Almost perfectly center in our neighboring state sits a town often referred to as ‘The Vortex.’ Famous for its breathtaking views, infamous orange and green landscapes, and crystal shops adorned with purple aliens, Sedona, Arizona is the desert oasis you’ve been dreaming of.
Sedona is a spicy place. Perhaps it’s the dry, desert heat, the extraterrestrial energy, or the divide of four Native American nations – or maybe it has something to do with being surrounded by enormous, red rock walls on all sides – but spend enough time there and you’ll see what I mean. Prepare for whatever mood you’re in to be amplified. If you’re feeling good you’ll be feeling great, but if you’re not so good then you may want to warn everyone to stay out of your way. If you can deal with the wide-swinging pendulum of temperatures and emotions, then you’re in for something sweet, because there truly is nowhere else like this southwestern escape.
Kick Your Own Ass
If there is one thing that you absolutely need to do in Sedona, it’s hiking. The scenery is so striking that anywhere you end up going will be impressive, but there are some hikes that are particularly alluring, and very much worth the butt-whoopin’ you will receive doing them.
Despite the name, a massive rock arch known as Devil’s Bridge provides some truly ethereal views. After a relatively mellow walk in followed by a steep climb, standing on top of the natural wonder surrounded by giants is a humbling reminder of our size and relative individual importance, in the best way possible. Though it is one of the more popular sites to see, it is absolutely worth the effort.
If you’re like me and you prefer your outdoor experiences uninterrupted by other humans, I recommend going for a walk at Sugarloaf Trail or the neighboring Teacup Trail. Towering above a quiet neighborhood, the trails take you up onto ‘Coffee Pot Rock’ with a breathtaking view of the domelike ‘Sugarloaf Mountain,’ and ‘Thunder Mountain,’ the rock formation that inspired the Disneyland ride.
Whether you’re going to a notorious landmark or just climbing around on the celestial, orange mountains, you’re set to see something astonishing. Take a peek at the list here for even more places to explore.
Strip ‘n’ Dip
Contrary to popular belief, the desert is not nearly as dry and desolate as one might imagine, and there is water on Mars. Sedona can get HOT and as a result you are going to want to get wet, often. If you’re visiting in the spring or summer, I recommend practicing what I like to call the ‘strip n dip’ – it’s simple, just remove your clothing and jump in any and every body of water you can find.
Right off highway 179 heading south is a spot referred to as the Windtunnel Caves, overlooking Oak Creek, which runs through all of Sedona. Climb through the caves and go for a swim in the creek for a break from reality.
Even further south you will find Wet Beaver Creek. While there are some more secluded nooks to hide out along the creek, ‘The Crack’ is a highly rated spot for swimming as well as cliff jumping.
Lastly is my favorite swim hole and a spot I’m still not positive I want to share, but it’s not marked on a map so if you can find it on your own then fair’s fair. Right in the heart of Sedona just down from Brewer Road is a local secret perfect for those of us with lizard-like temperaments who enjoy basking in the sun on warm rocks and taking a refreshing dip in some icy water.
Nothin’ but the Good Stuff
Though it’s still a part of the West, Sedona is encroaching on Southern territory, as made evident by the abundance of heartier dining options. However, Sedona also has a growing holistic health community, and as your local vegan health-nerd, I’ve found the spots that cater to every dietary need.
Have breakfast at Indian Gardens, about 10 minutes up highway 89 towards Flagstaff. Grab a coffee and their fancy avocado toast and relax in their shaded patio out back.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, you need to eat tamales at Tamaliza Café. Owned by a family of Mexican immigrants, the shoe-box sized restaurant is serving up authentic tamales made with the kind of love you can taste, and they cater to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike!
Mind Open, Heart Full
Sedona is a spiritual place in every sense of the word. Whether you consider yourself to be a spiritually guided person or not, it is important to be aware that Sedona is home to many dogmas, religious practices, cultures, and lifestyles, and as such one must be respectful and tolerant of all of them. Of all of the holy buildings, crystal shops, and sacred spaces, there are two that stand out to me the most.
Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park is a must-see no matter where you stand on the spiritual spectrum. A Buddhist establishment, the peace park is free and open to the public 7-days a week, welcome to any and all walks of life, and is quite unlike any place I’ve ever been. The serenity in the air is intoxicating and if you remain open to it, you will leave feeling refreshed and totally content, grateful that such a place exists.
Of all of the crystal shops around, and there are plenty, my top pick is Crystal Magic. While the shop offers a wide range of crystals, stones, smudge sticks, and various reading material, the selling point is a man by the name of Cosmic Bob – yes, that’s his real name. If you’re in the mood to get existential and you’re ready to have your mind blown, pop in and have a chat with Cosmic, you won’t regret it.
Get Lost, Find Yourself
Sedona is smack-dab in the middle of Arizona, and while it’s a relatively compact town, there are wide stretches of open land all around it with even smaller towns scattered intermittently. You’re already way out there you may as well see what’s nearby.
Turn off the GPS, turn up the music, go for a drive, get ‘lost,’ and find your way back. Whether it’s the cows roaming in Cornville, the peculiar mountain town of Jerome, Gold King Mine Ghost Town, or the ancient ruins Montezuma’s Castle, you’re destined to find something eye catching that you may have missed otherwise.
Locals Only: Look Out for Wildlife
Last but definitely not least, I must stress the importance of keeping an eye out for wildlife, particularly while driving. Sedona locals include deer, bobcats, rattlesnakes, lizards, javelinas, roadrunners, hawks, coyotes, rabbits, and a multitude of other outdoor-living creatures. Please remember that while this may be a vacation destination for us humans, these natural wonders are home to thousands of other species and our presence need not negatively impact their livelihood. Be a respectful guest. Drive the speed limit, watch out for four-legged j-walkers, and clean up after yourself wherever you go. Be good to nature and nature will be good to you.