The Real Dirt on Hiking in Sedona

Local hiking experts Greg and Gracie Stevenson inspire trail-driven vacations in “America’s day-hike capital.”

Sweeping views of breathtaking red rock formations greet hikers as they make their way along Devil’s Bridge Trail. The 4.2-mile, roundtrip hike’s halfway destination is a stunning geological creation in the shape of a bridge. Sedona’s landscapes hold a majestic essence, often most apparent to those nearest to its natural beauty. Removed from rumbling engines, paved roads and town chatter, serene moments are found along hiking trails surrounded by colorful panoramas.

According to the City of Sedona, anywhere from 2 million to 4 million visitors come to the city each year. Greg Stevenson and his wife, Gracie, were a part of this statistic for many years, traveling to Sedona to visit Greg’s parents. Hiking enthusiasts, they would ask locals for trail recommendations, but soon found that the same 10 trails were being named. Wondering whether they had hiked all of Sedona’s trail options, they researched a broad-based topographical map and uncovered bountiful hiking potential.

With 132 trails in a 20-mile radius, 90 within 10 miles, and 48 within 5 miles, Sedona’s “greatest untapped potential is telling the hiking story,” Greg Stevenson explains, calling the city “America’s day-hike capital.” This realization prompted the Stevenson family to move to Sedona and open The Hike House in 2010.

“The Hike House unlocks Sedona's outdoor experience for visitors and locals alike,” says Dennis Andres, an author and adventure guide also known as “Mr. Sedona.”

Positioning the retail store and information center as a home base for those looking to explore the area’s trails, it includes a clothing, shoe and gear retail shop; the Energy Cafe for healthy fueling; and the Sedona Trail Finder and Grand Canyon Planning Station resources.

The Stevensons and their staff of “hiking concierges,” which includes Greg and Gracie’s two teenage daughters, guide visitors through an interactive trail selection process displayed on a wall-mounted, high-definition television inside the Energy Cafe. After narrowing down the trail inventory by selecting a desired area (five to choose from), distance (from one mile to 15 or more), time, incline, and difficulty (on a scale of one to five), a hiking concierge helps visitors choose the perfect trail based on their desires.

The staff ensures each visitor is educated on the equipment and recommendations for a safe hike, from boots and apparel to hydration needs—all of which can be found in the retail shop—and a half-hour hiking clinic is offered daily at 9 am.

The Hike House’s planning resources extend to the Grand Canyon Planning Station. Stevenson says that almost all Hike House visitors who indicate that they’re heading to the Grand Canyon don’t have a plan for when they get there.

“My favorite section of the Grand Canyon is where less than 20 percent of people go,” he hints; his team helps visitors identify a few must-see areas while at the canyon.

Gracie and Greg Stevenson

The Trails of Sedona

“The biggest misconception about Sedona is that people think it's a small place,” Andres says. Though the city’s residential population is rather small, the city stretches into the Coconino National Forest, which covers 1.8 million acres and is the most diverse national forest in the country. The average elevation is 4,350 feet, with the highest point sitting at 5,600 feet (Coffee Pot Rock).

“Nowhere is such awesome natural beauty more accessible than in Sedona, with most trails just a few minutes away,” he says.

Don’t let the higher elevations of the forest frighten, however, as 50 percent of the trails in the Sedona Trail Finder database are rated easy to moderate and less than two hours in length, Stevenson explains. These include hikes like Fay Canyon Trail, a 2.4-mile, family-friendly and relatively flat trail exposing hikers to red rock cliff walls and large juniper and oak trees; and the easy-to-moderate, 3.4-mile, rolling Little Horse Trail hosting views of Cathedral Rock, Courthouse/Bell Rock, Gibraltar Rock and Munds Wilderness, with several connector hike options along the way for more adventurous trail seekers.

Hikers yearning for a historical connection may seek trails like the Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites, which visit ancient American Indian cliff dwellings; West Fork Trail, where American novelist Zane Grey wrote “Call of the Canyon”; and Munds Wagon, which follows a path used by early settlers in the late 1800s. Sedona’s four vortex sites are among popular destinations as well, and can be found along the Cow Pies, Boynton Canyon, Cathedral Rock and Airport Loop trails.

The Stevensons like to think of the Energy Cafe as the meeting point at the bottom of a ski run—go out and enjoy the trails and then stop back in to fuel up on Gracie’s popular red rock trail cookies and make-your-own trail mix, chat with fellow hikers and the hiking concierges about your experience and plan for your next adventure.

Stevenson names Cathedral Rock, Devil’s Bridge and West Fork Trail as a few of his favorite hikes, but Andres says he allows the season to dictate his hiking experience.

“In spring, I watch wildflowers along Marg's Draw, and stroll by Oak Creek on the Baldwin and Templeton trails in summer. Sterling Pass in autumn provides splendid views, as does the Bell Rock Pathway in winter,” he says.

The passionate hiking concierges at The Hike House encourage visitors to step onto the trails and experience the area’s natural elements in a destination that is consistently named as one of America’s most beautiful places. And as a take-home resource, Stevenson published “The Sedona Hiking Guide Book, Volume 1” in 2013, which details 25 of the area’s hiking trails, complete with photography, maps, driving directions and video QR codes.

“Once they discover Sedona and the hiking here, they come back,” Stevenson says of his business’s and his city’s guests. “If they allow themselves into nature, they can’t help but come back.