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Tag: Coconino National Forest

Hiking Guide: Bear Mountain

Overview

This Sedona hike takes you to the top of Bear Mountain, which rises to 6,447 feet above sea level.

From the summit, you will get 360 degree views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see as far as the San Francisco Peaks, 50 miles to the north and Mingus Mountain, 30 miles to the south.

The hike is strenuous but not overwhelmingly so. From the Bear Mountain Trailhead, the grade is evenly spread throughout the 2.5 mile hike to the peak’s high point.

You will gain 1,800 feet in total and be treated with imposing views of red rock spires, pinnacles, and canyons for the entire hike.

Arrow and I pose in front of Fay Canyon, below the Bear Mountain Trail
Arrow and I pose in front of Fay Canyon, below the Bear Mountain Trail

Quick Facts

Hiking the Bear Mountain Trail

In December 2020, Kim, Arrow, and I hiked the Bear Mountain Trail.

Note: There is a pit toilet at the trailhead

Kim in front of the Bear Mountain Trail sign
Kim in front of the Bear Mountain Trail sign

We parked in the shared lot between Bear Mountain and Doe Mountain, off Boynton Canyon Road.

At 11:25 a.m. on a Wednesday, there were plenty of spaces available and the trail was not too busy.

There was only one other group at the summit when we arrived.

From the parking lot, you will cross Boynton Pass Road and go through a gate to access the trail.

The only flat portion of Bear Mountain Trail is at the very beginning
The only flat portion of Bear Mountain Trail is at the very beginning

The first 0.25 miles are flat but the rest of the hike is a somewhat steep climb all the way to the top.

On a cool day, if you pace yourself and take small breaks to eat and drink, you should waltz right up with no issues.

Navigating the trail is pretty straightforward and there are white marks on the rock to guide the way in more confusing areas.

On Sedona trails, routes are usually marked by cairns. These are 3-foot pillars of rock bound with chicken wire. This hike does not have those so keep that in mind.

The Bear Mountain Trail does not have any junctions with other trails, so as long as you stay on trail you will not get lost.

Before our hike, we stopped at Sedonuts and bought a pink “Homer Simpson” donut to share halfway up Bear Mountain. It was a good decision.

Views from the trail
Views from the trail

Map

Location

From Highway 89A in Sedona, turn onto Dry Creek Road and follow it 2 miles, then turn left onto Boynton Pass Road.

Continue on Boynton Pass Road for 3.7 miles then turn left into the Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain shared parking lot.

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Photos

Looking north from the Bear Mountain summit
Looking north from the Bear Mountain summit
The end of the trail is marked by this sign
The end of the trail is marked by this sign
A few hoodoos along the trail
A few hoodoos along the trail

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

Hiking Guide: Doe Mountain

Overview

If you are looking for a short but steep hike near Sedona with great views, then Doe Mountain is the perfect option. The trail takes you to the top of a mesa with 400 feet of relief from the valley floor.

From the main overlook on the eastern side of the mesa, you will look out across a vast valley to Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte, and Soldier Heights. To the northeast, you will see the red and white cliffs that surround Boynton Canyon.

Be prepared to ascend 400 feet in 0.7 miles. This one will get your heart pumping but remember, it is over fast!

Max (the author) and Maia pose at the western edge of Doe Mountain
Max (the author) and Maia pose at the western edge of Doe Mountain

Quick Facts

Hiking the Doe Mountain Trail

In December 2020, Kim, Maia, Arrow, and I hiked the Doe Mountain Trail.

Note: There is a pit toilet at the trailhead

Max (the author) next to the Doe Mountain Trailhead sign
Max (the author) next to the Doe Mountain Trailhead sign

We parked in the shared lot between Bear Mountain and Doe Mountain, off Boynton Canyon Road.

At 2:45 p.m. on a Friday, there were a few spaces available but the trail was somewhat busy.

Still, we had the main overlook area to ourselves for 30 minutes or so.

Looking east from the top of Doe Mountain. High points from right to left: Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte, Soldier Heights
Looking east from the top of Doe Mountain. High points from right to left: Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte, Soldier Heights

From the top, I noticed a hodgepodge of narrow paths all over the mesa, leading in every direction. Maia was in the mood to stay put and explore her immediate surroundings, so we did not explore these.

I think it would be fun to loop around the whole mesa and soak in views from every angle.

After a very pleasant break, we turned around and went back the way we came. On the way down, the sun sank low in the sky, the lighting softened, and the cliffs turned a coppery red.

Looking west from the top of Doe Mountain
Looking west from the top of Doe Mountain

Map

Location

From Highway 89A in Sedona, turn onto Dry Creek Road and follow it 2 miles, then turn left onto Boynton Pass Road.

