Sedona Winter Hike: Bear Mountain Trail

Be prepared to break a sweat hiking this trail, even if there's snow on the ground.



The trail that leads up Bear Mountain may only be 2.5 miles one way, but it’s easily one of the most difficult hikes in Sedona. The trail begins across Boynton Pass Road from the Bear Mountain/Doe Mountain parking lot. Crawl through a metal fence, and begin hiking across cactus-studded terrain. In the beginning, the trail is flat, but don’t let that fool you. You’ll start gaining elevation 0.3 mile from the trailhead. The Bear Mountain Trail climbs more than 2,000 feet in about two miles.

We enjoy this first climb the most because the rocky and steep trail hugs the side of a red rock cliff. It gives you the chance to get up close to an interesting rock face riddled with holes from water and wind erosion. Because this section is so steep, you really need to watch your footing, especially if – like us – you are hiking after a snowstorm. Less than a half-mile into your hike, you’ll reach a secluded alcove. Pause and look behind you for views of Capitol Butte and the edge of the Seven Canyons area. From the alcove, turn left and continue to climb over boulders and loose rock. At about the 0.75-mile point, you’ll be able to see the top of Courthouse Butte, the spire of Chimney Rock and the expanse of the Verde Valley.

The views continue to improve the farther you climb. The trail winds its way into a small canyon before making one last steep push and then leveling out for a while. Look in front of you, and you’ll see another mountain in the distance; its summit is your final destination. Many hikers choose to end their hike here, 1.25 miles from the trailhead. If not, you’ll meander through a landscape of prickly pear cactus and juniper trees before making another heart-pounding climb. When you do reach the top, your views extend all the way to the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. It’s definitely worth the effort…and it’s all downhill from there.

One final note: We can’t stress enough the importance of being careful on this trail and tackling it only in the right conditions. (The Red Rock Ranger District advises against hiking all the way up Bear Mountain if there is heavy snow on the ground.) A plaque at the trailhead reminds explorers that experienced hiker and Sedona resident Steve Nahmanson fell to his death on this trail in November 2007. Please don’t become another casualty.

MORE SEDONA HIKES: Hike of the Month archive, 10 favorite hikes, Sedona day hikes, Mt. Humphreys

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