With its glorious landscapes and laid-back vibes, Sedona is perfect to explore nature or browse some art. Here are the best things to do in Sedona, Arizona.
Locals say that God created the Grand Canyon but he lives in Sedona. Watching the sunset turn Sedona’s sweeping red rocks to orange makes it easy to see how this small city rivals the state’s biggest tourist destinations.
Sedona’s majestic landscape holds sites sacred to the Native Americans. The Yavapai and Apache tribes lived in the area until they were forced onto a reservation in 1876.
Today the city pulls in enthusiasts of the New Age spiritual movement who still believe in the healing powers of its red earth.
Surrealist painter Max Ernst built a quiet home in Sedona after fleeing Paris to escape the horrors of World War II. Similarly inspired artwork fills the city’s galleries today. Long used by film directors as a backdrop for dozens of Westerns, Sedona offers great hiking trails and outdoor adventures.
Here are the best things to do in Sedona, Arizona:
1. Explore Sedona’s maze of hiking trails
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 Hike, a 5.6-km trail that snakes around the city’s tiny airport, doesn’t take much exertion and offers stunning views.
The air is crisp and smells lightly of creosote bushes. This resinous aroma, once used by Native Americans for congestion, grows pungent during summer rains.
2. Visit the Crescent Moon Ranch
The nearby Crescent Moon Ranch is one of the most photographed areas of the Southwestern US. The site’s first homestead stands near the entrance of the ranch, where early Anglo settler John Lee shoveled through rock and dirt in the late 1800s to make a ditch to divert water to the OK ranch. A custom-built water wheel was brought in 30 years later. It drove a water pump and an electric generator to bring lights to the ranch.
Further into the ranch, down a narrow pathway lined with berry bushes, the towering Cathedral Rock reflects in the water of Oak Creek. Children love to swim here in the summer and during more moderate winters. Visitors stack stones into tall, gravity-defying piles to leave their mark. These piles balance on tree branches and along the trails that run alongside the creek.
3. Browse some authentic Sedona souvenirs
Shopping for authentic art and souvenirs can be tricky. Many shops downtown are wildly overpriced compared to Phoenix. And things can get kitschy. There are badly-executed watercolors of cowboys riding off into the sunset and plastic cacti magnets. For authentic Navajo pottery and original artwork, look for certificates of authenticity and browse proven shops like Kachina House.
4. Stroll through the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
The Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village with its maze of upscale shops, restaurants and courtyards has become a Sedona landmark in its own right. The center was built in the 1970s and modelled after a Mexican village. It includes details like wrought iron railing, hand-painted tiles and masonry walls. Cottonwood trees line the winding streets and nestle some 40 different shops and four plazas.
The El Picaflor gallery is a stand-out with handmade Andean arts such as flutes from Peru and colorful ceramic skulls associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
5. Browse the New Age boutiques
Across the street, there is a row of New Age shops offering crystals, astrology books and nature sounds CDs that promise inner peace. The New Age movement has been booming in Sedona since the 1970s. Hippies and spiritual seekers claimed they’d discovered vortexes of electromagnetic energy with special healing powers amid the towering landscape.
Here you can get a psychic reading or a photo of your aura. Or find out about yoga workshops or meditation retreats on offer year-long. 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.
6. Catch the sunset with a view
As evening nears in uptown Sedona, it’s not hard to find a good view to watch the sunset. Picturesque red rock formations surround the city and take on an ethereal glow at dusk. The Pink Java Cafe is a great spot for views of the sweeping valley.
7. Cozy up at a unique hotel
There are enough outdoor adventures in Sedona for a longer trip.
But reservations are recommended in winter when “snowbird” visitors flock from America’s colder states to the Arizona sunshine.
The El Portal hotel is known for casual elegance and rustic Southwestern decor. Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report named it one of America’s eight best hotels. After a day hiking the rugged Sedona valley, you can snuggle into a cozy lounge chair by an outdoor fireplace. The ambers echo the glow of the red rocks still fresh in your mind.