Famous for its arresting red rock landscape sculpted over millennia by wind and water, the Arizona desert town of Sedona looks like no other place in the world. Hiking, biking, or exploring among these dramatic mesas, buttes, and spires—it’s impossible not to be awestruck.
Naturally, much of the focus here is on being active outdoors, but the area has arts, culture, and history, too. The ancient Sinagua, Hopi, Yavapai, and Apache peoples all recognized Sedona as a sacred place; the latter two communities still live jointly in the surrounding Verde Valley today. Consider visiting petroglyph sites and cliff dwellings, including Montezuma Castle, a 20-room Sinaguan cliff house that was declared a national monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906.
Sedona’s tourism has jumped tremendously in recent years (to 3 million annual visitors), making it essential to arrive at trailheads and snag restaurant reservations early, but also bringing attention to the importance of treading lightly and responsibly.
Where to stay in Sedona
Sedona offers a range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to family-friendly rentals.
Luxury: Enchantment Resort and L’Auberge de Sedona
Book Now: L’Auberge de Sedona
Enchantment Resort and L’Auberge de Sedona remain the top resorts in town, with all the bells and whistles, and steep room rates to match.
Enchantment features 218 casitas, most with outdoor decks and fireplaces, set on 70 acres. Join guided experiences like a Full Moon night hike, or simply lounge by the pool nestled in the red rocks.
On the banks of Oak Creek, L’Auberge de Sedona comprises 21 rooms, 62 cottages, and a five-bedroom house perfect for families or a group of friends. From juniper- and piñon-infused spa treatments to a wine program that has won accolades, this is the place to relax and dine after hiking all day.
Wallet-Friendly: Sky Rock Inn and Amara Resort & Spa
Book Now: Amara Resort & Spa
Sky Rock Inn wins for the scenic views from its wide terraces and bright, minimal rooms. The recently renovated 100-room Amara Resort & Spa also deserves a look.
For groups and families, there are abundant rentals too; the majority of them in West Sedona, where coincidentally, most grocery stores are located. Book through the usual suspects such as Airbnb, VRBO, as well as Marriott’s Homes & Villas division, or consult with local rental agencies such as well-curated Sedona Luxury Vacation Rentals.
Where to eat in Sedona
Fuel up for a day of hiking at Local Juicery with a green juice and the Works waffles, which come topped with maple syrup, almond butter, bananas, berries, and coconut flakes. Yes, they’ve got delicious drip coffee, too, and a variety of superfood-loaded snacks.
For an easy and filling lunch, take out delicious tamales from pint-sized Tamaliza Café. So good, we went back the next day. Another local favorite, ChocolaTree, is equal parts vegetarian restaurant, chocolatier, and natural foods store.
By dinner, most Sedona visitors find their way to one of chef Lisa Dahl’s four restaurants, which include Mariposa for Latin-inspired cuisine, cocktails, and stunning sunset views, and the more-casual Pisa Lisa for pizzas (opening a second location in Oak Creek soon).
Things to do in Sedona
Whether you want to be on the trails, up in the air, or inside an art gallery, Sedona has plenty of activities to choose from.
If you’ve come to Sedona, you’re likely here to hike some of the 200 trails, covering 400 miles, in the area. The trails vary widely when it comes to how challenging, long, or crowded they are, so research your options with help from your hotel or an app like AllTrails, and have a backup plan in mind if a trail is crowded and parking spots are already taken.
Our family of four enjoyed Devil’s Bridge, a popular and challenging 1.8-mile trail, culminating in a natural sandstone arch where it’s customary to pose for a photo.
Two others that were equally satisfying: Sugarloaf Loop and Bell Rock. The morning our crew hiked Sugarloaf Loop, we had originally intended to try a portion of Solider Pass, but the 14-spot parking lot was full by 9 a.m. Our plan B, Sugarloaf Summit, accessed by Sugarloaf Loop, is a 2-mile-long trail, ascending 201 feet for some fantastic panoramic views.
Bell Rock, a nearly 5,000-foot-high butte north of the Oak Creek area, is different and fun because it involves a bit of scrambling up rocks. Secondly, there’s less of a marked trail for ascending the rock, which gives the hike some Choose Your Own Adventure flair. Next time, we’ll hit Cathedral Rock, a one-mile climb finishing with sweeping views, and Fay Canyon, an easier, mostly level hike with wildflowers and cactus.
If time and budget allow, take advantage of the tour operators throughout Sedona who offer a gamut of experiences, from sunrise hot-air balloon rides and ATV tours to stargazing and a UFO-sighting tour. Many visitors also come to connect with the area’s vortexes, spots you hike to that are known for their energy and believed to heighten meditative and spiritual experiences. Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon, where Enchantment sits, are two of them.
Art galleries and museums
Sedona’s landscape, and the American Southwest in general, has always attracted and inspired artists. When you’re ready to take a break from outdoor pursuits, stop into an art gallery or museum, such as the Sedona Heritage Museum. The Sedona Arts Center regularly offers plein air painting and ceramics workshops.
Don’t miss the Tlaquepaque Arts & Craft Village either, an open-air complex of 50 galleries, shops, and eateries. Browse the art, pop into the Oak Creek Brewery for a pint of hefeweizen, or a do a bit of souvenir shopping.
How to get to Sedona
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) has plenty of direct flights from dozens of cities. From there, Sedona is a two-hour drive.
For some families, like ours, it can also make sense to hit Sedona as part of a weeklong road-trip itinerary, including the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.
>>Next: A Road Trip Through North Carolina’s Reinvented Core