Small town Sedona is one of the most beautiful towns you’ll come across on your travels. Big statement, I know. While it may not be flush with world-class dining and a plethora of museums, the backdrop of the cascading red-rock mountains is a sight to behold.
The slower pace of town life contrasts with the action that exists mere steps away. Getting around Sedona is easy, and major landmarks, hiking trails and vistas are just a short drive along scenic byways.
Come here for incredible scenery and an adventure-packed three day vacation. From wineries, to galleries and, of course, winding trails, anyone who enjoys being on the move will fall in love with Sedona.
Where to Stay
With a population of just over 10,000 people, Sedona has a lot of space to roam and is easy to get around. For this reason, there isn’t a bad place to base yourself.
Uptown is a lovely district in Sedona. The historic neighborhood has plenty of restaurants, shopping and bars to enjoy after a big day in the hills.
Oak Creek is another popular part of town. North of the city proper, Oak Creek is a quiet neighborhood with easy access to the Ridge Trail, Cathedral Rock and the Sedona Artist Market.
When to Go
The best time to visit Sedona, Arizona, is in the spring and fall. The moderate temperatures allow you to explore the amazing desert scenery without the stifling heat. Shoulder seasons are the best time to go hiking, mountain biking or even enjoy a spot of outdoor yoga.
Of course, glorious weather brings travelers, so expect larger crowds on the trails and at major attractions.
To avoid the crowds, winter is another great time to explore Sedona. Temperatures are crisp but not freezing and the trails will be sparsely populated. Not to mention the Arizona Snowbowl, just over an hour from Sedona, offers great skiing for those in town.
Day 1 Vortexes, Arts & Sunsets
What to Do
To prep for an active weekend in the desert hills, begin with an underrated hike out to the magical Robbers’ Roost. The renowned hikes will come. But just out of Sedona, near the town of Clarkdale, is a little known trail that may still be your favorite trek at the end of your three-day adventure.
Following a flat, but rocky road, you will gain some elevation off the bat, before hiking above treeline with nothing but the blue sky and endless scenery to gawk at. The Robbers’ Roost Trail won’t be packed with hikers, giving you plenty of room and time to enjoy the surrounds.
Along the way, you’ll spot blooming wildflowers that add even more vibrancy to the contrasting scenery. The reds, oranges and yellows mix in with the greens and purples underneath the turquoise sky. The trail isn’t obvious at times, so keep your eye out for rock cairns to avoid backtracking.
Eventually the trail leads you to Robbers’ Roost. The roost looks like a circular cave built into the sandstone mountain. From the inside, the landscape shies through the opening, the bright colors dancing beside the darkness of the cave.
There are some smaller openings that you can sit inside, making the perfect spot for couples to capture some memorable pictures. From the make your way into Sedona, check in and freshen up for some downtown activities.
With some epic hiking already out of the way, it’s time to enjoy another side of Sedona, a unique shopping center. The Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is one of the most unique shopping experiences in the United States. Comprising a series of Spanish colonial buildings, the village is home to over 50 boutique arts and crafts shops, along with some trendy restaurants for lunch.
Walk along the streets made of cobblestone and browse the stores as you pass. Aside from the typical window shopping, the village is constantly creating additional works. Keep an eye out for sculptures and painters perfecting their next piece in one of the several art galleries.
The village is open from 10am to 6pm and often sees a good crowd, but far from stifling. The numbers help to create a fun atmosphere that elevates the experience further.
As the sun falls over the spectacular landscape, make a beeline for the Airport Mesa Scenic Lookout Point. On a day that’s already presented several jaw-dropping vistas, it’s only right that you end with an epic desert sunset.
From the lookout, you will enjoy panoramic views over the red rock mountains and the city of Sedona. Airport Mesa is the location of one of four major vortexes. The other three are at Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon.
The vortex is a phenomenon that is meant to inspire those that stand within its boundaries and uplift their spirits. Whether it’s the vortex or just the impeccable scenery, your soul will feel rejuvenated.
If you have time before sunset, or if you love the idea of hiking under the dazzling stars, then you should consider walking the Airport Loop Trail. The moderate 3.2 mile (5.1km) hike is rocky but gorgeous. With spectacular views throughout, you may forget to look down at your footing.
As there is little shade, the cooler late afternoon and early evening is a great time to walk the loop.
