5 Mile Cockscomb – Aerie Trail Loop
Aerie and Cockscomb are well known trails hiked and biked in the western Sedona region. This smooth and flowing loop is perfect for the casual hiker looking for a scenic and somewhat easy 5 mile trek.
Like most trailheads in Sedona, parking can be an issue at certain times of the day. I prefer to arrive early in the morning to ensure a parking spot. I would suggest hiking counter clockwise with the view of Doe Mountain always to your left side. This trek meanders you around to some very nice vast scenic views and one incredible overlook spot (hint: 34.88568°N 111.85435°W) great for lunch or a photo opportunity. I found myself at every turn snapping pictures of the beautiful terrain. Once cockscomb trail meets up with the Aerie trail, there is a gradual incline to the lower portion of Doe Mountain. At the highest point of Aerie trail on Doe Mountain are some wonderful views of Mescal Mountain and western Sedona region.
5 Mile Arizona Cypress – Anaconda – Girdner – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop
Trekking a 5 mile loop can be tricky in Sedona because some trails are not marked. This particular route has updated signs and trail kiosk maps available at the trailhead and trail intersections. This is one on my favorite loop hikes since the terrain vastly varies throughout the journey and is quintessential Sedona. Starting with the Arizona Cypress Trail, this lowland elevation point of the hike is cooled by the shady trees and makes for a good warm up along the way. Then suddenly, you’re hit with the infamous, Anaconda Trail, that zig zags its way upward in elevation making for an amazing cardio workout while seeing some of the absolute best views in Sedona.
The Anaconda Trail is long and winding with plenty of switchbacks, but every turn along the way was greeted with another beautiful scenic view. On the map above, I inserted in orange, Snake Trail, that can lead you downhill back to the AZ Cypress parking area. Due to a knee injury incurred while mountain biking, I had to bail out and use it. The southeast side of Anaconda is a steep and fast downhill hike that flows directly into Girdner Trail. Girdner Trail is a short access point leading into Chuckwagon Trail, and with a quick road crossing, the trail moderately goes back up in elevation. Along the red rocky western portion of Chuckwagon is a great place to remove your pack, grab a sandwich, and enjoy the view. From this point on, the trek is all downhill and meets with Mescal Trail which will take you back to the parking lot. There is an abundance of points of interest along this 5 mile hike.
5 Mile Mescal – Deadman’s Pass – Long Trail Loop
The Mescal – Deadman’s Pass – Long Trail Loop is one of the best kept secrets in Sedona. While most out-of-town people are hiking up to see Devil’s Bridge (hundreds of people a day, seriously crowded), this loop has the best views and few trekkers know about it. Notice the 5 Star Rating! I really like this loop on account of it can be hiked, mountain biked, and ultra trail ran without seeing many people along the way. The image above is the location where a woman from Chicago sprinkled her father’s ashes to rest. I asked her, “Why Here?” She replied, “Look at the magnificent views!” I was blown away. Photographs never truly capture the panoramic beauty of nature.
Hiking Mescal Trail is a true delight. It intersects directly with Deadman’s Pass, then you begin to move gradually upward in elevation. Once reaching Long Trail, it’s downhill from here with amazing peek-a-boo views. Halfway down, if you wanted to add an additional mile to your trek and visit the secret cave (the one that hikers are not supposed to talk about), there is a hidden trail that brings you to the illusive… “Birthing Cave.” The trail on the map above, highlighted in orange, is only an approximate location (I upheld the creed: Hint Trail Entrance: 34°54’45.1752″ N 111°49’51.1754″ W).
At the bottom and end of Long Trail, look to the right, you will see the Mescal Connector Trail that will bring you back to the parking area without having to walk down the road. Not much time to spend in Sedona..? This is the loop trail that will give you your vortex fix.
Trail Data going to the Birthing Cave: https://www.suunto.com/en-us/move/davidpinter/6068dd4ff316f11bd0a0888d?imageId=606a0dc0e85b05407b115933
5 Mile Brins Mesa – Soldier Pass – Jordan – Cibola Pass Trail Loop
Brins Mesa and Soldier Pass Trail is an amazing loop with some of the most drop dead views in Sedona… maybe even in Arizona. Arrive early at the Park Ridge Drive parking lot since spaces will go very quickly. Otherwise you’ll have to park along the road.
This trail loop actually begins about 100 yards in on the Cibola Pass Trail connecting onto the Brins Mesa Trail. Once onto the Brins Mesa Trail, you can immediately appreciate the peacefulness that this portion of Sedona has to offer. Mountain bikes are not allowed on this trail and halfway up I can see why. Brins Mesa Trail winds to and fro through some gorgeous terrain and well shaded resting spots. Gradually inclining upward in elevation, the trail suddenly increases in grade and becomes a steep trekking workout. However, every stop for a drink of water and to catch my breath, I’d be peering at unspeakable beauty. This trail is the reason most of us became hikers. Once reaching the top of Brins Mesa Trail, a vast 360 degree panoramic view welcomes your every effort for making it to the top. You are on the Mesa!
