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My Favorite Hikes: Sedona, AZ

MY Favorite Sedona, AZ Hikes (1)

At the end of March, Ben and I traveled to Sedona, Arizona with my parents for a spring getaway. This was my second trip and Ben’s first. I was so excited to show him this absolutely beautiful place and one of my favorite vacation destinations. I went two years ago with my parents and was so happy to have the chance to return.

We flew into Phoenix and made our way north right away for a total of six full days in Sedona. We took full advantage of our surroundings and spent most of our days hiking. My family loves to get outside and hike and so does Ben. This was a dream trip for all of us. Sedona is so peaceful and the perfect place to reset yourself for a week. What better way to do this then soaking up some sun and being outside enjoying our beautiful country. The best way to see Sedona is to get out on the trails. The trail-network is fantastic and there are so many options to choose from with varying levels of difficulty. It truly caters to everyone.

Upon arriving to Sedona, I HIGHLY recommend making the Sedona Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center your first destination. Actually, this is a must. The volunteers on staff are SO helpful and are at the ready to answer questions and provide trail information. Based on the level of difficulty of hiking you are interested in, they provide a large selection of trails to choose from, along with trail maps and directions to get there. We carried our maps with us everywhere and they were extremely helpful. You can also pick up your Red Rock Pass here. This pass is required to access all trailhead parking lots in Sedona. This costs $20 dollars and is valid for one week. The visitor center can be found at; 331 Forest Road, Sedona, AZ 86336.

In this post, I’m going to take you through a glimpse of our favorite hikes from our trip. Whether your planning a trip to Sedona in the future, or you’ve never heard of Sedona before, I’m hoping this will provide some inspiration!

Cathedral Rock Trail

  • Length: 1.5 miles (roundtrip)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Hiking Time: 2-4 hours (round trip)
  • Cumulative Elevation: 730 ft.
  • Season: Year round
  • Route Type: Out & Back

Cathedral Rock Trail is the most popular hike in Sedona and there is a good reason for it. If this is your first time visiting, I strongly recommend that you make this the first hike of your trip. From the Cathedral Rock Trailhead, follow the signs towards Cathedral Rock Trail. Most of the trails in Sedona are marked with signs and cairns to guide you. The cairns in Sedona are small stacks of stones covered in a mesh wire. The rating for this hike is listed as strenuous, but don’t let that deter you away  from making it to the top. The views are worth it! I would describe this trail as more of a climb, than a hike with some sections requiring scaling between rock crevices. I recommend “crab crawling” on your way down the crevices, it makes it much easier to descend. I also recommend arriving early to this trail to beat some of the crowds and get a parking spot. It does get a bit tricky climbing up/down when crowded.

There are many places to stop along the way which offer incredible photo opportunities.

Once you’re in the saddle you’ve made it to the top!

 Make sure to capture a photo on the ledge to your right. If you squint you can see my mom and I.

When sitting in the saddle, there is a trail that veers to the left. If you want a different vantage point follow the trail.

You will have to ascend a bit further, but it takes little effort. The views from this spot are incredible.

There is little to no shade the entire trail, so be sure to bring sunscreen and water.

Devils Bridge-From Dry Creek Vista Parking Area

  • Length: 6 miles (roundtrip)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Hiking Time: 3-4 hours (round trip)
  • Cumulative Elevation: 649 ft.
  • Season: Year round
  • Route Type: Out & Back

As the largest natural stone arch in Sedona, The Devils Bridge is a close competitor to Cathedral Rock as one of the more popular hikes in Sedona. You may want to consider arriving early for this one if you’re not a fan of crowds. We prefer to park at the Dry Creek Vista Parking area. There is a Devils Bridge parking area, however, the road to get there is very rough and only accessible by vehicles with high clearance. From the Dry Creek Vista parking, follow the Chuck Wagon Trail until you reach the trail signs for Devils Bridge. The Chuck Wagon is a nature trail that provides beautiful glimpses of the red rocks, along with trees and wild flowers.

Once you have reach the Devils Bridge trailhead, it’s about 1 mile to the arch. To make it to the top follow the natural stone steps.

When you have reached the arch, make sure to grab a photo! If your afraid of heights, you may be the one taking the picture for your friends/family on the arch.

