Set amidst the glowing red sandstone formations of Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona draws people in for its captivating landscape and the spirituality and positive energy its vortexes inspire. What’s more, this desert town also happens to be an unexpected arts hub, with an affluence of boutique galleries to discover in the shadows of the red rock buttes. After flying into Phoenix, follow our Sedona travel guide to get the most out of your time in Arizona.
It’s undoubtedly the vivid red landscape surrounding Sedona that impresses first, so without hesitation, set out on an exploration of the desert town’s famously enthralling great outdoors. Day trips can easily be taken to the Grand Canyon, which is just two hours away, but before straying further afield it’s worth getting to know the immediate surroundings within the Oak Creek Canyon.
A network of hiking trails wind through the 1.8-million acres of national forest, four wilderness areas, and two state parks surrounding Sedona, leading hikers between staggering red rock formations – including well-known sites like Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Bear Mountain and Courthouse Rock – and through the sunbaked desert. Find out whether a park fee needs to be paid, and then set out along your chosen trail, map in hand or with a guide.
Aside from its sheer beauty, Sedona is also famous for the 15 vortexes that surround the desert town, each one emanating positive or negative energy, and inspiring feelings of tranquillity and enlivenment. The guides at Sedona Vortex Tours take visitors to see the land’s vortexes, teaching them how these mysterious forces of nature came into being.
The Oak Creek Canyon doesn’t just have to be explored on foot though; local tour operators offer visitors the chance to navigate the trails by mountain bike, ATV, motorcycle and Segway. Be accompanied by a guide on an ATV tour with Arizona ATV Adventures, hire a bike from Over the Edge, or sign up for a Segway tour with Adventures out West.
In town, set aside enough time to take a look around Sedona’s many art galleries, which exhibit everything from traditional fine art, photography and sculpture, to contemporary, native American and Indian artworks. The town has become increasingly renowned for its boutique gallery offering, but Exposures International Fine Art Gallery is in fact one of the largest fine art galleries in the world, with a reputation for exhibiting a diverse range of artworks, from bronze sculptures to oil paintings and glasswork.
The award-winning Goldstein Gallery has it own on-site sculpture garden, too, with a backdrop of red-rock formations, while the exhibition space inside is used to showcase the work of the region’s established and emerging artists.
Eating out in Sedona can be anything from a casual affair to a fine dining experience. Tuck into succulent grilled meat in one of Sedona’s steakhouses, try classic southwestern cuisine, or go for one of the many international dining options. Local produce encompasses fresh fruit, and trout from Oak Creek, while the grapes grown on the hillside are used to produce wine, with a number of the vineyards nearby offering wine tastings and tours.
Tii Gavo at Enchantment Resort focuses on using the flavours that are indigenous to the area in casual dishes like tacos, burgers and enchiladas, with panoramic views over the red rocks of Sedona, too. For fine dining, book a table at Cress on Oak Creek, where the chef uses local ingredients to produce seasonal dishes like Arizona pine-smoked venison and clam chowder, and guests dine in an idyllic setting on the banks of Oak Creek. To sample the local wine, venture to Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery. At this vineyard just outside of Sedona, visitors can try red, white and dessert wines in the winery’s tasting room.
Before leaving Sedona, take a look around Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. This enclave of cobblestone walkways and vine-covered stucco walls is home to a number of small galleries and independent shops, specialising in Native American and Southwestern arts and crafts, all of which make ideal souvenirs to remind you of your time in the desert town and its extraordinary surroundings.
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Have you visited any of the places in our Sedona travel guide? What did you do while you were there? Let us know in the comments section below.
Header image: Cathedral Rock in Sedona © iStock / alexeys
Written by Lauren Hill