- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Hiking one of Sedona’s dusty, red trails, you can’t help but pause at the top of a rugged rock formation and appreciate the view. The landscape is simply stunning, especially when streaked a soft burnt orange by the setting sun. The sturdy, crimson mesas easily compete with Arizona’s best-known geological wonders, both in terms of grandeur and beauty. As locals quip, “God created the Grand Canyon, but He lives in Sedona.”
The red cliffs mark the southern rim of the Colorado Plateau, a massive expanse of land that rises 2,000 feet from the high-desert floor in Sedona and stretches into Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The variegated sandstone buttes, carved by wind and rain, feature a series of rounded formations and delicate spires that seem to defy gravity.
This evocative terrain attracts an eclectic following of visitors and residents, some of whom are almost as compelling as the area’s famed red rocks. Hikers, climbers, and mountain bikers of all skill levels come to scale the colossal buttes, while cowboy painters and contemporary artists hope to be inspired by their beauty.
Religious pilgrims, from Native Americans to Christians to Buddhists, are drawn to the sacred spaces that have been carved into the landscape, amid dark-green Ponderosa pines and twisted cottonwoods. More recently, New Age followers, equipped with crystals and smudge sticks, have come in search of vortexes, which they believe are invisible centers of spiraling cosmic energy.
For others, the scenery merely serves as a backdrop for golf games, Southwestern cuisine, and rejuvenating spa treatments, while children love the neighboring Oak Creek Canyon’s swimming holes and Slide Rock State Park.
Situated about 90 minutes north of Phoenix, Sedona’s larger-than-life fame as a travel destination belies its reasonably small size. The 19-square-mile city and its neighboring bedroom community can be broken into three distinct areas worth exploring.
Visitors driving from Phoenix on Highway 179 will arrive in the Village of Oak Creek, a small suburb that has mushroomed in the last decade with a host of new shopping centers, hotels, and restaurants along the main drag. The village is a handy option for exploring the red rocks and, pleasantly, feels a bit less congested than the rest of Sedona.
Continue north on Highway 179, and you’ll see many of the area’s most prominent rock formations along the seven-mile scenic drive. Once you cross over the leafy banks of Oak Creek, you’ll hit the Y, a three-pronged roundabout that splits West Sedona and Uptown Sedona on Route 89A. Touristy Uptown commands impressive views of the rock formations and caters to visitors with a diverse selection of accommodations, restaurants, galleries, and shops. You’ll find locals, as well as less-expensive hotels and popular bars and bistros, in West Sedona.
It can be hard at times to get past the hordes of tourists, streaming convoys of brightly colored Jeep tours, and touchy-feely New Age mystics—complaining about the development boom and resulting traffic is a pastime shared by residents and visitors alike. But none of it can really distract or detract from the landscape. After all, no matter where you go or what you do in Sedona, the red rocks cast a powerful shadow that’s hard to ignore.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition