With a population just north of 10,000, Sedona has a reputation that far outweighs its size. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful small towns in the United States. Plus, there are enough things to do in Sedona, that you’ll want to push back the visit to the nearby Grand Canyon to spend extra days enjoying its scenery.
The town’s innumerable hiking trails bring you to stunning vistas and iconic destinations like Cathedral Rock. Forget traditional museums those visiting Sedona will have museums without walls, with Mother Nature leading the exhibition. The town is surrounded by incredible scenery, punctuated by vortex sites and rock formations that will have you scratching your head. Plus, after a big day of exploring, you can kick back at the many local wineries or take a dip at Slide Rock State Park before enjoying the iconic desert sunset.
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Top things to do in Sedona, Arizona
One of the many things that we love about Sedona is that it has the perfect mixture of outdoor adventure, interesting history, and iconic landscapes. All of these are spread out throughout the region so it is a good idea to understand how the area is laid out so you can plan the best itinerary and get the most out of your time in Sedona.
A quick look at Sedona…
Uptown Sedona lies north of the major intersection of Highway 89A and 179, also known as the Y. This part of town is more built up with a number of local attractions including the Sedona Heritage Museum and several galleries.
With its central location, you’ll have everything within a few minutes’ drive.
Highway 89A feels a little more rural, however, you’ll still have the full range of amenities including hotels and restaurants. From West Sedona, you’ll have a short drive to Cottonwood while being close to Devil’s Bridge.
The Village of Oak Creek is a popular alternative to Sedona and has several cheaper mid-range hotels, plus the Sedona Golf Resort. Further west is Cottonwood, found along the Verde Valley. You’ll have a further drive to the sights in Sedona, but will be near a number of great wineries along the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
Now that you have some idea of the layout of Sedona, let’s dive into the best things to do and top things to see and do in town.
1. Oak Creek Canyon
The Grand Canyon may be the most famous gorge in Arizona, but Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon is ready to surprise. It’s here that you’ll find some of the best views in town, where the red rocks rise out of the green-yellow valley forming bright beacons.
The drive between Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon is also one for the books. This scenic byway follows State Route 89A all the way to the scenic Oak Creek Vista. In fact, if you’re driving from Flagstaff, take this route on your way to Sedona!
Oak Creek Canyon is packed with exciting things to do. The canyon is where you’ll find the West Fork Trail. You can also head down to the river to fish for trout or camp out underneath the stars.
On your way back to Sedona, stop by the Oak Creek Vineyards. You’ll also find this spot along the Verde Valley Wine Trail (listed below). The vineyard is as tranquil as the red rock country and you’ll have sweeping vineyard and mountain views from your patio.
2. The Sedona Trolley
For first-time visitors, there are few better things to do in Sedona, right off the bat than a trip on the Sedona Trolley. The trolley runs two distinct tours, labeled Tour A and Tour B, to keep things simple.
Tour A guides those visiting Sedona towards the south side of town. Along the way, you’ll see the renowned Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, amazing views, and the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Tour B takes guests to West Sedona and Fay Canyon with expert narration. Along the way, you’ll be able to see several famous sights such as Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock. You’ll also enjoy a 15-minute photo stop within the red rock walls of Fay Canyon.
Both tours last around an hour and cost $24 per adult and $16 per child. You can also combine both tours and save. Click here for the full schedule and to make a booking.
3. Cathedral Rock Trail
In a town with many photography hot spots, the fact that Cathedral Rock may be the most popular says something. You’ll spot the rock formation as you explore Sedona, but you can’t beat getting an up-close view of the amazing site, in Red Rock State Park.
Although it’s only a single mile-long loop, the Cathedral Rock Trail will get your heart pumping. Starting at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead, the steep incline grows ever more challenging as you go. Bring along sturdy shoes and try to avoid climbing soon after rain.
The initial trek to the viewpoint will be over in the blink of an eye, so make sure to take time to admire the towering red rock formations along the way. Eventually, the trail stops in a saddle, providing one of the most spectacular vistas in the Grand Canyon State.
Look along the valley floor to see a vibrant mix of oranges, reds, and lush greens flowing into the distance until they reach the horizon and the bright blue sky above. This is also a stop along the Red Rock Scenic Byway.
