time to explore Sedona’s wonderful art scene and wineries.
Combine Your Hikes
One hard-to-solve issue that’s been caused by Sedona’s growth in popularity is the small car parks. Many trailheads have spots for as little as a dozen cars and most of them fill up by 7 am. It can help to choose a starting point like Jim Thompson Trailhead, which has access to several great treks so you don’t have to drive and find another car park.
Drink Your Water
As Mimiyuuh says, drink your water. We all know that Sedona is a desert landscape, but it can be tempting to wait until the next rest stop sip on some H2O. The key to enjoying your time here is to stay on top of hydration and not wait. Shade is a rare luxury in Sedona, so if you fall behind on staying hydrated, it’s hard to catch up.
Best Easy Hike:
There are some great easy hikes around Sedona. These can often be found just off the major scenic byways, allowing you to get walking as quickly as possible.
Fay Canyon and the West Fork Trail are two of our top recommendations for simple treks. These bring you through wonderful landscapes with great views and won’t leave you sore the next day.
Best Overall Trek:
As a Type 2 hiker myself, I can’t pass up on Bear Mountain for the best overall trek in Sedona. Most first-time visitors make a beeline for Cathedral or Bell rocks, and rightfully so, but there’s something distinct about Bear Mountain that the other treks don’t have.
It’s a proper hike, one that makes you earn the summit, and when you do, you’ll have vast views that no other location can match.
Best Hike for Families:
Many of the most popular hikes, such as Devils Bridge, are short and relatively easy for the whole family. But if you want to get away from other hikers and enjoy a walk with just you and yours, consider the Wilson Canyon Trail or even the Airport Mesa Trail for fun hikes with room to stop where you wish and hang out as one.
If you do choose to tackle any of these hikes in Sedona, you will soon realize that it becomes addictive. From the first time you set foot among the red rocks, you will be hooked.