One of the most beautiful places in the Southwest, Sedona, Ariz., is nestled among the brilliant red rocks and piñon and juniper forests of the Coconino National Forest an hour south of Flagstaff. Given its location in the Verde Valley, Sedona tends to have mild temperatures in spring, autumn and even winter, meaning it’s at its best when similar locations, like Moab, Utah, can be bitterly cold.
The city itself is an eclectic mix of historic buildings, crystal shops, art galleries, farm-to-table cafes and spas. But for many, the real action is outside of town, where world-class mountain biking, rock climbing, camping, hiking and running await. If you’ve visited the area before, you’ll know what we mean. For those who haven’t, we’ve compiled a list of highlights using Adventure Projects, REI’s digital trail guides and online community, to help you find your way.
Sedona is a playground with something for every rider. The trails wind through the vibrant red-rock landscape, snaking through the woods, over rock ledges and across dry creek beds. Though navigating the area’s expert singletrack requires some high-consequence riding, there are plenty of easier trails that avoid the region’s famed technical, exposed terrain. No matter where you ride, you’ll enjoy the same stunning views. Even though Sedona is known for mountain biking, most of the trails are shared with hikers who have the right-of-way, so be courteous when passing foot traffic.
A good option for new riders or families is Intro to Sedona. The 5.3-mile figure-eight loop below Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte near the Village of Oak Creek features easy singletrack and several opportunities to cut the ride short if your legs decide to call it quits.
If you’re looking for something a little more dynamic, check out the Chuckwagon-Mescal-Long Canyon loop north of town. It’s 9 miles of zippy flow, techy rock steps and exposed slickrock and ledges are perfect for intermediate riders looking to get used to the Sedona style.
More advanced riders will be stoked by the gnarlier trails found in the region. Hangover Loop is a burly 8.4-mile ride that will test your skills and should only be attempted by experienced riders. While this technical loop has rugged climbs, descents and steep slickrock sections, it’s the dangerous knife-edge riding along the lip of an exposed cliff that makes this a one-of-a-kind ride.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention Hiline Trail. Probably the most famous trail in Sedona, Hiline can easily be added on to other loops in the area. But be warned—this severely exposed bit of riding is very technical, with 3.1 miles of rugged lines and tricky chutes. If you’re an experienced rider, be sure to add this classic line to your list.
From canyon walks to mountain treks, the trails around Sedona are easy to access and diverse. Just remember, you’re sharing them with numerous mountain bikers who flock to this area in the shoulder seasons. So while foot traffic has the right-of-way, a generous step to the side when you hear a bike approaching is always appreciated.
Although not technically an ADA accessible path, the short and easy Centennial Trail is paved and barrier free. A couple of steeper sections may pose a challenge for some, but they should be manageable with a little help. While the half-mile-long trail, which leads to panoramic views of West Sedona, is easy to reach, it’s a little less crowded than other hikes closer to town. Bring a headlamp and stay to watch the sunset.
Locals say that the 5.4-mile West Fork Oak Creek Trail is the most popular trail in the national forest, and once you hike it, it’s not hard to see why. The lush landscape is a nice contrast to the red rock and piñon forest typical of the region. Enjoyable in any season, the easy trail winds along its namesake creek below towering canyon walls. It ends at a glassy pool surrounded by tall cliffs, a wonderful lunch spot.
For a little more spice while exploring a classic Sedona landscape, head northwest of town to Devil’s Bridge, a 1.6-mile trek to a natural stone arch that you can walk across for a rad photo op. Of course, if you’re afraid of heights, crossing the five-foot-wide, 45-foot-long exposed arch might not be your thing. Luckily, the view from below is just as stunning.
Of course, you can hike all these routes, but getting out for a run lets you cover more ground. Many of the trails in the region are ideal for running, with solid tread, only a little sand in places and amazing scenery to enjoy along the way.
At just 3.9 miles, the short Courthouse Butte Loop, which circles its namesake butte, is a great introduction to the area. The east side of the loop pairs stunning, red rock views with a fair amount of solitude.
Well-travel and well-maintained, Brins Mesa-Soldier Pass Loop’s allure is the geologic features you’ll pass along the way. Devil’s Kitchen (a large sinkhole), the Seven Sacred Pools (a series of depressions in the sandstone that form cascading pools during rain), Soldier’s Pass Cave (a not-so-secret cave behind Soldier’s Pass Arch) and a few other interesting rock formations offer up unique scenery to enjoy while you run.
Another fun (but tough) option is the out-and-back jaunt to the summit of Bear Mountain, where you’ll have panoramic views of the Sedona area. This steep and, at times, rocky trail into the remote Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is a great way to escape the hubbub of town.
The numerous rocky spires and buttes that dot the landscape are not just for looks, they’re a paradise for climbers looking to prolong their climbing season. The same mild weather that attracts hikers and bikers means Sedona is a great place to enjoy the last dregs of autumn warmth before the snow flies. In the spring, the area gets warmer sooner than other iconic climbing hubs. Like all desert sandstone, please respect the rock by not climbing during or after rain.
While there is a bit of sport climbing and top-roping, you’ll mostly find traditional climbing, so you’ll want to be well-versed in placing gear. Most of the climbing in Sedona is moderate in grade, ranging from 5.9 to 5.11. Twin Butte houses many of the area’s most popular climbs, including classics like Mission to Mars, a single-pitch, pumpy and gymnastic 5.12d sport route and Trundler’s Club, a 5-pitch 5.11-trad route that is alluring, varied and well-protected but occasionally exposed.
For something a bit easier, check out Midgley Bridge for the largest concentration of climbs under 5.9. Aquaman and Sea Monkey are both easy, clean and well-protected, making them an excellent option for new leaders or advanced climbers looking for a warm up.
Sedona truly is an adventurer’s paradise, but there’s still plenty to do if you want something more low key. Both the Palakti and Honanki heritage sites are home to ancient cliff dwellings and rock art dating to the time of the Sinagua (ancestors of the Hopi). Managed by the Red Rocks Pass Program, there is a small access fee (check the calendar for fee-free days), and while you’re on site, be sure to follow the Archaeological Site Etiquette guidelines. Or pack a picnic and head to Slide Rock State Park. There are a few hiking trails to explore, and on hot days, kids will have a great time taking laps on the 80-foot-long natural rock water slide.