Sedona is considered one of the most beautiful places in America to visit. Geographically, Sedona rests in a transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and Upper Sonoran Desert. This sacred and powerful place is home to several spiritual energy vortexes, as well as an extensive trail system with unparalleled options for hiking and biking. Sedona offers astounding red rock vistas and is a perfect destination for the off-season months when the rest of the country’s trails are covered in snow. Read on for the best places to explore Sedona’s incredible outdoors, its spiritual vortexes, and camp under the stars.
- Best Time of Year to Visit: Spring/fall when temps are moderate, but if you visit during off-season there will be less people. Winter is also a fantastic time to visit. Sedona can get really busy during peak times (traffic, full parking lots, etc) but with the exception of holiday weeks, the winter is much quieter. Temperatures typically range from 50-70 between December and February, and with the blazing sun it can feel much warmer.
- Camping Options: budget, moderate, and luxury. Basically, there is something for everyone. No matter you are a student, professional, or jobless, your adventure carvings will be satisfied here. Some of the best camping options closest to town are as follows:
Where to Stay
Rancho Sedona RV Park is in the heart of town, next to beautiful Oak Creek and fully shaded by grand Sycamore and Cottonwood trees. The RV park is highly rated by guests, with a 5-star rating on Campendium.com. Sites are gravel with a concrete patio and picnic table. Tent camping is not allowed (per city of Sedona rules), but RVs and dogs are allowed. Water, electric and sewer options, prices from $42-$84 per night. It is within walking distance to galleries, shops and bars.
Forest Road 525 (or Loy Butte Road) is located within Coronado National Forest just 15 minutes outside of Sedona. This road offers free tent and RV camping sites for up to 14 days along its 6.2-mile length. The road is dirt and can be some washboard in some areas but is overall in good shape. The views are incredible, cell service is good, and it’s only 15 minutes from downtown Sedona!
*Update January 2021* Sadly, we have seen destruction in this area due to many campers forging their own spots out in the desert, damaging the fragile desert ecosystem and leaving toilet paper and trash. PLEASE practice Leave no Trace – you CANNOT “dig a hole” for human waste in the desert, it will NOT break down. Toilet paper also does not break down in the desert. You MUST pack out everything, including your own waste. Also, park only in designated sites, follow rules posted on signs and don’t make your own spots out in the desert. These actions will lead to this beautiful camping spot being shut down or severely limited.
Rent an RV
Thinking about renting an RV for your trip to Sedona? Outdoorsy is a great site for finding local RV rentals. This marketplace allows you to rent local RVs for less, offers insurance protection and 24/7 roadside assistance. Start planning your Arizona road trip adventure!
Sedona is ranked #14 globally in the listing of best Sedona bike trail systems according to Trailforks.com. Ditch your car and experience this red rock heaven on bike. For the best bike rental shops in Sedona, compare prices and rent a mountain bike online starting at $45/day. If you are looking to brush up on your skills, take a lesson from Sedona Mountain Bike Academy on some of the world’s best singletrack.
Beginner/Intermediate: Chuckwagon – Mescal – Long Canyon
Chuckwagon – Mescal – Long Canyon is a spectacular 9.1-mile singletrack loop that showcases some of Sedona’s best singletrack and incredible vistas. It is a great intermediate ride fin the western Dry Creek area, with long sections of flowy smooth singletrack with some technical rock gardens and slickrock sections scattered throughout to challenge you. Riders who are in Sedona for their first time will find this trail a good introduction to Sedona without the strenuous climbs of some other trails in the area. This figure eight loop has smooth singletrack and is moderately challenging, with gorgeous red rock scenery. The views on the Mescal trail are some of the best in all of Sedona, and you get to ride on some of the famous red slickrock. It is also a hiking trails, so make sure to give them the right of way!
Intermediate: West Sedona Tour
West Sedona Tour is a 13.1-mile singletrack loop with lots of turns, some climbing and descending, and the opportunity to link together 8 classic West Sedona trails in the Dry Creek area. It can also be added to other trails like the Chuckwagon-Mescal-Long Canyon Loop (see #2) for a longer ride. These trails are some of the best riding in West Sedona, featuring the red rock terrain that Sedona is famous for. You will get to ride a variety of terrain from smooth, flowy singletrack to slickrock and some technical rocky sections.
