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5 Easy Hikes in Sedona that are Perfect for Beginners

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If you’re looking for a few easy hikes in Sedona, you’re in luck! The city is packed with trails that have stunning views of its beautiful red rock cliffs for all kinds of hikers, including (and especially!) beginners, families, and older folks.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent several weeks in Sedona, lacing up my hiking boots and searching for some of the city’s best trails. I’ve hunted down 5 short and easy hikes in Sedona and included everything you need to know about them in this post, from where to park, if you need a pass, and even a few hidden adventures along the trails!

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Table of Contents

1. The Birthing Cave

2. Sugar Loaf Loop

3. Fay Canyon

4. Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Trail

5. Thunder Mountain Trail

What to know before trying easy hikes in Sedona

Pssst… looking for a slightly more challenging hike in Sedona? Consider checking out the Soldier Pass Trail, a 4.5-mile moderately challenging trail that will take you past a bunch of natural landmarks with intense-sounding names, like the Devil’s Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. Plus there’s even a secret cave!

Easy Hikes in Sedona

While I will be listing these short and easy hikes in Sedona in order of their difficulty (from easiest to most difficult), all of the trails listed in this article should be manageable for most beginner hikers. If a trail is accessible for wheelchair hikers, I’ve noted that below as well.

It’s important to note that, generally, parking at trailheads, especially for the easy hikes, is EXTREMELY limited in Sedona and can be quite the challenge (more on that below!). Your best bet will be to get to these trails early to snag a spot. I’ve also included some additional tips and suggestions of where to park for each of these hikes.

1. The Birthing Cave

Length

2.0 miles (out-and-back)

Elevation Gain

291 feet

Fees

None

Trail map

Views from the Birthing Cave, looking out onto red rock formations at sunset, in Sedona, Arizona

Where to park for the Birthing Cave trail

There’s a handful of parking spots at the trailhead itself and also some spots along the shoulder of Long Canyon Road, just north of the trailhead.

For whatever reason, this trail seems to be a bit more under-the-radar than some of the other short and easy hikes in Sedona (for now, anyway!), so you have a pretty decent chance of snagging a parking spot here. Like all the hikes in Sedona, though, if you’re visiting during the busy season (March through June and September through October), you may want to arrive fairly early to ensure you snag a spot.

Woman sitting in the Birthing Cave, overlooking red rock formations at sunset, in Sedona, Arizona

What to Expect Along the Birthing Cave Trail

Considering that this is one of the shortest and easiest hikes in Sedona, it truly has quite a spectacular payoff.

After just a flat one-mile hike out, you’ll climb up a short (but relatively steep!) incline to reach one of the most beautiful Sedona caves, a tall and narrow cavern that’s located on the edge of a cliff. From here, you’ll have a stellar vantage point, overlooking the ponderosa pine forests and Sedona’s gorgeous red rocks.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a blast climbing around the cave. See if you can reach the little “belly button” indentation in the middle of the cave’s walls, which is the best spot to take photos of the cave and its spectacular vista

Man sitting in a small cave in the wall of the Birthing Cave Trail in Sedona, Arizona

Tips for the Birthing Cave Trail

  • While the the terrain of the Birthing Cave is easy-peasy, the actual path is not well-marked and can be a bit confusing to follow. To help you on your quest to find it, I wrote an entire blog post on how to get to the Birthing Cave in Sedona.

    As noted above, I’d also strongly recommend downloading trail map on AllTrails and making sure you stay on the trail using the included map.
Man hiking up the Birthing Cave Trail through a pine tree forest in Sedona, Arizona
  • The entrance to the cave is HUGE. If you want to capture some sweet pictures of it in its entirety, you’re going to need a wide angle lens.

    The photos in this post were captured with a Sony a7III, coupled with a Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar lens (definitely a wide angle lens), and mounted on a Peak Design Tripod. Even still, it was no match for the girth of the cave (these photos were stitched together from multiple pictures).

    Bottom line: if you want a photo capturing the entirety of the cave, the wider angle the lens, the better.

2. Sugar Loaf Loop

Length

1.9 miles (loop)

Elevation gain

354 feet

Fees

None

Trail map

Sunrise over the Sugar Loaf Loop hike in Sedona, Arizona

Where to park for the Sugar Loaf Loop

There’s not an official parking lot for the trailhead, which starts in a residential neighborhood. Some of these residential streets around the trailhead allow parking- just be super careful about checking for no parking signs!

