Tom Tietz / Shutterstock
If you are looking for a journey filled with beauty and enchantment, then the dramatic scenery of the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona is beckoning, and here’s what to do.
For almost 25 years of traveling to Sedona, I still find new adventures and unexpected wonders around every turn. Even though this town has changed over time, the heart of this city is still the dramatic scenery that can be seen only here by those who seek the majesty of the Red Rocks.
Due to the overwhelming number of awe-inspiring Instagram-worthy photos on social media,tourism has exploded in Sedona, and why wouldn’t it? Sedona’s beauty captures the imagination and desire to roam like no other place I have traveled, which is why I return again and again.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir; conservationist who assisted in establishing Yosemite, America’s first National Park.
For the last four decades, Sedona has been seen as a New-Age mecca, offering healing crystals and vortexes to endeavor spiritual awakening and enlightenment. For some of the 3 million visitors each year, the opportunity for renewal comes in another form, that of outdoor adventure and the awesome appreciation of the natural beauty that is Sedona, Arizona. With its Red Rock cliffs and mesas, and the vast trail system that surround this city, visitors hope to find a reprieve from their daily lives in search of a powerful connection with nature.
Paolo Trovo / Shutterstock
Sedona is less than two hours from Phoenix and a far cry from the flat city and concrete jungle that we find day to day. With Red Rock spires and skies filled with stars, it is no wonder this place quickly becomes a favorite of all who travel here. It offers time in quiet reflection, relaxation from everyday stress or a journey of the spirit. On the flip side of that is a culinary scene that allows any foodie to indulge their every taste, and resorts that pamper their guests like A-listers.
With scenery being the number one attraction, the answer to “What to do in Sedona, Arizona” will be answered in this ICONIC CITY GUIDE which focuses on the opportunities to see as much of it as possible on your stay. I hope to give you a glimpse into all that Sedona has to offer and inspire you to see this magical land for yourself.
WHERE TO STAY
In Sedona, the best accommodations are at one of these boutique resorts where the views, dining and service are of equal importance to ensuring your stay is exactly what you envisioned—whether lounging creek-side, pampering at the spa or a savoring a decadent chef-inspired meal.
Stay at one of the creek-side cottages with a wood-burning fireplace, outdoor cedar shower and private terrace with only the sound of the running waters to lull you to sleep.
L'Auberge de Sedona
A luxurious stay is always found at L’Auberge de Sedona, a resort nestled along Oak Creek. Desert dwellers relish the tree-lined brook that provides shade on warm afternoons while lounging on the bank listening to the calm of the stream. L’Auberge is truly a hideaway right below the heart of this bustling town where guests can unplug and unwind while embracing the serenity of their surroundings.
L'Auberge de Sedona
If you’re craving an indulgent meal, then the seven-course tasting menu at Cress on Oak Creek will delight your senses while dining creek-side. The journey of inspired dishes you will savor include pan-seared branzino with smoked trout roe and saffron espuma, and a warm chocolate souffle with smoked chocolate cremeux and caramel whiskey gelato. Executive Chef Franck Desplechin and Executive Pastry Chef Morgan Gurney elevate their Southern European cuisine to that of a truly decadent experience.
L'Auberge de Sedona
Stay at one of the creek-side cottages with a wood-burning fireplace, outdoor cedar shower and private terrace with only the sound of the running waters to lull you to sleep. The well-appointed cottage welcomes each guest into what feels like a tranquil oasis where comfort only comes second to the view. If pampering is on the agenda, then the L’Aromatherapy Essential Massage is a must. You’ll start at the L’Apothecary Blending Bar, where you mix your own treatment massage oil with herbs and botanicals to create your own scent profile oil for use during your relaxation massage.
Amara Resort and Spa
Casual Modern Getaway
A perfect stay at the Amara Resort and Spa starts with one of the resort’s suite accommodations that provides undisturbed scenery of the trees and creek with only the sound of rushing water outside your room. Enjoy time spent relaxing in the infinity-edge pool, where stunning views of the Red Rocks of Sedona Arizona and radiant sunsets are on display daily.
Amara Resort and Spa
This resort provides spectacular viewing of the stars in this dark sky city where on a crisp evening you can sit by the firepit with a unique mixology from the bar which boasts their proprietary agave-based margaritas. The Sun Devil Margarita with passion fruit, astral blanco tequila, chipotle and lime is a refreshing drink with a hint of spice to finish.
