Finding Serenity in Sedona

As you drive along the highway into Sedona, the ground beside the pavement begins to redden. With each curve in the road, towering rock formations come into view. Uniformly southwestern homes dot the landscape and blend into the foothills. Arriving in town, you can tell you’re in a unique place. Whether or not you believe in the local vortexes, you’ll have to admit this place has a particular energy to it.

Located near Flagstaff, Arizona, Sedona is famous for its red rocks and hippie vibe. The town is situated along Oak Creek in the Verde Valley region. It’s a wonderful place for hiking, sightseeing, and relaxing.

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Above: Red rock view off Schnebly Hill Road

However, Sedona draws quite a crowd. While the town’s population count is only around 10,000, tourists flock here for those rock formations, energy vortexes, and trendy resorts. Along with all the visitors comes tourist traps, traffic, and high prices.

Despite the crowds, it’s still worth visiting this one-of-a-kind town. When we were there, it was around 105 degrees and there were people everywhere. Nonetheless, we made the most of it and enjoyed this exceptional place.

Here’s your travel guide for how to spend a relaxing few days in Sedona, Arizona no matter the crowds or weather.

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Above: View of Sedona from the Airport Overlook

First and foremost, you must get your fill of the famous red rocks. There are several ways to do this. The method that’s best for you will depend on the heat and your motivation for outdoor recreation.

One way to see the rock formations is to drive. If it’s too hot or you’re not into hiking, this is your best bet. The easiest way to do this is to drive to various scenic points around town, such as the Airport Overlook. Any of the overlooks around town will offer wonderful views.

For a closer look, go off roading. If you have a car that’s suitable for driving on rough terrain, you can do this on your own. We had a Jeep, so we went out ourselves. Try the Schnebly Hill Road trail. It’s a rough dirt road that winds around the mountains and eventually comes to an overlook. If your car isn’t up to the off roading task, take a tour. There are several different tour companies in town, but perhaps the most well known are the Pink Jeep Tours. Just make sure to book in advance to get the tour that fits your schedule and budget.

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Above: View from the Schnebly Hill off road trail

Another way to see the rock formations is to hike. There are several hiking trails around Sedona. Unfortunately for us, it was far too warm when we were visiting, so we didn’t get to do much hiking. Nonetheless, there are plenty of trails to choose from to suit any sort of hiker.

If it’s hot when you’re in town, taking a dip in the creek is a must. If your accommodations have creek access, this is the best way to go for a swim. We were camping at the Rancho Sedona RV Park, so we were able to walk down to the creek from there. If your accommodation doesn’t have access to the creek, you can get there from various other spots around town. The most popular (and crowded) is Slide Rock State Park. To escape the crowds (somewhat), head out to a lesser-known spot (there’s a great list of them here).

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Above: Sedona’s Center for the New Age

Whether or not you’re into it, it’s worth exploring some of Sedona’s New Age culture. Stop into a shop around town to get started (like the Center for the New Age). Check out the crystals, read about astrology, and get some information on the local vortexes. If you really want to get into it, you can even have a reading done. After that, make your way out to one of the town’s famous energy vortexes. You can hike there on your own or take a tour. When in Rome, right?

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Above: Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village

Make sure to pay a visit to Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. Tlaquepaque (pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh) is home to shops, restaurants, and cultural events. The village is a great place to pick up some local wares, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy live music.

I always say one of the best parts of traveling is eating. In Sedona, the two best restaurants where we ate were Dahl & DiLuca and Oak Creek Brewery and Grill. Dahl & DiLuca is a local institution that serves classic Italian fare. Oak Creek Brewing is a great spot for a drink and some traditional pub food.

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Above: Historic old town Cottonwood

While there’s a lot to do in Sedona, the rest of the Verde Valley region has plenty to offer as well. Take a day trip out to Cottonwood and Jerome to get a taste of the rest of the area.

From Sedona, head out on highway 89A. You’ll come to Cottonwood first. When you arrive in Cottonwood, make your way to the historic old town along N Main Street. Here you’ll find a number of lovely shops, restaurants, and bars to explore. 

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Above: Taking a break at The State Bar in Cottonwood. Photo by Paxton Swafford.

After you’ve gotten a taste of Cottonwood, continue along the highway up to Jerome. Nicknamed “America’s Most Vertical City,” Jerome is a former copper mining town high up Cleopatra Hill. The town is known for its old west style and haunting tales.

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Above: An old building at the edge of Jerome

When you arrive in Jerome, spend some time exploring the town. Stop for a drink and some barbecue at Bobby D’s BBQ. They have delicious food and cocktails, a large outdoor patio, and friendly staff. Make sure to read up on the history of the building (on the menu) when you’re there as well. A main attraction of the city is the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town. It’s a bit touristy, but worth a pit stop. If you’re still looking for more history, there are tours and a museum as well.

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Above: A historic hotel in Jerome

Once you’ve had your fill of historic streets and the wild west, it’s an easy trip back to red rock country.

Whether it’s the vortexes, hiking, or those famed red rocks, people from all over are drawn to Sedona. It’s a beautiful city with plenty to do. Once you’ve explored the town (and dealt with the crowds), it’s an easy escape out to Cottonwood and Jerome. With a balance of outdoor activity and local history, you’ll have a wonderful time in Arizona’s Verde Valley region. 

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