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Know before you go: Hiking in Sedona

Sunburst near Sedona trail

Planning some Sedona hikes? Here are five things you should know before hitting the Sedona trails, plus a few more specific tips for the hikes we did (and loved)!

1. PARKING LOTS FILL UP

Early morning is the way to do Sedona hikes, for both the cooler weather and space in the parking lot! Both trails we did had limited parking, and we almost had to park elsewhere and Uber over. 

Sedona mountains from hiking trail
Flowers on Sedona trail

2. BEWARE P.M. SHADOWS

Another reason to start your Sedona hike early, especially if you’re bringing your camera along: afternoon shadows. These can be tricky, particularly if you’re looking for shots of the famed Devil’s Bridge. When I got there mid-afternoon, the whole thing was completely in the dark! No photo ops for us. 

Devil's Bridge hiking trail
Devil's Bridge

3. YOU NEED HIKING PASSES… SORT OF

I read beforehand that you need a pass/permit to hike in Sedona that you need to display on your windshield, but even after visiting, I still don’t understand how much people actually use this system and how much local officials enforce it. We stopped at multiple places to try to buy the permit, but people told us that nobody actually uses it and that we wouldn’t need one. While that ended up being true—we never found one to buy, and we didn’t receive any citations—I would still recommend trying to get one. Hope you have better luck than we did!

4. THERE’S A TRAIL FOR EVERYONE

I fully understand that hiking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Sedona is a great place to give it a try. It’ll allow you to get closer to the red rocks—and that’s what you came for, right?!—and really experience the magic Sedona has to offer. There are definitely easy trails for beginners (see Devil’s Bridge below) that don’t feel strenuous or tricky (that is, as long as the weather’s good). On the other end of the spectrum, Sedona has hikes rated as “difficult,” too—such as Cathedral Rock, which actually scared us away with its “rock climbing” description. If you’ve done it, I’d love to know what you thought!

Carly on Sedona hiking trail
Carly on Sedona hiking trail

5. LAYERS ARE ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

There wasn’t a whole lot of shade on our hikes, especially Soldiers Pass/Brins Mesa, so I appreciated having long sleeves to cover up from the sun. Granted, I was there in November; Sedona is usually too hot for those! The long sleeves were also helpful on the Devil’s Bridge trail, which actually got quite cold near the top thanks to those shadows mentioned above. 

Carly on Sedona hiking trail
Sedona red rocks from hiking trail

OUR HIKES

We did the Devil’s Bridge and Soldiers Pass trails while in Sedona, and I can’t recommend them enough! 

DEVIL’S BRIDGE

  • You can’t drive to the trailhead in a normal car! To do it, you’d need a high-clearance, 4×4 vehicle (like a heavy-duty Jeep or ATV), as the road is unpaved and very rocky. Instead, leave your car in the parking lot and walk to the trailhead!
  • After you park, you’ll have an option of taking the dirt road to the trailhead, which is wide and trafficked by 4×4 vehicles—not a pretty hiking trail by any means. But there’s also a path you can take from the parking lot that eventually spits you out onto the same road, but closer to the end of it. It’s much more scenic, albeit less direct!
  • The hike is pretty easy until a sharp ascent at the end, and I didn’t even find that to be too bad. I’ve read that it does get slick in rainy, snowy or icy conditions, though, so definitely use caution if the weather isn’t ideal and don’t try to force it if conditions seem dangerous. 
  • Walking out onto Devil’s Bridge is not as scary as it looks (trust me on this one). I watched several people cross the bridge and say the same thing about it before I ventured down there, and it’s true—when you’re standing across from it, it looks much narrower than it actually is. There’s plenty of room to stand on it without feeling like you’re about to fall over the edge. That said, you should always be careful… and if I’m being honest, I still didn’t like being on there, even though it was wider than I thought! I got off as fast as I could.

Devil's Bridge hiking trail
Cactus near Devil's Bridge Trail
Devil's Bridge Sedona

SOLDIERS PASS

  • This trail would be an out-and-back trial, but you can also connect to the Brins Mesa trail to loop back down to the parking lot. We decided at the last minute to do the loop since we were enjoying ourselves, and we were happy with the decision; Brins Mesa offers completely different topography and scenery. Just make sure to take a photo of the map or screen shot it on your phone beforehand, as it definitely wasn’t the best-marked trail I’ve ever done.
  • If you’re looking for a pleasant hike (read: if you’re kinda lazy like I am), I recommend going clockwise, a.k.a. starting with Soldiers Pass and coming down on Brins Mesa. But if you’re looking to get more of an intense workout, do it the other way around; Brins Mesa has a steep section that you’ll either be ascending or descending, depending which way you go!
  • Soldiers pass features a couple cool geological points of interest, such as the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole and the Seven Sacred Pools. Be on the lookout for these if you want to see them! We 100% missed them—as in, we forgot to keep our eyes peeled and didn’t even see any signage at all. In fact, the only way I even know that we missed them was from internet research beforehand!

Soldiers Pass hiking trail
Brins Mesa hiking trail sign
Mountain view from Brins Mesa trail

For more on Sedona, read my recap of our three-day trip, see my review of the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock or check out my experience taking a pink jeep tour!

Hope you enjoyed these tips for Sedona hikes! Are you planning a trip to Sedona? What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments! >>

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Carly

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