Fay Canyon Trail, Sedona, Arizona
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Recommended supplies and information:
▪ Bring at least 68 ounces (2 liters) of water
▪ Small First Aid Kit
▪ Trekking Pole
Approximate Trekking information:
Distance One Way: 1.68 miles (2.7 km) depending upon how many side trails are accessed.
Total Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation at base 4,570 ft to 4,960 ft at highest point in canyon, depending what trail you branch off to.
Elevation at base 1392.9 m to 1511.8 m at highest point in canyon, depending what trail you branch off to.
Temperature for January 10, 2015: 52.5F to 72.2F / 11.3C to 22.3C
Delightful, Challenging, Great Views
To pick up a Daily Park Pass, access the Boynton Canyon Trail entrance 2 minutes away. There you will find a convenient Park Pass machine available 24 hours a day.
Fay Canyon Trail is one of the shortest canyon trails in Sedona. But don’t let the short distance discourage you from having the hike of the year, since Fay Canyon is one of the prettiest canyons in the region.
Not only is Fay Canyon Trail wondrous in scenic value, it provides several hidden treasures to be found by explorer minded trekkers. In this canyon you will find green dense woods, beautiful rock formations, scattered secret cliff dwellings, and even a very large hidden Natural Arch rock formation.
The main trail within Fay Canyon scatters off onto multiple side trails, leading to spectacular views in every direction. The red paths are a combination of soft clay and smooth rounded rocks very easy on the boots. Side trails, however, may lend itself to sharper terrain hiking depending how often the path has been accessed.
A short trek into the main trail, a sign informs the hikers the trail beyond this point is no longer maintained. So be mindful of your footing and from disturbing the ancient ruins.
Several side trails are much steeper and can be extremely slippery and loose during wet weather trekking conditions. On 10 January, 2015, there was light rain and patches of snow and slushy ice along portions of the trail.
Yet, remarkably, the temperature never dipped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). I actually had to remove a layer of clothing to cool down a bit.
After completing several hiking trails in Sedona the past several months, I opted to explore Fay Canyon in the winter due to the high concentration of trekkers during the more fair months of the year. During my almost four hours of exploring the canyon, I came across about twenty other hikers. Some trekkers were hiking in groups, a few couples, and two or three families with very young children were pressing trough the switchback trails.
Although, several hikers were spotted on the main trails, there were plenty of times I felt delightfully tranquil and peaceful trekking off-trail into unchartered and less travelled areas.
One of the most fascinating aspects of hiking in Fay Canyon, is stumbling across well hidden and ancient cliff dwellings. There are several cliff dwellings within the canyon, but all of them are very well hidden. Trekking up the random trails is hit or miss in finding these secluded rock dwellings. However, the higher in elevation you climb up the steep canyon walls, the better chance you may see one of these in the distance. At that point, site navigation will be your best bet in making your way over to one of the next dwellings. Speaking with a few hikers along the trail we conversed as to where to find some of the secret cliff dwellings. In few hours, I found one and spotted two more in the far distance.
In the past, the cliff dwellings were well chosen for their natural large rock over hangs, distant high vantage points looking down into the canyon, and escape routes (back entrances) heading up to the top rim of the canyon.
Hidden Natural Arch
Just a short walk from the parking lot, one of the first side trails guide you to a very steep path leading up to a remarkable, well hidden natural arch. Viewing the side of the cliff from the main trail vantage point, the arch is optically not viewable.
Depending upon the time of day and the height of the sun, streams of light rays will reveal the arch protruding 15 feet (4.5 meters) from the cliff walls. Hiking up to the arch is certainly one of the main attractions of the trail, but keep in mind; you may run into several other hikers taking in the view and photographing it as well.
About 14 years ago, I trekked up to this same arch, but don’t remember seeing a cliff dwelling being at this location. As you can see by the construction of the walls of this dwelling, it appears rocks have been haphazardly placed on top of one another. By inspecting other cliff dwellings within Fay Canyon, one can see that the rock placement and stacking for the walls are much tighter and more care and expertise was implemented in construction.
I am not an expert in cliff dwelling construction and history, but this particular dwelling beside the side of the arch appears to be somewhat flimsy and lackadaisically designed. Perhaps hikers over the years have added rocks sporadically and/or this was created as a tourist attraction.
Amazing Canyon Views
Fay Canyon Trail is most beautiful especially when photographed from higher up in the canyon. Incredible views surround you in all directions, and no matter what your trekking perspective is, you are sure to have a beautiful view. Mixed colors of green and red and dense vegetation throughout accent the cliff walls in stunning delight. I can only imagine the colors in the peaking autumn time on this trail.
Fay Canyon Trail will be remembered as a special hike for me since it was the first of 2015. This canyon trail has so much to offer to both light hikers and seasoned climbers alike due to its variety of terrain, views, and its historical content. Although Fay Canyon trail is a shorter distance trail, exploring the vast cliff crevices and meandering paths can turn an hour hike into a 4-5 hour hike quite easily. Due to the popularity of this canyon, visiting on weekdays would be the best time to trek it. This trail is a fun experience for both young children and adults alike and is a perfect opportunity for excellent scenic photography. For GPS enthusiasts as myself, various portions of the canyon walls block GPS tracking signals. I would highly recommend Fay Canyon Trail for nature lovers visiting Sedona, Arizona anytime of year. This will certainly become one of your favorite fun treks in the region.
View all images of the trail:
View GPS Trail Analysis:
View GPS Map and photo locations:
From Sedona on Route 89A, go west on Dry Creek Road. Go. 2.9 miles to a “T” and turn left on Boynton Pass Road. Go 1.6 miles to another “T” and turn left onto FR 152C. Continue for 1 mile to the trailhead parking area on the left. Cross the street to the trailhead.
Map to Secret Canyon Trail, Sedona, Arizona