View from Airport Mesa Sedona AZ

A view from Airport Mesa

This is the perfect cold weather hike! Imagine soaking in the warmth of the sun on a chilly day while savoring gorgeous, panoramic vistas everywhere you look as you trek along a three-and-a-half mile circular path around Airport Mesa and its famed positive energy flow vortex. Talk about an energy boost!

Airport Loop is a wonderful introduction to Sedona’s red rock country because it provides great views of West Sedona and some of our most famous landmarks: Coffee Pot Rock, Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte (Thunder Mountain), Courthouse Butte, the Cockscombs, Wilson Mountain, Munds Mountain, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock – and (whew!) Sedona’s very own “pyramid mountain.” Yes, you can certainly hike this in warmer months, but in the summer it can get very hot, indeed, with hardly a shady spot for cover.

NOTE: If you’re with a group or a partner and one wants to do the hike and another just wants to meditate or soak in the vortex energy, this is an ideal choice.

How to Get to Airport Loop and Airport Mesa

There are two ways to get here:
• Main trailhead: From the roundabout uptown at the intersection of State Routes 179 and 89A, it is about one mile west to Airport Road. Turn left and go up about one-half mile to the trailhead with a small parking area for about a dozen cars.
• Secondary trailhead: Bandit Trail, a very short trail (.8 mile) that intersects with the Airport Loop. From the uptown roundabout (see above), drive 1-1/2 miles west and turn left on Shelby Drive. Keep going and bear left past the Sedona Recycles building. Parking will be on your right.


• Open year round.
• Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.
• Usage: Light to Moderate, but finding a parking spot at the trailhead can be difficult.
• Elevation gain: 300 feet up and down over the full length of the trail.
• Length: 3.5 miles round trip; 4.3 miles round trip if Tabletop trail (recommended for views) is included.
• Hiking time: about 2.5 hours round trip; another approximately 30 minutes or more with Tabletop trail.
• A Red Rock pass is mandatory, especially since this is a heavily used area.
• Facilities: none.
• Dogs allowed on a leash.

Special Tips:

• The trail is rocky and narrow at times, so hiking shoes or boots are recommended.
• This trail is NOT for small children unless they’re being carried.
• If you have a fear of heights, note that the south side beginning part of the trail is narrow and close to steep cliffs – thankfully, it’s quite short.
• Always take plenty of water, especially in warmer weather, and maybe a snack (remember, leave no trace).
• Take your camera – and binoculars are always helpful to appreciate the views.
• Parking: Early in the morning is a good time to avoid the rush and an almost always-full parking lot – especially on weekends. Sunset is the most popular time of day and it’s almost impossible to get a spot at this time. If you are determined to hike this trail but there is no room at all, try parking down the road and walking up or go to Bandit Trail (see “Secondary Trailhead” above). Avoid weekends unless you can come early in the morning.
• Convenient views: Up the road toward the airport is a lookout that is very popular, especially at sunset, for its phenomenal views – and there is plenty of parking right across the road!
• Dining: Check out the airport restaurant at the top of the road for a breakfast, lunch, or dinner with great views.

Airport Mesa (Vortex)

From the parking lot, look straight ahead and you’ll see an imposing red rock formation. Follow the trail toward it. In about 200 feet, follow the trail that leads to Overlook Point. It’s a short, steep climb that goats would love – about ¼ mile round trip – but well worth the view.
“Where is the vortex?” This is a common question, especially since there is no sign signifying its presence; but it’s not really in one specific spot. Some, however, feel the top of the rock formation harbors the strongest energy; others feel it’s the energy emanating from the steep, narrow canyon below that flows up to cover the mesa. As for the locals, the general airport mesa area is considered a vortex of what is termed positive, electric, or outflow, energy.

Airport Loop

From the parking lot, climb to the top of the small saddle and turn right to the trail that bends to the left. Right away, you’ll enjoy fabulous red rock views. It will be mostly level for the first mile, and then becomes an easy to moderate trek over basalt boulders. The trail will then become more level, drop down to a small wash, and ascend again to intersect with Table Top Trail at 1.7 miles.

Table Top Trail

This is a spur that is about a mile round trip with a gradual climb; at the end of the trail, you’ll see panoramic views of Sedona’s famous red rock formations that include a pyramid-shaped mountain and Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Courthouse Butte. After you return to the main trail, continue north for a moderate descent that goes northeast.

North side

On the north side of the loop, you’ll have great views of Coffee Pot. The trail also intersects with Carroll Canyon trail, then goes to the upper slope of the mesa.

Bandit Trail

About two miles in, Bandit Trail will be on your left; it leads down into West Sedona (see description of alternate trailhead above). Is it named after notorious robbers? Actually, no. Bandit was the name of the dog accompanying its owner, a local man, on this trail. Unfortunately, the pooch died while on the hike – and the owner buried it here. Yes, true story!

And finally . . .

The trail will continue to descend to a switchback and to a more level grade. It’s one more gradual climb to views of West Sedona, Capitol Butte, and Wilson Mountain. Then, before you know it, you’re back at Airport Road!