Sterling Pass Trail

HARD 76 reviews
#35 of 181 trails in

Sterling Pass Trail is a 3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and walking and is best used from April until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
3.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,804 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

walking

forest

views

snow

Directions from Flagstaff: Drive 22 miles south out of Flagstaff or 5.5 miles north from Sedona. The trailhead is a bit hard to see but it's on the west side of the highway, near mile marker 380. It's about a hundred yards north of the entrance to Manzanita Campground and a short distance south of Slide Rock Lodge. Parking is available some distance away, south of Manzanita Campground, on the east side of the highway.

rocky
snow
4 days ago

Sustained climbing but well worth the effort as you steadily rise through towering cliffs and are rewarded with a fantastic view of the Dry Creek drainage and secret mountain wilderness.

hiking
rocky
scramble
snow
6 days ago

I’ve wanted to tackle this one for a long time, so when the opportunity arose I wasn’t going to miss it for anything with that said, this is definitely one for the more experienced hikers among us. As it is on the shaded side of Oak Creek Canyon, there was snow and bits of ice, making an already-strenuous, steep trail a bit more difficult to traverse. We were unable to complete the trail all the way to Vultee Arch due to ice on the trail beyond the pass and a lack of microspikes (poor planning on my part), but the trail did not disappoint, with incredible views and a great workout.

hiking
23 days ago

As is mentioned in prior posts, this hike is on the harder side. Bring poles and be sure footed. We inadvertently left our poles in our vehicle back in town. We were going to go on to Vultee Arch but decided at the top to save it for another day. I love to look at rocks and sediment layers so this was visually Pleasing hike for me, with stunning and beautiful views of the rocks and cliffs.

hiking
rocky
29 days ago

This hike combined Sterling Pass Trail and the Vultee Arch Trail. The rocky trail passes through fairly close canyon walls and most of it passes through forest. This makes it ideal for a summer hike, but also cuts down on the number of views (due to foliage) and the number of spectacular views (due to the closeness of the rocks). The hike up to Sterling Pass coming from Hwy 89A (i.e. from the east) is fairly steep (though the one person I met during the entire hike was running down it), the trail down the west side is less rocky and less steep, and Vultee Arch trail is much flatter. If you have time to hike only a few trails in Sedona, you can skip this one - for a similar rocky steep hike try Bear Mountain, which offers far better views of Sedona's iconic red rocks.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

1 month ago

I saw it right before I pulled into manzanita campground—which is a fantastic spot that fills up quick with the loveliest host Lidia—very glad there was sticks at the trailhead marking for support because there is a lot of compacted snow and most of the trail is very narrow—the views are spectacular and there were only a few people that I passed on trail—it will be unforgiving on the knees but well worth it. definitely continue onto the Vultee Arch—you’ll see a sign and it’s very close from there—I was lucky to have a clear sunny day plenty warm — I would believe in not near perfect conditions, given there’s snow already on trail, this would be treacherous . Good boots, poles or a stick provided , and plenty of water/snacks and you’ll really enjoy this one

hiking
1 month ago

I had quite the near survival situation on this trail. Believe what you read and bring proper boots and DEFINITELY poles. DO NOT hike it in wet, windy or stormy weather. I hiked it in full snow covered condition on a cold, calm sunny day (Jan 3). The snow was both a blessing (better visibility - tracks - and traction for poles) and a curse (more slogging and potential slipping, although I had boots with good lug which helped). Saw TONS of animal tracks which didn’t boost my comfort level as there was not a fellow hiker to be seen the entire time I was on Vultee Arch then Sterling Pass trails. Come prepared with food and snacks, double your water, and give yourself plenty of daylight!
Here’s my story for more context.
I *unintentionally* ended up on this trail (which, trust me, you don’t want!) after *intending* to drive the forest road to Vultee Arch trailhead but due to road conditions, had to hike instead. The added hike time blew my calculations - by the time I reached the arch trailhead it was late in the day and I couldn’t even find the trail all the way to the arch. I saw the arch (awesome!) but didn’t have time to go the final quarter mile to it, although there are great views from some flat red rocks where I briefly stopped to refuel. I realized I was running out of daylight and would have to take Sterling Pass Trail just to get back to civilization before dark. The ascent from the arch trail fork up to the saddle is a glute-busting series of switchbacks on narrow trail with steep drop offs into the trees. Luckily it wasn’t too windy but by the time I reached the top it was already sunset. The descent is treacherously steep and if I hadn’t had poles could easily have been fatal in the failing light. I finally made it down and out to Manzanita Campground 35 minutes later just when it would’ve been impossible to continue without a flashlight. Mercifully a camper agreed to drive me 12 miles back to where I left my car near Devil‘s Bridge Trailhead. Experienced local hikers would probably not commit this oversight but I guess it’s par for the course for this Florida girl adventuring in the west.!

hiking
2 months ago

This trail is maybe 100 yards up the road from Manzanita Campground. We did it fine without hiking poles, but I would recommend proper hiking boots. It gets very windy near the top. Well worth continuing on to Vultee Arch.

3 months ago

Some difficult footing, I'd recommend hiking poles. This one's tough on the knees. Be prepared for the gain/loss gain/loss in elevation. A long one but well worth it. Great scenery and fall colors!

3 months ago

Awesome

3 months ago

Gorgeous views particularly as you reach the top. Have to scrabble a bit to reach the pass, and we definitely were feeling intimidated when the wind was blowing because the ledge to climb up wasn’t very wide, but the hike was worthwhile!

4 months ago

Difficult climb and footing, but breathtaking vistas and great payoff view.

