Wanting something more than a desert stroll but don’t want to log a 10-miler with your school-aged kids? Want a hike that has a high reward to ‘incentivise’ them to come along? Here are our favorite Sedona hikes to do with our kids, aged 4-15.
Even though Cathedral rock is only a little over a mile round trip, it is an adventure! A fair amount of the hike is a bit of a rock scramble or stairs, but that’s why my kids liked it so much. It’s actually easier than it appears, and the trail is well marked with the best places to make it up the rocks. My 4 year-old made it up the whole thing without a problem. The views are insane and we took a lot of time to sit and enjoy it all while catching our breath.
This is a vortex hike and I asked my kids to be conscious that others came here to connect. Most people on the trail try to maintain a quiet energy and it’s not unusual to see people meditating on a secluded rock. My kids were pretty respectful of this and it really added to the whole experience for all of us.
The trail ends as you crest between two massive pillars. The view to the west opens up in front and it truly is breath-taking. A lot of people just stay right on the flat as you crest, but going to the left or right you can usually find a quiet place to enjoy one of nature’s finest vistas. Off to the right is a ledge where people get ‘The Cathedral Shot’. There is usually a small line of people waiting for the photo op, they are usually very kind and willing to exchange taking pictures. I didn’t allow my younger kids to go to the photo spot, but I took my two olders.
Because the top of Cathedral Rock frames the mountains to the west, it is a perfect place for a sunset hike. We have done it for sunset twice, and for sunrise once. It is one of my favorite places to view either.
Info: There are pit toilets at the trailhead. The parking lot is very small and is closed during the day in high season, with a shuttle running from a parking lot a few miles away. If you choose to do a sunrise or sunset hike you might be able to get a spot in the parking lot, it’s worth checking. This hike is VERY exposed, bring lots of water.
Bell Rock Climb
Now, there is Bell Rock Pathway, and there is Bell Rock Climb. Bell Rock Pathway is very well maintained and stroller friendly. That is not what my rock-loving boys wanted. They wanted to climb.
The hike states that it is 1.3 miles round trip. We started at the trailhead and made sure to follow the signs for Bell Rock Climb and not Pathway. The first little bit is flat but then you start going up the rock. This ‘trail’ isn’t as marked as Cathedral, and it feels a little more like a pick-your-own experience. Because of the nature of the hike, I don’t know how one could state the actual length of it. Either way, I let my boys choose where they wanted to explore and we made it about ⅔ of the way up, with lots of stops and explorations along the way, before one of my boys didn’t want to go farther.
My older boys decided to continue on and later declared this hike as their very favorite in Sedona.
Because Bell Rock has very little to no vegetation to protect and there isn’t a very definitive trail, people can kind of go wherever, making the trail feel much less crowded than other hikes in Sedona. We found a secluded spot, stacked rocks, took pictures, and enjoyed the energy of Sedona. My little ones even asked if they could meditate. It didn’t last long but it was so sweet.
Info: Pit toilets at trailhead. The parking lot can fill up on a busy weekend, there is an overflow but it is a bit of a pain to get to. There isn’t any shade once you start climbing, unless the sun is low. Bring lots of water.
Airport Mesa is another vortex hike and probably the easiest vortex location to reach. If you decide to do the whole trail it is a 3.2 mile loop. We did a sunrise hike at Airport Mesa, and even though we arrived at 6 in the morning we still had to park at the upper lot. The upper lot is huge though, and the hike loops back past it, so we didn’t actually add any time onto our total hike.
Once we parked we hiked back to the lower lot and up a massive rock to where the energy vortex is supposed to be at. It was the perfect spot (arguably the best spot in Sedona) to watch the sunrise with the almost 360 degree views of the sedona valley. Even though there were a lot of people, (mostly) everyone was being quiet and respectful. We soaked up all that beautiful sunrise energy for about a half hour before finishing the rest of the loop.
The trail takes you around the whole mesa, which really is an Airport. We saw a few airplanes and helicopters land and it really added to the experience. The trail doesn’t gain much elevation, but it is on a pretty steep slope and I was glad we only took our older kids on this one. This trial has less of a destination, with the main attraction of the vortex and Sedona viewpoint being at the beginning, but the whole loop is stunning.
Info: There were porta potties at the upper parking but no bathrooms at the lower. This hike has some shade, but gets very hot mid-day. Bring lots of water.
Beaver Creek Trail
Everywhere else in Sedona feeling packed? Beaver Creek might be the answer. This hike is fantastic because you can go as far as you want and still have a great ‘destination’. The entire hike is a 7 mile round trip (3.5 miles each way) to the actual main attraction ‘crack’ where there is cliff jumping, a swimming hole, but the trail follows the river and there are a ton of places to access the river along the way.
We went less than a mile up the trail, found an access, and then spent 3 or more hours playing in the river, skipping rocks, and enjoying a little picnic. When we went the Saturday before Easter and it was fairly busy but because there are so many access points we were able to find a great spot along the river all to ourselves. It really felt like a peaceful oasis in the desert.
Our group was wanting a chill day or else we might have pushed on to the crack. Next time!
Info: There are pit toilets at the trailhead. The parking lot can fill up on a busy weekend, there is an overflow about a half mile away. Cell service is very low. Most of the hike is not shaded unless you are down by the river. BRING LOTS OF WATER.
Devil’s Bridge Trail
Ok, we actually didn’t do this one and the above picture is of the Bell Rock hike, but I was really sad that we didn’t because it sounded perfect for us. Just long enough to be challenging at 3.9 miles round trip, a high-reward destination to keep everyone excited, and safe enough for the little ones.
Since we were in Sedona over Easter we kept hearing stories of how crazy the line was to get pictures on the bridge and I just didn’t want to deal with that. But if I am going to do the hike I do really want the iconic Devil’s Bridge Trail. So next time we go we are going to do this hike early in the day, in the middle of the week, and not over a major holiday. We advise you to do the same.
This list could be 10 times as long, and we are so excited to go back and share more of our favorite Sedona adventures. If you have suggestions to add to this list of best hikes in Sedona for older kids we would love to hear about them.