Fay Canyon is a great trail for the whole family. Unlike many trails that require you to go “down, across and up” numerous arroyos (dry creeks), Fay Canyon is actually relatively flat. It is one of those trails that starts out good and keeps getter better that further you make your way back into this box canyon. The high red rock cliff walls coupled with the large oak and juniper trees make this a great trail year-round.
Fay Canyon is a favorite hike for many who prefer a shorter hike with minimal elevation gain or who enjoy the grandeur of red sandstone walls towering overhead. Some people visit Fay Canyon to see the natural arch located just under a half mile up the trail. Those who don’t know about it usually walk right past. Though the Fay Canyon Arch is by no means small, it looks so much like an ordinary rock overhang, it’s easy to glance right at it and not realize what you’ve seen. If you keep watching the rock wall to the north (right) side of the trail sooner or later you’ll spot it.
This small, hidden canyon supports a diverse community of desert plants and provides good views of the surrounding cliffs. It dead ends at a red Supai sandstone cliff. Throughout Fay Canyon you can marvel at the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you.
Broken Arrow Trail
Behold the splendor of Munds Wilderness. This is one of my favorite areas to hike. Many hikers will avoid this trail because of the jeep traffic on a road parallel to the trail. My belief is that the strength and diversity of this trail is so great that it overcomes the minor distraction of the jeeps. Enjoy the splendor of the red rock cliffs and canyons as you make your way along the trail. Don’t miss Devil’s Dining Room, which is .6 miles from the start of the trail, as you make you way to the pinnacle point of the trail…Chicken Point. (Additional trail link options include: Broken Arrow to Submarine Rock, Little Horse, Llama, Chapel and Bell Rock pathway.)
Broken Arrow Trail is a 3.2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Sedona, Arizona that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
This quickie may just take the cake for combining ease of trail with classic Sedona beauty. It’s loaded with spectacular red rock views of Battlement Mesa & Twin Buttes to the west and white/red rock views of Mund’s Mountain Wilderness to the east. If you’re going to do just one Sedona hike, this should be at the top of the list!
Start your hike at the Broken Arrow Trailhead, just .2 miles past the end of Morgan Rd. You will be immediately greeted by Sedona slickrock trails and red rock views for days! Take a minute to sneak a peek at Devil’s Dining Room Sinkhole around 0.6 miles in. It has a sign and is just of to the right of the trail.
The trail continues coursing through some pristine Pinyon pine, juniper and cypress groves. Slick rock areas are scattered throughout the hike, adding to that vortex-feeding fulfillment that only comes from a Sedona escape hike. Signs posts and rock piled cairns make route-finding a breeze.
This is a very popular trail for mountain bikes and runs alongside an extremely popular pink jeep tour route. Often, you will be treated to the sights of watching jacked up jeeps finagle their way up and over and around and on top and through and…….
You can easily combine this trip alongside Submarine Rock or hike down Little Horse to add on some mileage and more epic eye candy goodness.
Take in the views at Chicken Point, snap a few photos, have a picnic, just do you. Stay for a sunset and soak it all in. When you’re good to go, head back the way you came.
Little Horse Trail is a 3.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash. Little Horse Trail begins along the Bell Rock loop trail. Following this jeep trail southward for a quarter of a mile, you will come to a signed fork. Making a left, the trail start to climb gently and follows a few washes and through Arizona cypress patches. At the intersect of the Chapel Trail from the left, take a right passing through a gate boundary near 1.4 miles. Once you head through the ridge up to the Chicken Point, take the path left for a short climb onto the open rock range, full spectacular views. Note that this lookout is used by Jeep Tours heading up via Broken Arrow Road. If you a ready to leave, you can take the same way back or continue onward towards the Broken Arrow Trail. Note: this trail requires a Red Rock Pass – available at most gas stations in Sedona etc.
Short, sweet and simply stunning, the Bell Rock Pathway may be the most popular trail and one of the easiest of all the walk-ways and hikes in the Sedona area. Bell Rock, so named because the shape resembles that of a large bell, stands adjacent to Courthouse Butte and both, typically in tandem, are frequently the object of photographers and artists. The location also enjoys significant popularity as one of Sedona’s vortex sites.
