Sedona Travel Guide Top Activities

Updated: Jan 12

Located in central Arizona, Sedona is home to some of the most beautiful red rock formations in the entire United States


If you're an outdoor enthusiast or avid hiker then read on because Sedona is a destination that needs to be on your travel bucket list.


Couple standing atop Devil's Bridge
Atop Devil's Bridge in Sedona, Arizona

I put together this guide after my second visit to the area. I usually have a hard time booking trips back to places I've already been because I have so many places that I've still never visited!


But Sedona is the type of town you can really fall in love with. Maybe it's the vortices, maybe it's the hiking or maybe it's the sneaky good food. Whatever it is, Sedona has a unique and captivating charm.


Looking for a specific Sedona activity? Use the table of contents to jump ahead:


Top 17 Sedona Activities:

  1. Devil's Bridge

  2. Airport Mesa

  3. West Fork of Oak Creek

  4. Oak Creek Vista

  5. Soldier Pass

  6. Shop at Tlaquepaque

  7. Crescent Moon Ranch

  8. Explore Downtown Sedona

  9. Hike Boynton Canyon

  10. Visit Sedona's Vortices

  11. Spend a day in Flagstaff

  12. Visit the Grand Canyon

  13. Bell Rock

  14. Restaurants

  15. Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park

  16. Chapel of the Holy Cross

  17. Make Your Own Adventure

12 Important Tips for Visiting Sedona:

  1. Bring plenty of water

  2. What is the cell phone service like

  3. Do I need an off-road vehicle

  4. Restaurant tips

  5. Getting around Sedona

  6. Respect the summer heat

  7. What is the parking situation like

  8. Pack layers for Sedona

  9. Don't forget your hiking boots

  10. Other nearby major attractions

  11. Arrive early for parking and to beat the heat

  12. Finding restrooms in Sedona


I'm excited to share some of my favorite activities from this area along with everything you should know before visiting the area. Be sure to drop a comment below and let us know what your favorite places in Sedona were after you visit!


You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!

 

Devil's Bridge


Devil's Bridge is Sedona's best hike with a killer finish!


Looking for activities that make you feel like you're on top of the world? This is a hike you won't want to miss out on.


Man standing on Devil's Bridge
If you arrive late in the day expect long lines to take a photo at Devil's Bridge!

If you can secure a parking space at the Dry Creek Vista Trailhead the length is a relatively short 3.6 miles.


Be warned - parking for this trailhead and many others in Sedona can be extremely limited so in order to secure a space you'll want to arrive very early in the morning.



On a rainy Tuesday morning we were one of the last cars in the lot at 7:45am, on a nicer weekend you may need to arrive even earlier than that!


The views from atop the red rock arch are stunning. If you arrive later in the day there WILL be crowds making photo ops more difficult.


Some parts of the climb up the bridge are narrow which means crowds can bottleneck in these areas. Again - arrive EARLY!


After you're done flipping through this guide be sure to check out my Devil's Bridge dedicated post here! It will provide much more detail on what to know before visiting.


Airport Mesa


The Airport Mesa viewing area is centrally located making it easily accessible no matter where you're staying in Sedona. There are really three points of interest in this area.


Airport Mesa in Sedona
The views at Airport Mesa are incredible!

On your way up the hill you'll see a parking lot for the Airport Loop Trail (3.2 miles long or about 5 km) which also gives you access to the Airport Mesa energy vortex. Parking for this trailhead can also be very crowded.


If you continue up the hill you'll find a much larger parking lot that provides access to the Airport Mesa Grill restaurant and viewing area.


I've heard great things about the restaurant located here - but it was too busy and we weren't able to fit it into our schedule. If the restaurant isn't an option - the Airport Mesa still offers spectacular views of Sedona and is worth the stop!


West Fork of Oak Creek


West Fork is an amazing trail for hikers of all ability levels.


This trailhead is located roughly halfway between Sedona and its northern neighbor Flagstaff.


Two hikers in Arizona
Views from along the West Fork hike

Even though the full out and back distance is pegged at 6.6 miles (about 10 km), the scenery doesn't change too drastically after the first 30 minutes of hiking. This means you can basically pick a distance that fits your schedule and ability level without feeling like you're missing out on the trail's payoff which is usually at the end.



The scenery here differs from much of Sedona as it follows a flowing creek and offers substantial shade thanks to the dense tree line. If you're coming to Sedona for hiking this is a must hit trail. Be sure to check out my full guide on visiting West Fork here.


