Bear Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in Sedona. From the top, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the red rocks of Sedona as well as the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.
Getting here is a challenge. This is a short hike, just 5 miles round trip, but the elevation gain is huge. The trail alternates between relatively short, flat sections punctuated with steep, strenuous climbs on a very rocky, uneven trail.
During the summer months, it can get very hot. There is no shade on the trail so bring your sunscreen, your hat and lots of water.
But if you like the idea of high mountain views over Sedona on a less trafficked trail, this is a hike to consider.
Facts About the Hike
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
Red Rock Pass: You will need to purchase a Red Rock Pass for this hike. The day pass costs $5 and you display it in your car window at the car park. Learn more here.
Getting to the Trailhead
Bear Mountain is located northwest of the town of Sedona. To get here it is a 20-minute drive.
On Google Maps, the parking lot is listed as Bear Mountain Trail – Oski Approach/Doe Mountain Parking. The lot is located on Boynton Pass Road.
Park in the car park. To get on the Bear Mountain Trail, cross the street and you will see the trailhead.
Important! If you take the trail that starts directly from the car park, you will hike up Doe Mountain. Make sure you cross the street to the trail to Bear Mountain. Step over the small gate and you should see a sign confirming that you are on the Bear Mountain Trail.
The view of the trail and the first climb of the hike from Boynton Pass Road.
Hiking the Bear Mountain Trail
From the trailhead, the hike doesn’t look too bad. But you can’t see Bear Mountain, at least not yet. It’s hidden behind that chunk of rock right in front of you.
The climb up that first hill is a nice introduction as to what to expect for the next several hours. There are four steep, exhausting, thigh-killing climbs on this hike. In between, the trail levels out or even heads downhill.
Hiking Tip: The trail is marked with white-painted hash marks spaced out every 10 to 20 feet. Make sure you can always see these. In some sections, if you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to wander off of the trail.
Essentially, the trail steadily gains elevation, all the while passing sandstone rocks, juniper trees, and cacti. Colorful, small lizards constantly dart across the trail. Along the way, pause to catch your breath and enjoy the view. The higher you go, the better the views get.
The summit is a bit disappointing. A small, metal sign marks the end of the trail. Enjoy the panoramic views that you worked so hard for and then return to your car the same way.
Bear Mountain Trail in Photos
Here are photos of the hike in order from start to finish.
The first climb of the hike. This one is not too bad.
A view of the red rocks from the trail.
As the trail wraps around the western side of the first hill we were treated to a short stretch of shade. But this photo gives you an idea what much of the hiking trail looks like.
The view from the top of the second climb of the hike.
The trail levels off, at least for a short distance, after the second climb.
Another view from the trail. Unfortunately, if you do this hike in the morning to avoid the hot midday temperatures, Sedona could still be hazy, as you are looking east towards the sun.
From here, you hike up and around the bald rock to Bear Mountain, which is just behind it.
One of hundreds of lizards along the trail.
Just before the summit you get a nice view of more red rocks.
Summit of Bear Mountain.
View from the summit looking northwest.
Our Thoughts on the Hike
We had limited time in Sedona (really just 24 hours) so we picked two hikes to do: Devils Bridge and Bear Mountain.
We chose Bear Mountain because from everything I read online, people rave about the amazing views. And honestly, we also chose it because it was one of the hardest hikes in the area and we like that kind of thing.
However, just 48 hours before hiking the Bear Mountain Trail, Tim and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day. It’s a massive hike and our legs were still sore and we were still running low on energy.
Honestly, we did not enjoy this hike as much as we thought we would. Yes, the views are great, but they aren’t jaw-dropping, like so many other hikers have described them. And this is a tough hike. For me, the view from the final summit was not quite worth the exhausting climb to get there.
But that’s just my opinion. You can see the views in our photos and decide if this hike is worth it for you.
In hindsight I wish that we had picked a different trail. Even though these trails have more traffic, Cathedral Rock, Brins Mesa, and Boynton Canyon also sound interesting.
Before traveling to Sedona, I purchased the book Sedona’s Top 10 Hikes. Along with this guide and some online research, Tim and I picked out our hikes. This handy little guide is filled with colorful photographs, maps, and interesting facts about Sedona.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at a wonderful bed & breakfast called A Sunset Chateau. This is a beautiful property located just outside of the town of Sedona. On property is a pool, hot tub, and a lush garden filled with tropical plants and trees.
We We Ate
Mariposa. This place is awesome! It’s a huge restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating with amazing views of the red rocks. It is an upscale restaurant so I wouldn’t recommend wandering in here sweaty and dirty after just coming off the hiking trail. This restaurant serves latin-inspired food and we had the best burger ever here. Also try the Yucca fries…yum!
We also ate at Picazzo’s Healty Italian Kitchen which serves delicious Italian food. If you have a hankering for Italian, Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano also gets rave reviews.
Do you have plans to hike Bear Mountain Trail? Comment below if you have any questions or if you want to share your experience.
More Information for Your Trip to Arizona:
- GRAND CANYON: Best Things to do on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
- GRAND CANYON: Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike: Planning Guide & Checklist
- MONUMENT VALLEY: The Ultimate Guide to Monument Valley for First Time Visitors
- SLOT CANYONS: 8 Amazing Slot Canyons to Explore in the American Southwest
- PETRIFIED FOREST: Petrified Forest National Park: Travel Guide & Itinerary
- ROAD TRIP IDEA: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
Planning a trip through the United States? Read all of our articles in our United States Destination Guide.
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