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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 a small, mystical enclave. It’s one of the best places for hiking in the morning, and meditating with crystals at a vortex that afternoon – and your Sedona itinerary should certainly include both.
I took a ‘girls’ trip’ to Sedona in the summer of 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 Sedona itinerary for a weekend in northern Arizona, 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!
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Ndee/Nnēē: (Western Apache), Hopitutskwa, Pueblos, and Hohokam peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in October 2019, and was checked and updated most recently in July 2022.
Sedona Travel Tips
I always like to start with a few quick tips to help you make the most of your 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 for your Sedona itinerary, 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
For your weekend Sedona itinerary, 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 the 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. I also like to recommend a couple of vacation rentals as well. Friends and I stayed in the nearby community of Cottonwood at a fantastic place with a pool and hot tub, 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 vacation rentals, but I scoured to find the ones that are both interesting and cozy:
- This colorful studio is perfect if you’re on a budget and love the Southwest vibe, from $80 per night. Book on VRBO.
- This positive energy house has an incredible backyard you won’t want to leave, from $188 per night. Book on VRBO.
- This Thunder Mountain Home has gorgeous red rock views and sleeps up to six, from $218 per night. Book on Hotels.com.
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 six popular 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:
One of the most-photographed sights in Arizona, Cathedral Rock is a natural butte jutting 4,967 feet off the ground. The hike is not the hardest but can be a bit tricky and you will need shoes with traction. The breathtaking views at the top are absolutely worth the climb though!
Bell Rock is a slightly smaller version of Cathedral Rock. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still enormous with its peak at about 4,919 feet in elevation. You can see it from Highway 179, but, if you have the time and energy, do the hike to the top.
Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon is another natural wonder. Many describe it as a smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon because it’s so strikingly beautiful. Any season will yield eye-popping splendor, but autumn takes the big prize, especially if you’re into landscape photography.
Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural arch in Sedona. This natural arch is one of Sedona’s superstars, so don’t expect much solitude on this site. The only way to access Devil’s Bridge is by hiking. While it is fairly short ( 1.8 miles roundtrip), expect to walk a longer distance due to the rough terrain and parking options.
When it comes to vantage points, Airport Mesa has the best seats in the house. It is an excellent location to soak in views of Sedona and Red Rock formations. Time your visit to coincide with the sunset – you don’t want to miss this blaze of color, with deep oranges, pearly pinks, and vibrant purples invading the sky.
Boynton Canyon is one of Sedona’s top hikes. it offers numerous advantages for less experienced hikers. The trail is mostly flat and is sheltered from the sun – not a minor detail considering Arizona’s merciless heat. You can also spot a few ancient Sinagua Indian ruins along the way.
Chapel of the Holy Cross – pictured above!
Built in 1956, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel sitting atop the red rock buttes of Sedona. The chapel is small in size but visually stunning. It is wonderful to see how the architect embraced the landscapes and adapted the chapel’s design to fit the Sedona context and Rock Formations.
Some of these sights are drive-up-and-park spots where you can easily get out and enjoy spectacular views; 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 and best 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 easy hike is like the Greatest Hits album for Sedona hiking.
- Devil’s Bridge Trail – Pictured above, this is the one my friends and I did. Moderate elevation gain, worth visiting for the views of and from the natural bridge, which is why it’s become a popular hike for those who want good Instagram shots.
- 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 hiking trail is nice, but the final third is where the real money views are.
In addition to these and dozens of other, longer hikes, several of the rocks also have trails up and around their formations – including Cathedral Rock Trail and Bell Rock Trail.
Here are a couple of quick tips for hiking in Sedona:
- Get an early start. 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.
3. Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is a popular way to explore Sedona’s stunning scenery and get your adrenaline levels up while doing it! You can join a mountain bike tour, bring your own bike or rent one and venture into one of the trails.
Like hiking trails, Sedona has mountain biking trails for all levels and skills. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced biker, Sedona has you covered. Beginners can start out on Bell Rock, Long Canyon, or Deadman’s Flat. Intermediate bikers will enjoy trails like Aerie, Chuckwagon, or even Llama. Hardcore bikers will find challenging routes at Slim Shady and Hiline trails.
4. Visiting the Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites
Sedona’s western canyons are dotted with numerous cliff dwellings. The Palatki Heritage Site and its sister site, Honanki, were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 – 1350. Both sites still contain ancient ruins and some incredibly preserved wall paintings.
Visitors can access the Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites with their own vehicles or on a jeep tour. Make sure to call ahead to reserve a slot in the guided tours as they have very limited space. Also, consider taking screenshots of your GPS if you’re driving your own vehicle. You’ll be in the middle of nowhere and may lose your signal.
