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Wilson Mountain Overview

Ever wanted to see Sedona from a bird’s eye view? Sure, you could spring for a helicopter tour. Or…you could hike Wilson Mountain Summit! No other location in Sedona will offer you a view that is so expansive and so breathtaking (and one where you are actually looking DOWN on the helicopters giving tours). Granted, no other hike in Sedona is as breathtaking either — literally, this hike will take your breath away. Wilson Mountain Summit is probably the most difficult hike in the area, but honestly, the work is well worth the reward. The view from the top is truly spectacular. 

The 4.75 mile (one-way) journey takes you through an elevation gain of about 2600’. It is a pretty steady climb for the first three miles, after which you’ll reach a short plateau (about .1 miles) before hiking steadily upwards once again. You will travel through some dense oak groves for a bit, before you reach another plateau with classic ponderosa forest landscape (very reminiscent of hiking in Flagstaff – I think of Wilson Mountain as a “Flagstaff Sky Island”). This plateau won’t last long either before you make your final ascent. All together, the hike took my group about 2 hours one way. 

If you are up for a bit of fun and you don’t think it will throw off your hiking safety, try packing a kite with you to fly at the top! It can get quite windy up top.

If you are looking for a hike in Sedona that is a bit more tame, but still has great views, check out Devil’s Bridge, Cathedral Rock, or the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

Logistics

The hike is best in spring or early summer. Fall will start to get chilly (the top of the mountain is at 7,122’), but if you dress appropriately it could be fine. We visited in early June, and had an amazing breeze accompanying us along the way. In fact, in the afternoon we were worried that that “breeze” was going to blow us off the trail! I’m joking, of course. Sort of.

The trailhead is located off of Route 89A, about 22 miles south of Flagstaff and 2 miles north of Sedona (the pin on the below map will take you to the trailhead parking lot). The parking lot is just north of Midgley Bridge on the north side of the road. Parking is very limited. The lot might fit 20 cars if all the visitors are conscientious and you are a bit liberal in your definition of “parking space”. This parking area is quite popular and the lot can be crowded, especially since there are a few popular hikes that originate from this location. If the lot is overflowing and you simply can’t park, you could always try the North Wilson Mountain Trail, a few miles north along Route 89A (I do not think the views along the way up are as good from the North trail, but it does meet up with the south trail for the last ~1.5 miles of the hike).

A Red Rock Pass will be required to park; passes can be purchased at the kiosk for $5 at the trailhead or at a number of different outlets in Sedona (gas stations, visitor centers, etc.).

Gear and Gadgets

Wilson Mountain Sedona Arizona

The dense foliage along 1/2 mile of the trail near the end.

I wore shorts but hiking pants would be safest, especially for a half-mile near the end where you are going through dense, low-level foliage (see photo to the right). Our group found a non-venomous snake on the trail that eventually made its way up into the nearby, taller portions of this dense foliage, so keep your eyes alert – on the ground AND in the foliage! 🙂

You can consult the Day Trip Gear Guide for recommendations on gear that could prove useful on your hike to the Summit of Wilson Mountain.

This hike is not a stroll in the park, but it is well worth the effort, and finishing will earn you some serious bragging rights. Be safe, and have fun!

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Photography Gear & Gadgets

Outdoors & Wilderness First Aid

Leave No Trace Principles

US Forest Service Website for the Trail

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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