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Whether or not you believe in energy vortices, you’ll feel something special the minute you step foot on its trailhead. From multi-day trips to easy-access dayhikes, the trails around this town run the gamut, and Devils Bridge is one of the most popular for a reason. At 4.2 miles, the hike to Devils Bridge is short enough for new hikers and families, but even experienced hikers will find themselves marveling at the views, the desert, and the arch itself. Here’s everything you need to know to head out on the trail.
There are two trailheads for Devils Bridge, depending on what vehicle you’re taking there. For hikers who have a 4×4 with good clearance, starting at the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead cuts two miles off of the total distance. Head up Dry Creek Road to the trailhead, then start up the path. If you don’t have 4×4 capability, you can either park at the end of the short paved section of Dry Creek Road and continue up the 4×4 track, or start at Mescal Trailhead and take the more scenic Mescal/Chuckwagon Trail to the Devils Bridge Trailhead. We recommend the latter: Walking up Dry Creek Road tends to be dusty, very exposed to the sun, and hash little in the way of views.
For a much better experience, head to Mescal Trailhead, off Long Canyon Road. From the trailhead, head onto scenic singletrack through the desert. Red sand, juniper, and pine spread out to all sides. A mile in, cross Dry Creek Road to the Devils Bridge Trailhead. Weaving through patches of juniper and pine forest, the Devils Bridge Trail spends a lot of time in the open, where the red-rock mountains that characterize the Sedona area are visible in the distance. (The darker red-orange stripes at the bottom and paler upper sections represent different geologic periods, when different kinds of sediment were formed by the advance and retreat of a shallow sea. These mountains are actually eroded pieces of the Mogollon Rim, which splits the Colorado Plateau and Basin and Range.)
After starting as a wide former access road, the trail narrows. Look closely at the mountain rising in front of you to spot an enormous boulder balanced precariously over the cliffs. Just before reaching the bridge, a series of rock steps and occasional scrambles quickly make up the remaining elevation gain. A flat area beside the arch is the perfect place to take in the bridge itself and the mountains beyond; adventurous hikers can walk out onto the bridge itself for a unique photo op. The arch is about 5 feet wide where you can walk along the top, 54 feet tall, and 45 feet long.
When to Hike the Devils Bridge Trail
This route is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona (for good reason). Start early or late to avoid the crowds and heat, and to ensure you get parking–the Dry Creek parking lot can fill up very quickly, especially on weekends, and the Mescal Trail trailhead doesn’t have many spots available. In the popular spring and fall hiking seasons you might also have to wait an hour just to walk on Devils Bridge, so many hikers are there. Early-morning starts let you leave before the crowds arrive. Alternately, start later, when most hikers have already headed back to town for dinner, and catch the sunset before hiking out by headlamp. Though the steeper sections of trail can be icy in the winter (as can the bridge itself), the desert dusted in snow is an impressive site, and with the right gear a winter hike here can be excellent. Summer is often too hot for most hikers, and afternoon thunderstorms are more likely, but if you keep an eye on the forecast the season can offer good hiking opportunities, too.
Gear for Hiking the Devils Bridge Trail
Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen on this desert trail, especially on hot days. Sturdy, breathable hiking boots will keep pebbles and sand out of your shoes while preventing sweat from building up, and they’ll tackle the scrambly sections of trail without a problem. Throw in a rain shell in case of inclement weather, and as always, make sure you have the ten essentials.
Permits for Hiking the Devils Bridge Trail
A Red Rock Pass is required for this trail ($5 a day or $15 per week). They can be purchased online at recreation.gov or in-person at the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center or several of the supermarkets and hotels in Sedona. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, you can use that instead.