Nestled amid bright red rocks, lush green forests, and the winding Oak Creek, Sedona is a charming city in northern Arizona that attracts visitors from around the world. Known for its vibrant arts scene, spiritual vortices, and proximity to breathtaking hikes, Sedona makes for an unforgettable travel destination. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Sedona, it offers no shortage of sights, activities and attractions to fill any itinerary.
Top Best Things To Do In Sedona
If you’re planning a trip to this stunning region, you’ll want to make the most of your time. From scenic drives and winery tours to shopping sprees and vortex meditations, here are the very best things to do in Sedona and the surrounding verdant Verde Valley:
Iconic Red Rock Formations
No trip to Sedona is complete without taking in the awe-inspiring red rock formations that surround the city. Formed by ancient layer upon layer of mineral-rich sandstone, iron oxide, and decomposed granite, the fiery orange and red cliffs seem to glow, especially during sunrise and sunset when they are bathed in golden light.
Some of the most iconic rock formations not to miss include:
- Cathedral Rock: Arguably Sedona’s most famous landmark, the towering Cathedral Rock beckons hikers with several delightful trails leading through oak and juniper to the iconic formation.
- Bell Rock: Resembling the hump and elongated neck of a grazing camel, Bell Rock is located just north of the Village of Oak Creek. Visitors can hike, mountain bike, or try rock climbing on this prominent vortex site.
- Courthouse Butte: Located just off AZ-179 south of Sedona proper, Courthouse Butte is one of the most photographed rock formations in the American Southwest, appearing in countless ads, movies, and TV shows.
Be sure to stop at numerous pull-offs and scenic overlooks throughout Sedona to fully take in these breathtaking natural sandstone structures. The Red Rock Scenic Byway (AZ-179) provides magnificent views, especially from overlooks like Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock Vista. For a short walk with panoramas, take the moderate hike to Airport Mesa for views of Snoopy Rock, Camelhead, Coffee Pot Rock, and more.
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Hit the Hiking Trails
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails winding through pine and juniper forests, grassy meadows, and of course, those iconic towering red rocks, Sedona offers some of the best hiking in Arizona. The diverse trails range from short and easy walks to strenuous full-day treks, so there are options for every ability and fitness level.
Top hikes include:
- Devil’s Bridge: Arguably Sedona’s most popular hike, this moderately strenuous 4.5-mile trek culminates at an impressive natural sandstone arch with panoramic views. Leave early to beat the crowds at the summit.
- Cathedral Rock: For spectacular views of the Sedona area, take on this strenuous hike that made Cathedra Rock one of Sedona’s most famous landmarks. Sections involve using rebar handrails, ladders, and traversing narrow ledges with steep drop-offs.
- Soldier Pass: Ideal for families, this moderate 4-mile loop passes through oak and juniper forest with the option to explore the remains of an old mining site before culminating at the scenic Seven Sacred Pools.
- Fay Canyon: This easy 2-mile loop hike crosses Oak Creek then leads uphill through sandstone walls brightly colored with vibrant green, red, orange and yellow lichen. Great option for sunsets!
With the amazing scenery, it’s easy for hikers to lose track of time, so be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection. Check trailhead maps before you set out so you can gauge distance and difficulty. Sedona hiking guides also offer excellent customized options for those wanting a more informative, intimate small group experience on the trails.
Shop and Dine in Uptown Sedona
The pedestrian-friendly main drag of Sedona is perfect for whiling away an afternoon, popping into the dozens of eclectic art galleries, boutiques, jewelry shops, and crystal and psychic reading stores that give the city its New Age vibe. Pick up the perfect memento, whether it’s artwork, handcrafted decor, spiritual stones and books, dreamcatchers, or Native American arts and crafts.
Uptown is also home to many excellent restaurants serving upscale Southwestern fusion cuisine, Italian dishes, or classic American comfort foods. Enjoy a relaxing brunch or dinner on a patio with red rock views then cap off your evening with drinks and live music. Some of the top-rated spots include Mariposa, Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante, and Oaxaca Restaurant & Cantina.
Just south of Uptown Sedona off AZ-179, stop to browse the artsy shops, courtyards, and galleries at Tlaquepaque Village, modeled after a traditional Mexican village. On weekends, local artists set up booths to display their work. Fuel up on chips, guac, and margaritas on the patio at El Rincon before checking out the galleries.
Tour Wineries and Vineyards
The Verde Valley surrounding Sedona has quietly become one of the top wine-growing regions in Arizona. The high desert terroir with volcanic soil, varying elevations, and extreme shifts between day and night temperatures make for unique conditions producing excellent grapes. Nearly 20 wineries now offer tours and tastings in the area.
Top picks include Page Springs Cellars, known for robust red varietals and located on Oak Creek with scenic views from their outdoor patios. Just up the road on AZ-89A, stop at Pillsbury Wine, in an Old West-style building with a cellar dug deep into the granite hills for aging the wines. Further north, Alcantara Vineyards is family-owned and boasts panoramic views of the Sedona red rocks.
