Hiking Vultee Arch From Sterling Pass Trailhead

Vultee Arch

Everyone knows of the staple Sedona hike, Devil’s Bridge. But did you know that there is another large sandstone arch nearby you can walk out on?

Vultee Arch is a lesser known version of the famous Devil’s Bridge! While it might not be as picturesque, it is a much more peaceful destination with no line to stand in for photos.

Typically less crowds means the destination is more difficult to get to, which is definitely the case for Vultee Arch.

This trail guide covers the most direct way to reach Vultee Arch and provides all the information you need to know in order to make it there safely. Are you ready for the challenging 5 miles ahead?

New to hiking? Check out Hiking for Beginners 101- The Best Guide for New Hikers to get started!


Distance: 5.06 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Type: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 1,901 feet
Location: Sedona, AZ
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Trailhead: Sterling Pass Trailhead
Fees: Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful

Note: There are two different approaches you can take to reach Vultee Arch. This trail guide covers hiking from the Sterling Pass Trailhead. You can learn more under “How To Get There” section!”


Vultee Arch Hike

There are essentially 2 different approaches to Vultee Arch and 3 different ways you can hike it. Below I cover each of the options so you can choose which is best for you.

3 DIFFERENT WAYS TO HIKE VULTEE ARCH

Dry Creek Road and Vultee Arch Trailhead

  • Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch is an 11.5 mile round trip hike.
  • Vultee Arch Trailhead to Vultee Arch is a 3.4 mile round trip hike.

Vultee Arch has its own trailhead. However getting to the trailhead will require a 4X4 high clearance vehicle. You can drive down Dry Creek Road all the way to the parking for the trailhead. From here, it is only a 3.4 mile round trip hike!

If you don’t have a 4X4 vehicle, you’ll have no choice but to park at the Devil’s Bridge parking area and hike down Dry Creek Road. You’ll pass Devil’s Bridge trailhead, continue on to the Vultee Arch Trailhead, and begin hiking to Vultee Arch.

Sterling Pass Trailhead

  • 5.06 mile round trip hike to Vultee Arch from this trailhead.

All of the directions above sound long and confusing, I know. So I did extra research and chose to hike a more hidden Sedona trail, Sterling Pass Trail, in order to avoid having to hike Dry Creek Road since I don’t have a 4X4. This way may not be as long in mileage, but it is much steeper!

Hike from trailhead to trailhead and carpool

Of course if you have means of carpooling you can hike from one end to the other to experience all of it! If you choose this way I’d begin from the Sterling Pass Trailhead and get the steepest, toughest part out of the way first.

GETTING TO THE STERLING PASS TRAILHEAD

This trail guide covers hiking to Vultee Arch via. the Sterling Pass trail. From Sedona you’ll head North up highway 89A towards Flagstaff. The trailhead is located in Oak Creek Canyon right off the road, just before you get to Slide Rock State Park.

There is a small metal sign on the left side of the road indicating the trail and enough space for only 3-4 cars to park. You’ll have to squeeze in or park further up 89A and backtrack.

Hiking to Vultee Arch is most enjoyable during spring or fall. Typically you’ll experience milder temperatures and cooler mornings during these months.

Winter would be an okay time to hike to this Sedona arch as long as there wasn’t a recent major snowfall. Typically trails are less crowded during this season so if you’re up for braving the cold you may have the place to yourself!

Summer is not a good season to be hiking in Sedona. The crowds are large, the temperatures are extremely high, and this trail is a bit too strenuous and exposed for 90+ degrees.

BEST TIME OF DAY

I suggest beginning this Sedona hike earlier in the morning than later, regardless of which approach you choose. Expect the Sterling Pass Trail to take you 3-5 hours, and even longer if you choose to hike Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch Trailhead.

Getting an early start will help you secure parking and beat the midday heat. Sunrise is always a beautiful time to begin hiking in Sedona and happens to be my favorite. The cool air and soft lighting make for a peaceful morning hike.

Vultee Arch is completely exposed to the sunlight so keep this in mind when planning your hike. If hiking the Sterling Pass Trail you’ll experience about 50% coverage and 50% exposure. There is a part where you hike down into a forest covered area and get some shade!


Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app.

You can download my Vultee Arch track and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!


Sterling Pass Trailhead

The hike to Vultee Arch from Sterling Pass Trail immediately begins climbing elevation. Because the trailhead is located in the Oak Creek Canyon, you pretty much have to hike out of it to get anywhere.

Overall the trail is very easy to follow and will lead you up and over the mountain, then back down the other side of the mountain to continue on to the arch.

Essentially you are climbing both sides of the mountain and have to do it again on the way back. This is why the trail is rated difficult! I made the mistake of not sharing this detail with my husband beforehand and ever since he hasn’t let me forget.

The beginning is very challenging. As you’re hiking up the mountain you’ll want to watch your footing. The trail is narrow, steep, and has spots that are loose with dirt and rock.

You’ll hike up a series of very steep sections, but you will feel extremely accomplished once on top, and the views make up for it.

The top of the mountain doesn’t last for long! It felt like once we made it up there we were heading straight back down. But at least at this point we were hiking through tall trees so we had shade and the temperatures noticeably dropped.

Vultee Arch Hike

It was November when we hiked to Vultee Arch, and to our surprise there still were some decent fall colors left.

Hiking down the mountain is a very nice break after the steep climb. You’ll descend down a series of switchbacks and after that the trail flattens out until the climb up to the arch.

Where did the name Vultee come from?

In 1938 there was a tragic plane crash less than a mile from this natural Sedona arch. Gerard “Jerry” Vultee and his wife were flying their airplane when it went down in the forest during a snow storm. Jerry was a pioneer aviation developer and played a very significant role in early American aviation. His efforts assisted the inventions of several successful aviation parts we use today.

The crash site is said to be 1500 feet higher and less than a mile away from the arch. Evidence of the crash still exists there today. His legend lives on at Vultee Arch where a plaque was placed in his honor.

You can read more about Jerry’s inspiring story here.

Eventually you will come upon a sign that points you in the direction of Vultee Arch! Take a right off Sterling Pass Trail and continue on Vultee Arch Trail.

From this intersection it is about 0.2 miles to the arch and you’ll be able to see it off in the distance as you approach.

If you thought it was going to be easy going from here, think again. To reach the top of the arch you’ll need to climb some more elevation!

Once you scramble to the top you’ll have a great vantage point of the mountains surrounding you as well as Vultee Arch below.

The arch is a little more narrow than Devil’s Bridge and obviously isn’t quite as massive, but it is less populated and you feel completely lost in the Red Rocks here.

Take a break, snap some photos, and refuel. The hike back isn’t going to be as difficult as it was on the way there, but you still have to climb up and over the mountain again!

Vultee Arch Sedona

I’m not going to lie, this hike kicked our butts. We definitely weren’t expecting as steep of an initial climb let alone hiking up and over a mountain twice. This is what I live for though, so the feeling of accomplishment afterwards had me on a hiker’s high.

Sure Vultee Arch may not be as impressive as Devil’s Bridge, but I still love this arch and the views it holds. With it not being as popular, and a little harder to access, I’d still rather hike to this one! Next time I may try it for sunset.

Have you heard of this arch before, or is it going on your bucket list now? Share in the comments below!

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