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How To Hike Doe Mountain Trail In Sedona

How To Hike Doe Mountain Trail In Sedona

Doe Mountain Trail is a moderately difficult 1.5-mile out and back hike in Sedona, Arizona. The short but steep trail has a total of 400 feet elevation gain through a series of switchbacks which lead to a flat mesa. Summit views are expansive and east facing, which makes Doe Mountain Trail of the best sunrise hikes in Sedona.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about hiking Doe Mountain Trail in Sedona.

Our Doe Mountain Experience

Where Are Those Morgans hiking Doe Mountain Trail in Sedona at sunrise
Mark and Kristen hiking Doe Mountain at sunrise

We hiked to Doe Mountain in time for sunrise during our week long visit to Sedona at the end of 2021. Devils Bridge and Cathedral Rock were our top two sunrise hike priorities, but we’re so glad we included Doe Mountain to our list because it turned out to be a truly unforgettable experience.

Visiting Sedona in December during the low season meant we had the entire Doe Mountain summit to ourselves for sunrise. We sat huddled up in our winter coats with a hot coffee as the sun burst into the sky from behind Sedona’s famous red rocks. And we would do it again in a heartbeat!

Hiking Statistics

  • Trail Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 400 feet
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Required: 2 hours
  • Trailhead: Bear Mountain / Doe Mountain
  • Best Time: Sunrise

Doe Mountain Sunrise

Hiker watching sunrise at the summit of Doe Mountain trail in Sedona Arizona
Kristen watching the sunrise from Doe Mountain

Watching the sunrise from Doe Mountain was definitely one of our favorite things to do in Sedona. The hike is easy with a headlamp, and it really is worth it to sit on the edge of the mesa and watch hot air balloons taking off from the valley below as the sun rises.

Check sunrise times and aim to be at the parking lot 1 hour before sunrise. We arrived to Doe Mountain Trailhead at 6:30am, summited at 7:00am and waited for the sun to rise at around 7:20am.

Hiking Tip: When exploring outdoors, be sure to always practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace to preserve natural beauty so others can enjoy the same environments.

Trail Map

Map of Doe Mountain Trail Hike in Sedona
Photo we made to show the trail and sunrise view

In our photo above you can see Doe Mountain Trailhead, the switchbacks leading to the summit and the direction you will be looking from the top.

Map key:

  • Blue Circle – Doe Mountain summit
  • Orange Line – Direction of the summit views

Further Reading: 50 amazing hiking trails in the US

Hiking Walkthrough

Let’s get into the Doe Mountain hiking walkthrough. We are going to show you the entire trail step-by-step so you know exactly what to expect.

Don’t forget you can use our photos below throughout your hike to Doe Mountain to help with navigation.

1. Park At Doe Mountain Trailhead

Hiking trail crossroads with markers and stone steps leading to red rock wall
Crossroads of Aerie Trail and Doe Mountain Trail

Doe Mountain Trailhead parking lot has plenty of spaces but it also serves as the trailhead for Bear Mountain so it can get busy.

Once you’re parked, don’t forget to display a Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful Pass on your dashboard. If you don’t have either, buy a 1 day or 7 day pass at the ticket machine in the parking lot or online at recreation.gov.

2. Begin The Climb

Hiking Doe Mountain in Sedona at sunrise with headlamp to light the trail
Mark hiking up Doe Mountain Trail with a headlamp before sunrise

Follow the very obvious trail directly from the parking lot. If you are hiking for sunrise like we did, don’t forget to grab your headlamp and turn it on bright so you can see the path ahead.

Don’t cross to the opposite side of the road from the parking lot because that trail leads to Bear Mountain, which is one of the hardest hikes in Sedona. Experienced hikers might want to consider taking on Bear Mountain right after Doe Mountain.

3. Zig-Zag The Switchbacks

Hiking narrow rocky dirt paths on the side of a red rock mountain in arizona
Kristen hiking back down the switchbacks after sunrise

Almost immediately the trail hits a crossroads with the interconnecting Aerie Trail. Don’t turn left or right here, instead continue straight ahead aiming directly for the towering rock formation ahead.

You will begin to gain elevation by zig-zagging up a series of switchbacks. The trail is easy enough to follow for the most part, but it narrows in places and you will walk on rocks which can be slippery after rain or under icy conditions.

