Gorgeous scenery on the Red Mountain trail in Flagstaff

The Red Mountain trail is an easy, quiet, scenic 1.5 mile out-and-back hike, located just 25 miles north of Flagstaff. It’s a great short stop on the way to or from the Grand Canyon. This hike is just one of many great outdoor adventures to explore during your time in Flagstaff, Sedona, and surrounding areas. A quick and scenic drive along Hwy 180 will take you to one of the area’s best hikes. Often passed up in favor of popular options like Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater, and Snowbowl area trails, Red Mountain is an under-appreciated option that is more than worthy of a visit.

The trail is easy in intensity with a very gradual upgrade. Following a relatively stress-free trail, you will reach an ancient volcano, which is estimated to have erupted about 470,000 years ago!

The Red Mountain trail sign in Flagstaff AZ
Towering rock formations on the Red Mountain hike in Flagstaff AZ

The journey is quite scenic as the cinder cone rises up 1000 feet higher than the surrounding landscapes, thus there is a great view for the entire length of the trail. Plant life along the way consists of junipers and pines, although there is not much shade, so this would be an uncomfortable hike in the dead of summer. On the bright side, the trail does not see as many people as more popular options nearby, and tends to be very secluded, even on weekends. Overall, the Red Mountain hike is a nice refreshing walk into nature with stunning views, and a much appreciated quiet setting.

Ponderosa pines on the Red Mountain trail in Flagstaff
Pretty views from the Red Mountain trail in Flagstaff AZ

The Red Mountain Amphitheater

Once you reach the volcano, you will climb up a short staircase to enter the natural amphitheater. As you stroll around, you will be in awe of the towering red rock formations surrounding you; it’s quite a spectacular experience. You will also notice lots of hoodoos, which are basically strange looking pillars which protrude out from the rocks.

Ladder at the end of the Red Mountain hike in Flagstaff
Gorgeous views along the Red Mountain trail in Flagstaff
Towering views along the Red Mountain trail in Flagstaff
Red Mountain hike near Flagstaff AZ

Red Mountain is considered a very unusual cinder cone due to the U shaped curve and asymmetrical shape.

In short, Red Mountain is a great hike for just about anyone as there really are no major hills or rough terrain. The route is easy to follow (with proper trail marking). This is a good thing as many area hikes are confusing due to poor signage as well as the presence of multiple forks in the road.  At just a little over 3 miles round-trip, even beginning hikers should be fine hiking Red Mountain.

Prepare for the high elevation

On a side note, acclimatize yourself to the high elevation around town for a few days beforehand. Also, take your time, eat before you hike, and drink plenty of water! Plan for about 1-1.5 hours total depending on how many pics and breaks you take.

Directions

Head out of Flagstaff on Hwy 180. When you arrive at milepost 247, turn left to enter the trailhead area. You will drive about a quarter of a mile on a dirt road before reaching the lot. There is no fee to park. Be aware that there is no drinking water or restrooms here.