Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Sedona is a beautiful, Arizona town located just south of Flagstaff at the northern end of the state. The temperatures are much cooler there, at least 20 degrees cooler than its neighboring city, Phoenix, about two hours away to the south. Sedona is known for both its natural beauty as well as a vibrant artist community. Uptown Sedona features a dearth of New Age shops, art galleries, restaurants and tour companies ready to take you to the 'real' Sedona on the town's outskirts, where numerous trail heads access Red Rock State Park.
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We flew into Phoenix and rented a car. We were upgraded to a Jeep at no extra charge, which is a great thing to have if you plan to take on some of Sedona's more rugged terrain. It's a pleasant, two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona, which we broke up by stopping for lunch in Camp Verde, about an hour out. Highly recommend La Casita, a charming unpretentious, Mexican food eatery with a gorgeous interior and great food.
Photos by Seguras: La Casita, Camp Verde, AZ.
Our accommodations, Sedona Pines, was located about 15 minutes south of Uptown Sedona. Think "classy trailer park" but not in a bad way. Each unit had a small sitting area, galley kitchen and separate bedroom and bath with a king bed. No views, but clean and well-appointed for our needs. We had a two-bedroom, which is actually two units, completely separated from each other by a small patio. The additional unit is the same, minus the kitchen.
Photos by Seguras: Sedona Pines, Sedona, AZ
In the evening, we wandered into town and had drinks at Canyon Cantina*, arguably the best place to sit outside and watch the rocks turn red in the sunset, without having to order a meal if you don't want too.
Photos by Seguras: Canyon Cantina (* May be changing its name to Canyon Breeze, but so far, the sign is the same.) One of the best places to view a Sedona sunset with drink in hand.
In the morning we decided to take advantage of the resort's free breakfast and Activity Briefing (they promised it would only be one hour and they were true to the time). We signed up for the local Trolley City Tour and a full day Grand Canyon Tour for later in the week.
From there we headed to the historic mining town of Jerome, about 30 minutes away. We bypassed the main drag and headed to the Gold King Mine. Jerome was a booming, copper-mining town founded in 1876 and in the 20's boasted a population of 15,000. When the demand for copper ceased after WWII, the mine closed its doors in 1956 and the remaining 50 to 100 residents promoted the area as a ghost town and tourist attraction. Currently, Jerome has a population of about 450. We were expecting more of 'Ghost Town' aura, but what we found was a historic 'dumping' ground for vintage transportation (over 180 cars, trucks and motorcycles, including Studebakers and Harleys), mining equipment, old machinery and historic buildings; all collected over a 30-year period, and maintained and preserved by Don Robertson until his death in 2016. We got an impromptu tour by young, Cody Shane, who was very knowledgeable about the history and workings of the machinery.
Photos by Seguras: Gold King Mine and its vintage memorabilia
On the way back down the hill, we stopped in town for lunch at Vaqueros Grill and Cantina, only to find that the owners were the same as those in Camp Verde! The food and drinks were just as good. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay later as we had a pre-booked Trolley tour or I would have suggested a stop at Nellie Bly's Kaleidoscope store, the 'World's Largest," apparently.
Photos by Seguras: Jerome and Vaqueros Grill and Cantina's colorful interior and menu. Thumbs up on the enchiladas!
Since our friends had not been to Sedona before, we decided to take the Trolley Tour (as opposed to just driving there) for a short city tour to the Chapel of the Holy Cross which was built into the rocks, high above Sedona and affords some spectacular views. Parking is a bear and the Trolley is an affordable $20-$25 so a good way to make use of time and get a little history along the way. Expect crowds. Expect crowds everywhere, actually. The main street is metered now, but there is plenty of free parking just one short block away.
Overhead shot uncredited by youtube, remaining photos by Seguras: Chapel of the Holy Cross and its panoramic views
To finish out the day, we ventured to Tlaquepaque (Tla -kay - pah - kay), an upscale mall with high-end galleries and eateries. We got there after-hours and in the rain, which was a good way to walk around and not be tempted to spend any money. For dinner we opted for the Open Range Grill & Tavern on the main drag. They also have an outdoor patio with great views, but you have to buy dinner to sit out there. The food was 'pretty good', but the thunder and lightening show was even better and no extra charge!