4 months ago

By far my favorite hike in Sedona!! Very difficult do not start out thinking it’s only 3 miles. The climb will get to you, trust me. We took this trail all the way to the end where it reaches the Vultee Arch trail. Of course we had to go up to Vultee Arch and have lunch the turned around and went out the same way we went in. Very hard and the elevation gain was somewhere around 4K- there was a lot of ups and downs and back up! It’s Gorgeous hike!!! Well worth it and is now one of my Top 10 hikes in AZ.

6 months ago

IT IS VERY DIFFICULT, a proper pack out is needed, water triple what you normally need due to the steep mountain climbs, proper hiking boots and trek polls. those things save your knees and the in some parts it's loose and slick. what for rain the hike becomes harder when it rains and the trail gets slicker. plan 5 hours round trip which should in could breaks in along the way and at the arch. That first steep hike up is the worst part, suck it up and do it. It down hill after that to the arch. rest for a bit and on your way back that hike back up is not too had not so steep but the poles really help you here. enjoy the scenery it takes the pain away. once at the summit it all down hill and moves fast watch for lightening. there is alot of areas there that shows lightening strikes alot in that canyon.

6 months ago

Great hike up a side canyon in the shadow of Wilson Mountain. Made it to the arch, well worth it. Saw a rattlesnake on the west side of the summit. Would do this hike again.

6 months ago

Wonderful hike. The trail is in good condition.

hiking
6 months ago

This trail is hard to find - it's very easy to pass on 89A North, but is well worth the trouble. It has almost no parking, so you may consider parking in town, and then Uber'ing to the trailhead.
I liked that the initial part of the hike is a steep incline as you climb the mountain. Because of this, you quickly see lovely red rock views. Once you crest the top, you start a subtle decent through a woodland area.
In some areas, you're hiking on loose gravel and dirt, thus I highly recommend you wear proper hiking footwear. There is also a decent amount of poison ivy, so be forewarned.
I'm not sure this is the best trail for children because of the incline with such loose gravel & dirt, AND because of the poison ivy.
I recommend this trail, however there are many other hikes in Sedona with better views. ...which isn't to say this trail is boring at all.

backpacking
8 months ago

Went all the way to the arch,past end of trail. Returned back to 89A. Garmin shows 8.5 miles round trip. Great hike. Saw a lot of poison Ivy along trail. 4hours round trip with weighted backpack.

hiking
8 months ago

Great hike! https://youtu.be/jxDfGxc9qNI

hiking
8 months ago

Awesome hike hard to do late may when you’re not used to the heat. Didn’t see many people out. But be careful of poison oak that grows along the path. We hiked with somebody who great up knowing what it looks like and let us know when we were coming up to it.

hiking
9 months ago

Nice hike. I didn’t make it to the Arches, which is the full 3miles in, I believe. I stopped at the apex halfway, went a little down the backside (decent view 100 yards down) and returned. 45min to apex, about same back down. While it was quick, it was strenuous, but go at your own pace. Don’t let the difficulty scare you, I ran into octarians, septarians, etc... I was the youngest person on the trail (34yo).

It was a late morning hike, the sun is hot on the front side. Back side is well shaded and even green (in May).

I ran into a snake (not a rattler) mere steps off the trail. A lady I passed had spotted what she thought was a wild boar snorting around in the bush. Great views along the way, especially on the way back.

9 months ago

Incredible!!

10 months ago

Beautiful hike but more than 3 miles... plan accordingly

10 months ago

Whoa! Incredible views but if you have vertigo.. don’t look down. Strenuous, rocky steep. Go up over the pass and down the other side where the trail is softer, switch backs to Vultee Arch. But then you go back up and over again. 6.5 mi of ass kicking gorgeous hike!

hiking
11 months ago

Back again! What what. It was the last day of a beautiful month. As I was staying strong, being away from my Dudett/companion/cuddle bug/Jungle eye Queen for way to long (a total of 16 hours) We were once REUNITED!
We once again took the blue Sub down the scenic 89A north, with a mix CD so amazing MTVs TRL Carson Daly would be jealous . As tho, we did get confused on where to park. We did fine a great spot on the side of the road right next to the trail! The woman before me stated “Giving birth was easier than hiking this trail”...now as a man, I have no idea what that means but she nailed it. Off the bat you start ascending towards what seems like the sky. Off the bat the switch backs come in and seem to become an never ending bout with nature. She wins. Now, having a powerful, intelligent, one with Mother Nature...daughter nature(?) dudett like I have, extremely helps with conquering this trail. I’d suggest an ample amount of water, trail mix and layers. You will go from snow trails to sunshine. Icy trails to muddy and again a elevation that seems cruel. Please remind yourself to hydrate and stay hydrated. Make it to the arch, climb the arch and have a great feeling of accomplishment...and you will have to do the entire ascend all over again back.
To the Olympic athlete/robot man who passed us twice up and down..we get it, however make USA proud with your running my friend.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Giving birth was easier than the elevation gain on this trail

hiking
Monday, February 05, 2018

It was just challenging enough for my friends and me! The weather in the winter months really help the hike. Really recommend going to the arch at the end even if it seems scary. The view was gorgeous, and the photos turned out awesome! Easy access to the trail, which was a plus!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Agree with all written here.. well worth the hard work. Ironically we found a plaque at Vultee commemorating the plane crash of Jerry Vultee on 1/29/38. Our hike was 1/29/18.. made the hike extra special. You will enjoy this out and back.

hiking
Monday, January 22, 2018

An amazing hike with amazing views that I hope to do again. I lost my car keys but met some awesome people who made a bad situation feel not as bad. It’s definitely a hike that I’ll remember forever.

hiking
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Great hike! Went all the way to Vultee Arch. Uphill both ways but was very beautiful and well worth the climb.

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