4. Follow The Narrow Trail

Long narrow section of hiking trail at sunrise leading up Doe Mountain in Sedona
Long and narrow section of the hike

Each switchback is longer than the last and after 5 or 6 sharp turns you will reach a long and narrow section of trail. Views to your left side are opening up nicely and you can see Bear Mountain in the distance dominating the skyline.

Continue to slowly and gradually gain elevation on this narrow part of the hike until you reach a very obvious rocky section.

5. Scramble Up The Rocks

Eroded rocks forming a narrow gulley on a hike in arizona
Light scrambling section on the hike

After taking a sharp right turn you will see a section of uneven rock ledges and a narrow gulley. The photo above makes it look worse than it is in reality. You might need to use your hands at times, but this light scramble is easy enough.

We recommend wearing shoes with good grips to hike Doe Mountain because of this section in particular. If it has rained or it’s icy, you must take extra care here.

6. Summit Doe Mountain Trail

Drone photo of the summit mesa at Doe Mountain with two hikers walking a plateau
We put our drone up quickly to get a photo of us on the Doe Mountain mesa

After a very short and light scramble you will summit onto a flat tabletop mesa. It’s larger than we expected and there’s still a little bit to go in order to reach the viewpoint.

Don’t turn left towards the protruding rock formation you have been looking at since beginning the hike, which seems like the logical place to go.

Instead, walk in the exact opposite direction towards the southeast. You can follow cairns or simply follow the light source if you are hiking for sunrise.

7. Reach The Viewpoint

View from the top of a climb in arizona at dawn
The view over Sedona from Doe Mountain

After just a few minutes you will reach the edge of the mesa which has significant drop offs. It also has sensational views over the unspoiled valley below and distant red rock formations. Walk long the edge and find a quiet spot to sit back, relax, sip a hot coffee and watch a magical sunrise.

In the center of the photo above you can just about make out the tiny looking spire of Chimney Rock. And to the right you can see the faint ridge of Sedona Airport Mesa.

8. Watch Hot Air Balloons Take Off

Hot Air Balloon yellow color just after taking off from a flat expanse of trees
Hot air balloons taking flight from the valley below Doe Mountain at sunrise

If you summit early enough you can watch as bright yellow hot air balloons emerge from the ocean of green trees below about 30 minutes before sunrise. You’ll see plenty of balloons soaring high above distant rock formations in time for the sun rising.

We didn’t make it up in a balloon but we’re sure it would be well worth the early start!

9. Enjoy The Sunrise

Photo of the sun rising over red rock formations in Sedona with a starburst effect on the sun as it bursts over the horizon
We had a crystal clear sunrise at Doe Mountain

The sunrise from Doe Mountain summit is spectacular. You can enjoy unobstructed views across the valley below all the way to the sun bursting out from behind distant red rock formations to the southeast.

Once you’re done with sunrise and the hot air balloons are way off in the distance, it’s time to head back down the switchbacks.

10. Hike Back Down

Bear Mountain illuminating under sunlight on the descent back down Doe Mountain after a sunrise hike
View over Bear Mountain from Doe Mountain after sunrise

The descent is much quicker than the ascent. You will go back into shadow for most of the hike down, but if you look out toward Bear Mountain in the distance, it will be glowing under intense sunlight after sunrise.

Consider hiking Bear Mountain next if you want the challenge. Otherwise, drive straight to nearby Fay Canyon or Boynton Canyon for more amazing hikes before the parking lots fill with the morning rush.

Pros And Cons

Pros:

  • Spectacular sunrise views
  • Very quiet trail comparatively
  • Short hike with huge reward

Cons:

  • Not as special if hiked in the middle of the day
  • Climb is steep in parts with one light scramble
  • Not the most exciting trail until reaching the summit

Doe Mountain Trailhead Parking

Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain parking lot in Sedona Arizona at sunrise
Our car parked at Doe Mountain Trailhead after sunrise

Doe Mountain Trailhead shares a parking lot with Bear Mountain Trailhead on Boynton Pass Road in the northwest of Sedona. The lot is shaped like a horseshoe and is larger than average for typical parking lots at Sedona trailheads.

Here’s the Google Maps location for Doe Mountain Trailhead.

We recommend hiking for sunrise because you will guarantee a parking spot at Doe Mountain, see a stunning sunrise and then be able to park at a nearby lot before it fills.

