Sedona, Arizona is one of my favorite regions in America’s southwest. You won’t find another destination in the world quite like it. With interesting Native American history, endless options for hikes, mystical vortexes, and a landscape made up of crimson colored sandstone, it’s quite a magical place.
If you find yourself venturing to Sedona, these are the best things to do that’ll help you make the most of its intriguing landscape.
Read: Weekend Itinerary for Sedona, Arizona
Admire Devil’s Bridge at sunrise
Devil’s Bridge is the largest sandstone arch in Sedona, and it’s possible to walk across its narrow top. This hike weaves through cactus patches along a dirt trail until you reach a steep natural staircase. A quick jaunt to the top reveals Devil’s Bridge in all its glory. While not all popular hikes are worthy of their fame, this one is. Visit in the early morning to enjoy the trail with smaller crowds as hot air balloons punctuate the horizon.
Read: Guide to Hiking Devil’s Bridge
Climb to the top of Cathedral Rock for sunset
If you do only one thing in Sedona, make it hiking up Cathedral Rock an hour before sunset. The hand-over-foot scramble up the base of Cathedral Rock is not only a fun way to experience multiple vantage points of Sedona, it also offers one of the most spectacular views once you reach the end of the trail. Grab your camera and prepare to sit in awe at what mother nature can do with a few million years of time. Cathedral Rock is a geological masterpiece.
Read: Guide to Hiking Cathedral Rock
Hike to your heart–and legs’–content
While Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock require a short hike to reach, the crowds can make them seem more like a town attraction than an off-grid excursion. If you’re one who likes to escape into the wilderness to areas where you’re bound to be left with only the accompaniment of your thoughts and the sound of your own footsteps, there are tens of hiking trails around the region worth venturing to. Enjoy views of Cathedral Rock from the less-trafficked Hi-Line Trail, Bear Mountain Trail, or Woods Canyon Trail.
Indulge in a big breakfast served at Coffee Pot Restaurant
Settle a rumbling stomach pre- or post-adventure at the Coffee Pot Restaurant, a lively diner with friendly staff who are happy to top up yet another cup of coffee. You’ll need a few minutes to comb over the extensive menu, which has 101 types of omelettes and tens of hearty breakfast options tailored to just about every appetite. Wait times can be long, but it’s easy to pass the time inside the diner’s gift shop.
Coffee Pot Restaurant: 2050 AZ-89A, Sedona; Ph. (928) 282-6626; Hours 6am-2pm daily; Does not accept reservations
Learn about Native American history
Native Americans have been residing in the region long before new-age mystics and tarot card readers set up their stalls. There are multiple heritage sites around Sedona, many with petroglyphs like those found at Palatki, Honaki, and V Bar V.
The Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot National Monument sites were once inhabited by the Sinagua Native Americans, a site with one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the Americas. The cliffside rooms look remarkably like an ancient apartment building. The sites are about a 30-minute drive outside of Sedona.
Descendants of the Sinagua people live on Hopi Reservation. The reservation still uses ancient methods of farming, cultivating crops with rainwater. Tours of Hopi sites are available through the Hopi Cultural Center.
Stroll through the shops at Tlaquepaque Arts Village
Surrounded by such a spectacular landscape, artists in Sedona have an ever-present muse. Many of these artworks are on display and sold at Tlaquepaque Arts Village (hint: it’s pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh), a small center with 50 shops.
Most galleries have a distinctly Southwestern appeal, with bronze sculptures, fine paintings, and woven goods. Crystal and oddity shops have found a home here, too. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering from one shop to the next, as no two are quite alike.
Meditate at the mystical Sedona Vortexes
Undoubtedly, Sedona’s vortexes (or vortices) are seen as a major attraction. These vortexes are supposed spirals of energy that can lead to increased self-awareness and spiritual rejuvenation. Many travelers venture to Sedona in search of their own form of enlightenment. It’s common to see people meditating inside of these energy vortexes or practicing some form of ritual.
As its a challenge to tame my skeptical nature, I found rejuvenation by simply spending time in nature–and I’m not sure how much the vortexes had in play. It is worth seeing for yourself whether these vortexes offer the cosmic energy that new-age mystics claim, or are little more than an invisible tourist trap. The three strongest vortees are thought to be at Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon, and Airport Mesa.
Read: Sedona Vortexes: Real or Total BS?
Float into the sky on a hot air balloon ride
Start your day with a sunrise view of Sedona from a hot air balloon. Weather permitting, hot air balloons rise above the sandstone mesas each morning, offering intriguing views of the trails and scenic landscape below. Flight times last a little over an hour, and it’s worth packing a pair of binoculars to spot major landmarks in the distance.