Sedona, Arizona is a stunning town that’s nestled in the heart of the red rocks. It’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country and is home to some of the most unique rocky formations, hikable canyons, and even ancient ruins. Whether you are a nature lover or an adventurer at heart, Sedona has something to offer everyone.
When I lived in Arizona for 4 years, I loved visiting Sedona, so I compiled a list of the top attractions. One of my favorite things to do is hiking with my toddler on the weekends. If you are planning on traveling with a little one I would recommend bringing a carrier/sling or hiking backpack as some locations have a very steep incline but everything listed is family-friendly. Here are some of the best things to do and places to eat in Sedona if you only have one day to discover it:
Best time of year
Sedona is a year-round destination. We love to go in the spring and fall when the weather is cool. However, winter is beautiful if you like a light layer of snow. The snow redefines the beauty of the red rock. Summers can be hot, so prepare appropriately. Water and shade will be the most important factors in enjoying Sedona in the summer.
Favorite Sedona hiking destinations
1. Cathedral Rock: Sedona’s most iconic rock formation, Cathedral Rock is a must-see for any visitor. There are several easy trails leading up to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views. Be aware that Cathedral Rock trail is a very steep climb, shoes with good traction will be very helpful on this trail. Bring a headlamp if you climb up for sunset; the descent in the dark is extremely hazardous.
2. Red Rock State Park: With over 5,000 acres of beautiful desert terrain, Red Rock State Park is one of Sedona’s most popular outdoor destinations. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll or an exciting hike, there are plenty of hiking trails and guided tours to choose from here. The Bunkhouse Trail is a very easy 10-minute hike that is great for bird watching or mountain biking. and has great views of red rock formations and Oak Creek. This is a year-round trail and beautiful in any season.
3. Boynton Canyon Trail: This picturesque trail winds through the Sedona foothills and offers some truly breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon exploring this scenic spot. This trail also has a detour that will lead you to Subway Cave or the Boynton Cave. Boynton trail is also home to one of Sedona’s four major vortexes.
4. Chapel of the Holy Cross: One of the most popular Sedona attractions, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a beautiful religious structure built into the red rocks in 1956. It offers stunning views and is the perfect place to spend a peaceful moment in reflection. It operates as an active church and there are many ways to experience the chapel whether you stay for a catholic mass service or light a candle for a loved one and say a prayer, or even sit and meditate in the serene environment. This attraction does have ample parking both next to the chapel and below but the lower level parking is a bit of an uphill walk on the pavement so keep that in mind as the parking lot does fill up. Below is the link to the chapel website to find mass and gift shop hours. https://chapeloftheholycross.com
5. Slide Rock State Park: The park is named after the natural water slide that forms in the rock bed of Oak Creek. It is also home to a 43-acre historic apple farm. It’s a great place to visit for a day of hiking and swimming. This is the most family friendly spot in Sedona. There are picnic areas and playgrounds for the kids, and a gift shop for forgotten items and souvenirs and snacks. Pro tip: Bring water shoes as there is a large long staircase to the canyon bottom and the waterbed is very rocky and the algae on the rocks makes it very slippery. The entire swimming area is 1/2 mile long with the “slide” being the most popular spot. There is plenty of room to lounge and spread out, picnic, and spend the day enjoying the view and refreshing waters. When visiting in the summer months bring shade and plenty of water as the canyon has very little shade. Pricing for the park changes based on time of year. Check here for pricing and park information.
6. Oak Creek Canyon: Located just outside Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon is a popular spot for swimming and hiking, with several pristine waterfalls and calm stretches of river perfect for wading or lounging on a hot summer day.
7. Sedona Airport Mesa: For those interested in Sedona’s rich history and Native American culture, the Sedona Airport Mesa is a must-visit. Here you’ll find the Sedona Heritage Museum, as well as several ancient petroglyphs and ruins dating back centuries.
8. Devils Bridge: This popular spot in Sedona is worth braving the crowds for. The massive sandstone structure soars above a dramatic gorge, with sweeping views in all directions. It’s a moderate hike to get there, but well worth it for the experience. If you have a lifted vehicle you can park at the bottom of the trail and just climb up for a total of 2 miles roundtrip, if not you will have to park in the lot and walk to the base for a total of 4.2 miles round trip. I would park at the Mescal Trailhead as it is a small walk through the woods to a mostly flat dirt trail to the official trailhead, but you can also park at the Dry Creek parking lot but unless you get there before 7 am be prepared to walk further as overflow parking spills out to Boynton Pass Road making it potentially a 5-6 mile hike roundtrip. I would recommend hiking boots or gym shoes with a good tread as the hike to the bridge is a climb up and it can be a bit slippery if you do not have a good tread on your shoes. If you bring a young child I would also bring a wrap, carrier, or hiking backpack as it is very narrow at the top and has many drop off points. It is possible to take a young child. We did it with our 2-year-old and she even went on the bridge with us. People generally spend 1-3 hours here depending on parking and the line for the bridge. If you do not want to have to wait to walk on the bridge for that icon picture, arrive early as lines start to form around 9 am and generally last all day.
