About halfway between Flagstaff and Phoenix, hidden among tall red rock canyons and luxurious green forests, you will find Sedona, one of the most fascinating cities in all of Arizona. It has an irresistible charm and because of its connection to the surrounding nature, for many people, Sedona even has a spiritual quality. It is said that in this corner of Arizona the earth releases powerful energy vortexes. Proof of this is that Sedona has become, over time, one of the capitals of the New Age Movement, attracting artists (Max Ernst, among others), “gurus” and souls with an affinity to the “Spirit of Nature”.
Whether you want to believe in these energy vortexes or not, one thing is undeniable. Sedona is really a special place, because of its location in nature. Oak Creek has dug a canyon and the road carved out of it (Highway 89A, an alternative route to the I-17 S, which is the most direct route to Phoenix from Flagstaff) is one of the most beautiful scenic roads on the West Coast. Those who drive along this road are enchanted by the surrounding landscape and often stop to take some pictures or to swim in the river next to the road. At the southern end of this canyon is the beautiful Sedona. So, what to see in Sedona? The city is surrounded by monoliths, gigantic boulders, and other surreal red rock formations. How do you navigate this red rock landscape?
- Places to Visit in Sedona: The Mystery of the Energy Vortexes
- Other Things to Do In and Around Sedona
- North of Sedona: Attractions on Oak Creek Canyon Road
- Grand Canyon Tours from Sedona
- Where to Stay in Sedona
Places to Visit in Sedona: The Mystery of the Energy Vortexes
These are known to be among the most powerful energy vortexes on the planet, but the places described here are also beautiful places to reach by simple hikes. You can also see 2-3 of them in a day, but if you want to visit them all and understand more about this spiritual aura, you can take advantage of this guided tour to the vortexes.
If you want to visit the vortexes with your car (or rental car), use Downtown Sedona as a base and drive from one destination to the next. Each of these stops has its own parking lot, but in order to park there, you’ll have to display on the dashboard the Red Rock Pass, a special permit that is not only valid in these parking lots, but in most areas around Sedona (click here for info). So let’s start our tour of Sedona.
If we are in a place full of spiritual power in Mother Nature’s domain, there will also be a cathedral. If you want to visit it, drive to the extreme southern tip of Sedona on AZ-179 S, the main artery of the city.
At the last roundabout, you will see a sign for Back O Beyond Road. Turn on this road and continue to the parking lot on the left. You will immediately recognize it, because in front of it you will see the view of the high rocky towers of the cathedral. The journey on foot is short but demanding. In a short time but with a little effort you will arrive in front of the magnificent Cathedral Rock.
After seeing Cathedral Rock, return to the AZ-179 S and drive south about 2 miles past the roundabout. You’ll find a parking lot and here there is another short trail leads to Bell Rock, a red gargantuan monolith that is much more compact than Cathedral Rock. You can reach its base or venture out on a trail divided into three parts, Lower Bell Rock Trail (easy), Upper Bell Rock Trail (medium difficulty), The Final Ascent (difficult and dangerous). Each section arrives at a certain elevation.
In the heart of Sedona, there is a very important Y-shaped junction. The arms of this Y are the aforementioned AZ-179, which continues south. The AZ-89A which, coming from the north (Oak Creek Canyon Road) then continues west. If you want to reach Airport Mesa, you will have to go west, until the junction with Airport Road. From here a scenic overlook road starts going uphill for a mile. Just before the actual airport, you will see a parking lot. From there, you can take a trail to Airport Mesa, which offers a beautiful view of the rock faces in the area.
Boynton Canyon Trail
Boynton Canyon Trail is also on Highway 89, but northwest of Sedona. To get there, drive on Highway 89 and turn onto Dry Creek Road. The road continues for 4 miles, until you come to a fork in the road there will be signs clearly showing the way. The Boynton Canyon Trail begins in the parking lot and leads to the Boynton Pass Vortex (a quicker trail). If you have the time and the will to do so, you can continue the route, which runs alongside the incredible Enchantment Resort and enters the valley, where you will see exceptional color contrasts between the bright red and the vibrant green of the trees.
