Bear Mountain Trail
The Bear Mountain Trail is an official trail in the Coconino National Forest, designated as Trail #54. It is well marked with signs and fairly easy to follow. Where it crosses open slickrock it is marked with cairns (stacked rocks) and blazes (painted on).
Standing at 6,463 feet above sea level, Bear Mountain is one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in Sedona. It's the second highest point in Sedona that has an official trail leading to the summit.
The trail makes that climb in four distinct uphill “steps” (see photo below). Even though it is rated as strenuous, hikers of all fitness levels can enjoy Bear Mountain by simply turning around at the top of any uphill step. The summit is the highest point visible in this photo. The big red wall in the middle is the third step.
Those who make it all the way to the summit will cross a beautiful section of white checkerboard sandstone at the top of the third step, with breathtaking views of Fay Canyon and the surrounding Red Rock country (shown below).
At the summit of Bear Mountain there is also a spectacular view of San Francisco Mountain. At 12,690 feet above sea level, this is the highest point in Arizona. Located just north of Flagstaff, San Francisco Mountain is an extinct stratovolcano that is covered with snow much of the year (shown below).
Two of my favorite side hikes (see map below) branch off the Bear Mountain Trail; one to the “Stiletto” and the Sunrise Ledge; the other to Preston Point overlooking the upper end of Boynton Canyon. See our pages on those two side hikes for more detail.
FINDING THE TRAILHEAD
From the intersection of State Route 89A and Dry Creek Road head north on Dry Creek to the stop sign and turn left on Boynton Canyon Road.
Proceed to the next stop sign, turn left on Boynton Pass Road and go another 1.23 miles to the designated Bear Mountain-Doe Mountain parking area.
A Red Rock Pass is required to park here and it can be obtained from the vending machine. This parking area is frequently full by 8 am, but free overflow parking is still allowed along the roadside as of 2020. If you park by the road it is critically important that you access the trail by walking down the road, instead of creating erosion by shortcutting across the field of wildflowers.
There is also free parking in the paved lot on Airie Road, which usually has spaces available all day. Vaulted toilets are available at the Bear Mountain trailhead.
RATED: Difficult due to steep climbs. There is one place near the beginning of the trail where hikers will have to use their hands to climb up the rocks.
5 miles out and back
EST HIKING TIME
3.5 hours round trip
BEST TIME TO GO
Sept - May