Sedona View Trail is a short, easy and direct hike connecting Airport Mesa vortex site and Sedona airport scenic lookout. Both ends of the hike offer stunning views, especially at sunset when Airport Mesa becomes the most in-demand sunset photography spot in Sedona.
What is Airport Mesa in Sedona and why is it so popular?
A mesa is essentially a flat topped ridge or hill with steep drops to each side. Sedona’s regional airport is built on top of a mesa and the result is Sedona Airport Mesa. Both the scenic lookout and vortex at Sedona Airport Mesa are popular thanks to elevated vantage points overlooking the red rock landscape.
In this guide we will show you:
- Where to park for Sedona Scenic Lookout and Airport Mesa vortex site
- Fees to pay for parking
- Sedona View Trail hiking walkthrough
- Stunning Sedona Airport Mesa sunset photography
Let’s hike Sedona View Trail to Airport Mesa Vortex and the popular scenic lookout at sunset!
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Sedona View Trail
- Trail Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 250 feet
- Hike Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
- Time Required: 1 hour
Sedona View Trail runs almost exactly east to west, with Airport Mesa vortex site on the east end and Sedona airport scenic lookout on the west end.
We consider Sedona View Trail to be one of the best easy hikes in Sedona because it is short and leads to two fantastic photography locations.
The hike is exclusively downhill from the west side (scenic lookout) to the east side (vortex site) with excellent views throughout.
However, the gradient isn’t too steep and the trail is short enough for almost all visitors to handle.
The whole of Sedona View Trail is packed dirt and small to large stones. Specialist shoes are not required but be prepared for navigating sections of large and sharp rocks.
Looking for hiking inspiration? Read our popular guide to the 50 best hikes in the USA next!
Sedona Airport Mesa Vortex Site
Sedona’s Airport Mesa vortex site sits atop a large and flat table-top red rock formation at the bottom of Sedona View Trail.
The energy radiating vantage point offers stunning views over much of Sedona, including a south facing vista over both Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.
Airport Mesa is one of the 4 major Sedona vortexes, along with Boynton Canyon, Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.
Energy aside, gorgeous views in all directions make this side of the Sedona View Trail an unmissable stop on your visit to this remarkable landscape.
Note: You have to navigate a short climb up slick rock in order to access the Airport Mesa vortex site.
Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout
If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about surrounding the view from Airport Mesa, take a look at the pano we stitched together in the photo above.
You have almost 180 degrees of Sedona views to soak up from the scenic airport lookout.
Views include the entire inhabited area of downtown Sedona, plus some of the region’s most impressive red rock formations in the background.
Sedona Airport Mesa scenic lookout is busier and more popular at sunset because of its elevated vantage, its ease of access and the fact visitors do not need to hike in order to watch a stunning sunset.
Expect to share the small viewing area at Sedona Airport scenic lookout with plenty of pro photographers and Instagrammers!
Parking And Fees
There are two places you can park when visiting Sedona Airport Mesa; the vortex site and the scenic lookout offer separate parking areas along Airport Road.
Let’s take a look at both parking options.
Parking At Sedona Airport Mesa Vortex Site
Sedona Airport Mesa vortex site parking is free of charge but spaces are limited to around 10. You can just about make out some cars parked in the left side of the photo above.
Parking here would mean you can access the vortex site with its amazing views easily.
You would then hike up Sedona View Trail to reach the scenic overlook at Airport Mesa, before returning downhill to reach your car after sunset.
Here’s the exact Google Maps GPS location you need to use for parking at the Airport Mesa vortex site.
Parking At Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout
If the Sedona Airport Mesa vortex site parking lot is full or you only want to watch sunset from Sedona Airport scenic lookout, continue driving up Airport Road as it gains elevation at a fairly steep gradient.
After half a mile you will reach a pedestrian crossing with a sign guiding you into a left turn. This left turn will take you into a much larger parking lot, which is more suitable for such a popular sunset location.
You must pay $3 to park in the lot at Sedona Airport Mesa Scenic Lookout.
As you enter the lot you will be funneled to a kiosk and pay for a parking permit.
Here’s the exact Google Maps GPS location you need to use for parking at Airport Mesa vista.
Parking here means you can hike downhill to Airport Mesa vortex site, before hiking back up Sedona View Trail to watch sunset over town from the scenic lookout.
We parked in the paid lot so we could hike down the trail, see the views from Airport Mesa vortex site, and then be back to the scenic lookout in time to shoot sunset and night shots of Sedona.
Sedona Airport Loop Trail
Airport Loop Trail is a completely separate hike to Sedona View Trail.
- Sedona View Trail is out and back, simply connecting the scenic lookout to Airport Mesa vortex site.