Speaking of memorable treks, check out our guide to the best hikes in Arizona.
4. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Hiking and four-wheel-driving aren’t the only things to do in Sedona, Arizona. The town, which is synonymous with outdoor pursuits, also has a firm grasp on a creative one.
One of the best examples of Sedona’s thriving art community can be found at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Housed within a series of Spanish colonial buildings, the traditional Mexican village is a labyrinth of shops and art galleries connected by cobblestone streets.
Arrive early (it opens at 10 am) to explore before it becomes too crowded. You’ll then have a front-row seat for some of the most memorable window shopping as you peruse eclectic boutiques and watch master craftsmen and women ply their trade.
It’s a living breathing village, with many of the art galleries having artists in residence, which means there is a consistent evolution of art on display. Plus, like any good village, you’ll have several delightful restaurants to enjoy before continuing your exploration.
5. Devil’s Bridge Trail
When it comes to travel, there are some things that are worth braving the crowds for. Devil’s Bridge is one of them. It’s the largest natural sandstone arch in the region and its red rocks rival any found further north in the arch-laden state of Utah.
There are several ways to arrive at the landmark, including on a 4WD via Vultee Arch Road. But to appreciate the surrounding natural beauty, it’s best to get about on foot.
Hikers should park at the Mescal Trailhead and complete a mile hike to the official start of the Devil’s Bridge Trail. It is then a further mile to the bridge proper. When the trail turns sharply up, you’ll know you’re close.
Soon you’ll see the arch, and if you’ve arrived early enough, you may catch it in all its pristine glory with no one around. But likely, you’ll have to wait to walk across. There aren’t any rails to hold on to, but Devil’s Bridge is wide enough to feel comfortable as you capture the memorable moment on film. If you finish ahead of schedule, explore the nearby Soldier Pass Trail.
6. Palatki Heritage Site
Sedona’s history dates well beyond the Westward Expansion and the tales of the Wild West. Within the Palatki Heritage Site, you’ll be able to learn all about the Sinagua people who lived in the region from the 12th to the 14th centuries.
Drive along Boyton Pass Road to reach the historic site located within the Coconino National Forest. Travelers visiting Sedona, Arizona, will be able to discover the remarkably well-preserved ruins of the old Sinagua villages. You can do this by venturing down one of the nature trails that brings you to the Sinagua cliff dwellings.
The other trail meanders through the striking site to nooks covered in rock art that suggests the local story begins at least 3000 years ago.
To complete your journey into the past, take a short drive to the Honanki Cliff Dwellings. The site showcases fascinating architecture, in a dwelling that once featured over 50 rooms, plus additional petroglyphs.
7. Chapel of the Holy Cross
The architectural tree of Frank Lloyd Wright can be seen throughout the United States. Sedona is no different. One of the best things to do in Sedona is to pay a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Now, you may not have envisioned placing a chapel on the itinerary, but you’ll be glad you made an exception.
The mesmerizing Roman Catholic chapel was designed by Marguerite Brunswid Satude. The creation ascends out of the red rocks, perfectly balancing nature with man-made beauty.
When the sun splashes against the vast stained windows of the Chapel of the Holy Cross and oxidized rock formations, it creates a memorable sight for all who witness. But the best view is within.
Travelers can wander into the church to find the enormous crucifix placed upon the towering glass windows. From there, a stunning viewpoint awaits, where you can gaze over the rolling hills, Sedona, and the scenic byways that connect the two.
8. Slide Rock State Park
In the Oak Creek Canyon region, north of Sedona is Slide Rock State Park. Oak Creek flows through, creating a desert oasis where water saunters over the dry red rocks to form natural water slides and green trees find gaps in the sandstone to bring life to an arid world.
To take a refreshing break from the Arizonan sun, locals descend upon Slide Rock State Park and enjoy a dip into the creek. More accurately, they slide along the rocks and into natural pools. It’s a fun and invigorating activity that gave the park its name. Just be prepared for a few bruises when all is said and done.
