Ultimate Guide to Hiking and Backpacking Wilson Mountain in Sedona

To celebrate my cancer-free news, my dad agreed to join me in backpacking Wilson Mountain, the highest point in Sedona. It offers some of the best views for Sedona hikes and is one of the least popular trails in the area.

We embarked from Phoenix to Red Rock Country early Saturday morning ahead of the 10-mile round trip hike. With the hike starting at Midgley Bridge and parking quite limited, we parked at a local grocery store and Lyfted to the trailhead.

We weren’t sure how successful this would be, but the strategy worked perfectly!

Your Guide to Hiking and Backpacking Sedona’s Wilson Mountain

1-Minute Guide to the Wilson Mountain Hike:

  • Distance: 8.5 miles if you only go to the Sedona overlook side; it could be 11.5 miles RT too
  • Elevation Gain: 2,850 feet
  • Difficulty: Hard, especially with backpacking weight on
  • Beauty: Pretty damn good
  • There is no water on the trail, so bring plenty

Heading up to Wilson Mountain

Considering we started around 1 pm, it was warming up quickly as we began the uphill climb. While it wasn’t anything too intense, as Sedona is close to 5,000 feet in elevation, the sun’s rays still were felt by both my dad and me during the Wilson Mountain hike.

The first mile isn’t too bad as you gradually make your way up into the red rocks. You start to gain elevation from there, and the switchbacks are the only thing you experience for the next two miles. I’d estimate it took us about 2.5 hours to hike up to the saddle with 40 pounds on our backs.

You should breeze up if you’re doing this hike without backpacking equipment. I’d imagine I could do the 5-mile hike to the top in 2 hours.

We pitched our tents at the saddle, and then I continued to the top to see the sights. With no weight on my back anymore, I crushed the last mile in 20 minutes to the Sedona overlook side.

Sedona Overlook on the Wilson Mountain hike

Once I reached Wilson Mountain’s top, the views were absolutely stunning! As the highest point in Sedona, you literally tower over the city. Sedona looks utterly different from this angle as you have red rocks in front of you and striking white rocks below.

I meandered throughout the plateau and would have liked to have spent more time up there (or camped up there), but I wanted to get down for sunset, so I wasn’t hiking downhill in the dark.

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Looking for things to do in Sedona? See my guide.

Sunset Views from the top of Wilson Mountain in Sedona

While the clouds didn’t do their job, we were treated to a fantastic Sedona sunset on Wilson Mountain. I ran around doing crazy photography things, and my dad eventually made his way out to check out the sights as well.

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Wilson Mountain Sedona hikes sunset backpacking
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A night under 5 billion stars on Wilson Mountain

Dad and I enjoyed a quick freeze-dried meal and a quiet night watching the stars come out above us. After five months of stress and sky-high anxieties, having a chance to breathe a sigh of relief was necessary and so welcoming.

As it was insanely windy on the saddle, we made our way into the tent and passed out quickly.

The next morning, we took our time packing up and began the trek downward. I think my dad really enjoyed going downhill versus uphill the day prior. The loose rocks on the trail at the top took a little time to navigate, but we eventually made it down and cruised over the last mile.

Essential Information about Backpacking Wilson Mountain in Sedona

Do you need a permit to camp on Wilson Mountain?

No permit is needed, and camping is legal. A unique thing about the Sedona area is most of it prohibits camping outside of established campgrounds. However, once you pass into the wilderness area, camping is allowed.

Is this a family-friendly hike?

If your family is in shape and above the age of 14, I think this would be an excellent hike. That said, it is strenuous and should only be done by those in good shape. And remember, bring plenty of water as there’s limited shade on this hike.

Final thoughts on the Wilson Mountain hike

Overall, it was a much-needed adventure after the hell we were put through. I am genuinely thankful to be able to do these sorts of trips and adventures with my dad. I’d highly recommend the Wilson Mountain hike when you visit Sedona.

Cheers to many more adventures!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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