With its diverse selection of hiking trails, Sedona, Arizona is a mecca for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The area’s strikingly beautiful landscape is etched with trails of varying difficulty that allow hikers to experience the red rock vistas and magnetic sense of peace for which Sedona is internationally renowned. However, with the more well-known trails often attracting crowds, adventurous hikers may consider taking the paths less traveled by seeking out Sedona’s “hidden gem” hiking trails.
The following hikes offer solitude, serenity, and an opportunity to explore the unspoiled beauty of the Sedona area:
Located southeast of Sedona, near the V Bar V Heritage Site – one of the largest and best-preserved petroglyph sites in the Verde Valley – Sacred Mountain offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ancient Sinagua people, who lived in the area from approximately 500 to 1400 AD. The trail leading to the summit of Sacred Mountain, which is actually a butte, is about one mile round trip and is a relatively easy hike, with an elevation gain of only 170 feet.
Upon reaching the top, hikers will enjoy stunning 360-degree views of the Verde Valley and surrounding mountains. But what makes Sacred Mountain unique are the remains of a 50 to 60 room pueblo on the butte’s large, flat top. Sinagua families once lived amongst the structure’s three blocks of approximately 20 rooms each and entertained themselves on a ball court located at the butte’s southeast base. Although the ball court has deteriorated over the centuries and is therefore difficult to identify, it is believed to be the last of such courts built in the Verde Valley. Hikers may also notice a substantial amount of pottery shards jutting out of the earth. In addition, archaeologists have identified agricultural remains around Sacred Mountain, which indicate that the Sinagua people cultivated the area intensively.
For visitors interested in archaeology and the history of the region, Lost Canyon Trail offers a slightly more strenuous and thrilling adventure than Sacred Mountain. Although not officially recognized by the Forest Service, the trail—which is two and a half miles round trip and features a 500-foot elevation gain—is used frequently enough that hikers should be able to follow it with ease. However, at some points along the trail, there are loose rocks and sheer drop-offs, so this hike may not be the best for children or anyone with a fear of heights. The trail begins at the same point as the western Brins Mesa trailhead, and after completing Lost Canyon, ambitious hikers have the option of continuing on toward the famous Devil’s Bridge. The parking area for Lost Canyon Trail is located on the rugged Forest Service Road (FR) 152, so it is recommended that visitors access it in a high-clearance vehicle.
Lost Canyon Trail leads to two sites of unusually well-preserved Sinagua ruins nestled into alcoves, which the ancient inhabitants undoubtedly used to shield themselves from the elements. On the alcoves’ rock walls, visitors will notice pictographs painted by the ancient peoples; painted pictographs are distinguishable from petroglyphs, which are carved into the rock. In addition to these amazing ruins, the Lost Canyon Trail features spectacular vistas of Sedona’s red rocks and verdant valleys.
With its intense spiritual vibe and high concentration of vortexes—or sites that are believed to strongly emit energy that promotes healing and meditation—Sedona is a prime destination for adherents of New Age beliefs and other visitors interested in spirituality. Shaman’s Cave, also known as Robbers Roost, is a less-frequented spiritual site in the area. It is believed that shamans of local Native American tribes would once trek to this room-sized cavern to perform healing rituals and other ceremonies. An alternate version of the cave’s history holds that it was a hideout for robbers, bootleggers, and other outlaws of the Old West!
Today, Shaman’s Cave offers a serene spot in which to meditate and enjoy sweeping views of the red rock formations through the cave’s large natural window. Some visitors report feeling a profound sense of peace, inspiration, spiritual connectedness, and even transcendent experiences. Beginning from a parking area on the unpaved FR 9530, the hike to Shaman’s Cave is approximately two hours round trip, with an elevation gain of 200 feet. However, the trail is unmarked and may be difficult to follow at points. Visitors should consult the Forest Service’s Motor Vehicle Use Map for the Coconino National Forest for information on how to safely access the Shaman’s Cave trailhead.
After exploring Sedona’s hiking trails and enchanting sites, visitors may continue the Sedona experience in the city’s vibrant Uptown area, which is packed with stellar restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Located mere minutes from Uptown, El Portal Sedona Hotel offers guests and their pets a unique and unforgettable lodging experience. When staying in one of El Portal’s twelve distinctively designed suites, guests will experience unpretentious luxury and personalized concierge services, including guidance on the best local hikes. El Portal is one of only five hotels in Sedona to have received the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award. At this pet friendly hotel, there are no fees for pets.