Sedona has enchanted hikers for generations. Spires resembling cathedrals and arches made of bright red sandstone keep hikers returning to this location year after year. Below you will find a list of must-see trails to hike while exploring Sedona, Arizona.
The 11 best hiking trails in Sedona are:
- Cathedral Rock
- Doe Mountain
- Devil’s Bridge
- Boynton Canyon
- Wet Beaver Creek (The Crack)
- Soldier Pass
- Bear Mountain
- West Fork
- Fay Canyon
- Airport Mesa Loop
- Birthing Cave
While all these trails are magnificent, they were not created equal. Some will only take up part of your day, while others are long and reserved for expert hikers only. Below, we will go through this list and break down each hike to prevent any unwanted surprises in the backcountry.
The 11 Best Hiking Trails In Sedona
1. Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock is one of those quintessential Sedona landmarks you can’t miss. It is 1.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 740 feet.
Being the most popular trail in Sedona, the parking lot quickly fills up, so going at sunrise or near sunset will give you a greater chance at finding a spot. This trail is steep and strenuous but not far in distance.
There is a hiker-created staircase that leads up the most vertical part of the trail. These stairs are bright red and range from an average household stair step to massive boulders that require effort and focus to climb.
Bring good grip hiking boots, as most people consider this more of a climbing scramble than a hike. After the scramble, the trail ends between two giant sandstone spires. The views are expansive, and the picturesque landscape nearby is littered with sandstone spires as well.
What To Expect
This is the most popular trail in Sedona. However, due to the steepness and climbing requirements, only older children should attempt this trail. Dogs are allowed on this trail but must remain leashed. If you plan to go at sunset, don’t forget to bring a headlamp for the way down.
This specific hike is said to have mystical properties. If you are one of those who believe in the Sedona Vortexes, Cathedral Rock is said to be one of their locations. The energy here is supposed to be regenerative and inspirational, hence its popularity.
2. Doe Mountain
Doe Mountain is a slightly less crowded, short and steep trail south of Sedona. It is 1.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 430 feet.
This trail may be short in distance, but the vistas are expansive to the north and east, making it a great place to watch the sunrise and sunset. The trail starts strong with a red rock staircase at the trailhead. It then winds up most of its elevation in the next 0.7 miles. It gets your heart pumping, but you don’t have to keep at it for long.
The steep parts offer views of Bear Mountain and other nearby red cliffs. At the top of the switchbacks, the trail will lead across a flat mesa that stops short with a significant drop-off. This ledge rewards you with views of other flat-topped mesas and a far-stretching valley. Much like Cathedral Rock, the short distance of this trail is perfect for catching the sunrise or sunset.
What To Expect
All levels of hikers should be able to make it to the top mesa. If you’re struggling, simply take more breaks. Although this is somewhat of a popular trail, its distance from Sedona keeps it relatively less crowded.
Children can easily make this trail but allow yourself extra time for the steeper parts. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but they must remain leashed.
3. Devil’s Bridge
The Devil’s Bridge Trail is a short trail ending at a gorgeous red rock bridge or archway. From the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead, the trail is only 1.5 miles roundtrip, but unless you have a side-by-side, a jeep, or take a jeep tour, you’ll have to walk the unpaved 4×4 road from Dry Creek Vista Trailhead. This adds 2.2 miles, bringing the hike to 3.7 miles total with an elevation gain of 400 feet.
The 4×4 road to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead is dusty but reasonably wide. You won’t find any steep ledges or rugged terrain until you pass the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. Then the trail becomes rockier and begins to rise in elevation.
The climb is gradual, without any exposed cliffs until the last quarter mile of the trail. When the actual bridge comes into view, some hikers choose to stay beneath it and end their hike there.
The more adventurous hiker can find two small and uneven staircases to the left, taking them up to the bridge. Use extreme caution with this portion of the hike, as the stairs are pretty steep. The top of the staircases offers you expansive views and access to cross the Devil’s Bridge which is sturdier and safer than the name suggests.
