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The Three Best Sedona Hikes

Last Updated on September 9, 2020

Are you looking for the best trails near Sedona? Sedona is a hub for nature lovers, photographers, and adventure lovers; it’s a must-see city if you are planning to visit Red Rock Country. It is our favorite city in Arizona. We fell in love with this extremely picturesque town, surrounded by red rocks. And most of all, Sedona offers various activities with lots of hiking trails to enjoy nature. We are delighted by Sedona hiking trails. This article, will go into details of the three best Sedona hikes with maps. We did them during last visit: Devil’s Bridge Trail, Cathedral Rock Trail, and Soldier’s Pass Trail. As a dessert, we give you detailed info about off-trail Sedona Hidden Caves. Finally, you will find all the essential tips for preparing a trip to Sedona – directions, recommendations for restaurants, lodging, and attractions of this charming town.

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devil's bridge - the three best Sedona hikes

How To Get To Sedona – Directions

Sedona is fabulous city in Arizona. Below you will find all directions, and then detailed descriptions of the 3 best Sedona hikes, giving you the magic of the red rocks of Sedona. These are the most exciting trails around the town: Devil’s Bridge Trail, Cathedral Rock Trail, and Soldier’s Pass Trail with Hidden Caves.

By car

Car is the best option. You will quickly get to each of the suggested trails. If you plan to rent a car, we recommend Alamo. We have been using this company for many years, and it is our favorite one.

From Phoenix to Sedona – 119 miles, 2 hours
Sedona is located in Northern Arizona. Sedona is about 119 miles north of Phoenix Airport, which takes around 2 hours to drive. From Phoenix, take I-17 north 98.4 miles toward Flagstaff, then take exit 298 and turn left onto Highway 179. Continue 14.2 miles on Highway 179 to Highway 89A. The intersection of Highway 179 and Highway 89A.

From Flagstaff to Sedona – 27 miles, 40 minutes
From Flagstaff take I-17 south. 2 miles south of the junction of I-40 and I-17, exit at Highway 89A (exit 337). It takes you on a breathtaking 25 mile drive through Oak Creek Canyon. The road is winding, but the views are amazing. There is also a large selection of lodging and hiking trails.
But check the weather, if it is snowing, the road might be closed, so then take I-17 south from Flagstaff about 41 miles to State Highway 179. From there, go about 15 miles north on Highway 179, and you will enter Sedona. This route takes about an hour from Flagstaff to Sedona. It’s 56 miles.

From Las Vegas to Sedona – 274 -300 miles, 4.5 hours
If you are going to Sedona from Las Vegas, take I-515/US-93/US-95 toward Henderson. Take Highway 93 south to I-40, then I-40 east to Flagstaff. Take I-17 south from Flagstaff to either: the exit 337 through to Sedona via Oak Creek Canyon or, if the weather is bad, to Highway 179 to Sedona (see directions from Flagstaff).

Sedona
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By air

The most convenient airports are Phoenix and Las Vegas. For both airports, we give you links for further action to prepare your adventure, as best flight and rental car bookings. Besides, these links already have the destination airport selected for your convenience. For price searches, enter your departure airport and dates.
Phoenix, AZ (PHX): it is around 119 miles by car to Sedona. Find the best Flights to Phoenix on TripAdvisor. Check the best car rental options in Phoenix.
Las Vegas, NV (LAS): it is around 300 miles by car to Sedona. Find the best flights to Las Vegas on TripAdvisor. Check the best car rental options in Las Vegas.

View from the Cathedral Rock trail end, Sedona

Directions from Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim

Sedona is often combined with a trip to Grand Canyon South Rim. You will find directions on getting from Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim below. And if you want to know the best viewpoints of Grand Canyon South Rim, check out our separate article.

So, to get to GCNP, take Highway 89A to I-17 N to I-40 W. Take I-40 west toward Williams to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north directly to the main entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (West). 114 miles, 2 hours 5 minutes
If the weather and road condition is good, you can take Highway 89A to I-17 N to Flagstaff. Take Highway 180 west to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north directly to the main entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
It is around 108 miles and 2 hours driving.

Finally, if you want to start your trip in Grand Canyon from Desert View -East Entrance take Highway 89A to I-17 N to Flagstaff. Take Highway 89 north to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 west to the East Entrance of the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It takes you about 2 hours 45 minutes, around 135 miles.
However, if you are looking for an organized trip to Grand Canyon, we can recommend you Grand Canyon Sunset Tour from Sedona. Because during this tour, you will see the best viewpoints on South Rim, with our favorite spot for sunset – Lipan Point and Desert View Watchtower.

