BEST SEDONA HIKES GUIDE
The truth is: ALL Sedona hikes are AMAZING and this guide covers the most challenging hikes to the easy hikes in Sedona. With many epic trails to choose from, it can be hard to find the perfect hike for you – so I have selected the 15 absolute best hikes in Sedona AZ from the challenging ones to the easy hikes in Sedona.
If you are planning a trip to go hiking in Sedona, you already know that Arizona has some of the most amazing hiking trails in the United Stat3es and in the world.
Sedona is one of the most unique and scenic areas of Arizona, and one of the best destinations for hikers looking to spend time outdoors exploring the red rocks and scenic canyons. In addition to the incredible views, other highlights include a natural bridge, rivers and streams, wildlife, and even energy vortexes.
During my RV Rental trip in the Southwest, I spent a few days going on some of the best Sedona hikes, including the easy hikes in Sedona and dog-friendly, since I traveled with my dogs.
In this guide, I am sharing some of the best hiking trails in Sedona, what you can expect, very important tips, and all illustrated with beautiful pictures to inspire you to get outside and go hike safely!
Plan your next adventure with this complete list of best hikes in Sedona and safe travels!
- BEST SEDONA HIKES GUIDE
- BEST SEDONA HIKES OVERVIEW
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION BEFORE YOU GO HIKING IN SEDONA
- SEDONA HIKES MUST-PACK ITEMS
- EASY HIKES IN SEDONA
- MODERATE HIKES IN SEDONA
- DIFFICULT HIKES IN SEDONA
- WHAT IS NEXT
- Follow + Share
- Plan your Trip
- READ MORE
BEST SEDONA HIKES OVERVIEW
|EASY HIKES||MODERATE HIKES||DIFFICULT HIKES|
|FAY CANYON TRAIL||AIRPORT MESA VORTEX||BEAR MOUNTAIN|
|BOYTON CANYON||DEVILS BRIDGE||WEST FORK TRAIL|
|OAK CREEK CANYON||CATHEDRAL ROCK||LOY CANYON TRAIL TO LOY BUTTLE|
|LITTLE HORSE TRAIL||BELL ROCK|
|PALAKI RUINS HIKE||SOLDIER PASS|
PRACTICAL INFORMATION BEFORE YOU GO HIKING IN SEDONA
Before jump in into the Best Hikes in Arizona, I would like to review some practical information to help you to plan and prepare for our amazing trip.
If you are going to travel to Sedona AZ, pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for will help make your travels far more successful and safe.
In this section, you will find all the essentials to plan a fun trip and to have the best time on the best hikes in Sedona:
10 ESSENTIAL TIPS BEFORE YOU GO HIKE IN SEDONA
- Get a Red Rock Pass for Hiking Trails in Sedona: You will need a Red Rock Pass in order to go hiking in Sedona.
- Start Early: The afternoon heat is much more punishing than the morning. Also, by starting early you can avoid trail traffic.
- Keep in mind the high elevation in Sedona: Sedona, Arizona sits 4,350 feet above sea level! This is much higher than many other major US cities.
- Difficult Hiking Trails: “Difficult Hiking Trails” are characterized by steep elevations, increasingly difficult terrain, and longer distances. Only experienced hikers should attempt these trails
- Be physically prepared: Many of these hikes are easy and can be done by anyone. A couple of the hikes are epic and I recommend following a Plan for Hiking Fitness preparation prior to attempting any long or challenging hike.
- Bring plenty of water: Remember you will be outdoors in the sun you will need to drink a lot of water. My LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle has been my lifesaver for all my trips. I can refill this bottle anywhere and it comes with a carabiner to connect it to my daypack.
- Be Aware of the Wildlife: Make sure you know how to identify the dangerous creatures – snakes, spiders, and scorpions. Educate yourself on the potential hazards of your hiking trail, and know the basic emergency procedures if you encounter such danger.
- Check the Weather: Especially if you are visiting in the summer and monsoon seasons. Check the weather for your intended location, as well as the surrounding areas.
- Travel safe: Don’t forget to buy Travel Insurance. Considering that anything can go wrong with any trip, we don’t want to risk the fun, right?
- Leave no Trace: Be a responsible traveler, it is all about enjoying nature and ensure you help to preserve the environment.
GETTING TO SEDONA, ARIZONA
Sedona, Arizona is a Southwestern desert community that’s not far at all from the city of Flagstaff. If you want to feast your eyes on pines, canyons, and red rocks galore, there aren’t many destinations on the planet that can hold a candle to “Red Rock Country.”
