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PrettylilTraveler

THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURE GUIDE TO SEDONA, ARIZONA

Key Details:

Location: Sedona is a town in central Arizona, located about 30 miles south of the city of Flagstaff, and 115 miles north of Phoenix. Located at the lower end of Arizona’s spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, renowned for its stunning red buttes, as well as its surrounding lush forests. Sedona is located in both Coconino and Yavapai Counties and is completely surrounded by the Coconino National Forest.

When to go: All year. The best time is the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild, but expect big crowds. During the summer, expect very hot temperatures but lower crowds. In the winter, temperatures can get below freezing but crowds are also lower.

Closest airport: The closest airport to Sedona is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG), just north of Sedona. The 40-minute drive between the airport and Sedona is a scenic trip through Oak Creek Canyon on AZ-89A, one of the state’s most beautiful drives. If you are looking for more flight options, you can also fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Getting around: You will need a car to travel to and throughout the Sedona area.  

Red Rock Pass: You will need to purchase a Red Rock Pass to park and enjoy most of the hikes in Sedona. The pass costs $5 per day or $15 for one week. The pass can be purchased at the fee machine at the trailhead (credit cards only). If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can use this rather than purchasing a Red Rock Pass. 

Welcome to my comprehensive guide to the most spectacular hiking trails in Sedona. With numerous options to choose from, I’ve highlighted my personal favorite hikes with a 🧡 symbol below, in case you need a little extra help narrowing down your options, and making the most of your time in Sedona. 

While Sedona is well-maintained with good cellphone service, and the hikes are relatively easy to follow – I still recommended downloading your Google Maps before you go. You should also consider downloading your trail maps in advance to reduce your chances of getting lost. 

It’s up to us to take care of nature. Please be respectful and remember to leave no trace. I aim to educate my community on incredible destinations and encourage you to go outside and explore. If you do attempt any of these hikes, please do your own research and follow the LNT principles.

So, lace up those hiking boots and get ready to discover the beauty of Sedona!

The Best Spots To Watch Sunrise In Sedona

Sedona is known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant red rock formations, but in the morning when the sun starts to make it’s appearance and the red walls around you start to glow – there’s not too many places in the world like it. 

Here are some of the best places in Sedona to catch the sunrise:

🧡☀️ The Top of Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock Trail is not only a great choice for a little morning workout, but it’s also a premier spot to witness a breathtaking sunrise. What sets Cathedral Rock apart is its unique combination of geological wonders, spiritual energy, and the interplay of sunlight with the surrounding red rock formations. This is why the Cathedral Rock Trail is by far one of my favorite hikes in Sedona.

The hike up to the Top of Cathedral Rock is no small feat. While the trail is only a little more than a mile round trip, the hike up is steep. Make sure you wear good shoes, and take plenty of water. Parking will also be difficult, so getting there early is wise. You will need a Red Rock Pass to park at the trailhead. 

When you reach the top of the summit, continue hiking toward the left side of the trail, and you’ll discover that the trail doesn’t end there. Follow the trail up another steep hill, and you’ll reach the vortex. (It kinda looks like a giant penis – sorry, I said it.) Some people think they feel an energy shift. Let’s see if you can! 

You’re true morning reward comes as you navigate this downward incline, leading you closer to the energy vortex. You’ll be treated to some of the most remarkable and awe-inspiring light rays that grace the Sedona landscape during sunrise.

👣: Cathedral Rock Trail

🥾 : 1.2 miles RT
⬆️ : +741 ft elevation change
😅 : This steep climb is rated as hard and will get your heart rate up. While it’s only a little more than a mile, give yourself plenty of time to complete this hike and enjoy the views from the top!

Morning glow after you pass the summit and follow the trail to the left.

Iconic view point from the summit of the Cathedral Rock Trail.

☀️ Airport Mesa

This vantage point is one of Sedona’s iconic sunrise and sunset spots, known for its panoramic views. What makes this location so popular is that you drive right up to it. There is a large parking lot at the top of the hill, providing a 360-degree vista, and the opportunity to witness the entire landscape bathed in the soft hues of the early morning. The Airport Mesa is a low-key option for people who just want to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise/sunset or aren’t very interested in hiking at the crack of dawn. Because it is so easy to get to, expect it to be busy. 

Quick note: If you punch “Airport Mesa” into your GPS, it’ll guide you to the base of the hill. For the most captivating vistas, continue your journey upwards, towards the airport where the viewpoint awaits. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll have the option to embark on the Sedona Airport Loop Trail, a 3.3-mile circuit. While my personal experience with the loop left me underwhelmed, it can still be an enjoyable morning stroll, especially with ample parking and some breathtaking scenery along the way.

