If you’re looking for some 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 a couple of weeks in Sedona, lacing up my hiking boots and searching for some of the city’s best trails. I’ve hunted down 5 incredible 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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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!
What should I know before trying the easy hikes in Sedona?
Sedona is a special place- with its otherworldly red rock landscapes, alleged “energy vortexes”, and the associated New Age-y vibes, I leave a tiny piece of my heart there every time I have to leave this tiny town of just 10,000 residents.
But I’m not the only one who loves visiting- over 3 million visitors swarm the town, its tarot card readers, and its hiking trails (especially its easy ones!) on an annual basis. The small 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.
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!), 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), and having a Plan B in case you can’t score a parking spot at your first choice.
Which leads me to my next point…
- 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!
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!
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.
So, especially if you’re a beginner hiker, 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. I covered this above, but make sure to know where you can and can’t park (and don’t park where you’re not allowed to), 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).
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Stay on trail as often as you can to prevent unnecessary erosion (I’d recommend getting the free All Trails app and following along the trail using the included trail maps and GPS feature) and to protect Sedona’s beautiful but fragile desert flora.
- Dispose of waste properly. Don’t leave trash on the trail and if you bring your fur-babies along, please pick up after them.
- 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.
Hopefully, if we all follow these tips, we can turn around the bad rap that visitors hiking in Sedona seem to have garnered.
Five Easy Hikes in Sedona
With all that “respect our beautiful planet” stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the best easy hikes in Sedona! While I will be listing these in order of difficulty (from easiest to most difficult), all of these hikes should be manageable for most beginner hikers. If a trail is accessible for wheelchair hikers, I’ve noted that below as well.
1. The Birthing Cave
Length: 2.0 miles (out-and-back)
Elevation Gain: 291 feet
Parking: There’s a handful of spots at the trailhead itself and also some spots where you can park along Long Canyon Road north of the trailhead.
For whatever reason, this trail seems to be a bit more under-the-radar than some other hikes in Sedona (for now), so you have a pretty decent chance of snagging a 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.
Description: For such an easy hike as it is, the Birthing Cave has quite a spectacular payoff. After just a flat one-mile hike out, you’ll climb up a short incline to reach a tall and narrow cave, located on the edge of a cliff, 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
- While the terrain of the trail is easy-peasy to hike, this trail is not well-marked and can be challenging 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. As noted above, I’d also strongly recommend downloading the free All Trails map and making sure you stay on the trail using the included map.
- 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 and, and 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
Parking: There’s not an official parking lot for the trailhead, which starts in a residential neighborhood. Some of the streets around the trailhead allow parking (be sure to be super careful about checking for signs) or alternatively, you can park in the lot for the Teacup Trail trailhead and walk about 10 minutes on paved residential streets to the Sugar Loaf Loop trailhead.
Description: If you’re looking for an easy and centrally located hike (I could literally walk to this trailhead from one of the Airbnbs I stayed in!), the Sugar Loaf Loop is a fantastic option. Follow the cairns (piles of rocks along the trail left by other hikers), which will lead you through juniper trees and prickly pear cacti and up the 250-foot tall Sugar Loaf Butte, which overlooks 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.
- Javelinas, a pig-like animal endemic to Sedona, are frequently found along this trail. 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.
- Again, 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 (seriously, I’m not affiliated or sponsored by them- I just use their app all the time!). Even with the spotty trail, this hike is along a residential neighborhood for most of the trail, so it would be pretty difficult to get “lost” here.
3. Fay Canyon
Length: 2.6 miles (out-and-back)
Elevation gain: 383 feet
Parking: For Sedona, this trailhead has a reasonably large parking lot (as in, it fits more than, like, 14 cars), but, given the hike’s popularity, I’d still recommend coming earlier to ensure you get a spot.
Description: Despite the flatness of this trail, Fay Canyon provides some surprisingly spectacular views. There is limited elevation gain on the trail, which leads you through a 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 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.
- 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 or America the Beautiful Pass
Parking: 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) or, alternatively, in 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).
Description: 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.
The full hike includes a scramble up Bell Rock, which is fun and offers absolutely fantastic views from the higher vantage point. This hike is a great alternative for beginners who may not yet be ready for hikes in Sedona that include more challenging scrambles, like Cathedral Rock, but who still want to give scrambling a try.
- While there’s plenty of trail signs to help you find your way along the entire loop, the trail names change often and are not always super intuitive.
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!
- 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 Bell Rock 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.
5. Thunder Mountain Trail
Length: 3.0 miles (loop)
Elevation gain: 360 feet
Parking: 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).
Description: This trail is another great option- it’s centrally located, within walking distance of some of Sedona’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.
- 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.
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!