You can typically fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International in Phoenix. It’s a little less than two hours away by car. Although Phoenix Sky Harbor International is the closest sizable airport to the community, Flagstaff Pulliam is also in the area. It’s a 40-minute drive away.
WHERE TO STAY IN SEDONA
Sedona offers a large variety of options of places to stay – Hotels, Motels, Resorts, B&B, Cabins, RV camping, Hostel, and vacation rental homes – it only depends on your budget and personal preference.
If you are looking for hotels, here are some great options for you:
GREAT VALUE: Arabela Hotel Sedona has breakfast included and offers an excellent location, with an outdoor pool and all-year-around hot tub. All the rooms have Wi-Fi and cable TV. Click here for prices and availability.
FAMILY OWNED HOTEL: Sedona Real Inn is family-owned. All the rooms include complimentary WiFi and a hot breakfast bar. Pet-friendly, they offer a grassy outside play area with a barbeque and fire pit. Click here for rates and availability.
GETTING AROUND SEDONA
The best way to get around Sedona is by car. Although the Verde Lynx bus service is useful for getting around downtown, many of the region’s trails are located away from the main roads.
You can either rent a car at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and drive about 120 miles north to Sedona, or you can hop on any of the numerous Phoenix to Sedona shuttles and rent a car once you arrive in town.
Exploring Sedona by car is the most convenient way to explore Sedona and its magnificent Red Rock State Park. However, not just any car will do: Many of the area’s hiking trails are accessible by dirt roads, so a four-wheel-drive vehicle (specifically a Jeep) is highly recommended. If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, consider signing up for a guided Jeep tour.
If you are planning to rent a car for your trip to Arizona, I recommend requesting a quote and comparing prices from different rental car providers to get the best deal.
WHEN TO GO HIKE IN SEDONA
Sedona is a year-round destination:
March-May: Can be a fantastic period with its pleasant temperatures and unbelievable blooms. This is when the number of visitors slowly starts to rise.
SUMMER: Arizona is hot and crowded, and many attractions are packed shoulder to shoulder with visitors.
SPRING & FALL: This is a joyful time to head to Sedona with warm weather and plenty to do.
WINTER: If you’d prefer to save some money or can’t stand messing with crowds, but doesn’t matter the cold, this is the best time to travel to Sedona.
SEDONA HIKES MUST-PACK ITEMS
Wear sturdy shoes for hiking: The most important thing is to protect your feet and avoid twisting your ankle and get injured. I recommend investing in a good hiking boots brand such as Teva, Salomon, or even Keens.
Bring your Camera: The Sedona landscape is so unique and incredible, so don’t forget your camera, or check some great value options here
Bring a light jacket: Early morning or late night can get cold in the Sedona desert, so it is important to bring layers and a light jacket is always a must!
PACK SMART ALERT!
If you are planning to carry a backpack during your hiking in the Smoky Mountains, I have compiled a very detailed review of the Best Backpacks for Travel in the market today – Also, it doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter, you will need a good jacket to go hike in the Smoky Mountains, so check my complete review guide on the Top Jackets for Travel and pack smart!
EASY HIKES IN SEDONA
1 – FAY CANYON TRAIL
- DISTANCE: 2.4 miles / 3.9 km
- ELEVATION GAIN: 383 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: Beautiful red sandstone scenery
A great way to start your outdoor exploration is with an easy hike in Sedona, in the scenic ravine at Fay Canyon trail.
This path highlights the area’s magnificent red sandstone through massive cliff structures and ancient dwellings. Historically Fay Canyon’s cliff dwellings have been utilized as high vantage points to overlook the canyon.
With Fay Canyon’s rich history, it is no wonder dense woods, red rock formations, and secret cliff crevices populate the trail.
After a short walk from the parking lot, hikers can follow a steep path up to a massive yet hidden natural arch.
This secret spot cannot be seen from the main trail, making the arch a special sight for visitors.
Hikers can also explore the various cliff dwellings scattered throughout Fay Canyon by trekking up the random paths found along the main Fay Canyon Trail.
Fay Canyon trail is home to incredible views surrounding hikers in all directions.
While Fay Canyon is a shorter hike in Sedona, a simple hour-long hike can easily turn into a full-day excursion when meandering the various paths and exploring the cliff dwellings.
2 – BOYNTON CANYON
- DISTANCE: 6.1 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 866 ft
- COST: $5 for Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: mountain views, flute music and vortex
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jyoti from Story at Every Corner
The Boynton Canyon trail in the red rocks of Sedona is incredibly beautiful, serene, and energizing.