- Sedona Airport Loop Trail encircles the airport, beginning and ending at Airport Mesa vortex site parking lot.
With so few spaces available at Airport Mesa vortex site parking lot, many hikers wishing to take on the full Sedona Airport Loop Trail are forced to park in the paid parking lot and include Sedona View Trail.
Airport Loop Trail is a very rocky 3.5 mile loop trail with spectacular views throughout.
If you have plenty of time on your Sedona itinerary, we would recommend including the full Airport Loop to your plans.
Just make sure you arrive at least 2 hours and 30 minutes before sunset so you can hike both trails and see both viewpoints before the sun disappears.
Map Of The Sedona View Trail Hike
The map above shows what you can expect around the Sedona Airport Mesa area.
Free parking is at Airport Mesa Vortex and paid parking is up next to the Scenic Sunset Vista as shown on the map.
- Orange Line – Sedona View Trail from vista to vortex
- Blue Line – Airport Loop Trail circling the airport
Sedona View Trail Hiking Walkthrough
Let’s get into our walkthrough of the hike along Sedona View Trail, including photos for every step.
Park At Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout
Park at the paid Airport Mesa parking lot at the top of the hill around 1 hour 30 minutes before sunset. Check sunset times in Sedona here.
Choosing this lot means you can walk down Sedona View Trail and return in time to watch the famous Airport Mesa sunset over the town.
Important – You will not be able to see the sun setting from Airport Mesa vortex site.
Hike Down Sedona View Trail
Follow the signs and head out of the parking lot toward Sedona View Trail.
You will pass through a fence and must remember to close the gate to prevent deer from running onto Sedona Airport runway.
Descend on the narrow rocky path, looking left at residential Sedona with a backdrop of towering red rocks.
After 0.6 miles you will reach a fork in the path.
Right would lead you onto Airport Loop Trail but you want to stay left leading to a small mound.
Climb Up To Airport Mesa Vortex Site
Follow a roped trail as you pass by the free parking lot and a path leading further left which marks the other side of Sedona Airport Loop Trail.
Track right as the trail bends and climbs up uneven rocks to the flat Airport Mesa Vortex summit. This short but steep climb is easy enough for most hikers but may not be suitable for some.
The rocks here can become very slippery during or after rainfall.
Photograph Stunning Views
Once you summit and reach the flat topped red rock of Airport Mesa Vortex, you are in for a scenic treat.
You can look northwest toward the city of Sedona, but that view is similar to what you have been looking at as you hiked down Sedona View Trail and you are now at a lower elevation.
You can get a better version of that view later when you’re back at Sedona Airport scenic lookout.
For now, we suggest you spend your time here at the Airport Mesa vortex site looking instead to the southeast.
You can see the famous Sedona Jeep trail Broken Arrow with submarine rock a standout formation.
Further to the right you can see AZ-179 cutting through the stunning Sedona landscape toward Village of Oak Creek.
Behind the road you will be treated to staggering views over Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte as pictured above.
Hike Back Up Sedona View Trail
Head back onto Sedona View Trail once you’ve soaked up enough of the wonderful Airport Mesa vortex site views.
Remember, you will be gaining 250 ft elevation continuously on the way back up to Sedona Airport scenic lookout.
Make sure you allow enough time to make it back before sunset and keep looking right at the views to help get the climb over in no time!
Sedona Airport Mesa Scenic Lookout At Sunset
Once you reach the parking lot, walk over the pedestrian crossing and you will enter a small graveled area.
This graveled area is the Sedona Airport Mesa scenic lookout sunset spot. It is likely to be busy but you should be able find a spot to stand and watch or set up your tripod.
Watching the sunset at Airport Mesa is definitely one of the best things to do in Sedona. It is easy to access and it is a beautiful vista as you can see in the photo above.
The sunset view from Airport Mesa scenic lookout might be the famous photography spot, but it is definitely worth the effort of hiking down Sedona View Trail so you can enjoy the best views on both sides.
Sedona Airport Mesa Sunset Photography Tips
If you want to get the best photos of Sedona from Airport Mesa, make sure you hike Sedona View Trail so you can shoot both ends.
With that said, you could just park at both parking lots and cut out the hike entirely if you really don’t want to walk it. The major issue there is being able to find parking spaces.
Here are a few photography tips to remember for your visit to Airport Mesa:
- A tripod will help with keeping your ISO down for low light shots as the sun sets.
- You will find there’s a lot more room on Airport Mesa vortex site summit than expected.
- Be sure to walk around the area to find the best place to frame and expose your photos.
- Look for tiny puddles remaining from recent rainfall.
- There are loads of small depressions on the flat top at the vortex site and you can create interesting images with reflections if you get low enough.
