Posted by: Lori Reinhold
The Coconino National Forest is a beautiful 1.856-million acre forest surrounding the thriving cities of Sedona and Flagstaff. Many consider it one of the most diverse national parks in the entire country. The terrain ranges from gorgeous red rock canyons to dense ponderosa pine forests, from miles of southwestern desert to striking alpine tundra. You’ll even find a volcano, lakes, lava tube caves, and Humphrey Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona.
The park is divided into three unique sections: The Flagstaff District, the Red Rock District, and the Mogollon Rim District. The Red Rock District is located closest to Sedona and is the perfect place to explore the region’s iconic canyons, mesas, and red rock formations. While there are many ways to explore the forest, from biking to rock climbing, we think it is best explored on two feet. Because many of the most popular hikes can get incredibly crowded during the spring and fall, so we thought we’d focus on our 5 favorite lesser known hikes in the region, all easily accessible from the Alma de Sedona Inn. Follow the links for more detailed information about finding and completing each hike.
Though the Aerie Trail System is less trafficked than other routes in the region, it still offers the iconic views and fun challenges that makes hiking in Sedona just an unforgettable experience. This interconnected system of trails give you plenty of options to choose from, including the 4 mile Cockscomb Trail and the Girdner Trail. It also connects you to the incredible Doe Mountain Trail, a scenic climb up the beautiful mesa-like Doe Mountain offering stunning glimpses of the surrounding red rocks and countryside. Once you reach the top, you’ll be treated to an incredible panoramic view of Chimney Rock, Sycamore Pass, several canyons, Bear, Maroon, and Wilson Mountains, and all of Sedona.
The Baldwin Trail to Cathedral Rock begins at Verde Valley School Road and takes you into the valley before reaching a scenic draw lined by Cathedral Rock on one side and a beautiful red rock butte on another. The hike is 5-miles round trip but is well-maintained and accessible to all skill levels. It is a great way to snap some of those iconic photos without battling crowds for the perfect shot.
The trails within Carroll Canyon are beautiful and well-connected but far enough off the beaten path to help you avoid crowds. You can make loops by connecting one or two other trails, or simply do an easy out and back. On Carroll Canyon Trail, you’ll pass through lovely Carroll Canyon and then ascend to the scenic ridges above the canyon’s gorge. It offers awe-inspiring views of the Northern area of Sedona before descending back along the canyon fault and up towards the Old Post Trail.
This is the best hike for those looking to experience some of Sedona’s world-renowned vortexes. Cow pies refer to massive, multi-level flat rock mounds that resemble, well, cow pies. The Cow Pie Trail in Bear Wallow Canyon takes you up onto the mounds for some breathtaking views and some of the most powerful vortexes in the region. Once you’re there, you will find stones placed in a circular formation known as a medicine wheel, used to attract positive energies to the site. If you are a movie buff, you’ll be pleased to know that John Wayne was filmed here for the Western Angel and the Badman in 1947.
Marg’s Draw Trail allows you to experience everything the best Sedona hikes have to offer in a short distance. That includes red rock views, sprinklings of Juniper and Pine, and dry desert waterfalls. Marg’s Draw treats its hikers to incredible views of Uptown Sedona, Capitol Butte, Wilson Mountain, Snoopy Rock, Camel Head, and Steamboat Rock. The best thing about it? It’s only a 2 mile round trip. That means you can see some of Sedona’s most iconic red rock formations in about an hour.
At the Alma de Sedona Inn, we also give our guests access to our own hiking bible, a handy binder filled with some of the best trails in Sedona, both popular and off-the-beaten-track. If you don’t see something you like here, just ask for the binder when you arrive and we’ll help you find the perfect hike for you.
Planning a trip to Sedona? Book a stay at the Alma de Sedona Inn for warm service and incredible red rock views.