The 5 Best Sunset Hikes in Sedona, Arizona

Affiliate Disclaimer: Before I share the best sunset hikes in Sedona I wanted to let you know that some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!

Sedona, Arizona is a red rock paradise with some of the most spectacular sunsets you can find in the Southwest. While it’s hard to find a bad place to watch the sunset, the best place to catch a Sedona sunset is on the trail. Not only will you get away from the crowds, but you’ll also have an opportunity to be closer to nature!

Sedona sunset hike.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Sedona

Sedona, Arizona is located 2 hours north of Phoenix and just under an hour south of Flagstaff, making it a popular destination for Arizonans looking to get outdoors. While Sedona has attracted tourists seeking red rock views and vortex healing for decades, visitation has increased tremendously in recent years. Tourist season is arguably year round, but there are certain times of year when you’ll be less likely to encounter crowds. 

Peak season in Sedona occurs during the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant from March through May, and September through December. Summers in Sedona are hot, with temperatures typically reaching 90-100°F. Winters in Sedona are cold and the area typically sees at least a few inches of snow each year (Snowdona is a magical experience!). My favorite time of year to visit Sedona is during the winter (specifically late January) when crowds and temperatures are low.

Recreating Responsibly in Sedona

With so many people visiting and enjoying Sedona’s trails, it’s incredibly important that everyone does what they can to minimize their impact on the land. Most of the hiking trails in Sedona are located within the Coconino National Forest, which is administered by the Red Rock Ranger District. Many trails enter Wilderness Areas that are subject to heightened regulations including a strict prohibition on drones and other mechanized uses (this includes bicycles). You are always responsible for knowing regulations before you go!

Woman sits on a rock at the Seven Sacred Pools in Sedona, Arizona while it’s snowing.
A snowy morning at the Seven Sacred Pools.

Here’s how you can recreate responsibly in Sedona:

Follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles. This means:

  1. Plan ahead & prepare.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

Respect archaeological sites. Never sit, touch, lean, or stand on walls of archaeological sites. Don’t touch petroglyphs and pictographs (the oils from your fingers can break them down faster). Leave all artifacts where you find them. Don’t allow pets or small children in archaeological sites. Sedona is the ancestral land of the Hopi, Sinagua, Yavapai, and Apache peoples. Please honor their stewardship of the land by treating archaeological sites with respect!

Don’t bust the crust! Much of the land around Sedona is covered in biological soil crust, otherwise known as cryptobiotic soil. Cryptobiotic soil plays a critical role in the desert ecosystem and is extremely delicate. It can take years to decades to recover from damage, so it’s important to stay on trail, or travel over durable surfaces like dry washes or slickrock, to avoid disrupting the cryptobiotic soil!

Park appropriately. Many of the trailheads in Sedona have limited parking, which leads to overflow parking on neighboring roads. In order to alleviate some of the parking issues, the city has begun implementing a shuttle service to transport hikers to the trailhead.

The Best Sedona Sunset Hikes

Here are 5 of the best Sedona hikes to catch an epic Southwest sunset. Most of the hikes on the list are easy-moderate and would be suitable for families with children. The only hike I would caution against doing with small children is Cathedral Rock.

1. Cathedral Rock

Woman sits on the summit of Cathedral Rock while watching the best sunset in Sedona.
Sunset at Cathedral Rock

First up on the list of best Sedona sunset hikes, Cathedral Rock. Cathedral Rock is one of the most popular hiking trails in Sedona, but for good reason. Once you reach the summit you’re surrounded by towering sandstone spires and a perfect view of the setting sun.

There are a few routes you can take up to Cathedral Rock, but the most popular begins from Back O’Beyond Road. Because parking at the trailhead is limited and fills up quickly, Sedona has implemented a new shuttle system that runs from Thursday-Sunday to bring hikers to the Cathedral Rock trailhead.

The entire trail is well-marked with wire basket cairns. You’ll primarily be hiking on slickrock, with some sections of dirt. While the trail is short, it gets steep in a couple of places and involves some scrambling, so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginner hikers unless you’re up for a challenge. You will have to use your hands to help navigate up and down the slickrock and since the trail is so heavily trafficked, the rock has been polished down over time, making it extra slick. The scrambling is relatively easy and there’s very little exposure, but it could pose a challenge if you’re not accustomed to hiking in the desert.

Woman in pink top stands smiling while on a hike in Sedona at sunset.

The trail to Cathedral Rock is technically dog-friendly, but there is one section of scrambling that most dogs will find challenging. The first time I tried hiking to Cathedral Rock I had to turn back at this point because my 45 lb. dog, Becket, wasn’t able to get up the slickrock. I recommend leaving your dog at home unless they’re small enough to be carried in a pack (you’re going to need your hands) or they’re large and have significant scrambling experience.

