There’s no denying that Sedona, Arizona, has a pull, an aura, an appeal that sets it apart from other tourist destinations. For many people, that draw goes beyond the gorgeous red rock views and countless recreational opportunities to another famous attribute: the centers of energy known as vortexes.
For decades, Sedona has been recognized as a destination rich with vortexes (also called the more correct term vortices). Visitors travel from all over the world to experience the vortexes’ benefits -- variously described as an uplifting feeling, a sensation of recharge, and a satisfying calmness.
Over the years, I have made dozens of trips to Sedona, and despite the ever-growing crowds and the often-clogged traffic, I always want to return. For me, it’s mostly about the stellar hiking and spectacular views, but who knows? It might also be the power of those vortexes pulling me back.
Based on my visits to all of the well-known vortexes as well as information from Sedona’s tourism website, here is everything you need to know about a visit to the Sedona vortexes.
What Are The Vortexes?
The Visit Sedona website describes the vortexes as “swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration.” It adds that the vortex sites “are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy.”
The vortex sites are identified as spots of either upflow, inflow, or a combination of both.
Upflow spots -- found at mountaintops, mesas, or scenic overlooks -- are locations where the energy is flowing upward out of the earth and are said to create positive, uplifting, and rejuvenating sensations.
Inflow sites feature energy flowing inward to the earth and are typically found in canyons, caves, valleys, and low-lying areas. The inflow sites are known to have a calming effect and are good spots for introspection and meditation.
Pro Tip: More information about the science of vortexes can be found on the GoLakeHavasu website or in the book Scientific Vortex Information by Pete A Sanders Jr.
Where Are They Located?
The vortexes are spread all over the Sedona area, from West Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek to the Oak Creek Canyon area. Because Sedona is a relatively small town of about 10,000, the well-known vortexes are all fairly close to one another. A map is available on this PDF.
Here are four of the most famous Sedona vortexes.
1. Boynton Canyon
For me, a trek through Boynton Canyon encapsulates the best of Sedona, as it passes by a series of amazing red-rock buttes before heading up a lovely forested box canyon.
On my recent January hike, the canyon felt like a secret garden, with faded gold and pink leaves still clinging to tree branches and bluebirds flitting from tree to tree. The actual vortex site is stunning, with canyon walls rising all around.
The Boynton Canyon hike is known as a combination inflow/upflow site. Note that while the Coconino Forest website rates the hike as an easy 5 miles round-trip, my cell phone clocked it at closer to 6.5 miles round-trip. The last half-mile or so is more on the strenuous side, with some scrambling up rocks required in the final ascent. The hike takes about 2 to 3 hours.
Boynton Canyon is located in West Sedona and can be reached by taking Dry Creek Road off Highway 89A. Parking is available in a trailhead lot with a fee. Pit toilets are available at the trailhead.
Pro Tip: For guests at the nearby upscale Enchantment Resort, a spur trail is available from the resort to the Boynton Canyon Trail.
2. Sedona Airport Loop
For a pure upflow experience, the Sedona Airport Loop is located right in the middle of Sedona, off Highway 89A and Airport Road. You will find the trailhead about a half-mile up the steep Airport Road.
The trail circles the upper slope of Airport Mesa (Table Top Mountain), offering great red rock views. It begins as a mostly level hike and then transitions to a moderate climb. The vortex site can be found on the main overlook, accessed via the half-mile Table Top Trail spur. The loop, including the spur, totals about 4.3 miles and takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
Pro Tip: For great views without the hike, the Sedona Airport Overlook offers a parking area, with a small fee, where you can take in a panorama of all of Sedona.
3. Bell Rock
Another pure upflow experience is available at Bell Rock -- the massive bell-shaped red butte visible all over the Village of Oak Creek. The 3.6-mile Bell Rock Pathway offers close-up views of the horizontal layers that make up the rock formation.
Bell Rock’s strongest vortex energy is said to be felt on the butte’s north slope. Experts advise that it is not necessary to get to the top of Bell Rock to feel the vortex energy, and most people feel uplifting experiences on the first or second level. Visit Sedona suggests, “Follow trails up Bell Rock to the level that feels right for you.” The trail is considered easy to moderate and should take about 2.5 hours to complete.
