Distance: 5 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 3.5 hrs – 5 hrs | Level: Hard
Bear Mountain Trail in Sedona is a challenging hike that leads to panoramic views of red rocks, canyons, buttes, and mountains.
The trail is rugged, and exposed, and puts hikers to work from the get-go. While the elevation never lets up, neither do the unobstructed views. Bear Mountain Trail was the first hike we did on our Sedona trip and remains one of our favorites in the area.
In this guide, I cover what to expect when hiking Bear Mountain in Sedona, finding the trailhead, the best time to start the hike, what to pack, and nearby trails you can’t miss.
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Hiking Bear Mountain Trail in Sedona
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Finding the Trailhead
Bear Mountain in Sedona is located about 20 minutes northwest of the heart of town. Bear Mountain trailhead and the parking lot are located off Boynton Pass Road. Along this same road are other popular hikes such as Doe Mountain, Fay Canyon, Birthing Cave, and Devils Bridge.
The trail shares a parking lot with Doe Mountain Trail — another must-do hike in Sedona. We didn’t have an issue snagging a spot like you sometimes run into when hiking more popular trails such as Cathedral Rock.
The lot has a parking kiosk and pit toilet. Be aware that Bear Mountain Trail is located across the road from the parking area. If you begin the trail located in the parking lot, you will be heading towards Doe Mountain rather than Bear Mountain.
We unknowingly started the trail that began directly from the parking lot and found ourselves climbing Doe Mountain instead. Thanks to the AllTrails map we caught our mistake quickly.
Cross the road to begin Bear Mountain Trail.
Bear Mountain requires a $5 Red Rocks day pass. Purchase the pass at a nearby kiosk and display it on your vehicle dash.
Your fee is covered if you have an America the Beautiful Park Pass.
Best Time to Hike Bear Mountain Trail
Bear Mountain is hot. The entire trail is exposed to the sun and heats up quickly. We naively began this trail around 10:00 a.m. Luckily, it was February so rising temperatures weren’t a huge concern.
With that being said, the trail was still hot and we stopped for water more times than usual. I would recommend hitting up Bear Mountain for sunrise for the most enjoyable experience.
There are several pros to hiking Bear Mountain in Sedona for sunrise. For starters, the surrounding red rocks of Sedona are notorious for putting on a show during sunrise. The entire trail is surrounded by red canyons and buttes, ready to glow the moment the sun touches them.
Another reason to hike Bear Mountain Trail for sunrise is to avoid the extreme heat. There isn’t one stop along the trail where hikers can take a break in the shade. Unless you’re visiting during winter, it’s going to be an extremely hot climb.
Keep yourself safe and avoid this hike midday.
Lastly – not that this trail is overly trafficked as it is – but you’re bound to encounter fewer hikers if you can beat them to the trail. Start early and enjoy some secluded time in nature.
What to Expect Hiking Bear Mountain Trail
The trail begins flat as you make your way across the valley. This is the easiest section of the trail and only last about .3 miles.
Once you reach the foot of the red rocks you begin the long gain of elevation up Bear Mountain.
There are white trail blazes painted along the rocks every 15 feet or so. At times the trail can be hard to follow. Use these white markings and check for them often to make sure you’re on the right path. They particularly become handy on the hike out.
The grade of the trail becomes increasingly tough as you climb. It’s a calf burner, to say the least. Much of the trail also consists of broken rocks and requires intentional foot placement. The trail is exhausting in more ways than one.
Be aware that this trail is notorious for its false summits. You’ll know you’ve reached the official end once you see the trail sign.
Bear Mountain Trail is a great example of how hikes are about the journey, not just the destination. The surrounding views are beautiful as you climb the trail, maybe even more so than the final peak.
In other words, don’t just put your head down and trudge to the top. Take in the views along the way.
The summit is large and wide open. You’re rewarded with great 360-degree visibility of not only the surrounding canyons and buttes but also of the San Fransisco Peaks.
We enjoyed some time at the summit, relishing the rewards of our hard work before we began the steep descent back the way we came.
The return hike was easier on the lungs but harder on the knees. We loved our trek up Bear Mountain, but we were happy to see it come to an end.
Isn’t that how all the best hikes go?