Amara Resort and Spa
Patio dining at Saltrock Southwest Kitchen should be a requirement during your stay since the view of the Red Rocks is something of which you will never tire. Executive Chef Lindsay Dale’s inventive Southwest-inspired menu offers a satisfying meal of carnitas tacos with salsa verde, cotija and cilantro, which is topped off perfectly by the tres leches cake with strawberry, mango and cinnamon whipped cream for dessert. The only thing to make this meal even better is enjoying the view while you dine.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: WORLD’S BEST SUNSETS
This resort located in Boynton Canyon is a quiet oasis that offers rest and relaxation to those wanting to be transported to a place of pure enchantment. The secludedness of this resort gives its guests the feeling of being fully immersed in nature with the Red Rock surroundings and starry nights. Boynton Canyon Trail is accessed right on the property which is a great way to explore the beauty of Sedona up close and burn calories before an indulgent dinner at the resort.
Enchantment boasts spectacular views from every corner of this property, particularly when dining at Che Ah Chi. Executive Chef José Martinez flawlessly executes the roasted sea scallops with foraged mushrooms and brown butter crumble which is best enjoyed on the patio. One of the specialty cocktails to savor on a warm desert evening is the Scorpion Kiss, consisting of Vida mezcal, banana, pineapple, orgeat and Peychaud’s bitters.
When adventure is a part of your trip, then Enchantment’s mountain bike excursions, for every skill level and interest, is a can’t miss. There are outings that go from beginner to advanced, and they offer trips to vortexes, the Native American traditions tour, sunset rides and under-the-stars adventures. After an afternoon of biking, a pool suite is a perfect way to wind down where you will enjoy a private pool and deck amongst the Red Rocks and the quiet of nature.
WHERE TO EAT
There are many dining options in Sedona that will satisfy the palate of any foodie. Whether casual or fine dining, local eateries are a mainstay here because of their dedication to locally grown ingredients to produce the best dish.
Laura Novak / The Hideaway House
The Hideaway House is a place I have been visiting for as long as I have traveled to Sedona. It has seen some changes over time, but some things stay the same—amazing views and great food. It would be easy to miss this eatery along the main drag but make a point to stop and dine here. Ask for patio seating because dining with a view isn’t something you will want to miss. Even in winter we dine outside, just ask for a blanket, and you’ll be happy you did.
Get your meal to go, find a new trail and have a picnic on your hike, which is my favorite thing to do in Sedona.
Hilltop Deli is a casual eatery everyone will enjoy. With sandwiches like Cilantro, Pesto Chicken or Turkey, Avocado with Sprouts, and everything in between, all patrons are sure to have their cravings satiated here. Even though there are no Red Rock views at this restaurant, I suggest you don’t pass it by. Get your meal to go, find a new trail and have a picnic on your hike, which is my favorite thing to do in Sedona.
You may not think of airport dining as anything but ordinary, but Mesa Grill will change your mind. Located on top of a mesa, the Sedona airport restaurant provides stunning views of the Red Rocks along with the occasional take-off and landing. The restaurant offers a weekly changing seasonal menu along with its classic Southwestern style mainstays by Chef Mercer Mohr. One item to be a hit is the tableside guacamole with fresh corn tortilla chips.
Laura Novak / Hudson's
The Hudson is an industrial-chic American eatery with one of the best views in town. The locale’s unique twist on classic comfort food paired with local craft beer makes this casual environment a great place to dine after a day on the trails or shopping around town. The bruschetta trio including prosciutto di parma is a delectable, and the classic burger is hard to beat. Watching the sunset while enjoying a cocktail makes for a great Sedona evening. The Hendricks at the Hudson with Hendricks gin, luxardo cherry juice, lemon and sparkling wine is one to try.
