Just 120 miles north of Phoenix is Sedona, Arizona. Although Sedona is much smaller than other Arizona hotspots like Tucson or Phoenix, it is wildly popular as a tourism destination. That’s largely due to the amazing red rocks that make up the surrounding landscape as well as the artsy, new-age atmosphere that has cropped up around the breathtaking terrain. Whether you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast, a yoga fanatic or an art lover, Sedona is a worthwhile destination. As you plan to hike the red rocks of Sedona, use this guide to help you make the most of your trip.
Traveling to Sedona
Although Sedona does have a small airport, it is not big enough to accommodate large commercial airplanes. Therefore, anyone hoping to get to Sedona by air will have to arrive at the next best thing: Phoenix International Airport. Unfortunately, there isn’t a big public transport system in place between Phoenix and Sedona. Plus, anyone hoping to get off the beaten track in Sedona will definitely want to have their own vehicle.
As a result, most travelers who head to Sedona will come by car. From Phoenix, the drive is just over 90 minutes, and the entire route is clearly signposted and easy to navigate. If you’re driving down to Sedona from Flagstaff, the journey will take about an hour. This route involves a lot of turns, but it offers a truly spectacular view. In fact, on a clear and sunny day, it is worth the drive on its own merit, especially if you’re hoping for some truly epic photos.
Top Attractions in Sedona
In any popular destination, you have to factor in that tourists are going to congregate at some of the most popular attractions at the same time. In Sedona, however, many of the most popular attractions are outside in nature, so the vibe is a lot more relaxed. Arguably the most incredible attraction in Sedona is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. A strikingly modern 1950s chapel is built right into the rockface, offering some of the best desert views you could ever hope for.
Another great attraction you won’t want to miss is the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This outdoor market is attractive on its own, but it is also packed with vendors selling a variety of souvenirs and art.
While much of the landscape is best explored on your own two feet, there are also some scenic loops perfect for those who want to drive. The Desert Canyon Scenic Loop isn’t just red rocks, which adds some diversity to your view. Another great scenic loop worth exploring is the Red Rocks and Sycamore Canyon Scenic Loop, which brings you right to some of the most famous red rock viewpoints in Sedona. This drive is about 23 miles long, but with several stops and a picnic lunch at a viewpoint, it can easily take up an entire day.
Popular Hikes in Sedona
Grab an active backpack, because hiking is undoubtedly one of the top pastimes in Sedona, Arizona. Make sure that you pack plenty of supplies in your backpack for your hike. If you’re fit, active and ready for a challenge, try Cathedral Rock Trail. Although the trail is under a mile long, it is very steep. Head up there at sunset for arguably the best view in all of Sedona.
For something a little less strenuous, try the Broken Arrow Trail. This trail is about three miles round trip and is suitable for just about anyone comfortable with the distance. For fewer crowds, head there early in the morning before the tours start to come through in 4×4 vehicles.
If you’re fit and you have at least half a day to devote to an epic hike, then consider the West Fork Trail. This trail is about seven miles in total, but it is unique in that it offers a lot of shade and it boasts a lot of water features. The trailhead is just a few miles north of Sedona, so it’s also not as crowded as some other popular hikes in the area.
A hiking backpack is a necessity for most of the hikes in Sedona. If you’re still searching for the right active backpack for your trip, consider the Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Backpack – I’m Feeling Lucky. You might be drawn to the backpack because of the bold and colorful pattern, but it offers far more than just style. The backpack is eco-friendly thanks to repurposed nylon fabric, and it even comes with a built-in hydration sleeve – a must when you’re in the Arizona desert. It’s ultra lightweight but still holds a lot thanks to a big internal compartment as well as a zippered front pocket. For your Sedona hikes, this backpack can store everything from a spare jacket and a water bottle to extra sunscreen and some emergency snacks for the return journey.
Accommodation Options in Sedona
Since Sedona is such a popular travel spot, you’ll have plenty of accommodation options to choose from. If you’re sticking to the lower end of the budget, camping is a great choice outside of the very hot summer months. Just make sure you book your spot in advance because many tent and RV sites sell out well in advance.
At the medium price point, there are plenty of hotel options right in town. Even basic motels are typically within walking distance of restaurants and art galleries, and most will have an outdoor swimming pool. You can also splurge thanks to a handful of upscale spa hotels and resorts in and just outside of Sedona.
Wherever you’re staying in Sedona, make sure you bring along the hygiene essentials. Extra moisturizer is key thanks to low humidity, and deodorant is a must in high desert temperatures. The Cotopaxi Del Dia Dopp Kit in I’m Feeling Lucky is the perfect size to store all your hygiene products. Each travel kit is one of a kind, and it can fit your toothbrush and a few travel-size hygiene products. Best of all, it is easy to grab and has a loop handle so that you can hang it in the bathroom as you’re getting ready.
What to Eat When You’re in Sedona
Like many destinations in Arizona, Sedona offers an incredible selection of Mexican cuisine. You can dig into authentic, delicious meals like chile rellenos or goat cheese enchiladas, just to name two tasty options. You’ll also find a lot of artisan eateries making specialty items like homemade herbed bread or surprisingly delicious vegetarian hot dogs.
Sedona is a hub for fusion cuisine, and you won’t be disappointed if you love creative flavor combinations and inspired menus. There’s down-home, family-style cooking, upscale eateries and vegan cafes. You’ll find plenty of quirky coffee shops as well as a fancy martini bar. Since Sedona attracts so many different kinds of people, it makes sense that the result is a varied culinary scene with a little bit of everything to choose from. If you’re not sure where to eat, drive along Highway 89A or Southwest Drive, where plenty of eateries are concentrated.
Shopping, Culture and Nightlife
Even if you’re heading to Sedona for the outdoor experiences and lots of hiking, you’ll have plenty of downtime. Make sure your itinerary is full of other adventures that can round out the trip. You might want to dive straight into Western cowboy culture with a trip to a local ranch where you can watch a stagecoach show and indulge in some amazing barbeque. If your tastes run more to the New Age, then take a tour to visit the five spiritual vortices in the region where there are said to be special properties related to the magnetic fields of the Earth.
Another great option is to take the Sedona Trolley, which has an in-town route and a red rocks route. The in-town route is a great way to familiarize yourself with the local shops, eateries and galleries. Souvenir shops sell lots of crystals, tie-dye shirts, art and genuine red rocks that you can pack up and bring home. At the end of the day, find an upscale bar or just the village pub for a few drinks. While there isn’t much late-night action in Sedona, there are a handful of welcoming watering holes filled with locals and travelers alike.
Sedona, Arizona, is a beautiful destination. The main draw to the area is hiking through the red rocks that make up the landscape, but there is also lots to do if you love scenery, art or cuisine. Armed with the right knowledge, you can have the trip of a lifetime in stunning Sedona.
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