What To Expect
All hiking levels can enjoy this trail, especially since you can hike to the arch without climbing the semi-dangerous final staircase. Like Cathedral Rock, this is one of the most popular trails in Sedona, so expect crowds with children and leashed dogs. Be prepared to wait to have your photo taken on top of the bridge.
4. Boynton Canyon
Boynton Canyon Trail is a gorgeous trail beginning at the private Enchantment Resort west of Sedona. It is 7 miles roundtrip with 800 feet of elevation gain.
As this is another popular trail, you should arrive at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead early to find parking. After starting out on the trail, you’ll be met with a junction for Boynton Vista Trail or Boynton Canyon Trail relatively quickly.
Stay on the canyon trail, but if you want sweeping views of the canyon and the new private resort, you can take the vista trail and only add a half mile detour to your total hike. After the junction, the trail skirts a private resort for the first mile and returns to the canyon floor.
This area doesn’t get a lot of sun due to the steep canyon walls, so be prepared for snow or mud in the wetter seasons. The trail then gradually climbs until the final mile, where it becomes much steeper and leads to a flat rock ending with a small but nice view.
What To Expect
This hike is excellent for all ages and hiking levels, with leashed dogs allowed. The journey is more spectacular than the destination for Boynton Canyon. However, this trail also leads to the secret Subway Tunnel Cave, which is the end point for many hikers visiting the area.
To find the Subway Tunnel Cave, you’ll have to split from the main path precisely 2 miles from the trailhead. There will be a giant alligator juniper tree to the left of the trail. Then, a smaller and narrower trail directly across from that tree splits off to the right.
One way to know if you missed the split-off is if the landscape goes from short shrubby trees to tall pine trees. If you hit pine trees, turn around and search for the alligator juniper. Once you find the trail to the Subway Tunnel Cave, its only half a mile until you reach the cave itself.
Be aware that the cave is located on an ancient ruins site, and you must be careful not to disturb the area or leave any trash behind. The last part of the trail is a steep climb that requires hands and feet, but once you make it past that, you’re at the secret cave that greatly resembles a subway tunnel.
5. Wet Beaver Creek (The Crack)
Wet Beaver Creek, or “The Crack” as it’s more locally known, is 7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 580 feet.
The trail starts at Bell Trailhead and leisurely winds along Wet Beaver Creek. About 1.5 miles in, you’ll find a junction and a trail marking the start of the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. Take the junction to the left that climbs above the wilderness marker.
From here, the landscape will change from a vegetated creek bed to the familiar and sandy red rocks. Follow the trail until you reach “The Crack.” This will be a large crack in the red rocks, complete with a swimming oasis. Many hikers like to cliff jump into the water in this area.
What To Expect
This is another trail where all levels of hikers are welcome. Children and leashed dogs are common sights along the way. However, this is a very exposed trail and can be challenging for small children in the hot summer months. Many hikers take a different path to “The Crack” by hiking to the Bell trail overflow parking lot.
From here, you can make your way down to the creek and follow the creek upstream. There are a lot of creek crossings and rocks to navigate, but this trail provides more shade and eventually drops you off at the same swimming oasis.
6. Soldier Pass
Soldier Pass Trail is either an out and back trail or a loop. The out and back trail is 4.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 800 feet. The Loop is 6 miles long with roughly the same amount of elevation gain.
If you start at Soldier Pass Trailhead for the out and back hike, the hike will begin gently, and after a short time you will come to the first of many landmarks on this trail. The Devils Kitchen is a massive sinkhole that is ever-expanding only a short distance from the trailhead.
You can tell the Devil’s Kitchen by the massive hole in the ground with rockslides pouring into it on every side. There have been two massive collapses there, one in 1880 and the other as recent as 1996.
After another half a mile, you’ll come to the next point of interest along this trail, the 7 Sacred Pools. These are little rock pools etched into the sandstone that pour into each other during the rainy seasons. After hiking past the pools, you will come to another fork in the road.
To stay on Soldier Pass Trail, you will veer left. However, take the path to the right if you want to add a mile-long detour to Soldier Cave. The hike finishes past the cave junction after another half mile. Here you can find a sweeping vista of the canyon and a connection to the Brins Trail, where you can decide if you want to make your hike a longer loop.
