For my 30th birthday, Kelton surprised me with tickets to Sedona – a domestic trip that had been on my wish list for awhile. Being the worrisome Virgo I am, my first, albeit very ungrateful, thought was…why would he pick Arizona in August? While I definitely prefer warm weather to cold, extreme heat can really wear me out, so I immediately started thinking of all the things we wouldn’t be able to do while we were there. Namely, be outside at all in the middle of the day. To make sure we got the most out our short trip, I started researching sunrise hiking spots, and while I’ll be telling you about both of them, as the title of this blog suggests, Doe Mountain is the best sunrise hike in Sedona.
Pre-Trip Clumsiness Limits Options
Traveling domestically is surprisingly expensive compared to the international trips we are more familiar with, and we had a trip to Portugal coming up a month later, so our time in Arizona would be relatively short. After the flights, accommodations, and car rental, we were already getting worried about the cost but the good thing is, hiking is free! While I don’t have tons of endurance, I truly love hiking and the outdoors, and nothing makes me feel quite as alive as a beautiful vista.
About a week before we left, I clumsily jammed my toe into an exercise bike I had shoved into my work-from-home office, and quickly realized I had broken it when I couldn’t put weight on it and it turned quite a few shades of purple and green. Just my luck. I dutifully wrapped it and kept my leg raised as much as possible in the hopes it would improve. After all, how much fun could we have in Sedona if I couldn’t even get my hiking boots on?
We decided we’d be able to fit in 2 early morning hikes during our trip, because hiking between the hours of 10-4 in summer desert heat isn’t usually a good idea, especially for pasty Northeasterners with no experience of the area. We also had to keep them relatively short, because I wasn’t sure how long I’d realistically be able to walk before pain became an issue.
Is Devil’s Bridge Worth It?
For the first hike, we chose one of the most popular in Sedona, Devil’s Bridge. While we usually try to avoid the tourist hot spots, they have that designation for a reason, and the viewpoint seemed too amazing to miss. Also, I read it’s a pretty flat walk until the very end which sounded good for my predicament. I’m the complete opposite of a “morning person” but when our alarms went off around 4 AM, I was eager to get going.
We started the hike when it was light enough to see where we were going, but the sun definitely hadn’t come up yet. It was indeed mostly flat with views of towering red rocks in the distance, desert flowers, and cacti to observe along the way – along with a multitude of tiny little frogs hopping all over the trail (a nice surprise).
We reached the summit around 6:30 AM and the view definitely didn’t disappoint. There was already a small line of people walking out onto the bridge for photos, so we waited our turn, which came up fairly quickly. I’ve read stories of people waiting in this line for hours so it definitely pays off to get there as early as possible. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if 100 people had been waiting behind us. If you can get to the trailhead before sunrise, make sure Devil’s Bridge is on your to-do-list when visiting Sedona.
Why Doe Mountain is the Best Sunrise Hike in Sedona
What I really want to tell you about is our second sunrise hike – Doe Mountain. I want to call it a hidden gem, even though it’s definitely not an unknown trail. It is, however, significantly less trafficked, and in my opinion, equally incredible. We decided this time that we wanted to beat the sunrise to the summit, so we left our hotel even earlier. The trail up to the top is relatively short but consists of quite a few switchbacks.
Other than one man who was also on a mission to get to the top quickly, and a group of women who for some reason passed us and then turned around before reaching the top, we were the only ones there. When you reach the top, it’s essentially a huge flat circle with a trail that wraps around the edge of the whole summit. Even if more people had been there, it would have been easy to find a place for a moment of solitude.
After sitting down for a break to watch the sunrise, we decided to walk the perimeter to see all the views possible. There’s not much up there other than cacti and some short scraggly trees, but it is still relatively easy to wander off the trail as it isn’t well marked – which is what we did. The views are incredible no matter where you’re at on top of the mountain, and the amazing rock formations Sedona is famous for stretch out as far as you can see.
What Makes Doe Mountain REALLY Special
This is when things started to get really amazing. Hot air balloons started to rise from all around us. For at least an hour, as we explored the top of Doe Mountain, they circled us – sometimes so close we could hear the people chattering up above and the loud “whooshing” sound of the flame. The view was already one of the most beautiful things I’d even seen, but the balloons added this whole new level of dreaminess and otherworldliness to the experience.
By the time we started our descent, around 9 AM, it was starting to get warm up there. Keep in mind, if you don’t start out early, you’d probably be baking up here midday as there isn’t any cover. There’s a few places you have to scramble a bit on the way down, but nothing a mediocre hiker with a broken toe couldn’t handle. I credit my La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX hiking boots for getting me through both hikes with only a little soreness. I got them for a trip to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and they were comfortable right out of the box – perfect ankle support and shock absorption.
I don’t know if the hot air balloons are a daily occurrence, or if we just got lucky, but either way, I highly recommend tackling this hike even if you have limited time in Sedona. Also, while visiting in August was definitely doable as Sedona is much cooler than other popular cities in Arizona, I would consider visiting during a month where you could plan longer hikes that could cut into the middle of the day. I hope to revisit this magical place and review more trails in the future!
We finished out the trip with another amazing view, and delicious dinner, at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. Somehow I was able to snag a reservation on short notice and it was a bit of a splurge, but since it was a milestone birthday, it felt justified. I had a prickly pear mezcal cocktail that was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. I recommend booking your reservation early to try to get there before sunset (we just missed it but still got to enjoy the dusky view).
Please leave a comment if you have any questions I didn’t touch on, or if you have any trails to recommend in Sedona!
1 thought on “Doe Mountain is the Best Sunrise Hike in Sedona”
That is so cool about the hot air balloons! Sounds amazing!