Parking is available at North and South Trailheads, and a Red Rock Pass is required for parking at both.
4. Cathedral Rock
There are many ways to access Cathedral Rock, the iconic grouping of rock buttes and spires seen all over Sedona. To take in the vortexes, Visit Sedona suggests either the saddle of Cathedral Rock for an upflow/inflow combination or the inflow spot at the Red Rock Crossing.
The saddle of the soaring cathedral-like rock spires is accessible along the Cathedral Rock Trail, deemed “more a rock climb than a hike” by the Coconino National Forest’s website. Although the hike is relatively short at about 1.5 miles round-trip, it is steep and difficult in places, including a scramble up a rock cleft with a few toeholds notched into the rock. Still, the views at the top are splendid. The hike can be accessed off Highway 179 and Back O’ Beyond Road.
Another vortex option at Cathedral Rock is available at the inflow spot at the Red Rock Crossing, which can be accessed via Highway 89A and the Upper Red Rock Loop Road. Follow signs to the Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon Day Use Area. Parking is available for a fee.
Why You Should Visit
Although opinions vary about the vortexes’ benefits, people who swear by them say the energy has a centering influence. So, if you’re embarking on a path of self-improvement, a trip to the vortexes would be a great way to kick it off.
I have also noticed that the vortexes are popular spots for women on girls’ trips. On my recent hike into Boynton Canyon, I passed by two different groups of four to five women on their way back from the vortex -- all beaming from the experience.
Not only are the vortex hikes beautiful and invigorating, but they also provide the opportunity for a bit of peaceful meditation.
The Best Time To Visit
Sedona is a year-round tourist destination, but crowds tend to be the largest from spring through the fall. During the warm, sunny weather of the spring and fall (with average highs in the 70-to-80-degree range), traffic can become a problem -- especially during spring break and fall colors.
Summer is also beautiful in Sedona, with the red rocks glowing against the deep-blue Arizona sky. Average high temperatures in June and August reach the high 90s, though, and 100 degrees in July. Because of frequent summer monsoon rainstorms, it is crucial to get out on the trails early in the summer months and plan to be done midday.
To avoid at least some of the crowds, Sedona tourism suggests visiting in the winter months, when temperatures are still mild, with average highs in the 60-degree range. But even then, try to time your trip for mid-week, and get out on the trails early in the morning.
Tips For Experiencing The Vortexes
1. Jeep Tours Are Available To Some Vortexes
If you prefer a four-wheeling adventure, some of the vortex sites are available on jeep tours that traverse Sedona’s rugged terrain to get visitors to the sites, or at least nearby. Earth Wisdom Jeep Tours offers a Scenic Vortex Jeep Tour that includes an introduction to “the facts, feeling, and fallacies of Sedona’s vortex energy spot lore,” according to the tour’s website, and will take you to at least two vortices. The Pink Jeep Adventure Tours offers a Touch the Earth Tour that allows visitors to experience the calming nature of Mystic Vista or Airport Mesa.
2. Don’t Try To Do It In One Day
If it is your goal to visit all of the famous vortex sites, it’s probably best to split them up between 2 or 3 days. Several of the hikes are fairly strenuous and can take 2 to 3 hours to complete.
3. Easier Options Are Available
Drive-in or easy-hiking access to vortexes is also available at popular Sedona sites such as the Oak Creek Canyon overlook on Highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff; the Chapel of the Holy Cross off Highway 179 and Chapel Road; and the gorgeous West Fork Trail located along the Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive.
Although Sedona is the most famous spot for vortexes in Arizona, the centers of energy are also known to exist on the state’s West Coast near the Colorado River community of Lake Havasu City. The GoLakeHavasu website notes that the community boasts five vortexes of its own.
For ideas on what to do on a drive from Phoenix to Sedona, check out my article, Classic Arizona Road Trip: Phoenix To Sedona, or for road trip ideas to Lake Havasu City, see Phoenix To Lake Havasu City: A Road Trip To Arizona’s West Coast.