Doe Mountain Views

☀️ Doe Mountain

Doe Mountain is another great workout, offering a 360-degree panoramic view, making it a prime choice for sunrise or sunset. With a relatively quick hike that elevates you to 450 feet, you can secure a front-row seat to nature’s dazzling display. From this vantage point, you’ll also be treated to captivating views, including downtown Sedona, the iconic Capitol Butte, and the breathtaking Verde Valley.

👣: Doe Mountain

🥾 : 1.5 miles RT
⬆️ : +511 ft elevation change
😅 : This is a short, but moderately strenuous hike. Give yourself plenty of time. 

☀️ Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte

Bell Rock, with its distinctive shape, is a popular sunrise destination. The Bell Rock loop provides a clear viewpoint for sunrise enthusiasts. The hike is relatively easy and accommodating for all levels of hikers, and you can choose to watch the sunrise from the base or venture further up for a higher perspective. Situated near Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte provides a different perspective on the surrounding red rock formations. You’ll find multiple spots along the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail that are perfect for savoring the sunrise’s serene beauty. 

🧡☀️ Devil's Bridge

If you’re up for a more challenging adventure, the Devil’s Bridge Trail leads to one of Sedona’s most iconic natural bridges. It is no-doubtedly the most popular hike in Sedona. Although it’s probably better to do it during sunset, this hike can get very crowded, so the morning may give you a slight advantage of having a more peaceful and grabbing an iconic picture walking across this natural bridge.  

👣: Devil’s Bridge

🥾 : 3.9 miles RT
⬆️ : +522 ft elevation change
😅 : The first half of the hike is pretty flat, just hiking on some sandy roads, which can be a little difficult to walk on. The second half of the hike is when you will be climbing some elevation. Take your time and enjoy the view. 

Sunrise on Devil’s Bridge

 

☀️ Schnebly Hill Vista

For a higher vantage point, embark on a scenic drive up Schnebly Hill Road to the Schnebly Hill Vista. From this elevated viewpoint, you’ll enjoy a wide-angle view of Sedona and its breathtaking surroundings, all adorned in the morning’s light.

☀️ Oak Creek Canyon

This spectacular canyon is home to various pull-offs and viewpoints along State Route 89A. As the sun rises, it paints the rock formations and lush foliage with a warm, golden hue, creating a scene that’s nothing short of enchanting.

"Not-So Secret" Cave Hikes You Don't Want To Miss

Sedona, Arizona, is renowned for its mesmerizing red rock formations and captivating desert landscapes. But beyond the well-known trails and iconic vistas, this enchanting region holds a secret world waiting to be discovered – a network of hidden caves. 

Sedona’s hidden caves are a testament to the region’s diverse and captivating landscape. As you venture on these hikes, you’ll not only be in awe of Sedona’s natural beauty but also have the opportunity to connect with the stories and legends that make this area so unique.

While many of these “secret caves” can be found on your trail maps, they probably won’t be noticeable. Look for markers that people leave, hot spots, and check the comments for clues on how to reach these “hidden locations” and ruins. 

🏜 Robber's Roost

Robbers Roost is a true gem among Sedona’s cave hikes, offering a taste of the Wild West, a slice of history, and panoramic views that will leave you spellbound. To reach the cave, you’ll embark on a journey that involves some rock scrambling and a bit of a climb. As you ascend, the rugged beauty of Sedona unfolds before your eyes. The cave itself is a cozy hideaway, and it’s easy to imagine the outlaws of the past finding refuge in this natural sanctuary. It’s a spot where history meets the untamed beauty of the Arizona wilderness.

👣: Robber’s Roost

🥾 : 3.0 miles RT
⬆️ : +462 ft elevation change
😅 : The trial is moderate, but at the top, you will have to scramble on some ledges to get to the cave; this one might not be for you if you are afraid of heights. 

🅿️ : The trailhead featured is a parking area for all non-4×4 high clearance vehicles. You will want to put the following coordinates into your GPS device to access the trailhead: 34.9311, -111.97217.

Many cars cannot make it up the steep dirt road, so most people park at the bottom and walk. That means the first mile and the initial 300 ft elevation gain is the walk to the trailhead. 

🧡🏜 Birthing Cave

This cave earned its name from the unique formation at its entrance, which many interpret as resembling a woman in labor. Native American legends and stories of spiritual significance are woven into the fabric of this intriguing location. To reach Birthing Cave, you’ll walk on a relatively moderate hike that leads you through the thick desert terrain. As you approach the cave’s entrance, you’ll be struck by the profound sense of history and spirituality surrounding it. The cave offers a sense of adventure and a deep connection to the land’s rich heritage, making it a must-visit for those seeking a unique Sedona experience.