The trail is wide, hard-packed with few if any hazards, easy to follow, and only 3.5 miles round trip, which for most (even us old fogies), can be accomplished in about an hour, packing a lot of scenic red rock punch for the time spent. The pathway heads out directly toward Bell Rock and through some beautiful upland desert—stands of juniper with a few pinon pine mixed in, yucca and agave, and thickets of manzanita. Bird song rings out from every direction and it’s not uncommon to rustle up a covey or two of Gambel’s quail scurrying for cover.
Welcome to The Big Hike!…Wilson takes you to the highest point in Sedona and provides the most dynamic panoramic views in the area. In order to get to this point you must put in the work. Wilson climbs over 2500 feet in just 4.5 miles (9 miles round-trip). This trail takes you through two distinctly different environments. The first part of the trail take you through a rough desert environment featuring low growth junipers, manzanita, prickly pear cactus and Parry Agave then past the “first bench” into a coniferous forest featuring a variety of large pines and oak trees. Don’t miss the views of San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff as you make your way up the side of Wilson after the “first bench.” San Francisco Peaks hold considerable religious significance to numerous American Indian Tribes in the area.
Wilson Mountain Trail is a 10.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
Wilson Mountain is 7,122 feet tall and named after Richard Wilson. Richard Wilson was a bear hunter who was killed by a grizzly in 1885. His body was found in Wilson Canyon, which is also named after him. This is the tallest mountain around Sedona, Arizona. The trail to the summit leads to an absolute killer-view of Sedona and far beyond, of Oak Creek, and even of the San Fransisco Peaks. The hike has two parts: Part 1 goes up to the First Bench. This can be done from Midgely Bridge (most exposed, but most scenic) and from Encinoso Picknick Area., also called North Trail. Part 2 goes from 1 bench to the Sedona Lookout. If you start out late, or loose your wind, only going up to 1st bench is well worth the effort. But the Sedona Lookout is unsurpassed, as you can see! A stunning, vertical drop of several hundred feet straight down, looking right into the famed red-rock stone sculptings of Sedona. Absolutely amazing.
Although hot and at least moderately strenuous, well worth the time.
Ready for a challenge? This is one of Sedona’s steep and difficult hikes. The trail is considered difficult due to its terrain, elevation and ability to navigate. Known for its difficulty, it is also known for its spectacular views that only get better the higher you ascend. If you are up for the challenge then you will be rewarded with incredible 360°views of Sedona and San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff. From the trailhead this hike looks deceptively easy—however, you are only seeing 1/3 of the trail. The trail is made up of a series of plateaus that take you higher and further than what meets the eye. Note: This is a difficult hike and not meant for novice hikers. Proper gear, footwear and hydration is highly recommended.
Bear Mountain Trail is a 4.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
This is a strenuous trail not suited for many hikers. It is in the desert sun with no water along the trail. The difficulty that arises is that there are so many of them and you must travel so high, that it can easily wear down a hiker.
The hike is a five mile round trip with a vertical climb of 2000 feet from the creek bed to the true peak (as measured on USGS Topographic Maps). If you decide to take this trail you need to leave early in the morning and plan for an all day hike. Take lots and lots of water (1 gallon per hiker) and energy bars, along with hiking boots, sunscreen and a wide brim hat. A hiking stick or stabilization will also be of help.
One of the confusing factors that hikers may encounter is that it appears the end of the trail has moved. The “True” peak on the old USFS map (red map below) is actually north of the left fork of Boynton Canyon. This is confirmed on Typographic maps with an elevation of over 6560 feet. However, the new USGS map shows the trail end at a peak below the secondary peak which is at the west side of the left fork of Boynton Canyon (Blue USGS map to right). Currently, there is a Trail End sign at the trail peak (elevation over 6440 feet). The trail to the true peak is too poorly marked with many false trails to go further than the peak where the trail officially ends (as of 2016).
Beneath the highest structure in Sedona, lies an exquisite trail that takes you up 500 feet to a mesa overlooking Wilson Mountain, Mormon Canyon and Soliders Pass. This is a great trail when town is in full season. The parking and trailhead are located in a secluded area behind uptown.
