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Are you looking for a comprehensive guide to the very best hikes in Sedona, Arizona? We’re going to walk you through a list of the 20 top-rated easy, moderate, and hard hikes around Sedona based entirely on our own personal experiences, to help you plan the perfect hiking itinerary for your visit.
Sedona’s surroundings could easily be a US national park. The network of fantastic hiking trails for all levels of ability is nothing short of remarkable and we’re sure Sedona will surpass even the highest of expectations.
In this guide we will show you:
Let’s start creating your shortlist of amazing hikes in Sedona, Arizona!
Sedona has an abundance of excellent trails. If you asked 1000 people the best hike in Sedona, there would be a spread of answers with no obvious and clear winner.
Here’s what we personally think the best hikes are in Sedona for various categories:
- Easy Hike – Birthing Cave via Long Canyon Trail
- Moderate Hike – Munds Wagon Trail
- Hard Hike – Cathedral Rock Trail
- Sunrise Hike – Chimney Rock and Little Sugarloaf Trail
- Sunset Hike – Airport Mesa Sedona View Trail
- Cave Hike – Keyhole Cave Trail
- Hidden Gem Hike – Pyramid Loop Trail
- Most Overrated Hike – Devils Bridge Trail
Sedona’s Coconino National Forest and Munds Mountain Wilderness is like a sprawling adventure playground for hikers of all abilities. Every nook and cranny of the picturesque red rock landscape is just waiting to be explored.
So what is the best hike in Sedona, Arizona?
Well, the truth is we genuinely can’t pick out a single winner from 20 standout contenders.
You’ll have to let us know your favorite hike in Sedona after you’ve experienced the addictive red rock landscape for yourself.
What we can tell you for certain is that hiking will lead you to almost all of the best sunrise and sunset photography locations in and around Sedona, so don’t forget to pack your camera before setting off on the trails!
Our Sedona Hiking Experience
In December 2021, we spent one of the most memorable 8 day periods of our world travels to date, non-stop hiking around the exceptionally striking red rock landscape of Sedona from dawn ’til dusk.
Our Sedona highlights included 4 sunrise hikes, 6 cave hikes and finding a handful of wonderful hidden gem trails away from the crowds.
We’re going to share all of our favorite hikes and top tips with you in this guide to help you create the perfect Sedona itinerary and really make the most of your visit to this remarkable area of northern Arizona.
Stay tuned until the end as we will offer up a handful of example hiking itineraries for 1, 2 and 3 days to give you an idea of how you can string some of the trails together.
Are There Any Easy Hikes For Beginners In Sedona?
Most of the classic and iconic best hikes in Sedona are rated either as moderate or hard in difficulty. But there are a handful of wonderful easy hikes for beginners to enjoy around Sedona.
And we have a very important tip to share:
Tip – Our first major tip for you to consider when creating your personalized list of trails to hike in Sedona is that many of the hikes rated as moderate are actually very easy but have harder optional elements.
For example, Soldier Pass Trail is flat and very easy but is rated moderate because there is an optional steep climb into Soldier Pass Cave you can either choose to include or not include.
Hikers looking for easier trails can enjoy Soldier Pass Trail without taking on the steep optional climb into the cave.
Similar spur trails transform certain hikes from easy to moderate, and we will make a note of this next to each hike listed below.
Remember, hiking in Sedona is among the very best things to do in Arizona. You should plan to hike the stunning red rock landscape even if it is just a few of the easier trails.
Parking At Trailheads
Parking at hiking trailheads in Sedona is a real challenge and will ultimately be the biggest difficulty you face during your visit. Many of the most popular hikes have very limited parking areas and will fill no matter the time of year you visit.
We hiked almost all of the trails in this list during our visit to Sedona in December and we had problems getting parked on several occasions, despite December being a supposed low season.
Tip – You will give yourself the best chance of getting a parking space if you arrive to a trailhead right around sunrise. A crucial Sedona hiking tip is to prioritize your ‘unmissable’ hikes and use each dawn on your trip to guarantee getting parked at one hike per morning.
If you’re here to hike as many trails as possible, we suggest you look at either Uptown or West Sedona when choosing between the best places to stay in Sedona.
Busiest Parking Lots
Hiking is definitely one of the best things to do in Sedona and almost all visitors will hike at least one trail. However, most people will hike several trails and that means certain parking lots fill every day.
Some of Sedona’s hikes are more popular than others due to iconic formations, vortex sites or simply because of social media.
Here’s a heads up on which trails will inevitably be busiest (parking lots included):
- Devils Bridge Trail (Dry Creek Trailhead)
- Cathedral Rock Trail (Back O Beyond Rd)
- Bell Rock Trail (Bell Rock Trailhead)
- Boynton Canyon Trail (Boynton Canyon Trailhead)
- Soldier Pass Trail (Soldier Pass Trailhead)
Tip – One of the saving graces when it comes to parking for hikes in Sedona is that many of the popular trails have more than one potential trailhead. A tip to remember is always look for connecting trails leading to major hikes, for instance Mescal Trailhead also leads to Devils Bridge.
In certain circumstances, it could be beneficial to simply group a bunch of hikes together based on the fact you are parked somewhere and don’t want to leave the space.
Here are some ways you can park once and hike multiple trails.
