If you are looking for outdoor adventures and miles of scenic hiking trails, a trip to Sedona, Arizona in the USA is a fantastic place to start. Besides its Native American history, stunning landscapes, wine region, cultural art scene, and active trails, Sedona is known for its powerful vortexes that are said to bring self-awareness, intuitiveness, and healing powers to those who experience them.
There are many adventurous hikes in Sedona that wind their way through the famous Red Rocks, across canyons, into caves, and over vortexes that are great for all ages and fitness levels. It gets very hot in summer (June & July) and cold in winter (December – February) but as long as you come prepared, hiking in Sedona can be enjoyed all year long.
These are three of the best Sedona hikes that are manageable in ½ a day or less leaving time to explore other trails and local areas. They all have insanely rewarding views, and fun elements and easily adjust to accommodate length, time and difficulty.
Cathedral Rock is a must-do hike in Sedona at any time of day but especially for sunset as the sun illuminates the surrounding mountains. The panoramic views of the valley from the summit make the 1-mile uphill trek worthwhile. It is a short trail but can be challenging for some as there are a few small sections where scrambling is needed. There is also a Cathedral Rock Vortex at the top of the hike with a round stone known as the “birthing stone” which is said to increase fertility. To enjoy the vortex take the rocky path to the left as you reach the summit.
There is an alternative route you can take to Cathedral Rock if you do not mind adding a few miles to the overall hike. You will want to park at the Baldwin Trailhead parking lot off of Verde Valley School Road. Cross the road and hike left down the Baldwin trail to Templeton Trail. Continue along this trail until it intersects with the Cathedral Rock Trail. The Baldwin to Templeton to Cathedral Trail is 3.7 miles round trip. It is a scenic option with a creek and rewarding views of Cathedral Rock almost immediately.
Need to know
Length: 1.2 miles / 1.9 km
Time: 2 – 3 hrs
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult (there are a few scrambles ½ way up the hike)
Ascent: 700 ft / 215 m
Region: Coconino National Forest
Access: You can do the 1.2-mile out and back hike from Cathedral Rock Trailhead to reach Cathedral Rock, or from the Baldwin Trailhead for a 3.7-mile round trip hike.
Parking: Monday – Wednesday – park at the trailhead lot with a Red Rocks Pass ($5, can be bought at the trailhead). Thursday – Sunday – take the free Sedona Shuttle from the park and ride lot off of SR 179. Shuttle runs 8am to 6pm.
Bell Rock + Courthouse Butte Loop
Besides being one of Sedona’s most well-known landmarks Bell Rock is a popular trail for its location and a sought-after meditation site with a history dating back centuries to the Yavapai Indians.
The Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop is considered easy/moderate but offers many add-on trails, climbs and rock scrambles along the way. The trailhead is near the Village of Oak Creek and gets busy in mid-day with parking lots easily filling by 9 am. It is a great hike to do at sunrise to see landmarks such as Cathedral Rock light up with the early sun and hot air balloons flying high in the calm morning weather. Bell Rock is said to have one of the strongest vortexes in Sedona located on Bell Rock’s north slope.
There is also a 1-mile Bell Rock climb with a total ascent of 400 feet. It is a moderate uphill trek that starts off easy to follow but gradually gets tougher as the rock cairns begin to disappear. You are allowed to make your own path. There are lots of rock levels you can choose to climb going as high as you want. There are some scrambles that make the climb more challenging, but it is a fun way to explore Bell Rock and get views of Courthouse Butte and the red rocks below.
Need to know
Length: 3.9 miles / 6.3 km
Time: 1.5 – 2 hrs
Ascent: 358 ft / 110 m
Region: Munds Mountain Wilderness
Access: From Bell Rock Vista and Pathway Trailhead or the Courthouse Vista Trailhead
Parking: Park at the Bell Rock Trailhead North in the northbound section of the Red Rock Scenic Byway. You will need a $5 Red Rocks Pass that can be purchased at the trailhead with a credit card.
The Soldier’s Pass trail is extremely popular in Sedona known for its natural beauty and difficult parking. The trail can be done as an out and back hike or combined with nearby trails to make a loop. The trail gives you the opportunity to view several natural wonders including the 7 Sacred Pools, Devil’s Kitchen sink hole and the hidden Soldier’s Pass cave and arch.
The start of the trail is flat and easy to navigate leading you to the pools and sinkhole in the first 15 mins. If you want to find the hidden caves and arch you will have to take a spur trail located about 1.3 miles from the start of the Soldier’s Pass trailhead, past the 7 Sacred Pools. This spur trail is about 0.6 miles return and mostly uphill. It involves a short climb into the caves but it is definitely worth the extra effort.
To make the Soldier’s Pass trail into a 5-mile loop continue hiking onto the Brins Mesa Trail right past the cave spur trail. Keep right onto the Cibola Pass Trail which then intersects with the Soldiers Pass Trail near the pools and leads you back to the Soldiers Pass parking lot.
Need to know
Length: 5 miles loop or 3 miles return / 8 km loop or 4.8 km return
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Ascent: 840 ft / 256 m
Region: Coconino National Forest
Access: From Brins Mesa Trail or from the Soldiers Pass trail
Parking: The 14 car lot is almost always full and is only open 8am – 6pm, Monday-Wednesday. Cars start to line up at 7am to get a spot. Take the free Sedona Shuttle from one of the park and ride areas for easy access to the trailheads Thursday-Sunday. Alternate parking can be found at the Jim Thompson Trailhead parking. Take the Cibola Pass Trail to the Soldiers Pass trail if you park here.
Have you visited Sedona? Got it on your bucket list? Got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.