Continue on Boynton Pass Road for 3.7 miles then turn left into the Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain shared parking lot.

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Photos

Kim and Arrow on the western edge of Doe Mountain
Kim and Arrow on the western edge of Doe Mountain

Maia presents one of many interesting rocks she found on the trail
Maia presents one of many interesting rocks she found on the trail
Arrow the Aussie Cattle Dog
Arrow the Aussie Cattle Dog

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

Fay Canyon Hiking Guide

Overview

The hike through Fay Canyon is short, easy, and beautiful, which makes it an excellent choice for groups with young children and elderly members. For the more adventurous, there is an arch and several ruins here to explore as well.

Situated northeast of Sedona, Fay Canyon is eroded from Bear Mountain, which rises 1,600 feet above. The trail follows a wash for 1.2 miles along the canyon bottom and is surrounded by towering red sandstone walls.

Less than 1/2 mile in, there is a spur trail to the right that takes you to Fay Canyon Arch. Despite the arch’s enormity, it is difficult to make out from the main trail and the turnoff is somewhat unclear. However, with enough patience and nosing around you should be able to find it.

Fay Canyon Arch
Fay Canyon Arch. February 2019

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 2.4 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 215 feet
  • Fee: Free, but Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass are required to park
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Description

The hike begins at Fay Canyon Trailhead, found at a parking lot off of Boynton Pass Road. The trail is on the other side of the road and takes you on a sandy footpath that winds through the piñon and juniper forest as it follows along a wash.

About 1/2 mile from the trailhead, there is a spur trail that leads to a giant natural arch called Fay Canyon Arch. The turnoff is on the right but is often washed out so it may be hard to see. If you look at the lower portion of the cliffs to your right, you might be able to make out the arch.

If you see the “wine glass”, an appropriately named rock formation to the right, you have passed the arch. Backtrack a few hundred feet and continue searching for it.

Notice the “Wine Glass” on the right side of this photo. February 2019

After a little over a mile of hiking up canyon, you will reach the end of the maintained trail. At this point, you have the option to continue exploring the left or right fingers of the canyon. Be sure to scan the cliff walls in this area for alcoves. Some of these contain ruins left by the prehistoric Sinagua people. Please do not disturb these or remove any artifacts.

Kim next to an ancient ruin in Fay Canyon. February 2019

Location

From Sedona, head west on Arizona State Route 89A for 3 miles. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road. After 2 miles, Boynton Pass Road turns into Dry Creek Road. Continue for 2.9 miles on Boynton Pass Road then turn left into the parking lot.

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Map

Fay Canyon Map

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Topographic Maps

Photos

Looking to the west from under Fay Canyon Arch. February 2019

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

Soldier Pass to Brins Mesa Hiking Guide

Overview

Soldier Pass Trail is a popular hike that is typically accessed from Soldier Pass Trailhead in West Sedona. It can be done as a short 2 mile out and back or combined with Brins Mesa Trail, Cibola Pass Trail, and Jordan Trail for a 5 mile loop. If you are angling for more distance, you can cover all of Brins Mesa Trail also, for a rewarding 9 mile total.

From Soldier Pass Trailhead, you won’t have to hike far to see some amazing sights. In the first 1/4 mile, you’ll arrive at Devil’s Kitchen, a sinkhole that formed when an underground cavern collapsed.

Another 1/2 mile up the trail is Seven Sacred Pools, a series of desert pools that almost always hold water, even during Sedona’s driest months (May and June). After heavy rainfall, the pools are replenished by temporary waterfalls.

Seven Sacred Pools. February 2019
Seven Sacred Pools. February 2019

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 5 mile loop
  • Hike Time: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 900 feet
  • Fee: Free, but Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass are required to park
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking the Soldier Pass to Brins Mesa Loop

Limited parking is available at Soldier Pass Trailhead, so I recommend getting there early. You can also improve your chances by avoiding weekends and holidays. If the lot is full, you can start the hike from Jordan Road Trailhead or Brins Mesa Trailhead instead.

From Soldier Pass Trailhead, head right onto Soldier Pass Trail. To the left, you will see Forest Service Road 9904, a 4WD road that is used by local jeep tours. After 1/4 mile, you will come to a large sinkhole called Devil’s Kitchen. Bear left here and at the next junction, bear right to continue on Soldier Pass Trail.

Devil's Kitchen Sedona
Devil’s Kitchen, a sinkhole formed by a collapsed cavern.

About 1/2 mile from the sinkhole, you will arrive at Seven Sacred Pools. Look for it on the left as it is easy to miss if you are moving fast. From here, continue up the trail as it climbs up to Soldier Pass, elevation 4,950 feet. On the way up, look to the right to see some interesting arches and caves.

