Red rock formations lit up by the pale sun loom over some evergreen trees in Sedona, Arizona.
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16 Incredible Things To Do In Sedona

With its glorious landscapes and new age vibes, Sedona is a breathtaking getaway into nature and red rock formations.

Locals say that God created the Grand Canyon – but he lives in Sedona.

Watch the sunset turn Sedona’s sweeping red rocks to orange and you’ll see how this desert city rivals the state’s biggest tourist destinations.

Sedona pulls in New Age enthusiasts who believe in the healing powers of its red earth. And the city’s galleries are lined with delicate watercolors and pottery inspired by the land.

Sedona has incredible hiking trails and outdoor adventures that make it a perfect weekend family destination. And it’s also an epic romantic getaway with cozy cabins and sweeping landscapes.

Where do you begin to explore this natural wonder?

I grew up in Arizona and I’ve been going to Sedona for years.

And here’s my ultimate list of the best things to do in Sedona.

1. Explore the Airport Loop Trail

Red rock formations tower in the distance with some rugged trees and red earth in the foreground in Sedona, Arizona.

The drive into Sedona is spectacular as the tall Saguaro cacti and flat desert give way to red sandstone formations. A short walk along a trail is a great start to a Sedona day trip.

The Airport Loop Trail, a 3.2 mile (5.1-km) trail that snakes around the city’s small airport, doesn’t take much exertion. And it offers stunning views especially at golden hour and sunset.

Insider’s tip: The trail is moderate. But it does get rocky and narrow so good hiking shoes make things a lot easier. In the summer months there’s little shade so pack plenty of cold water.

Red rock formations tower over a green valley with rugged green trees in the foreground in Sedona, Arizona.

The air is crisp and smells of creosote bushes, a resinous plant that Native Americans use for congestion. You can also spot clusters of tiny wildflowers and prickly pear cacti.

Lizards or red frogs scurry amid the red rocks. Ocotillo bushes and their twisting trunks spring from the rocky mountains. You can hear the occasional plane flying past.

You can hike, run or mountain bike this trail. Or bring your dog along on a leash. Take the trail in either direction for 360 degree views of Sedona and all its major natural landmarks. You’ll see the Oak Creek Valley, Cathedral Rock and Airport Mesa.

2. Take in the views at Airport Mesa

A sunset view over Sedona with tall red rock formations in the background and a rosy and purple sky scattered with clouds.

These sweeping views are some of the best in the city – especially at sunrise and sunset. Airport Mesa is also a great spot to relax and take in the landscape.

And there’s no hiking required. Airport Mesa is a short and easy drive that ends at 360 views of Sedona. Just drive west on Highway 89A and turn at Airport Drive, then take the short road up the hill.

Insider’s tip: Familiarize yourself with the local red rock formations and you’ll soon be able to spot Thunder Mountain, Coffeepot Rock, Ship Rock and Chimney Rock.

Bright red earth is scattered in the foreground with towering red rock formations off in the distance in Sedona, Arizona.

This popular sunset spot is easily accessible from anywhere in town. And there’s a large parking area with an overlook where people from around the world gather to watch the sunset.

Some believe that Airport Mesa also holds spiritual energy as a powerful vortex.

And while sunsets can get very crowded, sunrises are less in demand and you just might get the site all to yourself.

3. Visit the Crescent Moon Ranch

A small house is in the foreground with massive red rock formations in the background under a bright blue sky.

Crescent Moon Ranch is one of the most photographed spots in the Southwestern. The majestic Cathedral Rock with Oak Creek streaming past at Red Rock Crossing is an iconic American landscape.

The picnic area is a beautiful historic prelude to your nature walk and it’s a perfect spot to photograph the remnants of the area’s first settlers.

A rustic historic ranch house stands in this field. Early Anglo settler John Lee, a cattleman from Prescott, shoveled through rock and dirt here in the late 1800s to create the area’s first homestead.

A historic home stands in Sedona, Arizona with the red mountains in the background.