This trail is extremely popular, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to encounter other hikers along the trail and at the top of Cathedral Rock, especially if you’re there to catch the sunset. Hiking Cathedral Rock at sunrise is equally as beautiful and will help to thin out the crowds. Most people take photos immediately at the top of Cathedral Rock, however you can continue hiking along a primitive trail to the left, which will eventually lead to more solitude and stunning views of red rock spires after a bit more scrambling.

Woman stands overlooking the red rocks in Sedona at sunset.

Trail Stats

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. The trail is extremely popular and parking is limited relative to the number of hikers. Thursdays through Sunday the trail is only accessible via the Sedona Shuttle.

Distance: 1.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 750 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult depending on your experience with scrambling in the desert.

Estimated Hike Time: 60-90 minutes

Dog-friendly: Technically yes, but due to the scrambling that is required it’s not suitable for most dogs. Dogs must be leashed within Coconino National Forest. Please remember to pack out pet waste!

Permits & Fees: Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead.

AllTrails Link

2. Doe Mountain

Woman stands on the top of Doe Mountain overlooking the sunset in Sedona, Arizona.
Watching the sunset from the summit of Doe Mountain.

If you’re looking for a short sunset hike in Sedona with epic views then you have to check out Doe Mountain. The hike up Doe Mountain is short, relatively easy, and provides incredible views of Sedona making it one of the most underrated sunset hikes, in my opinion. 

The trailhead for Doe Mountain shares the same parking lot as the trailhead for Bear Mountain, which is a more strenuous Sedona hike. While the trail is short, there is a steady incline the entire way with a couple of steeper sections near the top. Experienced hikers will likely find the trail easy, but if you’re not accustomed to hikes with a few hundred feet of elevation gain in less than a mile you’ll probably find the difficulty to be moderate.

Once you get to the top of Doe Mountain there are plenty of places to sit and watch the sunset with views of Courthouse Butte or Bear Mountain in the background depending on where you land. The sun will be setting behind you illuminating the red rock walls of Sedona in an orangey-pink alpenglow. Since the trail is so short you can spend some extra time taking in the sunset at the top of Doe Mountain without having to worry about hiking back to your car in the dark!

Woman sits on the summit of Doe Mountain overlooking the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.

Trail Stats

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Fairly easy. There’s ample parking, but since the trailhead serves multiple trails it could be crowded.

Distance: 1.5-2.5 miles out-and-back depending how far you hike on top of the mountain

Elevation Gain: 430 ft.

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Estimated Hike Time: 90 minutes

Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs must be leashed within Coconino National Forest. Please remember to pack out pet waste!

Permits & Fees: Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead.

AllTrails Link

3. Broken Arrow Trail & Twin Buttes Trail to Chicken Point

Next up on the list of best Sedona sunset hikes, Broken Arrow Trail & Twin Buttes Trail to Chicken Point. This is a popular area for different types of recreational activities, but it makes for a great Sedona sunset hike thanks to its scenic views and relative ease.

There is a Jeep road that runs adjacent to Broken Arrow Trail that is part of the Pink Jeep Tour route, so I recommend heading up the Twin Buttes Trail and back down Broken Arrow Trail to help create some more distance from the vehicles during the beginning of your hike. The hike up Twin Buttes Trail takes you through a forest of juniper and pinyon pine, and across red rock mesas with plenty of opportunities for photos. 

Once you reach the end of the trail at Chicken Point you’re treated to a stunning view of Bell Rock to the West. Hike back to the trailhead along Broken Arrow Trail following wire basket cairns to help guide the way.

Sunset at Chicken Point.

Trail Stats

Trailhead LocationGoogle maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate-difficult. The road to the trailhead is rough and may not be suitable for 2wd vehicles (driving beyond the trailhead requires 4×4). Parking at the trailhead is also fairly limited.

Distance: 3.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 400 ft.

Difficulty: Easy

Estimated Hike Time: 90 minutes

Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs must be leashed within Coconino National Forest. Please remember to pack out pet waste!

Permits & Fees: None.

AllTrails Link

4. Airport Mesa Loop

Sunset at Airport Mesa.

Airport Mesa is one of the best Sedona sunset hikes thanks to its central location and variety of vantage points from which to sit and watch the sunset. 

The primary parking area to hike the Airport Mesa Loop is located on the side of Airport Rd., but be aware the lot is small and parking is limited. If that lot is full, continue driving to the large parking lot for the scenic lookout up the road. Don’t let the inevitable crowds in the scenic lookout parking lot deter you. Most people stay there to watch the sunset because it provides a great view over Sedona. However, once you’re out on the trail the crowds will thin out.

The Airport Mesa Loop trail isn’t very long or steep, however it is rocky with basalt boulders and red rock which may be challenging for some hikers. As you make your way around Airport Mesa you’re treated to views of Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Oak Creek Valley.