This cave can be found off trail. Remember to leave no trace if you choose to go here.

Once you reach the top of Soldier Pass, bear right onto Brins Mesa Trail. From here you will hike along the flat tabletop of the mesa for 1/2 mile before descending precipitously into Mormon Canyon. Here, you will take in sweeping views of the red rock countryside before reaching Jordan Road Trailhead (aka Jim Thompson Trailhead).

Mormon Canyon Sedona
Views of Mormon Canyon on the descent from Brins Mesa.

At the parking lot, bear right onto Cibola Pass Trail and continue for another 1/2 mile to the next junction – bear right here onto Jordan Trail. After 1/4 mile, you will run into the Devil’s Kitchen (the sinkhole) again. From here, you can retrace your footsteps on Soldier Trail back to Soldier Pass Trailhead where you started.

The Mitten Sedona
The Mitten from Cibola Pass Trail

Location

From Sedona, head west on Arizona State Route 89A then turn right onto Soldier Pass Road. Continue 1.4 miles then turn right onto Shadow Rock Drive (which turns into Canyon Shadows Drive). Finally, turn left onto a dirt road (Forest Service Road 9904) and you will arrive at a small parking lot.

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Map

Soldier Pass to Brins Mesa Map

Resources

Guidebooks

Topographic Maps

Photos

Wilson Mountain from Brins Mesa
Looking toward Wilson Mountain from Brins Mesa. February 2019
An agave “century plant” on Soldier Trail. February 2019
Wilson Mountain as seen from Mormon Canyon
The lower flanks of Wilson Mountain as seen from Mormon Canyon. February 2019
Brins Mesa Trailhead Sedona
The view from Brins Mesa Trailhead. February 2019

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

Cathedral Rock Hiking Guide

Overview

Cathedral Rock is an oft-photographed butte near Sedona. It is quite popular and deservedly so, given the rock formation’s striking beauty. To get a good view of it and the surrounding landscape, pay a visit to Red Rock Crossing or Red Rock State Park. If you are interested in a more intimate experience with Cathedral, read further.

There is a short but steep trail you can take to the saddle of Cathedral Rock, where imposing views of its red sandstone pillars can be enjoyed up close. It’s only 1 1/2 miles out and back with 600 feet elevation gain, but after the first quarter mile, the dirt footpath gives way to a slick rock scramble. The hike is non-technical, the route is well-marked by cairns, and it is sure to get your heart rate up.

Cathedral Rock's sandstone spires during golden hour
Cathedral’s sandstone spires during golden hour. March 2017

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.5 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 600 feet
  • Fee: Free, but Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass are required to park
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Description

If you have read about or spent any time in Sedona, then you have probably heard about “vortexes”, defined as specific locations where energy inspires self-healing and good feelings.

I do not lay claim to any mystical knowledge about vortexes, but I can tell you that Cathedral Rock is a special place; if only for its heavenly views, colorful sandstone palette, and the way its rocks contour delightfully against magical skies.

This is a fantastic hike at sunrise, sunset, and even at night – for star gazing or astrophotography. If you happen to go here at night, be sure to bring a headlamp as it is difficult to follow the route down, even with one.

Prickly pear cactus at Cathedral Rock
A prickly pear cactus creeps along a ledge at Cathedral Rock

Location

From Sedona, turn onto Arizona State Route 179 and head south. Turn right onto Back o’ Beyond Road, continue 0.6 miles then turn right at Cathedral Rock Trailhead.

Cathedral Rock is located within the Red Rock District of Coconino National Forest, just a few miles from Sedona.

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Photos

Cathedral Rock
Another great view of Cathedral. December 2019
Cathedral Rock reflections
Cathedral Rock reflection. December 2019
Cathedral Rock from Baldwin Trail
Cathedral from Baldwin Trail. February 2019
Looking west from the saddle at Cathedral Rock
Looking west from the saddle at Cathedral. March 2017
Courthouse Rock (left) and Bell Rock (right) from Cathedral Rock
Courthouse Rock (left) and Bell Rock (right) from Cathedral. March 2017
Cathedral Rock is comprised of colorful sandstone spires
Cathedral is comprised of colorful sandstone spires. January 2018
At sunset, the rocks light up in a myriad of ways at Cathedral Rock
At sunset, the rocks light up in a myriad of ways at Cathedral. March 2017

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

Devil’s Bridge Trail Hiking Guide

Overview

Formed by a wash that flows underneath it, Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch near Sedona. It is also one of the most popular hikes in the area.