Take in Views at Oak Creek Vista

This vista is located just north of the West Fork Trail meaning it pairs well with that activity, a day trip to Flagstaff or a visit to nearby Slide Rock.


Oak Creek Vista
Views from atop Oak Creek Vista

After ascending several hairpin turns heading north out of Sedona you'll see signs for a pull off and viewing area.


There's a short nature loop that offers several different views of the Oak Creek Valley below.


This also happens to be one of the best places in Sedona for souvenir shopping as well. There's usually a large strip of Native American vendors setup near the parking lot selling crafts.


Be sure to check out the market while you're here!


Hike Soldier Pass


Soldier Pass is another one of my favorite Sedona hikes where you can see the 7 Sacred Pools, Devil's Kitchen and the Soldier Pass Secret Cave!


While Devil's Bridge is Sedona's best hike in my opinion, this one is a close and very respectable second.


Views hiking in Sedona
Soldier Pass is one of Sedona's most scenic hikes

The first two points of interest along this trail are Devil's Kitchen and the 7 Sacred Pools. You'll come across Devil's Kitchen about a quarter mile into your hike. It's a large sinkhole and impossible to miss as the trail leads right up to it.


Shortly after Devil's Kitchen you'll come across the 7 Sacred Pools which are a series of natural pools of standing water with cultural significance to the Natives that once lived here.



Venture on and you'll have the option of continuing on the marked trail to enjoy vista views looking back over the valley you just hiked OR you can hike up towards the "secret" Soldier Pass cave. Either option is worth it and you can see both if you have time.


My advice would be to dig deeper and check out my full Soldier Pass Guide to educate yourself on the parking situation at this trailhead as well as the crowds that can accumulate at the cave. BUT! Don't let those factors deter you, Soldier Pass remains a must see Sedona activity!


Shop at Tlaquepaque

Step one when it comes to visiting Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is to figure out how the hell you pronounce Tlaquepaque.


Tlaquepaque entrance sign
Tlaquepaque is a great place to window shop and grab food!

According their official website (which you can visit here) it is pronounced "T-Lockey-Pockey." I was not even remotely close to that pronunciation if you were wondering. But now you know!


If you do legitimate shopping here be prepared to shell out some serious coin. This isn't exactly a budget friendly shopping area.


You do get what you pay for - this area's specialty shops and art galleries are exquisite. No worries though if you aren't in town collecting fine art, a leisurely stroll through this area just to check it out is still time well spent!


Picnic at Crescent Moon Ranch


Check out the Crescent Moon Ranch picnic area featuring views of Cathedral Rock and swimming access to Oak Creek.


Cathedral Rock in background
Cathedral Rock towers over the Crescent Moon Ranch area

Here's a nice little gem especially if you're visiting Sedona with a family. The Crescent Moon Ranch and picnic area is a slightly less popular part of town where you can enjoy open green spaces, nature walks, stunning views of Cathedral Rock and even go for a swim in Oak Creek.


This is a pay to park destination so a day pass will run you $11. Bring your bathing suits and go for a refreshing swim in nearby Oak Creek (better than a community pool!). When we visited there were dozens of people of all ages in the creek.


Finding this guide helpful? Be sure to check out my full Sedona Travel Guide video on YouTube!

If you're interested in Crescent Moon Ranch check out my full length post on it here!


Explore Downtown Sedona


Eat, drink, shop and enjoy amazing red rock views in downtown Sedona.

No matter where you go you gotta check out that town's main strip and Sedona is no exception! There are tons of really cool restaurants (more detail on that later in this post) in this area but be mindful they can get crowded around your typical meal times.


Sign in Downtown Sedona
The center of town is lively and fun!

I actually found that getting up really early to do the popular hikes can be really helpful in throwing off your normal meal times. This made it way easier to show up for brunch or dinner at non peak hours.


There are crystal shops and chakra readings for those looking to tap into their spiritual side.


Looking for a great marg? Be sure to check out 89Agave Cantina.



Best place for a beer? Keep reading to find out - it's a brewery style restaurant with great food. All of this while numerous red rock formations dance along the horizon!


Hike Boynton Canyon


Boynton Canyon is home to an energy vortex and provides access to the Subway Cave.


Full disclosure - I've been to this area twice and both times we were too short on time to hike the Subway Cave and instead stopped to take in the views at Boynton Vista where the energy vortex is said to be.


Boynton Canyon Sedona
Signs posted along the Boynton Canyon trail

While I haven't seen the cave (it looks really cool) I can speak for the surrounding area which is spectacular. My two visits were about 18 months apart. Each time we stumbled across a particular local who frequents this area.