What To Expect
This is a hike for intermediate and advanced hikers. Leashed dogs are welcome. Parking at the Soldier Pass Trailhead is the biggest hurdle as it only accommodates 14 cars.
The parking lot is gated from 6pm-6am, so if you are not back to your car by 6 pm, your car will have to stay the night there. You can find the trail at the east side of the parking lot. Do not take the 4×4 road at the north end of the parking lot through the gate.
If you want more flexibility on time and more parking options, consider making this a loop from the Brins Trailhead. The loop is 6 miles roundtrip with almost the same elevation gain. However, you start from a larger parking lot that is open 24 hours.
7. Bear Mountain
Bear Mountain is a strenuous hike ending at one of the tallest peaks in Sedona. It is only 4.5 miles long but has an elevation gain of 1,975 feet, making it one of the most challenging trails in Sedona.
You will start in the Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain shared parking lot, but make sure you cross the street to find the Bear Mountain Trailhead. The trail begins relatively flat, and you won’t be able to see Bear Mountain from the start of the trailhead because of a bell-shaped rock blocking your view.
The trail will then climb steeply for four sections, separated by brief flat and downhill portions. Finally, the summit will reward your hard work with sweeping views of the San Francisco Peaks, Doe Mountain, Courthouse Butte, and the Mogollon Rim.
What To Expect
This trail is only for experienced hikers. There is no shade or water on this trail, so be sure to bring enough water on your back. The trail is marked with white tick marks every 10 to 20 feet, and in some areas, it is very easy to get disoriented and off-trail, so make sure you keep seeing the white tick marks.
The summit is marked with an “end of trail” sign. If you go early in the morning, the heat might be more tolerable, but you are most likely to be met with hazy views, characteristic of mornings in Sedona.
Many hikers feel that the effort required for this hike is not worth the views it provides. They argue that shorter hikes in Sedona give you the same views with far less effort. This hike is for those that prefer challenging hikes that give you a great workout. The summit is still incredible, but you have to work for it.
8. West Fork
The West Fork Trail is a wooded canyon trail along a stream. It is 7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 500 feet.
The trail starts at the Call of the Canyon Trailhead in northern Sedona. It begins across some grassy flats and then across a bridge over a stream. You will start off in Oak Creek Canyon before the trail swings to the right into West Fork Canyon.
Once in West Fork Canyon, beautiful canyon walls close in on both sides, offering plenty of shade. The path winds through the first part of this canyon before coming to the first creek crossing. There are 13 creek crossings throughout this whole trail so bring appropriate waterproof shoes or hiking sandals.
The trail technically doesn’t end at any particular point. However, the water will completely cover the trail and force you to wade waist-deep into a slot canyon. I recommend turning around here unless you have done plenty of research and arranged a shuttle at the other end of the slot canyon.
What To Expect
This trail is an excellent example of how different Arizona’s ecosystems can be. This hike doesn’t resemble any of the other hikes in Sedona, as it is heavily wooded with flowing streams. This is a great area to visit in the summer months and when the leaves change in the fall.
This trail can accommodate all levels of hikers and children too. However, most families choose the first creek crossing as a stopping point. In addition, this area is prone to flash flooding, so exercise caution if storms have been prevalent on the days before.
The slot canyon at the end of the trail is for experts only. Slot canyons are notorious for disorienting hikers as they are maze-like and confusing. Turn around and head back at the 3.5-mile mark unless you are thoroughly prepared to go on. There are plenty of places to explore along the West Fork Trail, but be careful not to get lost.
9. Fay Canyon
This is an easy, slightly less crowded trail with some fantastic points of interest. It is 2.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 390 feet.
This trail starts at the base of a box canyon. You have to cross the street from the parking lot to access the trailhead. The trail itself is mainly flat and uneventful. Alligator juniper trees slightly shade the path. The views from the trail itself are a little unimpressive compared to other trails in the area, which is why you will most likely see fewer people here.