What to Pack for Bear Mountain
While relatively short, Bear Mountain in Sedona is a physically and mentally demanding hike. Making sure you have everything you need to not only enjoy the hike but also keep yourself safe is important.
I recommend hikers pack the following things for Bear Mountain:
The trail isn’t excessively long but it is taxing. The trail grade, mixed with the dry heat and Sedona elevation makes for some tough conditions.
Ensure you’re always carrying roughly one liter of water every two miles. In the case of Bear Mountain, I wouldn’t recommend packing less than two liters.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to throw some goodies into your pack for a summit snack to fuel you up for the return hike.
Sunglasses, Hat, and/or Sunscreen
Prepare for a hot and sunny trek up Bear Mountain. As I’ve mentioned several times already, Bear Mountain Trail is completely exposed to the sun with almost zero opportunities for shade.
I recommend bringing sunglasses, a hat, or sunscreen to help protect you from the sun and make the trek more enjoyable. Even better if you come prepared with all three.
Of course, you can reduce the intensity of the sun by starting the trail before the temperature rises. Again, I highly recommend hiking Bear Mountain Trail for sunrise and wish we had done so.
Hiking Shoes with Good Grip
The trail terrain on Bear Mountain is rocky, uneven, and steep.
Throughout most of the hike, you’re either on an up or down slope, navigating rocks. Shoes with good grip will help with your confidence and balance as you traverse the rugged trail.
Optional: Trekking Poles
Trekking poles were a huge knee-saver when hiking back down. The trail is steep and puts a lot of strain on your joints. As someone who struggles with knee pain, I was grateful to have my poles on hand to assist in the descent. They are by no means a necessity though.
Other Hikes Nearby
Bear Mountain is located off Boynton Pass Road. Along the same road are some of the best hikes in Sedona. Below are some hikes I also recommend checking out while you’re in the area.
Doe Mountain Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 1 hr – 1.5 hrs | Level: Easy-Moderate
Doe Mountain Trail is at the top of our list for when we return to Sedona. Doe Mountain was suggested to us by several friends. We, unfortunately, had to choose between Bear Mountain and Doe Mountain due to time.
We opted to explore Bear Mountain because it’s a longer more challenging hike, but we heard Doe Mountain is just as epic for half the work. The hike begins from the same parking lot as Bear Mountain.
Those adventurous enough could opt to hike them both, back to back.
Fay Canyon Trail
Distance: 2.3 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 1 hr – 1.5 hrs | Level: Easy
We completed Fay Canyon Trail right after Bear Mountain. The trailhead and parking lot are located right down the road. This is a much easier trail and therefore comes with more traffic.
The trail is relatively flat and short in distance. The view at the end of this trail is what made us fall in love with it.
Most of the hike is along the canyon floor making the trail at first glance not seem very impressive. However, just past the “Trail ends here” sign is an incredible viewpoint and one of our favorites in Sedona.
Check out my full guide: How to Find the Hidden Gems Along Fay Canyon Trail.
Birthing Cave Trail
Distance: 2 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 1 hr – 1.5 hrs | Level: Moderate
Another hike we are adding to the top of our list for our next trip is Birthing Cave Trail. I’ve always had a fascination with caves and crevices so all of the cave hikes in Sedona peak my interest.
The hike is short and moderate in difficulty, making it another great option to tack onto a longer hike in the area.
Please be mindful of the fact that Birthing Cave is a sacred cultural site and should be treated as such.
Distance: 4 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 2 hrs – 3 hrs | Level: Moderate
If I’m being completely honest, Devils Bridge wasn’t necessarily one of my favorite hikes in Sedona but it is an iconic spot. With that being said, visiting it seems somewhat like a rite of passage for first-time Sedona visitors.
To be expected with the popularity of the hike, the trail is going to be busy. There will most likely be a line to walk across the bridge. Right behind the bridge are an expansive view and a beautiful valley backdrop.
I recommend hiking Devils Bridge via Chuck Wagon Trail. It’s a more scenic and secluded route to reach the bridge. Read my full guide, Devils Bridge Hike in Sedona: Everything You Need to Know, before hitting the trail.
Are you planning a trip to Sedona? If you have any questions about other hikes or must-have adventures in the area, drop me a message in the comment section below!
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