Zach Rohe Photography
Wedding, Portrait, & Landscape Photography in Sedona & Beyond
Best Trail in Sedona – The Hangover Loop
Written by Zach Rohe
July 06, 2023
Don’t spoil the secret of the Hangover Trail
I don’t know if I should be telling anyone this, but the best trail in Sedona requires a hangover. The first time I hiked this trail was with my buddy Diego. He had heard it was awesome and after some late night partying the evening before, we decided to do this one in the morning. We figured it was probably pretty chill and flat: a good hike to do hungover. While the first part is in the shade and was nice for preserving electrolytes, we started climbing up the slick rock valley quickly. This wasn’t what we planned on.
Yet as we climbed, the views became bigger and better. We kept climbing and when we were about to give up an older gentleman crossed our path on the trail and told us we weren’t done yet: the trail was an 8 mile loop. While it was way more than we had planned, we finished it that day. The man was an experienced local hiker from Sedona and he said this was one of the three best trails in the area. By the end of the day, we agreed with him and would later set out to hike the two others he suggested!
How Difficult is the Trail?
The entire loop is a little over 8 miles and features over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Normally a trail with those stats would be rated as moderate in my “hiking scale” but the Hangover section of the trail is exposed to great heights and has areas where you may have to use your hands and scramble or slide down the slick rock. Walking the trail, I never felt like any of the sections were dangerous, but there are definitely some sections where you have to slow down and be careful. Mountain biking this trail is a whole different enchilada and I have a lot of respect for the folks that ride this trail on their bike.
Why is this the best trail?
For me, it is the big, bold views. And the fact that you are constantly esposed to views in different directions. I suggest you do the loop in a counterclockwise direction, and when you get to the top of Munds Wagon Trail and walk along the Cowpie Trail it feels like you are walking on Mars. There are big views down the road and a huge section of red slick rock with volcanic black rocks strewn everywhere.
As you progress you get higher and higher until you reach the first saddle. Here the views open up to the north west in a completely different direction and you can see the famous Midgley Bridge, Wilson Mountain, and well up to Oak Creek Canyon. The site is amazing and here you connect with the difficult Hangover trail. The rock is reminiscent of Zion national park and it is shaded throughout, so a bit cooler than the rest of the hike. Some small seasonal freshwater springs flow out of the rock here but none of the sources are large enough to drink.
As you walk around the last bit of the shaded area, you emerge into the sunlight and now views facing to the south and Snoopy Rock. Here you descend down a large face of slick rock that isnt dangerous but may involve some “butt scooting” to get down. Take your time and enjoy the views! Soon you will be back on the Munds Wagon trail and heading back to the trailhead.
I love all the scenery, the great spots to stop and enjoy a snack, and the challenge of navigating a bit more than a casual walking trail. The mixture of sun and shade and the spots where you see water and volcanic rocks make it really unique for a hike in the desert. Finally, it’s usually easy to find parking here and you don’t see many people on the trail. Consider yourself lucky for getting an insider secret: this trail provides solitude and majesty all in one!
What else do I need to know?
Definitely bring water, snacks, and some layers. It’s cool in the shade and hot in the sun. The trail’s beginning is not that fun: the Munds Wagon trail is a bit boring and you’ll be hearing traffic from the constant flow of jeeps on the road. But get past this part and you lose the crowds and get all the views. Be careful, but don’t lose your sense of adventure. Relax, explore, and tell me what you think… maybe I’ll see you on the trail!
Two of my favorite places to do portrait, wedding, and family photo shoots are close to this trail. The first is Merry Go Round rock, which requires a jeep drive or a good sized hike to get to. The second is right at the trailhead itself, which requres no walking at all.