Collectively, Sedona’s iconic red rocks are a sight to see.
The small Arizona resort town known as Red Rock Country more than delivers on its nickname. From virtually anywhere in town, the red rocks are front and center.
In fact, there are so many gorgeous red sandstone formations on display that a visit can present a bit of quandary. Which of the curiously shaped rocks are worth seeking out for a closer look? How can you get there? And beyond the rocks, what other sights are not to be missed?
After visiting Red Rock Country numerous times over the past several decades, I have a few favorites: hiking the shady West Fork Trail, the color burst of wildflowers against the red rocks, and lunching beneath the towering sycamores at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village.
For a local perspective, I consulted with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and came up with a few more must-dos, such as stargazing amidst the rocks and picnicking on the grounds of a historic apple orchard.
Although opinions are sure to vary, here are 11 of the best sights in Sedona.
1. Cathedral Rock
Perhaps Sedona’s signature rock formation, Cathedral Rock is as splendid as its name implies. The column of sandstone spires and buttes really does resemble a grand cathedral.
Thanks to its massive size and fairly central location, Cathedral Rock can be seen from virtually all over town. And for those who want a closer look, there are many access points leading to views and hikes.
One iconic vista is relatively easy to access at the Red Rock State Park, where a network of flat trails will take you to an unobstructed view of Cathedral Rock framed by the lovely corridor of Oak Creek. Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring.
Another great angle is available via the moderately strenuous Baldwin Trail, located off of Verde Valley School Road in Village of Oak Creek. At about 1.6 miles one-way, Baldwin offers a quick out-and-back hike with consistently great views of Cathedral Rock.
For the truly adventurous, the Cathedral Rock Trail will get you into the midst of the spires. Deemed “more a rock climb than a hike” by the Coconino National Forest’s website, the trail is short (about 1.5 miles round trip) but steep and difficult in spots. It includes a scramble up a rock cleft with a few toeholds notched into the rock. You can expect stellar views all along the route, though, plus a close encounter with the glorious rock spires. The trail is very popular, so plan to arrive early in order to find parking. Hiking and viewing will take a couple of hours.
2. View From The Sedona Airport Overlook
For an incomparable view with little effort, be sure to head to the Sedona Airport Overlook, where you’ll see the entire community spread out below.
From Highway 89A in Sedona, a steep mile-long drive up Airport Road will get you to the overlook, where a parking lot with a small fee is available across the street. As the name implies, the overlook shares an access road with the Sedona Airport, as well as a launching area for helicopter rides and a restaurant.
Pro Tip: Plan your visit around lunchtime and eat at the excellent Mesa Grill, which is a short walk or drive from the overlook.
3. Uptown Sedona
Right in the middle of all of Sedona’s gorgeousness is Uptown Sedona, a lively commercial district that offers a bit of everything: art galleries, quirky souvenir stores, gelato cafes, upscale sit-down restaurants, New Age and metaphysical shops, and tour kiosks.
Owing to its spectacular setting and full-service food and shopping options, Uptown Sedona is definitely worth a visit. You could easily spend a half-day wandering the shops and cafes. Parking is available in a number of public lots located throughout the district.
4. Bell Rock
Also prominent among Sedona-area landmarks is Village of Oak Creek’s Bell Rock, a massive bell-shaped formation made up of horizontal layers of rock.
The 3.6-mile Bell Rock Pathway offers close-up views of the popular site. Nearby, Rabbit Ears Rock rises from the ground near Spaceship Rock, which rests not far from Courthouse Rock. It’s all part of the eclectic mix that makes up the ethereal red rock landscape of Sedona.
The trail is considered easy to moderate and should take about 2.5 hours to complete. Adjoining loops, such as the scenic Courthouse Butte Loop Trail, will add time to the hike. The trailhead is located just outside Village of Oak Creek and fills up early with hikers and sightseers.
5. Devil’s Bridge
If you’ve checked out social media posts on Sedona lately, you are almost certainly familiar with Devil’s Bridge -- the sandstone arch where hikers regularly pose, standing in groups or jumping for joy.
