Sedona is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and there are countless options when it comes to things to do in Sedona but in my humble opinion there is no better way to experience the majestic beauty of the Red Rock country than to hike it. The best time to hike is early spring as the desert is blooming and the weather is beautiful. Let me tell you that cactus flowers are some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen and this is a sight not to be missed. As you hike among the Red Rock formations you will find that every few minutes your view of these awe inspiring rock sculptures changes completely and with every step you discover something amazing around you from cactuses blooming with bright colored flowers, lizards and beautiful birds to different shapes in the rock formations.
The Hike House website has a great list of all the trails and their ratings both in terms of difficulty and views, it also includes the length of the trail and how to get to each one so this is a great place to start when you are deciding what trail to hike. I am not a hiker but while we where in Sedona we hiked many of the trails and I am including a list of trails that are not only easy to hike and ideal for
people who sit all day at their desk and never exercise like me beginner hikers and families with children. Most of these hikes are easy, can be done in 3 hours or less and they all have a huge appeal when it comes to the quality of the vistas and experiences you will get while hiking them. We did not bring the kids but I am sure my 7 year old would have been ok hiking any of these.
West Fork Trail
West Fork is a magical trail and probably the easiest although it’s also the longest. The 3.3mile ( 6.6 miles round trip) hike along Oak Creek is very different from most other hikes in the area combining the the beautiful forest along the creek with the red rock canyon walls that rise high into the sky on both sides of the creek.
This is an ideal trail for kids as the trail is an easy stroll, it’s shaded by the trees and you get to cross the river multiple times (I believe it’s about 13 times) by stepping on stones which kids will love. Do take into account that the rocks are slippery when crossing the stream and the kids and some adults will most probably end up getting their shoes wet. We walked this trail in the spring and the combination of the lush, bright green forest with the red rock canyon walls that climb high up each side of the canyon is just awe inspiring. As we walked along the creek we found areas that where filled with flowers.
Broken Arrow to Chicken Point
This trail might be my favorite trail; it’s easy enough and fun all the way to the end with lots of beautiful views. The trail is about 3.5 miles roundtrip. At about 0.6, look for the fence around Devil’s Dining Room Sinkhole, you can also take a side trail to look at an interesting rock formation called Submarine Rock.
About halfway throughout the trail, you arrive at a scenic red rock outcrop beside Twin Buttes where you will enjoy some beautiful sweeping vistas, see video above. The trail ends at Chicken Point where we where simply blown away by the breathtaking scenery. There is just no way to capture this in a photo, not even the video does this place justice; it’s just something you have to experience yourself. This trail requires a bit of a climb and there is no shade. If you have smaller children you might want to get the jeep tour to Chicken Point instead.
Another great option for seeing Broken Arrow is taking a Broken Arrow Jeep tour, this is a fun activity everyone in the family will enjoy.
Red Rock Crossing
Red Rock Crossing is one of the most photographed places in the United States. Here Cathedral Rock is usually reflected in the waters of Oak Creek.People come here to fish, swim, and wade in the creek, as well as to picnic and photograph the scenery. When we visited the water from the creek was not covering the red rock sandbar like it usually does so we did not get to see Cathedral Rock reflected on the water but the view of was breathtaking none the less.
This is the perfect place for a picnic and for a dip in the creek so bring swimsuits and some lunch. If you continue walking along the creek you will arrive at Buddha Beach, where people have build hundreds of stone cairns as this place is believed to be the site of a powerful energy vortex. It’s fun to look at all the stone towers and the kids will enjoy building one of their own as well.
To get there drive west from Sedona on US 89A. Just outside town, turn south on FR 216 (Upper Red Rock Loop Road). Drive about 1.5 miles and follow the signs to Red Rock Crossing. All roads except the short segment leading from Red Rock Crossing Road to the picnic area are paved.
Boynton Vista Trail
The Boynton Vista trail is the shortest trail on this list. This 0.6 miles trail (1.2 miles roundtrip) is an easy but steady climb up to the Boynton Spires, an interesting rock formation. While we where there a family with two kids under 10 was hiking it, they were going slow but both of the kids made it to the top with no problems.
From the overlook you get sweeping open vistas of many rock formations including Deadman’s Pass and Mescal Mountain to the east; Capitol Butte, Chimney Rock, and Courthouse Butte to the south; and Boynton Canyon and the Enchantment Rock. This is an ideal trail if you are looking for a quick hike as you can probably do it in under one hour, even at a slow pace.
An easy 1.4 mile loop can be made from the Thunder Mountain Trailhead using Lower Chimney Rock Trail and the southern portion of the Thunder Mountain Trail. This is an easy level trail but there is little shade so it’s better to do it early in the morning. The Thunder Mountain trailhead is located in a quiet residential area and I added it to the list because it’s an easy trail and it’s also very convenient as it’s close to town and it’s not as popular as other trails so you get to connect more with nature and don’t run into so many people as you do in other trails.
We stayed at Alma de Sedona, a bed and breakfast that is only a short walk away from the Thunder Mountain trailhead which gave us the opportunity to hike this trail early in the morning and while on the trail we saw a bobcat; this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! The night before we saw a Javelina with her baby crossing the street in front of the inn so if you are hoping to see some wildlife on the trails be sure to get up early and choose trails that are less popular.
Tips For Hiking With Kids
- Do your research and decide which trails are best for you and your family. Start slow and make sure to bring a map of the trails and check the map at the trailhead (or take a picture of it with your cell phone). You will not have cell phone signal on most trails and many of these trails intersect with other trails that might lead you to areas with higher difficulty levels.
- Especially during spring and summer hike early in the morning and avoid hiking in unshaded trails when it’s too hot.
- Long sleeves and long pants in breathable fabrics should be worn during spring and summer instead of shorts and short sleeves as well as wide-brimmed hats.
- Bring sunblock and apply it on yourself and on the kids every hour.
- Bring lots of water for everyone and take a drinking break every 15 minutes or so, the desert’s dry climate will dehydrate kids quickly.
- The trails are filled with rocks, roots, etc. so it’s important to make sure you and the kids wear the right foot ware. For short day hikes, there is no need to buy hiking shoes or boots. My favorite choice is trail runner tennis or tennis shoes with good traction and a soft, flexible sole that is thick enough that you won’t feel every rock beneath your feet.
- Stay on the trail! Not only is this dangerous as there might be cactuses and rattlesnakes but the dark patches of crust around the trail are alive with lichens, fungi, and bacteria that prevent erosion and retain water. A single footstep can erase decades of growth!