But the very first inhabitants of Oak Creek date back to 700-900 AD, when the area was used for seasonal farming. The valley was home to Yavapai and Apache Native Americans before Anglo settlers arrived in the 19th century.

Insider’s tip: Today the ranch house can be rented out for incredible views from the living room and a stone’s throw away from Oak Creek.

The U.S. Forest Service purchased the property in 1980 and painstakingly restored a 1938 home on the site, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, to create a stunning ranch house getaway.

4. Dip into Oak Creek

The tall Cathedral Rock looms over the blue waters of the creek surrounded by trees in Sedona, Arizona.

Further down a narrow path, the towering Cathedral Rock reflects in the waters of Oak Creek. This is Sedona’s most iconic view.

Children love to swim here in the summer and visitors stack “prayer rocks” into tall, gravity-defying piles to leave their mark. These piles balance on tree branches and along the trails that run beside the creek.

Oak Creek is also a photographer’s dream for shots of Cathedral Rock, which is a short hike away through brush and cottonwood trees.

Two images show the scene. On the left a man stacks a pile of rocks alongside the creek. On the right are the red rock formations with the waters of the creek under the cliffs in Sedona, Arizona.

Summer crowds love to wade in the creek. Fishermen try their luck in the waters while painters capture the scenery on canvas. The site is also a favorite destination for photography symposiums and spiritualists looking for positive vibes.

Insider’s tip: The Red Rock Crossing is also about a mile hike away from Buddha Beach, popular among the New Age crowd as a powerful energy center filled with more stacked rocks, spiritual guides and meditative crowds.

In the spring, the Oak Creek’s high waters wash the rocks away. The stacks are later rebuilt once again in the rocky circle of life.

5. Do yoga at a vortex site

A woman sits cross legged on a yoga mat with Sedona's red rock formations in the background.

Sedona is famous among the New Age community as a vortex site with unique energy.

Energy is said to move strongly in a spiral motion in a vortex site. And some believe that’s why the juniper trees in certain spots around Sedona have twisting trunks.

Insider’s tip: The best way to experience this spiritual magic is to hike to a vortex site and roll out your mat. There are also guided tours that organize mindfulness excursions.

Sedona's red rock formations glow orange in the light of the setting sun.

Sedona itself is said to be a vortex site but various locations around the city have more powerful vortex energy. Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and the Airport Mesa are some of the more popular vortex sites among mystics and healers.

How do vortex sites occur? One explanation uses theory of ley lines to explain this phenomenon. Other theories point to Sedona’s Red Rocks (which contain iron deposits) or the crystals within Sedona’s geography.

Regardless of your beliefs, experiencing a vortex site is one of the most unique ways to enjoy Sedona culture. It’s also one of the romantic things to do in Sedona for couples.

– by Valentina of Valentina’s Destinations 

6. Shop for local handicrafts

Leather Native American dream catchers are decorated with beads and feathers and hang inside a shop in Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona is a dream for retail therapy. You’ll find anything from fine art galleries and authentic silver jewelry to wineries and quirky gift shops.

If you’re looking for authentic Navajo pottery and original artwork, look for certificates of authenticity and browse proven shops like Kachina House or Clear Creek Trading Company.

For more artsy shopping, Hillside Sedona has three levels of galleries amid red rock views. You’ll find local jewelry, gorgeous bronze, oil and glass work, along with crystals from around the world.

Native American pottery is lined on a shelf inside a shop in Sedona, Arizona. The vases are colored brown ochre and decorated with geometric patterns in blue and yellow.

Insider’s tip: For foodies, head to The Art of Wine in uptown Sedona, which features 25 different Arizona wineries and hosts tasting events.

And to feed your soul, Sedona Crystal Vortex has knowledgeable service and an incredible collection of crystals and minerals.

7. Stroll through the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

Homes with balconies stand in Sedona lined with potted plants and iron balconies.

The Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is a Sedona landmark with its cobblestone maze of upscale shops, restaurants and fountain-filled courtyard.