Sedona isn’t known as a party town. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding a club or bar open past 11pm. One of the top things to do in Sedona is to grab a bottle of wine and head to a viewpoint for a starry night.
But if you are on the lookout for some fun in town, make your way to Mooney’s Irish Pub or the Golden Goose Grill for a casual pub experience, backed with some of the best live music in town.
Where to Eat
When exploring the Arts and Crafts Village, you’ll notice the line at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano. If you’re patient, you’ll enjoy Navajo-inspired cuisine that separates the restaurant from other similar places around Sedona.
For dinner, head out of town to the nearby Cottonwood for some handmade pasta. Out in Camp Verde, Moscato is well-worth the drive. Try the bolognaise with ground ribeye but leave room for the top-shelf tiramisu.
Day 2 Bell Rock, Pink Jeeps & Cathedral Rock
What to Do
Sedona was made for day trips. With the tar cutting through the remarkable landscape with ease, the drives are nothing short of mesmerizing. Add in red rocks teeming with exciting hiking and mountain biking trails and you have a recipe for a weekend of road trips.
After breakfast, load up your car with everything you need for a morning of exploring the nature around Sedona. Starting with the Red Rock Scenic Byway is the perfect way to begin day two. Showing off some of the most stunning scenery in the region, the road is a simple 8 mile (12.9km) journey along Highway 179 and takes you all the way to the impeccable Bell Rock.
Bell Rock can be seen from almost anywhere in Sedona. The bell-shaped butte is well-worth the hike up if you have time. The short 0.75 (1.2km) mile out and back hike, leads you to summit views and another of Sedona’s famous vortex. The power of the vortex is said to have increased power because of its height.
On your return journey, make a stop at one of the top attractions in Sedona, the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The iconic landmark is a Roman Catholic Chapel build into the desert rocks. Since opening in 1956, the chapel has become one of the seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona.
The impeccable chapel is a sight to behold, soaring out of the sandstone as if it had been there for centuries. The view from the inside is just as memorable. From the terrace, you can look out over Sedona, the scenic byways and rolling mountains.
After exploring one of the top drives in Sedona, take things to the next level with an off-road adventure. Regardless of whether you have a kitted 4WD or a simple hatchback, Pink Jeep Tours has you covered. They’re a local institution that has been showing off the surrounding landscape for decades. They have many tours on offer, including a trek along the Broken Arrow Trail and a chance to witness the historic Native American Art at the Honanki Heritage Site.
From the inside of their iconic pink Jeep, you will enjoy an exciting off-road adventure through the desert backcountry. Get up-close to towering red rock formations and explore ancient canyons. The history and wildlife of Sedona is something to behold and to do it justice, it pays to have an expert guide along for the ride.
Once you back on level ground, enjoy a relaxing couple of hours in Uptown Sedona. Also known as the Old Town, this is the place to go for walkable streets, boutique stores, galleries, cafes and touristy shops.
If you didn’t get your shopping fix in at the Arts and Crafts Village, then you will find what you’re looking for here. Browse jewelry and crystal stores before settling in to one of the many dining spaces for lunch and a spot of people watching.
Before heading out to embark on your late afternoon hike, make a brief detour to the Sedona Artist Market. Discover the largest collection of local art in town, featuring over 100 artists who have created anything from stunning portraits to huge wall art.
The gallery is huge, with 8000 square feet of space to explore. You won’t have to spend a lot of time here, but if you’re wanting to enjoy some art while in Sedona, then this is the place to go.
With the harsh midday heat behind us (if you’re here in the summer), it’s time to finish your day off with a bang. Cathedral Rock is the most photographed site in Sedona, which says a lot. You may have spotted the stunning formation on your morning drive, or 4WD tour, but now you’ll have the chance to walk right up to the hallowed rock.
If you don’t feel like putting on the old hiking boots, then you can grab an exceptional view of Cathedral Rock from Red Rock Crossing Park. Simply park at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site and admire from afar.
For those that wish to hike, then a moderate 1 mile (1.6km) out and back trail awaits. The trail features 550ft (168m) of elevation gain along the way with some short difficult sections. It’s all worth it, with eye-popping views from every part of the journey.
The initial climb quickly reaches a plateau with sweeping views of Sedona. From there, a rocky section awaits with a sharp incline. Some choose to turn around, having been satisfied with the views so far. But the scenery continues to improve, somehow, and after the second plateau you can admire the summit.
