Sedona’s fame comes primarily from its abundance of red sandstone formations. This natural wonder glows to bright orange and red when hit by the sun’s rays at dawn and dusk. The formations are a familiar backdrop to Sedona hiking trails and define some of the best hikes in Sedona.
Hiking in Sedona is, no doubt a rugged, rustic experience. It is a gem, providing a tourist oasis in the heart of the Arizona desert.
Hikes in Sedona will also have you quite accessible to conveniences like resorts and spas, and yet never far from canyons and the red rock formations. Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte Loop, and Bell Rock are just a few spots that have some of the best trails in Sedona.
It is generally sunny here unless you visit during monsoon seasons of July and August. Brief periods of rainfall may occur, in which case a poncho or rain hiking pants would be handy. Otherwise, come prepared for lots of fun under the sun.
As you become more acquainted with Sedona hikes, you will come to know the single biggest attraction of the place: The Arizona sky and those ubiquitous red rocks.
Here is Where to Hike in Sedona
1. Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock is one of the most famous hiking destinations in Sedona. Visitors commonly say that the sunset provides a great visual experience as the sandstone colors come alive. The trail is rated as moderately difficult, and has a few areas where you need to use your hands, with foot and handholds available to make things easier.
The trail ascending to Cathedral Rock can get quite steep in some parts, so take your time. As you climb, there are many places to rest and take great-looking pictures. Keep an eye out for mini side trails that have views of Edge of the World, Platform Rock and the red rock pillars.
Once you get to a good elevation, you can easily spot other red rock formations like Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The total round trip distance of the hike is 1.2 miles, with an elevation gain of 744 feet.
2. Courthouse Butte Loop
This moderately difficult hike showcases two red rock formations. Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock are both famous Sedona landmarks and are likewise the names of two trails you can hike. The Courthouse Butte Trail has a reputation of being a more serene experience with a mild elevation gain of 350 feet.
During this hike, you can enjoy some gorgeous red rock views. Once halfway through the 4-mile round trip, you will see a dome-shaped rock aptly named Spaceship Rock. I found this part of the hike a good place to have a snack, take a short breather and soak in the views.
You will have a nice immersive experience on this hike, which I recommend for families. The best part is the tranquility once you gain distance from the crowds that gravitate around the Bell Rock area. Surely, a nice place to bring toddlers and some of the best baby carriers for hiking would come in handy here.
Remember to bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock as this trail offers little to no shade from the sun.
3. Bell Rock Trail
The Bell Rock trail is a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike with a few options for tackling it depending on your skill level. The footpath is a rated quite an easy hike with a well-maintained pathway that provides no shortage of lovely views. I agree with comments about Bell Rock as being classic Sedona and an iconic destination.
The trail is actually .75 miles that ascends along the north part of Bell Rock. One can scale the rock as high as you comfortably feel. The higher you get, the rewards are evident with more grandiose panoramas. Most of the trail has you hiking in wide hard surfaces of red dirt, but expect some steep parts too.
Some parts around Bell Rock are rough and rocky, contributing to a visceral experience. However, overall, it an easy hike I recommend to anyone. I cannot think of a more organic experience than rock formations surrounding you as fresh air infuses the senses with the scent of pine.
4. Devil’s Bridge Trail
This is also one of the most popular trail destinations in Sedona as it is an easy hike. Devil’s Bridge Trail is 4.2 miles roundtrip, and it brings you to a great area, the natural sandstone Devil’s arch. Walking under this 50-foot arch is an unbelievable experience, but taking the steps to the top is almost surreal.
Since it is a popular place among tourists and locals, the trail is buzzing with 4x4s, ATVs, mountain bikes, and many other hikers like yourself. The initial portion of the course is wide, but the back portion of the trail gets narrower and steep as you get closer to the arch.
Be forewarned that there is practically no shade, so bring the usual stuff (eyewear, hat, and sunscreen, and lots of hydration).
5. Birthing Cave
This is easily one of Sedona’s star destinations, as it is a short and easy trail for all skill levels. The cave at the trail’s end with its views is amazing. Once there, I found myself transfixed by the valley and consumed by the serenity of the entire area.
The hike is an easy 2-mile round trip that brings an elevation gain of 400 feet. The course is conveniently located near many of the other famous Sedona trails. The terrain is generally even and wide and provides a relaxed experience.
I started the hike on the Long Canyon Trail before taking a left fork at around .06 miles towards the tall red rock cliffs. I was told to identify a depression in the cliff wall and anticipate an even smaller path that forks to the right. Finally, there was the cave.
I then had to hike a steep incline from here to the base of the cave. Overall, I really found this to be more of a leisure walk, as opposed to hiking a trail. The Birthing Cave turned out to be one of my favorites in Sedona since it is so different.
Based on my pace, the entire roundtrip took me only 1.5 hours. Of course, that excludes the time I spent once at the cave itself.
Sedona Is Really Unique
I cannot faithfully describe the red sandstone formations and do them justice. Even pictures of the highest resolution and quality do not capture them as they appear in person. Sedona is a gorgeous place to visit, and you must see the sites in all their glory.
The single best way to do that is on foot, in any one of Sedona’s celebrated hiking trails.