Sedona, Arizona is often an overlooked travel destination for people my age. It's definitely not party central, and nightlife at its wildest here is sitting at a bar listening to live music.
If you want a real vacation, however, this is the perfect town. My friend and I visited for eleven days in November to chill out, eat good food, go hiking, and take in some gorgeous scenery.
How to get to Sedona
To get to Sedona, most visitors land in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX), the closest major international airport. Driving is really the best way to get around Arizona so I recommend renting a car. From the airport to Sedona is about a two-hour drive north.
Where to Stay in Sedona
There are plenty of hotels in Sedona for all budgets, but I couldn't find one that was truly eco-friendly. We decided the best option was to rent an Airbnb. It was nice being away from the main tourist area. We stayed in a private section of a house in West Sedona with our own entrance and parking space. We made fast friends with our host, a hilarious storyteller who gave us plenty of travel advice, resources, and even lent us a parking pass for hiking trails.
Where to eat in Sedona
Sedona is not really a see and be seen kind of place; nobody cares how you dress. Unless you're going out to a fancy dinner, wearing hippie yoga wear or hiking clothes in restaurants is the norm.
Since Sedona is all about healing and spirituality, healthy food is everywhere, but you can easily pig out as well. I feel as if I've tried every restaurant in town.
L’Auberge de Sedona — The first meal we had was the Sunday buffet brunch at this luxury lodge. Sit by the creek and listen to the river and the birds. If you have the budget, stay in one of the cottages or the lodge. It's peaceful here, with splendid views.
Coffee Pot — Where all the locals go for breakfast or lunch. The portions are big and the prices are reasonable. They're famous for their 101 omelette options.
Local Juicery — We were regulars at this healthy vegan spot. Try the organic waffles and their smoothies. Their avocado toast had a spicy kick.
Secret Garden Cafe — A cute bistro with Euro-style comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Indian Gardens Cafe — Four miles north of Sedona, this cafe and market is located in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. They serve breakfast and lunch, and you have the option of dining in their private outside garden. You can also buy craft beer, wine, ice cream, groceries, gifts and more. It's a general store for the community.
The Chai Spot — This cozy and colourful cafe has so many comfortable sitting areas, you'll want to take a nap here. The chai is pretty good too.
Wildflower Bread Company — A healthy eatery chain. This location has spectacular views of desert mountains.
ChocolaTree — The ultimate hippie hotspot serving organic vegan food. They also sell vegan chocolates made from sustainable cacao and plenty of gift items.
Pisa Lisa — Authentic wood fired pizza. Keep in mind they get busy at dinner time, and they don't take reservations.
Creekside Coffee — "Brew with a view." A cozy local cafe with spectacular views of red rocks.
Thai Spices — I really didn't think the food would be spicy here because Sedona is a predominately white town. I ordered the spiciest level of Pad Thai, and, boy, I was crying. That showed me for making assumptions about white people palate.
Shopping in Sedona
If you drive around Sedona, you'll see words such as "mystical," "synergy," and "new age" on store signs. While it's a great town to buy crystals, antiques, Native American crafts, and hiking clothes, you'll have to drive down to Scottsdale if you want the latest in fashion. Not having a lot of shopping options gave me more time to focus on nature, so I really didn't mind. There are still a couple of places I recommend checking out if you're in a shopping mood.
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village — Modelled after a Mexican village, this cobblestone shopping district has art galleries, jewelry, home decor, and artisan-made gifts. It's also home to plenty of great cafes and restaurants. Several of the eateries I recommended are located here.
Center for the New Age — This is the new age-yest store I've ever been to. It's exploding with crystals, spiritual books, tarot cards, and so forth. I flipped through a couple of binders with profiles of psychics and healers. I didn't book an appointment because the choices are overwhelming, and for those types of things, I prefer recommendations from friends.
As nice as my photos are, they don't do the scenery justice. There are over 150 hikes in Sedona, so you'll never get bored. We hiked four trails, and they were all very different. We specifically chose those that are reported to have vortex energy.
A vortex is a subtle energy centre where spiritual and psychic powers are enhanced. Apparently, everyone feels vortex energy differently. Some may feel more energized, while others may feel calm and peaceful. I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary other than the serenity of being in nature, but my friend felt her bum buzzing after sitting on the red rocks, ha.
Devil’s Bridge Trail — Moderate hike at 4.2 miles, 564 feet elevation. Some great views, although when you finally reach the Devil's Bridge, you'll probably find a long line of people waiting to take photos. One of the busier, more popular hikes.
Boynton Canyon Trail — Moderate hike at 6.1 miles, 810 feet elevation. A vortex spot! A good portion of the hike is in a forest, but once you get to the final destination, it's definitely worth it. I felt so at peace sitting and meditating in the canyon, listening to utter silence. The view is just unreal. This was my favourite hike. This long hike starts near the Enchantment Resort, so on the way back, we popped into their Mii Amo Cafe for smoothies.
Cathedral Rock Vortex — Hard hike at 1.2 miles, 744 feet elevation. It's a difficult hike but at least it's short. The rocks look slippery but it should be okay with the right shoes. It's worth the scramble for the stunning views.
Bell Rock Vortex — Moderate hike at 1.1 miles, 318 feet elevation. This mountain does look like a bell from some angles. It's a short and sweet hike, although it can get difficult the higher you go. Another stunning view. I don't think you can go wrong with any hiking trail you choose in Sedona.
Places to Visit in Sedona
Airport Mesa — Come here before sunset for the views. It's another vortex site.
Chapel of the Holy Cross — A Roman Catholic chapel built among dramatic rock formations. Take in some great views here without any hiking, although note there are no public restrooms in the chapel.
Palatki Heritage Site — Call ahead to make a reservation because they are limited to ten visitors at a time. Be warned that you have to drive past a lot of gravel to get here, so if you're too precious with your vehicle, I'd skip this. Once you arrive, check in at the visitor's centre, and your tour guide will take you around the archaeological sights.
Montezuma Castle — About a 40-minute drive from Sedona, this "castle" housed the ancient farmers of Verde Valley. Southern Sinagua built this five-story, 20-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300. How did they get up there? They made ladders back then too.
Montezuma Well —If you're visiting Montezuma Castle, you might as well see the Montezuma Well, an 18-minute drive within each other. The sight is still considered sacred by local tribes.
Tuzigoot National Monument — Your ticket to Montezuma Castle should include entry to Tuzigoot, remnants of a Southern Sinagua village built between 1000 and 1400. I felt as if I'd travelled back in time as I surveyed the same landscape as the early settlers had from up here.
If you want to take a day trip outside of Sedona, here's where I recommend going.