It’s is best enjoyed by groups on vacation with friends in Sedona.
The total trail length is 6.1 miles one way from end to end. But if you are staying on the Enchantment Resort, you can hike from the Spa to the vortex on the south in under 2 miles.
To the south is the vortex and the two famous rock formations – the Kachina Woman and the Warrior Rock.
The lucky visitors may even meet the man who plays the flute on the rock and spreads love to everyone and anyone anywhere.
At the north end of the resort is the part of the trail that goes north and east through the mountains, woods, streams, and amazing views.
In March or late winter, this section is covered in snow which makes it extra beautiful.
One can do the entire trail one time or hike the northern part in the morning and southern part in the evening to enjoy the evening flute music.
3 – OAK CREEK CANYON
- DISTANCE: 0.5 mile to creek views and various trails and loops that can go up to 6 miles round trip
- ELEVATION GAIN: 800 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: river views with iconic hills and mountains of Sedona including Cathedral Rock
CONTRIBUTED BY: Noel from Travel Photo Discovery
For a unique and easy hike in Sedona with a water perspective, why not consider the Oak Creek area with picture-perfect views of surrounding mountains including the iconic Cathedral Rock area.
This easy hike in Sedona is a great opportunity to see some of the best places to photograph Sedona for some inspiration and amazing views. Located on the end with a parking area at Back O Beyond Road in the Oak Creek area the hike to the river is pretty and the views along the river area to the various mountains are spectacular.
When you include the river views, it adds a different perspective of the beautiful red rocks of the surrounding Sedona mountain ranges.
There are a few wonderful trails here including a longer loop trail that covers the river walk and into a nice viewing range of Cathedral rock and other local hills in the area. The hike is quiet and not as popular as the other hiking but in my opinion, it’s even more special to experience without the crowds.
4 – LITTLE HORSE TRAIL
- DISTANCE: 3 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 420 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: get up close to Sedona’s famed red rocks
Little Horse Trail is a scenic and easy hike in Sedona, where you can hike with kids and/or dogs.
To access these trails, park in the Little Horse Trailhead parking lot just off of Highway 179. The parking lot is paved with vault toilet restrooms, but no potable water.
Note that since it’s off Highway 179 it can get very busy. Although since this particular trailhead parking lot is one of the last ones as you wind your way towards Sedona – it’s less crowded than others.
Little Horse Trail to Chicken Point is a 3 miles round trip. This trail meanders through the beautiful Twin Buttes and the West Ridge of Lee Mountain.
Along with the trail, you will see the Chapel Spires, Madonna & the Nuns. The trail will take you to Chicken Point, a series of large, round flat rocks and spectacular red rock vistas.
From Chicken Point, you will see Twin Butte spires, Cathedral Rock, Gibraltar Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Submarine Rock, Lee Mountain, Munds Mountain & the Crimson Cliffs.
5 – PALATKI RUINS
- DISTANCE: 1.8 mile loop
- ELEVATION GAIN: 223 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: Historical site featuring ancient pictographs and petroglyphs
This easy hiking in Sedona is a fantastic opportunity to see some ancient pictographs and petroglyphs, as well as the history of the Palatki, the Native American ruins.
Palatki is one of the two largest cliff dwelling sites in the Red Rock Country belonging to Sinagua. The Sinagua are thought to be connected to the Hopi Indian Tribe who took advantage of the south-facing cliffs when they built their shelters
Located in the Coconino National Park, just outside the town of Sedona, the Palatki Heritage Site is a display of rich history in this region, and where you can see how the people used to live and how they utilized the area.
This hike is very easy, but at the same time, mesmerizing as you can see all the ruins and ancient dwellings.
This is a guided tour with one of the park rangers, and they only take a certain number of visitors each tour, and it can get very busy during the high season.
It is recommended to make reservations if you are interested to join the guided tour.
MODERATE HIKES IN SEDONA
6 – AIRPORT MESA LOOP TRAIL: A great short hike in Sedona with panoramic views
- DISTANCE: 3.3 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 416 ft.
- COST: $3 to park
- BEST FOR: Breathtaking panoramic views
This short and moderate hike in Sedona has become popular because of the easy access, which is on a hill right in the middle of the town.
This is a loop trail that offers stunning views out of the colorful cliffs of the Mogollon Rim, the HIghway 179, West Sedona, and the surrounding area.