Photos by Seguras: Tlaquepaque Mall after hours in light rain, the flowered main drag, view from the Open Range Grill and Tavern
The next day we explored the Palatki Historical Site, about 30 minutes from Sedona. The website strongly advises to make reservations, as guided treks to the Sinagua Cliff Dwellings (circa 1150 - 1200 AD) are limited to 10-12 persons at a time. After trying to get through by phone for a few hours, we decided to go anyway and take our chances. As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to get on a tour and the reason they had space was because their phones had been out for a day so no one could call to make reservations! The short hikes are just 1/4 mile to the cave dwellings and another (separate trail) 1/4 mile to the petroglyphs. We had two volunteer guides with the park service, Terrilyn and Bob, who gave excellent narrations along the way.
Photos by Seguras: Palatki Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyphs
The day was partly overcast and cool; good hiking weather and although we apparently missed the 'Super Bloom' by a few weeks, the desert was still filled with wildflowers. On the way back we stopped at Famous Pizza and Beer, near the main drag...just a regular pizza place, but the pizza was pretty good.
Photos by Seguras: Desert Floral
Trip highlight: Full day tour to the Grand Canyon with Great Venture Tours. The Grand Canyon is only about 2+ hours away from Sedona so it's actually drivable if you want to go that route. We opted for a tour because, one, it's nice that at least one person in the party doesn't have to drive, two, you don't have to worry about parking or know the best places to stop, and three, you get the knowledge of a guide to fill in on the history and geology. We started the day early with a 7:00 am pick up. As with most tours, we made several hotel pickups to fill our 15-seater van before heading on our way. Our guide, J.R., is something of a local celebrity and we remembered him as our hotel-to-hotel driver the last time we took this tour and wished he'd been our guide for the whole day in 2012. Knowledgable, friendly and witty, J.R. is a wiz at interspersing history lessons between tales from his younger days as an extra in movies shot on location in Sedona and as a personal driver for several major movie stars, including Jodi Foster.
After traversing up scenic, Oak Creek Canyon, we headed to Flagstaff and Sunset Crater National Monument for a photo op and a quick walk through the vast lava fields. The terrain is so unique that the Apollo astronauts practiced their Rover missions here. As we drove away from the area, I found it fascinating to watch how far the lava fields extended away from the crater (miles and miles). Next stop, Wupatki National Monument, where we walked through the remains of a well-preserved, Sinagua Indian Trading Village, complete with housing and areas of recreation.
Photos by Seguras: A'a lava fields at Sunset Crater; miles away, the ground is still covered with lava by the eruption of 1085, the Wupatki Pueblo Site
As you can see from the photos, it was one of those blue sky/puffy clouds kind of days; perfect for picture taking. From Wupatki, we went to the town of Cameron on the Navajo Reservation and had lunch at the Trading Post which doubles as a vast shopping area specializing in Native American artifacts and souvenirs for every budget. Lunch was included and they encouraged you to try the Navajo "Fry Bread" Tacos. I opted for the Beef Stew, which comes with the bread and both were 'good' (not excellent), although we found the Fry Bread was better when you added the butter and honey they served with it.
Photos by Seguras: Lunch stop at Cameron, Indian Arts and Crafts and dining room, Fry Bread Tacos
A little less than an hour away from Cameron, we arrived at one of several stops along the Grand Canyon overlook. Our guide knew the best, less-crowded places for photo ops, finally ending at Grand Canyon Village where you can explore the lodge and especially the Kolbe Brothers Art Studio, built right into the side of the canyon in 1905. I'm not going to expound on the virtues of the Grand Canyon which are as expansive as the canyon itself, but if you haven't been, go. Pictures just don't do it justice no matter how pretty they are.
