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Dazzling sunset spots, dramatic scenery and action-packed adventures make Sedona one of the world’s most sought-after desert towns. If you haven’t visited this colorful red-rocked corner of Arizona, you’re missing out.
With a mild desert climate that allows for epic adventures year-round, Sedona is a nature lover’s paradise. The rich orange and red tones of the dramatic canyons, red rock butte formations, and sheer mountain ridges make for the best views and incredible sunsets you’ve ever seen.
Sedona is worth the trip for its vibrant dusks alone, but you will definitely want to hit the trails to get close to these towering rock formations and amazing views. Not sure where the best place to see the sunset in Sedona is? I’m here to share the most magnificent Sedona sunset spots in this scenic region, from parking lot trailheads to rock butte vantage points to hidden hiking trails and everything in between.
Many of my selections involve hiking (it’s hard to replicate the glory of some of these high-elevation vistas!) but I’ve added some more accessible spots, including several scenic drives, vista viewpoints, and flat meadows where you can easily walk to and set up a relaxing picnic dinner with the whole family.
Sedona Sunset Tips
Make sure to check a weather app for current sunset times. It is a good idea to be at your vista point at least an hour before sunset (when the sun goes past the horizon) for the golden hour to capture the best lighting and views. Also, stay about 10 mins after sunset for blue hour, another spectacular time of day with incredible lighting that will transform your sunset views. Light will die out quickly after the sun goes down so make sure to bring another layer to help stay comfortable on the walk back.
Of course, parking is a huge problem in Sedona (even in low season), so the parking lot at many popular sunset trails may be full an hour or two before sunset, so as always, go early. The good news is it is hard to find a bad sunset spot in Sedona, especially if you are hiking or driving within the Coconino National Forest or Red Rock District, where most of the best sunset spots in Sedona are located. So if you cannot find parking, do not park illegally; head to another sunset spot or enjoy a scenic drive instead.
Do not expect to see the sun set beyond the horizon in Sedona as you do at the beach. Because of the layers of large rocks, hills, and different elevations in the area, the sun will most likely be hidden behind some of the iconic rock formations before the actual sunset time. The best part about watching the sunset (or sunrise) in Sedona is seeing how the sun illuminates the towering red rocks nearby and how the sky changes into sherbert colors reflecting in the clouds overhead (assuming there are clouds). Even without clouds to add that extra flare, you will still get an orange horizon with a bit of pink and blue right at blue hour, signaling an end to what I am sure was an amazing day.
Don’t forget to bring a headlamp on sunset hikes since you will most likely be hiking back at dusk. I also use All Trails app to download offline trail maps for easy navigation.
The Free Sedona Shuttle
Parking is the most challenging part when searching for the best sunset spots in Sedona. That is one of the reasons I included several scenic drives with great sunset views of the surrounding area without having to fight for a parking spot. But if you want to watch the sunset along one of Sedona’s most popular hikes, taking the Sedona Shuttle may be your best bet. The city of Sedona offers free transportation to Cathedral Rock, Dry Creek Vista, Little Horse, Mescal, and Soldiers Pass trailhead areas year-round, Thursday-Sunday. However, make sure to check the shuttle schedule as the last shuttle of the day may depart the trailhead before sunset, which means you will have a longer walk back to your car if you are not able to park at the trailhead.
Red Rock Pass Program
The Red Rock Pass is a conservation tool designed to protect, enhance, and maintain awe-inspiring landscapes for the American public today and into the future (from the Forest Service Website). A pass is required to park at certain fee sites, costing $5 a day or $15 for 7 consecutive days. Some other recreational passes are valid at most sites, including America the Beautiful National Park pass. You can pay online or at the pay stations in fee areas.
Best Places to See Sunset in Sedona
From scenic loop roads to Ponderosa pine forests and dramatic canyons, here are the 15 best places to see sunset in Sedona, Arizona!
Secret Slickrock Trail
Although not much of a secret, this short 0.7-mile trail is one of my favorites in Sedona because you get such a big reward for very little effort. The expansive views of Cathedral Rock and the surrounding canyons along this easy trail are fantastic. Some pools form at the end of the trail that, when full, offer the best reflection of Cathedral Rock, so don’t forget a camera! The parking lot is small (10 cars), and the trail can be muddy after rain, but you certainly won’t regret trying to get to this dazzling Sedona sunset spot.
