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Guide to Hiking the Bear Mountain Trail – Sedona, AZ

From one of the tallest peaks in Sedona, you can see incredible panoramic views of the red rocks the town is famous for – but getting there is a challenge, and the Bear Mountain trail is definitely a tough one! Though the trail isn’t very long, the elevation gain in a short amount of time is huge. This is one of the absolute best hikes in Sedona, but you’ll need to be prepared!

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to hike the Bear Mountain trail in Sedona, Arizona – from what you can expect on the hike to what you’ll need to bring.

Head’s up: some of these links are affiliate links, so I get a commission if you make a purchase (at no cost to you). But that’s great, because I was going to share anyway, and this helps me keep making free guides for you!

About the Bear Mountain Trail

This hike is pretty difficult, with steep terrain and rock scrambles – so it might be tough for beginner hikers, but overall it’s doable as long as you give yourself plenty of time, bring lots of water, and take breaks when you need them.

Bear Mountain Trail Stats

Length: 4.6 miles (7.4 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 1988 feet (606 meters)
Difficulty: hard

Leave No Trace on the Bear Mountain Trail

Anytime you’re outdoors, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair. This is a pretty popular hike, so it’s super important to make sure it stays open to the public and prevent damage!

Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Bear Mountain trail in Sedona!

  • Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you have the right gear, and bring extra water.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants!
  • Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out!
  • Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
  • Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are not allowed on the trail
  • Respect wildlife – don’t approach wild animals, and never feed them.
  • Be considerate of other visitors – yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.

The Best Time to Hike the Bear Mountain Trail

The best time to hike the Bear Mountain trail is spring or fall. This is when the weather is best, and in the spring you can even see some desert wildflowers!

Though winters in Sedona are fairly mild, this trail does get some snow and ice because the summit of Bear Mountain is at a higher elevation, so it can be difficult and dangerous this time of year.

Summers are very hot in the desert, and this hike is pretty exposed and strenuous already, so doing the trek in 100 degree heat isn’t advised – spring and fall have much more mild temperatures!

Sunrise and sunset are gorgeous from the top of Bear Mountain, so if you have experience hiking in the dark and feel comfortable doing that (keep in mind that this trail is pretty steep, with some scrambles), bring a headlamp and enjoy the view!

Don’t Forget Your Pass!

A Red Rock Pass is required to park at the trailhead for the Bear Mountain trail in Sedona, which can be purchased online ahead of time, or at the pay station in the parking lot. It costs $5 per day, or $15 per week!

However, the America the Beautiful pass is also accepted here, so if you have that you don’t need a Red Rock Pass! It’s an annual pass that will get you into every national park (national recreation areas and national monuments are included) in the country for an entire year, for just $80. If you visit national parks often (or at least more than twice a year), I definitely recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass!

The view of the valley and the mountains in the distance from one of the false summits along the Bear Mountain trail.

What to Bring to Hike the Bear Mountain Trail

When you hike the Bear Mountain trail in Sedona, here’s what you’ll need to bring!

  • Hiking Shoes – this trail is steep, so make sure you’ve got something with grip. I prefer hiking in sandals and wore my Chacos for this hike, but boots are a good idea for more ankle support. I love my Danner boots, but keep in mind that part of the loop requires walking through the water, but going barefoot shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Layers – it gets chilly at the top of Bear mountain, so a lightweight windbreaker or a fleece is a good idea.
  • Backpack – you’ll need a backpack for water and snacks. I use an Osprey Hikelite 26L.
  • Headlamp – going at sunrise or sunset is a great way to avoid crowds, and get the best views but make sure you have a headlamp for hiking in the dark!
  • Hiking poles – the hike is steep, so if you have knee pain going downhill, poles help a lot with that!
  • Water – water is a must, always. This hike is steep and exposed, so I’d recommend bringing an extra water bottle. I brought my 2L hydration pack, and a Nalgene with electrolytes and drank almost all of my water! I hiked later in the day, so if you’re going when the sun is at it’s highest, I’d recommend even more water.