Alternatively, you can park in the lot for the Teacup Trail trailhead and walk about 10 minutes along paved residential streets to the Sugar Loaf Loop trailhead.

What to expect along the Sugar Loaf Loop

If you’re looking for a centrally located, short, and easy hike in Sedona, the Sugar Loaf Loop is one of the very best options. It’s conveniently located in the heart of the city- I could actually walk to the trailhead from one of my Airbnbs!

From the trailhead, you’ll follow the cairns (piles of rocks along the trail left by other hikers), which lead you through beautiful juniper trees and prickly pear cacti and up the 250-foot tall Sugar Loaf Butte. From here, you can overlook some of the most-beloved red rock formations in Sedona, with close-up views of Coffee Pot Rock and, in the distance, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, and Castle Rock.

Sunrise at Coffee Pot Rock along the Sugar Loaf Loop trail in Sedona, Arizona

Tips for the Sugar Loaf Loop

  • Javelinas, a pig-like animal endemic to Sedona, are frequently found along this trail. I have the WORST luck with spotting wildlife and actually saw one right near the trailhead!

    Javelinas, in rare instances, have attacked and wounded humans and their pets. You can minimize your risk of a bad javelina encounter by not feeding or otherwise getting within 20 feet of it.
  • Much like the Birthing Cave, the terrain along this trail is very manageable, but the actual path can be a bit challenging to follow. Using the All Trails app is your best friend for these kinds of trails. Even with the spotty trail, this hike follows right along a residential neighborhood, so it would be pretty difficult to get “lost” here.
Rock formations along the Sugar Loaf Loop hike in Sedona, Arizona

3. Fay Canyon

Length

2.6 miles (out-and-back)

Elevation gain

383 feet

Fees

None

Trail map

Red rock formations illuminated by the sun along the Fay Canyon hike in Sedona, Arizona

Where to park for the Fay Canyon Trail

This hike has its own reasonably large parking lot by Sedona standards (as in, it fits more than, like, 14 cars) near its trailhead. Howeverm given its popularity, I’d still recommend coming earlier to ensure you get a spot.

What to expect along the Fay Canyon Trail

Despite the limited elevation gain on this trail, Fay Canyon provides some surprisingly spectacular views.

Woman hiking through a pine tree forests with red rock formations in the background along the Fay Canyon hike in Sedona, Arizona

One other unique benefit of this trail is that it winds through a densely forested canyon- most hikes in Sedona don’t provide shade so this is a fantastic option if you’re hiking on a particularly hot day or just not feeling up to sun exposure.

When I first got to the end of this hike, I was a little disappointed. It essentially looks like a rockslide is obscuring whatever “pay-off view” the trail was leading you to. Turns out, you should absolutely scramble up that rockslide, as, with a little bit of height reveals breathtaking views of the rocks forming the canyon. 

View of red rock formations from Fay Canyon hike in Sedona, Arizona

Tips for the Fay Canyon Trail

  • Fay Canyon has a secret offshoot to its very own natural arch! If you want to see the arch, you’ll follow the trail from the trailhead about 0.6 miles, where you should see some cairns. Follow this path to the right for another 0.1 miles and you’ll hit the arch!

    Unlike the rest of the hike, the climb up to the arch is not easy. You’ll have to scramble over loose, jagged rocks and there’s stabby cacti scattered across the ground, so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes if you come here! You can actually climb on top of the arch if you follow a faint trail to the right of the structure- it can get a bit sketchy in places so know your limits, especially if you’re a beginner!

4. Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Trail

Length

3.9 miles (loop)

Elevation gain

357 feet

Fees

Red Rock Pass, which can be purchased at recreation.gov or America the Beautiful Pass

Trail map

woman walking along the Bell Rock hike with red rock formations in the background in Sedona, Arizona

Where to park for the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Trail

There is a main lot for the Bell Rock trailhead, north of the loop trail, that’s fairly small (holding about 20 cars). Justin and I headed here around 6 pm on a weekday and the lot was completely full, with plenty of cars circling around, vulturing for a spot.

If this lot’s full, you can alternatively try parking at the Courthouse Vista South trailhead (if you plan on hiking the full loop, you’ll just be starting at the southern end of it).