Tlaquepaque means “the best of everything” in the Nahuatl Native American language. It was built in the 1970s on the banks of Oak Creek and modeled after a traditional Mexican village.

It includes gorgeous details like wrought iron railing, hand-painted tiles and masonry walls.

Shady sycamores provide cool breezes in the summer. Vines dangle from the rustic stucco walls and potted flowers frame the arched entryways. Cottonwood trees line the winding streets and nestle some 50 different shops and art galleries, along with four plazas.

An old church tower stands in the distance on a road lined with trees and potted plants in Sedona, Arizona.

Insider’s tip: It’s also a wedding destination – there’s an intimate chapel on site. And the village plays host to cultural events like Flamenco in the Courtyard concerts, Day of the Dead celebrations and an annual tree-lighting ceremony.

The art galleries and specialty shops at Tlaquepaque offer original and eclectic art, from bronze sculptures to traditional ceramics and glass-blown art.

There are also Southwestern paintings, decor pieces, large format photography and contemporary jewelry. The wide range of unusual and creative offerings make this village a discovery for the senses.

Tlaquepaque also holds five delectable restaurants, from Mexican to fine French dining. There’s also an on-site brewery with a gorgeous oak bar and The Secret Garden Cafe, which offers patio dining and plenty of vegetarian options.

8. Browse the Center for the New Age

A purple building with yellow details and lights in the windows makes up the new age center in Sedona, Arizona.

The massive superstore Center for the New Age. is just across the street from Tlaquepaque. Brimming with crystals, astrology books and nature sounds that promise inner peace, the center also offers psychic readings and aura photos.

The New Age movement has boomed in Sedona since the 1970s. Hippies and spiritual seekers claim the city holds vortexes of electromagnetic energy amid the red rock landscape that boast special healing powers.

The Center for the New Age is a good starting point to dig into this scene – or just pick up a crystal or two.

The new age center in Sedona is pictured with red rock formations in the background. On the right is a close up of a pyramid with a spinning sphere on top.

The center offers a long line-up of psychic readers with amazed client testimonials that you can book for an appointment. There are also nighttime UFO sighting tours on offer with military night vision goggles. Sightings are guaranteed or your money back, the brochures say.

Insider’s tip: Sign up for a vortex experience. One of the center’s expert tour guides will guide you through one of Sedona’s four “swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth.”

The Center for the New Age is also a good spot to find info about upcoming yoga or meditation workshops. If you’re looking for a “portal to the Mer Ka Ba,” it’s here too. In the form of a pyramid-shaped sculpture topped with a spinning sphere that plays soothing music.

9. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross

A tall church with a facade shaped like a cross is built right into the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona.

This stunning Roman Catholic chapel is build right into the red buttes of Sedona – and it turns very picturesque at sunset.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was first dreamed up by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who’d been a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Staude was inspired by the recently constructed Empire State Building to erect a chapel inside the Coconino National Forest.

A tall church with a facade shaped like a cross is built right into the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona.

A curvy ramp leads to the entrance of the chapel. Inside, a tall iron cross inspired by New York’s skyscraper is the centerpiece. The cross is held up by concrete walls and measures 90 ft (27.4 m) tall.

The entire structure sits at the base of a 1,500 ft (457 m) cliff and, inside, offers sweeping views of Sedona’s landscapes from its enormous windows.

Stately and minimalist, the chapel is one of Arizona’s man-made wonders and a destination for both Christians and New Age mystics alike.

10. Take a swim at Slide Rock State Park

Red cliffs in Sedona, Arizona loom over a canyon where a creek runs through.

Slide Rock is a natural water park that’s surrounded by nature. And it’s ranked as one of the best swimming holes in the country.

When the sun beats down in the Arizona summer, this state park (7 miles from Sedona) makes for some hilarious fun in the cold water. Just grab a seat on one of the smooth rocks and push yourself off for a wild ride downstream.

Insider’s tip: Slide Rock State Park was originally a historic 43-acre apple farm and still has a small operational apple orchard that you can see today.

