This adorable desert town is one of my favorite places I have experienced. As an outdoor adventure lover I was in heaven with all of the options I had for activities. In this post I have listed a few of my favorite hikes, a phenomenal sunrise spot, some good eats available, and the best way to camp in this area (IMO).
Burn up your energy with a few incredible hikes in Sedona.
There are so many hikes to pick from, it can be overwhelming when deciding where to start. The list below is a quick summary of a few I have been able to experience, from short/easy, to long/strenuous. Sedona has many more hikes to offer, but I hope this helps.
Airport Mesa (sunrise hike): ~.4 mile loop, easy
This vista has one of the best sunrise views in the Sedona area. Drive down Airport Road and the parking area and trailhead will be on the left; there are only a few parking spots so do your best to get there early to beat the crowds. This hiking loop goes around Table Top Mountain and provides you with phenomenal views, the fun use of chains for assistance, and the chance to make friends at sunrise.
Cathedral Rock Trail: ~1 mile out and back, easy to moderate
It is short in length but has many steep and exposed sections that require some scrambling. The hike itself is full of gorgeous views of Sedona, so don’t feel bad if you don’t make it to the top. This is also a highly trafficked trail, so try to get there early in the morning or be patient as you may have to wait for a parking spot.
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop: ~4 mile loop, moderate
This loop takes you around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. This area is known for being full of vortexes and is also a popular spot for meditation and energy healing. There are two trailheads to choose from, Bell Rock Vista (south) and Courthouse Vista (north). This is a popular trail and it provides beautiful scenery and movement in an energetic space.
Devils Bridge: 4.2 mile moderate, out and back, moderate
This trail is very well populated and I highly recommend you go during early hours of the day and weekdays rather than the weekend. The focal point on this trail is the bridge and many hikers wait in line to get a photo on the bridge itself. This is a gorgeous trail but can seem overwhelming due to the mass amounts of hikers, so be prepared for that. I personally did not wait in line for a photo, but below is one of me shortly down the trail from the bridge.
Woods Canyon Trail: ~10 miles out and back, moderate
This trail sees fewer hikers than majority of trails in Sedona. Woods Canyon Trail follows along a river, is mostly flat, and winds through Woods Canyon. There is an abundance of vegetation on this trail and it is also used for mountain biking or trail running. Although this trail does not have many vistas or climb in elevation, it is a great way to warm up on flat ground and also provides more intimacy with nature as there are so few hikers.
Bear Mountain: ~5 miles out and back, strenuous
This difficult trail is not for the faint of heart. Being one of the more strenuous trails in Sedona, it is less populated than some of the other trails, which is a plus in my book. Although this trail is hard, it is worth the sweat and (hopefully no) tears, just make sure to bring enough water on this hot desert hike.
IMO the best way to camp is primitively. Many people disagree with this, which I totally understand the desire for comfort, bathrooms, running water etc. but I find that the best moments I have with nature is in a primitive setting. The national forest surrounding Sedona has many spots for roadside dispersed camping. This means you drive down designated dirt roads, pick a spot that is available, and just set up camp for free. There are no amenities or staffing, but it is a private way to enjoy the area and escape into solitude. We chose a different site each night and were never disappointed. If you check in with the ranger station they will direct you to the roads and areas open to dispersed camping.
If you are lucky you may even pick a site with a full double rainbow over it.
- After watching the sunrise at Airport Mesa, enjoy delicious breakfast at the Mesa Grill Sedona. Located at the top of Airport Road, about 3 minutes from Airport Mesa, is the perfect place to fuel up for a day full of adventures. This restaurant no only has yummy food, a great atmosphere, and beautiful views, but you can also watch planes take off from the airport right next door.
- Craving something healthy while you are on the road? Check out Berrydivine for a refreshing acai bowl.
- Utilize the ranger station and information available. This sounds like common sense but a lot of people don’t fully utilize the resources provided. The rangers are extremely helpful in helping you find trails or camping that is right for you.
- Plan your hikes according to the heat and time of day. The heat is strong in the desert and it is important to be safe and prepared to prevent anything bad from happening. If you do decide to hike through the heat of the day then make sure you have more than enough water and sunscreen. It is not fun being sunburnt and having heat exhaustion, trust me.
- Talk to locals, they know about trails that aren’t on maps. We made friends with a local woman who gave us information about hikes that aren’t found on maps and that the rangers refused to discuss with us. These are normally in areas that hikers are allowed to go, but that the parks attempt to discourage it for varying reasons. Make friends and you may find some secrets in Sedona.
- Have an open mind about the vortexes and the energy that exists. This may be way out of your comfort zone, but people have spoken on having life changing experiences in this area due to the healing energy here. Just stay open.