👣: Birthing Cave

🥾 : 1.9 miles RT
⬆️ : +242 ft elevation change
😅 : Easy hike. Please be careful when climbing up and on-to the cave. The walls of the cave are very slippery. 

Half Image of the Birthing Cave.

🧡🏜 Soldier's Pass + The "Hidden" Cave

For those in search of a serene escape amidst the enchanting red rocks, the Soldier’s Pass Hidden Cave promises just that. This cave is nestled amidst the rust-colored cliffs and canyons, offering a serene atmosphere for those who seek solitude. The hike to reach this hidden gem is relatively easy, making it accessible to hikers of various skill levels. As you approach the cave, the peaceful ambiance envelops you, and you’ll soon find yourself captivated by the stillness of the surroundings. The Hidden Cave serves as a perfect spot for meditation, reflection, or simply basking in the serenity of Sedona’s natural wonders.

While exploring Sedona’s cave hikes, don’t forget to venture along the Soldiers Pass Trail. This trail holds a treasure trove of captivating caves, each with its own secrets and wonders waiting to be unveiled. The Soldiers Pass Trail is a delightful mix of adventure and exploration, offering access to some of the most intriguing and hidden caves in the region. Among the notable caves, you’ll come across the Seven Sacred Pools, Apache Fire Cave, and the hidden Soldier’s Pass Hidden Cave we mentioned earlier. 

👣: Soldiers Pass Trail

🥾 : 4.5 miles RT
⬆️ : +839 ft elevation change
😅 : Most of the trail is pretty moderate. You do not need to complete the full hike to reach the caves or the 7 pools. 

🧡🏜 Keyhole Cave

Sunset at the Key Hole Cave

Located high on the cliffside, the entrance to the cave frames the landscape like a keyhole, providing a captivating and picturesque view of the red rock formations. The hike to Keyhole Cave presents a moderate challenge, but the rewards are worth every step. This hidden jewel of Sedona is a photographer’s dream, offering a frame for the region’s enchanting landscape, creating an image that is truly one-of-a-kind.

I would suggest doing this trail during sunrise or midday if you are going for photography, so you can get more even light in the cave and outside.

The climb up to the cave is challenging and requires a steep repel. Please be careful when attempting this climb. 

👣: Keyhole Cave

🥾 : 2.2 miles RT
⬆️ : +472 ft elevation change
😅 : Once you reach the cave, it’s a 30-foot Class III climb to get onto the ledge. You should have some climbing experience. There may be a rope there, but be 

🧡🏜 Boynton Canyon Trail aka The Subway Cave

When it comes to hiking in Sedona, there’s one trail that stands out as an easy yet enchanting adventure: Boynton Canyon. This is a must-visit for anyone seeking the natural wonders of the region. But it’s not what you’ll find on the trail that makes the Boynton Canyon so popular… it’s what you’ll find if you venture off-trail. 

The Subway cave and Sinagua ruins. 

To find both the Subway cave and the ruins, you will need to carefully look at your trail map. The detour to these two gems is located around 3 miles in on the right-hand side. If you are using AllTrails, you should be able to use the map to visual navagate to the cave. It will be on up and on your left about 1/2 after the turn. 

Half Image of the Birthing Cave.

👣: Boynton Trail

🥾 : 7.2 miles RT
⬆️ : +964 ft elevation change
😅 : The Boynton Trail is moderately difficult, but on a hot day, it can be extreme. Make sure you carry plenty of water. 

Water Hikes To Help Cool You Off

🧡💦 West Fork Trail

👣: West Fork of The Creek Trail #108

🥾 : 6.5 miles RT
⬆️ : +564 ft elevation change
😅 : The first 3 miles of the trail are moderate, but very enjoyable.

If you want to complete the back side of the trail to the camping areas, be prepared to be walking through knee-high to potentially chest-high water, through thick marsh and weeds. The hike to the designated camping spots is difficult due to trail finding, but will leave you in awe. Give yourself plenty of time to get to find a campsite before it gets dark. 

If you’re seeking a hiking adventure that promises constant changes in scenery and breathtaking vistas, the West Fork Trail should be at the top of your list. Located just north of Sedona, this trail is a true masterpiece of nature. Towering canyon walls surround you as you delve into the heart of the forest. At every turn, new picturesque views emerge, leaving you in awe of the landscape’s diversity.

For those looking for an easier hike, most opt to explore the first three miles, where the trail is well-defined and easy to follow. However, the true adventure begins after mile three. Here, you’ll be required to get your feet wet as you wade through the refreshing waters of Oak Creek. Don’t forget to bring water shoes for this part of the journey.

