Sedona Hiking Overview
Sedona is well-known as a hikers mecca. The town even earned a top spot in USA Weekend’s “Most Beautiful Places in America” list. Geographically, Sedona rests in a transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and Upper Sonoran Desert. Multi-hued stone pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes rise from the high desert. Light reflects off these stone formations and changes hourly as the sun moves across the sky. This sacred and powerful place is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of National Forest, and home to several spiritual energy vortexes, as well as an extensive trail system with unparalleled options for hiking and biking.
Where to Hike in Sedona
More than 120 hiking trails crisscross the red rocks of Sedona, and hiking is considered one of the best ways to experience the serenity and scenery of this remarkable part of the world. The terrain is a mixture of the finest elements of Arches, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce National Parks, and the local hiking trails vary greatly in distance, elevation change, and difficulty. Here are some of our favorite hikes near Sedona.
Mescal Mountain Loop
Mescal Mountain Loop is a 4.7 mile loop that combines three trails to circle the stunning Mescal Mesa. This Sedona hike is good for beginner and intermediate hikers and the trail’s main draw is the incredible red rock scenery. Portions of the trail traverse along the slickrock.
The Mescal Mountain Loop starts at the Mescal Trail parking area on Long Canyon Road in west Sedona. It’s a short 15-minute drive from the center of town.
Devil’s Bridge Sedona Hike
One of the most popular hikes near Sedona is the Devil’s Bridge Trail. clocking in at just under 4 miles, this out-and-back hike takes you the largest natural sandstone arch in this area, known as Devil’s Bridge. The trail has a gentle slope until about the last half-mile, when it climbs quickly to nearly 5000 feet of elevation. Heading to the trailhead early will ensure you aren’t doing this section in the middle of the day, and you will also beat the crowds on this popular hike!
It’s recommended that you have a high-clearance vehicle to access the official trailhead for Devil’s Bridge, which is about 15 minutes west of Sedona. You can also park at the Dry Creek Vista Trailhead parking area and use the Chuck Wagon Trail to access Devil’s Bridge. Be warned this adds about 1.7 miles to your final hike.
Brins Mesa Soldier Pass Loop
Brins Mesa Soldier Pass Loop is an 8-mile loop trail features awe-inspiring scenery and vistas, including Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole and Soldier Pass Arch. There is some elevation, and you will climb to Brins Mesa for a gorgeous vista as well as Soldier Pass to view the arch.
This hike starts at the Brins Mesa trailhead north of Sedona.
Sterling Pass to Vultee Arch
Sterling Pass Trail to Vultee Arch is a 5-mile roundtrip hike in Oak Creek Canyon, about 10 minutes north of Sedona. The trail climbs to the top of Sterling Pass and overlooks Vultee Arch, one of several natural red rock arches in the Sedona area.
Don’t let the short distance of this hike fool you – this is one of the more advanced and challenging Sedona hikes, with about 1900 feet of elevation change. But the views of the arch are worth it! Vultree arch is one of the bigger ones – about 40 feet high and 50 feet wide. Start early, bring plenty of water, and hike slowly to take in the beautiful scenery.
When to Go Hiking in Sedona
Sedona is a perfect destination for the off-season months, when much of the other hiking and biking trails in the US are covered in snow.
Sedona weather is variable throughout the year. In the winter, highs might be in the 50s, while in the summer the daily temperature can top 100 degrees easily in the hottest part of the day. The summer months in the desert can be brutal, but temperatures typically relax in the early mornings and late evenings so you can still find time in your day for the best Sedona hikes.
The best time of year to visit Sedona is spring and fall when temperatures are mild – typically between 60 and 80 degrees with sunny skies. Winter months bring less crowding and chillier temperatures, but can still be a great time to visit. If you bundle up properly, Sedona day hikes in the winter can be magical!
Getting to Sedona
Phoenix is a great gateway to Sedona, an easy 2-hour drive from the town. Flying into Phoenix and driving to Sedona is the most popular way to access the area, due to the large international airport and easy access to rental cars. Las Vegas is another option with a large airport, only about 4.5 hours to drive to Sedona. You can even visit the quaint mountain town of Flagstaff on the way! Many people choose to combine their trip to Sedona with a visit to Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, which is only about 2 hours away.
Sedona Hiking Rentals, Tours & Lessons
Looking for a guide to plan some customized, easy hikes in Sedona for you? You’ve come to the right place. Sedona hiking tours are some of the best ways to experience the magical red rock and hidden gems of this area.
TripOutside offers the best outfitters if you’re looking for a Sedona hiking guide, as well as many companies that offer hiking tours in the region. Our outfitter partners are all four star rated or above, and are some of the most experienced Sedona hiking guides in the state of Arizona. We take the guesswork out of booking your Sedona hiking trip – all of our outfitters provide top notch service and safety.
Sedona Hiking FAQs
What is the most popular hike in Sedona?
Some of the most popular hikes in Sedona are the Devil’s Bridge Trail, the Cathedral Rock Trail, and the Mescal Mountain Loop. There are so many popular hikes in the Sedona area that trailhead parking areas tend to fill up early. Get to the trailhead first thing to beat the crowds and the heat!
Is hiking in Sedona free?
Sedona hiking is free, but many trailhead parking areas in Sedona are located in the Coconino National Forest. Parking on these National Forest Lands requires a Red Rock Pass or a National Parks Interagency Pass to be displayed on your windshield. You can get a Red Rock Pass for the day for $5 or an annual pass for $20.
What do I need to hike in Sedona?
Sedona hiking trails are often well-trodden, but clambering over slickrock still requires sturdy footwear. You’ll also want to bring sunscreen and other sun protection like a sunhat, sunshirt, and sunglasses – the desert sun can be intense. Bring plenty of water, as well: a gallon per day per person. If you’re heading out to an unfamiliar area, you might consider bringing a Sedona hiking trails map, too!
What is the best month to visit Sedona?
The best month to visit Sedona is probably March or September. March still holds some of the chillier temperatures of winter and the summer days haven’t arrived yet in full force. You might even find snow in some areas and the Verde River is swiftly moving with snowmelt. In September, things are starting to cool off and you might glimpse some of the bright-yellow color in the cottonwood leaves before they fall.
How many days do you need in Sedona?
Sedona is a world of adventure and you could spend weeks and weeks there. We recommend at least three days to experience some of the best Sedona hikes. Plan for more time if you want to enjoy other Sedona activities like kayaking, SUP, and mountain biking.
What can you do in Sedona if you don’t hike?
For those who don’t want to hit the trail by foot, there is a world renowned system of mountain biking trails in Sedona. The Verde River and some nearby lakes also offer wonderful opportunities to kayak and SUP near Sedona. Rest assured there’s something for everyone in this beautiful desert town!