Wilson Mountain is minutes north of Sedona, and only 120 miles north of Phoenix, making this hike a great day trip for people in the warmer Phoenix valley with a slightly extended cooler season: starting in September/October and remaining tolerable through May. The trailhead is easily accessible directly off of AZ 89A.
Trail Statistics and GPS
|Elevation at Trailhead||4,500 feet|
|Total elevation gain from trailhead to highest point (on the Sedona Overlook)||2,495 feet|
|Distance TH to Sedona Overlook||4+ miles|
|Distance Sedona Overlook to North Canyon Overlook||2+ miles|
|Total distance to see both overlooks and return||12 miles|
|Configuration||Out and back|
|Trail grade||Rocky and occasionally narrow up to the overlook sign, then relatively flat and much less rocky. Trail to North Canyon Overlook is littered with fallen trees from fires that require stepping around and/or over.|
|Facilities||Pit toilet at the trailhead, small parking area. No water.|
|GPS Coordinate files: click to download||GPX KML GeoJSON|
Getting There, and Parking
Trailhead and parking are just north of the Midgely Bridge on the left side of AZ 89A (bridge shown below from the parking lot). From Phoenix, travel north on I17, take exit 287 for AZ-260 towards Payson/Cottonwood, and then turn left on AZ-260. Make a right onto AZ-89, and you’ll find the Midgley Bridge is 17 miles up the road. The parking lot is immediately after the bridge on the left hand (or north)side of the road.
A Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass is required to park in this area. The pass is available online and at gas stations along the way. I checked the Circle K at 711 AZ-179, Sedona, AZ 86336 (right on the way) – they sell the pass and are open 24 hours. A self-pay machine is also located at the trailhead.
Note that parking is limited. As Early Rise Hikers we don’t worry too much about that because we usually arrive before anyone else, as we did when we hiked this in mid May (at 7:00 am). However, by the time we were back at the parking lot people were hovering for parking spaces.
A hint of what’s to come in the photo below: a hike through the lower green area to the plateau straight ahead.
The Wilson Mountain trailhead is at an elevation of almost 4,500 feet. The hike begins under cover of trees, but soon the trail becomes more exposed to the sun and the views keep you from wanting to watch your boots. But take care – it’s a rocky path, and relatively narrow.
The hike from the trailhead to the point of making a decision about which overlook you want to gaze at first is a distance of 3.8 miles and an elevation gain of a little over 2,200 feet to reach 6,700 feet. That point of decision is at the sign shown here indicating that if you take a left, you’ll hike to the Sedona Overlook. To the right is the North Canyon Overlook. Both are glorious and well worth checking out.
From this point there’s not a lot of elevation gain in either direction. There’s a bit of up and down as you head to the Sedona Overlook, but the highest point on the trail (which is on route to the Sedona Overlook) is at 6,955 feet, only around 300 feet higher than where the sign sits. The trip to the North Canyon Overlook is even flatter.
We headed to the Sedona Overlook first. After walking through a fairly forested area, the real point of the hike becomes apparent. Sedona is great to look at from any angle, but it’s really something to look over the entirety of the region from this highest point in the Sedona area.
So just when you think you’ve seen it all, you hike back to the sign to go the other direction and check out the North Canyon Overlook. It seems like a long way after such a short hike to the Sedona Overlook, and it is a almost 4 times as long at just under 2 miles (from the sign). The trail is relatively flat and meanders through a wooded area that has been damaged by fire. The trail is littered with fallen logs, and there are so many in some areas you would think you were in a beaver field.
But once again you emerge to stunning views over the North Canyon. Certainly this is one of the most visually rewarding hikes I’ve done in Arizona. And there are many!
I recommend not just sticking to the spot where the trail has taken you at the North Canyon Overlook. If you explore along the rim you find that the views, incredibly, just keep getting better. There are some fantastic rock formations in this area, that, with the foliage contrasting with the red rock of Sedona, make up its unique beauty.