Bear Mountain Trail

Bear Mountain is a difficult hike.

Sedona is an amazing place to hike with its red rock formations and stunning desert landscapes. Bear Mountain is the tallest peak in Sedona and it reaches a summit of 6,506 feet. We reached 6,470 feet at the end of the trail.

We hiked 4.56 miles, climbed a grueling 1,912 feet and spent almost 7 hours on the trail.

This video provides an overview of the hike from a planning perspective.

And another video that covers our climb up the mountain.

Bear Mountain is a strenuous climb that requires stamina, proper footwear, and plenty of water. And calories. Definitely lots of calories.

The Bear Mountain trailhead is located off Boynton Pass Road, about 8 miles west of Sedona. The trailhead is clearly marked, and there is a small parking lot available for hikers.

There is a gate at the start of the trail, presumably to discourage bikers. There is a sign at the gate that warns hikers to allow enough time to complete the hike. 5 hours out and back. 2,000 foot elevation gain. Rugged, exposed and unmarked trail. The sign also warns hikers to carry at least a gallon of water, hiking shoes with ankle support, map and compass, flashlight and appropriate clothing.

We took 7 hours although we did numerous stops on our way up. Our moving time was about 5 hours.

The trail looks pretty easy as you leave the gate and make your way towards the first of several faux summits. You cannot see the peak of Bear Mountain from this point in the trail. The summit won’t appear for quite some time in the hike.

What you will see though are rocks. Lots of rocks. In the trail no less. Making the climb and the descent very challenging. And yes, these rocks are part of the trail. You have to scramble over them to keep climbing the mountain.

We made a bad turn here which is easy enough to happen as the trail is not well marked. We climbed that narrow chute which is almost vertical.

Here is Lorraine at the foot of that chute. We soon discovered that the trail actually goes to the right at the base of the chute. And that part of the climb is much easier than scaling the narrow, vertical section of the rock face.

If we had turned right at the base of the chute we would have enjoyed a much easier ascent for that 20 foot climb. But 20 feet pales in comparison to the 1,900 feet we would be climbing on this hike.

As we ascended the mountain we were rewarded with stunning views.

And, for a few feet, the trail actually smoothed out a little. But not for very long.

The sign at the base of the trail warns of a rugged trail. And the sign was not kidding. Although the heart rate went up with the ascent, climbing down the mountain was much harder work. For most of the hike you have to really watch your step.

Much of the climb requires navigation through very steep inclines on face rock.

We did stop along the way to enjoy the stunning views and to take pictures.

The trail is marked at times. You can see at the bottom of this picture a white diamond. The markers are randomly placed and it is easy to lose the trail. Whenever it wasn’t clear where the trail was going, I was able to check our heading on my GaiaGPS trail app.

There were times when I felt as though we were mountain climbers as opposed to hikers. Perhaps I should have brought some rope and anchors?

Aside from the tight and uneven trail littered with loose rocks, cacti was very, very close to the trail edges. Not only did we need to watch our steps, we had to watch our sides.

Finally the summit of Bear Mountain came into view. It was still another 90 minutes or so of hiking from here.

There are multiple faux summits on the way up. We took advantage of them to get a bit of recovery before moving on.

Lorraine is descending from one of the faux summits. We are roughly 5,600 feet at this point in the hike.

You can see Lorraine coming down from yet another faux summit. We are still nowhere near the Bear Mountain peak.

From that point we resume our climb. The next set of photos cover the ascent to the final faux summit. And we lost sight of the Bear Mountain summit. Again.

This was the last part of the climb. Looking down towards the final faux summit, we had perhaps another 200 feet to get to the top. And that last 200 feet was a killer. We both were wanting the climb to end.

Just a little further. We are almost at the top.

Here we are. We scaled the highest elevation in Sedona.

From the summit we could easily see the San Francisco Peaks at Flagstaff. They soar to heights reaching 12,633 feet and serve as one of the most distinct geological features of the Colorado Plateau.

At the end of the Bear Mountain trail we hydrated and took in some much needed calories. But what goes up, must come down. We knew that we could not use our cameras on the way down. It was getting late in the afternoon and we had to make the return leg in under 3 hours to keep in the light. The footing requires a lot of attention on the descent. Safety first.

Once we reached the bottom, I could pull the camera out again. We were closing in on 6pm. Still enough light but I would not want to cut it much closer. Trying to navigate this trail with flashlights would have been very hard.

An awesome hike. Certainly a highlight of our time here in Sedona. We did this hike on Saturday. On Sunday we visited friends in Phoenix. And I spent Monday and today cutting videos and writing blog posts. We’ve had rain Monday and today. And we will have rain tomorrow. But after that we will be back on the trails to enjoy as many hikes as possible during our month in Sedona.

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