According to local legend, Robbers Roost, located northwest of Sedona but visible from any high vantage point in town, was a hideout for bandits and bootleggers, hence the name. (A film called Robbers’ Roost was photographed in Sedona in 1932, but no scenes were filmed at its namesake.) While that has never been proven, there’s no doubt this off-the-beaten-path cave with expansive views of the surrounding forest would make a great lair.
The trail that leads to the roost is short – only 0.4-mile one way – but steep and rocky. We started our hike at a parking turnout on FR 9530. Note that you need a four-wheel-drive and/or high-clearance vehicle to travel on FR 9530. Passenger vehicles will need to park at the start of this steep, rocky road and walk, which adds a mile to your hike on either side. The trail begins just across the road from the parking lot. There are no trail markers; look for a well-worn path that leads downhill into a ravine (there’s a Wilderness Area sign a few yards along the path that is visible from the road). The trail makes a steep descent followed by a steep ascent, and then it leads around the face of the red rock butte that houses the roost. Check out the chartreuse lichen growing along the walls. After hiking about 0.32 mile, your views open up, and you can see Cockscomb, Courthouse Butte and even Cathedral Rock, which appears very small off in the distance.
The roost is a large alcove with a red-rock retaining wall that supports the floor. Aside from the main opening, there’s a circular window in the alcove that makes for unique photos. The walls and dirt floor are black with soot from fires. We can’t emphasize enough the beauty of this area. Since it’s relatively hard to reach, each time we go out there, we have the place to ourselves (minus the occasional helicopter), and the silence can be deafening. After spending time in the cave, head back the way you came, but keep an eye out for a trail that branches off to the left and climbs to the top of the butte. Make the short climb and explore the Mars-like landscape. If you do so, your hike will measure approximately 1.1 miles round trip or 3.1 miles if you walked the road.