Ash Huang is an independent designer, illustrator and writer. You can find her at ashsmash.com or on Twitter as @ashsmash. Ash spends much of her time clacking away at her laptop and picking up strange hobbies. You may mistake her for a giant squirrel and/or cookie monster. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Sedona is one of my favorite places on Earth. I visited Sedona for the first time thirteen years ago and it made such an impact on me that I’ve centered a whole cross country road trip on getting there. It’s definitely a hiking town. But with a plethora of hikes to choose from, I was paralyzed, as I only had three days to hit the trails. Cue hours of intense research. There’s something for everyone — easy scenic views, scrambles up slide rock, wending through canyons.
Broken Arrow Trail
How long: 3.5 miles round trip, we ended up turning back after a mile or so because of time constraints.
This trail is an intimate hike very close to Sedona’s city center. The drive in is rugged (no pavement… some artful driving is required) and only wide enough for one vehicle to pass at a time. You’ll see a lot of jeep tours coming in, but they’re separated from the walking/mountain biking trail. Everyone is very polite and will tell you how many vehicles are in their party. Take Morgan Road from 179 and drive all the way to the end. Where it seems to just be dirt? Drive through there. This will take you to a parking lot. I did this in a Toyota Echo and saw a fair share of Priuses, so you’ll be okay.
This hike is quiet and stunning. You get to see formations up close. The trail is a little less formal, going over stretches of rock. Look for white marks that will lead you back to the path.
Airport Mesa Loop
How long: 3.5 miles round trip
This is the longest hike we did. It’s great for dizzying views of the city. Watch prop planes land at the top of the mesa and see many of Sedona’s most famous rock formations. I suggest going in the morning, the light over the land is stunning.
How to get there: From 89A, follow signs for the airport. To the left, you’ll see a parking lot. This is the beginning of the trailhead. However, before you do that, I’d suggest you keep driving up to the top of the mesa. There’s a big parking lot to the left, and a scenic view spot.
Come back down and park in the trailhead parking lot. To your immediate left is the Airport vortex. You’ll know because there will probably be people on it. Sedona is famous for vortexes, which are tunnels of uplifting energy. I’m dubious, but it was hard to be anything but uplifted with a view like this.
Walk the trail from here. It’s a slow and steady climb with very little dramatic incline.
There are options for other trails towards the north side of the loop. I was getting hangry, so we continued on the trail. It ends across the street from the trailhead parking lot.
How long: 2 miles round trip.
This was the most remote hike we did. We absolutely lost cell service. Enter “Fay Canyon Trailhead” into Google maps for easy directions. The trailhead is across from a sizable parking lot. We arrived when a bunch of hot ballooners were preparing. This is a really easy hike if you don’t do any of the adventurous hi-jinx. The path is soft red sand, so it’s easy on the knees. It’s very flat and short.
Besides the sweet canyon views, the main reason I chose this hike is that there’s a hidden archway about a half mile in. It’s very easy to miss as it’s covered by trees from the ground. If you go in the morning, the sun shines behind it, which makes it easier to see.
You can climb up into the arch. It’s full of loose rock, but it’s worth it. The path up is a bit hard to find, there are multiple paths that seem to go up. They don’t, which we learned the hard way. I have the scratches on my legs to prove it, and at one point found a cactus spike in my arm. The easiest path up winds through a dry creek and is sort of marked from the main path with rock piles. There are some ruins up here as well.
Don’t worry if you can’t find it on your way there. It was actually easier to spot on the way back for us. At the end of the trail is this crazy bear mountain looking thing. You can climb over the rockslide and the trail continues a little longer.
Also, here are a few safety tips:
Always wear sunblock, and don’t forget sunblock lip balm. The southwestern sun is no joke, to the point where there can be a 15 degree difference between the shade and sun. Keep the sizzle at bay. My go to’s are Kiss my Face spray sunblock (SPF 30) and Sugar lip balm in rose (SPF 15).
Bring water and snacks. Experienced hikers suggest a liter for every hour you’re out there, and you’ll want extra for the dry Sedona air. I like Hydro Flask, which keeps cool things cool and hot things hot. It doesn’t sweat because it’s insulated and doubles as a thermos on my road trip. It keeps my tea warm for 4–5 hours. And I ate a lot of Kind Granola bars in the shade. They’re gluten free if you care about such things.
Research your trail before you set out. Signal is spotty out there. Most importantly, look up where trailheads are and if there’s parking. I spent an hour trying to find the Broken Arrow Trail because I didn’t research before I went — turned out when the road ended, I had to keep going. More on that soon.
Always tell someone before you go hiking and when you think you’ll be back. Most of the trails I went on, I saw almost no one else. This is great for being one with nature, but I felt better knowing my friends and boyfriend would notice if something went awry. Just remember to let them know when you return so they don’t worry…. preferably with sweet pictorial evidence of your adventure!
Dress in layers. Sedona is freezing in the morning. I was there in October. It was in the high 40s in the morning and up to 85 during the day.
Have you been to Sedona? What were your favorite hikes?
Find out first!
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