Doe Mountain Trailhead:
- Sunrise hike Doe Mountain
- Hike Aerie Trail to Fay Canyon
- Continue on Aerie Trail to Boynton Canyon
- Hike Devils Bridge for sunrise
- Return to trailhead
- Hike Long Canyon to Birthing Cave
- Return to trailhead
- Optional hike Boynton Canyon
Yavapai Vista Point:
- Hike Cathedral Rock for sunrise
- Return to Yavapai
- Hike Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop
Sedona Shuttle Bus
Sedona has become so popular as a tourist hiking destination that the city has been left with no choice but to run a shuttle service to the most sought after trailheads at peak times.
- The shuttle runs year round from Thursday through Sunday between 7am – 5pm.
- If you visit on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, you cannot take the shuttle.
Parking has become a huge issue for locals and tourists alike, particularly at trailheads in residential areas like Soldier Pass Trail.
We strongly urge you to consider using the free and eco-friendly Sedona shuttle for your own benefit and for the benefit of others.
It will save the drama of fighting for spaces and it will save you time overall by not waiting for a space to open up in the first place.
Here’s a link to the shuttle.
Shuttle Trailhead Options
Here are the two park & ride locations within Sedona and each trailhead you can access from both.
Posse Grounds Park & Ride:
- Soldier Pass Trailhead (Soldier Pass Trail)
- Dry Creek Trailhead (Devils Bridge Trail)
- Mescal Trailhead (Devils Bridge Trail)
North SR-179 Park & Ride:
- Cathedral Rock Trailhead (Cathedral Rock Trail)
Passes And Fees For Hiking In Sedona
There are certain Sedona hiking trailheads at which you must display either a Red Rock Pass or an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass on your vehicle dashboard. Failure to do so may result in a hefty fine.
You are not paying to hike, you are paying to park.
That means if you take a Sedona shuttle to a trailhead, you will not pay anything because the shuttle is free and you won’t be paying to park at a trailhead either.
Tip: You will need to display a pass if you intend to park your own vehicle at any of these trailheads in Sedona. This list covers almost all of the most popular hikes in Sedona so you are almost certainly going to need one of the two passes.
Let’s take a look at both pass options (you only need to display one or the other).
Red Rock Pass
You can buy a Red Rock Pass at this specific recreation.gov site in advance, or you can buy one at a ticket machine when you arrive in person at a trailhead in Sedona.
Note that not all trailheads have ticket machines, so if you buy in person you may have to find another nearby parking area to purchase a physical ticket before parking at your desired trailhead.
Red Rock Pass options include:
- 1 Day Red Rock Pass – $5
- 7 Day Red Rock Pass – $15
- Red Rock Annual Pass – $20
The 1 day pass is a better option if you only intend on hiking for either 1 or 2 days in Sedona. If you plan to hike multiple trails around Sedona over a period of 3 – 7 days, you should buy the 7 day pass.
America The Beautiful Pass
The easier option is to buy an America the Beautiful annual pass, which is also known as an Interagency Pass.
We buy an annual pass every year because it gives us unlimited access to all US national parks and national monuments. In truth, we genuinely did not expect the pass to include parking for hikes in Sedona!
Read our guide on why America the Beautiful national parks pass is one of the best things you can buy if you plan to visit multiple national parks and monuments in the next year.
Instead of buying a Red Rock Pass you can simply display your America the Beautiful Pass.
How We Are Ordering The Best Hikes In Sedona
To make things clear and logical, we are ordering our list of the 20 best hikes in Sedona by difficulty.
You will find easy hikes in Sedona, followed by moderately difficult trails and finally the hardest trails you can hike in Sedona.
Note: Rating a hike as easy, moderate or hard is subjective and will change from hiker to hiker. We have listed hikes into categories based on comparing elements from each hike and determining our personal opinion of difficulty.
Easy Hikes In Sedona, Arizona
The spectacular red rocks of Sedona are filled with fun and adventurous hikes, but what if you’re just looking for the easiest trails to get a taste for the landscape?
Well, you have a diverse selection of shorter, flatter and less intense trails scattered throughout Sedona to consider.
1. Airport Mesa Sedona View Trail
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Trail Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 250 ft
- Trailhead: Airport Mesa Scenic Vista
- Time Required: 1 hour
Airport Mesa scenic vista is one of the most famous sunset spots in Sedona thanks to its elevated vantage point and northwest facing view over the small city.
You can also find one of the 4 main Sedona vortex sites and more fantastic views at Airport Mesa, but it is located on a small mound 250 ft lower and 0.7 of a mile to the east.
Connecting these two popular attractions is a relatively easy and short hike called Sedona View Trail. As its name says, the entire hike offers downtown Sedona views with towering red rock formations providing a striking backdrop.
Parking is free but limited near the vortex site, or you can pay $3 to park in a much larger lot at the scenic vista.
We hiked Sedona View Trail down to the vortex site and back to the scenic vista right in time for a colorful sunset.
2. West Fork Trail
To make this hike harder, you can include Airport Mesa Loop Trail which would add a further 3 miles and 400 ft elevation gain. Views are even better and span all compass directions.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Trail Distance: 6.6 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 500 ft
- Trailhead: West Fork Oak Creek Trailhead
- Time Required: 3-4 hours
- Trail Difficulty: Easy (moderate with cave)
- Trail Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip (4.2 miles with cave)