What to Do, Where to Stay and Eat in Sedona

by Michelle Hutchinson

View of Sedona from airport

Vistas, vortexes, and the vastness of our galaxy are just some of the things to take in during a visit to Sedona. Clear, dry weather makes this possible on most days in the Arizona town of striated rocks and canyons.

Sedona sunset

Sedona sunset

For the best sunset, head to the Sedona Airport. A scenic overlook right across the road from the airport’s entrance offers stunning views of the terrain and the opportunity to strike up conversations with other visitors. As the setting sun casts shadows on the buttes and mesas, the air will turn chilly, so be sure to bring a jacket. While there with my daughter, a friendly airport ambassador answering questions and a woman playing a dulcimer added to the convivial atmosphere. Be sure to show your gratitude and keep this effort going by dropping a donation in the designated box.

Bell Rock, Sedona

Bell Rock, Sedona

Hiking is another way to appreciate Sedona’s landscape. Sedona’s Top 10 Hikes by Dennis Andres turned out to be a handy guide for our excursions. Bell Rock Path was our first outing, and from this picture, you can easily see how it got its name. Spiritualists tout Bell Rock as one of Sedona’s area of vortexes, or natural energy fields. I can’t vouch for the spiritual perspective, but when a strong warm breeze blew through, a swirling mass of dust emanated from the ground beneath our feet.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

20140310_120940A short drive from Bell Rock is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small Catholic church built into a mountainside. On the day we were there, the line of cars to get into the parking lot was creeping along so slowly that we decided to park in a pullout at the bottom of the mountain and walk up the steep road. Our efforts were rewarded with another set of spectacular views.

 

One of the heart-shapred rocks

My daughter holds one of the heart-shapred rocks

 

My daughter on top of The Vortex

My daughter on top of The Vortex

Boynton Canyon, on the other side of Sedona, offers a longer hike than Bell Rock Path. We didn’t do all of it, especially since we arrived there late in the day, but someone in the parking lot suggested a route called The Vortex, which is not on the official trail map, but is easy enough to find. Shortly after the trailhead, you walk through a forest of pines, and after crossing a creek bed (which was dry during our March visit), follow the trail to the left. Along the trail, my daughter and I met a suntanned elderly gentleman who gave us heart-shaped rocks. He asked for nothing in return except that we “continue to spread the love.” The trail ends at the natural, towering rock formation that you see behind my daughter in the photo to the left, and yes, the photo to the right reveals she did indeed climb it. My feet, however, stayed firmly planted on the ground. How else would I have gotten this picture?

 

Cliff dwellings at the Palatki Ruins

Cliff dwellings at the Palatki Ruins

 

If history is your thing, you’ll enjoy the Palatki Ruins, remains of homes of the cliff-dwelling Sinagua native Americans and their pictograph art (painted symbols). The ruins date back to 1100 A.D. I learned quite a bit from the docents at this site, including the fact that

Pictographs, Palatiki Ruins

Pictographs, Palatki Ruins

Sinagua (meaning without water) is not what the tribe of native Americans called themselves but is the name given to them by historians who believe the tribe left the area when water was no longer available. You will need reservations (call 928-282-3854) and a Red Rock parking pass (available at most hotels or at the site) to visit the Palatki Ruins. I recommend arriving before your reserved time because the tours leave promptly. During our visit, a family of four showed up on time but needed to buy their parking pass at the information center, so the dad had to run back to their car, put the pass on the windshield, and catch up with the rest of us. That parking pass is also needed at Bell Rock Path, Boynton Canyon, and many other Sedona hiking areas. You can buy a one-day pass for $5 or a one-week pass for $15.

 

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is a two-hour drive from Sedona, so if you’ve never seen this natural wonder, you should definitely make the trip. I was there when I was 14, but the canyon still took my breath away upon seeing it again. Traffic was relatively light in March, but I hear it picks up significantly during the summer. Travel along the 25-mile Desert View Drive, and stop at the designated scenic overlooks, each affording a different but equally inspiring perspective of the canyon.

Sedona’s clear skies make it a perfect location for gazing at the heavens at night, so we signed up for an astronomy tour with Sedona Star Gazing for the night of our return from the Grand Canyon. We were not disappointed. The company’s powerful telescopes provided outstanding views of Jupiter, with its upper and lower cloud storms and three of its four moons; Mars, which appeared as a round red blur low on the horizon; a binary star in the handle of the Big Dipper; Pleiades, a cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus; the moon, with its Sea of Tranquility and details of its many craters; and much more. Even though the folks at Sedona Star Gazing provide chairs, parkas, and blankets, you should still dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves for this outing. We had not planned on this excursion before leaving home, but fortunately, we were able to pick up hats and gloves on clearance at a local Walgreens.

Sedona satisfied our palates as nicely as the scenery satisfied as our eyes. We enjoyed a delectable Italian dinner at Troia’s and melt-in-your-mouth chimichangas at El Rincon. Red Rock Café, Wildflower Bread Co., and Nick’s were three good lunch places; nothing fancy, just tasty food. For ice cream, check out Black Cow Café.

Many of these places were recommended by the staff at the Southwest Inn. Our accommodations there were very pleasant and included a wonderful daily breakfast. Don’t leave without trying the breakfast burritos.

With all our hiking and other activities, we were ready for massages on our last day in Sedona. The Southwest Inn suggested we try Namti. Sheila and Michael, two massage therapists at this training facility, worked out the knots in our muscles at a very reasonable price. With their techniques, we were still relaxed as we boarded our flight home the next day. As I drifted off to sleep in my airplane seat, my dreams were filled with magnificent memories of our Sedona vacation.

Click on any image in the post to magnify. All images are copyrighted and may not be used without written permission of the author.

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