When my family was longing for a different landscape and an adventurous time, we headed to Arizona. After less than a day in Sedona, we knew we’d made the right decision—and we were hooked. Here are the top eight reasons we loved this vacation destination:
1. Coconino National Forest
Red Rock Country boasts some of the most spectacular sandstone scenery you will ever see. Coconino National Forest is unique in that its many square miles of scenic rock formations are non-contiguous and can be visited throughout the state of Arizona. We took advantage of several designated stops to pull off and take some of the most memorable photographs from our trip. Before you go, visit the Coconino National Forest website and download a map or stop off and purchase one at a Coconino National Forest Visitor Center, where you can get suggestions for two-hour drives to full days in the park.
You’ll need to purchase either a daily or weekly pass for parking, something you can do at any of the stops. You’ll also find bathroom facilities, picnic areas, and trailheads at every stop.
2. Doe Mountain
The hike up Doe Mountain was by far our best ever! It was short but challenging and had us stopping to catch our breath from time to time.
What made it our all-time favorite hike ever was the fact that the entire top is flat, which gave us the opportunity to explore the entire mountaintop and take in 360° views. On typical hikes, everyone huddles briefly within a small area at the top, and then heads back down the mountain. Not here; you can take a picnic and stay for hours on this mountaintop. If you have time for only one hike, this is the one!
3. Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock is the most famous among the many landmarks in Sedona. It’s a beautiful area with a variety of hikes, numerous picnic areas and a bustling creek. While we didn’t to get to it on our trip, many hike up into the red rock buttes of this famous natural formation. I’ve heard it’s quite challenging but worth the effort.
We chose to follow a trail along Oak Creek rather than ascend. It was refreshing to see and hear babbling water in this arid terrain. About halfway in, we ventured off on a side trail that continued in parallel with the creek. After a few hundred yards, the trail ended. Not wanting to backtrack, my daughter and I took off our shoes and socks and waded through the creek’s cool clear waters to get back to the original trail.
The trail ended at a swimming hole just below a canyon wall. The people splashing around made it just about irresistible, but unfortunately we didn’t have our swimsuits with us, so we had to be satisfied being spectators this time. For this hike, I recommend wearing your swimsuit under your clothes to give you the option of cooling off in a spectacular spot on a hot day.
4. Sunday brunch at Enchantment Resort
Nestled in the secluded Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort is an exquisite destination to be experienced even if just for a meal out. We chose to have Sunday brunch at the resort’s Che-Ah-Chi restaurant. Surrounded by canyon walls on three sides, Che-Ah-Chi offers breathtaking views in addition to an outstanding meal. Packed with Southwestern flavors, this magnificent brunch satisfied all of our foodie desires. Wanting to enjoy this fabulous resort a bit longer, we lounged at various outdoor seating nooks to enjoy the warm sun and let our tummies settle after our meal.
5. Slide Rock State Park
What a fun stop to make! Named one of America’s top swimming holes by the likes of Frommer’s, Slide Rock State Park did not disappoint. Located just seven miles north of Sedona, this natural water feature gets its name from the luge-style creek bed, worn smooth over thousands of years by the relentless flow of Oak Creek.
We passed on the hiking trails and made a beeline to the slide area. The rocks do get slippery when wet, so proceed with caution. The chilly mountain water barely deterred the many swimmers who laughed and splashed their way down the gentle slope of the creek, just to climb back to the top for another run. My daughters had a blast and everyone in the crowd seemed to be having a fun time. Plus, at only $10 per vehicle, it’s a pretty reasonably priced outing.
6. Horseback riding in the desert
A trip out west isn’t complete without a trail ride with a cowboy. Horsin’ Around Adventures offers the real thing less than ten miles south of Sedona on trails leading through desert terrain and the local wine country. Their professional staff members actually compete on the professional rodeo circuit in America and made our ride safe and fun. When back in Sedona, we’ll look to do this one again.
7. Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park is a family-oriented nature preserve with stunning scenery, a nature center, and the ruins of the House of Apache Fire. Stopping in the Visitor Center, we got to speak to a guide who gave us the lay of the land, check out the nature exhibition, and take in great vistas from the center’s overlook.
We decided to hike up to the House of Apache Fire, the remains of the former vacation home of Jack and Helen Frye. A fence keeps you a safe distance from the abandoned and crumbling structure, but we were still able to get plenty of good looks at this 1940s dwelling with Southwestern influences. The home has a long history and Arizona has plans to one day restore it.
8. Sedona sunsets
The dozens of breathtaking sights in Sedona become even more enchanting during sunset. A well-known spot for catching it is Sunset Overlook on Airport Road. Its popularity means it can be found on most Sedona maps and, let’s just say, we weren’t the only ones wanting to catch the sunset there. We initially worried that we might not be able to find a spot without someone blocking our views or vice versa! Our fears quickly turned out to be unfounded as everyone was accommodating and we all had a great time mingling with other travelers from far and wide while taking in the gorgeous scene.
Experiencing Sedona turned out to be an unforgettable experience. We got what we wanted: a unique and scenic locale, adventurous days, and incredible memories to take back home. If you haven’t been to this wonderful part of America, stop what you’re doing and start making plans for a trip to Sedona.
All photos credited to Sara Kendall.
For more information on Sedona, Arizona, visit visitsedona.com.