A few minutes later, from the peak, you will enjoy a view unlike any other in Sedona. Peering up at the twin rock towers, and down to the vistas over the edge, is a sight that will stick with you for a long time.
Where to Eat
Ahead of your adventures down the Red Rock Scenic Byway, get into the spirit of the day by having breakfast at the Red Rock Cafe. The large menu comes with all your favorites, from Banana French Toast to their homemade huevos rancheros.
If you’re looking for a place to dine out for lunch, then Up The Creek is a perfect choice. Located among the vineyards in Corneville, enjoy your lunch with a view. The elevated BLT sandwich is a top pick.
For dinner, it’s time to head to one of the best restaurants in town, Elote Cafe. Serving up-scale Mexican cuisine, their signature dish, the Elote, helps the restaurant book out weeks in advance. So plan ahead.
Day 3 Devil’s Bridge & Wineries
What to Do
On your last day in Sedona, don’t expect the action to slow down, as today promises to be as fun as any day on this trip. Day three brings you to the popular Devil’s Bridge. At any time of year, this trail can quickly fill up with anxious hikers excited to catch a glimpse of the iconic formation.
For this reason, if you want to enjoy the hike and bridge to the utmost, then get up early, grab a to-go breakfast and hit the road. The trailhead is only 20 minutes from town and if you arrive early and I mean before 6am, then you can enjoy the hike in as the sun rises over the colorful landscape.
The added plus of arriving early is to get a parking spot as spaces fill quickly. You can park as Mescal Trailhead and walk a short section along the Chuck Wagon Trail. After switching to the Devil’s Bridge Trail, you can partake in a moderate trek up to a section of red rock cairns spread across a slab. Admire the cascading rock mountains in the distance before carrying on.
Once you reach the rocky sections which feature a couple of scrambles, then you know you’re close. The bridge itself is the largest sandstone arch in the Sedona region and may remind you somewhat of Arches National Park.
From the distance, the bridge looks narrow, but you can safely walk across it without experiencing vertigo. No matter how early you go, there will always be a couple of other committed hikers. Which will come in handy when you want your picture taken on the impressive bridge.
As you return to the car, you’ll be happy and proud that you choose to embark on a sunrise hike to Devil’s Bridge. The hoard of hikers going the other way will only motivate you to walk back faster.
Overall, the hike is 4.2 (6.8km) in length and features 564ft (172m) of elevation gain.
End your time in Sedona by exploring the many wineries in the dramatic region. Follow the Verde Valley Wine Trail that will take you further into the striking scenery of Northern Arizona.
You can embark on as many tasting sessions and wine tours as time will allow. There are over 20 wineries that you can explore, so be sure to get your hands on a passport and get it stamped at every place you go. To help you out, here are our top three wineries on the Verde Valley Trail!
Burning Trees Cellars – Located west of Sedona, in historic Cottonwood, come here for boutique wines from vineyards across Arizona. Enjoy the afternoon sun in their outdoor patio.
Alcantara Vineyard – Just past Burning Trees, find over 20,000 wines with plenty of tastings to try. Enjoy calming views of the Verde River from the grassy picnic area.
Oak Creek Vineyards – Peaceful as it comes, enjoy sweeping views of the vineyards and surrounding mountains on this enchanting property. Taste wines, cheese and even chocolates from their onsite kitchen.
Where to Eat
Gather the energy to continue your Sedona adventures by starting your final day at Layla’s Bakery. Simple, tasty and healthy, the ‘smashed avo’ breakfast will hit the spot and have you racing down the trails.
If you choose to forego the wine trail, then stick around Sedona for lunch at the Shorebird. With magnificent views and equally delicious food, this will be another excellent way to end your three days in Sedona.
If it wasn’t for the nearby Grand Canyon, it would be easy to imagine Sedona being one of the top destinations in Arizona. Just 45 minutes from Flagstaff, Sedona is a breeze to get to, and it’s a wonderful trip if you venture down the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive.
There is so much to see that you’ll need to rent a car for the three days. But it will be worth every cent on the back of stunning vistas, unique landscapes and beautiful wineries.
If you have an extra day to add, joining a day tour to the Grand Canyon will be the cherry on top of what’s already a dazzling cake.