It is Sedona’s largest rock arch, and the Coconino National Forest’s website says, “Don’t let its name fool you; it’s one of the most heavenly sights in an area famous for them.”
Rated as moderate, the Devil’s Bridge Trail climbs about 400 feet in a 1.8-mile round-trip trek. Near the top, hikers must navigate a somewhat strenuous climb on a rock staircase.
Once you are at the top, you can walk across the bridge. Although it sounds scary, I found the bridge to be wider than expected and not particularly intimidating, although it definitely could be challenging for those who are afraid of heights.
The Devil’s Bridge Trail is extremely popular, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait your turn to climb the rock staircase and get a photo on the bridge. Expect the round-trip hike to take at least an hour and a half.
6. Sedona Heritage Museum
A gem hidden right in the middle of Sedona, the Sedona Heritage Museum (also known as the Jordan Historical Park) offers a step back in time, along with a respite from the crowds. As the site of the original farmstead of Sedona pioneers Walter and Ruth Jordan, the museum offers a glimpse of what the area was like a century ago.
Wandering amidst the old apple orchard grounds yields plenty of pretty red rock views as well. Plan to spend an hour or two taking in the museum and grounds.
7. West Fork Trail
In a switch from the lofty red rock trails of Sedona, the West Fork Trail located along the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road capitalizes on its shady setting along a stream with canyon walls rising on both sides.
The trail is maintained and marked for the first 3 miles, after which hikers can continue on into the stream bed. The Coconino National Forest website notes that while the first 3 miles are easy, the trail gets more difficult after that, requiring wading and boulder hopping. Depending on how far you go on the full 14-mile canyon route, expect to spend anywhere from 3 hours to a full day.
8. Wildflowers In The Rocks
Although its climate is typically arid, Sedona also enjoys times of rainfall and snow, which tend to yield a crop of beautiful wildflowers in the spring and early summer.
If you’re lucky enough to visit after a wet spring, be sure to check out the flowers along the Soldier Pass Trail, a 2.4-mile one-way route into the heart of Red Rock Country. The moderate trail takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
9. Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village
Arguably Sedona’s premier arts and restaurant district, the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village -- located in the middle of Sedona -- is the perfect spot for browsing or dining.
Inspired by and named after a town in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Tlaquepaque is designed in an Old Mexico Mission style. Along with being a bustling commercial district, the arts village is flat-out gorgeous with its sparkling fountains and graceful arches.
10. A Starry Arizona Sky
A Dark Sky Community, Sedona is known internationally as an excellent spot for stargazing. The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau lists stargazing as one of Sedona’s seven secrets and suggests a number of spots to take in the night skies.
For instance, the Aerie Trailhead, located a short drive past the Doe Mountain Trailhead, offers “a magnificent view of the night sky from the parking lot,” according to the website.
Another spot for night-sky viewing is the Baldwin Trailhead located off of the Verde Valley School Road in Village of Oak Creek. There, the stars are visible against the backdrop of Cathedral Rock.
Pro Tip: Sedona’s night-sky viewing is stellar year-round, with one exception: the late summer, when Arizona tends to experience monsoon rains. Cloud cover is heavier then and can obscure the sky view.
11. Seven Sacred Pools
Located just a half-mile or so along the first portion of Sedona’s Soldier Pass Trail is the popular series of natural rock ponds known as the Seven Sacred Pools. Depending on the season, the pools could be dry or overflowing with runoff water. Regardless, they are a stunning sight.
Pro Tip: The 1.1-mile round trip to the pools is relatively easy, but for those who don’t want to hike it, there are other options as well. The Coconino National Forest website notes that permits are available for motorized traffic beyond the trailhead on a mile-long stretch of rough, unpaved road.
“The four-wheel-drive portion of Soldier Pass Road is located off the paved portion of Soldier Pass Road and Rim Shadows Drive in Sedona,” the website says, adding that 12 permits are available per day.
In addition, Red Rock Jeep Tours offers an off-road tour of the Soldier Pass/Seven Sacred Pools area.
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