Snowdona – How much snow can Sedona get?

Snowdona – How much snow can Sedona get?

Snowdona – How much snow can Sedona get?

What happens when it snows in Sedona?

I’ve spent the past 5 winters in Sedona, and I’ve usually avoided the snow like the plague. I lived in Boulder, CO before coming to the red rocks and I was over the cold, wind, and snow: warmer weather was one of the main reasons I moved here.

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But as a photographer, capturing snow in Sedona soon became a priority. When I was working on my 2023 photo calendar this year I was disappointed that I didn’t have a good Sedona winter photo in my catalog. What I learned was that snow disappeared quickly; as soon as the sun comes up and the clouds clear, the snow is gone. Not being a fan of early mornings or driving at night in the snow, I was never able to capture Sedona in it’s snow covered state… or as locals call it: Snowdona.

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.” — Vesta M. Kelly


I missed the first snow of this winter when I had to travel out of town, but when the second snow storm of the year came, I was ready. I met up with fellow photographer Jeff Poe the night before and we set up our game plan: start before sunset at Airport Mesa and work our way around until the snow melts. We would concentrate on the south facing rocks early and end up photographing the north facing rocks later. Slopes on the north side do not see the direct sun and thus should hold snow longer, which is how outdoor company “The North Face” came up with their name: the north face of mountains are often more challenging and treacherous.

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When we got on the road at 6am, it looked like the snow was light and the sky was cloudy. But as we got closer to Airport Mesa, we discovered we were wrong. There was a 2 inch blanket of snow covering Sedona, and the views from Airport Mesa were breathtaking. We watched the thick clouds of the cold front separated from the clear, warm air lit up by the morning sun. As the sun warmed our bodies, we drove to another location near Cathedral Rock and saw the swirling clouds weave through the rock formations and as the sun rose higher, the fog began to break up. This time of the morning was truly dynamic and like nothing I had seen before.

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Running around all day, the skies just kept getting better. The clouds were big, fluffy, and constantly changing. As afternoon approached we felt sunset was going to be off the charts. We drove to one of my favorite spots near Bell Rock and as we began to set up and get reflection shots, it started snowing once more! The flakes were huge and immediately started sticking to everything in site. We snapped a few shots and upon our retreat we heard thunder. A thunder snowstorm had culminated at our spot and it was insane! Loud crashes and big flakes of snow forced us to run back to our cars, and as we drove away we saw lightning. Could this day get any better? We drove to a local high point and made attempts to capture the lightning in this amazing snow storm.

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Our feet frozen, and our bodies exhausted, we retreated to a local mexican restaurant to warm up and relax. With all of the new snow overnight, I was geared up for sunrise at the location we had to retreat from.

When I arrived in the morning, conditions were perfect: several inches of snow had fallen and it had clumped on all of the trees and the classic sandstone red rock. There was fog in the air and as the sun rose, it once again retreated. My friend Veronica joined me to play in the snow and we had so much fun, but eventually the cold air froze us: we are both “tropical” creatures. I got a few more shots on the second day but continuous snowfall through the day and my fatigue from hours of shooting began to catch up with me and I rolled home to bed after another snowy sunset.

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A great winter experience

As I took time to reflect afterwards, I’m truly blessed to have an experienced such a winter wonderland. The harsh red rocks and green junipers and cactus provide such a stark contrast to the white, fluffy snow and soft, flowing fog that this winter storm had brought in. Winter in the desert is always intriguing as a hot, dry climate gets flipped into reverse. But this experience of two snowstorms in Sedona was better than any winter desert experience I’ve ever had, and now I finally have some great winter Sedona photos for next year’s calendars!

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Let me know what your favorite picture is or share with me one of your favorite winter experiences. If you are interested in seeing more of my photos visit my website and I still have some of my famous 2023 calendars available in my online store.

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Check out some of my prints and wall hart here.  Featuring some of these photos and many more.

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Airport Mesa Loop Trail – A Sedona Classic

Airport Mesa Loop Trail – A Sedona Classic

Airport Mesa Loop Trail – A Sedona Classic

A loop trail where you see all sides of Sedona

One of my favorite hikes in Sedona is the Airport Mesa loop trail, it has some of the best views in the area on a relatively short hike. You will see plenty of people on this trail, but mostly around the parking area, once you get away from that, it is a trail that provides panoramic views of the entirety of Sedona on terrain that anyone can tackle.

              • Some of the best views in Sedona are from the Airport loop.
              • You get to see all of the most famous Sedona landmarks.
              • Experience the positive energy at Airport Vortex.
              • Plenty of options for different side trails and parking locations.
              • An abundance of wildflowers, birds, and different rocks along the route.
              • Can be a busy trail with noise from planes and helicopters.
              • Rocky and exposed at certain points adds a challenge factor.
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Where to start

The most common start to this trail is at the small parking area about ¼ mile up Airport Road, where there is room for about 10 cars to park. From here, a short walk will take you to the beginning of the loop trail and also a small spur up to the top of the Airport vortex. The trail to the top of the vortex is short but steep and has a wire handrail to help you get to the top. Once you are up top, soak in the positive vortex energy while you meditate, do a yoga pose, or just soak in the 360 degree views. After this short detour trail, you can start the loop around the airport, I like to do it in a counter clockwise rotation, but it’s scenic anyway you hike it!