As a Plan C, you can also park in the lot for the Yavapai Vista Point trailhead, about a ten-minute walk north of the Bell Rock trailhead (if you’re mainly interested in hiking to and scrambling up Bell Rock, this is a great parking option).

View of red rock formations along the Bell Rock hike in Sedona, Arizona

What to expect along the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Trail

This hike is a huge, mostly flat loop around Bell Rock, allegedly one of the strongest energy vortexes in Sedona (don’t be surprised to see folks meditating along the trail- we saw several!), and Courthouse Butte.

The one-way dirt path along the Bell Rock Access Trail to the base of Bell Rock is wide, firm, and free of barriers and should be accessible for most wheelchair hikers. The path around Bell Rock is also fairly flat, but, beyond that, the trail is inaccessible for most wheelchair hikers.

Red rock formation along the Bell Rock Trail in Sedona, Arizona

The full hike includes a scramble up Bell Rock, which is fun and offers absolutely fantastic views from the higher vantage point. This short and easy hike is a great alternative for beginners who may not be ready for the trails in Sedona that include more challenging scrambles, like Cathedral Rock, but who still want to give scrambling a try. 

Tips for the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Trail

  • While there’s plenty of signs to help you find your way along the entire loop, the trail names change often. It’s frankly a bit confusing.

    For example, if you’re starting the trail from the northern parking lot and turn left, you’ll follow signs to Bell Rock Access Trail → Bell Rock Trail → Llama Trail → Courthouse Butte Loop Trail → Big Park Loop → Bell Rock Pathway → Bell Rock Climb → Bell Rock Access Trail. Easy peasy, right?

    Really, so long as you keep both Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte to your right hand side, you should be moving in the right direction!
Man sitting with red rock formations in the background along the Bell Rock hike in Sedona, Arizona
  • It’s a bit challenging to figure out the correct path to scramble up Bell Rock, but there’s actually both signs and wire baskets full of red rocks (higher up on Bell Rock) that are meant to help you find the path. The wire baskets will eventually peter out, but you can keep climbing up as far as you’d like, finding your own pathway. 

    I’d only recommend climbing on Bell Rock if you have shoes with decent traction for the climb, as the rock is quite slick and often has steep drop-offs. If you’re looking for a good pair of shoes to bring, I’ve got my eye on picking up some hiking sandals, like the beloved Tevas (women’s or men’s) or Chaco’s (women’s or men’s).
  • This is a popular spot for mountain bikers, so keep your eyes peeled and ears open so you can jump out of their way, if needed.
View of Bell Rock, with brush in the foreground, in Sedona, Arizona

5. Thunder Mountain Trail

Length

3.0 miles (loop)

Elevation gain

360 feet

Trail map

woman holding up two fingers in front of a red rock formation along the Thunder Mountain hike in Sedona, Arizona

Where to park for the Thunder Mountain Trail

There’s a small lot for about 15 cars at the trailhead and some street parking in the surrounding residential neighborhood (as always, be careful to check for signs as to whether parking is allowed).

Fees

None

Man hiking along the Thunder Mountain hike in Sedona

What to expect along the Thunder Mountain Trail

This trail is another one of the best options for short and easy hikes in Sedona. It’s centrally located, within walking distance of some of the town’s residential areas, and isn’t super crowded.

You’ll climb up and down a series of small hills (this would be a great trail for trail running), through juniper trees and cacti. Along the trail, you’ll have a great vantage point of Thunder Mountain (thus the name!), Chimney Rock and Coffee Pot Rock, along with other red rock cliffs rising in the distance. 

Woman hiking along the Thunder Mountain hike with red rock formations in the background in Sedona, Arizona

Tips for the Thunder Mountain Trail

  • For the best views of the valley, follow the loop clockwise.
  • I love this hike due to its location right within the city of Sedona, but that does mean you can see houses along a significant amount of the trail. If you’re looking to just be out in the wilderness, this may not be the right hike for you.

What to know before trying easy hikes in Sedona

Before hitting the trails in Sedona, there’s a few things that you should know about this incredibly special place.

Listen, I LOVE Sedona- with its otherworldly red rock landscapes, alleged “energy vortexes”, and the associated New Age-y vibes, I leave a piece of my heart there every time I drive away from this tiny town of just 10,000 residents.

Red rock formations over the ponderosa pine tree forests in the Soldiers Pass hike in Sedona, Arizona

But I’m not the only one who loves visiting. Over three MILLION visitors swarm Sedona, its tarot card readers, and its hiking trails (especially its short and easy ones!) on an annual basis.