9. Bell Rock Pathway: For those looking for an easy and enjoyable walk in Sedona, the Bell Rock Pathway is ideal. Here you’ll be surrounded by stunning rock formations and gorgeous red sandstone cliffs, making it the perfect place to snap some souvenir photos. You will have great views of bell rock and courthouse butte rock formations.
10. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village: Pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh, Tlaquepaque is known as “the art and soul of Sedona” where you can get the most distinctive shopping experience in the southwest.
Although Sedona is a beautiful city known for its stunning red rock formations, it is also home to some amazing cuisine. Whether you’re looking for casual dining or fine dining, Sedona has something to offer everyone. Here are some of the best places to eat in Sedona:
1. Elote Cafe: As one of the most well-known restaurants in the area, Elote Cafe is always my go-to when visiting Sedona. This restaurant serves Mexican/American southwest dishes such as smoked brisket enchiladas. Reservations are required so make sure to plan ahead, they do book up to 60 days out. This restaurant is a bit upscale and on the pricier side but well worth it for this award winning food. Price range $13-$35 a meal
2. Cowboy Club and Grille and Spirits: is a local restaurant that specializes in southwestern cuisine. They have been a staple in Sedona for over 70 years. Their menu includes burritos, omelets, enchiladas, and burgers. They also have an extensive cocktail menu that includes margaritas, sangrias, and cosmopolitans. Price range $11-$30 a meal
3. Red Rock cafe: This cafe is perfect for after a morning hike, no need to change clothes. This relaxed diner boasts all-day breakfast and Mexican-inspired dishes. This location has been voted Sedona’s best brunch spot since 2008, with the blueberry french toast being my favorite dish. Price range $9-$16 a meal
4. Open Range Grill and Tavern: if you are looking to enjoy the spectacular views of Sedona’s famous red rocks in a temperature controlled patio while enjoying contemporary American cuisine this is the place for you. From bison burgers to green chili mac and cheese, this restaurant not only serves a delicious variety of food but is also a great place that you can dress up or dress down. Price range $11-$30 a meal
if you only have a little time on your hands here is a few sample itineraries:
Sedona for a day: Itinerary 1- Great for adventurers
1. Visiting a shorter hike such as Cathedral Rock in the early morning
2. Shop at Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village (Drive time approx. 6 from Cathedral Rock)
3. Lunch at one of Sedona’s most popular restaurants, Elote Cafe (Driving time approx. 4 mins and walking time approx. 16 mins from Tlaquepaque village)
4. Seeing the Chapel of the Holy Cross as an easy landmark with stunning views (Driving time 20 mins from Elote cafe)
5. Watch the sunset on Airport Mesa road or Devils Bridge (driving time approx. 14 mins to Airport Mesa and 35 mins to Devils bridge from Chapel of the Holy Cross)
Sedona for a day: Itinerary 2: Great for drive-by sightseeing
1.Drive Bell rock scenic byway passing by bell rock and cathedral rock (Bell Rock Scenic Byway take possibly 30 mins to drive with no stops)
2.Brunch at Red Rock Cafe (Driving time approx. 6 mins from end of Bell Rock Scenic Byway)
3.Drive to airport mesa viewpoint (Driving time approx. 18 mins from Red Rock Cafe)
Sedona for a day: Itinerary 3: Great for Families
1.Take a Swim at Slide Rock State Park
2.Grab Lunch at Open Range Grille and Tavern that has great kid’s meal options (Driving time approx. 13 mins from Slide Rock)
3. Play at the playground and watch the sunset at Red Rock State Park (Driving time approx. 24 mins from Open Range Grille and Tavern)
Here’s a google map listed with all the locations listed.
Whether you’re looking for a leisurely vacation exploring Sedona’s natural beauty or an action-packed getaway, Sedona offers something for everyone. What are you waiting for? Get out there and explore this amazing city!
Contact a GoSmart agent to book your next trip.