Bonus Tip: A lot of these links are for my favorite place to buy outdoor gear – Backcountry. If you install the free Lolli extension on your browser, you can earn free Bitcoin when you shop online at certain retailers, including Backcountry. You can transfer it to a crypto wallet, or just cash out to your bank account.

Directions to the Bear Mountain Hike

The trailhead for the Bear Mountain hike is located northwest of Sedona, Arizona. If you’re flying in for your trip, there is a small regional airport in Sedona, but you can also fly into the bigger international airport in Phoenix.

Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, I also super recommend signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights to Sedona, and to destinations all over the world. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, but I do recommend the premium account!

You do need a car to get to the trailhead. If you fly, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area.

From Phoenix, it’s about a two hour drive to Sedona. You’ll take I-17 north, then take the exit onto AZ-260 at Camp Verde. Shortly after, it’s aright onto AZ-89, then a left onto Dry Creek Road, which will turn into Boynton Pass Road. If you’re coming from Sedona, it’s a quick drive west on AZ-89 before turning onto Dry Creek Road.

On google Maps, the trailhead for Bear Mountain is called “Bear Mountain trail/Oski approach.”

This is a popular area for hiking, so it can sometimes be difficult to get a spot in the parking lot – you may end up having to park on the main road. Getting there early or later in the day is definitely helpful!

Bear Mountain Trailhead Coordinates: 34.8936,-111.86523

Hiking the Bear Mountain Trail

Once you’ve parked and are ready to start hiking, here’s what you can expect on the Bear Mountain trail!

Bear Mountain Trailhead

The trailhead for Bear Mountain is across the street from the parking lot. There is another trail from the parking area, but this is the trail for Doe Mountain. Cross the street and you’ll see the trail, with a sign confirming that this is Bear Mountain.

The beginning of the Bear Mountain trail in Sedona, with a sign that says "Red Rock Secret Mtn. Wilderness" in front of a red rock mountain.

Uphill to Bear Mountain

The trail starts climbing up pretty much right away – the trail is pretty consistently steep, with a few short breaks where you get to walk on flat trail, or go downhill for a few minutes. The Bear Mountain trail can be a little hard to follow sometimes, but there are white hexagons painted onto the rocks every few feet, so keep an eye out for those!

As you keep going up, you’ll get different views of the valley and the red rocks below. The higher you go, the prettier the views get! Along the way, you’ll see cactuses, sandstone, little lizards, and juniper trees.

There are also a few false summits before you reach the end of the trail – each one has gorgeous views, but when you get to the summit of Bear Mountain, there’s a small metal sign that says “End” to let you know that you’ve made it.

Back to the Parking Lot

Once you’ve enjoyed the view from the summit and taken a snack break, you’ll head back down the same way you came! It’s steep, so watch your footing as going downhill can sometimes be slippery.

Where to Stay Near the Bear Mountain Trail

You can turn your hike into a little getaway, and stay somewhere close by! Sedona is a great place for a trip, with lots of other trails to check out and plenty to do. Here are some of my favorite options for places to stay close to this area.

Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts

For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins, glamping sites, and more. 

You can even get $10 off your first booking here!

A Camper van

With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!

Find a Campsite

Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! There are lots of developed campgrounds to stay in around Sedona, but also plenty of free spots. A lot of the free camping close to town has been closed, but there is national forest land nearby, and you can camp for free not too far outside of Sedona!

There are lots options for free camping near the trail – for tips on finding the best ones, check out this guide.

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Hotels and Lodges

There are also plenty of hotels and inns around Sedona, many of which offer incredible views of the red rocks!

For more options, check out this map of places to stay. Make sure to change the dates, and zoom out to see all of your options!

Booking.com

More Adventures Near the Bear Mountain Trail

Have you hiked this trail, or are you adding it to your bucket list? Let me know in a comment below!

For more adventures in Arizona, check out Ringbolt Hot Springs, which is close to Vegas. If you continue north to Utah, make sure to check out Zion National Park!

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