Hiking Sedona

Sedona is a day hiker’s heaven, with 400 miles of trails winding through a landscape immortalized by filmmakers and artists. An uplifting, feel-good energy pervades the visual drama. Perhaps it’s from the fabled vortexes or the way the light reflects off the red rocks during the golden hour, or maybe it’s being in the midst of an extraordinary expression of nature, surrounded by beauty and enveloped by quiet. Whatever the reason, one thing you can be sure of when in Red Rock Country is that hiking is a not-to-be-missed activity.

An abundance of trails means there is something to suit everyone’s skill level, from a leisurely walk-in nature to a challenging climb to the summit. There are loop trails that take you in a more or less circular route, returning you to the trailhead; out-and-back trails that reach an end point where you turn around and retrace your steps back; and trails that intersect with other trails, allowing you to customize your hike. Some trails are exclusively for hiking, and some are mixed-use trails allowing mountain bikers and horses too. A few trails traverse energy vortexes.

No matter which you choose, you’ll witness the beauty of Sedona. Slow down, listen, and take in the grandeur of the red rock buttes and canyon walls that reach up to an almost always blue sky, grounded by the deep green forests of pine and juniper.

To help put you on the right path, here are three experiences that illustrate the diversity of Sedona hiking trails.

People hiking on a trail in Sedona

A Forest Walk on the Adobe Jack Trail

One way to judge the difficulty of a trail is by the change in elevation; anything less than 450 feet is considered an easy trail. The Adobe Jack Trail’s elevation is 120 feet, making this an excellent choice for an easy hiking trail in Sedona and an enjoyable forest walk with red rock views.

Guests staying at Ambiente get a leg up on hiking: the Adobe Jack trailhead is just outside the front door. The private property trailhead, developed for the enjoyment of Sedona’s residents and visitors, is named for HJ Meaney, aka Adobe Jack, who was Arizona-born, served in WWII, graduated from USC School of Engineering, and always retained his love for the Old West.

The two-mile route starts on packed dirt, unusual for Arizonas’ typically rocky trails, and immediately dips into a shallow wash before climbing back up, winding through some forest shade and opening up to sunny stretches past juniper and manzanita bushes with intermittent red rock views of Coffee Pot, Steamboat Rock and Wilson Mountain in the distance. The trail eventually becomes rockier and ends at the massive Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole, created by the collapse of underground caverns. Accompanying signage explains the geological history. From here you can retrace your steps back two miles to whence you came, or make a loop as Adobe Jack intersects with a number of other trails collectively known as Soldier Wash Trails. This is also a popular trail for mountain bikers, so be alert.

Summit a Mesa at Doe Mountain

Mesas are a distinguishing landmark of the Southwest, recognizable by their flat mountaintops and steep sides. Doe Mountain is one such mesa in Sedona, and you can summit it with a moderately challenging hike clocking in at 400 feet of elevation change. This trail is not only great for hiking but also offers a stunning opportunity to watch the sunset.

The trail has you climbing from the very beginning. It’s a steep but short ascent to the top (0.7 miles) via steps and switchbacks that lead you up the side of the mesa to the flat top. Once you’ve made it, you’ll want to spend some time walking around the mesa’s perimeter, which measures 1.3 miles, and take in the 360-degree views that include many of the recognizable red rock formations like Capitol Butte, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte and the Mogollon Rim. It’s often windy atop the mesa, but the views are spectacular and the climb is doable.

A girl sitting on a rock at the top of a hike

Hike an Energy Vortex at Sedona Airport

Hiking around an airport may not sound energizing or appealing, but Sedona Airport is not like most others. This airport perches on Table Top Mountain overlooking the town of Sedona 500 feet below. A single paved runway stretches the entire length of Airport Mesa, the edges dropping off to steep cliffs below.

Also here is Airport Mesa vortex, an enhanced energy site said to have an up-flow or masculine energy that helps you soar to a higher perspective. It is considered one of the major of seven vortex sites in Sedona. Whether or not you feel the energy, you will feel elated at the bird’s eye views of red rock country, picking out Thunder Mountain, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte and other colorful landmarks.

There are several trails, rated as moderate, accessible by driving up Airport Road (pedestrians are prohibited as it is a narrow and busy road).  To get to the heart of the vortex, look for signs of the Summit Trial. This requires a short scramble up slick rock, aided by steps and steel cables to hold onto. Once atop the rocky mound, you may decide to do a sitting meditation, or lie back and get a buzz from the small fixed-wing planes coming in for a landing and it’s even better at sunset.

Sedona hiking trails provide a blend of natural beauty, spiritual energy and outdoor adventure for all skill levels. It’s the perfect setting for introspection and relaxation. Just remember to tread lightly and leave no trace.

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