Sedona is at the bottom end of Oak Creek Canyon, close to Flagstaff, 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-gatherers who then began basic farming.
The Spanish then arrived in the 16th century on an expedition to seek out the wealth of Native American mines. However, they did not settle then. The beginnings of Sedona itself appeared in the second half of the 19th century, when it became a small farming and ranching settlement by 1902, with around 20 families now settled locally.
Sedona was named after Sedona Schenebly, a pioneer in the Oak Creek Area of Arizona and the wife of Theodore Schenebly, who was the first postmaster of the town.
Sedona is known for its spectacular red monoliths and buttes. It is a photographer’s dream and an inspirational place where you can seek spirituality and peace.
As a travel enthusiast who has gone to Sedona a couple of times and a resident of Arizona, Sedona has a special place in my heart. Your first visit might feel overwhelming because you’ll be filled with excitement and wonder. So to help, I want to share with you these 15 things you can do in Sedona to enjoy its stark landscape and explore its natural desert environment.
1. Sedona Heritage Museum
During my first travel to Sedona, the first thing I had on my list was to know its history. I first went to Sedona Heritage Museum to familiarize myself with the town and make the most out of my visit.
Sedona Heritage Museum is located in Jordan Historical Park, which was the homestead of the Jordan family. This museum focuses on the period when settlers began to arrive in the mid-1870s until the golden era of Western filmmaking in the 1950s, when all the big Hollywood stars came, as Sedona was an ideal location for such films.
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.
The museum is open daily which was fortunate during my weekend visit. You can witness their wide collection of memorabilia from 11 am to 3 pm.
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 and perseverance, I’m sure you can get to the top.
I can attest that this is the hardest part of the trek, but everything is worth it once you marvel at the great views that will be etched in your soul.
3. Sedona Star Gazing
With skyscrapers blocking the night sky in the city, the clear desert skies of Sedona will remind you of the times our ancestors first asked for the guidance of the stars.
Sedona’s skies make for great night-time viewing. The stars in the sky are sensational and something that you will not experience normally.
If you want to have the best stargazing experience, I suggest you book for tours available. There will be experts and the best astronomical equipment to assist you in the endeavor.
You will learn a lot about the night sky, and no tour exceeds a comfortable number of participants, so you will be guaranteed ample time to look through the telescopes. My visit felt like a blessing as clear nights are virtually assured. With this, you can 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. Though they say that there’s more fun in surprises, I suggest you book in advance and plan well for the best camping experience.
It is a great place for families with kids of all ages. 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.
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 people 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.
However, in my experience, reservations are still required when visiting Palatki. Currently, there are only three guides to assist visitors, so only 10 people are allowed from time to time.
You must also abide by the rules once you get to the site and follow what the guides tell you with respect to the heritage site. I also advise you to bring closed shoes and water, and as much as you love them, your fur babies are not allowed in the area.
6. Verde Valley Wine Trail
If you are a wine lover, then I recommend you to visit the Verde Valley Wine Trail. It offers you a profound experience filled with beauty, history, and of course, wine.
The trail covers a number of towns in the valley, including Sedona, and you will certainly be able to taste different variety of wines from wineries taking pride in their crafts that will suit your palate.
However, I suggest you bring along a companion to drive you back home because the whole trail is a paradise of wine. Similar to my visit, you will be going to five wineries and visiting six rooms purely for wine tasting.
7. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Your visit to Sedona is not complete if you do not visit this famous Arts and Crafts Village. Situated close to Oak Creek, even the village itself is interesting, with its traditional Mexican-style infrastructures. It has been a landmark in Sedona for almost half a century.
From the initial idea of creating an artistic community, Tlaquepaque is now much more than that. You will see some very skillful works and perhaps even meet their creators. Products include art, jewelry, and textiles, which you will certainly be tempted to buy.
But, of course, as a person who seeks meaning in the places I visit, I assure you that Tlaquepaque will give you the warmth of inspiration, especially if you’re a creative one.
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 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 films, and I suggest you write Slide Rock State Park on your bucket list to witness why it has 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 a 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. I recommend parking a mile away but don’t let this put you off because you will be rewarded by some stunning scenery as you walk.
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. I also recommend bringing plenty of water and snacks with you on a hot day.
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.
I suggest that you choose good weather as it can be slippery after rain. Follow the guidelines, and don’t take risks when visiting the rock trails, as it could be dangerous.
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 select a time to go there, I recommend picking a time when the sunlight hits the stained-glass windows. I assure you that 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.
Since this is a sacred place, I advise you to maintain tranquility with respect to the place. During my visit, I took the opportunity to self-reflect and meditate while viewing the magical scenery surrounding me. Take this opportunity to unwind and know more about yourself.
14. A Balloon Expedition
This was a tedious experience at first as I had to get up before the first light for this one. However, the experience of soaring above the impressive landscape of Sedona and the surrounding region in a hot air balloon is a unique experience. The memory is still vivid in my head.
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 the 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. Visiting Montezuma Castle gave me an insight into the culture of the people who once lived there. It felt like time travel with valuables lessons to take back home.