How have I missed this all these years? That’s what you’ll think within the first 71 seconds of hiking the Brins Mesa Trail. Not only because of the surrounding beauty, but also because it’s so easy to get to. For a few lucky Sedonans, one of the trailheads is right out the back door. For everyone else, it’s just a few blocks from the pink jeeps and turquoise jewelers.
Before you get started, you should know there are two established trailheads for this hike. The most accessible is the Jim Thompson Trailhead — the one that’s so close to the strip. The alternative is out on Vultee Arch Road. If your SUV has wings or extremely high clearance, that trailhead is an option. Otherwise, take the easy route. You can navigate it with a Mini Cooper, and the hike is equally impressive from either end.
From the parking lot on the Thompson side, the trail hops up and over a small embankment and immediately passes two other trails (Jordan and Cibola Pass). The intersection is well marked. Keep right for Brins Mesa, which begins as an easy walk through manzanitas and junipers. Sedona red is all around, without any signs of civilization. Even the traffic noise disappears. It’s a lovely loneliness.
The trail points north at this point, and after about five minutes, it crosses into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. There are certain responsibilities that come with hiking in these areas, including the principles of Leave No Trace. Please be responsible. A little farther up the trail, you’ll see what happens when you’re not.
The trail stays about the same — rocks and trees — for the next 20 minutes. That’s when the hike heads west and launches into the only significant ascent. There aren’t any switchbacks. Just a natural rock staircase that winds upward. Along the way, there are several points that invite you to stop, turn around and look around. Do so.
Ten minutes later, you’ll arrive on the mesa and see the effects of irresponsibility. The Brins Fire, which scorched 4,000 acres on and around the mesa, was ignited by an illegal, unattended campfire on June 18, 2006. Most of the trees on the mesa were lost, and their descendants won’t be back for many decades. It’s a drag. That said, the grass that moved in makes a gorgeous placeholder, especially in the morning. This time of year, that’s when you’ll want to hike Brins Mesa, and if you can time your arrival to see the sunrise from up on the mesa … well, it’s very beautiful.
From the top, the literal high point of the hike (5,099 feet), you’ll begin a gradual descent that offers long views in every direction. You’ll see Soldier Pass to the left, and up ahead, more trees — the fire line is obvious.
At the 50-minute mark, you’ll intersect the Soldier Pass Trail and begin a steep drop. It’s short, about 100 yards, and when the trail hits the bottom, it leaves the wilderness area and enters a good-sized wash. The forest is thicker down there, and some of the trees are unexpectedly big. One of the biggest isn’t around anymore, but the stump that remains can attest to the tree’s Bunyanesque heyday.
Just beyond the big stump, the trail crosses the wash, crosses again, and crosses once more before arriving at a large, flat rock, about the size of a Whole Foods’ produce department. The trail then parallels the wash, going back and forth for most of the rest of the hike — beware of flash floods, especially during monsoon season.
A few minutes later, you’ll pass through a fence and begin the 200-yard home stretch to the the trailhead on Vultee Arch Road. You probably won’t see anyone when you get there, but if you do, it’s a good bet their SUV has extremely high clearance. Or maybe a set of wings.
Think of this hike as a high desert jungle with a built in bird sanctuary. You will have to put in a 1.5 miles of open trail work to get to the best parts of this trail but it is well worth it. This trail does provide refuge from the heat once you move past the 2-mile mark. After the 2-mile mark you are rewarded with a wide array of high canopied trees (cypress, ponderosa, juniper, alligator juniper) and shaded trail with glimpses of red rocks as you go up down and through several arroyos. Note: because of ample shade/moisture, it is recommended you bring a little bug spray, especially in April and May.
Long Canyon Trail is a 7.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and horses and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
This is a nice 7 mile round trip moderate hike through a forest with red rock views. The first 3/4 mile is not shaded and can be very hot in the summer. But once you are in the forest, the shade helps offset the summer heat. With all the growth, it’s sometimes difficult to take the photo you want to. You intersect the Deadman Pass trail about 1 mile in. We hike Long Canyon about 3 .5 miles but you can go further. The trail becomes steeper, however.
If you’ve ever hiked in the Grand Canyon or Sycamore Canyon or Aravaipa Canyon, Long Canyon won’t strike you as all that long. And its eponymous hike is even shorter. It’s only 6 miles round-trip, with no significant elevation change. That means it’s easy, and unlike those other marquee canyons, this one can be explored on a whim, without a lot of prep work — no training hikes, no topographic maps to study, no power diets. All you have to do is roll out of bed and hop in the car.