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When To Go To Sedona – Weather in Sedona

Sedona is perfect place to visit year-round. Each season the town looks fabulous, and weather is good enough for hiking.
In Sedona, the summers are hot and mostly clear, and the winters are cold and partly cloudy. For the year, the temperature typically varies from 35°F to 94°F and is rarely below 27°F or above 101°F. But for sure, the spring and fall are the most popular times of the year. Mainly due to Sedona’s ideal weather conditions – daily high temperatures in the mid-60s to low 80s Fahrenheit degrees. So, the best time of the year to visit Sedona for warm-weather activities are from late May to early July and from late August to early October.

However, Sedona, in low seasons, such as late summer and winter, is also a great idea. It’s less crowded and still beautiful. Only about once a decade, usually in February, the temperature here stay below 33 °F for the entire day. There are only couple days per month on average in Sedona when the minimum temperature drops to 32, 40, or 50 °F or below, so in our opinion, winter is also suitable for a trip.

the best three sedona hikes

Where to Stay in Sedona – Lodging

Hotels

Where to stay in Sedona? Well, it depends on your budget and traveling style. Sedona is a stylish town, offers unique lodging with stunning views. The accommodation choice is large and varied. During the high season, we suggest booking accommodation for several months in advance.
Our first choice in Sedona is Best Western, it has a reasonable price and great quality, and most of all the location is excellent too. Below are some other suggestions.

Luxury Hotels:
A Sunset Chateau offers personalized service with stunning red rock views. There is a garden, patio, outdoor pool, and hot tub, as well as an on-site tennis court. A full breakfast and free Wi-Fi access are available. It has excellent guest reviews.
L’Auberge De Sedona is featuring free WiFi, a spa center and an outdoor pool. L’Auberge De Sedona offers a sun terrace and views of the mountains, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or a drink at the bar.

Mid-Range Hotels:
Arabella Hotel Sedona offers a seasonal outdoor pool and a year-around hot tub. Rooms feature free WiFi and cable TV.
Sky Ranch Lodge is located 6,2 mile from Chapel of the Holy Cross; Sky Ranch Lodge has many amenities, including an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, a garden, and free WiFi. This 2-star hotel offers a concierge service and a free shuttle service.

Budget Hotels:
Days Inn by Wyndham Sedona offers great quality for a reasonable price.
Sedona Village Lodge offers pet-friendly accommodation in Sedona. Rooms include a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Finally, it’s good quality and reviews.

Campgrounds

If you are looking for a campground, we can recommend Rancho Sedona RV Park in Sedona, with 84 spaces available, free Wi-Fi, restrooms, showers, and laundry. It is next to Sedona Stream, so fishing is possible, too.
Distant Drums RV Resort is located in Camp Verde close to Sedona. It offers amazing views of the mountains, and excellent reviews.

The Best Sedona Hikes

Below you will find detailed info about our the three best hiking trails in Sedona. They are incredibly picturesque; the views are spectacular. Easy – Devil’s Bridge Trail, moderate – Soldier’s Pass Trail (with Hidden Caves), and difficult one – Cathedral Rock Trail. These trails are short. In total, two days is enough to do them. Besides descriptions, we also included trail maps for each hike.

PROTIP: If you are planning a more extended stay in the area, we highly recommend this Sedona Hiking Guide, which contains 120 of Sedona’s hiking trails and loop hikes. It’s well written and accurately describing the terrain/difficulty. It’s is a new edition from 2020, so all information was updated.

Before you hit the trail check our complete, ready to download & print Day Hiking Packing List. It helps you prepare for your hiking adventure!

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Soldiers Pass Trail

Devil’s Bridge Trail

Basic Devil’s Bridge Trail Info & Map

Level: Easy to Moderate (it is short and easy trail, but if you decide to hike to the top of the Devil’s Bridge the last part is moderate)
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Hiking Distance: 4,2 miles round trip from the Devil’s Bridge parking area, 2 miles round trip from the trailhead – possible only if you have only four-wheel drive.
Trailhead Location: Devil’s Bridge Parking Lot, Dry Creek Road, Sedona, AZ 34.9028° N, 111.8138° W
Parking at Trail: There is ample parking; however, Devil’s Bridge is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona, so expect to see many other hikers. The best idea is to park and go for the hike early in the morning.
Devil’s Bridge Trail Features: Natural sandstone bridge; above all, it’s one of the best Sedona spots for both sunrise and sunset
Hiking Tips : drones are prohibited; take hiking boots
Photo Tips: it’s a good spot for sunrise and sunset; it’s a great idea to take a wide-angle lens, we use Nikkor 14-24 and Canon 16-35; and standard zoom lens 24-70 for Nikon or Canon.

