As I write this post I am located in the center of Sedona, Arizona. I accepting a job offer in this small tourist town as an on site Innkeeper for a quaint perfect little hotel. It means I get to live in a beautiful place for free while managing the customers and staff, and on my days off I go hiking in the “day hike capital.”
Sedona itself only has a population of 10,000 people. There are 2 main roads in town and often too much traffic, because the number of tourists here year round doubles the population. They are here because of the “red giants” or the large number of red sandstone cliffs, mountains, and mesas in the area. It is beautiful. My first taste of Sedona was to enter from the east on highway 89A: upon entering town we were on the most clustered tourist trap city street in town. I hated it. I appreciated the pretty red rocks and green trees, but they were off in the distance and I was not impressed by the town. A newbie traveler might love the gazillion little shops and restaurants and ice cream shacks. To me, if it isn’t nature it isn’t unique. Those money traps and junk stores are everywhere. Pardon my bluntness, but those areas of tourist locations are as fake as a theme park. That was a one day glimpse back in 2010.
Now, I have the benefit of seeing more than that little tourist dragstrip on the east, but I am hiking the mountains, mesas, trails, creeks, and backcountry camping more frequently. Now I see why celebrities came here in the 1950’s and still do, why they filmed movies in the landscape, and why the diameter of Sedona is covered by interwinding hiking trails. Fortunately, most of the tourists understand that and they do more than shop and eat. Sedona is for hiking.
The 2 most popular hikes, in my opinion are Cathedral Rock and West Fork. They are starkly different. Cathedral Rock is one of the most popular red giant rock formations and has a fun path to a vista. You go up red rocks, not so much horizontally like in a trail in the woods. The red rock hikes are in the sun and they often involve climbing up to the top. Cathedral is simple enough for anyone without mobility issues, but also just challenging enough to give the average hiker a climbing thrill. And the view at the top is impressive.
West Fork hike IS the winding trail through the woods. Located 10-15 minutes east of Sedona off 89A, West Fork lies in the center of Oak Creek Canyon. It follows the creek for 3 miles until you can go no further (without getting your feet soaked). West Fork trail winds through canyon walls, bamboo fields, tall pine trees, and dozens of creek crossings on pebblestone paths. It is rumored to be one of the top ten hikes in the nation, however it won’t take you to a high viewpoint. You’ll want to choose one of the hundreds of other red rock, mountaintop, or mesa hikes in order to go “up.”
Upon arrival in Sedona, I quickly covered these hikes and then moved on to multiple other trails. My personal favorites so far have been Fay Canyon Trail, Doe Mountain, Fossil Creek, Loy Canyon. Who am I kidding, I am just listing other great hikes we’ve done. They are all unique and there is no favorite. I recommend starting with the 2 most popular and working your way out from there also. The only hike I do not recommend to my guests is Devil’s Bridge hike. It was a little average and crowded compared to all the other hikes I have done, but after the fact I learned of the scenic photograps of Devil’s Bridge and I understand why it is priority for so many tourists. To each their own hike and ice cream shop 🙂
Images to come next.