Red cliffs in Sedona, Arizona loom over a canyon where a creek runs through.

But the park’s main attraction is the slippery bed of Oak Creek. The canyon bed makes a natural water slide that’s hilarious fun for adults and children alike.

The rock slide area measures 80 feet long with a 7 percent decline from start to finish. Algae growing along the rocks propel you down the slide as the scenery whizzes past.

Red rock formations surround the park and there are three hiking trails to explore and picnic ramadas for lunch.

11. Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad

A train runs through a green valley near Sedona, Arizona.

A trip aboard the historic Verde Canyon Railroad is one of Arizona’s most scenic train rides.

The Verde Canyon Railroad sets off from the old mining town of Clarkdale, about a half hour from Sedona, and takes you through the canyon’s incredible landscapes.

Insider’s tip: Upgrade to the first-class car and you’ll get food and drinks along the way, including a champagne toast to being your journey.

If you’re booking the coach class seats, there’s a cafeteria where you can buy snacks for the four-hour trip through the Verde Valley.

A train runs through some grey colored hills near Sedona, Arizona lined with rustic bushes.

Every car has access to an open-air viewing car where you’ll likely spend most of your time. For special occasions, you can even rent out a caboose that accommodates up to six people.

Shortly after pulling out of the Clarkdale station, you’ll see some cliff dwellings from the pre-Columbian Sinagua people. You’ll cross the lush Verde River and glimpse the native flora and fauna before entering Sedona’s well-known red rock landscape.

The scenery is incredible on this trip!

In addition to daily tours, Verde Canyon Railroad hosts special events like the fall color tour, a wine-tasting tour and starlight rides.

– by Leigh of Campfires & Concierges

12. Hike the Cathedral Rock Trail

A woman stands on the edge of a tall red cliff in Sedona, Arizona.

Cathedral Rock is a short hike – and one of Sedona’s most thrilling with sweeping views of red rock formations.

But Cathedral Rock is a popular hike so prepare for crowds, especially on weekends. Start early to avoid the day’s heat and score a parking spot.

The trail is only about 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometres). But it can be challenging for some hikers because it’s all uphill with a 740-foot elevation gain.

A woman sits on the edge of a red cliff in Sedona, ARizona, overlooking a valley filled with dark brown hills and green trees.

Insider’s tip: Keep good hiking practices in mind and wear hiking boots with a good grip to prevent slipping when you’re descending the trail.

The trail has incredible scenery for miles and views of some local homes build right into the mountains.

Once you’ve hit the “end of trail” sign you can walk right and continue on the narrow pathway for some epic views and a great photo opp. It’s a short walk but not for the faint of heart – so tread cautiously.

– by Jeanine of Le Wild Explorer 

13. Ride the Red Rock Scenic Byway

A road with a looming red rock formation in the distance in Sedona, Arizona.

Ranked as the state’s most scenic drive, the Red Rock Scenic Byway (SR 179) is sprinkled with Sedona’s red rock formations and Native American cliff dwellings.

It offers roadside views of Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock – and plenty of spots to pull over for photos.

Many of the pull-offs on this 14-mile (22 km) drive have short but breathtaking hiking trails to explore. The byways is called a “museum without walls” and the light is always changing depending on the time of day.

There are plenty of sharp turns and swirling curves on this road that bring you close to the local nature and offer moving perspectives of Sedona’s rocky icons.

A tall red rock formation is illuminated golden in the setting sun in Sedona, Arizona.

Geological features, mountain biking trails and two golf courses line this drive, cutting through the yucca, sagebrush and ponderosas of the Coconino National Forest.

Insider’s tip: Honored with the name “All American Road,” the Red Rock Scenic Byway is a destination in itself. And it’s one of the most gorgeous memories visitors take away from Sedona.

Though you’ll likely use this Sedona main road to get around town, the Red Rock Scenic Byway is worth a drive on its own from start to finish.

14. Catch a red rock sunset

The red rock formations in Sedona are illuminated in the setting sun.

