Monoliths of vivid red sandstone, seemingly cast adrift from the Mogollon Rim, create a magical setting for the Red Rock Country surrounding Sedona. Oak Creek, which carved much of this landscape, glides gracefully through town.
The prehistoric Hohokam and Sinagua tribes tilled the soil along Oak Creek for corn, beans, and squash long before white people came. American settlers first arrived in the late 1800s to farm and run cattle in the valley. The town dates from 1902, when Theodore Schnebly opened a post office, naming it "Sedona" for his wife. In the same year, Schnebly also built a wagon road up the rim to haul vegetables and fruit to Flagstaff and lumber back to Sedona; the journey took about 11 hours each way.
From a tiny agricultural community 40 years ago, Sedona has developed into a major art center, resort, and spiritual retreat. The present area population of more than 17,000 includes many retired people, artists, and nature lovers.
Planning a Visit
Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures prevail here. At an elevation of 4,500 feet, Sedona avoids the extremes of both low desert and high mountains. The community centers around the AZ 89A-AZ 179 junction, referred to as the "Y," 28 miles south of Flagstaff. Uptown Sedona lies north of the Y on AZ 89A, which continues on through Oak Creek Canyon. West Sedona stretches out west of the Y along AZ 89A, which goes to Cottonwood. AZ 179 branches off at the Y and goes south to the Village of Oak Creek and on to I-17.
In addition to the surrounding scenery, Sedona's attractions include outstanding art galleries, elegant restaurants, and luxurious resorts. Fountains and tree-shaded courtyards grace Tlaquepaque (t'lah-kay-PAH-kay), a recreated village famed for its art galleries, crafts shops, and fine restaurants. It's named for a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico.
Hikers head for wilderness areas surrounding Sedona to explore the West Fork of Oak Creek, Wilson Mountain, Munds Mountain, Pumphouse Wash, and hundreds of other areas.
Be aware that time-shares and other companies pose as tourist information offices; that's not their first job, so it's best to head for the Gateway Visitor Information Centers and the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce.
New age people believe that strong spiritual energies concentrate here in vortexes, or psychic-energy points. In the early 1980s, Page Bryant and her otherworldly guide, Albion, identified seven vortexes in the Sedona area. Prominent among them are Bell Rock and Airport Mesa, from which "electric energy" flows to invigorate and inspire visitors, and Red Rock Crossing/Cathedral Rock, bearer of calming "magnetic energy." You may see altars or medicine wheels made of rocks at the sites.
If you'd like to learn more about these energy fields, drop by some of the town's many spiritual and New Age bookstores and gift shops. Some tour operators offer vortex experiences.
Sedona Arts Center
Galleries (N. Hwy. 89A at Art Barn Road, 928/282-3809 or 888/954-4442, www.sedonaartscenter.com, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, free) on the north edge of town showcase both emerging and well-known artists. Shows change every one or two months. A gift shop sells work by local artists. The Center organizes art classes, workshops, and field trips.
Sedona Heritage Museum
Exhibits in the house and apple-packing shed of the 1930 Jordan farmstead take you back to the pioneering days of Sedona (928/282-7038, www.sedonamuseum.org, about 11 a.m.–3 p.m. daily, $3 age 12 and up). The Cowboy Room showcases early ranchers and their gear. In the Movie History Room, you'll learn about moviemakers who came to the Red Rock Country as early as the 1920s and the films they made here. Other sections of the museum illustrate work of the U.S. Forest Service and home life. An apple-sorting machine, which still runs, and other equipment lie in nearby sheds. Take Jordan Road north 0.6 mile from AZ 89A, then turn left into the parking lot after crossing a bridge. A short trail leads to the buildings; handicapped people have parking next to the museum.
You'll enjoy great views and some short hikes at this vortex site right in the middle of Sedona. The Saddle Loop Trails begin from the trailhead on the left, halfway up Airport Road. A 600-foot trail to Overlook Point climbs 105 feet and connects with the Coconino and Yavapai loops, which total 0.7 mile for all the segments; there's a map at the trailhead.
Continue by road to the top of Airport Mesa for a fine viewpoint on the right. From the Y, head west one mile on Hwy. 89A, then turn left a half mile up Airport Road.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
The chapel's unusual architecture incorporates a giant cross and presents a striking sight atop a sandstone ridge. Inside, there's a commanding view south toward Bell Rock. A gift shop is downstairs. You're welcome to visit 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily; donations welcome. Drive three miles south on AZ 179 from AZ 89A, then turn left three-quarters of a mile on Chapel Road.
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