Photos by Seguras: Mary Coulter's Desert View Watchtower, scenic Grand Canyon, the amazing, Kolbe Brother's, five-story art studio built in 1905 into the side of the canyon walls, Grand Canyon Village Cabins
The trek back to Sedona was a little over 2 hours and J.R. kept us entertained the entire way. He recommended Nick's Westside Restaurant in Sedona as a local hang-out we might enjoy for dinner. We decided to give it a try and were not disappointed.
We enjoyed Nick's enough for dinner that we decided to try it for breakfast and again, good food and good variety. From there we headed for our favorite hike in Oak Creek Canyon, West Fork Trail. The last time we were here we sailed in and parked, no problem. So imagine our surprise when we saw the line of cars waiting to park at the trail head. There are no other parking options other than in the lot. I saw a blog that suggested you could park along the roadway and if that was true before, it is no longer the case. We were told it would be at least an hour wait, so we decided to explore Slide Rock State Park instead. We avoided this area the last time, because it was supremely crowded and a little too 'touristy' for our taste, but it is a Sedona favorite so worth checking out.
Photos by Seguras: Slide Rock State Park, Pendley Homestead House
Slide Park requires a $20/car payment and like most of the State Parks you need to get a Red Rock Pass to park and hike. In 2012 you had to go to the Visitor Center to obtain your pass, but now day and week-long passes are available at most of the parking areas for the trail heads. It is $5 per day or $15 for the week (or $20 for a year), so if you plan to hike more than twice, get the week-long pass.
It wasn't the hottest of days and we were a little off-season, so Slide Park was not too crowded this time around. It's a pretty area nonetheless. We took a very short, mostly paved, 1/4 mile trail that passed old Apple Orchards, the Pendley Homestead House and an old Apple Packing Barn. From there we proceeded down to the slide area. The water was low enough that you could walk across in the water to the other side but was also too low for tourists to actually 'slide' down the rocks to the pools, which is probably why it wasn't very crowded. On a hot, summer day expect hundreds of sunbathers to step over as you make your way north along the river.
On the way back down Oak Creek Canyon, we stopped at the local Dairy Queen for ice cream and some trinket shopping at the local tables set up in that area.
Photos by Seguras: Fun Dairy Queen vendors stop, Midgley Bridge trail head - just south of Slide Park
With an earlier start, we got to West Fork Trail and snagged the last parking spot. I can't think of anywhere I've hiked that is prettier than this trail. It is, in fact, rated in the Top 10 of all trails in the United States. It's a relatively easy hike that crosses a small stream 13 times via strategically placed stones and logs. Oak trees sway and ferns line the pathways.
Red rock and sculpted sandstone canyon walls tower 1000 feet overhead. It's cool and shady and the reward for completing the 3.3 miles one-way, is a relatively shallow stream of cold water surrounded by a beautiful alcove of carved stone.
The last picture above is the end of the hike. If you wish to hike further, expect to get a little wet! All West Fork Trail photos by the Seguras.
The marked trail ends here but for the more adventurous, you can continue on another 11 miles to a thru-hikers pick-up station. This portion is unmarked, over boulders and through streams easily knee to waste deep; not suggested for the unprepared. We packed in a lunch, then turned around and walked the 3.3 miles back. We passed all manner of hikers from seniors to families with very small children and although there were many on the trail, there were often areas where we didn't see anyone at all. If you only do one hike in Sedona, this is the one.
First stop, breakfast at the Coffee Pot Restaurant.. on Coffee Pot Drive and with a view of the rock formation that resembles....a coffee pot! Their speciality is omelettes, 101 different kinds to be exact. Order by the number! I can only comment on a rather plain, avocado and cheese (#30) which was fine - tasted just like avocado and cheese. Had we had more time in Sedona, I think we would have returned to try something more adventurous.
Coffee Pot photo by Imagekind, all others by Seguras: Coffee Pot Restaurant and menu
Luckily, on our last day, Sedona was celebrating an early Cinco de Mayo (on May 4th) at the Tlaquepaque Mall. To avoid a parking problem, we drove into town, parked at the designated free lot and took the Trolley to the mall. Festivities, Mariachis, dancers and Mexican food abounded. It was a really pretty day; sunny with bright blue skies and a nice way to spend our last day.
