I don’t think there’s any place more beautiful than Sedona. With sweeping views of gigantic red rocks around almost every corner, the beauty of Sedona is so vast that it’s really hard to describe to someone that’s never been there. Situated at about 4,000 feet above sea level, Sedona, Arizona, is in the high desert country and has a mild climate, so there’s good weather most of the year. This means any time of year is a good time to go.
One of the most popular outdoor activities for almost everyone who visits Sedona is hiking. With more than 200 trails covering over 400 miles in the Sedona area, there is plenty of room to roam. And you don’t have to be an expert hiker to get out and enjoy the trails in Sedona. There are trails for every ability.
How many hikes you do per day depends on your fitness level and how active you want to be. Some people are perfectly happy going out for one short hike a day. Other people want more activity. We usually like to do a couple of hikes a day. We could cram in more, but why? On paper, a 4-mile hike seems pretty easy, but it can be more than expected, so why overdo it? Plus, you’ll want to take time to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Slow down and enjoy the experience and appreciate the little moments. Why waste your precious time rushing from place to place? Plus, if you don’t get in every hike this time, you’ll have a reason to come back!
For all hiking in Sedona, I’d recommend hiking boots. We always take a small backpack that holds our water bottles, sunscreen, and some snacks. If we go really early or stay late, I’d take a flashlight or headlamp, too. I’m always paranoid that I’m going to get lost on a trail so I like to bring more water and snacks than I think I’ll need. And hiking boots with good, padded hiking socks are a must. You’ll have a much better grip on the ground and be able to handle the rocky parts of the trail so much better with your boots on. But first…
Visit Sedona Responsibly
Sedona is super popular, which is understandable — it’s a special place full of beauty. But according to my contact who works directly with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, the Sedona area has seen such an influx in visitors since the pandemic began that the city and the tourism bureau have partnered to pause marketing and instead work on responsible visitation. They’re encouraging people who visit to take the Sedona Cares Pledge, as well as following Leave No Trace principles. These are simple things everyone can do to help ensure the beauty of Sedona lives on for generations.
Now, here are some of the best hikes in Sedona for beginners.
1. Airport Mesa Trail
Good for all ages, the Airport Mesa Trail offers a couple of different hikes. This whole area is one of the big vortex spots that Sedona is known for. Many people choose to come to Airport mesa for the vortex properties alone. Some people say that the entire city of Sedona is a vortex area so it doesn’t really matter if you’re at one of the “main” vortex areas within the city — you’ll still get the benefits of the natural Sedona energy. We didn’t come to the Airport Mesa specifically for the energy, we just heard there was awesome hiking here with fantastic views.
The shorter hike here, Airport View, leads up the rocks for a wonderful view of the valley. Beware that they are revamping a portion of the trails in this area. When we were there recently, we found that lots of the area was roped off and the trail was changed up somewhat. In talking to our Pink Jeep Tour guide earlier in the week, she indicated there has been a real problem during the pandemic with people not staying on marked trails and trampling the plants, grass, and vegetation. So some of the trails have been reworked in hopes that the natural vegetation would come back. This is what’s being done now at Airport Mesa Trail. The plus side is that it looked like new steps were added, and there is a super helpful handrail. Having that handrail was so helpful because, while the climb isn’t long, it’s quite steep. With the handrail, it’s a piece of cake.
The other trail here is the longer Airport Mesa Loop that’s about 4 miles. This trail offers fantastic views as well, but it’s a little trickier because it’s rocky and in some spots, it’s very close to the edge of the mountain. We only went a short way on this trail, then decided to go over to the Airport View Trail.
We enjoyed this whole area and would definitely hike here again. The views from the airport vista are simply amazing. We only saw a couple other people here and really felt like we had the place to ourselves. The summit is the perfect place to sit and reflect. The few people we saw here were doing just that. I think it’s a great place for peaceful meditation.
2. Bell Rock
The Bell Rock is a 3.9-mile, mostly flat, loop hike that’s very popular, for a couple of reasons. Some are very interested in checking out what is said to be one of the strongest energy vortexes in Sedona. Others just want to experience a fantastic hike with great scenery. Either way, you have options at Bell Rock Trail. Some people walk from the parking lot up the trail for 20 minutes and turn around. Others like to go out on the trail and meditate or practice yoga.
The hike is pretty flat until you actually get to Bell Rock where you can choose to climb up it or not. We didn’t go all the way up and we still had fun.
3. Teacup Trail To Coffee Pot Rock
Teacup Trail to Coffeepot Rock is a moderately busy loop trail that offers scenic views and takes you to the base of Coffee Pot Rock, one of the iconic Sedona landmarks. This 2.7-mile hike starts in a residential neighborhood and there is only one small parking lot, but there is also a lot of parking around on the neighboring streets. If you park on the street, be sure to park in the appropriate areas. I like this hike because it’s short and easy. And the trail is super well-marked and easy to follow.
4. Chapel Trail To Chicken Point Trail
Chapel Trail is a short 1.3-mile, heavily trafficked, out-and-back trail located near the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The trail is on the right side of the road as you head up to the chapel. This is a mostly flat, but sometimes rocky hike that is perfect for beginners. If you take this trail, you’ll get the bonus of being so close to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, too. Make sure to stop in the church before or after your hike. I’d recommend stopping in after to take in the view and unwind in the peace of the chapel.
5. SugarLoaf Loop Trail
We enjoyed our early morning hike here for the approximately 2-mile trail at Sugarloaf. Lots of people recommended Sugarloaf as a short and easy hike to take for a sunrise or sunset. Our goal was to get there for sunrise, but the alarm clock didn’t cooperate. Even though we didn’t make it, it was still a good hike and not crowded which was awesome. It looked like this was a hiking spot some of the locals like as we noticed people with their dogs who seemed to be very familiar with the trail — like this is kind of their daily thing. What a great place to have to take your dog for a walk. The views and scenery are beautiful, making Sugar Loaf a really pleasant hiking experience.
6. Fay Canyon
For a short hike with minimal elevation changes, Fay Canyon is a favorite. The 2.6-mile hike is very popular with hikers because of the wide, mostly sandy trail that offers shady spots. On the hike, you’ll be able to see the natural arch, the Fay Canyon Arch, if you choose to scramble up some rocks. If you’re not into scrambling, don’t worry because even without seeing the arch, you’ll still have spectacular views on the trail.
7. Thunder Mountain Trail
Thunder Mountain Trail to Andante Loop is a 3-mile loop trail that features lots of pretty vegetation. The trail is right next to a residential area so you’ll see some houses. This trail is actually rated as moderate and has lots of elevation changes that keep it from being boring, but also makes it a little more challenging than a basic beginner’s hike.
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