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Usually, this first parking lot will be full, and if it is you have two options. First option is to go to the top of Airport Road where on the left there is a small parking lot that requires a small fee. Or you can take my favorite option and park at Sunset Park, a few streets down off of Sunset Drive and then take the aptly named sunset trail to start the airport loop. This will add a little distance and elevation gain to your hike, and the park has plenty of good parking, a bathroom and water station as well.

What is the hike like?

Once you are on the loop, you will see the many famous rock formations of Sedona at different stages of your hike. In the beginning you will get great views of Thunder Mountain and Soldier’s Pass. Midway through the hike you will see expansive views of Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Oak Creek as it winds through Sedona. There always seem to be some sort of flowers in bloom at points in this hike, and in the winter you can often even see a few patches of snow. Many birds will fly around and overhead, and occasionally you’ll hear the loud roar of a plane as it takes off or lands at the airport. There are several trails that spur off from the Airport loop as well, one of my favorites is the Tabletop trail which goes over a ridge with expansive 360 degree views.

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It should be noted that the Airport loop is a fairly easy trail but it is quite rocky at some points and has a few spots that are slightly exposed, testing your fear of heights. The trail is a little over 3 miles long if you just count the loop and has about 400 feet of elevation gain. If the airport is busy, it can be a bit loud with helicopters and planes taking off, but some may find this interesting as well. Parking and crowds can be a small hassle but there is plenty of solitude once you get away from the road and numerous parking spots give you some flexibility on busy weekends.

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If you choose to do this hike, be sure to carry plenty of water and leave no trace! Dogs are allowed on the trail but please pick up after them and take the bags with you, I have picked up a lot of poop bags from irresponsible dog owners. If you see trash, please pick it up and recycle it to spread some good karma and keep Sedona beautiful, there’s even a recycling center near Sunset park.

But most importantly, enjoy the trail, the views, and the energy that makes Sedona such a unique and intriguing destination. Hope to see you on the trail!

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For more photos of Sedona, Arizona, and other amazing places visit

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Best Sunset View in Sedona – Cathedral Rock

Best Sunset View in Sedona – Cathedral Rock

Best Sunset View in Sedona – Cathedral Rock

A challenge that is worth the effort and preparation

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How to get to the top

The Cathedral Rock trail is more of a scramble, it’s just over .6 miles long but over 700 feet of elevation gain along that distance. At points along the trail you will have to use your hands and careful foot placement to scramble up the slick red rocks and upwards towards your destination. The work to get there makes this trek a lot of fun, but it’s the reward at the top that is what we work for. The westward facing views provide some of the best sunsets you can find in Sedona.

About halfway up is the toughest scramble up along a crack in the sandstone. There is only one way up and down here, so be patient as it can get bottlenecked and crowded here. While the climbing here requires hands, feet, and technique, there is minimal exposure: meaning if you slipped or fell you would only drop a few feet at most. Take your time, and you’ll be rewarded with views like these about halfway up:

broad view from cathedral rock

This is a good spot to take a breather and take in the views to the south and the east. Take your time and observe the gargantuan, twisted juniper trees, the different types of cactus, and whatever flowers are in bloom. Some say this area is a powerful energetic vortex. I personally feel tons of energy from the amazing vistas, natural beauty, and magnetic red rocks. There are many side trails in this area and most lead to some really interesting and secluded spots. Be careful and know that the main trail always leads UP!

Check out Alltrails Cathedral Rock guide for a downloadable map of the hike.

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As far as I know, It’s near impossible to get to the true summit of Cathedral Rock. When the trail ends, you actually are at the saddle, and you will likely be joined by a lot of other people. This is a popular hike, but if you carefully walk to the south, you will discover a few trails that lead to two much more secluded saddles where you can capture great photos and enjoy the sunset away from the crowds.

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At the top, the views are awe-inspiring

Some of my best photos and most memorable evenings have been spent up here. When a friend comes in from out of town, this is the sunset hike I want to take them on. I think the hard work in climbing to the top releases some major energy within your body and soul and the reward is a beautiful cosmic experience, whether you believe it or not.

Check out some of my photos of Cathedral Rock and Arizona


There are more challenges here than just the climb. It can be crowded, and Thursday-Sunday require a shuttle to get to the trailhead as Sedona shuts down the parking area. It usually reopens in the evening so if you’re going for sunset you can park at the trailhead, but I have found the scheduling of all of this to be inconsistent. The latest info on the trailhead and shuttles can be found here.

All hikes in the desert require lots of water and layers of clothing. You will be hot in the sun, working your way up but you will be chilly in the shade up top and on the trek down. Another factor to consider is coming down in the dark. Bring a headlamp and take your time. This is where the downloadable map from Alltrails can really help or use a tracker for your route on the way up. There are many side trails and it can be confusing!