On our first visit he was walking the trail handing out small heart shaped rocks and wishing people well. The second time he was perched atop a difficult to climb red rock spire hammering away on his flute. It really helped set a cool vibe for our hike.


He eventually climbed down and.. gave us another set of heart shaped rocks!


I hope you're lucky enough to run into him as well - for me that experience epitomizes why Sedona is said to have such a spiritual draw.


Visit Sedona's Vortices


Sedona's famous vortices are located at Boynton Canyon Vista, Sedona's Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, and Bell Rock.

We cover all of the energy vortex surrounding areas in this guide except for Cathedral Rock, so let's dig into that one while we're on the subject of vortices.


Rock formations in Sedona
The geological features of Sedona are stunning

While catching views of Cathedral Rock from all over town is incredibly easy (Crescent Moon Ranch is a great spot as well) it can be a little bit more difficult to secure parking at Cathedral Rock's trailhead.


We had planned to hike Cathedral Rock but showed up later in the day. We were out of time across our other mornings so we had to chance arriving here later in the day.


Unfortunately we couldn't find parking anywhere remotely close to the trailhead. There was a logjam of traffic accumulating as visitors circled for parking spaces like sharks in the water.


If Cathedral Rock is a priority for you, be sure to arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the issue we encountered.


Even if the vortices aren't your thing, they happen to be located at some of Sedona's most unique locations so chances are you'll stumble across a few regardless!


Spend a Day in Flagstaff


Sedona's neighbor to the north is full of charm and well worth a visit.


Not only is Flagstaff worth visiting in its own right, but it also serves as a budget friendly alternative to staying in Sedona.


Accommodations in Sedona can be limited and pricey depending on when you visit. During my last trip we spent Friday and Saturday nights in Flagstaff, followed by three nights in Sedona. The weekends tend to be especially difficult for finding affordable lodging in Sedona.


Route 66 sign in Flagstaff
Check out the giant Route 66 sign in Flagstaff

This strategy brought our lodging costs WAY down and we had much better options to pick from. It's a manageable (and very scenic) 45 minute drive from Flagstaff to Sedona.


Flagstaff also serves as a stop along historic Route 66! The food and craft beer scene in Flagstaff is on POINT. Be sure to reappropriate those hotel savings into good food and booze!


Flagstaff also serves as an excellent jumping off point for visiting the Grand Canyon (up next!) and the Petrified Forest National Park.


Hit the Grand Canyon!

Both Sedona and Flagstaff make for great jumping off points to visit the Grand Canyon.


Without traffic you're looking at a 2 hour drive from Sedona to the Grand Canyon South Rim. Jumping off from Flagstaff? The drive is an even shorter 90 minutes from here.


Woman sitting along a trail at the Grand Canyon
The views at the Grand Canyon are best experienced up close and personal!

Not bad considering the Grand Canyon is one of the United States most isolated National Parks. While I would like to come back and actually stay at the Grand Canyon, it was nice enough to take in the jaw dropping landscapes and get a lay of the land for when I eventually do return.


If you're afraid of heights there are plenty of viewing areas such as Maher Point near the parking lot with plenty of hand rails. Feeling more adventurous? Be sure to walk down along some of the trails without railings, that's how this area is best experienced!


Visit Bell Rock


Bell Rock is home to one of Sedona's vortices and some of the most incredible panoramic red rock views.


This area is located about half way between Sedona and The Village of Oak Creek. If you're staying near Sedona's main strip you should be able to reach Bell Rock in about 15 minutes.


Bell Rock Sedona

Parking here isn't great, but it's much better than other parts of Sedona. The official Bell Rock trail is a short 1.0 mile (1.6 km) out and back which leads you up to the base of the rock formation shown here. If you're feeling adventurous you can scramble up further (some people were quite high).


Not only are the views here some of the best in Sedona, but the drive out to Bell Rock is incredibly scenic. Keep an eye out for one of the pullouts along the way!


Vortex hunting? If you're following my guide this checks the final box on that front. The area is fairly flat and wide open so don't be surprised to see yoga classes, nature tours and wedding ceremonies along the way. I wrote an in depth post on Bell Rock you can check out here as well!


Eat Your Way Through Sedona

Arguably the most important part of this guide is the food! During our stay the restaurants tended to be crowded so arriving at off hours or having a reservation is recommended.


