Julie United States 4 Comments

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.

Hiking Stats

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Total Ascent: 1,800 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Location:  West Sedona
Red Rock Pass: You will need to purchase a Red Rock Pass to do this hike. The pass costs $5 per day or $15 for one week. The pass can be purchased at the fee machine at the trailhead (credit cards only). If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can use this rather than purchasing a Red Rock Pass.

Bear Mountain Elevation Profile

Elevation profile

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

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. There is a pit toilet here.

Bear Mountain Location

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.

Bear Mountain Trailhead

The view of the trail and the first climb of the hike from Boynton Pass Road.

 

Bear Mountain Trail Sign

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.

Start of the Trail

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.

Bear Mountain Trail 1

The first climb of the hike. This one is not too bad.

 

Bear Mountain Trail 2

Bear Mountain Trail 3

A view of the red rocks from the trail.

 Bear Mountain Trail 5

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.

 

Bear Mountain Trail 6

The view from the top of the second climb of the hike. Way off in the distance are Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock.

 

Bear Mountain Trail 7

The trail levels off, at least for a short distance, after the second climb.

 Bear Mountain Trail 8

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.

 

Bear Mountain Trail 9

From here, you hike up and around the bald rock to Bear Mountain, which is just behind it.

 Julie in Sedona

Hiking Trail

Lizard

One of hundreds of lizards along the trail.

 Hike Sedona

Just before the summit you get a nice view of more red rocks.

 

Bear Mountain Trail Summit

Summit of Bear Mountain.

 

Julie Rivenbark

Sedona in June

View from the summit looking northwest.

Our Thoughts on the Hike

On our first visit to Sedona, we had limited time (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. For many more recommendations, read our article Where to Stay in Sedona: Best Hotels for Your Budget.

More Information on Sedona

BEST OF SEDONA:  15 Epic Things to Do in Sedona
HIKES IN SEDONA:  12 Amazing Hikes in Sedona
SEDONA ITINERARY:  Sedona Itinerary | Best Way to Spend 1 to 6 Days in Sedona
ONE DAY IN SEDONA:  How to Spend One Perfect Day in Sedona
BOYNTON CANYON:
  How to Hike Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave
DEVILS BRIDGE:  Everything You Need to Know to Hike Devils Bridge
BELL ROCK:  How to Hike the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail
CATHEDRAL ROCK:  How to Hike the Cathedral Rock Trail
SOLDIER PASS HIKE:  Complete Guide to the Soldier Pass Hike & Soldier Pass Cave
BIRTHING CAVE:  The Complete Guide to the Birthing Cave Hike
BROKEN ARROW:  How to Drive the Broken Arrow 4WD Trail


Do you have plans to hike Bear Mountain Trail? Comment below if you have any questions or if you want to share your experience.

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Comments 4

  1. Thanks for your insight! You’ve been around, so it seems relative. Your inclusion of the rim to rim allows one to consider to still do this hike, which I would.. I see other places that you’ve critiqued which I have been fortunate to see. Let’s count our blessings and keep on hiking !!

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      Author

      You’re welcome! We have been very fortunate to hike in so many beautiful places. Arizona and Utah are one of our favorite hiking destinations and we keep coming back. We are keeping our fingers crossed that travel gets easier and safer in 2021. Happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

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