Sedona, Arizona, is often called the “day hiking mecca” because it’s home to close to 200 trails. Many of those trails even lead to Instagram-worthy spots in or near the Coconino National Forest nearby.
The problem, until now, is that unless you were willing to arrive at a trailhead early in the morning, you could forget about finding a parking spot. The crowds and resulting traffic congestion also disrupted life for Sedona’s residents and local businesses.
To address the situation and make life easier for everybody, the City of Sedona recently launched a free shuttle service to four of the most popular trailheads. Furthermore, the U.S. Forest Service has closed parking lots at two popular trailheads to encourage people to use the shuttle.
“Hiking is a main reason people love Sedona: 400 miles of trails meander through Red Rock Country, transporting Sedona’s more than three million annual visitors through some of the planet’s most spectacular landscapes,” Michelle Conway, interim president/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, told TravelAwaits. “Naturally, finding a bit of solitude at the most popular trails – let alone a parking space – means getting up with the sun. Go any later and you’ll be parking roadside and hoofing it sometimes a mile or more to the trailhead, which isn’t very ecofriendly or considerate of the people living in the vicinity.”
Now, people can instead ride the free Sedona Shuttle from park-and-ride lots on either side of town to four popular trailheads. The shuttle buses are new, and each one can accommodate 20 “intrepid trail denizens, including those using wheelchairs,” Conway explains. Plus, each bus even has three bike racks.
The Need For Public Transportation
Some of Sedona’s most-popular trails lead to Cathedral Rock, Soldier Pass, and the spectacular Devils Bridge — the largest natural sandstone arch located in the Sedona area of Coconino National Forest.
“Surrounded by the stunning red rocks that the northern Arizona town is famous for, Devil’s Bridge offers a breathtaking experience for hikers,” Cindy Barks wrote in 9 Things You Must Know Before Hiking Devil’s Bridge In Sedona. “After a short climb up, there it is: Standing 54 tall and about 45 feet long, the natural rock bridge dominates the radiant landscape.”
As you would expect, the sheer number of trails and their beauty leads to crowds. Big crowds. And that, in turn, results in excessive parking in residential neighborhoods, as well as parking and traffic congestion that forces hikers to walk along busy roads where there aren’t sidewalks.
“The idea of public transit in Sedona has been considered several times over the past decade, but it has now become a critical issue,” Karen Osburn, Sedona City Manager, said in a statement. “The growth in traffic on Sedona’s roadways and public lands is not sustainable without providing an alternative to every person driving their own vehicle. Peak travel days often bring long delays for travelers coming to Sedona or leaving the area, and for residents simply trying to get across town. Parking is a problem and safety concerns are mounting, not just in Uptown but at key recreation destinations throughout Red Rock Country.”
The Sedona Shuttle
Sedona launched its shuttle service late last month, when the Sedona Shuttle began operating routes to Cathedral Rock, Soldier Pass, Dry Creek, and Little Horse trailheads. In the first 4 days of service, more than 8,500 people boarded the shuttles, according to Sedona Shuttle.
Taking the shuttle is the responsible thing to do because it gets cars off the roads while increasing the quality of life for visitors and residents alike, Conway told TravelAwaits.
“We know you appreciate fewer cars on the road, stress-free transport to trailheads, and less congestion when you arrive. In just the arena of transportation, Sedonans and the Chamber are backing the shuttle, making biking and walking easier, and improving traffic flow with roadway improvements,” Conway said. “It’s all about preserving our priceless environment, our small-town quality of life, and the opportunity for you to experience both in a way that is inspiring, even life changing.”
Know Before You Ride
If you’re planning a trip to Sedona, here’s what you need to know about the Sedona Shuttle.
The Sedona Shuttles run Thursday through Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. During peak visitation periods, the shuttles will run 7 days per week.
You can find more information, including maps and schedules, here.
You can also access real-time departure information using the TransLoc App. You can learn more about the app, which you can download from Google Play or the App Store.
If you’re thinking about a trip, be sure to read all of our Sedona content, including