These 10 facts about the small desert town of Sedona are no mirage; this locale holds a ton of secrets waiting to be discovered. This western travel destination has a little adventure for everyone.
1. It’s A Top-Spot For Fall Foliage
Sedona has changing leaves that will make you believe you have been transported out of the desert. Although the northeast is home to the most amazing foliage the eyes can see, Northern Arizona has a few tricks up its sleeve every autumn. Sedona trails that are above an elevation of 8,000 feet experience some of the most picturesque fall foliage you can find anywhere in the country, and it’s one of the area’s best-kept secrets.
Take a walk up one of the town’s trails to view the contrast of the golden aspens against the desert landscape. Drive through Oak Creek Canyon, a stretch of land between Sedona and Flagstaff to see leaves in vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Visit between September and the middle of October for the best fall foliage viewing experience in Northern Arizona. You won’t want to miss this unreal desert show every fall.
2. The Canyon Walls Have A Deep History
Every geological component of this desert town is simply breathtaking, and the red rocks are not the only star. The canyons that line this Arizona hotspot are definitely a sight to be seen, and they hold a very distinct and timeless piece of history. These vast gorges are made up of nine layers of different types of stone, dating back millions of years, allowing these canyons to tell centuries of stories.
Vibrant sandstone, limestone, and basalt stone make up these massive landmarks, and all three types of stone represent different time periods and fascinating geological processes. The layers of limestone and sandstone were formed by sand dunes, and mud blown by the wind, while the bottom layer of basalt was formed by volcanic eruptions that took place over 14 million years ago. These colorful canyons are sure to catch your eye, and the history of these geological forces is sure to inspire.
Want to get up close and personal with the best of Sedona’s rock formations?
Travel writer Stacey Wittig told TravelAwaits, “Sedona is a mecca for day hikers. With over 89 named trails in the area, Sedona’s iconic red rocks draw hikers from around the world.”
“All trails are rated for difficulty from Double-Black-Diamond mountain biking routes like Hangover Trail to easy rambles like Margs Draw, where grandchildren [can] experience the wonder of red rock scenery. Other trails lead to archaeological sites or historic cabins.”
Phoenix resident and Sedona regular Emily Blosser said one of her favorite family-friendly hikes is Submarine Rock.
“The rock that you end up climbing on really does look like a submarine. It’s an easy hike, too.”
Last time we went, there was someone playing a flute on top of one of the rocks. It echoed across and made you feel like you were in another world.
3. The High Elevation Causes Mild Winters
Although Sedona is nestled in the heart of the Arizona desert, it isn’t blistering hot year round. This Southwestern small town has an elevation of 4,500 feet, which equates to a break from the intense heat during the winter months.
Tourists take note: winters are generally mild, with the average high temperature in January being 51 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 21 degrees Fahrenheit. A definite break from the average high of 95 degrees Fahrenheit in July. Sedona also has an average of more than 300 days of sunshine per year, which is more than the state of Florida expects on a yearly basis. Florida minus the humidity? Sedona has weather that can do no wrong.
4. Classic Western Films Were Born Here
Far from the bright lights and big city, Sedona still managed to make its mark on American cinema. It’s no surprise that the bright red rocks against the dry, desolate desert make for a great Hollywood backdrop. This desert town became Hollywood’s hottest set during the 1940s and 50s when actors such as John Wayne made cowboy films a smash hit. The town of Sedona has been the set of endless Western films, most notably Billy the Kid and Broken Arrow.
Elvis Presley, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Robert De Niro are just a handful of successful actors that have put Sedona on the map through the silver screen. Sedona is strikingly beautiful, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood began cashing in on this dreamy desert location. One glance at the landscape and you won’t question why cowboys have called Sedona home.
5. It’s Where The Javelina And Peccary Play
Okay, so technically, javelina and collared peccary are the same thing: bristly, pig-like animals native to the Americas. According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, they can be found in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and south throughout Mexico, Central America, and even northern Argentina.
The good news for animal-loving vacationers headed to Sedona? You can witness spunky wild javelina at different spots around town, including a favorite restaurant, aptly named Javelina Cantina.
Erin Maxon of With Dog She Travels told us Javelina Cantina “has something for everyone. For those looking for a great Mexican meal, this is a stop you have to make while in Sedona. The surprise comes when you actually see wild javelina over the patio deck bathing and napping in the sun.”
Kids, dogs, and adults alike spend time holding onto the railing just to see these hogs up close and personal. Talk about dinner and a show!
