Bear Mountain Trail in Sedona is a favorite among Verde Valley hiking enthusiasts.
It provides all the great things needed for a great day in the red rocks, all stuffed in small, compact 5-mile loop. It’s also in a part of Sedona that is spared from much of the congestion and noise affected by crowds.
The Coconino National Forest Service calls the Bear Mountain Trail hike “strenuous,” but I would say it’s not so bad if you take it in sections and bring plenty of water.
The Bear Mountain Trail is only five miles round trip, but it’s a breathtaking 1,800-feet gain in feet. I have always found parking spots at the Bear Mountain trail head, but the Faye Canyon parking lot is also nearby in a pinch.
The trail starts easy enough on soft sand, across some creek-like washes, up some switch-backs. It is unshaded, but there is a small cave on the way up for a quick break while making this ascent. This where you get the first great views of the valley and things to come.
The trail levels out and gives your knees a break. It’s beautiful Western scenery now: cactus, vegetation framed by red rocks and inspiring views. The trail then continues inside of the cracks of rocks as it leads hikers to the top of the next summit.
The views are spectacular again back at the parking lot towards Doe Mountain, or in the other direction towards big storm clouds building in the west.
From here, the hike again flattens out toward the actual summit. You are more than halfway.
The rest of the hike is also out in the open sun, but holds amazing views in either direction as you walk along toward the summit at a moderate hike. As you near the end, you swear you just hiked 10 miles, but it’s the 1,800 feet that makes you feel that way.
The most-surprising moment during this hike came when I discovered that, when looking off the side of the trail near the top to the right, I could peek into the amphitheater-shaped Fay Canyon. It is an amazing red rock canyon that has to be appreciated from this vantage point.
Walking around on top I found flat, molded red rocks, providing perfect sunbathing beds to stretch out.
The hike down is fun and fast, passing people on the trail going up
Some are dressed like they are entered in a marathon and seem to have an agenda to get somewhere fast. Others are strolling with dogs and look lost and don’t care.
Either way, a great trail to experience the red rocks of Sedona.