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. This is a unique experience most people don’t have when visiting Sedona.
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 itinerary. In some cases, you may need to use a nearby parking lot and take a short walk to reach the prime watering holes.
6. Hiking to a Vortex
Besides its undeniable natural beauty, Sedona attracts numerous visitors for its unique spiritual vibes. Sedona is said to be the site of a mysterious energy field, where the earth’s cosmic power lines meet and create vortexes.
Vortexes are energy “hotspots” with upward or downward spiraling energy that help people start their spiritual path to enlightenment. Sedona has four major vortexes. Year after year, people from all walks of life come to hike the vortexes to do yoga, meditate or simply absorb the energy these red rocks emanate.
The four Sedona vortexes are found at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. Each vortex radiates its own particular energy and people pick one according to the type of “alignment” they need.
I’m not normally one to endorse traveling somewhere just to shop, but downtown Sedona has a special niche of souvenirs that make it worth spending at least a little time browsing: crystals!
As I said above, 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!
8. Wandering around Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
Designed after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque has been a Sedona landmark since the 1970s. The quaint venue houses a collection of over 50 boutique arts and crafts shops, plus several excellent restaurants.
While it’s a popular place to shop for authentic handcrafted goods, I find the village’s atmosphere and architecture to be good enough reasons for visiting. The plaza has been built around the Arizona sycamores so that some trees grow through doorways. There are fountains scattered around and a lovely chapel completes the village’s charm.
9. Wine Tasting
It might be surprising, but there’s actually decent wine grown and made in Arizona. (I also mentioned this in my Scottsdale weekend guide.) If you love wine tasting, there are a few wineries and tasting rooms in Sedona itself. There are also options in the neighboring Village of Oak Creek, which is all part of the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Some of the best restaurants in town also serve local wine, so be sure to keep an eye on the menus if you want to try Arizona wine without doing a full tasting.
10. Visiting the Sedona Heritage Museum
Sedona may be a popular place to live and visit in current times, but it wasn’t always like this.
You can discover how this desert town in Arizona became the thriving city it is today at the Sedona Heritage Museum. Housed in a former apple farmer’s home (Jordan Family), this small museum features detailed exhibits offering a great insight into Sedona’s origins, the early settlers, and the challenges they faced.
11. Buying Works of Art
Sedona is home to a thriving art community and many art galleries. It shouldn’t come as a surprise – those majestic landscapes are a rich source of inspiration!
There are at least ten art galleries in Sedona and its surroundings. These venues feature collections of different types of art media, from pottery and jewelry to painting and sculpture.
Here are a couple of art galleries you can check out:
- Adonai Christian Fine Art Gallery
- The DeSerio Gallery
- Gedion Gallery
- Goldenstein Gallery
- R.C. Gorman Navajo Gallery
In addition to the many art galleries, The Sedona Gallery Association organizes open art gallery nights and art festivals, showcasing the best works of regional artists. The 1st Friday in the Galleries is a popular festival held every first Friday of the month, with art galleries opening their doors after hours with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and live music.
12. Going for a Pink Jeep Tour
Pink Jeep Tours have grown to be one of the most iconic experiences you can have in Sedona. These excursions drive off-road and take you to explore the most recondite nooks of Sedona. The company offers 16 tours. It may be overwhelming to shoot one, but know that each excursion has the perfect amount of adrenaline, adventure, and information.
The Broken Arrow tour is their most popular (and bumpiest) excursion. It crawls over red rock formations, travels through Coconino National Forest, and passes “Sedona White Line”.
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 into a Sedona itinerary, shall we? With those Sedona activities and travel tips in mind, here’s how to plan your long 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 pick up your rental car and 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/vacation rental, 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 of your Sedona itinerary 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. This is one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done, despite the sun and heat.
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 we 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 itinerary 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 rock formations 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 road trip back to Phoenix; if you’ve timed your flights right, you have an evening flight home after a wonderful 3 days in Sedona.
Planning a Sedona Day Trip
If you only have one day, it’s possible to visit Sedona from Phoenix (or stop as part of an Arizona road trip). After the two-hour drive from Phoenix, head out on a morning hike, followed by lunch, then sightseeing or shopping in Sedona during the heat of the day. As it begins to cool off, you can head out for a sunset hike before making the drive home. I’m working on a one-day Sedona itinerary, so I’ll add the link to that post here soon!
Have other questions about using my Sedona itinerary for a weekend trip? Let me know in the comments!