Javelina Cantina offers Tex-Mex favorites, sandwiches, burgers, and even a few vegan options. Note that while you should enjoy your meal to the fullest, the Arizona Game and Fish Department warns people not to feed javelina or other wildlife. In 2018, multiple people were bitten and a herd of javelina–yes, they roam in packs–attacked a woman’s dog. Respect the wildlife!
6. You Can Live Out Your Off-Road Trucking Fantasies
Sedona’s rugged environment might just inspire your inner adventurer to come out and play. If a hike isn’t going to cut it for you but mountain biking seems like a bit too much, Michael Anderson of Passport Explored, who visited Sedona in 2016, has the perfect alternative: an off-road Pink Jeep tour.
What an experience! It’s quite thrilling to be driven through the desert in one of those Jeeps. The best part is that they stop at stunning viewpoints along the way so that you can take pictures of the beautiful Arizona desert.
A Pink Jeep tour can be an excellent way to get out and enjoy nature, even if you or someone in your group has limited mobility. According to a Pink Jeep Tours rep, their Jeep tours can accommodate guests with mobility issues, “as long as they or someone in their party can get them in and out of the vehicle on their own. They also need to have upper body mobility strength to be able to hold themselves up.” Note that different levels of confidence and ability are required to participate in tours that involve hiking, boating, or helicopters.
Maxon of With Dog She Travels also recommended Pink Jeep Tours and credits responsible off-roading with the preservation of much of Sedona’s wilderness.
7. You Can Get A Five-Star Hotel For A Three-Star Price
Booking accommodations might seem slightly–or altogether–less exciting than Sedona’s majestic vistas and Wild West history. That said, it’s an essential part of any vacation, and another reason Sedona is a truly luxurious destination.
According to data from booking site Hipmunk, Sedona is one of 20 U.S. cities where you can book a five-star hotel for a three-star price.
Which high-end accommodations should you consider? Well, according to Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2018, Sedona’s Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo were among the top 20 resorts not only in Arizona, but the entire Southwest.
8. You Can Get Hands On At An Operating Trout Farm
If you’re traveling with a mixed-age group, a trip to Sedona’s Rainbow Trout Farm could be the recipe for a day well spent. This interactive attraction–open seven days a week, weather permitting–is located in the breathtaking Oak Creek Canyon river gorge.
Admission to the farm’s quaint grounds is just $1 per person and includes bait and fishing equipment, so no need to lug anything with you. There are also barbeque pits, picnic tables, and plenty of shade trees.
Employees will clean your catch for 50 cents, and for an extra dollar you can purchase a grill kit that, per Rainbow Trout Farm’s website, includes “lemon, butter, salt, pepper, plate, fork, napkin, and foil.” You can also purchase soda on site and bring your own food and drink.
Of course, there are more “authentic” fishing experiences around Sedona, but this tucked away place is perfect for hassle-free memory making.
9. The Scenery Has Healing Properties
Mother Nature definitely spent a little more time perfecting this Western locale. Sedona’s red rock formations and endless geological wonders have made it a prime location to become one with the environment and with yourself. The scenery is even said to have healing powers, which is why yoga retreats and other wellness and spiritual experiences have become popular attractions around the area.
The landscape is believed to contain energy-healing vortexes, which attract those looking to make a life-changing pilgrimage to one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Even if you aren’t looking for some sort of spiritual awakening, the beauty of this desert destination is sure to bring you joy and uplift your mood. Take a hike among the red rocks or schedule a tour of the surrounding canyons, Sedona is anything but ordinary.
10. You Can Visit A Stupa And Peace Park
Musacchio said it’s “a free destination in Sedona that feels like stepping into another world,” and went on to share that “the beautiful Buddhist shrine is a place for meditation, prayer, or simply connecting with a sacred space. All our more than welcome. Light walking trails offer plenty of opportunities to see wildlife–especially birds.”
Bring some water and plan on spending at least an hour exploring. It’s stunning just before sunset, when the setting sun paints the surrounding cliffs in a thousand different colors.
For a mindful snack before or after your stupa visit, Tran suggested Sedona’s farm-to-table ChocolaTree.
“The food is organic and so delicious! They also have a cute patio area that allows dogs and gives you an opportunity to practice aerial yoga if that’s your thing. Get the chocolate milk. It’s so delicious!”
Sedona may be a small town in the heart of the desert, but it doesn’t lack vibrancy or secrets. Discover the best that Northern Arizona has to offer by learning more about this desert gem. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll leave absolutely mesmerized.
*Updated March 2019 by Linsey Stevens