The other aspect of Slide Rock State Park is its history. It was here that Frank L. Pendley developed a successful apple farm in the desert landscape thanks to a rather creative irrigation system.
Travelers can mix their time swimming and sunbathing with a visit to Pendley’s original homestead.
9. Sedona Arts Center
For over six decades, Sedona Arts Center has been at the forefront of local creativity, culture, and the exploration of the city’s gorgeous landscape via the paintbrush. The center harbors the largest collection of local art in town.
Its revolving door of exhibitions allows Sedona artists of all genres to grow their talent and showcase their work. Something that culminates in the Annual Sedona Plein Air Festival. An event that draws crowds from all over.
The center’s packed calendar means there is always plenty to see and do. Along with the regular events and exhibitions, there are a number of classes that will give you the chance to embrace the local art culture. These include classes, such as Painting for All Levels and Mosaic Creations.
You’ll find the Sedona Arts Center in the heart of Uptown Sedona. The gallery space is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm.
10. Robber’s Roost Trail
Sedona has a sea of walking trails and many get lost in the fray. Don’t let the Robber’s Roost Trail get away. It’s likely this will be the trek you remember the most.
To reach the trailhead, travelers will have to make their way toward Clarkdale. The trail begins along a rocky road, quickly taking you above the treeline with endless vistas wherever you turn. Importantly, as it’s away from hot spots like Red Rock State Park, you’ll likely have the trail to yourself.
Among the auburn landscape, you’ll clearly spot colorful wildflowers blooming, creating a vibrant aura to the otherwise beautifully desolate environment. But don’t let the mix of purples, greens, and reds distract you, as you’ll need to keep track of the rock cairns strewn along the trail.
After 1.8 miles, the trail will come to its turnaround point. Here you’ll find the “roost” which is a circular cave cut into the sandstone hill. Climb into the roost where robbers once hid and see the bright colors around Sedona shimmy their way into the dark cave.
11. Pink Jeep Tours
Walking at a slow pace is the best way to take in the intricate details of the local landscape. But as we all know, hiking is tiring. But when the legs give out, that doesn’t mean the adventures have to end. In fact, quite the opposite.
Joining one of the many Pink Jeep Tours is one of the best things to do in Sedona. The thrilling adventure company has been running tours since the 1960s and it’s safe to say they know the area as well as any. Tours are led by expert guides who are able to tailor an experience to your needs.
If you like history, you can sign up for Pink Jeep Tours’ popular Ancient Ruins guided tour. While the Broken Arrow tour takes you along one of the top four-wheel-drive trails in Sedona.
There may be some overlap between your own adventures and those on tour, but with the added expert commentary, you’ll be seeing the world in a whole new light.
12. Boynton Canyon Trail
A short drive west of Uptown Sedona, Boynton Canyon, is yet another spectacular landscape in this adventure paradise. With your legs rested after a day exploring in the jeep, you’ll be ready to set foot on one of the best hiking trails in Northern Arizona.
Trail 6.1-mile return Boynton Canyon trail will take you beneath towering sandstone walls towards a swath of pine trees. Throughout, you’ll spot lizards and colorful gila monsters soaking up the desert heat while blue jays flutter above.
The initial section offers the best photography opportunities, with the layers of red rock creating a stunning backdrop. But for the best views, add on a short detour to Subway Cave.
Shaped like an underground tunnel, the cave is one of the most beautiful sights in the region and allows you to stand on the edge of the canyon taking in all the layers before you.
13. Verde Valley Wine Trail
There are more than 20 wineries that form the Verde Valley Wine Trail. So when you just want to enjoy the scenery and a nice drop of red, put away the hiking boots and visit the best vineyards around Sedona.
Start by getting your hands on the trail passport (you can print them here) so you can get it stamped along the way. From there you can venture through the valley named after the surging Verde River, stopping at whatever location piques your interest.
But to help you out, here are some of the top wineries along the trail:
- Page Spring Cellars – Come here for top-notch wines, walking trails, and sheltered patios that offer beautiful views.
- Burning Tree Cellars – When the historic settlement of Cottonwood, this vineyard slings boutique wines on their spacious outdoor patio.