Many wineries also serve small bites or gourmet meals with wine pairings available. Restaurants like Bocce and The Farm at Agritopia have exceptional wine lists focused primarily on Arizona and southern region varietals.
If time allows, stay overnight at a wine country inn like L’Auberge de Sedona. They offer innovative winemakers dinners and packages for further immersing in northern Arizona’s burgeoning viticulture. You can visit the tasting rooms, take a guided tour, or join a wine club. Some of the wineries and vineyards in Sedona are :
- Alcantara Vineyards: The largest vineyard in the Verde Valley, with over 20,000 vines and 17 grape varieties.
- Page Springs Cellars: A family-owned winery that specializes in Rhone-style wines and offers a bistro, a spa, and a yoga studio.
- Oak Creek Vineyards: A boutique winery that produces small-batch wines and features a cozy tasting room and a gift shop.
- Javelina Leap Vineyard: A premium winery that grows its own grapes and makes its own wines, with a tasting room, a bistro, and a zinfandel house.
Find Vortex Energy Centers
One of Sedona’s famous draws is its vortex sites – areas believed to emit spiritual energy from the natural landscape. The vortexes emanate from the iron-ore in the surrounding red rocks mixed with the high amounts of quartz in the earth, which has an energetic, balancing, and healing effect, according to believers.
While the vortex phenomenon can’t be seen by the naked eye, many have reported feeling renewed mental clarity, physical recharging or emotional healing when meditating or spending time mindfully in these power centers. Some of Sedona’s most visited vortex sites include Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon.
To tap into the vortex experience, simply sit or stand quietly while holding an intention of openness or insight requests for new ideas, change, self-improvement or healing are common. Let the energy flow while allowing your mind to relax into a meditative state for 5-30 minutes. Vortex maps indicating the four major energy centers are available in most Sedona shops; guided vortex tours and spiritual healers are also available for hire.
Whether you feel earth energy pulsating or it simply offers a nice meditative moment in nature, vortex sites should be on your Sedona itinerary for a little mind-body recharging!
Enjoy the Local Arts Scene
In addition to the dozens of galleries and artists’ shops found throughout Sedona, the city has a vibrant calendar of year-round art events, festivals and art installations scattered along the trails and parks that further showcase the rich creative pulse.
Annual Sedona events include the Sedona Plein Air Festival, where artists paint outdoor landscapes for display and judging. First Friday Art Walk invites visitors to explore new gallery openings every month. Sedona Arts Festival transforms the red rock city into a weekend-long art fair each June, while the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Festival brings top jazz musicians rocking amid the famous sandstone. And many galleries and art schools offer regular classes and workshops for creating your own artwork with Sedona inspiration.
With all the creative energy, it’s easy to channel your inner artist during a trip to Sedona! Stop to appreciate the over 100 life-size bronze statue installations along the Sedona Cultural Park trail surrounding Tlaquepaque as well as decorative roundabouts. Let your own creative impulses flow by capturing incredible landscapes with photography, painting local scenery, or getting lost creating art during one of the many workshops or retreats.
Splash Around at Slide Rock State Park
One of the best ways to cool off during Sedona summers is by sliding down the smooth red sandstone chutes into the crisp, clear mountain runoff waters of Oak Creek at the historic Slide Rock State Park. Once a 1930s’ apple farm, the park preserves one of Arizona’s most popular natural water slides located just 7 miles north of Sedona off AZ-89A.
Bring a swimsuit to enjoy swimming and sliding down the algae-coated red rock “flumes” while admiring gorgeous canyon views. Or relax creekside on a lounge chair beneath the sycamore, willow and black walnut trees dotting the canyon. Slide Rock State Park also connects hikers to some of central Arizona’s most picturesque hiking trails overlooking the creek.
Plan to arrive mid-week or early on weekends during peak summer travel months, as the swimming holes fill by noon, with waits of 2+ hours. While this State Park does charge an entrance fee, experiencing the exhilarating natural waterslide surrounded by sandstone cliffs makes for an iconic Sedona experience!
Four Wheel Off-Roading Adventure
The remote wilderness just outside Sedona offers prime off-roading terrain to put your four-wheeling skills to the test while taking in some of the best views in red rock country. Several experienced guides offer off-road Jeep, Hummer, Razor, or 4×4 truck tours along old mining trails and into secret slot canyons. Get ready to traverse steep rocky terrain, cross creek beds, climb over boulders, push up rollercoaster-esque hills and test out steep declines. Most off-road tours require closed-toe shoes and include hotel pick-up and drop-off.
Some top off-road trails near Sedona include Broken Arrow Trail traversing a 1956 Hollywood film set, Attack on Glen Canyon. Bear Mountain Trail provides access to ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings while Hell’s Revenge showcases a steep slick rock obstacle course through the sandstone canyons. Wherever you roam, hold on tight while a knowledgeable guide navigates to those picture-perfect vista points only accessible by expert four wheeling!
