Doe Mountain Trail

Doe Mountain is a system trail in the Coconino National Forest designated as trail #60. It is well marked with signs, heavily used and easy to follow. We love this trail, especially at sunrise!
Doe Mesa view of Boynton Pass
The trail makes a gradual climb from the parking area to the top of the mesa by making a couple of switchbacks (shown below), but it does get rocky in places.
Doe Mountain Trail
Doe Mountain, (geologically speaking this is actually a mesa), is one of the most popular trails in Sedona, partly because the trail is rated as moderate, but also because it offers a dramatic 360-degree view of Boynton Pass (shown above) and the Verde Valley (shown below).
Hike on Doe Mountain
In the photo below a small group of hikers stand on the edge of the mesa at sunrise, looking east, waiting for a squadron of hot air balloons to fly close overhead. 
Sunrise hikers on Doe Mountain
In my opinion, the spectacle of hot air balloons flying over Doe Mountain at sunrise is a "magic hour" moment every visiting photographer should wake up early enough to capture... at least once.
Doe Mesa sunrise
Looking southwest from Doe Mountain, you will see Mingus Mountain on the horizon (shown below, in the distance). This is a true mountain, caused by buckling of the Earth’s crust.
Balloons from Doe Mountain
Looking northwest from Doe Mountain (ahem... MESA) you will see the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau (shown below).
Edge of the Colorado Plateau & Boynton Pass

While the plateau was also uplifted by tectonic pressure from underneath, it did not buckle and is mostly flat on top. However, it has eroded in spectacular fashion along its southern edge, leaving buttes and mesas “stranded” off the main cliff face as it retreats northward.
So... mountains and plateaus are both uplifted, and the difference is that one buckled, and the other did not. Buttes and Mesas, on the other hand, are left behind by erosion.
The difference between the latter is that a butte is taller than it is wide, and a mesa is wider than it is tall. Doe Mountain is capped by a hard layer of Fort Apache limestone, which makes it flat on top. Erosion will eventually break through, at which point Doe will begin to look like the Cockscomb.
The Colorado Plateau covers 134,000 square miles, making it the second largest plateau on Earth. Only the Tibetan Plateau is larger.

Doe Mountain Trailhead


Hidden in the cliffs at the top of Doe Mountain is one of the more photogenic caves in Sedona. It's also one of the most treacherous caves to reach.

Wolf Davis, a photographer from the Phoenix area, at Wolf's Cave

WARNING: Getting into this cave requires walking a very narrow ledge (shown below). The ledge is approximately 25 ft long and only about a foot wide, and a fall from here will almost certainly be fatal. You have to come back the same way. If you don't feel confident about your ability to do it, this is probably not worth the effort to go look at it.

The ledge to reach Wolf's Cave

The cave is located at the point of Doe Mesa directly above the parking area and to the left of where the system trail reaches the summit. It's easy to get there. Just take the system trail to the top of Doe Mesa and turn left. Walk along the edge a short distance until you find an easy break in the cliffs that will allow you to drop down onto the ledge below. There is a very narrow social trail through the brush along this ledge.

Wolf's Cave


From the intersection of State Route 89A and Dry Creek Road head north on Dry Creek Road to the stop sign. Turn left onto Boynton Canyon Road. Proceed to the next stop sign and turn left onto Boynton Pass Road and continue 1.5 miles to the parking area on the left.
There are three possible places to park (see OVERVIEW MAP below). The parking area for Doe Mountain / Bear Mountain is frequently full by 8am.
The parking area at Fay Canyon is larger and both of these lots have restrooms available. A third option for parking is on Airie Road, where parking is free, and there are usually spaces available all day. However, there are no restrooms available at Airie.