Broken Arrow Trail

  • Length: 4 miles (roundtrip)
  • Rating: Easy to Moderate
  • Hiking Time: 2.5 hours (roundtrip)
  • Cumulative Elevation: 450 ft.
  • Season: Year round
  • Route type: Loop
  • Notes: This trail is heavily used by mountain bikes

If you’re looking for a hike with panoramic views, this is the hike for you. This is one of my favorites because no matter where you look, there are stunning views of the red rocks. This trail is unique compared to the others because you are hiking on the smooth red rocks the majority of the time. This does mean that you will see a lot of the “Pink Jeeps”.  The pink jeeps are a tourist service that drives visitors directly onto some of the more popular trials. I recommend veering off Broken Arrow and onto Twin Buttes trail. Follow Twin Buttes to High on the Hog trail which does meet back up with Broken Arrow.

This allows you to avoid the Pink Jeeps noise and crowds, and offers stunning views from a higher vantage point.

You will take this trail all the way to the end destination, Chicken Point.

When we arrived at Chicken Point we had just missed the jeeps and were able to take in the jaw dropping view of Bell Tower in the distance. We decided to follow the Broken Arrow trail all the way back so we could check out Devils Dining Room and a better view of Submarine Rock.

Brins Mesa-From Jordan Trail Head

  • Length: 7 miles (roundtrip)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Hiking Time: 3.5 hours (roundtrip)
  • Cumulative Elevation: 900ft (roundtrip)
  • Season: Year round
  • Route type: Loop

This was a new trail for us and was recommended by the visitor center. Don’t let the length scare you away. It honestly did not feel like a 7 mile hike because there was so much to look at. It was recommended by the visitor center to take the following route; Jordan Trail -> Cibola Trail -> Soldier Pass Trail -> Brins Mesa. We saw a lot of people hiking straight up to Brins Mesa, which is great if you’re not looking for a long hike. However, if you are to follow the Brins Mesa trail, your hike will consist of all uphill climbing. Taking the loop that we did, there were gradual climbs, and the end was all down hill. If you have a full day and are able to complete the 7 mile loop like we did, I highly recommend it.

From Soldier Pass Trail you can stop off at this famously photographed location, The Seven Sacred Pools.

On your climb up the Mesa take a minute to catch your breath and look around at the picturesque views.

My dad found this cute horned toad hiding out in the rocks.

Another reason why I recommend hiking the loop that I outlined above, you will be walking downhill at the end of the trip. This allows you to take in the fantastic views of Mormon Canyon. This trail will lead you all the way back to your car. From the trailhead parking lot, there is also the Jim Thompson trail if you are feeling up to adding more miles onto your day.

Bell Rock Climb

  • Length: 4 miles (roundtrip)
  • Rating: Moderate-Strenous
  • Hiking Time: 1-2 hours
  • Cumulative Elevation: 609 ft.
  • Route type: Out & Back

We decided on the Bell Rock hike after completing our Brins Mesa adventure because we thought it would be an easy one to end our day with. HA! Easy is not the word I would use to describe this. The beginning of this hike is extremely easy, flat ground and well matted trails that take you around the bottom of Bell Rock. The climb up Bell Rock is where it gets difficult. If you are not an experienced hiker or are terrified of heights I advise against doing this one. The hike up the rock is very poorly marked, and the cairns do disappear at one point. This leaves it up to your interpretation to determine where the path is. There are worn paths that you can spot to follow. Make sure that you have your hands free. There is a lot of climbing using hand and foot holds. Once you reach the top of the ridge you can stay here or continue climbing to one of the three higher platforms.

These two crazies were the brave ones out of our group and made it to the top. Be extremely careful climbing down and watchful of falling rocks.

Your heart may start to beat a bit faster on the way down as you are exposed to how high you are off the ground.

We also saw a baby tarantula on the descent down. AKA my worst nightmare. YUCK. Ben so nicely used a stick to guide it off the trail, I on the other-hand was ready to stomp on it. Sorry spider lovers but I’m not a fan.

This hike was an absolute blast and if you are up for the adventure, I strongly recommend it!

West Fork Trail

  • Length: 6.5 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours
  • Cumulative Elevation: 500 ft.
  • Season: Year Round Access may be dependent on water levels
  • Route type: Out & Back

The West Fork Trail is rated one of the best trails in Arizona as well as one of the top 10 trails in the United States. It is located in the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon approximately 11 miles from uptown Sedona. There is a fee to access the park that is separate from your Red Rock Pass. This location does get crowded as the day goes on and parking is limited. This is another one to make sure you arrive at early. A little back story on our history with this hike. Two years ago when I visited Sedona with my parents this trail was strongly recommended to us. We decided to try it out on our way up to Flagstaff. It was a cold and cloudy day, and we ended up arriving later in the afternoon. Most people had cleared out by this point and there were only a few cars when we got there. There were a couple of men who were harassing people for money and were not okay with taking “no” for an answer. This set a bad tone for us and we decided to leave. When we told others about our experience they were very surprised and said that this was very unusual. We debated on whether or not to give it another try this trip and I have to say that we were SO happy that we did. Our experience this time was incredible. The start of the trail is paved until your reach the Oak Creek Bridge.

