By Stephanie Antin, of AlmostFreeFamilyTravel.com
Looking for a great road trip? There are tons of things to do in Sedona, Arizona, a town regarded as a spiritual center in the red rocks. In fact, there are more than a dozen “vortex” sites around Sedona, which are natural areas that are said to release different kinds of energy.
My son and I spent a long February weekend in Sedona as a mother-son getaway, and it was a super memorable long weekend!
Getting to Sedona
The easiest way to get to Sedona is via Phoenix, an airport which is on Southwest’s list of destinations if you want to use your Southwest Companion Pass and bring your companion for FREE!
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It was a short, easy flight from our home airport of San Diego. From there, we rented a car and the approximately 1 1/2-hour drive was very straightforward.
The view as you approach the red rocks is stunning! We had to get out of the car at the rest stop when we arrived just to admire the scenery.
Planning Your Sedona Vacation
There are plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts and cabins available to rent in Sedona to fit all budgets.
There are local restaurants with farm to table options, as well as chain restaurants. Some of my favorite local Sedona restaurants include 89Agave and Wildflower Bread Company.
The best months to visit Sedona are March, April and May when the weather is not too hot during the day, though it may be chilly at night. The most economical time to visit is mid-January through mid-February when crowds are fewest.
16 Groovy Things to Do in Sedona
While ideal for outdoor lovers, there are many things to do in Sedona from hiking to history to UFOs and hot air balloons. Here’s my list of your top options:
1. Go on LOTS of Hikes!
The main activity in Sedona is hiking. There are about 400 Sedona hiking trails, so that should keep even the most energetic person busy.
Here are some stand-out hikes to consider.
The Devils Bridge Trail hike features the largest natural sandstone arch in the area and takes about two hours round trip. It’s moderately difficult and includes a 400-foot vertical climb.
Boynton Canyon Trail is a 6-mile moderately difficult hike. Dogs are allowed as long as they stay on leash. You can buy a parking permit for $5 in the lot. It’s the site of a supposed vortex if you want to explore spiritual sites.
If you have kids, we found two of the best hikes for kids, one with a great view and one with water. Both are nearly FREE and FUN!
- The Airport Loop Trail, which is about 3 miles long, includes a hike to the summit for an awesome view. Expect to pay $3 to park in the lot at the top. Be warned, however, that the loop trail isn’t actually a loop. It doesn’t end back at the airport parking lot, so keep that in mind and watch your timing. From the parking lot, there is an incredible view of the sun setting behind the red rocks so expect a crowd at the end of each day.
- My favorite hike is the Templeton Trail. Not only do you get amazing views of the red rocks, but the trail ends at a water hole. Always a big plus for my kids! For this hike, you park in the lot for the Cathedral Trail. It will cost you $5 for a permit, which you can purchase from a machine in the lot. There are also bathrooms in the parking lot. To reach the Templeton Trail, follow signs for Cathedral Trail (Cathedral Rock is a super difficult hike. You will probably see hikers attempting the almost vertical 100-foot climb), and when you reach the plateau, veer to your right. Bring a picnic and a bathing suit, and it’s a great day!
2. Hop on a Pink Jeep Tour
If you feel like some off-road adventure, try a Pink Jeep tour. Prices range from $100-$150 for adults and children. There are also larger off-road vehicles available that hold more people and are more affordable.
3. Take a Sedona UFO Tour
They say Sedona is not a city; it is a “consciousness” ;-). At night, you can take a one-hour tour to learn about the “spiritual” side of Sedona. And if you have any doubts, the Sedona UFO tours promise sightings guaranteed as they show you odd things in the night sky using military night vision goggles.
4. Visit a Sedona Winery
It may not be the first thing you think of when you picture the desert town of Sedona, but people have been making wine here since the 17th century!
You will find about a dozen wineries in the Verde Valley. All of them are small wine production facilities so you can get an up close look at the art of wine making.
Arizona Winery Tours offers tours of Sedona wine country on a five-hour outing to visit three different wineries.
5. Drive to Oak Creek Canyon
A beautiful wooded canyon with a river running through it just north of Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon is a beautiful drive with views of sheer cliffs on both sides of the road. At the top, there is a pull-off with bathrooms (bonus!) and a beautiful overlook.
