The Red Rocks & Beyond

Travel Planner - A Few Days in Sedona

The red rocks and beyond:

Move over Santa Fe, Sedona rocks! With its dramatic red rock setting and million-dollar homes sprawling across the desert foothills, Sedona has become one of the southwest's modern boom towns. However, this time people are coming not to dig for gold or silver, but rather to soak up the views, bask in the sun, and maybe balance their chakras.

You'd be amazed at how many ways there are to look at rocks here in Sedona. Of course you can see them from your car or with a minimal amount of walking at such spots as Airport Mesa or Red Rock State Park, but you can also do your rock watching from a hot-air balloon (pricey), from a bright red biplane (think "The English Patient"), from a jeep (four-wheel-drive tour companies abound), with a golf club in hand (at the Oak Creek Country Club or Sedona Golf Resort), or from a table at Enchantment Resort's Yavapai Dining Room or its adjacent casual lounge.

However, as breathtaking as the views are, there's only so much rock gazing a person can do. Once you're on a first name basis with Sedona's rock family, including Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Rock, and Coffeepot Rock, you may find yourself wondering what else there is to do in the area.

The physically fit can explore on foot or mountain bike. There are dozens of miles of hiking and biking trails starting from the edge of town. Among the best places for a hike are Red Rock Crossing, Boynton Canyon, and the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon. If its hot and you want to cool off, head for Oak Creek Canyon's Slide Rock State Park, which has a natural water slide.

Sedona's natural beauty seems to have been attracting people for hundreds of years. All over the area, there are ruins of Indian pueblos that were built by the Sinagua people between the 12th and 14th century. Montezuma Castle National Monument, east of Sedona, and Tuzigoot National Monument, southwest of town, preserve the largest ruins in the area. However, you can also visit Palatki Ruins near Boynton Canyon on the west side of Sedona, and southeast of town just off I-17, you can see petroglyphs at the V Bar V Ranch.

More recent architectural constructions of note include the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a modernist chapel built into the rocks on the south side of town, and the Tlaquepaque shopping plaza, which is patterned after an artisans' village in Mexico. Sedona is where the Cowboy Artists of America organization was founded, and for several decades the town has been known as an arts community. At Tlaquepaque and elsewhere around town, you'll find numerous art galleries selling a wide variety of styles, though the emphasis is, of course, on traditional Western (cowboy) art.

If Sedona is too commercialized for your tastes, try an excursion to Jerome, a former mining town turned artists' community. The town is precariously perched high on the side of Mingus Mountain with an unforgettable view across the Verde Valley to Sedona. From the town of Clarkdale, at the base of Mingus Mountain, you can see the most scenic reaches of the Verde Valley on an excursion train operated by the Verde Canyon Railroad.

The Route:
Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock State Park are north of town on Hwy. 89A. To reach the V Bar V Ranch, drive south on Hwy. 179, cross I-17, and continue on gravel road. To continue on to Montezuma Castle National Monument, drive south on I-17 to exit 289. To reach Tuzigoot National Monument and the Verde Canyon Railroad, take exit 287 off I-17 and go northwest on Hwy. 260 to Clarkdale (to reach Jerome, take Hwy. 89A southwest from Clarkdale). Return to Sedona on Hwy. 89A. To reach Palatki Ruins, turn off Hwy. 89A onto Dry Creek Road (on Sedona's west side) and continue on Boynton Pass Road.