I took a solo trip to Sedona for a photo shoot for the very first time almost a full year after moving to Arizona! Since then, I’ve been back at least once a month to explore the mystical red rocks. I won’t begin hosting Jeep tours anytime soon, but I finally feel like I am experienced enough to put together this list of the best photography locations in Sedona. Of course, I am still exploring every chance I get to take the short trip from the Phoenix area, so hopefully this list will only continue to grow!
Things to consider for photo sessions in Sedona
You can’t turn your head in Sedona without seeing something amazing. Actually getting up close and personal with those views is a different story, though! Parking, hiking, crowds, and photography permits are all things to consider when picking a location for a photo shoot.
Sedona Tourism and Crowds
Along with other Arizona landmarks and locations across the world, the rise of Instagram has brought a swarm of tourists to picturesque Sedona. While there is plenty of spots to get photos without other people in your shots, make sure to allow lots of extra time to get to your shoot location.
Parking in Sedona
Many Sedona trails have famously small parking lots that honestly just weren’t meant for the current influx of tourists! Downtown Sedona has a number of free public parking garages, which is amazing. For engagement or couple’s sessions, I usually recommend that we meet before our shoot and carpool to the location.
Permits for Photography
All the locations I have listed here do not require permits at this time for simple couples/engagement sessions. If you are planning an elopement, you will need to contact the Parks service to find out the rules for the location. Many areas of Sedona will require a permit and reserved space if you have a setup like an arch, or if there will be more than 10 people total in your group.
I’m definitely the type of person who would rather drive up to a viewpoint than take a long hike. Many locations in Sedona are going to require a bit of walking and possibly some light hiking. I’ve tried to minimize that as much as possible for this list, but have rated each location below based on the amount of physical activity that will be required.
Locations for Photography in Sedona
Red Rock State Park
Entrance Fee $7 per person
A relatively quiet spot with greenery along the hike and distant panoramic views of Sedona landmarks.
Red Rock Crossing
Parking fee $10 per car cash
10-15 minutes of an easy trail will give you these stunning views of Cathedral Rock along a stream. I would recommend doing this one in late spring – early fall. This photo was taken in March and as you can tell, the trees were all still pretty dead.
If you walk the full two miles, the stream also leads to a swimming hole, so there will most likely be more people here later in the day. I went around 10 AM and it was fairly secluded.
$5 Red Rock Pass or Street Parking
Cathedral Rock is the perfect location for that iconic, classic Sedona look – which is why it’s so insanely popular! I really only recommend this for weekday sunrise sessions just because it can be so difficult to find parking.
Hiking the full way up Cathedral Rock will take some courage, balance, and using your hands and knees to climb. The reward is an incredible view (shown right), but I do only recommend this for at least moderately experienced hikers.
A hike halfway up the trail is steep but steady and only about 15 minutes long. It will get us to the beautiful, sweeping view seen below.
Parking fee $3 per car cash
This one will all depend on parking. There are a coveted 5 spots just below the base of the mesa. If these are full, we will have to park in the lot outside of the airport and take the moderately easy trail (about a 20 minute walk).
To get up to the viewpoint, it is a very short, very steep climb. We’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of all the Sedona landmarks! I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a fear of heights.
This location is extremely popular for sunset, so between that and parking, we will want to allow a couple extra hours.
Devil's Bridge Trailhead
Free parking lot (fills up quickly)
For the purpose of a photo session, the trailhead for Devil’s Bridge offers some stunning views with very little walking required!
Devil’s Bridge itself is an extremely popular hike, so we will need to allow some extra time incase we need to park along the road and walk into the trailhead.
Parking fee $11 per car
This location is a little different from your typical Sedona views! At the very north of Sedona, this spot will put us right in the forrest along Oak Creek. There are gorgeous mountain and pine tree views, and if we walk along (and in at some points) the creek, there are towering red rock cliffs and cave-like canyons.
Disclaimer: to get to the photo below, we will have to get our feet wet, so this part of it is a no-go for winter. However, the first part of this location (seen on the right) should be gorgeous at any time of year!
Why secret? I’m not just being stingy, I promise! Again, most of Sedona was not built for the mass tourism rush brought on by Instagram. These locations aren’t totally unknown, either, but they are not as easy to find with a simple Google or Instagram search. I will only share them with my clients, and only if they promise not to tag the exact location on social media.
In fact, a good rule of thumb is to never geotag your exact location, even in extremely popular spots. Just tagging the city is enough to show you were there! If things are easy to find, people will flock to them. As always, remember to follow the principles of Leave No Trace (if you’re not familiar, here’s a great article that explains Leave No Trace and how it applies to me as a photographer and my clients!)
Secret Location #1
Parking $5 (Daily Red Rock Pass)
I love this location. There is a good sized parking lot that I’ve only seen full at popular times. We can walk as much or as little as you want and get tons of variety! There are panoramic views as well as lots of surrounding red rock formations and mountains.
Secret Location #2
Free Small Parking Lot
This location is great if you want to be right up against some red rock mountains without a ton of work! Mixed desert and green landscape. Exploring the trail may take 10-15 minutes of easy walking while we shoot.
Secret Location #3
Free Small Parking Lot/Pulloffs
This location is a series of overlooks and a small trail that gives you more distant but very similar views to Airport Mesa with a lot less work. This area also has a bit more greenery.
Stay tuned for more Sedona magic!
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