Alternate Parking Options

If you arrive at Doe Mountain during a busy period and can’t get parked, try parking at Fay Canyon Trailhead instead. Here’s the Google Maps location.

You can hike Aerie Trail from Fay Canyon to Doe Mountain. Plus, Fay Canyon Trail makes for a great hike immediately after finishing Doe Mountain at sunrise.

Do You Need A Parking Pass?

Parking pass ticket machine in red rock country arizona
Parking passes can be bought at the trailhead

Yes, you need to display either a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Interagency Pass on your vehicle dashboard to park at Doe Mountain Trailhead in Sedona.

You can buy a Red Rock Pass at this recreation.gov page in advance, or you can buy a pass at a ticket machine when you arrive in person.

Red Rock Pass options include:

  • 1 Day Red Rock Pass – $5
  • 7 Day Red Rock Pass – $15
  • Red Rock Annual Pass – $20

Do you have an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass? You can use it instead of a Red Rock Pass at these trailheads, which includes Doe Mountain.

Best Time To Hike Doe Mountain Trail

Hot Air Balloons taking off during a calming sunrise in Sedona view from the summit mesa of Doe Mountain
The sunrise view from Doe Mountain summit

The best time to hike Doe Mountain Trail is for sunrise on a weekday in spring or fall when temperatures are comfortable for hiking at dawn.

Best Season

Sedona is busiest in spring and fall, which could lead to the Doe Mountain parking lot filling before sunrise as hikers climb to the mesa for one of the best sunrises in town.

Summer and in particular winter are quieter periods in Sedona, which means you have more chance getting parked up at the trailhead without issue.

Best Time Of Day

Sunrise is the best time of day to hike Doe Mountain. You will benefit from beautiful views directly into the rising sun with hot air balloons taking flight below.

However, sunset is another popular time to hike Doe Mountain. It isn’t quite as special but if it fits better into your Sedona itinerary, consider hiking for sunset instead.

The stunning views are still there from mid morning to late afternoon, but it’s all about the soft lighting around dawn and dusk on this hike.

What To Pack

Hiker in winter coat on stone steps at the start of a hike in arizona
Kristen back down at Doe Mountain Trailhead after watching sunrise
  • Footwear – Footwear with good grips and traction are going to help you climb up steep banks and reduce slipping on light scrambling sections near the top.
  • Water – Hiking at sunrise means you can take less water than you would during the day. But the climb is steep and tiring, especially on warmer mornings. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so take at least 1 full reusable water bottle per person. If hiking later in the day you’ll need to carry more water.
  • Sun protection – Sunglasses, sun hats, long layers and sunscreen are vital if you are visiting Sedona in summer. However, if you hike Doe Mountain at sunrise, you will be in the shade for almost the entire trail. The only time you will be in the sun is at the summit when the sun rises.
  • Winter – We hiked Doe Mountain for sunrise in winter. You’ll need to start in coats, gloves and hats to begin but take a backpack for storage once you get sweaty on the ascent. Don’t forget a coffee and you’ll definitely need to put your coat back on at the summit!

Our Top 5 Tips

  1. Pack a headlamp to use for light if hiking for sunrise
  2. Park at either Fay Canyon or Aerie Trailhead if Doe Mountain is full
  3. Set off on the hike around 1 hour before sunrise so you don’t miss the spectacle
  4. Don’t forget your camera and tripod for low light sunrise photography
  5. Hike Bear Mountain straight afterwards so you don’t have to park here again

In Conclusion

Hiker in winter coat stood on a flat mesa summit with far reaching views over a valley and red rocks at sunrise
Mark enjoying the sunrise view from Doe Mountain summit in winter

Doe Mountain Trail is a short but steep hike leading to a far reaching viewpoint overlooking the magnificent landscape in Sedona, Arizona. It’s a great hike for the whole family to enjoy, and the best time to hike Doe Mountain is for sunrise.

Is Doe Mountain Trail worth it?

Yes! Doe Mountain is one of the best bang for your buck hikes in Sedona. The summit view at sunrise is amazing and shouldn’t be missed. This is one hike you should definitely add to your Sedona hiking itinerary.

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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 Doe Mountain Trail helps with planning your visit to Sedona, Arizona!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Doe Mountain hike or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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