For the adventurous souls who wish to spend a night under the starry Sedona sky, you’ll need to hike at least six miles in, where you’ll discover designated camping areas. On a recent excursion, we hiked approximately 8-9 miles until the trail grew denser, and the water grew deeper, signaling it was time to turn back. The West Fork Trail offers an unforgettable immersion in nature, where the beauty of the canyon walls and the serenity of the forest create an unforgettable experience.

💦 The Crack via Bell Trail

When the Sedona sun beats down, and the heat becomes a little too much to handle, there’s nothing like the allure of a pristine swimming hole. The Crack via Bell Trail, situated in the Wet Beaver Wilderness, is a seven-mile round-trip adventure leading to that. The main attraction of this hike is the promise of some amazing watering holes with cliff-jumping opportunities, emerald green water, and spectacular vistas.

The trail takes you on a journey through the captivating wilderness, and the promise of a refreshing swim in a beautiful watering hole is a tempting proposition. The Crack is a perfect place to cool off, soak in the surrounding beauty, and perhaps even challenge your adventurous spirit with a cliff jump. It’s an oasis in the desert, where the allure of the water is hard to resist when the Sedona heat is at its peak.

👣: Bell Trail

🥾 : 6.9 miles RT
⬆️ : +587 ft elevation change
😅 : Difficult

💦 Slide Rock State Park

Slide Rock State Park, ensconced within Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon, stands as a cherished escape for both locals and visitors. It lures with striking desert vistas, refreshing swimming spots, and a remarkable natural water slide This 80-foot-long, 2.5 to 4 feet wide ride terminates in a roomy pool where you can frolic to your heart’s content.

Be mindful of park entrance fees, ranging from $10 to $30 depending on the season. Keep in mind that the water may feel brisk, especially in the winter months, so a toe-dip test is a wise idea. Also, note that lifeguards are not on duty, so please prioritize safety during your visit.

Slide Rock State Park embodies Sedona’s natural wonders, inviting you to revel in the great outdoors. When warmer days arrive, let Slide Rock’s allure guide you to an Arizona adventure like no other.

Camping in Sedona

🏕️ Campgrounds

While the idea of camping in Sedona might sound dreamy, it’s worth knowing that it requires a bit of planning, especially during the warmer months when the allure of this red rock wonderland is at its peak.

Most official campsites are strategically placed along Highway 89A, north of Sedona, on the route to Flagstaff. This location is unique, thanks to the meandering Oak Creek, which effortlessly keeps temperatures cool and inviting during the scorching summer.  These well-maintained campgrounds offer essential amenities like restrooms, water sources, picnic tables, and fire rings. If you opt for an official campsite, secure your reservation as early as possible. They are immensely popular and provide a unique camping experience well worth the visit.

You can find a complete list of campgrounds on my ☞ Google Map of Arizona

🏕️ Dispersed Camping

For the adventurous spirits and free-spirited campers, dispersed camping in Sedona offers a great alternative. This type of camping is primarily available in the West Sedona region. Dispersed camping is untamed and unregulated, so don’t expect amenities like toilets, running water, or overnight fees. It’s essential to follow the Leave No Trace principles to protect the fragile ecosystem. Over the years, dispersed camping has grown in popularity, and you might have to navigate miles of red dirt roads to discover an available spot for the night. As the weather cools, more camping spots become accessible, but be prepared for the possibility of a bit of searching before you find your ideal campsite.

There are eight designated dispersed camping areas scattered throughout the West Sedona region. These areas encompass nearly 36 acres, with each one offering 10-35 campsites. The total count of available campsites varies based on the size of your vehicle, trailer, or RV. These designated areas are accessible via State Route 89A, with five of them situated along the well-traveled Forest Road 525. Two others are located along FR 89B, and the final area can be found on FR 9570A. Keep in mind that each campsite operates on a first-come, first-served basis so timing can be crucial during peak seasons.

You can find a complete list of dispersed camping locations on my ☞ Google Map of Arizona

PrettylilArizona - Downloadable Google Map

What You'll Find Inside

PrettylilArizona is my downloadable Google map of the most incredible places to visit around the beautiful state of Arizona!

Let’s be honest; no one has the time to spend reading blog after blog and scrolling through Instagram to land in these locations. Skip the scrolling and start living. Once you download my PrettylilArizona map or any other Google Maps, you’ll add the freedom to get in your car and go.

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I’ve spent countless hours researching and tracking all my stops around Arizona. I’ve vetted the best destinations and most instagrammable photo options for you to take with you on your travels. These are the maps that I use for all of my road trip planning. 

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