- The graveled area at Sedona Airport Mesa scenic lookout is small and fills right before sunset. Arrive early to secure the perfect angle before too many tripods are in the same space.
- Trees and a metal fence will both inevitably be prominent in your foreground from the scenic lookout as you frame downtown Sedona at sunset.
Sedona Airport Mesa Photos
Let’s take a quick look at some of the photos we took at Sedona Airport Mesa Vortex and Scenic Lookout.
Pros And Cons
Let’s take a quick look at the top 3 pros and cons to hiking Sedona View Trail at Airport Mesa.
- Very short hike connecting two popular vistas
- Excellent views throughout the hike
- Perfect Sedona trail to hike at sunset
- Trail is rocky in sections
- Not the most exciting hike in Sedona
- Very busy during peak times
Best Time To Hike Sedona Airport Mesa
Let’s take a quick look at the best time to hike Sedona View Trail at Airport Mesa.
Time Of Day
We hiked Sedona View Trail around 1 hour before sunset, which led to beautiful views in soft light at both Airport Mesa Vortex Site and Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout.
Staying after sunset for night views over Sedona is highly recommended.
If you want to avoid the crowds, why not hike Sedona View Trail at sunrise? You’ll benefit from similar stunning soft light photography opportunities but you won’t have to deal with the crowds.
We’re big advocates of being out early in Sedona!
You can expect Sedona Airport Mesa to be at its busiest on weekends, holidays and during Spring or Fall when temperatures at most comfortable.
Summer sees a slight decrease in visitors to Sedona due to the Arizona heat, but Winter sees a more significant drop in tourist numbers.
We visited Sedona in Winter and it was still extremely crowded at parking lots and on hiking trails. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like during peak times!
What To Pack For The Hike
- Footwear – Footwear with good grips and traction are not essential but they will help with traction on the slick rock and with sharp rocks hurting your feet.
- Water – If you visit in Summer, you need to carry water even on the shortest of trails in Sedona. The good news is you will never be too far away from your car.
- Sun protection – Sunglasses, sun hats, long layers and sunscreen are vital if you are visiting Sedona in Summer. Both the scenic vista and vortex site are completely exposed.
- Winter – Early starts and late finishes are cold in Sedona during Winter. Even on sunny mornings or evenings you will need coats, gloves and hats.
- Camera – Airport Mesa is one of the most popular photography locations in Sedona at sunset. Don’t forget your tripod for low light and wide angle lens for landscape shots.
Sedona Arizona Visitor Summary
How to get around – Sedona is small but you’ll need a car to access the best hikes to the north and south of town. If you want to get to the hard to reach places, you should hire a jeep.
When to visit – Spring and Fall are the best seasons to visit Sedona, but they come with a higher price tag and more crowds. Winter is a fantastic time to avoid both.
Where to stay in – Accommodation is expensive in Sedona, but there are plenty of very high quality places to stay including Matterhorn Inn, Lantern Light Inn, Arabella Hotel, Whispering Creek B&B and The Suites at Sedona.
Popular things to do – Sedona is one of the best places to hike in the US, but it is also a wonderful place to get off-road in a jeep, shoot stunning photography, visit historic sites and drink wine.
Sedona View Trail FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most asked questions about hiking Sedona View Trail in Sedona.
Sedona View Trail is short but relatively steep and surprisingly rocky. It will be rated as easy by regular hikers but Sedona View Trail could be rated as moderately difficult for beginner or less experienced hikers.
Yes Sedona View Trail is a dog friendly hike in Sedona. Dogs must be kept on a short leash at all times but they are permitted to explore all areas around Airport Mesa, including the vortex site and scenic vista.
Sedona View Trail is less a traditional hike and more of a connecting path between two popular scenic vista points. Both points of interest are worth seeing, which means Sedona View Trail is worth hiking.
More Sedona Hikes
Cathedral Rock – Sedona is filled with amazing hikes but Cathedral Rock Trail is one of the most iconic. If you’re short on time, this is the adventure hike for you.
Bell Rock – Hike the Bell Rock Courthouse Butte Loop Trail for stunning Sedona views, a fun slick rock climb and our hidden loop half way up the formation.
Boynton Canyon – Exactly how to find the famous Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon Trail, the most photographed cave in Sedona.
Birthing Cave – The easiest cave to reach in Sedona is Birthing Cave on Long Canyon Trail, ending with amazing views and a crowd free climax.
Soldier Pass – Hike to Devils Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools before climbing into Soldier Pass Cave on the family friendly Solider Pass Trail in Sedona.
More From The Southwest
Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona travel guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.
We hope this guide to hiking Sedona View Trail between Airport Mesa Vortex Site and Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout helps with planning your visit to northern Arizona!
Please let us know if you have any questions about Airport Mesa or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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