While we certainly weren't able to hit every restaurant in town, below is a list of some we particularly enjoyed.


Man eating sandwich
The chicken sandwich at Sedona Beer Company is a must try

Sedona Beer Company - Taking the top spot on food, booze and ambiance. They have a great craft beer selection and the chicken sandwich was killer! Located just off the main strip. ​ Cowboy Club - This is a situation where I wish I could have two #1 picks because the food here was also excellent. Get the ribs, you won't be disappointed! Cowboy Club is located along Sedona's main shopping strip. ​ Indian Gardens - This is the perfect spot for amazing breakfast. Seriously, the breakfast burrito was one of the best I've ever had. Located between downtown Sedona and West Fork, be sure to stop at this amazing cafe before or after hitting the trail. They have a really cool outdoor patio in the back that you must check out. ​ Hideaway House - Looking for great Italian in Sedona? This is your spot. I have a saying that when the bread costs extra you must try it. That applies here, the food is all great but PLEASE pay up for the bread! You won't be disappointed. ​ 89Agave Cantina - Looking for a killer marg? This is your spot. Located along the main strip this is a great place to relax and grab a drink, or three!


Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park


Spirituality is core to Sedona's local culture.


Considering Sedona is somewhat of a spiritual Mecca no list of must see places would be complete without a shoutout to the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park.


Giant buddha statue in Sedona
Did you visit Amitabha? Drop a comment below - let me know what you thought!

We didn't have any issues securing parking here and the actual Stupa area is located a short walk from the parking lot making it easily accessible. Be mindful that the area is entirely outdoors and there are limited bathroom facilities.


As much as I enjoyed visiting the Stupa and having a moment of zen this isn't an activity that's up everyone's alley. If you want a deeper dive on what to expect be sure to check out my post on visiting the Stupa here!


Chapel of The Holy Cross


The Stupa and Chapel are testaments to Sedona's spiritual diversity and tolerance.

One of Sedona's more photographed and recognizable structures is The Chapel of the Holy Cross.


Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross almost appears lodged into Sedona's rocky hill side

Much like the Amitabha Stupa the Chapel isn't a destination meant for everyone. If you're visiting for spiritual reasons, photography or just want to feel like you've thoroughly explored the Sedona area then its worth checking out.


The Chapel isn't going to fall into the same conversation as a Notre Dame or Sagrada Familia but is unique and interesting in its own right.


We were lucky enough to secure a parking spot near the top, otherwise you'll be walking up the hill from the lower lots.


The Church interior is open to the public so feel free to head inside and pay your respects. As of this writing the Church's hours are 9am - 5pm and it is located on the southern side of Sedona so it pairs well with a visit to Bell Rock!


Make Your Own Adventure!


Be sure to budget some time for unexpected adventures!


Okay I know it sounds cheesy and this isn't an 'actual' activity but hear me out.


Views in Sedona
Sedona is a great area to wander into something unexpected!

Our first visit to Sedona was a completely spontaneous day trip following a conference I was attending in Scottsdale for work.


We made the drive up without much of a plan and still managed to check out West Fork and the Boynton Canyon Vista (we went back to both spots on our second stint)!


We stumbled into those two as well as a third trail (I don't recall the name unfortunately) by asking around in town without doing any prior research.


My point is, this whole area is amazingly beautiful and packed with different activities. There's more than enough off the beaten path charm to stumble upon blindly and experience so don't limit yourself to this guide (or any other)!


 

Important Things to Know When Visiting Sedona


Sedona's unique geography and wide range of activities are why it's such a popular destination for travelers. That also presents unique challenges for planning your trip to Sedona.


The list below will help ensure your travels to Sedona don't result in any unwanted surprises!


Be Sure to Pack Plenty of Water When Hiking


Rule #1 of hiking in Sedona - bring all the water. All of it. Leave no water behind. Depending on when you visit it can be extremely hot and not many trails provide shade.

Doing some hiking? Check out my post on why you need to invest in a hydration backpack!


How is the cell phone service in Sedona?


Cell phone service around Sedona generally isn't a problem unless you're waaay out on one of the longer hikes.

If you're driving to other destinations in the region (such as the Grand Canyon or Petrified Forest) reception can be spotty during the drive out.


Do I need an off-road vehicle in Sedona?


You don't need an off-road vehicle to get around Sedona.


However, there are guided off road excursions and opportunities to rent your own Jeep, ATV or mountain bike.


Hiking is my preferred means of getting out into the wilderness but I've heard from friends who rented ATVs and said it was an amazing experience. My gut says the guided options (where you aren't driving) are on the less adventurous side.


