Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Fay Canyon Trail – Sedona, Arizona

in Arizona

Located in the Red Rocks/Secret Wilderness area of the Coconino National Forest just outside Sedona – Fay Canyon Trail proves that a hike doesn’t have to be hard to be amazing. At a short 1.1 miles out and back – this is a hike you’ll want to do more than once. And because it’s relatively short with very little elevation gain – it’s great for the youngest hikers and those who can’t handle the terrain of more difficult hikes. And the trail’s end is simply gorgeous!

Although I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that we totally missed the rock arch that is the famous part of the Fay Canyon Trail. It turns out that the rock arch is easily missed from the trail, but can definitely be spotted to the right about a half mile from the trail’s beginning (the exact coordinates are 34.9092016,-111.8623987). When we got home – I went online to compare our experience with what others had to say and was bummed to discover that we missed the arch. Nevertheless – we’ll be going back again in order to see it!

The good news is that even without seeing the rock arch – the trail is completely worth the trip! We took the whole family (3 kids and 2 dogs) on this hike in March. The weather was perfect in the high 60’s. When we (quickly) picked this hike before we headed up to Sedona in the morning – I assumed the trailhead would be a tiny dirt area off the side of the road. I was surprised to discover a paved parking lot with plenty of spots left when we arrived.

Traihead parking lot

Because Fay Canyon is part of the Red Rock/Secret Mountain Wilderness area – you’ll need a Red Rock Pass on your vehicle (more information can be found at the Red Rock Pass Program page). They’re easy to find in town and at several other trailheads there are actually Red Rock Pass dispensers. If you don’t remember until you’re nearly there – you can simply drive 2 minutes away to the Boynton Canyon Trailhead parking lot where there is a pay station (that accepts credit cards or cash).

‘The trail itself begins just across the highway from the parking lot. Just look for the sign in the picture below.

Trail begin

The trail is nearly flat and mostly fine red dirt in the beginning. However – the views of red rock start nearly immediately. It’s gorgeous from the get-go!

Trail is fine red dirt

Red rocks in the distance

The trail is open to horses, hikers, and is dog-friendly. However, no motorized vehicles are allowed (including mountain bikes). Also, as you can see a bit from the sign below – it’s bear country so it’s a good idea to use your bear common sense. If you happen to encounter a bear – don’t run away or scream. Back slowly away talking in a calm low voice. It’s a good idea to let your kids know what to do before you enter bear country so if you do happen to spot one – they’ll know what to do (or maybe remember what to do with a reminder from you.) And as the sign indicates – please do not feed the bears!


We visited on a Saturday and even so it wasn’t terribly crowded. Fay Canyon isn’t as well known as some of the other trails that are closer to town.

Trail shot

Red Rock/Secret Mountain Sign

As the trail continues – you’ll enter a more forested area and the terrain of the trail changes to much rockier.

Rocky trail

You’ll continue to get peeks of the canyon walls through the trees as you hike. The red rocks never get old for me. They’re stunning.

Canyon Walls

Canyon View

Do you see the little flat area in the picture below? It looked like someone had sliced through the rock as though it were a piece of cheese.

Shorn Rock Surface

The pines were growing right out of the canyon walls.

Trees growing from rock

As you hike further down the trail – the canyon walls get closer and closer.

Canyon Walls

Red Rock Walls

At the trail’s end, there is a large rock fall at the bottom and a nice little overhang you can use to climb up for spectacular views of the surrounding canyon walls. It’s not a difficult climb and well worth it. You can also continue on past the rock fall for a short distance…but this is the official trail’s end. The trail past this point is just a big rock fall. It’s all large boulders requiring you to climb up and over. As you can see my kids had a grand time climbing around on the rocks at the base.

Near Trail's End

Here’s the spot where you can climb up to get a great view. The kids are at the bottom of the hill…I recommend climbing up to just underneath the rock overhang.

Trail's End

Once you’re up there – here’s the view directly in front of you.

View from Ledge

And here’s the view to your slight right (looking back from where you came.)

View from Back

And if you turn around completely – here’s the canyon located behind you.

View from behind

And more trees just growing out of the canyon walls!


Even though we missed the rock arch (and that can be climbed up to as well – making this trail even more awesome!), this trail was a ton of fun. It took us just over an hour round-trip. And that was with a considerable amount of time playing on the boulders at the end. In summer – this trail can be very dry and hot so please make sure you bring enough water for your whole family (dogs included.) I highly recommend you check this trail out the next time you’re in Sedona.

For more information before you go – you can check out the Fay Canyon Trail in the Coconino National Forest.

Other Nearby Parks and Trails:

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.


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