Given its massive scale, photogenic red cliff backdrop, short trail, and close proximity to town, the arch’s allure is no surprise. On a busy day, smiling tourists line up to walk across Devil’s Bridge and capture a prized photo atop the arch. Take special care to be courteous to others and exercise caution as you navigate this spectacular natural formation.

Engelmann's prickly pear blossoms at Devil's Bridge
Engelmann’s prickly pear blossoms at Devil’s Bridge. May 2017

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 4 miles out and back.
    • Optional: Those with 4WD and high clearance can shave 2.3 miles off the hike by following a jeep trail to the trailhead.
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 400 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Description

For most, the hike begins at Devil’s Bridge Trail Parking Lot, on the left side of the paved portion of Vultee Arch Road (aka Dry Creek Road). From here, walk 1 1/4 mile up the jeep trail to the trailhead. Bear right and continue on the dirt footpath.

After 1/2 miles, the gentle incline becomes steep as you ascend well-made sandstone steps. At 3/4 miles, the trail splits. Bear left to continue to the bottom of the arch or bear right to continue to the top, where you have the option to walk across the arch. I would not recommend doing this if you have a paralyzing fear of heights.

Even though Devil’s Bridge has a reputation for being crowded, its magnificence more than makes up for the lack of solitude. Having said that, it is best to go early in the morning to avoid the busiest part of the day.

Sweeping views from Devil's Bridge
From Devil’s Bridge, there are sweeping views of red rock cliffs rising from juniper and piñon pine forest.

Location

From Sedona, turn onto Arizona State Route 89A and head west. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road, continue 2 miles then turn right onto Vultee Arch Road (aka Dry Creek Road). If you don’t have 4WD and high clearance, park at Devil’s Bridge Trail Parking Lot. If you do, and are prepared for an off road adventure, continue 1 1/4 miles up the jeep road to the trailhead.

Although the trail is just outside of its boundaries, Devil’s Bridge itself is located within Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, a wilderness area within Coconino National Forest.

Tip: Do not underestimate how rough this road is. Even with 4WD and high clearance, some drivers won’t feel comfortable doing it.

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Topographic Map

Photos

Vibrant desert colors at Devil's Bridge
Vibrant desert colors at Devil’s Bridge. May 2017
More views from Devil's Bridge
More views from Devil’s Bridge. May 2017

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.

West Fork Trail Hiking Guide

Overview

West Fork Trail is a popular hike near Sedona, Arizona that takes you along a creek bottom surrounded by massive red rock walls. The scenes you experience here are similar to those found in Zion National Park, Utah and are sure to impress.

The route is seven miles out and back and requires that you cross the creek 13 times each way. Unless the water is high, this proves to be undemanding as there are plenty of solid rocks to step on in the stream bed.

Due to its accessibility and grandeur, the trailhead is often packed. Arrive early to make sure you get a parking spot.

Note: Hike statistics were recorded with Gaia GPS app.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 7 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 400 feet
  • Fee: $10 per vehicle
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Description

West Fork Trail begins at Call of the Canyon Picnic Site, located in Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. Parking is limited, especially during weekends, holidays, and fall colors. Trailhead amenities include picnic tables and pit toilets.

To begin, walk the path over a footbridge and through the orchard on the left. Soon, you will notice structural remnants of Mayhew Lodge, established in the 1870s. In 1922, it served as a set for the Western silent film, Call of the Canyon. The lodge survived until 1976, when it was damaged by a fire.

West Fork Trail - Mayhew Lodge
A few dilapidated buildings are all that remain of Mayhew Lodge

From this point until the official end of West Fork Trail, the path is easy to follow. By and large, the route is sandy with brief rocky sections as it crosses Oak Creek multiple times. There are 13 crossings each way, so 26 total.

It is worthwhile to hike to the end in order to see where the canyon narrows to a waterlogged slot canyon. Here, the forces of erosion have carved a tunnel-like shape into the sandstone and the reflective water makes for a picturesque setting.

If you are prepared to wade, it is possible to continue up the canyon from this point 10.5 strenuous miles. Once you have slogged at least 2.5 miles, you are allowed to backcountry camp.

Location

The hike begins at West Fork Oak Creek Trail Parking Lot at Call of the Canyon Picnic Site. The turnoff is located halfway between mileposts 384 and 385 on Arizona State Route 89A. It is about 9.5 miles north of Sedona and 17.5 miles south of Flagstaff.

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Download GPX File

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Tips

  • Best Time to Travel: March through November
  • Safety: Check flash flood warnings and know the forecast before you go.

Photos

West Fork Trail Sedona
Hikers who venture to the end of West Fork Trail are rewarded by a serene narrow canyon
Another photo from the West Fork Trail

Want to hike Sedona’s best trails? Check out our other Sedona Hiking Guides.