Visiting Sedona landscapes and attractions and what cool things to see and do here
Those red rocks of Sedona just completely overwhelm you when you see them for the first time, it almost takes your breath away with so many rocky outcrops, buttes and clusters of magnificent mountains. If you come into Sedona from any directions from Highway 17 or 89 north or south you don’t get to see those famous rocks until you drive up to a vantage point and there it is in all this amazing glory. I first was able to view the red rocks of Sedona driving through scenic Highway 179 from the main Highway 17. I was already exploring some of the wonderful Indian cliff dwellings at Montezuma’s castle and well and the feeder roads dumps you directly into Highway 179 on the way to Sedona. There’s so much to see visiting Sedona’s landscapes and attractions, checking out the best places to photograph Sedona or even doing a fun road trip from Sedona to Jerome.
Where is Sedona located?
A semi desert area surrounded by stunning mountains and red hills, Sedona is located in the Coconino National Forest and about 119 miles north of Phoenix on Hwy I7. You can also come down from the Flagstaff area from Hwy 17 or across the scenic mountain road on Hwy 89A which is under 30 miles and a gorgeous drive to do in the area.
When is the best time to visit Sedona?
Sedona is a year round destination and worth visiting for all the changes in season but the best time to really visit Sedona depends on your timeframe and what you want to see. The absolute best time in my opinion is spring time from March to May when the weather is really pleasant and warm but not hot. The wildflowers are blooming all around the landscape and adding color to the red rock formations and beautiful rocky formations. This tends to be the peak season for also visiting Sedona so if you are looking for cheaper accommodations, tours and other experiences then visiting in winter or even July to August would be the most economical timeframe to visit Sedona.
Here are the best things to do in Sedona and the surrounding areas
Arriving Sedona area
It’s a pleasant 25 mile drive from the Highway 17/179 junction to the heart of Sedona and the views just keep getting better and better on this scenic road. There are many gorgeous spots and places along the shoulder that you can easily stop to take more photographs, but here are some of my favorite stops and Sedona attractions along the way into the city that were worthwhile spots to stop and admire the views from many vantage points. You can do and see a lot on a weekend or a two day Sedona itinerary of this scenic region.
Red Rock ranger and visitors center
The drive along Highway 179 at the start is mostly rolling hills and pleasant scenery with no views of Sedona until you reach the Red Rock ranger and Sedona visitors center about 21 miles from Sedona. When you arrive at the parking lot, you suddenly can see those magnificent rocks pop out from nowhere. It’s definitely worth it on your Sedona trip to stop at the visitors center with the magnificent viewing platform outside. Before you enter the center, check out the entire panoramic vista to the valley and Sedona mountain range in the background, its truly amazing! When you go inside the museum, you’ll find some nice displays, artifacts and collections and the information center with volunteers manning the desk to help you with your questions.
Tip – I love to visit and chat up the rangers/volunteers on must do places to visit, foodie eating recommendations and secret local photography spots that you always see in postcards and how to find them.
Oak Creek and trails
A few miles from the visitors center is the village of Oak Creek and just outside is a parking area with access to a series of different and scenic Sedona hikes around some of the prominent rock features in the area including Bell rock, Courthouse Butte and other landmarks. There is a large parking lot just outside of the village with access to popular trails including: Bell Rock pathway, Broken Arrow trail, West Fork Oak Creek.
Tip – most of these trails are easy to moderate on fairly flat on dirt pathways. They vary from one to four miles in length with fantastic views of the surrounding outcrops, buttes and mountain ranges
Visiting the Chapel in of the Holy Cross
One of the top things to do in Sedona is a visit to the stunning catholic Chapel of the Holy Cross built right up into the rocks of Sedona is an iconic historic treasure. Jutting out into these boulders and looking out to the Mystic hills and is also one of the Sedona Vortexes that embrace the entire chapel in an arc from behind. The inside of the chapel is unadorned with large picture windows and views out to the Mystic Hills, red it candles offer the only hint of color inside of the chapel.
Tip – This is a very popular tourist destination, it is very crowded and parking can be tricky so my plan was to visit this site very early in the morning when parking would be easier or you can park at the bottom lot and hike up to the chapel.
Simple interior details of the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Exterior views to the Mystic Hills
Cathedral rock at Oak Creek
One of the most iconic shots of the impressive Cathedral Rock is with a water views from Oak Creek looking out to these majestic peaks. The route I took follows the O’Beyond road to the end becomes part of the national park system. Views are mostly from the other side of the creek looking directly to the Cathedral Rocks, but the interest rock puddles and fall foliage really made this hiking area stand out and framing the Cathedral rock in the back ground.
Tip – There are many trails in this area including a nice loop of the river area and Cathedral Rock. At the main parking lot, you can walk down the trail head for a summary of the popular trails in the area.
Fall colors coming out at Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock
Driving views of Cathedral rock from O’Beyond Road
Fun places to visit in Sedona
Central Sedona is spread out with a tourist upper town and the commercial areas surrounding the city. Depending on what your interest in visiting, shopping or eating in the city, here are some of the worthwhile venues that make the city fun to explore even if it is heavily focused on tourism.
