When it comes to breathtaking views, easy hikes with stunning payoffs that are accessible right from town, and spiritual rejuvenation, it’s hard to think of a better destination than Sedona, Arizona.
I took a solo trip there just last week and these were my favorite things to do, along with some things I wish I had done, too!
Hike Your Heart Out
Arizona is full of gorgeous landscapes and Sedona is part of what makes it so wonderful. You’ll find sweeping views, rocks that range from golden yellow to bright orange, and so many sunset and sunrise opportunities you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the choices, just like I was!
The great news is most of the hikes are short and for the most part, they’re easy. You can easily do several in a day since many trails connect to each other. These were my favorites:
Seven Sacred Pools + Soldiers Pass
This popular trail takes you past the seven sacred pools, which when you stand on the edge of it, gives you a beautiful view of the pools with teeth-like mountains behind. This can be turned into a loop or done as an out and back. There’s also a branch off to a cave that you can find on the all trails app as it tracks your progress. With Verizon, I had service the whole time.
Keep in mind that this is a very popular trail, so you will be sharing it with lots of people. However I enjoyed the people I met on the trail and given how amazing the views are, I can understand the popularity! Just keep in mind this can impact parking, which goes for every suggestion on this list. Try to get there as early as possible to get a spot since you will be ticketed if you park on the road.
Sugarloaf is perfect for the sunrise and sunset. You’ll see views of the town of Sedona as well as Thunder Mountain, and many of the famous rock formations of Sedona. It’s also a quick hike, which I was able to do in about 20 minutes from the parking lot! There are several trails that branch off from here as well, and you can connect to the seven sacred pools and soldiers pass as well.
It was also much less crowded than the next suggestion on this list for sunrise. You can watch a full day of my solo trip to Sedona to see it more in-depth, including the Sugarloaf sunrise:
If you want to catch sunrise or sunset out of vortex, hike Cathedral Rock. This one is short at only half a mile, but much of that half mile is vertical, requiring hand and foot scrambling. Be sure to wear hiking boots that can handle slick rock, as I saw a few people unable to proceed on the trail due to wearing the wrong footwear. I arrived about 30 minutes before the sunrise and there was a steady stream of people behind me. By the time the sun actually rose, the parking lot was completely full.
Easily the most famous hike in Sedona, the Devil’s Bridge is a bridge-shaped rock made out of that gorgeous orangey rock that makes Sedona famous. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive to access most of the trail, so most people park down a bit lower and hike it instead. You’ll share the trail with Jeeps and will probably have to queue up for your turn to take a picture, but hey, that’s what happens when you have a hike this famous!
Feel the Energy at a Vortex
Sedona is famous for its energy vortices (or vortexes, I’m never sure which to use!). An energy vortex is a place in the earth where it is believed that there’s a concentration of energy that can be healing. It may seem like this is New Age B.S., but ancient civilizations have long believed in the power of specific places on Earth the world over. Sedona is just one of many places believed to have energy vortexes or even chakra centers of the Earth.
Technically all of Sedona is a vortex, but there are four specific places that people have identified as the most energetically charged:
- Airport Mesa
- Cathedral Rock
- Bell Rock, and
- Boynton Canyon
Don’t be surprised if you see people doing yoga, meditating, or leading healing sessions there. Are they for real? Are they just in your head? That’s for you to decide!
Take a Jeep Tour
Much of the beautiful vistas and landscapes in Sedona are only accessible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If you’re just renting a compact car like I did from the Phoenix airport, you won’t be able to get to these areas. Moreover, even if you do have a vehicle, if you’re not comfortable with driving on rocky terrain, letting someone else who is experienced to do it for you is the way to go!
This was a perfect example of when my just-wing-it ways came back to bite me, as these tours tend to book up well in advance. You’re probably here because you’re the planning type, so take it from me and book these tours ahead of time! I’ve listed some of the most popular and highest rated ones for you here:
Have a Spa Day
Once again, no planning ways came back to bite me with this one. Sedona has a plethora of amazing spas, but since I happened to visit over spring break — oops — none of the top rated ones had appointments left by the time I looked into it. But here are all of the best rated ones that I called:
- A Spa for you Sedona Day Spa
- Sedona’s New Day Spa (pricier)
- Blue Sage Day Spa
Try One of the Many Healing Offerings
As you walk around Sedona or peruse the options online, you’ll see an abundance of Reiki, spiritual healing, chakra alignment, and more. Some of this may come off as cheesy or overly salesy, and that’s not for me, either. But I did find a crystal sound bowl healing session that included a few minutes of introductory breathwork, and I loved it.
