Red rockin' good times: 10 ways to explore Sedona

November 19, 2015                 4m read time
Barbie Carpenter


Stunning red rocks, towering geologic formations, jagged cliffs—Sedona’s awe-inspiring terrain attracts millions of visitors each year for sightseeing, hiking, biking, and the five vortices (areas in the red rocks that purportedly emanate magnetic and electric energy).

There’s no shortage of Southwestern history and culture to take in while you get your red-rock-filled hiking fix in Sedona. Visit the five-story-high ancient cliff dwellings of Montezuma Castle National Monument, or browse the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, where local artisans sell glass-blown creations and handmade traditional ceramics. But don’t stay rooted on the ground during your visit. The area’s geography makes it perfect for climbing rocks, flying over the canyons, and gazing at the stars.

1. Soar above the sandstone

Hot air balloon in Sedona  Thales

Hot air balloon in Sedona 

Thales

 

Since 1973, Northern Light Balloon Expeditions has showcased Sedona's red rock formations from above. Set the alarm for a three- to four-hour hot-air balloon tour that starts before sunrise. After an hour in the air, you'll land in the red rock formations that Sedona is known for. Enjoy a champagne picnic in this stunning natural habitat before you take off again for more sweeping views of the city.

2. Hike to the Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge, a popular hike in Sedona stephgreer

Devil's Bridge, a popular hike in Sedona

stephgreer

 

A 2-mile hike has never been so challenging and rewarding. This steep hike, one of Sedona's most popular, takes you to the largest natural stone arch in the region. Climb up the stone steps under the arch for stunning views and must-take photo ops. For an added challenge, take the Chuckwagon Trail Head near the Mescal Trail parking area and hike through the connecting trail to the Devil's Bridge Trail

3. Gaze at the stars

The stars above Sedona  Tyler Sichelski

The stars above Sedona 

Tyler Sichelski

 

Head 20 minutes south of Sedona to stargaze with professional astronomers. Evening Sky Tours offers state-of-the-art telescopes and high-powered laser pointers to see the night sky like never before. You'll get one-on-one time with an astronomer, who will help you discover constellations, shooting stars, other planets, star clusters, and much more. Thanks to its high altitude, clear, dry weather, and limited light pollution, Sedona is one of the best spots in the country for stargazing, so go ahead and do it with a professional to get the most out of your experience. It's the best astronomy class you'll ever take.

4. Mountain bike on the edge

 

Even expert mountain bikers will feel challenged on Sedona’s trails, including the White Line, a notorious route carved into the edge of a cliff with a near vertical drop. Daredevils converge here to record and share their feats. Join them if you dare. And if you don't, Sedona has plenty of other mountain biking options that won't leave you feeling like you're participating in the X Games. Novices can pedal Black Canyon Trail's Little Pan Loop, which winds past the Agua Fria River. Expert riders can bike the Hiline, where they'll maneuver through narrow, ledgy trails past cacti and trees. The 3-mile Hangover Trail is another one designed for the experts, thanks to its steep rock rolls, but you'll be rewarded with some seriously stunning views.

5. Buckle up for a "rocky" jeep ride

Pink Jeep Tour on the rocks in Sedona Kevin Schraer

Pink Jeep Tour on the rocks in Sedona

Kevin Schraer

 

Learn a little history while off-roading and getting that adrenaline pumping. Hop aboard a Pink Jeep to visit Sedona's ancient ruins, take in sweeping vistas, and ride across those famous red rocks. For more than 50 years, the company’s expert guides have been giving visitors an insider take on the area’s past, astronomy, and geology. So buckle up and get moving—there's plenty of Sedona to see.

6. Go rock climbing

Climber on the rocks in Sedona Toshimasa Ishibashi

Climber on the rocks in Sedona

Toshimasa Ishibashi

 

Located at the southern end of the Colorado Plateau, Sedona boasts impressive sandstone spires and towers, making the area a great place for rock climbing. Stay close to town and climb at Cathedral Spires, Marges Draw, or Mormon Canyon. Or, if you want a professional to show you the ropes, sign up for a Centerfocus Rock Climbing Tour. Drive through the Coconino National Forest, and then hike through pine trees to discover many climbing opportunities with personalized instruction. Wherever you climb in Sedona, you'll be rewarded with stunning views that go on for miles.

7. Swim at Slide Rock State Park

Hiker in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona samspicerphoto

Hiker in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona

samspicerphoto

 

Head to Oak Creek Canyon, just 7 miles north of Sedona, to enjoy the outdoors at Slide Rock State Park. Red sandstone forms a smooth, natural water slide that cascades into a refreshing swimming hole, named one of the nation's 10 best. If you want to work up a sweat before you dive in, meander around the gorge on the hiking trails that surround it. Sitting on a historic early-20th-century apple farm, this park's fame goes beyond its slide. Classic movie fans will love that John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart filmed here. When you see its beauty, you'll understand why.

8. Kayak the Verde River

Kayaker on the Verde River in Sedona Nick

Kayaker on the Verde River in Sedona

Nick

 

Launch an inflatable kayak into the Verde River and take a trip with Sedona Adventure Tours through the river's spectacular canyons and forests filled with brightly colored wildflowers. Start your journey at Beasley Flats Access Point, and weave through Clear Creek Rapid and the Tunnel of Love. Your journey will get your adrenaline pumping as you paddle through the Rocky Rapids and below the Cliffs of Insanity, but you'll enjoy some relaxation too as you float around Butterfly Bend. Keep an eye out for mule deer, beavers, and river otters as you paddle along!

9. Trail run through Red Rock State Park

Bunkhouse Trail in Red Rock State Park near Sedona TJfrom AZ

Bunkhouse Trail in Red Rock State Park near Sedona

TJfrom AZ

 

Just outside Sedona city limits sits Red Rock State Park, a 286-acre nature preserve famous for its rich red sandstone canyon. Once you've taken the requisite selfie with the red rocks, hike or trail run through the park. Try the Eagle's Nest Loop trail and climb 300 feet to the highest point of the park, or explore the Javelina trail to discover juniper and pinyon woodlands. Or, opt for the Kisva trail, which runs along Oak Creek. Wherever you hike or run, keep a lookout for—and your distance from—coyotes and bobcats, as well as the occasional blacktail rattlesnake or tarantula.

10. Sip Southwestern vino

Purple grapes and leaves  Melissa E Dockstader

Purple grapes and leaves 

Melissa E Dockstader

 

Go wine tasting along the Verde Valley Wine Trail, which weaves through Cottonwood, Jerome, Sedona, Clarkdale, and Cornville, and includes five wineries and six tasting rooms. For a laid-back stop, head to Arizona Stronghold Vineyard and try their reasonably priced Tazi, Mangus, and Nachise blends. At Javelina Leap, check out the winery's 60 tons of Arizona-grown grapes, and sip on a glass of Red Canyon Rosé while wandering through the vineyard's shady park. Looking for a unique designated driver? Ride in style on the Verde Canyon Railroad, which weaves through Sedona's natural landscapes.

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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