As evening nears in Sedona it’s not hard to find a good view to watch the sunset – whether you’re on a hiking trail or shopping uptown,

Picturesque red rock formations surround the city and take on an ethereal glow at dusk.

For the best photos that capture that otherworldly sunset orange glow, position yourself with the sun behind you. Shoot in front as the sun hits the landscape.

Best spots to watch the sunset: 

The red rock formations are illuminated in Sedona, Arizona as the sun sets. There are dark patches of green bushes in the foreground.

  • Red Rock Crossing: the shimmering waters of Oak Creek and the towering red Cathedral Rock are picture-perfect at sunset.
  • Airport Mesa: this spot is easily accessible by car and boasts 360 views of Sedona. But get there early to stake a good spot.

15. Cozy up at a Southwestern hotel

The courtyard of a hotel in Sedona lined with chairs around a bonfire and covered in Navajo blankets.

Staying overnight in Sedona makes it easy to catch those spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

But make reservations in the winter. Many snowbird visitors flock from colder states to the Arizona sunshine and rooms fill up fast.

A beautiful hotel in an atmospheric setting lets you appreciate Sedona beyond the rushed day trip.

The El Portal hotel is known for boutique elegance and rustic Southwestern decor. It’s a small and charming luxury inn – and Sedona’s only arts & crafts adobe hotel. It’s a short walk from Tlaquepaque, nestled amid leafy trees.

Insider’s tip: There’s a vine-covered garden courtyard where guests gather around a fire pit.

A leafy courtyard at a hotel in Sedona is illuminated by a small bonfire as guests sit in lounge chairs and chat.

Inside, hand-sculpted walls and windows framed in 200-year-old recycled wood create a rustic elegance. Gorgeous details like adobe fireplaces, worn leather armchairs, juniper beams and Navajo rugs give the rooms personality.

After a day of hiking the rugged Sedona valley, you can snuggle into a cozy lounge chair by an outdoor fireplace.

16. Spend a night stargazing

The night sky in Sedona is dark with the stars illuminated and a golden glow coming from a red rock formation.

Sedona is fantastic for stargazing with its minimal light pollution and tons of dedicated stargazing tours. You should absolutely add a nighttime expedition to your Sedona itinerary.

Sedona is one of just 20 dedicated Certified Dark Sky communities in the U.S. Which means the region is careful to limit light pollution.

And you don’t have to venture far for super-dark skies perfect for stargazing. The rocky landscapes are also an astro photographer’s dream and make for a dramatic foreground.

The night sky in Sedona is dark with the stars illuminated and a golden glow coming from a red rock formation.

Dark skies are only a short drive away, especially at the Two Trees Observing Deck, the Jordan Trailhead Observing Area or the Crescent Moon Picnic Site. All the locations are incredible for spotting faraway stars.

Insider’s tip: Stargazing in Sedona is an incredible experience year-round. Though visibility can get cloudy in the monsoon season of July and August.

Whether you opt for a stargazing tour with telescope that helps you see far-away galaxies and planets, or a “UFO spotting” tour that uses binoculars with night vision, you’re sure to see a plethora of beautiful stars.

– by Allison of Eternal Arrival

Best day trips from Phoenix

The Hopi House at the Grand Canyon is rusty red and rectangular with a single green tree in the foreground.

Hit the road to discover more Arizona natural wonders, from idyllic lakes in the middle of desert mountains to historic mining towns.

Read 11 Incredible Day Trips From Phoenix (A Local’s Guide!) to plan your trip.

Unique things to do at the Grand Canyon

The SkyWalk at the Grand Canyon has a circular platform that juts out from a cliff and overlooks the deep canyon below.

From helicopter rides and rafting to hidden gems and quiet trails, read 12 Unique Things To Do At The Grand Canyon to plan your trip.

More resources:

6 Incredible Things To Do In Pine, Arizona (A Local’s Guide)

15 Best Things To Do In Old Town Scottsdale

15 Must-See Phoenix Hidden Gems