How's the Food in Sedona?


There are plenty of great dining options in Sedona but keep in mind the town really isn't built for the amount of tourism it experiences.


Expect restaurants to be busy and reservations difficult to come by. If possible, make dinner reservations well in advance. A strategy that worked well for us was to eat at non-peak hours.


Is Sedona easy to get around?


Sedona isn't that big of an area. However, there are a few different 'pockets' and if you plan out your days in advance it will really cut down on the back and forth.


A lot of the activities on this guide are grouped as such or include tips on what to pair them with. Plan routes ahead of time!


Be mindful of the heat when visiting Sedona.


Whenever you're planning to do a lot of hiking, for long durations and potentially in the heat you should try to time them so you're out in the early morning or evening.


Most of the trails in Sedona provide little cover. West Fork is a good option on hotter days but parking is limited!


How is the parking throughout Sedona?


Parking in Sedona is bad. It's really bad. It's sooo bad. The best way to deal with it is to hit the more popular activities first thing in the morning which usually involves arriving at the trailhead before 7:45am.


If you're renting a car I'd suggest an SUV. Not because you can take it off-roading, but because you might need to park creatively!


Be sure to pack layers when visiting Sedona.


This is another hiking oriented tip but be sure to pack layers. When we visited in the Spring the mornings were often chilly while things could be a bit toasty by afternoon once the sun is out. Make sure to dress in layers to deal with temperature fluctuations.



Do I need hiking gear for Sedona?


Having a good hiking setup is about making your experience comfortable more than anything. I'd suggest bringing a small hiking backpack that can hold a hydration reservoir, snacks and a top layer of clothing.


Past that be sure to bring a good pair of hiking boots and wicking socks.


Absolutely necessary?


No.


But your feet will thank you especially if you're hiking 7.0+ miles (12 km) a day!


Sedona has many other major attractions within driving distance.


Don't get me wrong, I could spend an entire month exploring Sedona and really acclimating to those red rock views.


But don't limit yourself.


The surrounding area has so much to offer within driving distance such as The Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest National Park, Flagstaff and Phoenix areas.


Find this guide helpful? Be sure to check out my Sedona Travel Guide video on YouTube here!

Be sure to arrive early for all activities due to parking and heat.

A lot of trailheads have limited parking so it's a good idea to arrive early when possible, especially on the longer hikes. It's also a great way to beat the heat during the warmer months. ​ Also keep in mind that certain hikes like Devil's Bridge or Soldier Pass can become congested at the best parts later in the day. Be sure to start early!


Are bathrooms hard to find in Sedona?


Most trailheads will have either a crude bathroom or porta-potty available. And of course, there's always the great outdoors!

If you aren't a fan of those options you're in luck, most of the trails aren't more than a 10 minute drive from civilization so you can find more appealing facilities nearby if need be.



Speaking of toilet paper, you're probably low and should order some via Amazon now!


Looking for hiking gear recommendations?


Finding hiking gear that's functional, not overpriced and still looks good can be a challenge.


For your convenience I've laid out some of my favorite hiking apparel below. All of the gear I link to below are items I personally own and have tested out on the trails.


  • Hiking day pack - If you're in the market for a hiking day pack I'd suggest browsing REI's selection. If you've never owned one before you can go into a retail store and they'll ensure you find one that fits properly with any of the bells and whistles you may require!

  • Water reservoir - I have reservoirs from Platypus and Gregory that I really like. While these come in a variety of sizes I wouldn't bother with those smaller than 3L. You can always just fill up the larger ones part way if you're concerned about weight since they collapse to the same size.

  • Moisture wicking t-shirts - Patagonia makes really great hiking t-shirts that keep you dry all day long. They also perform well under multiple layers of clothing.

  • Hiking socks - I absolutely love the FEIDEER brand of hiking socks. I've tried some other hiking sock brands, but I think these take the cake! They make great socks for women and men.


There's nothing worse than missing out on a great hike because you didn't come prepared, don't be that person!


I purchase a lot of my hiking gear at REI. If you haven't shopped there before - use the link below to check out their online store!


How can I move my Sedona trip planning forward?


Start scouting out some individual activities! Many of the activities mentioned above link to more detailed posts about them.


Bell Rock
Bell Rock is one of the most prominent rock formations in Sedona

One of my favorite short hikes in Sedona is Bell Rock. If you're interested in learning more about that trail be sure to check out my dedicated post using the button below!