As you drive into Sedona, the towering red rocks make a clear statement: this is somewhere special. Somewhere you can get in touch with nature, the earth, and perhaps even some greater powers. In addition to stunning natural scenery Sedona has gained a reputation as small, mystical enclave – as perfect for hiking as it is for having your tarot read.
I took a ‘girls trip’ to Sedona in summer 2018. It turns out that’s ‘monsoon season,’ so every afternoon these huge storm clouds would build up and it would dump rain for an hour to quench the dry desert’s thirst. In between storms, we explored high and low – from mountain slopes to watering holes. It was my first trip to Sedona since I was a kid, and a great spot to relax with old friends (some of whom you’ll see in this post ??).
If you’re planning a weekend in Sedona, this guide for 3 days in Sedona will give you all the info you need to take advantage of the stunning scenery and blissed out vibes that make Sedona unique. Get ready to take notes –here’s everything you need for your Sedona weekend!
Sedona Travel Tips
I always like to star with a few quick tips to help you make the most of you weekend in Sedona. These will just help you plan some of the big logistics before you fill in the details for your 3 days in Sedona. Here are two quick tips, followed by a few others in greater detail below.
- Sedona is moderately expensive. Over the decades, the cost of living in Sedona has risen as it has become more desirable to work and travel there. Expect to pay more for hotels, meals, and souvenirs here than even other parts of Arizona.
- Pack for hot days and cool nights. As usual, this means layers. Try checking my weekend packing list to get an idea of what I recommend for the basics.
How to Get to Sedona
Sedona is a two-hour drive from Phoenix, which is the closest airport, but you should expect some traffic each direction too. It took my friends and I between 3-4 hours each way based on traffic and accidents, so plan ahead there if you’re trying to catch a flight home.
If you’re flying to Arizona to visit Sedona, you’ll (obviously) need to rent a car to get there. Sedona isn’t super easy to navigate without a car either. Just rent a car. I recommend renting from Fox Rent-A-Car, Sixt, or Alamo, or using a tool like Kayak or TripAdvisor to compare a bunch of options (yes, TripAdvisor does rental cars!).
When to Visit Sedona
The best time of year to visit Sedona is between March and May or between September and November. While you can visit in the summer (June to August) it’ll be blazing hot (and monsoon season!) and the winter (December to February) can get quite chilly at night since you’re in the desert and at an elevation.
Where to Stay in Sedona
On a trip for 3 days in Sedona, you’ll need to book 2 nights of accommodation. My primary tip for arranging accommodation or a hotel in Sedona is to book in advance. Sedona is a popular tourist stop on a tour in Arizona, and it can be hard to find hotels on short notice.
Here are a few hotels I’d definitely splurge on:
- L’Auberge de Sedona is a resort and spa that has all the amenities you might need. They also offer a ‘Written in the Stars‘ stargazing add-on. Rooms start from $479/night. Book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Enchantment Resort is another splurge-worthy spot – and they offer stargazing! Twice per week (Tuesdays and Saturdays), two astronomers are available for a stargazing session with telescopes on-property. Rooms start from around $400/night. Book on Booking.com or directly with the hotel.
There are plenty of other chain hotels that are less than these, too. Similarly for buget travelers, I like to recommend a couple Airbnbs as well. Friends and I stayed in the nearby community of Cottonwood, but I recommend booking right in Sedona to save time driving back and forth.
As Sedona is pretty hippie-dippy, there are some really funky options on Airbnb, but I scoured to find the ones that are both interesting, delightful, and not as expensive as the hotels.
- This Tiny House is super zen and also surprisingly affordable! For 2 people, from $65/night. Book on Airbnb
- I’m totally sold on this cool Backyard Glamping Yurt near Cathedral Rock. For 2 people, from $149/night. Book on Airbnb
- If you’re visiting in the warmer months (May to September), consider staying in a cave. Yes, a Cave. For up to 4 people, from $149/night. Book on Airbnb
The Best Things to See & Do in Sedona
If you’re spending 3 days in Sedona, you might wonder what there is to do. While Sedona is certainly not as fast-paced as other Arizona towns like Scottsdale, there’s still plenty to do! Here are the top five things to do in Sedona.
Sightseeing in Sedona isn’t about historic buildings or cultural hot-spots; here, it’s all about the Red Rocks! Some of the most famous sights in Sedona include:
- Cathedral Rock
- Bell Rock
- Oak Creek Canyon
- Devil’s Bridge
- Airport Mesa
- Boynton Canyon
- Chapel of the Holy Cross – pictured above!
Some of these sights are drive-up-and-park spots where you can easily get out and enjoy the view; others require a little more effort – which is why hiking is so popular in Sedona! Read on for more about hiking…
Hiking is easily among the top things to do in Sedona. There are dozens of trails and hundreds of miles of trails just waiting for you to explore, if you like that kind of thing!
Here are some of the most popular hikes in Sedona for first-time visitors:
- West Fork Trail – Towering rock formations, water crossings, and transitions in and out of shade and trees… this hike is like the Greatest Hits album for Sedona hiking.
- Devil’s Bridge – Pictured above, this is the one my friends and I did. Moderate elevation gain, worth it for the views.
- Cathedral/Templeton Trail – This is a popular moderate hike for families who want to enjoy the views but stay cool in the shade near Oak Creek.
- Boynton Canyon Trail – This canyon hike is nice, but the final third is where the real money views are.
In addition to these and dozens of other hikes, several of the rocks –including Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock – also have trails up and around their formations.
Here are a couple quick tips for hiking in Sedona:
- Start early. The sun makes temperatures rise quickly in the desert. If you start too late, you’ll roast.
