» 3 Days in Sedona: From Cathedral Rock to Devil’s Bridge Gulsah Semiz
3 Days in Sedona: From Cathedral Rock to Devil’s Bridge

3-Day Sedona itinerary for first timers including Boynton Canyon Trail, Devil’s Bridge Trail, Airport Loop Trail, Cathedral Rock to Red Rock Crossing Trail, Montezuma Castle and so on.

3 Days in Sedona: From Cathedral Rock to Devil’s Bridge

Since our Utah trip, which was around 3 years ago, our understanding of “vacation” has changed significantly. We were absolutely fascinated by the beauty of America and wanted to explore every inch of it as much as possible.

Although we started our journey just a shy of 3 years ago by visiting some of the most well-known national parks. It didn’t take us long to realize that there is a lot more to see here in the States than just the national parks.

The pandemic made our long and cold New England winter feel even longer and colder this year. So, in May, we desperately needed some hot weather.

We spent around 3 days exploring Sedona and it was indeed different than our usual hiking vacations. Here is the thing, if you like hiking — but not more than 4-5 hours a day — and want to see some astonishing views, look no further my friend, Sedona is the way to go. And it’s exactly what we needed at the time.

Day 1:

Boynton Canyon Trail (2.5h) + Subway Cave Trail (4h)

According to the Alltrails app, this is a 7.3 mi trail with an 1167 ft elevation gain. It’s estimated to take 2.5h, but it wasn’t the case for us. It took us 4 hours and 20 mins in total to complete this hike. The thing is that we did this hike after flying 5+ hours from Boston to PHX, plus driving 2 hours or so from PHX to Sedona… So, we took our time and didn’t (honestly, couldn’t) rush it. I think the best part of this trail is the Subway Cave. You need to do a little bit of climbing to be able to see it. I have a fear of height and I was not fully comfortable doing that part, but I am glad I did. The view was amazing, that’s all I can say. We started around 4 pm and the weather was great. When it comes to Boynton Canyon, the view is not necessarily great. Thus, you can easily skip that part and only focus on the Subway Cave, which will eventually shorten your hike by 2 miles and approx. 1 hour.

Slide Rock State Park

We didn’t do this because our first hike took longer than we anticipated. At the end of the day, we were completely exhausted so we skipped this one. However, I wanted to mention it here because it was initially part of our plan for day 1.

Day 2:

Cathedral Rock to Red Rock Crossing (3h)

One of the most famous, touristic spots in Sedona. I am not sure how I feel about calling this a hiking trail. You do mostly climbing and crawling IMO. We wanted to start early like around 6 am, but you know, that virtually never happens. So, we arrived at the parking lot around 7:10 am and it was of course full. However, we only had to wait for like 20 mins or so for someone to leave. By the way, you have to pay $5 for the parking.
This hike is supposed to be 4.3 miles, but for some reason, we ended up hiking almost 6 miles… The thing about this hike is that we have completed the whole trail on the Alltrails app, but there was literally nothing at the end of the trail (you walk past the Red Rock Crossing and the trail ends in the middle of nowhere). Honestly, it was a huge waste of time, so I don’t recommend it. Just do the Cathedral Rock and call it a day. If you do so, you can easily do this in 2h including a generous amount of time to take photos and rest.

Side note on the Cathedral Rock: When you reach the summit, just don’t stop yet. Hike a little bit more to the left side. You’ll like what you find. I promise.

Chapel of the Holy Cross (0.5h)

It was way too crowded. So, we didn’t go inside. But even from outside, the chapel is absolutely gorgeous. It’s definitely a must-see.

Airport Loop Trail (2h)

By far the easiest trail we have done in Sedona. The path is surrounded by astonishing views pretty much all the time. There is not much elevation gain, so we didn’t take any breaks except for the water breaks.

Day 3:

Devils Bridge Trail (2h)

Yet another trail that we initially planned to start very early in the morning, but ended up starting around 8:30 am. We had to wait for at least 40 mins to be able to get our photos taken and it was Monday morning, not Saturday or Sunday. So, beware of the long wait since it’s a very popular and easy hike.

Soldier Pass Trail (1.5h)

We didn’t do the whole trail. Saw the caves and headed back to our car because most of the other hikers told us that there was not much to see in the other part of the trail. If you want to see the caves, approx. 1 mi into the trail, you’ll come across a junction with two signs: one will say “trail” and the other one will say “wilderness”. You should follow the wilderness sign. I know. It’s very odd. The caves are great, you have to do a little bit of climbing, but it’s not too hard.

Montezuma Castle

Full disclosure, I haven’t seen the castle myself. However, according to my lovely husband, it’s pretty cool and totally worth seeing.

Bonus: Desert Botanical Garden (PHX)

Since we had a couple of hours to kill in PHX before our flight to Boston, we have decided to explore the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. We have spent nearly 2 hours and it was amazing. So many different varieties of plants; trees, flowers, cacti to enjoy. Great spot to watch the sunset.

Last words…

Considering the time and money we have spent on this trip, it was 100% worth it. It reminded me of the Capitol Reef National Park ad well as the Arches National Park a lot. Even if you hate hiking, there is still plenty to see and experience in Sedona.

Gulsah Semiz
Gulsah is a data science consultant with over 6 years of cross-functional business experience. She holds a Master of Science degree in Marketing Analytics from Bentley University and enjoys playing with data to tell powerful and engaging stories.



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