Note, this trail becomes extremely muddy after rain so wait a few days before hiking to give things a chance to dry out. The trail is also below the airport, so you may encounter planes taking off and landing during your hike!

Prickly pear cactus along Airport Mesa Trail in Sedona, Arizona.

Trail Stats

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult at the main parking area due to limited availability. Easy in the large parking lot.

Distance: 3.2 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 415 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate

Estimated Hike Time: 90 minutes

Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs must be leashed within Coconino National Forest. Please remember to pack out pet waste!

Permits & Fees: $3 parking fee for the large parking lot.

AllTrails Link

5. Bell Rock

Bell Rock is one of the most easily recognizable geologic formations in Sedona. Located south of Sedona near the village of Oak Creek, the hike up Bell Rock is quick and easy with incredible views.

You can hike the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop around the base of Bell Rock, but for the best sunset views you’re going to want to do the Bell Rock Climb.

Begin hiking from the trailhead along the wide path and follow the signs for Bell Rock Climb. The trail will eventually lead you up the north side of Bell Rock, allowing you to take in expansive views of the red rock valley and Courthouse Butte to the west. The Forest Service maintains easily identifiable wire basket cairns to mark the trail. Eventually the official cairns peter out and you have to rely on route finding skills to continue climbing up Bell Rock. The terrain gets looser after this point, but there are plenty of opportunities to stop for photos before the end of the official trail.

Woman jumping in front of Courthouse Butte in the snow in Sedona, Arizona.
Not the sunset we were expecting, but experiencing Bell Rock in the snow was still quite the treat!

Trail Stats

Trailhead Location: There are 2 trailheads that you can park at to hike Bell Rock, both located off of Highway 179. I recommend parking at the Courthouse Vista parking lot in order to easily access the climb. There are pit toilets at both trailheads. Google maps.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. There’s ample parking at both trailheads.

Distance: 0.75-1.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: approximately 200-400+ ft. depending on how high up you climb

Difficulty: Easy-moderate. There is some scrambling involved the higher you get up Bell Rock, but the initial hike up the first couple of layers is easy.

Estimated Hike Time: 30 minutes-1 hour

Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs must be leashed within Coconino National Forest. Please remember to pack out pet waste!

Permits & Fees: Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead.

AllTrails Link

What to Pack For a Sunset Hike in Sedona

Woman in maroon leggings hiking in Sedona, Arizona.

Pack: Hiking pack recommendations are incredibly subjective. I personally use and love the Osprey Sirrus 24L, but you could definitely get away with a smaller pack for these Sedona sunset hikes. A trail running vest is a great option if you want to be able to carry sufficient water while staying light on the trail.

Water: You should plan to carry at least 1L per hour of hiking that you plan to do in the desert. Depending on the time of year, temperature, and how acclimatized you are to the desert, you may need more or less. Also consider carrying electrolyte packs like Liquid IV to add to your water, especially if you’re hiking during warmer months!

Snacks: Most of these Sedona sunset hikes are fairly short so you don’t need to pack a ton of food (unless you want to have a sunset picnic of course). A protein bar, trail mix, pb&j, dried fruit, and jerky are great snack options!

Headlamp: If you’re going on a sunset hike it’s important to carry a headlamp to help you see the trail after it gets dark.

Sun protection. Depending on what time you start your hike you may be hiking in direct sunlight, so bringing sun protection like a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen is advised.

First-aid kit: A well stocked first-aid kit should always be in your pack as part of the 10 essentials, but while hiking in Sedona make sure you have band-aids, moleskin, tylenol, and tweezers.

Map & compass: While all of the trails on this list are easy to navigate, you should always carry a map & compass in the event you get lost. At the very least be sure to download the trail map to your phone before heading out!

Knife: A knife can come in handy for a variety of purposes from cutting an apple to fixing your gear. Plus it’s part of the 10 essentials, so it should be one of those items that just lives in your pack!

Emergency shelter: Injuries that may require a hiker to spend an emergency night on the trail are not uncommon, so it’s important to carry an emergency bivy or space blanket to help you stay comfortable during an emergency situation.

Trekking poles: Trekking poles are optional but recommended to help your knees during some of the steeper hikes.

 Appropriate layers. What clothing you specifically need to wear or carry depends on a number of factors including the forecast, time of year, and your personal preferences. Keep in mind that even if it’s going to be hot during the day, temperatures drop quickly once the sun goes down so you should carry appropriate layers for hiking in the dark. Helpful layers to consider wearing/bringing include a sun shirt and outer layer (how heavy of an outer layer you need to carry will depend on the month you’re hiking). 

 Emergency GPS: I always carry a Garmin in-reach mini GPS on hikes to easily get in contact with authorities in the event of an emergency. Sedona has great cell reception so you may find that you have service on the trail, but it never hurts to have an emergency device just in case!

Sedona Activities:

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