Have a great journey to the top and be sure to take pictures and enjoy the view! Let me know if you have any questions below, and if you want some professional pictures taken of you in Sedona, shoot me a message. I also have great wall art photos for sale on my website of Cathedral Rock and many other scenic locations.

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5 Reasons to Visit West Fork Trail in Sedona

5 Reasons to Visit West Fork Trail in Sedona

5 Reasons to Visit West Fork Trail in Sedona

Why go to the West Fork Trail in Sedona?

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These old ruins are found at the beginning of the trail and show some of the early inhabitants homes.  The apple orchard is nearby and still has apples every fall.  This is a great area to explore and find remnants of the past.  Children love the area and it’s also close to the main branch of Oak Creek.  There is even a small waterfall where the West Fork flows into the main Oak Creek, I love to swim in this area.

#1 History

We do not know much about the Native Americans who inhabited this area. I have searched up and down the canyon walls here for signs of native dwellings or wall art and have found nothing, but with this much water here, I’m sure there were people as well. In the late 1800’s the first settlers arrived and planted the apple orchard you see when you begin the hike. The original homesteader was a man named “Bear” Howard who was a convict from California that not only murdered his neighbor, but also killed every bear in Oak Creek Canyon and sold the meat in Flagstaff! He was a character to say the least.

Years later, famous western writer Zane Grey wrote a novel named “The Call of the Canyon” that became a movie in 1923. The movie was filmed in the canyon, and one of the photographers who worked on the movie later bought land and created the Mayhew Lodge. The lodge was quite famous due to it’s beautiful setting but stopped operation and later caught fire in the 1980’s. The remnants of the lodge are what you see at the confluence of West Fork and Oak Creek.

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#2 West Fork in Summer

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If you’ve spent anytime in Arizona in the summer, you know that shade is at a premium and is necessary for an enjoyable daytime hike. Direct sun in the summer here is brutal, and the forest canopy coupled with the fresh, cool mountain water makes this hike one of my favorites in Sedona during the hotter months.

If you hike up a bit, there are several shallow swimming holes that you can take a dip in, and if you go up and down Oak Creek there are several as well. Another bonus is fresh blackberries! I have found a ton of these in the summer around the confluence with Oak Creek and the Mayhew Lodge ruins. Wild blackberries are very distinct in color and have a sweet/tart taste. Be careful as the branches have plenty of thorns to protect the precious fruit!

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#3 West Fork in Fall

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There’s nothing like seeing the fall color mix with the red sandstone that surrounds this bold and magnificent canyon.

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West Fork is described as one of the best displays of fall foliage in the state of Arizona! This is often the busiest time to visit so I suggest getting there early, plus I feel the lighting is better for photos before noon. You will see numerous shades of the autumn color palette with maples, cottonwood, and oak trees lining the banks.

Not only are the colors on the trees, but some of my best photos come from looking on the ground and in the water as the spent leaves lie in the sun. The fall is often a great time for mushrooms as well, and I’ve seen some really unique ones off of this trail.

#4 West Fork Anytime

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The hike overall can be as short or long as you like: I generally hike until the “Subway” section where the trail ends and wading becomes necessary. This is about 3.3 miles one way but is relatively flat and well maintained although there are 13 shallow stream crossings! Be careful and if you aren’t comfortable with your footing, just get your feet wet! It’s part of the fun of this trail.

It’s also unique that it is out of the desert and surrounded by water. After hiking a lot of the trails in Sedona, I like to visit West Fork for a bit of diversity. There’s also great fishing in Oak Creek near the confluence, although the only fish I’ve seen in West Fork are little minnows. I’ve pulled some real hogs out of Oak Creek in the past!

#5 Photographer’s Playground

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There are tons of great photo oppurtunities at the West Fork Trail.  Each season brings it’s own unique flavor to this area.  In the winter, snow lingers here longer than most places in Sedona while the spring brings and abundance of wildflowers.  Summer brings the wildlife and berries while the fall brings the cornucopia of fall color that is rare in the desert state of Arizona.  Check out some of my favorite Arizona pictures in this gallery.

This is also a great place for family photos, proposals, and more.  In the summer it’s a great place to get some photos in the shade (which is hard to find).  Look at some of the options on my website home page.

The Bad News

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  • This trail can be busy and a parking or walk in fee is required to enter. There is a very nice picnic area, bathrooms, and trash at the trailhead. Be sure to pack out your trash from the trail!
  • It can get cold! The shade in the winter makes this a hike to layer up on.
  • It can be crowded and I see more trash than on other trails. Please do your part and clean up after yourself and others.

But we can make the bad news good news…

If we practice the principles of Leave No Trace and add a little common sense, we can share this magical place with many others for years to come.  Check out our Sedona Leave No Trace principles here: Sedona Leave No Trace

Hope you enjoy your time on the west fork

It’s truly a unique place in Sedona and offers something for everyone in every season.  I love taking photos here of the landscape, wildlife, and foliage and it’s a great place for family photo shoots and surprise proposals.  If you have any questions about this trail, or want to schedule a photo shoot, message me and I’ll get back to you.  Or create your own adventure out there, and maybe I’ll see you on the trail!


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