The start of the trail is at the north end of Airport Mesa. Look for the Airport Overlook Trail, a short spur up to the lookout, and it is also the location of one of Sedona’s energy vortexes.
Because of its panoramic views of the surrounding rock formations in the area, and the town below, this is one of the best hikes in Sedona to do at the end of the day. It is just jaw-dropping during the sunset, as the mountains light on fire, offering a great opportunity for pictures and to enjoy the incredible views.
The whole hike takes around 1.5 hours, and besides being a moderate effort and short hike in Sedona, it is well worth it.
7 – DEVILS BRIDGE
- DISTANCE: 3.6 miles roundtrip
- ELEVATION GAIN: 400 ft
- COST: Free
- BEST FOR: a short hike with spectacular views
CONTRIBUTED BY: Samah from God & Wanderlust
During any Arizona road trip itinerary, Sedona is a must-stop to enjoy some of the best hikes in the state.
Devil’s Bridge Trail is nestled within the beautiful rugged red rock formations and one of the most iconic places to hike in Sedona, because of the natural stone features around this area.
Hikers can park at Dry Creek Vista parking lot or if they have a 4WD, they can drive along with the dirt, rocky path to the Devil’s Bridge parking lot and hike 0.8 miles to the bridge from there.
The trail goes up a 400 ft elevation gain and it can get quite steep at parts.
There are stair-like rocks along the trail, but some also end up using their hands to climb their way up the steep terrain.
Despite the name, the bridge is rather an arch created by wind and weather erosion and overlooks Coconino National Forest.
Devil’s Bridge is the largest sandstone arch in the Sedona. The hike to the bridge is fairly short and hikers can expect to wait in a queue to take a photo on top of the bridge.
Going early is key to experience fewer crowds.
8 – CATHEDRAL ROCK
- DISTANCE: 1.2 Miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 652 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: Great views
CONTRIBUTED BY: Nicole from American SW
Cathedral Rock Trail is a great hike in Sedona for beautiful views. It’s a challenging hike up to the top but you are rewarded with amazing views of the red rocks that Sedona is famous for. Although the trail is only 1.2 miles round trip it is important to bring enough water and sunscreen for this hike.
The trail is uncovered and can be very hot in the Arizona sun. This hike is best done early in the morning to avoid the heat and also get a parking spot. Parking costs $5 for the Red Rock Pass and there are only 20 parking spots.
Hiking in Sedona is a great way to see the scenery and for $5, you will have access to several different hikes in the area. Another option is to do this hike at sunset for fantastic views of the sun setting. Cathedral Rock is located in Sedona West which is also the best place to stay in Sedona when you visit as you will be close to cafes and shops.
9 – BELL ROCK
- DISTANCE: 3.6 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 320 ft
- COST: Free
- BEST FOR: easy hiking with incredible views
CONTRIBUTED BY: Eden from Rock a Little Travel
The Bell Rock Pathway trail is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona offering incredible views of both Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.
Bell Rock will be one of the first massive red rock formations you see as you make your way north from Phoenix to Sedona. The famous Bell Rock stands at over 4,900 feet tall while its neighbor to the east, Courthouse Butte stands at over 5,400 feet tall.
The Bell Rock Pathway is so popular because it offers such impressive views for very minimal effort. The trail has a wide, packed surface for most of the route, making it an accessible hike for just about anybody. The further you go on this trail, the better the views get as you near the base of Bell Rock.
It is recommended that hikers plan to arrive either early in the morning or later in the evening. This is the best way to avoid crowds on this popular trail and also an effective way to avoid the midday heat.
10 – SOLDIER PASS
- DISTANCE: 4.3 Miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 830 ft
- COST: Free
- BEST FOR: Mountain views, caves
Soldier Pass Trail is one of the incredible hikes in Sedona that offers beautiful, diverse scenery.
It passes popular landmarks including Devils Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools. Be aware that parts of this trail are popular with local Jeep tours. About one mile past the pools, there’s a turnoff to the right for the caves.
There are no trail markers here, so it’s easy to miss. Once you’re on this side trail, it opens up and you can see a rock wall looming in the distance. That’s your destination. The trail quickly gets steep as you approach the cliffs.
There are multiple paths; take any leading up to the hole in the wall. You’ll likely have to scramble through some rubble and debris. Once inside, you’re in a cave formed behind the rock wall, with two distinct arches. Enjoy a snack, explore, and take lots of pictures in this unique spot!
