The picturesque town of Sedona offers vistas unlike anywhere else in Arizona. The town is nestled in a semi arid valley surrounded by striking formations of red rock that will take your breath away.
The area is so special and unique that it is believed the natives from long ago lived in an area surrounding it but only entered it due to its deep spiritual significance. Some of the areas in Sedona are referred to today as a vortex, a reference to locations where one can receive inspiration and a higher level of mindfulness amongst the beautiful scenery.
Sedona is divided into 3 main areas – Uptown Sedona, West Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek to the south. Accommodations are more expensive in Uptown and more budget friendly in West Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek.
There are two highways into the city that offer particularly spectacular views.
State Route 89A from the north descends from the high desert through a twisty steep road lined with pine trees. As you get close to Sedona will pass through slide rock State Park where campsites picnic areas, and swimming holes line Oak Creek. Approaching Sedona, you will start to see exceptional vistas of red rock contrasted against the bright green vegetation and trees.
Route 179 which approaches from the South connecting Sedona with Interstate 17 is also a spectacular route. If you don’t enter Sedona from this route you should definitely take a drive out at least as far as the Village of Oak Creek to see some of the spectacular scenery along the way. There are numerous forest service pullouts where there are trailheads and information about the scenery.
If you wish to park your car and go for a hike in the area you will need to pay the five dollar fee for a Red Rock Pass which allows you to park in as many of the forest service sites as you wish during the day. There are vending machines at the sites where you can purchase your ticket. These are available at many locations throughout the town. The nominal cost is well worth it and helps with conservation efforts.
One of the best views of Sedona are from the airport overlook. Sedona Airport sits high above the town on a mesa. Turn onto Airport Road from Route 89A and follow it up to the airport viewpoint. There is a parking lot across from the viewpoint but they charge three dollars to park there. Drive just past this parking lot and you’ll find a free parking area at the airport on the far side of it. You just have to walk across the paid parking lot to get to the viewpoint.
Part way down this road, between the airport and the town, is a small parking area where there are some excellent hiking trails offering wonderful views of Sedona and beyond. One of the trails leads up to a rocky knoll where you’ll enjoy vistas of Sedona and, in the opposite direction towards the Village of Oak Creek. There is also a trail that loops rate around the Airport Mesa. Try to arrive early to get a parking spot, Your chances are better on a weekday than on the weekend.
The surrounding national forest offers unlimited opportunities for outdoor activities. The many trails facilitate hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. There are backroads for off-roading, and water holes for swimming. There’s even a natural waterslide carved into the red rocks. If you want to explore the backroads and don’t have a suitable vehicle Jeep Tours are available. Other recommended tours include the Verde Canyon Railroad excursion or a morning Hot Air Balloon tour.
In addition to its inspiring scenery and outdoor activities uptown Sedona has a wide range of unique gift shops and eateries. This area is very popular with tourists and the paid parking along the roads can be at a premium and on top of that it’s paid parking. Fortunately, there are numerous parking lots just off the main road that are completely free and easily accessed. Just look for the free parking signs as your driving into uptown Sedona. From our experience, the free parking usually has spots available even when the paid roadside parking is full.
Peak seasons include spring and fall, attributed to the ideal temperatures. Other times are quieter and the semi-arid climate translates to nice weather year round. If you don’t mind the heat, summer is a bit quieter and if you don’t mind temperatures dipping below freezing at night, the winter can be an awesome time to visit. If you can avoid the weekends you will also enjoy a quieter visit and more bargains. Arrive on a Sunday when most visitors are leaving and stay until Thursday is ideal.
If you’re looking for traditional grocery stores etc. just head west on Route 89 a. This is where you will find the larger chain stores and fast food franchises.
We would be remiss not to mention the Grand Canyon along with Sedona. If you can pull yourself away from the breathtaking scenery around Sedona for a day, it’s only a 2 hour drive to the South Rim – an easy day trip. The proximity of Sedona makes it an ideal base from which to explore the Grand Canyon without the higher cost of accommodations located closer to the Canyon.