We are not encouraging travel at this time, but we can plan future travel.
Growing up on the east coast of the United States, I had never actually seen a desert. I am not exactly sure what I had pictured in my mind – something along the lines of bleak and baren landscape, blowing sand, an occasional tumbling tumbleweed rolling by – but whatever I conjured up was in no way appealing. When my high school best friend moved to Arizona after college, I thought she was nuts.
Eventually I agreed to go visit her anyway, fearing she had found some long-abandoned rickety shack with years of sand layers lining the floors to live in, and I was the only hope of talking some sense into her.
As we made the nearly two-hour trek north from Phoenix, it was apparent that I could not have been more wrong about the Arizona desert.
Sedona is a desert town highlighted with stunning red-rock buttes. Carved from millions of years of chemical weathering of natural minerals, time and Mother Nature are what give the rocks their signature red color. Known for its amazing vista views, Sedona surprises and delights its visitors who come to explore the sandstone rocks, canyons and natural pine forest floors.
With a temperate climate, Sedona does not always feel like a desert. Summers are certainly warm and dry, but Sedona experiences winter, too. Rarely going below freezing, winters here are known to be relatively mild, yet light snow does generally make an appearance December through February.
In addition to being known for a mild climate, Sedona is also known for a vibrant arts community. Make your way into the heart of town to find the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. The trendy outdoor shopping market is loaded with more than 50 art galleries and craft shops, restaurants and more. Meander through the cobblestone alleyways to find hand-crafted treasures made by local artisans or sip your favorite cup of joe at an outdoor café boasting unparalleled views.
See our related story, “47 Airbnbs in Sedona.”
With countless restaurant options to choose from nearby, feeding your hunger afterwards is a breeze. Our favorite is the authentic El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano, where outdoor seating is abundant, service is impeccable, and the most mouth-watering dishes are prepared to order.
When you’re ready to explore Sedona’s vast outdoor landscape, take a quick trip to the southern outskirts of town, where you’ll find Red Rock State Park. A 286-acre nature preserve awaits you, with ample hiking trails, picnic areas and birds-eye views of the most majestic panorama imaginable. Stop by the Visitor’s Center for a list of guided nature walks, where volunteers chaperone visitors through the park while discussing geology, nature, wildlife and the history of the mammoth red rocks.
For a more adventurous sightseeing tour of Sedona, check out Pink Jeep Tours. In business since 1960, the company with the infamous pink jeeps employs knowledgeable guides who take visitors off-road and deep into the canyons for wide-open views of the gorgeous vistas. For a completely unforgettable experience, book a sunset tour where you will witness the light of dusk dancing along the rock formations. Tours range in price, length of time, and terrain, so check their website or call ahead to determine which tour might be right for you.
Likely one of the most unique experiences in Sedona is a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Sitting on Coconino National Forest land, the chapel was the dream of a local sculptor and rancher, Marguerite Brunswig Staude. Literally rising out of the red rock formations, this stunning place of worship is an architectural masterpiece, and open daily for visits. With sanctuary views of the serene red rock buttes, there is no wonder the chapel is Rated #1 of the 10 Best Attractions in Sedona by USA Today’s 10Best.com.
To say that Sedona is a surprise beauty in the desert would not be giving the town the credit it is due. There is so much about this region that makes it not only special, but a destination to long remember. After a full day of discovering much of what Sedona had to offer, I vowed to return again and again, while spending more time further dissolving my ill-conceived notions of life in the desert. Sedona won my heart when I witnessed her soul.
For more on Sedona, see Visit Sedona.