Intermediate/Advanced: Cathedral Big Rock Loop
Cathedral Big Rock Loop is a 12.4-mile out and back ride south of Sedona near Oak Creek Village. The loop has some climbing and descents, and several technical rock sections. Views include the famous Cathedral, Courthouse and Bell Rock red rock mountains. The trail crosses the popular Cathedral Rock hiking trail (hikers only) so be courteous to hikers. This ride features all the best of this popular area, and intermediate/advanced riders will love the trail’s flow and incredible scenery.
There are over 120 hiking trails created to experience the beauty of the Sedona Red Rocks. Hiking is the best way to experience the serenity of this red rock land. Sedona’s terrain is a mixture of the finest elements of Arches, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce National Parks.
Best Trails: Sedona hiking trails vary drastically in terms of difficulty, terrain, distance, and elevation. The following are some of our favorite trails in Sedona:
Mescal Mountain Loop is a 4.7 mile loop that combines three trails to circle the stunning Mescal Mesa. Good for beginner/intermediate hikers, the trail’s main draw is the incredible red rock scenery. Portions of the trail traverse along the slickrock.
Doe Mountain is a short hike with gorgeous views of West Sedona/Dry Creek area. It’s great for days when you don’t have a lot of time but you want to get a hike in. It is just over 1.5-miles roundtrip and takes you up a rather steep, rocky trail to the top of Doe Mountain where you can explore the plateau and take in the views of the valley beneath on both side of the mountain before descending the short jaunt back to the trailhead.
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.
The Mescal Mountain trail (2.5-mile one way) is one of our favorites in West Sedona for stunning red rock scenery. It’s also a mountain bike trail, so be on the lookout (although hikers have the right of way). There are several West Sedona trailheads you can start at, with Boynton Canyon being the closest. You can make a day of it by connecting Mescal with Chuckwagon trail (5.3 miles) for a large loop. These are also popular mountain biking trails, so we suggest not to wear headphones while hiking!
Airport Loop trail is a popular 3.2 mile trail that makes a loop around the red rock plateau that the airport is perched atop. It’s a bit rocky but not particularly challenging, and makes a great hike around sunset as you take in the surrounding red rocks lit up by the waning rays.
Devil’s Bridge Trail is a VERY popular trail that leads to a beautiful red sandstone arch. We hesitated to even add it to our list because of how busy it can get. It is a steep but short hike, and the views of the Sedona red rock make the crowds (somewhat) worth it. Going really early in the morning will help reduce the crowds, and give you a better chance of getting a parking spot.
Hangover Trail is another great trail for spectacular scenery. It’s located northeast of Sedona in the Schnebly Hill area and isn’t as easy to access straight from a trailhead. Options are to take the (very rough) Schnebly Hill off-road or to hike out on Mund’s Wagon trail. Our favorite way to do it is a 10-mile or so hike out on Mund’s Wagon, connecting to Cow Pies and then looping around on Hangover back to Mund’s Wagon trail. The views are outstanding, and hiking over and along the red rock is a truly unique experience.
Sterling Pass Trail to Vultee Arch is a 5-mile roundtrip hike in Oak Creek Canyon climbs to the top of Sterling Pass and overlooked Vultee Arch, one of several natural red rock arches in the Sedona area. This arch is on the larger side, at 40 feet high and 50 feet wide. There are some climbs but the vistas are worth it – start early and take your time!
Before you leave, don’t forget to recharge by experiencing Sedona’s famous vortexes. Underneath Sedona’s spectacular beauty beats a healing heart, a place that has long been revered as sacred and powerful. Visitors come from across the globe to experience the Sedona vortexes. These energy centers are believed to be conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These vortexes are special places where the earth seems to be especially alive with energy and mysterious cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the red rocks. Many people leave Sedona feeling inspired, recharged or uplifted.
In all, whether you enjoy biking, hiking, camping, yoga retreats, or exploring energy centres, Sedona has something to offer everyone.
No matter where you plan to recreate in Sedona, make sure you follow Leave No Trace principles, and recreate responsibly outdoors to ensure our wilderness areas stay pristine for generations to come.