The teeny town’s infrastructure has not kept pace with this explosion in tourism, which comes with its challenges. Parking, especially at trailheads (and even restaurants!) is very difficult; traffic can be a nightmare; and trails are often packed to the brim with hikers.  

While you won’t be able to completely avoid these hurdles, here’s a couple things you can do to make your visit more pleasant:

Have a plan (and a backup plan).

Unfortunately, if you’re interested in hiking, Sedona isn’t a great place to sleep in and lazily decide your hike du jour the day of.

Couple holding hands and walking across Devil's Bridge in Sedona, Arizona

To make the most of your visit, I’d recommend researching which trails you’d like to do (which, if you’re reading this, great start!) and understanding what the parking situation is like there. Many trails only have a teeny-tiny lot and the surrounding streets do not allow street parking, so if you don’t snag a parking spot, you’re kind of just out of luck.

You should also have a Plan B (and maybe a Plan C) in mind, in case you can’t score a parking spot at your first choice.

Get there early.

I feel like I say this in every blog post I write, but getting to places first thing in the morning is honestly the BEST. You’ll have better chances at grabbing a parking spot, it’ll be way less crowded, you’ll have that dreamy golden hour light for photos, and you’ll miss the hottest part of the day!

Smiling woman walking along the Devil's Bridge trail, with red rock formations lit up at sunrise, in Sedona, Arizona

Word of warning, though- when I say you should get to trailheads early, I mean EARLY- my husband, Justin, and I usually arrived at trailheads around 7 AM or so and would either snag one of the last spots in the parking lot or would have to find street parking, sometimes up to half a mile away from the start of the hike.

So the earlier you get there, the better!

Follow the Leave No Trace principles.

This isn’t true for all Sedona residents, but I felt, at times, a bit unwelcome by a few of the locals. In fairness, I have to imagine that it may be that a small portion of Sedona’s tourists (perhaps ones that aren’t super familiar with outdoor etiquette) aren’t respectful to the town, its residents, and its beautiful land.

Woman climbing along the Thunder Mountain hike with red rock formations in the background in Sedona, Arizona

So, especially if you’re a newbie hiker looking to cut your teeth on some of the easy hikes in Sedona, let me introduce what should be every hikers’ mantra, the Leave No Trace principles. These tenets focus on respecting and preserving our natural resources, like:

Plan ahead and be prepared.

Make sure to know where you can and can’t park, whether you need to have a pass at your trail of choice, and have a backup plan, just in case.

You should also be physically prepared for the hike, like bringing along plenty of water (I take a big ol’ water bottle like this one with me everywhere) and have the appropriate hiking shoes (like these for women and these for men).

Woman sitting next to several cairns and rock formations in the background along the Devil's Bridge hike in Sedona, Arizona

Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Stay on trail as often as you can to prevent unnecessary erosion and to protect Sedona’s beautiful but fragile desert flora. I’d recommend getting the free All Trails app and following along the trail using the included trail maps and GPS feature.

Dispose of waste properly.

Don’t leave trash on the trail and if you bring your fur-babies along, please pick up after them. 

Red rock formation along the Thunder Mountain hike in Sedona, Arizona

Leave what you find.

Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Refrain from carving your name, initials, or any other “wisdom” into the beautiful red rocks. You know, hopefully, common sense stuff. 

Be considerate of others.

Don’t park in front of people’s driveways, play music on the trails, or otherwise be a jerky visitor. 

Woman jumping with greenery and red rock formations in the background along the Fay Canyon hike in Sedona, Arizona

Hopefully, if we all follow these tips, we can turn around the bad rap that visitors hiking in Sedona seem to have garnered. 


There’s so many more options for easy hikes in Sedona, but these are five of my favorites. Have you tried hiking in Sedona? What are some of your favorite trails? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “5 Easy Hikes in Sedona that are Perfect for Beginners”

  1. At the top of Fay Canyon in Sedona, if you continue to the right (east) of the sharp ridge that descended to meet you there, you can take a little known trail about a half mile further into the most beautiful box canyon you’ll ever see in Sedona. Well worth the effort!

    Reply
  2. What hiking boots does your wife have in the Thunder Mountain picture? Also, my husband has some balance issues and will be using walking poles while hiking. We are in our mid 60’s and healthly. Thanks.

    Reply

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