Hiking is the most popular outdoor activity in the Sedona area, with dozens of trails leading off into the red rocks. The only problem is that nearly everyone who comes to Sedona wants to go hiking, so finding a little solitude along the trail can be difficult. Not surprisingly, the most convenient trail heads also have the most crowded trails. If you want to ditch the crowds, pick a trail head that is not on Ariz. 179 or Ariz. 89A. That means that if you stop at any of the trail heads in Oak Creek Canyon or between the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona, you'll likely encounter lots of other people along the trail. You'll enjoy your Sedona hikes more if you start from a trail that begins down a side road. Among my personal favorites are the trails that originate at the end of Jordan Road in uptown Sedona; the Cathedral Rock Trail, which starts in a housing development between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek; and the trails off Boynton Pass Road. Note: Don't forget to get your Red Rock Pass before heading out for a hike.
This said, the most convenient place to get some red dust on your boots is along the Bell Rock Pathway, which begins alongside Ariz. 179 just north of the Village of Oak Creek. This trail winds around the base of Bell Rock and accesses many other trails that lead up onto the sloping sides of Bell Rock. Although this is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area and is always crowded, it is the single best introduction to hiking in Sedona's beautiful red-rock country. It's about 4 miles to go all the way around Bell Rock and the adjacent Courthouse Butte.
You'll see fewer tourists if you head to the .75-mile Cathedral Rock Trail, which is also located between the Village of Oak Creek and uptown Sedona. The trail follows cairns (piles of rocks) up the slickrock slopes on the north side of Cathedral Rock. To reach this trail, turn off Ariz. 179 at the sign for the Back o' Beyond housing development and watch for the trail head at the end of the paved road. Be aware, however, that calling this route a trail is being very generous. In places it is almost a hand-over-hand crawl across the rocks. However, even if you stop when the going gets steep, you'll get great views. For convenience and solitude, you can't beat the Mystic Trail, which begins at an unmarked roadside pull-off on Chapel Road halfway between Ariz. 179 and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This is an easy out-and-back trail that runs between a couple of housing developments, but once you're on the trail, you'll feel all alone.
Among the most popular trails in the Sedona area are those that lead into Boynton Canyon (site of Enchantment Resort). Here you'll glimpse ancient Native American ruins built into the red-rock cliffs. Although the scenery is indeed stupendous, the great numbers of other hikers on the trail detract considerably from the experience, and the parking lot usually fills up early in the day. The 1.5-mile Vultee Arch Trail, which leads to an impressive sandstone arch, is another great hike. The turnoff for this hike's trail head is 2 miles up Dry Creek Road and then another 3 1/2 miles on a very rough dirt road. The Devil's Bridge Trail, which starts on the same dirt road, is a little easier to get to and leads to the largest natural sandstone arch in the area. This one is a 1.8-mile round-trip hike.
For the hands-down best views in Sedona, hike all or part of the Airport Mesa Trail, a 3.5-mile loop that circles Airport Mesa. With virtually no elevation gain, this is an easy hike. You'll find the trail head about halfway to the top of Airport Mesa on Airport Road. Try this one as early in the day as possible; by midday, the parking lot is usually full and it stays that way right through sunset.
For more information on all these hikes, contact the Coconino National Forest's Red Rock District, 8375 Ariz. 179, Village of Oak Creek (tel. 928/203-2900; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino).
Sedona is rapidly becoming one of the Southwest's meccas for mountain biking. The red rock here is every bit as challenging and scenic as the famed slickrock country of Moab, Utah, and much less crowded. Using Sedona as a base, mountain bikers can ride year-round by heading up to Flagstaff in the heat of summer. One of my favorite rides is around the base of Bell Rock. Starting at the trail head parking area just north of the Village of Oak Creek, you'll find not only the easy Bell Rock Path, but also numerous more-challenging trails.
Another great ride starts above uptown Sedona, where you can take the Jim Thompson Trail to Midgely Bridge or the network of trails that head toward Soldier Pass. The riding here is only moderately difficult and the views are superb. To reach these trails, take Jordan Road to a left onto Park Ridge Road, and follow this road to where it ends at a trail head parking area. You can rent bikes from Mountain Bike Heaven, 1695 W. Ariz. 89A (tel. 928/282-1312; www.mountainbikeheaven.com). Bikes rent for $45 to $65 per day. Sedona Bike & Bean, 6020 Ariz. 179, Village of Oak Creek (tel. 928/284-0210; www.bike-bean.com), across the street from the popular Bell Rock Pathway and its adjacent mountain-bike trails, also rents bikes (and serves coffee). Bikes go for $40 to $55 for a full day. Any of these stores can sell you a good local trail map or Cosmic Ray's Fat Tire Tales and Trails guidebook to the best rides in Arizona. If you'd prefer to have a guide take you out on a road-bike tour, contact Road Bike Sedona, 6101 Ariz. 179 (tel. 928/202-1194; www.sedonamtbadventures.com).
If you'd rather saddle up a palomino than pedal a bicycle, you can book a horseback ride through A Day in the West, 252 N. Ariz. 89A (tel. 800/973-3662 or 928/282-4320; www.adayinthewest.com), which charges $79 for a 1 1/2-hour ride along the Verde River.
Surprisingly, Sedona has not yet been ringed with golf courses. However, what few courses there are offer superb views to distract you from your game. The Oakcreek Country Club, 690 Bell Rock Blvd. (tel. 888/284-1660 or 928/284-1660; www.oakcreekcountryclub.com), south of town off Ariz. 179, has stunning views from the course. Greens fee is $99 ($79 after 1pm). The Sedona Golf Resort, 35 Ridge Trail Dr. (tel. 877/733-6630; www.sedonagolfresort.com), south of town on Ariz. 179, offers equally breathtaking views of the red rocks. Greens fee is $95 ($70 after 1pm).