The trail begins just off the paved road that leads to the luxurious Enchantment Resort. But don’t let the neighborhood give you the wrong idea. This is a wilderness hike, and all signs of civilization disappear quickly, leaving you alone with a contingent of Sedona’s iconic red rocks, including Wilson Mountain, Maroon Mountain, Steamboat Rock, and a number of unnamed cliffs, spires, windows and arches. As you might expect, the panoramas are spectacular.
You’ll see that firsthand within the first few minutes of the hike. You’ll also see manzanitas and junipers along the path, which is red dirt and easy to follow. After about 5 minutes, you’ll come to an old jeep road. Turn right, hike another 30 yards, and follow the trail to the left. This stretch can be a little confusing, but a few minutes later, you’ll come to a sign that confirms you’re on the Long Canyon Trail — there’s no signage at the trailhead. About 15 minutes later, after passing an intersection with the Deadmans Pass Trail, you’ll arrive at the boundary of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.
All wilderness areas are special, but this is one of the crown jewels. Within its 43,950 acres, you’ll find everything from banana yuccas, agaves and junipers to cottonwoods, bigtooth maples and ponderosas. Badgers, bobcats, mule deer and mountain lions are in there, as well, along with ravens, red-tailed hawks, Steller’s jays and a litany of other plants and animals. And, of course, the red rocks.
Just beyond the wilderness boundary, the trail dips into a small wash, on the other side of which the trees start getting taller. At the 45-minute mark, you’ll see your first ponderosa, which is surrounded by a cluster of alligator junipers. Big gators. From there, the trail winds through a small drainage. The drainage is usually dry, but it still supports a community of water-loving vegetation, including a number of Arizona cypress trees, which are easily recognized by their shaggy bark and round, gum-ball-sized seeds. As the elevation climbs, oaks and other deciduous trees start showing up. The trail is well shaded along this stretch. That’s not a selling point in January, but other times of year, it’s a relief.
The topography remains about the same for the rest of the route, although, the walls start closing in and the ponderosas start getting bigger. The vegetation gets thicker, too, and the cairns start to pile up. Technically, even cairns are a violation of the Leave No Trace principles, but in the interest of “safety first,” they do come in handy. As a general rule, be religious about what’s best for Mother Nature, and respect the utopian ideals of our wilderness areas.
The trail ends after 90 minutes at a sandstone wall where there are a few small Indian ruins and some primitive pictographs. If you’re lucky enough to find them, leave them alone — it’s illegal to disturb them. Instead, take a look around, enjoy the moment and the solitude, and then begin the short walk out of Long Canyon.
Originally a bike trail, this trails starts out a little slow as it meanders across a low growth forest. Be patient…it gets much better. At 1.0 mile the trail rises up and around a ridge that takes you into a spectacular Red Rock “bowl” beneath Mescal Mountain. This alcove provides big panoramic views of Secret Mountain Wilderness and clear across Sedona to Courthouse Butte in the distance. The trail exits “the bowl” and leads you through a spectacular Red Rock corridor eventually connecting to Dead Man’s Pass Trail. Additional options include: a) connecting to Long Canyon via Deadman’s Pass b) connecting to Boynton Canyon via Deadman’s Pass.
Mescal Mountain Trail is a 5.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
The southeast end of Mescal Trail is accessed from the Long Canyon trailhead. You’ll get your blood pumping right away to get up the initial climb. It’s short, rocky, and quickly changes back to rolling trail.
The trail tops out and then travels toward Mescal Mountain, a gigantic red sandstone butte. The meat of the route is a traverse on the southern side along a long continuous slickrock ledge.
After some smooth red dirt, there’s one big push onto the first section of slickrock. Once on the sandstone surface you’ll hike along a fairly level elevation, occasionally going up down or around short sections of steps or boulders.
As Mescal Trail rounds the butte on the west end, the view becomes breathtaking into Boynton Canyon. Take in the scenery before a descent to the end of the trail. Turn right here to access Deadmans Pass, or bear left to connect to Aerie.