The Top Things to Do in Sedona, Arizona

Stunning natural beauty, including Coffee Pot Rock, surrounds Sedona, creating a lot of outdoor adventures
Stunning natural beauty, including Coffee Pot Rock, surrounds Sedona, creating a lot of outdoor adventures | © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Emily Roethle

Sedona, Arizona, is best known for its head-turning red rocks – unique geology that’s all yours to discover along its lovely, lonely hiking trails and photogenic roadways. Come prepared to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Arizona’s desert, explore the city’s history and architecture and absorb the energy from the various vortexes. But before all that, read on for your ultimate itinerary.

1. Cathedral Rock

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

Aerial view of Sedona Arizona
© Lucky-Photographer / Alamy Stock Photo

Believe it or not, you come to this natural sandstone butte to immerse yourself in its high vibrational energy. Cathedral Rock has oxidized minerals within its red stone that produce a vortex – a subtle yet powerful energy force. The easiest way to see its bulk is on a drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway, but if you enjoy hiking and climbing, take the trails off of Back O’ Beyond Road to lead you closer to this natural wonder.

2. Red Rock Scenic Byway

Architectural Landmark

USA, Arizona, Yavapai County, Baldwins Crossing, Village of Oak Creek, Bell Rock, View of Sedona
© RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

The Red Rock Scenic Byway – the gateway to Sedona – is often referred to as a “museum without walls.” Its history is, of course, fascinating, as is its geology. There are dozens of places to pull over and go hiking and biking. Sightseeing here, naturally, is spectacular, and you can tune in to those good vibrations at the vortexes at Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Most people spend the day here, and so should you. Restaurants, galleries and shops fill the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village at the north end of the drive.

3. Oak Creek Canyon

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Country, Arizona, USA
© Mauritius Images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Some of the most scenic switchbacks in the region lead you into Oak Creek Canyon, colloquially known as the Grand Canyon’s smaller cousin. Crimson cliffs, refreshing swimming holes and lush oak trees line the 12mi (19km) stretch. Outdoor fun awaits you as you pass along the canyon, including hiking, swimming, fishing, picnicking and plant-spotting. Get yourself a campsite slot so that you can stay among the canyon’s natural wonders.

4. Slide Rock State Park

Park

Oak Creek, Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, Red Rock Country, Arizona, USA
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a much-needed reprieve from Sedona’s heat among apple orchards in the historic Pendley Homestead at Slide Rock State Park. This desert oasis is formed around a natural water slide in the smooth red sandstone that deposits anyone who descends it into a cool pool. It’s perfect for swimming around in or lounging about in an inflatable. If you want to do something more adventurous, go cliff jumping into one of the deeper swimming pools – it’s exhilarating.

5. Chapel of the Holy Cross

Architectural Landmark

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona, United States of America, North America
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Whether you love architecture or nature only, you’ll enjoy the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a striking landmark – a blend of a 90ft (27m) cross, magnificent stained-glass windows and modern design, the whole thing folded into a red-rock plateau and a sandstone ridge of varying shades. However little time you have, stop by to marvel at the structure – and the views of Verde Valley.

6. Airport Mesa

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

Airport Mesa
© Chris LaBasco / Alamy Stock Photo

This climb takes you past twisted junipers and shrubby, evergreen manzanita trees. The reward? Panoramas of the desert landscape and landmarks in Sedona, including Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte and Cathedral Rock. Airport Mesa’s plateau is also home to a vortex – bring a picnic and take a mid-hike break as you absorb the mystical energy of the area. Any time you’re here, you’ll get amazing views, but if you can, be atop Airport Mesa for sunset. It’s unforgettable.

7. Palatki Heritage Site

Historical Landmark

USA, Arizona, Coconino National Forest, Palatki Ruins, low angle view
© SuperStock / Alamy Stock Photo

Arizona has been inhabited for millennia, and the Palatki Heritage Site offers a glimpse into the past. Accessible via a rocky forest road, this historic site features a preserved cliff dwelling of the ancient Sinagua people. Various trails lead you to stone ruins and rock-art alcoves, where pictographs illustrate the culture’s rich story. Visiting the Palatki Heritage Site is limited, and reservations are required.

8. Verde Valley Wine Trail

Winery, Hiking Trail

Sunburst through grape leaves in vineyard at sunrise in Arizona
© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Believe it or not, the Verde Valley is conducive to the cultivation of grape varieties, so oenophiles will be right at home on this self-guided tour. It takes you through more than 20 top wineries and tasting rooms in the area, including Alcantara Vineyards, Javelina Leap Vineyard, Winery and Bistro, and Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery. Stamp your Verde Valley Wine Trail passport 10 times for a chance to win prizes – and be sure to enjoy the lush scenery and delicious pours along the way.

9. Bell Rock

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek near Sedona
© Debra Behr / Alamy Stock Photo

Bell Rock, so aptly named, is a dome-like rock formation. So, how to get the most out of this iconic Sedona sight? Take in the view from a distance as you cruise along the Red Rock Scenic Byway. Alternatively, go for an up-close peek at the attraction itself. At just 1mi (1.6km) long, the Bell Rock Trail is a very family-friendly hike, and when you get to the rock proper, sit back and admire it, or tackle it with a scramble.

Looking for more recommendations? Why not spend a relaxing weekend away at one of the best wellness retreats in Sedona or find a customized stay at one of these hotels suited for every traveler. Best of all, you can book right here on Culture Trip. There’s plenty to do in the day too; discover how to fill a day with family-friendly activities and where to find the best restaurants for a delicious meal.

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