How To Tour The Scenic Rocks, Water, Art And Adventures
This is a place as beautiful as its name, a living painting that, unlike brush strokes on canvas, changes its appearance by daylight and the mood of the large sky above.
Sedona, Arizona, is a non-stop photo op, a place where it’s possible to stand on the side of the road – on the side of a cliff, even – staring at the landscape in amazement, life frozen in time.
The Chamber of Commerce calls it “a museum without walls.” It is an appropriate description.
Located in north central Arizona and deep within the Cocomino National Forest and framed by the Mogollon Rim (the southwestern border of the Colorado Plateau),
Sedona is an upscale tourist spot attracting people who enjoy the many art galleries, resorts, restaurants and natural surroundings. There are, however, enough indians and cowboys around to preserve its Old West heritage – the massive Navaho Reservation is just to the north – as well as artists and hippies.
There is stunning sightseeing – admiring, really – adventure tours,, places for picnics, fishing, golf and shopping. For locals, naming the many rock formations seems a favorite pastime. There’s a mermaid, a steamship (Ship Rock, though it looks more like a tugboat) Coffee Pot, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Madonna, Rabbit Ears, even Snoopy Rock (minus his doghouse and Charlie Brown but not Woodstock; it’s at Schenbly Hill Road off Hwy 168).
Regardless of their name or shape, they all glow red and orange under the sun’s bright glare and take on different colors with changing weather or fading sunlight.
All this beauty mean Sedona shines best in the daytime and at sunset. It is not much of a hotspot after dark, other than seeing the sky sparkle with nature’s lanterns.
Sedona Arrival and General Information
There Are Three Sections of Sedona and All Have Views
Two-plus hours (120 miles) from Phoenix and 28 miles from Flagstaff, Sedona sits at the intersections of Highways 89A and Highway 179, which is off Interstate 17. Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport serves all major airlines and rental cars are as among the most affordable anywhere – as little as $200 for a week.
Flagstaff’s Pulliman Airport is closer and certainly provides a more adventurous approach. America West is the only major carrier and those flights connect through a scenic and often bumpy ride from Phoenix. Major car rental agencies are on-site.
Sedona has a small airport for private planes (as well as plane rides, including biplanes), a restaurant, lodge and a cliff offering premier sunset views of the canyon.
The town itself is divided into three main sections: Uptown Sedona, West Sedona and Oakcreek. The latter is the closest to I-17 and has most of the budget-type lodging. Uptown has a historical feel to it with a row of Old West-looking shops, while West Sedona has the majority of the restaurants and “modern” facilities (gas stations, drug stores, etc.)
The main intersection is at Highways 179 and 89A in what is known an the “Y;” Uptown is just to the right and West Sedona and the airport is to the left.
These roads not cut only through the town, but through the scenery, as well. The huge rock formations envelop the Sedona, making it a visitors realize how small they are when compared to nature’s giant walls.
Parking – The Red Rock Pass
Permit is Only $5 Per Day
There are no meters around Sedona’s scenic areas, but there are signs alerting “Red Rock Pass Required.” This is a a tag displayed in cars when pulling over and parking in a scenic overlook for hiking, sightseeing, fishing, etc. It is not necessary for brief pullovers for photography. Passes are available at Gateway Visitor’s Centers in Village of Oakcreek at Tequa Plaza, uptown Sedona at the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce and Oak Creek Vista Outlook at the top of Oak Creek Canyon. Prices are $5 per day and $15 per week. Parking in Uptown and West Sedona on the street is free all day.
Sedona Sightseeing and Activities
Rocks, Water, Art And More Offer Adventure
The most natural activity in Sedona is to drive around and admire the incredible rock formations.Part of the allure is studying the shapes to see how they acquired their nicknames.
Pull over and stop frequently, turn down a side road and explore, or take a tour (the jeep tours are highly popular). For all Sedona and area sightseeing and activities, pack plenty of water; Arizona’s dry heat dries up the throat quickly.
Schnebly Hill Road(off Hwy 179) has a scenic overlook andChapel Road leads to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This Catholic church is built majestically into rockface. It’s free to visit and there is a gift shop. It is stately and respective of its surroundings, which is much more than can be said of it’s neighbor, a monster of a house at its base that many locals feel is as out of place in Sedona as say, artificial turf.
State Parks are as abundant as rock formations. There are fees ranging from $3-10. The most popular is Slide Rock State Park (Highway 89A, seven miles from Sedona; $10 per car for four persons; $2.50 each additional person). It’s a good place to hang out, take a nap or read a book (or this guide) lounge on a rock, relax or splash around rocks. Careful, though,, they are very slippery. The “sliding” part of the rock is disappointingly small – it’s about a 5-second thrill ride but there is a deep area to dive into the water. There are picnic tables at the entrance; it’s about a half-mile walk to the water. Slide Rock State Park.Web Site. Phone: (928) 282-303
Oak Creek winds through scenic Red Rock State Park and full of plants and wildlife. A 5-mile network of trails intersect each other, providing for seemingly endless viewing options. There are self-guided trails and Ranger-led interpretive walks. It has picnic areas but swimming and wading are prohibited. It is located off 89A,at Lower Red Rock Loop Road. Red Rock State Park. Web Site. Phone: (928) 282-6907.
Hiking can be enjoyed at Fay Canyon Trail, Doe Mountain Trail, Devil’s Bridge Trail, Jim Thompson Trail and Jordan Trail in West Sedona/Oak Creek; West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon; and Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte Area and Turky Creek Trail in Red Rock Country (the latter also offers excellen tmountain biking).
Tour companies offer all kinds of adventures. The previously mentioned jeep tours (in pink or red jeeps) are highly recommended. Other tours provide rides in hot air balloons, biplanes and helicopters.
Because of its natural beauty, it’s only natural that Sedona would attract artists who have made it their home. They have crafted Sedona’s beauty into paintings, jewelry and other arts that are sold in several galleries and shops,, the most extensive of which is a shopping village called Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village on Highway 179.
Sedona Restaurants and Nightlife
Fine Food is More Plentiful Than The Bar Scene
A pair of places PubClub recommends for dinner are Cucina Rustica and Judy’s.
Cucina Rustica, 7000 Highway 179, 928-284-3010) is a beautiful restaurant in the Tequa Marketplace in Oak Creek. The setting is straight out of Italy, an elegant patio and dining areas that are a cozy as an Italian country eatery. Fortunately, it has the food to match, incredible bread and an extensive wine list
Judy’s (40 Solider Pass Road in West Sedona just past the airport, 928-282 4449) has baby-back ribs that fall off the bone, but its menu also offers fish and other dishes in a comfortable, pleasant setting.
Some locals prefer the the Hideaway Restaurant and Lounge (251 State Route 179, 928-282-4204) a casual style Italian restaurant – pizza, subs, pasta, etc.
As far as nightlife, we’re not saying Sedona has none, but the fact that one of the favorite pastimes seems to be naming rock formations, this is not the place to come for Old West shootouts of nighttime fun. However, Casa Rincon & Tapas Cantina is the place to be. It’s a restaurant with live music and sometimes even has a cover. (2620 W. Highway 89A, 928-282-4849).