The countryside surrounding Sedona, Arizona, features some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. Dramatic cliffs, peaceful canyons, and otherworldly red rock formations are just some of the natural wonders that await the Sedona hiker.
In fact, if there’s one drawback to experiencing this area on foot, it’s that the Arizona wilderness offers too many options for the nature-loving traveler to choose. Pretty much any trail you pick will satisfy, but how do you know you’re hiking the very best? Start with one of these eight popular spots, and you won’t go wrong.
Wherever you end up hiking, be sure to bring plenty of food and water, a trail map, and a compass. Walk at your own pace, and don’t skimp on the sunblock. If possible, hike with a buddy or a group. Most importantly, enjoy the one-of-a-kind natural beauty and the unmatched scenery of the Coconino National Forest.
1. Hiking The Fay Canyon Trail
If you’re looking for an easy, family-friendly hike with plenty of scenic views, Fay Canyon is for you. The total trail runs 2.4 miles on mostly flat, loose red powder and rock. High cliff walls and juniper trees provide some relief from the sun, and you’ll be rewarded for your trip to the bottom of the canyon by a gorgeous rushing waterfall. You can even bring your dog along for the hike, as long as you keep the pet on a leash.
The main feature of this hike is the Fay Canyon Arch, a natural stone wonder. It’s easy to miss this formation if you’re not looking for it; about a half mile into the hike there’s a trail off to the right that will lead you up a hill, which makes the ideal viewing spot for the Fay Canyon Arch.
This is considered an easy hike, and it takes most visitors about an hour to walk to the end of the 1.1-mile trail and back. Find the access area and parking lot about three miles north of Sedona.
2. Hiking The Courthouse Butte Loop Trail
The Courthouse Butte Loop Trail is a rewarding, moderately difficult hike with a gentle incline that offers views of incredible natural formations, including Bell Rock itself. Take the Bell Rock Pathway and Vista from the southern trailhead or the Courthouse Vista from the north.
Either way, budget around 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the hike. The southern trailhead is just over 5 miles from town, while the northern access point is 6.5 miles outside of Sedona.
Leashed dogs are allowed on the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail, but horseback riding and cycling are prohibited. Oh, and here’s an important note: You will find toilets at the trailheads.
3. Hiking The Broken Arrow Trail
The Broken Arrow Trail may be a popular and occasionally crowded hike, but the sights are worth the extra company. Stroll among red rock cliffs, canyons, and spires on a moderately easy, slightly inclined walk. Budget 2 hours and 30 minutes to walk the whole trail.
Be sure to check out the Devil’s Dining Room, an enormous sinkhole, located 100 feet downhill from the trail, a little over half a mile from the Broken Arrow trailhead. About 1 mile into the trail, you’ll spot a side-path with a sign reading “Submarine Rock.” Follow this short detour to see an amazing rock formation, then head back to the main trail. With this extra exploration, your route will be about 3.5 miles long.
The Broken Arrow Trail is easy to reach at just about 1.5 miles outside of Sedona.
4. Hiking The Brins Mesa Trail
The Brins Mesa Trail rewards those who brave its moderately difficult terrain and mild elevation gain with unbeatable views of the red rock desert. Starting at the bottom of Wilson Mountain, the pathway leads you up 500 feet to the top of a mesa, where you can look out over Mormon Canyon and Soldier Pass. You can also spot Coffee Pot Rock and Chimney Rock, two other striking natural structures, along this path.
You’ll be out in the open the whole hike — without shade — so be sure to prepare for the sun and the heat. Trailheads are just about a mile north of Sedona, and toilets are available at the entrances. Budget about an hour to complete the entire hike.
5. Hiking The Soldier Pass Trail
The Soldier Pass Trail begins in a busy, almost-urban setting that’s a popular spot for off-road vehicles. The path quickly leads you out into the serene wilderness, though. About a quarter mile from the trailhead, you’ll find the Devil’s Sinkhole, which is worth a pause. Another quarter-mile past the sinkhole, you’ll find the Seven Sacred Pools, natural basins of water in the otherwise dry land.
There is partial shade along this hike, and after walking a little over a mile, you’ll come to a fork. Take the left path to continue on the Soldier Pass Trail, or follow the path on the right to access a natural arch outlook point. Leashed dogs are allowed on this path. Plan for about 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the loop.
6. Hiking Through Boynton Canyon
Enjoy a variety of landscapes along this easy-to-walk pathway. The Boynton Canyon Trail guides you through a gorgeous canyon before taking you into a high forest filled with pines, oaks, and juniper trees. There’s plenty of wildlife along the way, including songbirds and whitetail deer. Dogs are allowed, as long as they’re kept on a leash.
The main feature of this hike is an “energy vortex” located off the Vista Trail (a slight detour off the main path). Claims differ regarding the exact location of the vortex — some say it’s between the Kachina Woman rock formation and an unnamed knoll, but others believe it’s at the top or base of the unnamed knoll. If you’re hunting for vortexes, though, it’s best to rely on your gut; try both locations and see which one feels right to you.
This two- to three-hour hike is not considered challenging for most. Toilets are available at the trailhead.
7. Hiking The West Fork Of Oak Creek
Leading through Oak Creek Canyon, the West Fork Trail offers an unforgettable hiking experience. This trail follows and crosses West Fork Creek, sheltering visitors with tree cover almost the whole way. The path even takes you past the ruins of the Mayhew’s Lodge, a historic cabin that succumbed to fire in 1980.
The path is pretty easy to walk for most, but you will have to use stepping stones to cross the creek multiple times. Songbirds have been seen along this hike in the springtime, and dogs kept on leashes are allowed on this path. Trailheads, which are about 10 miles north of Sedona, offer toilets, picnic tables, and a parking area.
8. Hiking The Huckaby Trail
This hiking path is a treasure hidden in plain sight. The Huckaby Trail starts just outside the city of Sedona, but still offers wonderful views of the desert landscape. The first two-thirds of the hike definitely pose some challenges, but you finish off the final third on a flat, friendly trail along beautiful Oak Creek.
You can see Midgley Bridge, Steamboat Rock, Mitten Rock, Wilson Mountain, Capitol Butte, and even the city of Sedona along this path. No dogs are allowed on the Huckaby Trail, we’re sorry to say. The moderately difficult path takes around three hours round trip to complete.
Photo Credit: BCFC / Shutterstock, Beth Ruggiero-York / Shutterstock