Note that the tiny Soldier Trail parking lot is located in a residential neighborhood. You’ll likely have to park on the street, but be very mindful of where you park. Don’t block anyone’s driveway, and watch for tow zones.
11 – BIRTHING CAVES
- DISTANCE: 2 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 291 ft.
- COST: Free
- BEST FOR: Photography
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jessica from Unearth The Voyage
The Birthing Cave is truly one of the most unique hikes in the Sedona area.
It can be a bit tricky to find, but worth the effort since it’s a relatively easy two-mile out and back trail.
The trail starts at the Long Canyon Trailhead and parking is free which is great since most of the hiking trails in the Sedona area require a Red Rock Pass or there is a $5.00 fee to park.
The trail starts out by following the Long Canyon Trail and is not particularly well marked where it splits off to the Northwest.
Birthing Caves trail ends with a small rock scramble up to the cave itself and is without a doubt one of the best photography opportunities in the area.
From the back of the cave, you can sit and look out at the surrounding area perfectly framed inside the slanted red rock walls in a way that is absolutely breathtaking!
The Birthing Cave is a perfect short hike that certainly won’t disappoint!
DIFFICULT HIKES IN SEDONA
12 – BEAR MOUNTAIN
- DISTANCE: 4.9 miles round trip
- ELEVATION GAIN: 1,975 ft.
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: Summit Mountain Views
- CONTRIBUTED BY: Michelle from The Wandering Queen
Since the elevation gain is around 2,000 feet and the distance is about 5 miles, this hike is a thigh burner. It is best to allocate most of the day to finish the hike. Also, wear good shoes with traction as this trail is extremely rugged.
The trail, which is a straight incline uphill, is well marked will little white arrows, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Make sure to always keep a camera handy to take pictures, as the views are beautiful throughout the hike.
There are many false summits throughout the trail, but once you get to the peak, it has fantastic 360-degree views of all the nearby canyons.
13 – LOY CANYON TRAIL
- DISTANCE: 9.8 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 2,326 ft
- COST: $5 for the Red Rock Pass
- BEST FOR: Beautiful scnery and can hike with dogs
A fantastic hike in Arizona, Loy Canyon Trail is a 9.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona. It features a river and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash. As you hike up the canyon you can watch the forest floor change from the red dirt to black dirt, to leaves, than to pine needles.
The switchbacks up the side of the canyon wall are beautiful and require endurance not climbing skills. From the top of the canyon, a saddle lets you choose left or right.
The first 3-4 miles are moderate to easy, though there are a fair number of fallen trees blocking the trail (easily passed by), and the last mile steepens a fair amount for a good climb.
Views from up top are stunning! No water along the trail so bring plenty of water for yourself and any furry friends.
15 – WILSON MOUNTAIN NORTH & SOUTH
- DISTANCE: 9 miles total (North) or 7 miles total (South)
- ELEVATION GAIN: 2,637 ft
- COST: Fees are $20/vehicle Mon – Thurs, and $30/vehicle Fri-Sun. Visitors entering on foot or bicycle are $3.
- BEST FOR: The highest point of Sedona and dynamic panoramic views
Looking for a challenging hike in Sedona? Welcome to the big hike!
From either the North or South entry, the hike leads to the highest peak in Sedona at 7,122ft. This trail takes you through two distinctly different environments.
The first part of the trail takes you through a rough desert environment featuring low-growth junipers, manzanita, prickly pear cactus, and Parry Agave then past the “first bench” into a coniferous forest featuring a variety of large pines and oak trees.
Don’t miss the views of San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff as you make your way up the side of Wilson after the “first bench.” The San Francisco Peaks hold considerable religious significance to numerous American Indian Tribes in the area.
The south entry begins at Midgley Bridge and follows switchbacks along a narrow trail to the first bench, where it connects with North Wilson Mountain Trail.
This section of trail is heavily composed of basalt rock and is rocky, rough, and long-going throughout.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
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World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover their trip essentials. Especially if you are like me, travel insurance is ideal for adventurous travelers.
Travel smarter and safer – You can do your quick quote below and find out how little you can pay for the essential benefit of Travel Insurance for your next trip!
WHAT IS NEXT
Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your trip:
- Make sure you are prepared before you go hiking: A Completely Fitness Preparation Guide for Hiking
- Also, check the guide for Best Hikes in Arizona
- If you are a hiker you may also love this Best hikes in the Smoky Mountains
- Traveling by RV? Check How to rent an RV for a road trip in the USA
- More ideas for unique USA Travel Itinerary
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