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If you’re looking for a stunning getaway in the United States, consider spending a weekend in Sedona, Arizona. It’s said that the gorgeous red rocks just outside of the city hold healing powers. After a rejuvenating weekend relaxing in Sedona watching stunning sunsets, hiking, and browsing Southwestern art, you might find yourself feeling completely relaxed and refreshed. Writer Dee Nowak tells us about how to enjoy a perfect long weekend in Sedona, Arizona!
Dee is a writer and travel blogger who loves slow travel and local cultures. She was born in Poland, grew up in the U.S., and has traveled widely across Europe and countries like Taiwan and South Africa. Currently based in Cairo, Dee loves exploring lesser-known destinations across Egypt. All photos except two belong to Dee Nowak.
This small Arizona city with a New Age vibe boasts vibrant galleries and incredible hiking and nature. Take a leisurely weekend trip to Sedona to enjoy its real spirit – and leave plenty of time for taking in the scenery.
Locals say that God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona. And it’s easy to understand that saying when you watch the setting sun turn Sedona’s red rock landscapes into a deep orange.
This small city is a fair rival to some of Arizona’s legendary tourist destinations, but it’s got a small-town vibe that makes it feel like a hidden treasure. It’s best enjoyed without rushing – so leave a few hours aside for a long walk or a coffee overlooking the sandstone formations.
Sedona’s awe-inspiring landscape hold sites sacred to the Native Americans. Both the Yavapai and Apache tribes lived in the area until 1876, when they were forcefully removed from their land and put onto a reservation. The city today pulls in New Age seekers and bohemians who still believe in the healing powers of its red formations and earth.
German painter Max Ernst built a quiet home in Sedona after fleeing Europe to escape the horrors of World War II. Today the city’s galleries are filled with other artists who’ve been similarly inspired, and with the etched pottery made by the Navajo tribe.
Sedona also offers hiking trails and adventures like hot air balloon flights, horseback riding and off-road Jeep tours. And if you’ve seen any Westerns, Sedona’s scenery may look familiar: it’s often been used by film directors as a backdrop for cowboy films.
The drive into Sedona is gorgeous as Saguaro cacti and flat desert gives way to red sandstone formations that surround the city.
Where to stay in Sedona
The El Portal hotel has a casual elegance and rustic Southwestern decor and was listed by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report as one of America’s eight best hotels. After a day of hiking, it’s an ideal spot to melt into a cozy lounge chair around an outdoor fireplace in the courtyard. The glow of the fire echoes the red rocks at sunset.
There’s enough in Sedona to extend a day-trip into a few days, though hotel reservations are recommended in winter when Arizona is packed with visitors from the colder states.
Hiking Trails in Sedona
A short walk with some coffee is a great way to start the day in Sedona and unwind after hours in the car. The Airport Loop Hike is a 3.5-mile (5.6km) trail that snakes around Sedona’s small airport. It doesn’t take much effort, yet it offers amazing views of all the city’s famous sites, including Cathedral Rock.
The crisp air smells vaguely of creosote bushes; their resinous aroma becomes pungent when it rains and the plant was used by Native Americans to relieve congestion. Growing up in Arizona, I associated this smell so strongly with rain that for years I thought it’s what the rain itself smells like.
The nearby Crescent Moon Ranch is one of the most photographed spots in the southwest. The site’s first homestead stands by the entrance. This is where early Anglo settler John Lee shoveled through rock to make a ditch and divert water to the OK ranch. A water wheel was brought in three decades later that drove a water pump and an electric generator to bring lights.
Further into the ranch, down a path lined with a creek and berry bushes, the looming Cathedral Rock is reflected in the running water. Children love swimming here in the hot summers, while the daring dive in during more moderate winters. Visitors stack stones into gravity-defying piles to leave their mark. Some balance stacks of rock on nearby tree branches.
Shopping in Sedona, Arizona
Shopping can get tricky if you’re looking for authentic souvenirs. Many shops downtown are wildly overpriced compared to Phoenix, and they can quickly turn kitschy. There are bad watercolors of cowboys riding off into the sunset and plastic cacti magnets. There are plenty of authentic Navajo pottery and original artwork, too. I recommend looking for certificates of authenticity and browsing proven shops like Kachina House.
For more browsing, the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village offers upscale shops, restaurants
Some 40 shops are nestled in the winding streets lined with sycamore and cottonwood trees. You’ll find plenty of authentic Southwestern fine art and Native American work, and a few quirky shops that are perfect for finding one-of-a-kind gifts.
The El Picaflor gallery is my personal favorite and includes handmade Andean arts such as flutes from Peru and colorful skeleton statuettes associated with Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead.
There’s a lineup of New Age shops across the street with astrology books, crystals and nature sounds CDs that promise tranquility. The New Age movement hit Sedona in the 1970s, when hippies claimed they’d discovered vortexes of electromagnetic energy with healing powers amid the landscape. It’s been booming ever since.
You can get a psychic reading or have your aura photographed, or find out about the yoga and meditation retreats on offer here year-long. If you’re looking for a “portal to the Mer Ka Ba,” it’s here in the form of a pyramid-shaped sculpture topped with a spinning sphere that plays soothing music.
It isn’t difficult to find a good view to watch the sunset: the city is surrounded by red rock formations that glow an ethereal orange when the sun goes down.
The Pink Java Cafe is an old favorite. It’s a small and no-hassle spot with outdoor tables and incredible views of the sweeping valley. The owner also offers rollicking off-road tours in pink Jeeps.
Be sure to try some of the local