Devil’s Bridge Trail Description

If you are looking for epic views, this hike is for you. It is the most popular trail in Sedona, because of its unique rock formation. Devil’s Bridge is the most massive natural sandstone arch in this area. It’s an easy hike, also excellent if you are traveling with kids or dogs.

The trail is 4.2 miles go and back, and it leads to a beautiful natural sandstone arch, but all the way, the views are spectacular.
You can go on the top of the bridge, or you can admire it from the end of the trail. It is a busy trail and you will share 1 mile with jeeps, ATVs, bikers, hikers. Why? Because some people left their car at Devil’s Bridge parking area. It is still a 1-mile road open for four-wheel drive. Once you reach the trailhead, you’ll have a steep hike for one more mile to the natural arch.

The trail is relatively easy to follow, and you’ll find the path start rather easy, but eventually, you will start to gain a bit of uphill on your hike towards Devil’s Bridge. Follow the trail markers that point the way from the parking area. The first part of the trail is full and relaxed. The second part of the path is narrower and steeper, but still not too difficult. About 3/4 of the way up, the trail splits. The right trail goes to the top of the arch, and the left trail goes beneath the arch. If you decided to climb to the arch, it might be a little challenging, but it’s worth doing. It’s a fairly wide bridge, but make sure to be careful and exercise caution, especially if the bridge is wet or icy.

If you would like to avoid the crowds, start your hike early in the morning. The sun for photos is great early in the morning, too. Sunset is also suitable for this hike and pictures of Devil’s Bridge.

Devil's Bridge Trail in Sedona
Devil's Bridge Trail in Sedona

Soldier’s Pass Trail with Hidden Sedona Caves (Soldier’s Arch)

Basic Soldier’s Pass Trail Info & Map

Level: Moderate (Difficult when climbing up into the hidden cave out of the trail)
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Hiking Distance: 4,5 miles round trip
Trailhead Location: Soldier’s Pass Trailhead, opens at 8 A.M. Rim Shadows Drive Sedona, AZ 86336 / 34°53’03.4″N 111°47’01.8″W
Parking at Trail: Very limited, so arrive early.
Soldier’s Pass Trail Features: the best hike in Sedona, with Seven Sacred Pools, Sinkhole, Sedona Hidden Caves, Sedona wilderness trails
Hiking Tips: take hiking boots, water, and snacks. Walk to hidden caves (Soldier’s Arch), off-trail it’s not difficult, only climbing up to the cave is a bit challenging, but views are spectacular without climbing, too
Photo Tips: the light is better in the morning, but it is good to be in the hidden cave around noon; it’s also a great idea to take a wide lens and standard zoom lens; we use Nikkor 14-24 and Canon 16-35; and standard zoom lens 24-70 for Nikon or Canon.

Soldier’s Pass Trail Description

Soldiers Pass Trail is a moderate trail that offers sweeping views of the Red Rocks, unique geology, hidden caves, hidden arches, and finally, US Calvary history. It’s a great hike. We love this trail; red cliffs in the wilderness are breathtaking. The trail is well-marked, so you don’t have to worry, enjoy the views.

The trail takes you through a spectacular canyon landscape. You hike through past the giant sinkhole – Devils Kitchen, along the Seven Sacred Pools, up to Soldier’s Arch, and then up 509 feet atop Brins Mesa.

One of the highlights of the trail is the impressive sinkhole, which was reported as a major collapse event in the 1880s (retold by Albert E. Thompson in 1968), and then, a subsequent event in 1989 increased the size of the sinkhole by 1/3.

But for us, the most scenic and photographic spot is Seven Sacred Pools, which is an important religious site for the local Indigenous population. During the wet season, the pools look like waterfalls.

Finally, on this trial, you walk in the footsteps of both the US Calvary and the Sinagua Indians native to the Sedona area. The US cavalry came through this area in the 19th century. General George Crook and his soldiers blazed a trail along an old Indian footpath which connected a perennial water source, the Seven Sacred Pools, to the lush valley of the Dry Creek Basin. The Soldier Pass Trail provides through the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area.