All photos by Seguras. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village celebrates Cinco de Mayo
But wait, there's more! You shouldn't go to Sedona without seeing at least one sunset, high up on the rocks. The closest way to do this is at the Sedona Airport, less than 10 minutes from downtown off of Airport Road. It was well-populated with like-minded sunset-viewers and we opted to watch the sunset across from the parking lot instead of taking the 1/4 mile trail to the summit and having to walk back in the dark. The pictures say it all, but I've also included a few pictures from our 2012 visit, so you can see what the view would be like if you go to top.
Photos by Seguras: Airport Mesa parking lot view
On our 2012 trip, we took in four others treks that I've noted in pictures below and there are so many more to explore. On one of our next visits, I'd like to come either in the Fall when all those Oak trees turn to vibrant shades of yellow and orange, or in winter when the canyon is dusted in light snowfall.
People often ask which hotels in Sedona have the best views and truth is, most do as the valley is surrounded by the red rocks of the canyon. The difference is in WHICH room you pick at those hotels. If you can, spend the extra money for a room with a canyon view, otherwise, if you are looking at the apartment next door, it doesn't really matter which hotel you stay in.
I can take you there! Click on the link on the "About Page" here.
Here's a sample package for a week's stay in majestic Sedona!
Best Western Plus Inn at Sedona
Top Floor with Terrace and full red rock view
Full Daily Breakfast
Automatic Compact car throughout
Sample dates for October, based on 2019 rates:
From: $1118 per person
or with Sport Utility Vehicle throughout - $1211 per person
OR: November (2019 rates) $845 per person with a compact and $938 per person with a SUV**
** Fall Colors are not guaranteed!
2012 Sedona Hikes
Soldier's Pass is a 2 1/2 mile hike up and back (all up hill on the way up), mostly in full sun. Great views of the Sphinx rock, Devil's Sink Hole and a rewarding vista from the top. There are also the Seven Sacred Pools enroute, although when we went it was more like the Seven Sacred Puddles. This trail shares with off-road Jeep Tours, especially during peak season.
Schnebly Road is a twisty, gravely, fairly rough road with great views. We drove up in the afternoon to catch the sunset from the top. There are trailheads along the way but we didn't venture on any of them. If the weather has been poor, I wouldn't attempt without a 4-wheel drive and sometimes they close the road during inclement weather. T.C. Schnebly was an entrepreneur and enterprising young man who organized the town's first post office. Luckily, he named it after his wife, Sedona Miller. The town of Schnebly just doesn't have as nice a ring to it! Read more about T.C. Schnebly and Sedona, here.
Red River Creek Crossing
Instead of entering the trailhead where you are supposed to at Red Rock Crossing Road (also Crescent Moon Ranch Park), we took Valley Verde Road to the end and waded through the river to the trail. It's about 7 miles south of Sedona and if you do park in the lot at the trailhead, it's a $10/car fee. We weren't trying to avoid the fee at the time, we just followed a map to an area that was closer from our hotel and ended up on the opposite side of the river. This is a an easy, interesting trail along the river, about 2 miles long, with great views of Sedona's red rocks along the way.
When we went in 2012, we were able to arrive early and park just below the trail heading up to the summit. Now, you have to be really lucky to score one of the 6 - 8 parking spaces there. It's only 1/4 mile from the Airport Mesa Airport parking area and while you can view the sunset from the parking lot, it's a cool experience, plus a 360 degree view from the summit. The Mesa is also considered one of the Vortex* locations if you are so inclined.
*What is a Vortex? A Vortex is a swirling area that spins around an imaginary axis. Think water spiraling down a drain or tornados. Those who believe, say that the Sedona Vortices emanate energy as it rises from the earth and have spiritual or healing powers. While invisible to the eye, they say the proof is in the twisted Juniper trees that are in each Vortex location. Are the Sedona Vortices real or imagined? Here's a good (non-judgemental) article on the various Vortex sites around Sedona.
Happy to discuss Sedona or any of my other favorite locations. Send me a private email, here!