I knew that I wanted to do at least one healing experience while in Sedona, and when I looked at the prices and options, Ryan’s sound bowl meditation was perfect. At $44 a session, you get an hour and a half of sound bowl bliss.
What is it exactly? The sound bowls achieve different frequencies, and all you have to do is lay down and feel the vibrations in your body. At the very least, it will relax you, but I believe it is effective in realigning the chakras, which are our energetic centers throughout the body. The power that the sound of music has over us is profound, and its origins go all the way back thousands of years.
I booked it through Airbnb experiences here.
Check Out the Art Galleries
I love buying art when I travel, and Sedona had no shortage of galleries to check out! If you want several different options at once, the Sedona Artist Market has works on display from hundreds of artists including textiles, jewelry, and wall art. It’s 8000 square feet of art!
It’s kind of like a flea market for artists, which gives you the opportunity to buy it directly from the source. There’s also variety! It’s a great rainy day activity. Though they are rare in Sedona, they can happen!
Otherwise, you can find boutique galleries — and I mean dozens of them — all over the cute downtown area.
Did you know that apart from the main streets, Sedona doesn’t have street lights? I didn’t until arriving after dark and realizing that it was hard to see anything! But there’s a good reason for this – it’s so that you can see the dazzling stars overhead without having to drive hours outside of town.
If stargazing is important to you, plan your trip around the new moon so you can see the Milky Way on full display.
There are tours that you can do in order to go stargaze, but I don’t think this is necessary. If you’re comfortable hiking in the dark, just pick a trail that has good westerly views in the fall or southern views in the summer, which is where you’ll find the Milky Way core. Check the moon phase calendar before you go so that you know what time to look for the stars. They’re much easier to see during a new moon or after the moon has set.
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Check out the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Easily one of Sedona’s most photographed locations, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is nestled in red rocks and is particularly stunning when the lights are on. This one’s easy to access, and you can check it out after hiking to cathedral rock.
It was designed in the 1950s by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently it was inspired by a visit to the Empire State building in New York. These days it’s a Roman catholic church and even those who aren’t religious report feelings of serenity inside her walls.
Scenic Drives 89A and Red Rock Scenic Byway
There are 2 famous scenic drives in the Sedona area, the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and Highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff.
If coming from or going back down to Phoenix, the Red Rock Scenic Byway can be on your way!
If you’re heading up to Flagstaff anyway, instead of taking Highway 17, opt for 89A for a more beautiful, albeit windier, drive.
Slide Rock State Park
If you happen to be on your way to drive scenic Highway 89A anyway, leave some time for slide rock State Park. This is best enjoyed during the warmer months, so I didn’t visit when I was there in March, but it’s basically a natural water park with rivers and pools to cool off in.
Additionally, if you’re finding that the parking areas are full at many of the more popular hikes, which tends to happen pretty early in the day, you may have more luck parking and hiking at slide rock. The trails give you views of the famous rocks around Sedona, as well as an option to cool off in the water! And hey, it’s also nice to have water on the trail that you can purify and drink if needed – a rarity in Sedona!
Red Rock State Park
For more hiking and beautiful views, Red Rock State Park offers numerous hiking trails and ranger-led activities. Want to know why I didn’t go, though? For most of the year, the last entry into red rock State Park is at 4:30 PM, which is too late to see the sunset in the spring! The hours are extended in the summer months, but since I am a big fan of sunrises, sunsets, and stars, Red Rock isn’t the best option. Check out current operating hours here.
It’s amazing and almost overwhelming how much there is to do and see in Arizona. From the grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and all of the beautiful things in between, I hope you get the chance to explore more!
But at the very least, have an amazing experience in Sedona, and let me know in the comments what you do there!