Nothing makes a trail more memorable than stumbling upon unexpected hidden gems. We began Fay Canyon Trail with low expectations and left the trail with it at the top of our Sedona must-do hiking list.
Fay Canyon is an easy, good for the whole family, trail. Due to its short length and low elevation gain, it’s also a great trail to do following a lengthier hike. Who doesn’t love getting to knock out two trails in one day?
If you’re looking for a short hike packed with views, Fay Canyon Trail is the trail for you.
In this guide, I detail how to find the hidden gems along Fay Canyon Trail, how to get there, what to expect, and nearby hikes to tack on for the ultimate Sedona adventure day.
Complete Guide to Hiking Fay Canyon Trail
Distance: 2.3 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 45 min. – 1.5 hrs | Level: Easy
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How to Get There
Fay Canyon Trail is roughly 15 minutes from the heart of Sedona, located off of Boynton Pass Road. This area is home to several popular Sedona hikes such as Boynton Cave, Birthing Cave, Doe Mountain, and, one of our personal favorites, Bear Mountain.
Fay Canyon Trail has a large parking lot. Keep in mind that the trail is very popular and heavily trafficked. Despite the spacious parking area, spots fill up quickly.
Unlike other popular hikes like Cathedral Rock, a $5 Red Rocks Pass is not required to hike Fay Canyon Trail. With that being said, I still recommend investing in the $15 weekly pass if you plan to adventure around Sedona for a couple of days as we did.
You can check out this article to see which hikes in Sedona require a Red Rocks Pass.
Finding the Trailhead
We saw a couple of hikers wandering around the parking lot looking for the Fay Canyon Trailhead. There’s a trail board located next to the vault toilets which can be misleading.
To begin the trail you will need to cross the road from the parking lot. You will see a path leading straight back into the canyon — this is the start of Fay Canyon Trail. Ignore a social trail that leads right after the road crossing.
What to Expect Hiking Fay Canyon Trail
We had little expectations for Fay Canyon, considering it was just over two miles and Alltrails didn’t reflect any change in elevation. However, we decided to give it a go regardless since it had been recommended to us by a friend.
We quickly appreciated the uniqueness of Fay Canyon Trail in that it allows hikers to explore along the canyon floor. The trail begins as a flat, sandy path and pretty much remains that way for the remainder of the hike.
We saw adventurers of all ages and abilities navigating this trail. With it being a shorter, low elevation gain hike, expect there to be several others on the trail. Furry friends included.
At first, the flatness of the trail deterred me. My m.o. is usually difficult hikes that boast sweeping views from start to finish. I quickly fell in love with Fay Canyon Trail, however, for showing me a different side of Sedona hiking.
The majority of your time spent on Fay Canyon Trail is in the canopy. It’s a great hike to do on a hot day because the canyon creates a nice cool temperature and offers some highly sought-after shade.
Through the tree tops, you can see the looming red canyon walls on all sides. If you go before the sun is situated directly above you’ll get to experience the canyon glowing pink. Cole and I couldn’t get over how magical the lighting was.
Since I wasn’t too stoked about the hike, I didn’t do much prior research other than glancing at the trail map. I wasn’t aware that the trail had a unique arch or a stunning viewpoint until we serendipitously stumbled upon them.
These two attractions are a big reason why Fay Canyon Trail is a must.
Fay Canyon Arch
Fay Canyon Arch is located about halfway into the trail and easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it. From the trail, the arch appears nothing more than a rock lip or a small, shallow cave. Those who take the time to clamber to the top though are in for a treat.
Around .6 miles, a small trail veers off to the right. There’s no official sign indicating that it’s the trail for the arch so keep your eyes peeled for rock cairns or hiker cues.
The pin on AllTrails is also pretty accurate so I recommend having your offline map handy.
Once you veer right, it’s just another .1 mile to the arch. Expect a verticle scramble to reach the top. Shoes with good tread and support are highly recommended as the climb to the arch is steep and challenging.
Be prepared that some backtracking might be necessary to find the trail. The trail to the arch is less maintained and straightforward than Fay Canyon Trail and may take some time and reliance on the map for guidance.