6. Take a Day Trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim
We opted to drive over the the Grand Canyon South Rim while in Sedona. Read my post below about what to do with a day on south side of this iconic American geographic feature.
The Grand Canyon South Rim is an approximately two-hour drive from Sedona, which you’ll need to do in the daylight because it’s tricky otherwise, so plan accordingly. Bring your National Park Pass or there is a $35 entry fee per car.
Explore the Visitor’s Center and the museum, and check out several viewpoints that peer into the canyon itself. You can also walk the mile trail along the rim, take a shuttle to different points or drive Desert View Trail to the watchtower.
7. Explore Flagstaff, Arizona
Roughly a 45-minute drive and a whole other world from Sedona, Flagstaff experiences all four seasons from the leaves changing in October to snow in winter. The area also features the world’s largest contiguous emerald green Ponderosa pine forest, and is located along the famous Route 66. “Flagstaff, Arizona … don’t forget Winona…” You know how the song goes ;-).
8. Shop for Crystals and Handicrafts
By now, you realize that Sedona is a spiritual center, so if you’re looking for crystals or to get educated on the power of crystals, stop into any of the dozen shops on the main street. There are crystals galore!
Hop on a Sedona Trolley tour, which takes you to the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, as well as other sites like Chimney Rock and Coconino National Forest. The Arts & Crafts village, modeled after Guadalajara, is a picturesque setting filled with courtyards, patios and terraces.
9. Stop in the Sedona Heritage Museum
The Sedona Heritage Museum focuses on Sedona’s history from the pioneers and cowboys to its movie-making era. Even the home that houses the museum was built in 1870.
10. Wander Among Ancient History
The Palatki Heritage Site remembers the Sinagua who lived in the area from 1150-1350. No one knows why the civilization died, but they left rock art and cliff homes as a legacy. There are three easy walking trails that total about 1.5 miles at the site, but are not accessible for wheelchairs.
11. Gaze at the Stars
Named a Dark Sky Community in 2014, Sedona is a great place to enjoy a clearer view of the night sky and the city has taken steps to reduce light pollution. While you can certainly just pull out a blanket and gaze upward yourself, you may also want to join a guided tour like the Evening Sky Tour with local astronomers who use telescopes to show you celestial bodies in closer detail.
12. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
What better way to view the red rocks than from the air? Take a magical Sedona hot air balloon ride with Red Rock Balloon Adventures where you’ll get to see the sun rise while flying and spend about 90 minutes in the air. In addition to marveling at the gorgeous red rocks, enjoy watching your pilot’s skill in navigating a hot air balloon!
13. Discover the Chapel of the Holy Cross
The gorgeous Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is actually a Catholic church, is an amazing feat of architecture completed in 1956. Nestled into the red rocks, it is a stunning creation. You can walk up the hill or take the shuttle to the chapel, which is free to enter, but donations are appreciated.
There are no regularly scheduled masses at the chapel, but groups can arrange to have mass celebrated there. You can also attend prayer every Monday at 5 p.m.
14. Visit a Vortex
If hiking isn’t your thing and you want to see just exactly what a vortex is (warning: you can’t actually “see” them :)), hop on a tour with Earth Wisdom Jeep Tours for a 2 1/2-hour Jeep excursion that takes you to some of the most popular vortex sites with plenty of outstanding views along the way.
15. Stop by Red Rock State Park
State parks can often be as great, or better!, than some National Parks, simply because you get the same great scenery minus all the crowds. Red Rock State Park offers fantastic hiking trails through scenic red rock formations, lots of wildlife like coyotes and javelinas, as well as excellent birding.
16. Go Mountain Biking
Sedona offers many top mountain biking trails where you can bring your own gear and head out for a thrilling ride, rent bikes or take a guided tour with a local company.
All in all, Sedona, Arizona is a great place to unwind and explore nature. We highly recommend it!
Want more outdoor adventures that we recommend?
- Your Ultimate Guide to Zion National Park
- Hike From Crested Butte to Aspen in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
- Epic Alpine Coasters to Ride in Fall
- Your Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park