29 Must-Do’s in Beautiful Sedona, Arizona
6. Explore an incredible chapel built into the rock formations*
The most incredible overlook of the red rocks can be accessed via a short drive up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an amazing man made wonder unlike any you have ever seen before. This Roman Catholic church was built in between 2 massive red rock formations, making it the most unique church in the country. While it is not open for services, anyone can come in to pray, meditate, light a candle in honor of a love one, or simply admire the amazing architecture which includes lovely stained glass windows held together by a giant cross. The views are stunning both inside and out and one cannot help but appreciate Sedona’s natural paradise even more in such a gorgeous spiritual building. The Chapel is by far the most stunning man made creation in this area of the country. In this case, the man made wonder rivals the natural landscapes!
7. Take a leisurely cruise down Oak Creek Canyon*
Oak Creek Canyon Drive is a picturesque 14 mile stretch of land in between Flagstaff and Sedona. It’s so gorgeous in fact that it is second only to the Grand Canyon in terms of tourist traffic. Along the way, you will get to witness the scenery change from green ponderosa pine forests near Flagstaff to towering red rock formations near the Sedona end. In between, leafy deciduous trees and peaceful flowing views of the creek provide a serene backdrop unlike any other in Arizona – you will almost forget you are in the desert. This dramatic scenery changes arise from the fact that the elevation starts near 7000 ft in Flagstaff and drops to nearly 4000 once you arrive in Sedona.
Asides from grand views, there’s lots of great stops along the way including Native American craft markets, several scenic overlooks, the West Fork and Cookstove hiking trails, scenic picnicking areas, and secret swimming holes. Slide Rock is a popular state park which has been featured on numerous TV specials due to the rare natural water slides cut into the rocks.
The best time to plan your drive is during the beautiful summer season when all the leaves are back on the trees or right after a winter storm when the red rocks are dusted with fresh snow. Either way the drive is marvelous anytime of year. The feeling of going from a mountainy pine area to a red rock desert within just 20 minutes is surreal!
8. Try some homemade Prickly Pear ice cream
Uptown is a touristy section of Sedona which is loaded with all sorts of indulgences including comfort style restaurants, fudge shops, ice cream shops, frozen yogurt, etc. The best stop in this area is the Black Cow Cafe, a small local shop which features homemade ice cream, apple pie, baked goods, and specialty coffee drinks. The ice cream is a real hit with tourists, which is not surprisingly at all as it is so rich and creamy compared to standard store bought fare.
Although there are about a dozen flavors available, you should try the Prickly Pear, a southwestern specialty that is simply divine. Be sure to get it in a homemade waffle cone for the true ice cream experience! What a treat on a hot 100 degree Sedona summer afternoon, even more so after a hike that knocks your socks off! They make all their desserts in house, so at least you can feel a little less guilty that you are indulging in “healthier” treats!
9. Hike to the summit of Doe Mountain*
Doe Mountain is one of Sedona’s most underrated hikes. It’s really a shame that so many tourists miss out on this spectacular gem which features some of the most outstanding views of all. A moderate 400 foot climb leads you to a mesa where you will be able to explore diverse plant life, search for wildlife tracks, and enjoy bird’s eye views of the stunning red rock landscapes. From Doe’s Summit, you really feel as if you are on top of the world. By far, one of the top spots in town for photographers, it’s quite crazy how little traffic this trail receives and how little effort is required to get to such world class views!
10. Challenge yourself to 13 creek crossings via the West Fork
The West Fork trail is one of the most used trails within the Coconino National Forest. During fall foliage season and the summer season, it’s almost impossible to get a parking spot after 10am or so. With 13 fun & challenging creek crossings, plenty of leafy trees, and even some fall foliage, it’s no wonder so many flock here first. Being located in Oak Creek Canyon, West Fork offers a diverse variety of plant life which you will not see anywhere else in Sedona, including some of the best fall foliage in the area.
To ensure parking, you must get here really early. Therefore, I recommend stopping for a fantastic breakfast and coffee at Indian Gardens, which not only opens early, but is also conveniently located just down the road. The hike is longish at 3.5 miles each way, however, very flat, relaxing, and beautiful the entire way. Plus, it’s very shady, making it a nice “escape the summer heat” option.