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Hiking Bear Mountain Trail: A Majestic Sedona Summit

Apr 28, 2022

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Hiking Bear Mountain Trail Sedona is a real treat. Yes, this hike is a bit more strenuous than other Sedona trails, but the views are extraordinary. 

As a matter of fact, on a clear morning, you can witness the first hot air balloons in flight over Sedona. 

Talk about a way to see the sunrise!

And when you hike up Bear Mountain, you’ll want to spare no expense at gawking over the views of Flagstaff‘s San Francisco Peaks in the distance. 

It’s quite the treat. 

While Bear Mountain Trail is about 5 miles long (round trip), it gets pretty steep. Bear Mountain is one of Sedona’s tallest mountains, after all!

So in this blog, we’re going to cover what exactly to expect on the trail. Then we’ll talk about some tips for your hike. 

That way, you’ll have the best damn adventure possible. 

When you’re done with this post, make sure you read my other Sedona blogs:

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links!

What to Know Before Your Hike

Like most Sedona hikes, Bear Mountain Trail requires a Red Rock Pass. This is a $5 fee visitors pay to help with trail upkeep.

You can purchase a pass online or at the trailhead parking lot!

Avoid the Pass: If you’re a national park lover and have your America the Beautiful Interagency Pass handy, you can hang that on your car and you’ll be good to go!

Before you jump on trail, let’s quickly go over some additional must-know details. 

Trailhead Parking

Getting to Bear Mountain Trail is pretty easy. The trail parking lot is shared with Doe Mountain Trail.

On maps, it is labeled as Oski Approach/Doe Mountain Parking. From the heart of Uptown Sedona, the parking lot is about a 20-minute drive.

The trail starts across the street from the parking lot! In other words, cross Boynton Pass Road to get to the trail.

Doe Mountain Trail is a completely different hike! Take a look at the map below to see what I’m talking about.

When to Go

Bear Mountain is best enjoyed at sunrise. When you hike at sunrise, you have a good chance of seeing hot air balloons

Plus, you’ll witness some AMAZING golden light!

Hiking up Bear Mountain can take some folks around 2 hours. So, you’ll have to plan your sunrise excursion accordingly.

If hiking a strenuous trail in the dark, early morning sounds like too much, try to hike later in the evening. The mid-day light will be harsh and won’t be nearly as enjoyable!

Let’s talk about the trail, now!

Hiking Bear Mountain Trail

  • Bear Mountain Trailhead: 34.8983127,-111.874322
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Distance: ~5 miles round trip (out and back)
  • Time to Top: About 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: ~1,800 feet
  • Parking: Limited with about 20 spaces
  • Best Light: Sunrise
  • Red Rock Pass Required? Yes, or bring your American the Beautiful Pass

Once you park, you will walk across the street to start your hike up Bear Mountain. There is a gate at the start of the trailhead, letting you know you’re in the right place.

The Start of the Hike

You’ll have a flat hike as you approach the gate and continue on the trail. The path is nestled in a field of golden grass, surrounded by red rocks. 

This is about a 0.3-mile stretch of trail. And in roughly the next 0.3 miles, you will start that wonderful elevation gain Bear Mountain is known for. 

That was sarcasm, by the way. 

The Middle

Once you conquer the first hill up Bear Mountain Trail Sedona, you’ll have a gradual climb to the summit. 

Immediately after that hill, you’ll want to keep your eyes out for white diamonds spray-painted on the red rocks. The diamond shapes are trail markers left by the forest service. 

They’ll help guide your hike!

The middle portion of the hike will be a bit difficult, but you’ll see some amazing views along the way!

When you can, I suggest stopping to take some pictures! The views only get grander and grander as you climb!

The Summit

When you reach the top of the trail, you’ll be greeted by a summit sign—woohoo! When you get up here, enjoy the views!

You’ll be on a relatively flat mesa and can explore as you please. Truthfully, some folks never hike all the way to the summit.

The panoramic views are so great along trail, you really can stop at any point if you want. Some of my favorite views have come from random mesa you pass on the way up!

But if you DO go to the top, this is a great place to have snacks and relax before heading back down.

What to Pack

The most important things to pack for your hike up Bear Mountain Trail will be sturdy hiking boots and sun coverage. 

Bear Mountain Trail is rocky and steep. Every time I hike it, I stub my toes on a rock at least 10 times. 

And THAT is why I rely on sturdy boots like Keen Targhees. If I skipped wearing them, I think I’d be missing all my toes by now. 

Plus, they’re incredibly comfortable. 

But you know what’s not comfortable? An Arizona sunburn. 

With how open Bear Mountain is, you’ll definitely want to have a hat and sunscreen to protect your beautiful skin!

The Best Photo Spots

It’s hard to pinpoint specific areas of Bear Mountain Trail that are “photogenic.”

Honestly, the whole damn trail is gorgeous! That’s exactly why I call Bear Mountain one of the most Instagrammable places in Sedona!

My suggestion would be to take your time hiking and take photos as you go. 

Of course, if you’re hiking the trail around sunrise, you’ll be taking most of your pictures on your way down.

Regardless, you can use multiple flat areas to take breaks and photos.

Final Tips for Hiking Bear Mountain Trail

So that wasn’t too bad, right? Again, hiking Bear Mountain Trail isn’t long, but it’s exhausting.

Therefore, we don’t have too many tips to cover. But I want to provide you with some handy tips I wish I knew before my first hike up Bear. 

Skip This Trail if You Have Limited Time

Yep! You read that right. If you have limited time in Sedona, AZ, I would skip Bear Mountain.

Bear Mountain is beautiful, and I LOVE this trail, but there are so many Sedona classics you need to experience first. 

Cathedral Rock Vortex, Birthing Cave, and Devil’s Bridge are all amazing options for you to consider! If you have around 3 days in Sedona, AZ, you can totally squeeze Bear Mountain in there!

But again, I wouldn’t make it a priority. 

If you want to see some more trail options, I recommend reading my blog on the best Sedona sunrise and sunset hikes!

Go on a Clear Day

When Sedona is remotely gloomy, every ounce of beautiful light the sun offers seems to get sucked out of the atmosphere. 

Gloomy Sedona days aren’t the best for hikes like Bear Mountain. So while you will have a cooler hike, temp wise, the views will be meh. 

Go on a clear day!

Pair it with a Swim

A great way to make Bear Mountain more enjoyable is to pair it with a swim. Seems random, but trust me. 

One of the best days I had in Sedona was hiking Bear Mountain in the morning and then heading over to Red Rock Crossing Vortex for a dip in the creek!

Use this hard AF hike as an excuse to have a creek picnic.

Bring a Headlamp

Whether you’re hiking Bear Mountain early morning or in the evening, you might end up in the dark. I suggest bringing a headlamp just in case!

If you want to do something easy for sunrise, I suggest checking out Doe Mountain Trail! You’ll park in the same lot as you would for Bear Mountain to get there.

Regardless of where you choose to hike in Sedona, I hope this blog sets your expectations for Bear Mountain Trail!

To plan an epic trip to Sedona, read my other blogs:

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!