Red Rock Scenic Byway
The Red Rock Scenic Byway is one of the most convenient, accessible, and beautiful roads in Sedona for a stunning sunset. This major route, SR 179, is 7.5 miles long. Starting in Sedona and ending in the Village of Oak Creek, there are numerous places to pull off along the drive.
I recommend you hit the road at least an hour before sunset to watch the pinks and oranges change across the sky.
Pro tip: 3 miles into the drive, you can pull off to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
State Route 89A
This scenic state road spans over 80 miles from northern Prescott to Flagstaff. The section that runs through west Sedona goes through Oak Creek Canyon and has spectacular views of Thunder Mountain, Coffee Pot Rock, Sugarloaf Mountain and more (the best sunset views are heading east). There are a lot of side streets leading to trailheads and winding through residential neighborhoods that provide more scenic views of the surrounding areas. There are not too many places to pull over and take in the spectacular views, but the side streets, including Thunder Mountain and Mountain Shadows Drive, are perfect for a leisurely sunset drive in Sedona.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park consists of almost 300 acres of pristine natural scenery, with tons of hiking trails and unique native wildlife to admire. This is the heart of Red Rock Country, consisting of famous sunset spots across the Verde Valley, like Oak Creek and Prescott National Forest.
While the sunset will be stunning from almost anywhere in the park, it’s hard to beat the Eagle’s Nest; at 300 meters up, it is the highest point in the park. Watch the fiery setting sun dance across the red rock escarpments.
Upper Red Rock Loop Road
This scenic drive is off of SR 89A and is beautiful to explore any time of day. It offers fantastic views of Cathedral Rock, leads to numerous trailheads, and has a few pull-offs and vista points, including Lover’s Notch, which is worth a stop. Driving this route is a great way to enjoy the jaw-dropping sunset views and explore the area without a long hike or worrying about parking. There are a lot of curves on this road, so drive carefully!
Slide Rock State Park
Slide Rock State Park is an exceptional place with an interesting legacy – it was once the site of an important Arizona homestead and apple orchard. Today, visitors love coming here to enjoy its historic cabins, walking trails, and natural rock slides in the creek.
One great trail is the easy, 0.25-mile Pendley Homestead Trail. The changing colors will illuminate the orchards and Oak Creek Canyon walls at sunset. The Slide Rock swimming area also looks beautiful from the short Clifftop Nature Trail.
Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon is simply a magical natural wonder, and it looks beautiful from all angles at sunset. Its sheer-faced orange gorge walls on the edge of the Mogollon Rim glow like they’re on fire. If you visit the “baby Grand Canyon” for sunset, you can choose from the Oak Creek Vista or Midgley Bridge Observation Site, the latter of which is an excellent spot for a picnic with stunning views of Mitten Ridge bathed in oranges.
Cathedral Rock Trail
The view from the top of Cathedral Rock is phenomenal no matter what time of day you visit. It is easily one of the best places to see the sunset in Sedona with its mindblowing natural sandstone butte that shoots up into the sky. It’s also one of the most popular Sedona outdoor landmarks due to its magical beauty at sunset and sunrise.
Up for the challenge? This straight-up trail is about a mile long and is essentially a rock scramble from the Cathedral Rock Trailhead to the 600-meter-high summit of the butte. The vast desert valley below you will come alive with vivid reds and oranges at sunset. The trailhead parking area is very limited so make sure to arrive early or hike in from Baldwin Trail, one of Sedona’s best hikes!
The Cathedral Rock hike is one of my favorites in Sedona, but it does involve rock scrambling, and people with low mobility may not be able to complete the hike to the summit. If that is the case for you, enjoy views of Cathedral Rock at sunset along the Secret Slick Rock Trail or Red Rock Crossing Trail.
Red Rock Crossing
Red Rock Crossing is arguably the best place to see the sunset in Sedona, and you’ll understand why when you go. Red Rock Crossing is a short trail situated along Oak Creek, a tranquil swimming spot in Oak Creek Canyon.
It’s the perfect sunset spot, due to its picturesque location directly along the creek next to Cathedral Rock. The river gorge will glow when the sun starts to go down, and Cathedral Rock will be set ablaze. You can link up with this 2-mile trail from Red Rock State Park. Keep an eye out for numerous cairns to guide you.