Other Things to Do In and Around Sedona
In addition to Downtown Sedona – which is pretty and somewhat touristy – with its restaurants, art galleries and eclectic venues near the waterfront, there is a place of interest more unique than rare in these parts: a Catholic chapel set in the red rock landscape, dominating the whole town: the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
This structure is a manmade landmark of Sedona. While the in the surrounding area nature remains untouched, a sacred contemporary building was built here to express the deep link between nature and religion, between man and the earth. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Catholic chapel, but according to the intentions of its architect, Marguerite Brunwig Staude, it was designed as a universal reference point for all religions and beliefs. The view overlooking Sonora from the chapel is hard to put into words!
To get to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, turn onto Chapel Rd from AZ-179, a road that leads directly to the top. You can park a little further down, just before reaching the chapel, and then walk up.
Angels… and devils! Sedona has its own natural rock bridge, too, and it’s called Devil’s Bridge. To get there, you’ll have to take the same road that leads to Boynton Canyon Trail, but you’ll have to turn first when you see the brown Dry Creek Trailhead sign.
Be careful! Immediately after the parking lot (Dry Creek Vista), the road becomes a dirt road and you should only drive on it if you have a 4×4, especially if it has rained. The Devil’s Bridge Trailhead is 2 miles after the parking lot. The trail is short, but the final part is steeper. You can also climb the bridge, but of course, I recommend that you be cautious.
Red Rock State Park
If you leave Sedona via Highway 89 heading west and follow the directions for Lower Red Rock Loop Rd, you may decide to reach Red Rock State Park, not to be confused with the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada or the Red Rock Canyon in California. This state park offers an additional opportunity to explore the trails that wind around one of the many small canyons dug out of Oak Creek.
Continue on the Upper Red Rock Loop Rd, past the turn for the visitor center, and you will arrive at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site, a lovely green area on the river, very popular and picturesque.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Finally, there is the Montezuma Castle National Monument. To get there, you must drive south of Sedona along AZ-179 S – well beyond the Bell Rock – and get back on I-17 S. It will be well before arriving in Phoenix. This archaeological site is located just 40 minutes from Sedona, and is a great place for those interested in seeing an ancient ancestral Native American village carved out of a white rock wall (no red rock faces here!). The buildings can be seen from afar, and unfortunately, the view does not even remotely compare to Mesa Verde.
North of Sedona: Attractions on Oak Creek Canyon Road
Oak Creek Canyon Road is incredible and can be driven in one go, but if you’ve exhausted the list of things to see in Sedona and you have some time left, you could spend some time on these two excursions:
West Fork Oak Creek: It is located about 10 miles north of Sedona, as you drive along Oak Creek Canyon Road, you will find a brown sign that says West Fork. Turn here and park your car after paying a small toll. Here you will find the trailhead of a beautiful and relatively simple trail along the bed of a stream. The way the stream has shaped the rocks along its path is impressive. The view of the Coconino Forest topped by smooth, curved rock faces may remind you of certain views in Zion National Park. Keep in mind that you may need to enter the water to continue the trail.
Slide Rock State Park: This place is not as adventurous, but, on the other hand, it is more suitable for children. In a much more open area of the canyon, you will find this very small State park. You can easily reach it. It is located just 7 miles north of Sedona. There are some natural pools where you can swim, and children will not miss the chance to go down the stone slides smoothed by the river. If you are tired of walking among the red rocks along the river, you can also take some walks in the woods.
Grand Canyon Tours from Sedona
It’s likely you will decide to stay in Sedona for more than a day, in which case you should keep in mind that there are all-inclusive tours to the Grand Canyon, which is about 2 hours away, or even to Page, to discover Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. As for the Grand Canyon, the most popular tours with the best reviews are:
- Ultimate Grand Canyon Day Trip from Flagstaff or Sedona: A local guide will accompany you on a bus ride to Grand Canyon National Park, crossing roads and breathtaking scenic views, including Painted Desert, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument. Lunch in the Navajo Nation is inlcuded.
- Grand Canyon South Rim Day Trip from Sedona: A scenic tour to the Grand Canyon with a choice of:
- Helicopter ride
- Train ride
- Viewing of an IMAX Movie about the Grand Canyon
For all other organized tours, click on the following link:
Where to Stay in Sedona
Sedona is somewhat overlooked by Southwest road trips, but people still enjoy its natural beauty, which is why it is good to look for accommodations in advance. You can find every kind of lodging, such as b&b’s, dream resorts with views of natural monuments (like the wonderful Amara Resort & Spa) simple and reliable motels (like the Whitehouse Inn).