About a quarter of mile in you come across the ruins of the Mayhews Oak Creek Lodge complete with the original apple trees. This lodge had a lot of celebrity vacationers including; Clark Gable, Walt Disney, President Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Stewart, and Maureen O’Hara just to name a few. The western movie, Call of the Canyon, was also filmed here. If you are willing to take a few minutes, there are several signs that provide a historical overview that are really interesting to read.

Once you are past this point, you will see a sign for the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and this is where your hike through the West Fork begins.

The West Fork trail includes 13 creek crossings, so make sure you bring waterproof shoes or Gore-tex hiking boots. If you have a hiking stick, you may also want to consider bringing this. We found they were extremely helpful as extra support/balance for some of the river crossings. For those that don’t have hiking sticks, there were many tree branches that people had made into sticks that were left behind. I picked one of these up and it worked great!

This was our last hike of our trip and I’m so happy that we ended it this way. Most of the hikes in Sedona provided stunning views of the red rocks. This hike is so different from any we experienced.

The trail leads you through the lush forest with beautiful sandstone walls jutting up around you. The creek crossings make it fun and there were many laughing moments trying to help each other cross the creeks.

We even saw some cute mule deers and several lizards. Ben was on a mission to catch lizards the entire trip, so this made him very happy.

Once you have gotten to the end of the trail, there is a great spot to stop and have a snack while taking in the views. If you are feeling adventurous, you can continue to hike. However, the trail does end and you are wading through water the rest of the way.

My dad and Ben ended up walking a little bit further and the pictures they captured were beautiful. We were there at the end of March and the water was COLD. This would be really fun to do in the summer time when it warms up a bit. It reminded me of the Narrows at Zion National Park if any of you have ever been there.

There you have it! My favorite hikes in Sedona. We logged a total of 30 miles for our entire trip. Not to shabby! There were so many more that we wanted to do, but unfortunately were not able to fit in during our trip. Oh well, that just means we will have to go back 🙂

Keep an eye out for part two of this post where I fill you in on the best places to stay, eat, and shop in Sedona.

Thanks for reading,

Colleen ❤

 

133 thoughts on “My Favorite Hikes: Sedona, AZ

  1. This looks like an amazing trip, and your photos are stunning! I don’t think I would have liked the tarantula either – I can look at spiders at the zoo or pet store or outside the window and think they’re perfectly cute. But when they can “get me” … not so much.

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  2. Amazing views and suck incredible hikes – I wish we had views like this here. I’ll have to save this list for when I do my US roadtrip one day!

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  3. These photos are amazing. I love that you put the length of each of the hikes. At first I was going to say that Cathedral Rock Trail at 1.5 miles was more my speed…but, I generally run 3 miles a day so, I think walking a six or seven mile hike is doable.

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  4. These hikes look really fun and challenging! Would suggest this to my friends as we always hang out by hiking. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. That has to be the cutest horned toad! Tarantula however! Arghhhh…. I can see you in hoodies in your pictures; either you are hardcore hikers or it is actually cool? I never remember it getting that cold when I lived in Fountain Hills!

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  6. Sedona is such a beautiful and magical place to go. I have been there a couple times and every time I go, its like I have never been there before.

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  7. Hey Colleen thanks for sharing this story and photo’s. Sorry I am tardy downloading the photo’s on my camera. I know a lot of really good photo’s are on that camera I just for some reason have a difficult time downloading them.

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  8. Beautiful! If you enjoy the outdoors and you love to explore, then this is the hike that you’d want to try out! I think it’s really worth it and I’d love to do that someday soon!

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  9. So many great sceneries and great natural structures. When I go on vacation, I prefer to stay closer to nature or at a resort rather than going to busy cities. I would love to hike the broken arrow trails one day.

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  10. Hi

    Again, I am here. Thanks for your wonderful sharing and discussion. Your opinion and idea really very great. Thanks for your suggestion. Keep on good work. All the very best to you further ahead.
    Cheers!!!

    Krishan Kargwal
    http://www.flamingotravel.in

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