After Seven Sacred Pools, you will continue on the Soldier Pass Trail, which intersects an off-road trail, and continue until you reach a distinct fork in the path marked by a wilderness area boundary sign. The main trail Soldier Pass takes the left fork, and the right fork leads to a hidden arch and hidden caves (aka Soldier’s Arch).

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Assuming you continue on the Soldier Pass Trail, the trail will start to become a bit steeper and rockier until you get on the Brins Mesa. It’s a great idea to take the Brins Mesa trail too. Return to the trailhead the same way you came up!
If you are interested in hidden caves, read the chapter below.

Seven Sacred Pools, Soldiers Pass Trail
Soldiers Pass Trail
Hidden Caves from Soldiers Pass Trail
Devils Kitchen

Hidden Sedona Caves (Soldier’s Arch)

If you’re looking for an adventure, check out Soldier’s Arch with Hidden Caves, a natural arch, and caves within the canyon wall. To get there, you will take a side trail (on the right side) about 1.2 miles from the parking lot.

It is off the trail path. After Seven Sacred Pools, look for the “wilderness area” sign. Since the path is not well marked, keep an eye out for a small sign that is nailed to a tree that says “National Forest Wilderness: Closed to motor vehicles, motorized equipment, hang gliders and bicycles.” Take this path for about 0.5 mile towards the canyon walls. Be sure to hike with caution. It’s moderate off-trail. The most challenging part is when you decide to climb inside the hidden caves. However, it’s possible. So take hiking boots, and through the rock, you will get inside the mysterious caves. It’s a gorgeous, mystic place!

Hidden Sedona Caves (Soldier's Arch)
Hidden Sedona Caves (Soldier's Arch)
Hidden Sedona Caves (Soldier's Arch)

Cathedral Rock Trail

Basic Cathedral Rock Trail Info & Map

Level: Difficult (most of the trail is moderate, last part – about 10 minutes climbing is steep)
Elevation Gain: 645 feet
Hiking Distance: 1.4 miles round trip
Trailhead Location: Begins on Back ‘O Beyond Road, 500 Back O Beyond Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336.
34°49’30.7″N 111°47’18.3″W
Parking at Trail: There is a large parking but might be challenging, so it’s good to be earlier.
Cathedral Rock Trail Features: Beautiful Sedona views, red rock pillars, one of the best Sedona trail for sunset
Hiking Tips: First of all, take boots with excellent traction, because this is more of a climb than an average hike. Take gloves (useful for the last part of the trail). There is not too much shade on this trail, so pack plenty of water, take head protection, and sunscreen. But take a jacket too, because in the low season it might be chilling in the last part of the hike.
Photo Tips: the view from the top is spectacular. It’s the best point for sunset. Take a wide lens, but the zoom will be useful, too. Take a tripod if you are going for the sunset.

Cathedral Rock Trail Description

Cathedral Rock is stunning and challenging because it is a steeper trail. When you look at the rock from the bottom, you are wondering if you can hike it up. The top of the mountain offers spectacular views of the red rocks and the town. It’s a short but demanding hike. You wlll need to focus and take caution. Bring excellent hiking boots too. The climb is short and steep into the saddle points or gaps of Cathedral Rock.

The trail runs up the east side of Cathedral Rock, across a relatively flat area for the first 300 feet. After that it is steep, and ascends the rocks, crossing the Templeton Trail. Some sections are quite steep and can be a bit tricky because stones might be slippery. It’s a good idea to take gloves because you will have to use your hands on the rocks too. There is a marked trail, but you are not always following a trail. It requires your caution to choose the best part of the path. However, there are enough places to climb. If you have doubts, there are a lot of hikers, so observe which part of the trail they take, and which part is the easiest.

When you finally reach the ledge below the top, the hardest part begins. You’ll see a gap between two scales. Use your hands and footholds to climb off a chasm. The highest point on the trail is the saddle between two massive towers, and this is the turnaround point. It’s the most challenging part, but the shortest one. It takes about 10-15 minutes to climb to the top. But if the weather is bad (rain or snow), it might be too slippery to climb to the top. On the whole trail, you will be rewarded with excellent and most spectacular Sedona views. Finally, return the same route you hiked to the top, but most of all, be careful all the path going down.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail, the best Sedona hikes
Cathedral Rock Trail

How to Prepare for Hikes in Sedona

First of all, take boots with excellent traction. No matter if it’s summer or winter, take plenty of water and healthy snacks. Wear a warm jacket and trekking pants. Remember to protect your head. So take a summer hat or warm hat. And don’t forget your gloves. Finally, take a map.