- Alcantara Vineyard – It’s only appropriate to stop by one winery with views of the Verde River. Plus, they have over 20,000 wines with ample testing on offer.
14. Montezuma Castle
One hour south of Sedona, the Montezuma Castle National Monument was home to a community of Sinagua people from the 12th to 15th century.
The castle features five stories cut into the limestone cliffs that rise out of Beaver Creek. From your vantage point, you’ll see that the startling creation begins 100 feet off the valley floor.
If the ingenuity and will of the Sinagua community weren’t already clear, it will be once you learn how each of the 20 rooms is held together by clay and mortar.
Sadly, it is no longer possible to explore the inside of Montezuma Castle. However, the striking valley views, interpretive signs, and the invaluable visitor center help to paint the full picture.
To make the most of your day trip south of Sedona, stop by the Out of Africa Wildlife Park near Camp Verde. It’s one of the best things to do in Sedona with kids and allows the entire family to get up close to some of the Big 5 animals.
15. Bell Rock Trail
Standing ominously above Highway 179, Bell Rock is a dramatic sight. The noticeably bell-shaped rock formation is clear from the road, creating yet another memorable sight to admire north of Oak Creek.
There are multiple ways to get close to the gigantic Bell Rock. You can even begin to scramble up its side and bag the summit. There are also mountain bike trails to make use of. The number of trails means you can make it up as you go along, choosing to go left and right as you explore the beautiful landscape.
But the main loop trail that circumnavigates the iconic sight is one of the best things to do in Sedona, Arizona. You can begin your hike at two different locations, the South and North lots. The latter being the better place to start as you avoid hiking up the steep side of Bell Rock, turning that section into a downhill stroll.
In addition to Bell Rock, you’ll find Courthouse Butte right behind. It’s another beguiling site to add to your days’ adventures.
16. Airport Mesa Loop
Some may argue that a sunset over the Pacific Ocean is the best there is. But for me, nothing quite compares to a desert sunset. The dry air, dusty valleys, and clear skies help to create a mesmerizing mix of warm colors splashed across the landscape like paint to canvass. Plus, the oxidized sandstone rock loves to reflect the low-hanging sun, creating an ever-changing scenery of light and shade.
There are several top-notch locations to see the sun go down in Sedona. Including at Red Rock Crossing Park, home to the Crescent Moon picnic site. But no spot for golden hour tops Airport Mesa, which you can reach on the Airport Mesa Trail.
The tabletop mountain looks over the entire town. Across the mesa is where you’ll find the local airport, hence the name, plus views further afield towards Thunder Mountain.
To reach the summit views, you’ll need to venture along the 3.5-mile hiking trail that meanders along the edge of the plateau. The openness of the scenery lets you take it all in, leaving you with an uninhibited spot to watch the falling sun.
17. Red Rock Scenic Byway
The Sedona Trolley may be a great way to get acquainted with the town. But getting your hands on your own set of four wheels is a must for any visit. This will allow you to venture down Sedona’s three scenic byways. These are the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road, Red Rock Loop Road, and big down, the Red Rock Scenic Byway.
All of them are must-do. In fact, you’ll likely experience them anyway, as you hit up the best things to do in Sedona. However, you should give yourself enough time to intentionally enjoy the experience, from every winding turn through the desert valley to the memorable landmarks along the way.
Highlights of the Red Rock Scenic Byway include Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and the Coconino National Forest. As it’s only 8 miles long, you have plenty of time to stop and explore in great detail. Don’t forget to stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross which is just beyond the terminus of the Byway.
18. Hot-Air Balloon Ride
Airport Mesa may have the sunset locked up, but the sunrise is a free agent. But rather than hike in the dark to a view, why not relax and let someone else do all the hard work?
Take in the sunrise from the heavens by embarking on a hot-air balloon ride above Sedona. Wake up to the rising morning sun as it slowly brings color back to the desert landscape and causing long, drawn-out shadows to be strewn across the tablelands.
In utter peace, you’ll be able to enjoy your best view yet of Sedona and its amazing environment where red rocks and tall ponderosa pines vie for your attention.
