That was my wife’s first reaction when I said let’s go to Sedona, Arizona. I quickly explained that yes, Sedona is in the middle of the desert, but it is much more than desolate landscapes and sand.
That was last year. This year my wife was very excited to revisit this wonderful desert oasis.
Last year, we drove through familiar California towns, palm trees, and windmills. And in Arizona, we encountered stark rock formations, rare lonely bushes, and a ferocious sandstorm. This year we decided to fly into Phoenix and drive for one hour and a half to Sedona.
Read about our first journey to Sedona here. In this article, we will share our new experiences with Sedona’s Red Rocks, Stargazing, Ancient cliff dwellers site, and great dining.
Where to stay
Sedona is well established as a tourist destination, so you can find accommodation for every taste and budget. You can find a hotel or motel room, live in luxury at a resort and spa or find seclusion at a retreat.
An excellent resource to help find your perfect stay in Sedona can be found here.
This time we stayed at Green Tree Inn on the west side of Sedona. Our experience was mixed. The hotel suite is spacious with a living room, a kitchenette, and a King Size bed. The bed was comfortable and the staff was great. We just had a few problems with the equipment.
In general, if you like to stay in a quiet neighborhood, then pick a place in West Sedona or further out in the valleys. If you like to be in the middle of the action, then Uptown Sedona is the place for you.
What to do
During this visit, we went on a Stargazing tour, visited the Cliff Dwellers Heritage Site, went on a Vortex tour, watched the sunset from the Airport Mesa, and tried several restaurants with amazing views. Continue reading for more details on our adventures.
To learn about our earlier Jeep tour and Red Rock hikes visit the first article here.
The Sedona mystics claim there are magnetic vortices running through the area that give it an otherworldly significance.
Although I am a skeptic, I do have an open mind, so I decided to go with Safari Jeep Tours of Sedona on their Vortex Tour.
During the tour, we visited Rachel’s Knol, which is supposed to be an active Vortex and the Buddhist Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, and enjoyed dramatic views of green valleys and Red Rocks. Read more about this tour here.
This year we decided to go with professionals on a Stargazing tour. Stargazing Sedona run an excellent tour using their huge telescopes to allow us to gaze into distant planets and stars. Read more about our experience here.
Palatki Heritage Site
Between 1100 and 1400 BC, the Sinagua people built their homes right into the walls of the canyons. They became known as the Cliff Dwellers.
The heritage site is about a 30-minute drive from Sedona. The distance is actually not that long, but most of the road is rough gravel. So unless you have an off-road vehicle, you will need to drive very carefully.
Tip: To protect the site from overuse, you will need to make a reservation and check-in at the visitor center.
When we arrived at the site, we were greeted by a volunteer who checked us in and gave us instructions on our hikes.
The guide explained that we have to take two hiking trails going in opposite directions. We were expected to go with the group to reach the first site with Cliff Dwellings.
At the first site, another guide explained the history of the dwellings and the type of people who lived there. In this one structure, about 60 to 80 people made it their home. It is unknown if this was one big family or a ruler’s family with servents.
We then hiked back and into the second trail to visit the caves with the pictographs and petroglyphs. The archaeologists discovered that the drawings on the cave walls belong to several people over the ages going back 6000 years ago.
The sites are awe-inspiring and got me thinking about the kind of life those people lived. In some way, it was very simple and peaceful, but in others, it must have been filled with hardship.
Airport Mesa Overlook
Sedona has a small airport serving private aviation and tour operators. At the airport, there is an excellent restaurant with great views. We went there for an early dinner, but on the way, we noticed two overlook spots. We decided to visit on the way down.
Right next to the airport, there a large parking lot for the first overlook. We parked and walked to the edge of a cliff overlooking the city of Sedona and the rock formations in the background. The best part about this spot is when the sun approached the horizon and reflected on the red rocks.
A little lower towards highway 89A, we found another spot with a similar view, but the main attraction was a trail climbing a rock. The view from the top is stunning.
Red Rock State Park
This park by Oak Creek is a respite from the bustle of town. It is a few miles outside of Sedona with many hiking trails and great views of the Red Rocks.
Our favorite trail is Kiva Trail which mostly runs along Oak Creek. It is an easy hike and runs for around 1.3-miles.
During our Sedona trips, we tried many restaurants. Some with amazing views and others just for the food. Some are upscale and expensive like Cress Oak Creek at L'Auberge Sedona, while others were simple neighborhood eateries like Cafe Jose. Read more about are our favorites here.