A half a mile in, there is a junction marked by a cairn. This junction leads to Fay Canyon Arch, which resembles the Devil’s Bridge. Once you return to the main trail, it continues for almost another mile. Finally, you will find an end of trail sign with a large overlook rock in front of you.
What To Expect
This hike is great for all levels of hiking. Children can easily make it to the “end of trail” sign, and dogs are allowed if leashed. The only difficult part is continuing past the “end of trail” sign and climbing up to the overlook rock.
Most hikers choose to do so, and if you make it to the end, you will likely see other hikers climbing this rock. Use caution and watch your footing as it is a steep scramble. The real gem of this hike is the half-moon cave past the overlook rock.
After climbing and taking in the views of the overlook, you will see a backcountry trail that leads deeper into the canyon. Stay to the right and follow it for a short while until you see a sizeable, secluded alcove. This is known as the Half Moon Cave and is probably one of the few places in Sedona that you might have to yourself.
10. Airport Mesa Loop
The Airport Mesa Loop is a moderate hike along a flattop mesa. It is 3.5 miles long and has an elevation gain of 200 feet.
You will walk uphill from the Airport Mesa Trailhead, most likely with a crowd of people too. Here is where the masses will head towards the mesa overlook and site of one of Sedona’s Vortexes, while you will turn right and follow the signs for the airport loop.
The trail will become much narrower as it clings to the side of the mesa. Soon, Courthouse Butte and Belle Rock come into view. After about 1.4 miles, you will enter a cactus field where Cathedral Rock appears from an interesting vantage point. The trail then skirts the airport’s boundary, hence the name, and follows along a chain-link fence.
The trail becomes less attractive at this point. At 1.8 miles, the Table Top Trail junction appears. Stay right to stay on the Airport Mesa loop. After 2.3 miles, you will find another intersection with Bandit Trail. Stay right until you hit Sunset Trail at 2.4 miles. Then, stay straight.
There is one more unmarked intersection before the end of the loop. Take the upper trail, and before you know it, the path will end abruptly at a guardrail. Hop the guardrail and cross the street, and you will be back at the trailhead.
What To Expect
This trail is excellent for all levels of hikers and leashed dogs. Although you get sweeping views of other points of interest in Sedona, it is hard to ignore the sound of the highway below and the planes above you.
This trail is exposed for the entire loop and can be extremely hot in the summer months. Beware of low-flying aircraft when you reach the chain-link fence. Unfortunately, this is a real concern for this area, so proceed with caution near the fence.
You can add the Table Top Trail to this hike for a superb finger-rock view of Sedona and the airport. It only adds an extra mile to your hike, and you can watch the planes arrive and depart from the airport.
11. Birthing Cave
This is a short hike to a picturesque and world-renowned cave. It is 2 miles roundtrip with 300 feet of elevation gain.
Access this trail from the Long Canyon Trailhead. After a little over half a mile there will be a junction. The main trail continues straight, but to the left will be a smaller and narrower trail. Take the trail to the left until it eventually curves so that a large set of cliffs appears on your right.
Keep an eye on the cliffs until you can see a depression in the side of the cliffs. Then, keep watching that depression until you are almost right in front of it. Once you are positioned directly in front of the depression, you can find an even smaller trail leading towards the cliffs.
Follow that trail, and it will lead you to a steep climb up into the cliffs. At the top of your climb will be the Birthing Cave, a teardrop shaped cave with sweeping views that is a popular place to show off on social media.
What To Expect
This is great for all levels of hiking as long as you don’t have a fear of heights. Climbing up to the floor of the Birthing Cave takes careful focus, and if you want to get the best picture, you will have to climb up the smooth and sandy walls of the cave.
It is also easy to get turned around on these small, less traveled trails. If you can’t find any of these landmarks, retrace your steps and try again. Even though the trail is short, many hikers seem to get easily turned around in this area.
Sedona is an excellent place for all levels of hikers. It is easy to understand why it is such a popular destination for outdoor lovers. Each hike mentioned above is well worth seeing. Before you go, thoroughly research the trails you want to hike so you know exactly what to expect.