Devil’s Bridge is a spectacular natural landmark that’s drawn quite a crowd of tourists in recent years. But it’s popular for a reason. This red rock bridge makes for glorious travel photos and even better sunset photography! That’s why I think it’s one Sedona hike you can’t miss. But try to hit it early, and be prepared for photo ques; I’ve heard some people wait up to two hours to get their photo on the bridge.
This roughly 4-mile round trip is quite challenging and can get muddy but worth it for a sunset, you won’t forget. You can save a few miles of hiking time if you are able to drive to the trailhead yourself, but the road is rough, so 4×4 only.
For a short hike, Doe Mountain in Sedona (accessed via scenic SR 89A) is a short trail with some rewarding views. The trail is less than one mile long and accessible to kids. While it’s moderately steep and somewhat difficult, it doesn’t last long!
Depart about two hours before sunset to catch the best colors. Once you’re at the summit, which is open with unimpeded views, you’ll get to gaze down from the mesa upon sweeping red rock views.
Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock are a couple of highly-visited red rock sandstone formations situated off Route 179. Known as one of the spiritual vortex sites, Courthouse Butte has some spectacular hiking trails with a brilliant sunset experience.
You can kill two birds with one stone on the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. This 4-mile trail will allow you to see the beauty of both rock formations at dusk, and it’s not too challenging of a route. Taking a hike like this is truly one of the best ways to spend 5 days in Sedona.
Close to Doe Mountain, Bear Mountain is a hardier challenge, but with equally incredible sunset views. This is definitely for hikers who want to test their skills! The Bear Mountain trail is only 5 miles but is mostly unshaded and steep. However, these conditions are prime for sunset watching, as you’ll enjoy unimpeded 360-degree panoramas.
Airport Mesa Trail
Most tourists think the Airport Mesa summit is the best place to see the sunset (and sunrise) in Sedona for its panoramic views. Located on the scenic 89A route heading west, this well-signed lookout spot has seemingly infinite sweeping views of the surrounding gorges, rock formations, and mountain ranges of Munds Mountain Wilderness and Oak Creek Village.
This is an insanely rewarding sunset spot with little work to get there (except scoring a parking spot!). The easy, steep climb from the parking lot won’t take more than 10 minutes. See Cathedral Rock, views of Bell Rock, downtown Sedona and distant canyons bathed in burning reds and oranges. If you only have a few days in Sedona, this is one of the best things to do!
Pro Tip: If you can’t find parking in this small 10-car lot, drive up airport road a 1/2 mile to the $3 Airport Mesa Overlook lot and take the Sedona View Trail #169 to the Airport Mesa trail
Ready for another breathtaking sunset hike? Lets Go! The Boynton Canyon Trail is a moderate 6.1-mile hike and takes the average hiker a few hours to complete. The cool thing about Boynton Canyon for sunset is that this trail has optional detours. You can break off for the Boynton Vista Trail, which showcases the Enchantment Resort and red rock views. Or you can take a detour to the enchanting Subway Cave or choose the spur trail to the famous Boynton Canyon Vortex summit trail.
Schnebly Hill Road
Up for an off-roading adventure? The long, winding 11-mile Schnebly Hill Road is a scenic drive about six miles away from Sedona that takes you to the top of Schnebly Hill.
This road is quite rough-and-tumble, requiring four-wheel drive and good suspension. But the beautiful sunset views of sandstone mesas and open desert from Schnebly Hill Vista are well worth the expedition, with a beautiful vantage point of the Casner Canyon below. Consider one of the popular jeep tours if your car is not equipped for the journey.
Kendrick Park Nature Trail
Lastly, Kendrick Park in Coconino National Forest off Route 180 is an enchanting place to spend a late afternoon enjoying the sunset and night sky. This gorgeous park is home to Ponderosa pine forests and aspen groves that surround a wide-open meadow, which blooms with wildflowers.
The park’s flat Nature Trail, which leads to a meadow, is idyllic for watching the sunset behind the groves. It’s just as magical for stargazing, so stick around for a relaxing evening beneath the clear night sky.
Catching a sunset at one of the best sunset spots in Sedona is a must-see, whether you have 3 days in Sedona or more. Remember to arrive early to nab a coveted parking spot and always follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when enjoying nature.
If you have a favorite sunset spot in Sedona (and don’t mind giving it up) please let me know in the comments below- I am always looking for new sunset spots to explore.
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