- Bring extra water. You’re hiking in the desert. Use common sense and bring 1.5x more water than you think you need.
- Wear sturdy shoes. Even the “easy” hikes in Sedona can require good ankle support at times.
During my first visit to Sedona (as a kid), I never heard about this Sedona activity. As an adult, my friends and I made sure to plan a stop at one of Sedona’s watering holes to stay cool during the July heat.
The most famous spot is Slide Rock State Park with slides and water chutes – and crowds. If you want to go beyond the tourist track to find a spot that won’t make you cringe from bumping into people in the water, consider a spot like Grasshopper Point (where friends and I went, pictured above) or Red Rock Crossing (still popular, but not nearly as crowded). Parking is always hard to come by at these spots on a hot day, so plan ahead if you want to add one of these to your Sedona weekend itinerary. (I have it in my suggested itinerary below to help you plan your time.)
I’m not normally one to endorse traveling somewhere just to shop, but Sedona has a special niche of souvenirs that make it worth spending at least a little time browsing: crystals!
Sedona is the epicenter for several vortexes – high energy spots – where you can go spend time, meditate, and re-align your whatever-needs-realigning to help you get better energy in your life. Crystals can be used to help that, and there are a handful of crystal shops along the main shopping street in Sedona with any kind of stone you might want.
I bought one for myself (blue goldstone, a synthetic crystal) that helps with wisdom and scientific wonder, and another for Mr. V (selenite/Desert Rose) that helps with life transitions and creatively breaking outside the bounds. I took them to the Bell Rock vortex to charge them up and bring that energy home… they’re one of the more interesting souvenirs I’ve ever bought!
Did you know that Sedona is a certified Dark Sky Community? The whole town agreed to change their lighting fixtures and use lower lumen bulbs to help reduce light pollution – and it’s amazing how much darker it is in town as a result!
3 Days in Sedona: How to Spend a Weekend in Sedona
Let’s put it all together – with those Sedona activities and travel tips in mind, here’s how I would plan your weekend in Sedona. (This is really close to what friends and I did during my trip, so I know it works!)
Day 1 – Arrive & Enjoy the Views
If you arrive into Phoenix in the mid-morning, you can head north to Sedona by mid-afternoon at the latest. As part of our journey, friends and I took a detour for lunch in the ghost town of Jerome – but this adds about 90 minutes to the drive time between Phoenix and Sedona.
Once you arrive in Sedona, it’s time to get checked in, get oriented, and get dinner. I recommend Oak Creek Brewery in West Sedona. They’re a divey spot for craft beer and tacos and have a great outdoor seating area.
Before turning in after a day of travel, it’s time to do a little bit of stargazing. Drive up to Airport Mesa or to Two Trees Observing Area outside town. Both of these will give you wide open night sky views to enjoy the stars. (You could also visit a different Sedona stargazing spot or go stargazing at your hotel/Airbnb, depending on where you’re staying.)
Stay up as late as you have the energy for – but not too late because Day 2 of your 3 days in Sedona starts off early!
Day 2: Warm Up Hiking & Cool Off Swimming
If you came to Sedona to do any hiking, this is the day to rise and shine before the sun makes it unbearably hot. My friends and I went to hike Devil’s Bridge Trail, a 4.2-mile out-and-back to a really cool arch that you can stand on for an epic picture.
While it doesn’t seem far, 4.2 miles in the morning sun was blazing and it took us about 2.5 hours from start to finish. I was definitely overheated, even with all the water I brought, and had to take a break afterward.
The best way to pass a hot afternoon in Sedona is at a watering hole. I recommend heading to a grocery store or picking up lunch to go, then finding a spot near one of the watering holes for a midday picnic before spending the afternoon cooling off.
Friends and I spent the afternoon of our second day at Grasshopper Point. It was filled with local families and tons of kids, but there were some spots further downstream that were quiet and relaxing. (Don’t point out that were were downstream from kids – I definitely didn’t put my head in the water! ?)
After cleaning up from the swimming hole, end your day with dinner. There’s something nostalgic about eating hearty Southwestern food in the Wild West, so head to Cowboy Club to refuel. Skillet mac and cheese, cornbread, and chili are the perfect way to recover from a day of hiking, swimming, sun, and fun.
Post-dinner, you can stroll the shops and find the right crystal as a souvenir. Trust me – you can find a crystal for any issue or idea in your life.
Day 3: Visit Vortexes & Supercharge Your Energy
Begin the final day of your Sedona weekend by rising early (again) to watch the sunrise. The timing will depend on when you visit during the year, but there are some epic spots to watch the sky light up and the red rocks blaze with the first morning light; Airport Mesa is the easiest spot to reach with no hiking.
Afterward, treat yourself! I always allow myself an indulgence after getting up to shoot sunrise; Sedonuts has dozens of sweet options and fresh coffee to help keep your energy for the rest of the day.
Before leaving town, spend the morning at one of Sedona’s famous vortexes. The easiest ones to reach are Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. Depending on where you went stargazing, hiking, and to watch the sunrise, choose a different one for this morning’s activity.
Friends and I went to Bell Rock vortex for our crystal charging. We all split up, found quiet places to sit and reflect, and let the energy flow. (No, I swear I haven’t been living in California too long! ?)
As a final stop before heading out of Sedona, it’s lunchtime! Oaxaca Restaurant is right on the end of the main Sedona strip, and they have a nice mix of Mexican and Native American dishes on their menu. There are other great Mexican spots along the main road too; 89Agave is on my list for my next visit.
After lunch it’s time to drive back to Phoenix; if you’ve timed your flights right, you have an evening flight home after a wonderful 3 days in Sedona. Have other questions about spending a weekend in Sedona? Let me know in the comments!