Sedona is at the bottom end of Oak Creek Canyon, close to Flagstaff in Arizona. It is in a region where there has been human life for more than 10,000 years. In those days, the population was composed of hunter-gathers who then began basic farming.
The Spanish first arrived in the 16th century, on an expedition to seek out the wealth of Native American mines. They did not settle then, and the beginnings of Sedona itself appeared in the second half of the 19th century. It became a small farming and ranching settlement and by 1902, with around 20 families now settled locally, it petitioned for a post office. The man who submitted the application was Theodore Schnelbly who named it after his wife, Sedona.
Sedona is known for its spectacular red monoliths and buttes. Add to that the elevation of 4,500 feet, with its pollution-free air, and the town is a photographer’s dream.
Among the 15 things to do in Sedona are trips out of town to enjoy the stark landscape and explore the natural desert environment.
1. Sedona Heritage Museum
This museum focuses on the period when settlers began to arrive in the mid-1870s. It is located in one of the homes that date back to that time, that of the Jordan family. With the support of the local Historical Society, it maintains the modern history of Sedona.
In the early days, agriculture was largely for personal consumption, with the land irrigated by the creek. Gradually, a thriving fruit trade developed, although that has now largely disappeared.
In the heyday of Western movies, all the big Hollywood stars came, as Sedona was an ideal location for such films.
2. Devil’s Bridge Trail
The natural sandstone arch known as Devil’s Bridge is a remarkable sight. It is a 1.8-mile hike to get there and back, with an elevation of just 400 feet from the starting point.
The obvious advantage is that the walk is neither long nor steep, but you will need a decent level of fitness. As the trail was originally intended for 4 x 4s, the surface is fairly good.
You will arrive at the base of the bridge which is 50 feet high. If you have the energy, you can get to the top. That is the hardest part of the trek, with the reward lovely views.
3. Sedona Star Gazing
The clear desert skies make for great night-time viewing. The stars in the sky are sensational and something that you will not experience in the city. Indeed, there are few better places to stargaze in the whole of the USA than Arizona.
Tours are available with highly qualified experts and the best astronomical equipment. You will learn about the night sky and no tour exceeds a comfortable number of participants, so everyone is guaranteed the chance of plenty of time looking through the telescopes.
Clear nights are virtually assured so book whenever is a good time for you.
4. Camping in Oak Creek Canyon
There are 6 organized camping grounds in Oak Creek Canyon. Each has excellent facilities for guests, including picnic tables and grills.
There is a 7-day limit on camping and although some sites can be booked in advance, others are first come first served.
There are plenty of fish in the creek if you do not want to stray too far, but most campers aim to hike at least part of the time when they are in the canyon. It is a great place for families with kids of all ages.
Top rated tour: Oak Creek Canyon Jeep Pavement Tour
5. Palatki Heritage Site
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palatki remembers the time when the Sinagua lived in the region. No one is certain why those people left or died out, though drought and attacks from others are two popular theories. The location is Coconino Forest, close to Sedona.
The word ‘’Palatki’’ means red house in the Hopi language and the cliff homes in Red Rock County are said to have been inhabited between 1150 and 1350, with the rock art equally interesting. The Arizona Natural History Association runs the site which is open to the public throughout the year.
6. Verde Valley Wine Trail
Arizona perhaps does not get the credit it deserves for wine production, certainly outside the USA.
The only problem in following the Verde Valley Wine Trail is that you will need a driver in order to enjoy it. If you follow the whole trail you will be going to five wineries and visiting six rooms purely for tasting.
The trail covers a number of towns in the valley including Sedona, and you will certainly be able to taste differences between the wide variety of wines you will be offered.
7. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Even if you have no plans to do any shopping while you are in Sedona, you should still go to this famous Arts and Crafts Village.
Situated close to Oak Creek, even the village itself is interesting, with the typical traditional Mexican style. It has been a landmark in Sedona for almost half a century.
From the initial idea of creating an artistic community, Tiaquepaque is now much more than that. You will see some very skillful work and perhaps even meet its creator. Products include art, jewelry, weaving and textiles, which you will certainly be tempted to buy.
8. Slide Rock State Park
This park just north of Sedona was originally a family homestead, keeping livestock and growing apples. It became a state park in 1987.
It had needed a good irrigation system to help the orchard thrive. Rustic cabins were built in the 30s for visitors to the area to stay.
Over 300 apple trees still survive today, and the park is run jointly by the Forest Service and Arizona State Parks. It has been used widely in film, and you should go to see why it has created such an impact on visitors.
9. Airport Mesa
For beauty, this hiking loop trail is able to compete with any in the region. You will be walking at a height of 4,500 feet. At times you will get 360-degree panorama over the many landmarks, with many featuring the red rocks typical of Sedona.
Parking is available at the start of the trail but its popularity means that the parking lot is sometimes full. The alternative is to park a mile away; don’t let that put you off because you will be rewarded by some stunning scenery as you walk. Your photographs will get pride of place in your album.
10. Boynton Canyon Trail
You can take your dog on a lead if you choose this 6-mile hike, and include your pup in the beauty of this 6-mile hike. You may see gila monsters and lizards, and you are certain to see a variety of birds, including the colorful blue jay.
The terrain varies from desert to forest, with some early stretches arguably the best for taking photographs. You should take plenty of water with you on a hot day, although you will find shade along the way.
11. Cathedral Rock Trail
While this rock trail is fairly short; only about a mile long, it is not for the novice.
The trail is well-marked with basket cairns, with the initial ascent fairly straightforward. Once you reach a plateau, you may want to stop for a while simply to take in the lovely views. A little later on the trail, there is a decision to make: continue on a far more difficult route or be happy with what you have seen. If you continue, the climb is at 45 degrees for around 40 feet.
The decision is yours, with slippery conditions after wet weather, but good foot and hand holds if the weather is dry. If you continue, the views are amazing at the end of the trail. Keep an eye on the weather and your energy levels and don’t take any risks.
12. Chapel of the Holy Cross
A student of Frank Lloyd Wright built this chapel back in 1956 in a location where it is surrounded by huge red rocks, which are typical of the region.
Marguerite Brunswig Staude wanted to create something that paid tribute to the Catholic Church and on seeing the red rocks, she decided this place was ideal.
If you can select a time to go there, pick a time when the sunlight hits the stained-glass windows. Even those not remotely interested in religion are certain to be impressed.
13. Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park
You may be surprised to get something more regularly associated with Buddhism in Arizona. Similar stupas are found in Asia, some built over 2,500 years ago. However, this stupa, surrounded by smaller red spires and stunning pines, has been impressing visitors since 2004.
The stupa is just 36 feet high and opens each morning at sunrise, staying open until the sun sets. It is just a short walk to reach it and although entry is free, donations are welcome.
14. A Balloon Expedition
While you will need to get up before first light for this one, the experience of soaring above the impressive landscape of Sedona and the surrounding region in a hot air balloon is a unique experience.
Dawn is a quiet time, and is quieter still in your hot air balloon. Typically, you will be one of six or seven passengers and if you are already in a group of that size, you will have the balloon to yourselves.
Get a birds-eye view of the places that you might already have visited or look out for the ones you intend to see later in your holiday.
15. Montezuma Castle National Monument
Less than an hour south of Sedona you will find Montezuma Castle National Monument, named after the Aztec Emperor who was not even born when the buildings were constructed. The 20 rooms were made of mud and stone and were home to the Sinagua people between the 12th and 15th centuries.
This is the best-preserved site of its kind in the region and visitors can hike a short trail to reach the site.