Mariposa’s Latin-inspired cuisine and elevated fine dining by Chef Lisa Dahl, the cuisine queen of Sedona, welcomes guests into a full sensory experience. The South American menu and patio with panoramic views of the Red Rocks makes this one of the top restaurants to visit while here. Mariposa is one of five Sedona-based restaurants owned by the Dahl Restaurant Group and a jewel in the crown of the Sedona restaurant scene. If you want a taste of Sedona once you get home from your trip, Dahl-to-Door ships local condiments and confections to chef-prepared meals.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: BUCKET TRIPS OF A LIFETIME
THINGS TO DO
It is hard to come up with a list of what to do in Sedona, Arizona that isn’t outside, most likely because if you are traveling to Sedona, it is to see the number-one attraction: the scenery. With great weather almost year-round, why wouldn’t you spend most of your time outdoors?
If you are looking for the best sunset in Sedona, then Airport Mesa is the spot to see it. After a dinner at Mesa Grill, you can walk over to the lookout point and watch the artistry of a Sedona sunset where the Red Rocks change colors as the sun goes down like theater of the sky. Even though it can get crowded, it’s worth seeing at least once.
Devil’s Bridge is the quintessential Sedona hike with a breathtaking view from the top of this natural sandstone arch. This hike from the parking lot is about 4 miles roundtrip, and it can get very crowded due to its popularity, so start early. The hike is flat for the first mile but can get steep as you journey to the plateau to reach the “bridge.” It can get challenging, but the feeling of accomplishment and the beauty all around will leave you speechless.
Jack Aiello / Shutterstock
One of my favorite hikes starts at Little Horse Trail, then on to Chapel Trail. The view of the Red Rocks surrounds you throughout this hike, and it is well marked. This is about a 4.5-mile-roundtrip hike with elevation and terrain changes, in particular when you start on the Chapel Trail, which is the last three-quarter mile of this hike. You will end at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built seamlessly into the Red Rocks in 1956. It was commissioned by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and is an iconic landmark in this city.
Slide Rock is a section of Oak Creek and as the name implies, it is a natural “water slide,” where swimmers slide down rocks from one end of the creek to the other. It is rather populated in the summer with those finding respite from the heat in the cool waters of the creek, so I don’t recommend to visiting then. But in fall or spring, it is a great time to walk along the rocks next to the creek and plan a picnic on your outing. It is less trafficked then and allows you the opportunity to take in the scenery uninterrupted. Stop by Hillside Deli on your way there and enjoy lunch while taking in the view.
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock
PINK JEEP TOURS
Pink Jeep Tours is an iconic tour company in Sedona. With the company’s painted pink jeeps and knowledgeable, charismatic tour guides, you are guaranteed to have an experience you will never forget. There are several off-road tour options from mild, even terrain to rugged trails and inclines. This is a great way to see Sedona if this is your first trip or have traveled here for years. You will always learn something new about this town on each tour you take.
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock
With all the activities available to you in Sedona, sometimes taking a stroll through shops makes for a perfect afternoon. The outdoor market, Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, is authentically fashioned after a Mexican village with vine-covered stucco walls, cobblestone walkways and arched entries. With exclusive galleries showcasing blown glass, bronze sculptures and traditional ceramics from local artists, this is the perfect place to buy a unique item and bring a piece of Sedona home with you.
Hiking is a fave pastime, made even better when you are prepared. Here’s what to consider when hiking the Sedona trails:
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
• Buddy up! Safest way to hike is with a friend!
• Hydrate well, even during cool months. The desert is dry, and dehydration sets in faster in Arizona.
• Grab a power snack—protein bar, trail mix, fruit—in case you stay out longer than expected.
• Get hiking shoes. They don’t have to be boots, but no worn treads. Make sure they fit well. Absolutely no flip-flops or slip-on shoes.
• Don’t forget the sunscreen. Arizona’s most prolific resource is sunshine. Sunglasses are a good idea, too.
• Make sure your cell phone is charged. Some trails you will lose service, but it’s always best to have it charged.
• You can find many relatively flat or easy-rated trails, but some are steep or cross over water. Hiking sticks help tremendously.
• Check out your trail ahead of time. Some require high clearance vehicles to get access. The trail rating, terrain and miles are need-to-know pieces of information before heading out. There is a huge concentration of trails in Sedona, so you’ve got options. Check out the All Trails or Trailforks apps, loaded with info, directions and what to expect.
• If you are a mountain biker, check the trail information to see if bikes are allowed.
• Stay on the trail. It protects nature, and it protects you. While you may meet up with critters on your hike, critters are more often found off the path.
• Bring cash and credit/debit card for trail fees. Some require exact cash or a card, so have both handy.