Nestled in majestic red rock formations so magical they are believed to be energy centers, Sedona offers incredible hiking trails, a vibrant art gallery scene, mild weather and excellent food. For all these attributes, Sedona, a small town of 10,000, has been attracting an estimated 3 million visitors per year. And with them has come overwhelming traffic, increased garbage and overcrowded trails.
To tackle these big-city issues in their small town, locals, city officials and the chamber staff came together to create Arizona’s first sustainable tourism plan. Today, you’ll find electric vehicle charging stations and water-bottle filling stations. But you’ll also find there’s an expectation to do your part to keep Sedona as beautiful tomorrow as it is today. Start by taking the Sedona Cares Pledge at SedonaCares.com where you affirm your commitment to not creating your own parking spots in neighborhoods where trailheads are, minimizing how long your showers are (Sedona is in the desert after all) and packing your garbage out while hiking.
You can also go on less-traveled trails, which minimizes your impact on the land. Follow the locals to Sedona’s Secret Seven (visitsedona.com/sedona-secret-7/), a collection of stunningly beautiful hiking trails with all of the solitude and none of the traffic of Sedona’s more popular trails. Head to Jack’s Canyon Trail for a 12-mile-plus hike up 2,000 feet to breathtaking views of the area.
For a casual trail, hike the Chimney Rock Loop, an easy 2.6-mile walk, that offers great sunset views.
Or head to Jacks Canyon Trail, a strenuous 12.4-mile out-and-back trail that lets gives you great views. You’ll gain more than 2,000 feet during this hike that takes you past Jacks Canyon Tank before you drop into a drainage, hiking to the upper end of the canyon before switchbacks bring you to the saddle between Mogollon Rim and Munds Mountain. Add another 2 miles one-way to reach the top of Mounds Mountain Trail. This trail is best November through April.
At night, see more stars than you ever imagined hanging above Sedona and the area at Beaverhead Flat Scenic Overlook. It’s just a a few miles south of the Village of Oak Creek. Turn right into the entrance, cross the cattleguard and turn right into the parking lot.
Then pack water and sunscreen the next morning to hike the 2-mile out-and-back Schuerman Mountain Trail, one of Sedona’s oldest trails. You’ll head up the flanks of an extinct volcano, gaining 350 feet to spectacular panoramic views.
While hiking, keep a respectful distance from any wildlife you might see and never feed them. In addition, stay on the trail to avoid erosion and damage to the plants growing in the fragile desert ecosystem.If you do happen to come across historic structures or artifacts, please don’t move them or touch them. Leave them where you found them for others to see.
Afterwards, enjoy some of the Southwest’s best food followed by a stroll in and out of Sedona’s 80 vibrant art galleries and shops lining the streets. Enjoy rustic Italian-style dishes at The Hideaway House near the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. Head to The Hudson on the southern end of town for new American food like prickly pear BBQ baby back ribs. For fantastic southwestern food uptown, head to longtime favorite 89Agave Cantina or The Vault Uptown, known for its trash can nachos.
“We have a lot more than just the outdoors,” says Michelle Conway, director of marketing at Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “It’s a great place to relax and reconnect. It’s also a wonderful cultural destination. Take home that special art piece to remind you of your visit to magnificent red rock country.”
Home to more than 80 galleries, this town of 10,000 has solidified itself as a haven for art collectors. Seek out locally-made products, rather than imported, that help keep the local economy and artisans thriving.
Before you visit a vortex: Sedona’s main vortexes require parking passes. Stop by the Sedona Visitor Center at 331 Forest Rd. for your parking pass, a map, and directions. While you are there, you can get advice and information from Sedona experts.
What to bring: Water, sun block, and a respectful intent. These places are held sacred by Native Americans and religions. Please come with an open mind and reverence.
Learn more at the Sedona Visitor Information Center, 331 Forest Rd., or at visitsedona.com.
Three Nearby Gems to Explore Responsibly
Slide Rock State Park
Wear your jeans to slide down a slick natural water chute or wade in the creek seven miles north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon. Tip: Visit in the off season as this park is popular to crowds during summer.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Stay the night in one of eight log camping cabins or spend the day fishing or on a horse trail ride.
Red Rock State Park
Go on full-moon hikes, bird walk or spot monarch butterflies at this hidden gem.
For more information go to azstateparks.com or call 877-697-2757 to make camping or RV reservations.
Calling All Foodies… Sedona’s Restaurants
Despite its small size, Sedona is a magnet for food lovers. Here are some of our favorites.
Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits
For a true western experience, dine amid casual country western decor and order wild rattlesnake cakes and elk chops, along with steaks, burgers and salads. 241 Hwy. 89A; 928-282-4200; cowboyclub.com
Dahl & DiLuca
A longtime Sedona favorite, you’ll experience fine dining with impeccable service, live piano music and incredible Italian food, including homemade pastas. 2321 Hwy. 89A; 928-282-5219; dahlanddiluca.com
The vibrant Mexican-inspired flavors in each dish take dining to a new level. Put your name in at 4:30 p.m. at this first-come, first-served favorite. 771 Hwy. 179; 928-203-0105; elotecafe.com