Tlaquepaque Arts Village
Close to downtown Sedona is the upscale Tlaquepaque Arts Village and gallery. Within a gorgeous setting and attractive Southwestern styled buildings are these high end galleries and stores, attractive restaurants and an overall fun place to explore and enjoy the lovely architecture, shops and colorful grounds. There’s a lot of wonderful restaurants to choose from covering Mexican, regional cuisine to popular brew pubs.
Art Gallery Scene
Sedona is known worldwide as an arts focused community with many galleries supporting local and international artists from around the world. You will find lots of galleries in the Upper town and in standalone locations drawing artists featuring Sedona’s landscapes, handmade jewelry, sculpture, Indian craftwork and almost every creative pursuit. You can also take part in a variety of arts programs while visiting the city and its famous outdoor landscapes. To check out the latest of the Sedona art scene, check out this website for updated information.
The Sedona art gallery scene is impressive
From visiting the Chapel of the Holy cross, hiking to one of the energy vortex areas, to getting a complete metaphysical tuning, there is a lot of spiritual caregivers and practitioners to enhance your spiritual sensations. Just being outdoors and exploring Sedona’s four well-known vortexes gives you opportunities to experience the energy from these environments. To find out more about where all things spiritual converge in Sedona check out this site.
Hiking to Cathedral rock and experiencing the energy vortex from above
Are you hungry – here’s some food recommendations
The food scene is delicious here with so many choices of foods from vegan, farm to table and fine dining venues that adds to the experience visiting the area. Check out some these wonderful recommendations below.
7 Best restaurants in Sedona
15 Favorite Sedona eats
Some favorite local venues
Some recommendations in visiting Sedona
Flying into Sedona Airport
Key West International Airport is serviced by many US carriers including: Delta, American and United airlines. To check out the latest prices and schedules you can enter your dates with the search engines listed below for updates.
Sedona hotels and resorts
The first thing to work out for a Sedona visit is where you will stay because Sedona resorts and hotels do book months or years in advance especially during the peak season times in the city. Prices do rise according to limited availability, seasonality and peak seasons in Sedona lodging or Sedona bed and breakfast inns. You can check out reviews and the latest prices through any of your favorite booking websites below
TripAdvisor smart deals for Sedona
Priceline current prices and promotions for Sedona
Booking your car rental
In order to get the best prices for limited inventory of car rentals in the Sedona area, you also need to book your rental car as soon as you can. Depending on location you can book basically from where you fly into.
Priceline car rentals and bid up to 40% off current rental rates
Hertz Rental cars, save 40% when you pay now
Small group van tours around Sedona
If you’re not into doing the driving, then one of the most popular ways of visiting Sedona and other popular landmarks or monuments in the area is to take a small group van tour. The guided tours are offered by Tours4Fun are lead by expert guides from the area and have experience touring and sharing the history, culture and natural beauty of these wonderful places surrounding Sedona. For a list of Sedona 1 day to multiple day tours, check out the Tours4Fun site here for more details and information.
Check out these other Arizona posts below
Road trip from Sedona to Jerome
Getaway weekend to Phoenix Arizona
Road trip to Walnut Canyon National Park
Road trip to Waputki National Monument
Best places to photograph Sedona
Things to do around Flagstaff, Arizona
Exploring the Montezuma cliff dwellings
Conclusion to Sedona landscapes and attractions
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What a beautiful place. Great post
What gorgeous photos of the Sedona landscape. The area is one I definitely have to visit–and soon.
Oops–got cut off before I completed my website!
Spectacular photos, as always! It helped me recall my day trip up from Scottsdale several years ago. It also makes me want to go back ASAP. I love the hiking and sunshine and serenity we found here. You capture that so well in this post. Thanks. — JR
Sedona is one of the most beautiful places in the country. What a unique terrain and how well you have captured it in your photos.
I love the red rocks at Sedona. The town is quite alternative and complements the landscape.
I’d love to visit Sedona…it looks a little like Monument Valley? One day, whenever I make it back to the U.S I shall be sure to book to visit.
I’ve never been to Sedona and it’s long been on my bucket list. Your magical photos have nudged it up even higher on my must-see list.
I love Sedona but have never been to Tlaquepaque Arts Village. It sounds wonderful so I will plan to visit on my next trip. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!
I love Sedona. It is so beautiful and so peaceful and serene feeling. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of my favourite spots. I also love Tlaquepaque Arts Village.
Super post, Noel. It made me remember how much we enjoyed our time in Sedona. Your photos have captured this magical place perfectly!
Your photos are absolutely stunning, Noel. It’s hard to pick a favorite as the landscape is so varied and magnificent with the different formations and colors competing with the blue sky and clouds. It’s also NOT difficult to see why this area would inspire a feeling of awe and reverence for those with a spiritual leaning. It’s been years since we’ve been to Arizona but I’m thinking we need to put Sedona at the top of our list when we next visit the States!
What an extraordinary destination. Sedona looks so majestic and mystical, and your photo captures are stunning. The first image reminded me so much of a place in South Africa called “Valley of Desolation” or “Desolation Valley’.