Sedona Hikes and Red Rock Views

Sedona Arizona is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Although it is particularly famed for red rock cliffs, buttes, spires and eerie formations, there is much more to Sedona than staring at the views and hiking the areas numerous trails. The area is loaded with historic sites, art galleries and, even wineries. And don’t forget the restaurants.

While this article focuses on some of the hikes and views that we most enjoyed, other articles in this series looks at:

  • Sedona Area Historical Sites;
  • Sedona Area Restaurants;
  • Sedona Area Art Galleries; and
  • Sedona Area Wineries.

Sedona Area Hikes

Brin’s Mesa. This 4.4 mile round trip hike offers moderate exertion and some of the best views in area. You hike 1.5 miles (with about a 550-foot elevation gain) up the mesa, with red rock views the entire way. The real payoff comes after you hang a right at the top of the mesa and hike another 0.7 miles (and about 450 feet) and scale a large rock to a stupendous overview of the the red rock spires of beautiful Mormon’s Canyon.  Great hike.

Brin MesaBrin Mesa-vg (3)Spires-g

Cathedral Rock Trail. A short (0.75 mile) but very steep, 600-foot scramble up to the saddle between two of the monument’s largest spires. Most people stop here to enjoy the rewards of their steep and, at least when we were there, very crowded climb. But if you are looking for a little more exercise, and some solitude atop the popular climb, turn to the left, around the back of one of the spires and scramble up another few hundred feet and you will be rewarded by a solitary, close-up view of one of Cathedral Rock’s dramatic smaller spires.

IMG_4648Cath Rock-vgCath Rock spire-vg

Devil’s Bridge. Although the hike itself is only 1.4 round trip, it is quite steep. Moreover, if you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle (which we did not), you have to park in a more distant parking lot and walk 2.5 miles down a level, but very rough road to the trail parking lot. (Even this additional walk, however, is beautiful.) Once you reach the formal trail parking lot, you have to climb reasonably steep steps to reach the the bridge–a dramatic natural arch on which you can walk. On the way back, be sure to take the brief detour that offers a view from beneath the arch. The spectacle, however, is not limited to the arch. The entire hike is surrounded by beautiful red rock views.

Devil's Bridge-tom-gDevil's-Bridge-below-g

West Fork Trail, is about 10.5 miles north of Sedona along Oak Creek Canyon (see below). The trail itself is 3.2 miles of virtually flat (a total of 400 feet elevation gain), sandy terrain, with numerous crossings of Oak Creek. You are surrounded by steep canyon walls the entire trip, including some particularly lovely wavy patterns and large overhangs where the creek eroded the cliff from below. Right near the head of the trial lay the burned-out ruins of Mayhew’s Lodge, the hunting and fishing lodge for the rich and famous of Hollywood and Washington royalty during the early and mid-twentieth century. Although the trail is, by no means strenuous, and provides views from below, rather than above, it was, overall, one of our favorite hikes of the trip.

West Rock cliffs-gWest Fork carved cliff-gWest Rock cave-vgWest Rock shapes-g (5)j crossing stream-vg

Bell Rock. We took a 2.5-3.0 mile round-trip walk past a large, multi-colored butte to the north side of the rock. We followed cairns up to a large plateau, as far as we felt comfortable going, before very step ascent to a very fragile red rock summit. We were rewarded by pretty (albeit not spectacular) views of neighboring red rock formations.

Bell Rock (3)Bell Rock view-g

Boynton Canyon Trail. We were, unfortunately, forced to cut our last hike of the trip short. After all, happy hour and dinner awaited at the wonderful Enchantment Resort (see the Sedona Area Restaurant post) were waiting. We did, however, hike to and explore the different views from the 0.4 round-trip mile detour to the trail’s vista point and then went about 2 miles along the 3.75 mile trail. Pretty, and if this had been among our first hikes, we would have certainly loved it. But after some really extraordinary hikes, our limited exposure to this trail left us a bit underwhelmed.

Boynton-g (3)Boynton-gBoynton people on rock

For a great list and description of Sedona area hikes, see http://www.greatsedonahikes.com/. 

Other Red Rock Views

Although we would have loved to do more hikes in this beautiful area, we did not have the time to do all we would have liked. We at least partially made up for this deprivation by driving (or in some cases, attempting to drive) some of the area’s prettiest roads. These included:

Oak Creek Canyon, a beautiful drive from Sedona towards Flagstaff, surrounded by dramatic cliffs lined with scenic viewing, picnic, hiking and even swimming (in the form of Slide Rock Park) sites. This trip, we only drove 10.5 miles into the canyon, before reaching our destination of the West Fork trailhead (see above);

Red Rock Loop. A pretty drive, just minutes from Lower Sedona, that takes you through beautiful red rock country, homes with incredible views and to Red Rocks State Park (which we did not have time to visit).

Red Rock Loop-g (3)Red Rock Loop-g (4)

Chapel of the Holy Cross. A lovely chapel built into a red rock mountain. While the small chapel is certainly pretty in its own right, its seamless integration into the rocks, and the views it provides are inspirational. And on a more materialistic note, it overlooks one of the most incredible estates in the area.

ChapelChapel-estate

Schembly Canyon Road. It is supposed to be beautiful. Although we were told that we could drive it with a regular car, despite the warning, it didn’t take us long before we considered it to be too difficult without a high-clearance vehicle. So, we partially made up for this disappointment by cruising through uptown, viewing many of the same rocks—including the appropriately named Snoopy Rock, from the other side.

Snoopy Rock

West Sedona.  Dry Creek Road leads to some great trails, the Palatki Heritage Site (see below and our Sedona Historical Sites article), the wonderful Enchantment Resort (see our Sedona Restaurant article) and some of the best views in the area.

West Sedona-gWest Sedona-g (2)Palatki mtns-vg (2)

Red Rocks at Sunset. While the color and the formations of the rocks are beautiful at virtually any time, thee colors really pop at sunset.

Red Rock sunsetRed Rock Sunset (2)

Cactus and Wildlife. Cactus, of course, is everywhere in Arizona. The around Phoenix is dominated primarily by the huge, majestic Saguaro Cactus. But, as you get closer to the Sedona, the giants disappear and you find many other types of smaller, but equally beautiful varieties of cactus, other succulents and southwestern flowers, such as bluebonnets and columbines.  And then there was some of the friendly local wildlife.

cactus flowers Cactus flowercactus flowers-g (2)

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Palatki Heritage Site. One of the most beautiful areas is not a formal hike, but a protected area that contains ancient cliff dwelling ruin, pictoglyphs and petroglyphs. Entry and tours require advance reservations. But, as discussed in the Sedona Historical Sites article, you are rewarded by a beautiful drive (for which you do not require a reservation) and two short hikes (for which you do) through some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. Even better than the views of nature are the ability to get close to and to get semi-personal tours of some fascinating, 1,000-year old artifacts. While the artifacts are discussed and shown in our article on Sedona Historical sites, the views themselves merit special note.

Palatki-vgPalatki cliff-vgIMG_4795

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