19. Sedona Vortex Sites
There are four major vortex sites in Sedona. Each is a part of a powerful phenomenon that is meant to inspire and uplift the spirits of all who stand within its energetic boundaries.
Sedona, as a whole, is thought to be entirely within a vortex. But the four major sites hold the key to its power. The four vortices are found at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon.
Each offers a different type of power. They’re either masculine, such as the Airport Vortex, feminine like at Cathedral Rock, with the Boynton Canyon Vortex being a balance of both. Interestingly, the Bell Rock Vortex is a mix of all three.
To see multiple vortexes and learn about their history and powers, join this 4WD tour.
20. Mountain Biking
For all the amazing hiking trails around Sedona, we can’t forget that it is also a veritable mountain bike hot spot. The beauty of the trails around this area is that there really is something for everyone, from beginners to experts.
Some mountain biking trails are perfect for those starting off or who want to dust off the cobwebs, including the trail around Bell Rock and the Long Canyon Trail that eventually connects to the scenic Deadman’s Flat Trail.
The Aerie to Cockscomb Loop Trail is a beautiful intermediate ride that covers over 6 miles through rolling hills and epic landscapes. The Chuckwagon Trail is also a fantastic alternative.
As for advanced riders, the 3.1-mile Hiline Trail takes you into double black diamond territory as you ride along jaw-dropping cliffs through chute-style desserts
Now that we’ve got a handle on the best Sedona attractions, let’s explore some of the things you should know before your visit.
How to get to Sedona, Arizona?
Sedona does have its own airport, however, this is only for private and chartered flights. Those flying into Arizona should look at buying flights into Flagstaff or Phoenix.
Flagstaff is only 45 minutes away from Sedona. The drive south from the airport will take you through Oak Creek and along one of the memorable scenic byways.
Phoenix is over 2 hours, but with a greater number of flights, this is also a common option. Both cities also have tours of Sedona departing locally.
Getting Around Sedona
Sedona does have the Trolley along with the Verde Lynx Bus that can help you get around town, to Cottonwood and Oak Creek. However, it can be difficult working your day around a bus schedule, especially a day packed with outdoor fun.
The best way to get around Sedona is by hiring a car. This way you can explore the scenic byways and parks at your own pace. Plus, many of the trailheads are found along dirt roads away from the bus transit routes.
Travelers should purchase the Red Rock Pass and display it on their dashboards. This will give you access to many of the best attractions on our list.
A car will also be handy for exploring further afield, with the Grand Canyon around 100 miles away. Check out Where to Stay At The Grand Canyon: Best Hotels And Areas For Every Budget
When is the best time to visit Sedona?
The best time to visit Sedona, Arizona, is during the shoulder seasons. The spring and fall provide travelers with the most welcoming temperatures, a lovely balance between too cold and much too hot. Because many of the best Sedona attractions are outdoor-based, this drop in temperature will make your hike and bike experience even better.
Of course, with the temperatures being no secret, the shoulder months are the most popular time to visit. You should plan for more people on the most known trails. It’s the perfect excuse to find a trail few have heard of.
The best way to avoid crowds and enjoy a cheaper experience is to come in the winter. Dress warm, as the dry desert landscape can get bitingly cold in the evenings. But with sparse trails and the potential for a dusting of snow, it’s a beautiful time of year.
Where to Stay in Sedona?
True budget options are hard to find in Sedona, Arizona. But the Bell Rock Inn is a solid option. Each room comes with a cable TV and a refrigerator. The resort also has two swimming pools, a fitness center, and outdoor BBQs.
Enjoy memorable views of Bell Rock at Red Agave Resort in the Village of Oak Creek. This hotel comes with an outdoor pool, firepit, and BBQs. While your well-appointed rooms come with a full kitchen and cable TV.
The L’Auberge De Sedona is our pick for a luxurious experience among the red rocks. The complex has a series of quaint cottages with beautiful views plus an on-site restaurant and shuttle services.
From the magnificent man-made Church of the Holy Cross to Mother Natures’ masterpieces of Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, Sedona offers so much to each visitor. Whether you want to get out and hike the amazing trails or just want to learn about the history, each one of these things to do in Sedona is not to be missed. That means you just might have to visit more than once.