Fay Canyon Trail in Sedona

The Fay Canyon trail in Sedona is a great introductory hike to the area. The scenic canyon is short – just a mile each way, the way forward obvious, and there are lots of interesting flowers, trees, and cacti to admire. It’s a good choice on a hot day as it’s mostly shaded.

If you haven’t done your research ahead of time, you’ll probably miss the unsigned spur trail to Fay Canyon Arch. It’s not on the scale of what you experience in Arches National Park, but it is the largest arch (130 feet long) in Sedona and impressive close-up. Consider it another reason to choose the Fay Canyon trail.

When you reach the far end of Fay Canyon you can clamber up some rocks for views out towards Sedona. Kids will love this part of the hike.

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Fay Canyon is close to many trails so you can easily do more than one in the area in a day

Fay Canyon trail hike summary

Distance: 2.4 miles return as an out and back hike

Elevation gain: 360 feet if you go up to Fay Canyon Arch.

Time needed: 1 – 1.5 hours.

Difficulty: Easy and family friendly though it’s steep going up to the arch and not everyone will like that.

Facilities: A restroom in the parking lot.

Dogs: Allowed on a leash. Take extra water for them too.

Trailhead location: Fay Canyon parking area on Boynton Pass Road. This is the exact location.

Best time to go: Year round. It’s shadier than many Sedona trails.

Weather: Check the Sedona weather forecast before you head out.

Don’t forget: Pack the hiking essentials, take lots of water, a wide-brim sunhat, and sunscreen.

Please: Practice Leave No Trace principles. That includes plan ahead and prepare, travel on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, respect wildlife, minimize campfire impacts (not relevant on this hike), and be considerate of others.

Red Rock pass: It is currently not required for the Fay Canyon trail but if you’re planning to hike other trails like nearby Bear Mountain or Doe Mountain, I’d recommend buying a Red Rock pass. They are $5 a day or $15 a week.

Views from the far end of the Fay Canyon trail in Sedona

How to get to the Fay Canyon trailhead in Sedona

From Sedona drive west on Highway 89A to reach Dry Creek Road. Turn north or right (if coming from Sedona) and drive three miles to the Boynton Canyon intersection.

Turn left and drive about 0.5 miles to reach the Fay Canyon parking area on the left. The trailhead for the Fay Canyon trail is directly across the street.

There is a large parking lot with washrooms across from the road from the Fay Canyon trail

Location of the Fay Canyon trail

Description of the Fay Canyon trail in Sedona

Walk across the street from the parking lot to pick up the Fay Canyon trail. You can’t miss it. Follow along the wide trail enjoying vistas of the red canyon walls – adding a touch of splendour to the outing. Our timing was such that shrubs were flowering and covered in masses of tiny pink blossoms. There were lots of cacti and some large juniper trees. What a nice change from our snowy world in Calgary.

We did the side trip to the Fay Canyon Arch before continuing to the end of the Fay Canyon trail which dies out in a box canyon abruptly in front of a Supai sandstone cliff. Along the way we crossed a couple of dry creek beds, though the trail up until the very end remains mostly level.

You can clamber about 100 feet up the large rock/cliff at the end of the Fay Canyon trail for some good views over Fay Canyon. If you’re not sure-footed give it a pass.

Retrace your steps to return and you’ll be back in the parking lot in 20 – 30 minutes without stops.

Easy hiking on the Fay Canyon Trail Sedona
One of the good-sized alligator juniper trees (I think) we saw with interesting bark along the Fay Canyon trail
Looking up at the red sandstone walls from the trail
The Fay Canyon trail in Sedona ends at this cliff – note the people who have scampered up

Fay Canyon Arch

It’s easy to miss the trail to Fay Canyon Arch. Keep your eyes peeled once you’ve hiked about 0.5 miles or 10 minutes. There is no signage indicating its presence.

You’ll find the side trail off to the right. These are the GPS coordinates. It climbs up the east side of Fay Canyon to the Fay Canyon arch. This is a rougher trail and not of the standard of the easy, wide Fay Canyon trail and you may have to choose your own path at times.

The closer you get to the sandstone arch, the rougher and steeper the trail gets. There are a lot of cacti around too, so watch where you put your hand.

From the trail it’s hard to tell that there’s an arch as it blends into the surrounding rock. Once under it look for a narrow slot between the wall from which the arch has broken away from and the arch itself. Enjoy the view up!

You almost need to be underneath the arch to see it properly. Have a look around, enjoy the great views and then carefully retrace your steps back to the main Fay Canyon trail.

Reportedly there is a somewhat sketchy trail you can take to the top of Fay Canyon Arch. We didn’t take it, though I bet the views are sublime from the top. Know your limits and play it safe.

From some angles it’s hard to see the Fay Canyon Arch
Fay Canyon Arch looks most impressive when you’re underneath it
Another view looking out from underneath the Fay Canyon Arch
Watch your footing on the descent from the arch

More Arizona hikes to try

The Courthouse Butte hike offers variety, and an option to do a longer hike. Great for families.

For a view at sunset do the short and easy Schuerman Mountain Trail.

The Soldier Pass trail showcases a couple of Sedona’s iconic sites including Soldier Pass Cave.

Enjoy easy and spectacular hiking in Petrified Forest National Park.

Spectacular waterfalls and exceptional beauty await on the multi-day Havasu Falls hiking experience.

Quite the opening to get into the Soldier Pass cave

Where to stay in Sedona

Sedona can be an expensive place to visit especially in high season. We stayed at the Briar Patch Inn on Oak Creek, though I think it was too far from the trailheads we wanted to use, given how bad the traffic was. You might want to think about the location of your accommodation based on what you plan to do while in Sedona. The following are a few suggestions.

Alma de Sedona B&B – Great location, pool, excellent breakfast

Sky Ranch Lodge – quiet, but a short drive to downtown

Sedona Cathedral Hideaway B&B & Spa – Great location in front of Cathedral Rock and exceptional reviews.

Inn Above Oak Creek Sedona – lovely location and individually decorated rooms

El Portal Sedona Hotel – a boutique hotel within walking distance to shopping

Briar Patch Inn is on Oak Creek – ideal for warm weather stays

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