Stargaze Under Sedona’s Clear Night Skies
Sedona enjoys cooler nights year-round thanks to the mile-high elevations. And with little light pollution from the moderate population size, the area is ideal for stargazing. On a moonless night, thousands of bright stars fill the inky sky overhead.
Many Sedona resorts offer weekly astronomy programs like guided stargazing sessions with high powered telescopes for zeroing in constellations, planets and astronomical features. Pink Jeep Tours takes visitors out to remote locations away from city lights for unobscured night sky views.
You can also simply head just outside city limits and find a dark spot to set up your own blanket or reclining chairs while identifying the seasonal stars and constellations like Orion, Taurus or spotting stray shooting stars speeding by. For stellar views no matter the weather conditions or ambient lighting, check out shows at Sedona’s Harkins Luxury Cinema with its state-of-the-art digital projection onto overhead arched screens meant to mimic stargazing.
Try Energizing Aerial Adventures
For unparalleled elevated views along with adrenaline-pumping excitement, numerous aerial parks now offer treetop obstacle courses, ziplines and high-flying swings with majestic scenes of the red rocks region.
Venture through elevated rope bridges, scramble across swaying logs, and test balance climbing cargo nets to treehouse-style platforms at Red Rock State Park before zooming 1000 feet across stunning Cathedra Rock on their dual racing zip line course. Or soar like an eagle down six zip lines crisscrossing West Sedona’s treetops and Oak Creek.
Several outfits also now offer clear-floor gondola rides right from Uptown, slowly ascending 1500 feet for 360° open-air panoramas without having to hike or bike the terrain. Whether feet planted or soaring at 40 miles per hour, aerial adventures make for a bucket-list perspective to Sedona’s beauty!
Enjoy a Scenic Tour on Historic Locomotives
Two of Sedona’s most unique and historical tours are via vintage locomotives that run through the expansive wilderness just outside of town. Step aboard 1922 railcars trimmed in polished wood, brass and frosted glass windows reminiscent of Sedona’s early Hollywood heyday.
The Verde Canyon Railroad follows National Historic Register tracks hugging towering red rock pinnacles, sweeping Verde River overlooks, and lush riparian habitat. This four-hour trip departs year-round from nearby Clarkdale, covering 20+ miles into the remote Verde Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Railway departs from Williams, AZ heading north for 65-miles of forest, ranch lands, and prairie vegetation scenes towards America’s seventh natural wonder. After spending time exploring the immense Grand Canyon National Park, you can choose to return to Williams the same day or overnight at El Tovar Lodge steps from the canyon’s edge on the gorgeous South Rim.
Whether a half-day or overnight getaway, vintage locomotive sightseeing lets you sit back taking in the views instead of fighting for parking at popular landmarks and hiking trails. Both rail tours include options for upgrading to first-class compartments or enjoying cocktails and meals in vintage dining cars for a truly elegant experience. All aboard!
Find the Perfect Spiritual Retreat in Sedona
Sedona overflows with opportunities for spiritual growth and emotional healing. Top retreat centers focus on meditation, yoga, creative arts therapies and native-inspired wellness packages tailored around vortex energy work and guidance hikes for finding deeper meaning. Highly rated yoga studios also offer clarity, while breathwork ceremonies, equine therapy and Ayurvedic treatments aim to unblock energy.
With endless natural adventures, creating an itinerary can prove challenging. But with iconic hikes, bike trails through crimson peaks, wine tasting on sunny patios, shopping for dreamcatchers and stargazing under dark desert skies, Sedona offers cultural treasures and restorative pampering. Its splendor and vortex energy will leave you feeling blissfully revived.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best time of year to visit Sedona?
The most popular times to visit Sedona are during spring and fall when daytime temperatures typically range from 60-80°F. This allows for comfortable hiking and outdoor sightseeing. Summers can bring hot 100°F+ temps along with monsoon storms. Winters are milder but nights get cold, with light snow possible.
When are the crowds less in Sedona?
To avoid the most crowds from peak tourism, try visiting Sedona during early spring, summer or fall (June, September/October). The slowest months tend to be late fall into winter in early spring (November-April) outside of holidays. But the weather can be unpredictable with overnight freezes and occasional snowfall.
How many days do you need in Sedona?
Most see the major sights in 2-3 days. For spiritual retreats and vortex experiences, plan 5-7 days.
What should I wear hiking in Sedona?
Wear quick-dry, breathable layers like moisture-wicking leggings and tanks with light zip-up jackets. Hiking shoes should have sturdy soles, traction and a wide toe box. Bring hats, bandanas and cooling wipes for sun protection and overheating.
What should I pack for a trip to Sedona?
Must-packs include reusable water bottles for the dry climate, sun protection (hats/glasses/SPF lotion), waterproof layers for sudden thunderstorms, swim gear for pools/Slide Rock, binoculars for wildlife, and sandals/sneakers for sightseeing. Packing layers allows adapting to varying weather and temperature swings.