Intersecting with Soldier Pass, the trail begins its massive downhill trek. Great views are everywhere. However, watch your step, you’ll need to carefully navigate the tricky rock footings as you descend. At the base of the trail you’ll find yourself among several hikers photographing the Seven Sacred Pools. Unfortunately, on my last visit the pools were dried up. Don’t fret, looks like there’s rain in the future, so keep your fingers crossed. After passing the Seven Sacred Pools, the giant rock sink hole comes into view. Very interesting rock formations with an excellent opportunity to take some good photos… just don’t back up to much. Jordan Trail meets with Cibola Pass Trail to carry you back to the parking lot. Seriously, everyone who visits Sedona must checkout this amazing trail loop. You’ll be happy you did.
5 Mile Mescal – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop
Fast, fun, easy and jam packed with great views galore. The Mescal – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop is one of the better treks in Sedona. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend figuring out the labyrinth of amazing trails Sedona has to offer, I would suggest this 5 mile hike. The parking is free at the Mescal parking area, but you’d better arrive early to grab your spot. I arrived at 7:30 in the morning in February (32 degrees) and half the parking lot was filled. You can also park across the street along the road.
In the warmer months, Chuckwagon Trail is teeming with mountain bikers and trail runners. However, I only came across about ten outdoor enthusiasts on my hike. The trail is heavily shaded and there are plenty of incredible scenic views to take a break for a sandwich and cold drink.
The trail starts off at Mescal Trail then gradually climbs to Chuckwagon Trail. The signage is well posted and you may run into several hikers heading up to Devil’s Bridge. Once passing the Devil’s Bridge trail split, the hike along Chuckwagon becomes very quiet and peaceful. It felt more like a nature walk with peaked views and very interesting red rock formations within this sanctuary.
Chuckwagon Trail flows gradually up and down rising to a maximum altitude of 4,700 ft. So, there is only a total ascent and descent of about 400 ft… it’s quite enjoyable!
5.3 Mile Schuerman Mountain – Scorpion Trail Loop
If I were to choose an excellent Sedona 5 mile trail loop to hike right now, it would certainly be the Schuerman Mt. – Scorpion Loop. A few things I really like about this trek: 1. Never ending panoramic views, 2. An easy to moderate hike, 3. A great water source halfway through, and 4. Hardly any people on the trails.
The trail begins right behind Sedona High School on Route 89A. At this location, there is plenty of good parking, even if you’re running late. Starting on Schuerman Mountain Trail, the trail ascends steep for about 1/8 of a mile then before you know it, you’re on a flat mesa with amazing 270º panoramic views. The trail from this point is narrow all the way across the mesa. Then the trail descends gradually revealing wide expanses of distant red mountains.
*Now here’s the thing… In order to meet up with Scorpion Trail to complete the 5 mile loop, you must first take a left and head east on a “no name” connector trail. The trail is not difficult to find, but I had my GPS map ensuring I wouldn’t veer off onto some scrambling game trail. Here are the coordinates to copy and paste into your mapping device: 34°49’41.2″N 111°50’40.4″W
By the way, a couple hikers I met along the way had different names for the unknown connector trail. One said it was called the, “Pyramids and Polygons Trail” and another claimed it was the “Overlook Trail.” But, regardless of the name, it certainly was the highlight of the trek.
Now this is where the fun begins. The trail gradually descending back north into an interesting and narrow ravine. There are so many great photo opportunities along this narrow and steep path. Once reaching the lowest level of the ravine, there is a natural tree shaded watering hole and pocket pools. This is an amazing spot to get some rest and shade. The rock formations are incredible.
Next, continue on the unnamed trail and slowly ascend to the cliffs. This will serpentine you across to some of the greatest distant views in Sedona. Eventually, the trail intersects with Pyramid and Scorpion Trail. Take Scorpion all the way back to the school parking lot.
I really enjoyed this hike, but as you know, pictures don’t capture the true beauty and diversity of nature. My advice would be to take this looping trail when it is cooler, since a good portion is exposed to the open sunlight. I am usually on the trails at about 7am, however, I would totally consider heading up to the top of the mesa in the evening to view the sunset and the evening stars.
Sedona has so many more amazing trails. Some trails are longer and some are shorter, but no matter which one you choose, one day you may find yourself in the middle of the Sedona Vortex. I found it by accident one day.