Read our article with the full Day Hiking Packing List, which helps you prepare for your hiking adventure!


What To Do In Sedona After Hike?

Go For A Walk

Sedona is an incredibly picturesque town with impressive architecture that perfectly blends with the surrounding red rocks. Everything looks like a postcard or a picture. Probably that’s why it’s a favorite place for many artists. Just walking the streets of Sedona will give you great joy. So, discover this fairytale architecture full of interesting sculptures. Enter souvenir shops and art galleries. Sedona offers impressive art.

Visit Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village

It’s the must-see place in Sedona. For us, the best one, if you like art. So, your unforgettable Sedona experience must include spending time at the famous Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh). Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village offers an exceptional collection of Sedona art galleries and shops surrounded by four outstanding restaurants, including a micro-brewery. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque, meaning the “best of everything,” and it is Sedona landmark since the 1970s. It has vine-covered walls and magnificent arched entryways. As a result, Tlaquepaque offers spectacular art expressions in every medium from Western and bronze sculptures, traditional ceramics, glass creations, contemporary paintings, and photography. Finally, breathtaking jewelery. The place is so beautiful that you will probably go back there several times.

Sedona

Visit Chapel of the Holy Cross

You can visit this beautiful Chapel with a spectacular view by yourself, or you can take a tour combined with other attractions of Sedona, or only Chapel tour with the guide. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, sitting high atop the red rocks in Sedona, was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. The chapel was completed in 1956.

Furthermore, the main feature of the chapel is a 90 ft (27.4 m) tall iron cross on the southwestern wall, which serves both aesthetic and structural purposes. A sculptress by the name of Marguerite Staude was inspired by the powerful image of the steel framework in the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers.

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona

Have a Good Dinner

First of all, Sedona has many excellent restaurants. One of our favorite places is the Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits, where we recently had dinner on Thanksgiving Day. Excellent menu, delicious meat, and salads, a wide selection of wines and desserts. Finally, service at a high level, too. It was a perfect evening. But if you are looking for something exclusive for dinner, it’s a great idea to choose one of Tlaquepaque’s five exceptional restaurants. For example, enjoy excellent Mexican cuisine at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano. Try their signature Arizona-style chimichangas or their famous margarita.

Taste Arizona Wine

We love wine, and we always take the opportunity to try local wines. We did not expect Arizona have such excellent wines. It’s worth trying Arizona wines. In most stores in Sedona, you can taste the wines of Arizona. So, we highly recommended it. However, if you have half the day off, it’s a perfect idea to take wine and jeep tour of Sedona, and taste four exquisite wines at one of Arizona’s top wineries. In addition, Verde Valley might be one of Arizona’s best-kept secrets. Just 10 miles from Sedona starts the heart of northern Arizona’s Wine Country, due to it’s a great idea to take this tour.

Great tours around Sedona, suits to your needs and interests find on viator.com!

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Sedona

Take a Day Trip From Sedona

Sedona is an excellent place for one-day trip around. A great choice is a trip to Grand Canyon. You have many options. You can take Scenic Rail Tour or Classic Road Tour. If you like adventure, jeep trips around the picturesque area, are a great idea. For example, Ancient Ruins Tour from Sedona by jeep, finally, if you like to combine jeep with climb take Broken Arrow and Scenic Rim.

But for sure it is worth to see National Monuments in Arizona. So, during the Five National Monuments Tour, you will see Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, Tuzigoot, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater National Monuments.
Another suggestion is red rock balloon adventures.
Finally, check the best tours around Sedona on viator.com!

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Hi, we are Agnes & Chris! Welcome to The Van Escape! We are travelers, photographers, and bloggers. Our goal is to share travel & photo experience and inspire you to outdoor adventures through America. We love wildlife, off the beaten path places, soaking in hot springs, and van life. We also like cities by night and tasting local food & wine. We give you ready itineraries, hints, and essential tools to prepare you for your unforgettable lifetime journey. We only describe the places we have been, which we know and recommend without hesitation. All photos are also ours. We are so glad you’re here!

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