Unfortunately, Cole and I opted to skip Fay Canyon Arch because we had just depleted our legs climbing up Bear Mountain. Did we regret skipping it? Absolutely.
As I mentioned earlier, we hadn’t done any research so we didn’t know what we were missing. Now knowing the uniqueness of Fay Canyon Arch and how short of a detour is off the main trail, we would definitely opt to go see it.
Fay Canyon Viewpoint
We continued past the turn-off for the arch connector trail and continued deeper into the canyon. Apart from a few dry creek bed crossings, the trail continues to remain smooth and flat.
You continue down the trail until you reach an abrupt “Trail ends here” sign. Cole and I glanced at one another with a “that’s it?!” look and decided to keep going.
Good thing we did because the best part about Fay Canyon Trail, in my opinion, comes after the sign.
Just past the sign, there is a large cluster of red rocks. There’s a small social trail that wraps around the left side of the center rock formation.
We followed this path, unsure of where we were going but excited to continue exploring. The trail is nothing challenging or unsafe, it’s just a bit scrambly in sections. After about five minutes of clambering up this path, the trail evened out.
We turned to glance back at the way we had just come and were surprised to see that we now had an unobstructed view over all of Fay Canyon.
What makes this view from Fay Canyon so stunning is that instead of being on top of the canyon looking down onto the surrounding area, you’re in the canyon, peeking through the narrow walls.
We hiked several other trails in Sedona such as Wilson Mountain Trail and Devils Bridge, but none of them provide such a unique and unexpected view as Fay Canyon Trail.
We had the lookout all to ourselves for 30 minutes or so before we decided to call it a day. It was such a soothing place to relax and soak in the magic that is Sedona.
After lying here for a while, I was convinced that Fay Canyon had to be a vortex location. While it’s not an “official” vortex location, the energy is definitely present.
If you’re debating whether or not Fay Canyon is worth adding to your Sedona hiking list — it absolutely is. We nearly skipped over it because we didn’t want to deal with the crowds.
Turns out, we saw nearly no one at the lookout, making it one of our favorite memories from the trip.
Recommended Adventure Add-ons
Since Fay Canyon Trail is short and easy on the legs, it’s a great trail to do pre or post another trail.
Looking back, we wish we would have conquered the Boynton Pass trifecta by hiking Bear Mountain, Doe Mountain, and Fay Canyon all in one day. Instead, we opted to hike Bear Mountain Trail first and it was the perfect combination of trails.
Fay Canyon Trail winds hikers along the floor of the canyon while both Bear Mountain (and Doe Mountain) provide hikers with a bird’s-eye view over the canyons.
It’s a challenge to do the two trails back-to-back (or all three if you’re feeling crazy) but it makes for a great adventure day.
Bear Mountain Trail
Bear Mountain Trail is located just two miles from the Fay Canyon Trailhead. It’s a taxing 5-mile hike that covers over 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
Unlike Fay Canyon, the entire trail is exposed to the sun. The trail also consists of a mix between gravel and broken rocks and requires focus and intentional foot placement. While the trail is exhausting from start to finish, the extensive views help to distract you.
Once you reach the summit you’re rewarded with 360-degree views of not only the surrounding canyons and buttes but also of the San Fransisco Peaks.
Read my full guide, Bear Mountain Sedona: A Challenging Hike Worth the Climb to see why it’s the perfect addition to Fay Canyon Trail.
Doe Mountain Trail
Since we opted to hike Bear Mountain we saved Doe Mountain for a return trip to Sedona. Doe Mountain is located right across the road from Bear Mountain and begins directly from the shared parking lot.
Doe Mountain Trail is a mini Bear Mountain in my opinion. You get much of the same views without the never-ending calf burner to the top. The whole trail is only 1.5 miles and gains just over 500 feet of elevation.
If you’re looking for more of a mellow hike to do pre or post-Fay Canyon Trail, consider doubling up with Doe Mountain Trail.
Note that both Bear Mountain and Doe Mountain require a $5 Red Rocks day pass. You can purchase the pass at a nearby kiosk and display it on your vehicle dash before hiking.
Are you planning a trip to Sedona? If you have any questions about other hikes or must-have adventures in the area check out my Arizona adventure guides or drop me a message in the comment section below!
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