The first time I visited Sedona was in the early 70s. I had just moved to Phoenix from Minneapolis and decided I would explore areas a short drive from my new home. I had heard about the red rocks of Sedona, the rock formations, the art galleries and shops, but I needed to see it for myself. I drove from Phoenix to Sedona on a Saturday morning and began my 40 year love of this uniquely beautiful area.
I stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, walked up from the parking lot to the chapel nestled between huge rock formations. Next I drove to downtown Sedona and parked. The shops and galleries were my next stop. Wondering in the many galleries and craft shops I found unique one-of-a-kind items with pricing from moderate to expensive.
Later I drove on a gravel road down to Oak Creek and put my feet in the clear cold water rushing over smooth red rocks. I had seen photographs of this areas formation framed with the creek in the foreground in magazines and calendars before, but seeing it in person was a real rush.
My next adventure took me to the ghost town of Jerome, a short half-hour drive from Sedona. This historic mining town sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking the red rock country had a charm all its own. The old buildings, some abandoned, some falling apart, some sliding down the mountainside, but all adding to the uniqueness of this area. At that time Jerome had just been rediscovered and a few artists and artisans had begun to move into some of the abandoned houses, fix them up and open up small arts and crafts shops. The view from Jerome is fantastic, looking east over the Verde Valley with the red rocks of Sedona off in the distance.
Over the years I have visited Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and Jerome at least 200 times and I never get tired of seeing these amazing areas. I have hiked many of the trails in and around Sedona, visited many of the prehistoric Indian pueblos and cliff dwellings, driven many of the 4-wheel drive forest service roads, taken jeep tours into the backcountry, walked through may of the galleries and visited with some of the artists, eaten in many of the wonderful restaurants, and stayed in some of the motels. I can truly say I love Sedona. I am happy to share my love of Sedona with you.
Your first visit to Sedona should include these 10 things:
- A stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross
- A jeep tour into the backcountry
- A hike into the backcountry
- A visit to Red Rock State Park
- A visit to Slide Rock State Park
- A visit to Tlaquepaque
- A visit to the uptown area of Sedona
- A visit to some of the many art galleries
- At least one night at one of the Sedona hotels
- Dinner at one of the many fine restaurants
Tlaquepaque is an arts and crafts village artistically patterned after a Mexican Village. Located a short distance from uptown Sedona, you will find over 40 of the finest arts and crafts shops in Sedona. Originally conceived as an artist community, it is not unusual to see a gifted artist working on a sculpture in a shop, a painter putting the finishing touches on their work, or a silversmith working on a piece of jewelry. Just a block up the street from Tlaquepaque is uptown Sedona. This area is where it all started. Location of the original Sedona town site, it is still the location of many galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels and motels, and the home base for all of the commercial jeep tour operators. U.S. Hwy #89 travels right through uptown Sedona, so you will have no problem finding the uptown area.
If you are not able to do all ten things on your first visit I would recommend you at least visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque and downtown Sedona and a jeep tour into the back country. If you have two full days then you might be able to check off all ten items.
Hiking in Sedona is one of the red rock country’s most popular attractions. The large geologic area covered by the area surrounding Sedona, is best experienced on foot. There are over 40 hiking trails in the Sedona general area – so you have a multitude of choices. I would be remiss to try to describe all of the hikes, however, some of the most popular: Fay Canyon, Llama Trail, West Fork, Doe Mountain, Little Horse to Broken Arrow, Secret Canyon, Vultee Arch, Wilson Canyon, and Cathedral Rock. These are listed from easiest to most difficult. I have hiked Fay Canyon, West Fork, Wilson Canyon, Vultee Arch, Cathedral Rock, Red Rock Crossing, Boynton Canyon, Soldiers Pass, and Sterling Pass. These and a few others I have hiked and enjoyed over the years. Each year I try to add new hikes to broaden my knowledge and to increase my photo album of Sedona.
Sedona has become a center for people of new age belief because of its energy vortexes located in some of the red rock area. A vortex is created from spiraling motion of air or liquid around a center of rotation. If you have ever witnessed a dust devil kick up in the desert, you have seen a vortex. The vortexes of Sedona are named because they are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, mediation and healing. Vortex sites are believed to be locations having energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions. The energy of the vortexes interacts with a person’s inner self. It is not easily explained. Obviously it must be experienced.
Sedona has become known as one of the most powerful spiritual centers on earth. This power reaches beyond the awesome landscape to the Vortex centers where vital energy is emitted in great abundance. Here are the primary locations for the most prominent Vortexes in Sedona – Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Boynton Canyon, Chapel of the Holy Cross and Schnebly Hill. I have hiked in most of the areas listed as vortexes in the Sedona area, and I will say, whether it is the scenic beauty, the awesome quiet, or the clear clean air or the vortexes, I have been inspired in more than one instance on these hikes. I recommend you save judgment until you actually visit these areas for yourself.
I have also enjoyed over the years a few of the commercial jeep tours into the backcountry and I can recommend this as a way to get up close and personal with the red rocks if you are not able to do a hike. The jeep tour companies in Sedona are all very reputable; they have to have a permit to travel into the backcountry from the National Forest Service. These permits are not easy to obtain as the National Forest Service is keeping our forests pristine and not overrun with people and vehicles.
Those of you into photography, Sedona is one of the most photographed locations in Arizona. Professional photographers along with a multitude of amateurs have spent hours and days waiting for the light to get just right for them to get just the right photo. Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are two of the most popular, however, one of my favorite places to photograph is in West Fork Oak Creek. There’s a trail that crisscrosses the creek for about 3 miles one-way. The canyon begins to narrow as you get further in and the forest, the walls of the canyon and the creek offer some interesting and contrasting photo opportunities. You can literally spend days here and not run out of potential places to shoot. Because you are in a canyon, the light is constantly changing and the hues of the different rock walls seem to look different each time you look up. For those shooting landscapes drive up Schnebly hill road, or the Red Rock Crossing loop road and along the way you will see plenty of great opportunities for some open expanse photos. Another wonderful canyon to hike and photograph is Boynton Canyon. You not only have all the canyon walls and forest, this canyon has a wonderful Sinagua cliff dwelling with some of the walls still intact. At the end of the trail, the last time I hiked it, there was also a medicine wheel.
Sedona has long been know for its many art galleries and resident artists. I have visited many of the galleries and each time I go into one of them I am amazed at the talent and quality of local art. Over the years I have bought a few items which I treasure. I see people from all over the world browsing these galleries and many of these visitors purchase an piece of art and have it shipped to their home. Sedona rivals Scottsdale for its art colony and rightly so. The beauty and serenity of this area attracts many of these artists, they seem to thrive in this area.
Because Sedona is surrounded by National Forest – Coconino National Forest – the private land ownership is limited, therefore any new building construction is limited as well. That being said, the cost of a home in Sedona is very expensive.
An area that has grown in Sedona over the last 5 years has been the luxury hotels with spas. I have seen 5 or 6 high end hotels with spas built recently and they seem to always be at high occupancy. The weather, the scenery and the solitude of the backcountry seems to draw people back time after time. Sedona also has many mid range hotels and motels, so you do not need think you will be limited to a high end budget when you travel to Sedona.
I hope you have found my information about Sedona Red Rock area helpful and will encourage you to visit, explore, see and photograph, or just wonder through the many galleries and shops. Even if you are not in the market for an original piece of art, the originality and beauty of the works displayed will lift your heart and spirit. If you have suggestions or recommendations for me regarding this article, please feel free to comment on my blog or email me, I will respond to your email or comments. Thank you for letting me share my love of this beautiful part of Arizona with you. Please come and visit.