In my early 20’s, I lived in Flagstaff Arizona. Just south of Flagstaff is Sedona. When you see pictures of Arizona in magazines of red rock outcroppings unearthed by the wind and rain, that is Sedona. I spent countless weekends in Sedona hiking Oak Creek Canyon. For this reason I consider myself a local. Twenty years later a lot can change but, Sedona still manages to be a spiritually uplifting, communing with nature, enjoying the natural beauty type of experience every time. We usually hike for half the day and then spend the rest for the day in shops and exploring the restaurant options. No two trips are ever alike. You could spend a week in Sedona and not touch half the natural beauty it has to offer.
Camping in Oak Creek
Camping in Sedona is tricky. Various seasons require extensive planning. Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful in the spring however, this is the flood season. I personally have been rained out of the canyon three times. If you insist on going in the spring then I suggest you bring back up money for a hotel. Hotels in the spring will run about a $100.00 a night (that is for the Days Inn or comparable hotels). Flash flooding comes on quickly in Oak Creek Canyon. Bring a radio; this can be important when you are camping along the creek. During the summer months reservations for camp sites may be necessary. There are a limited number of camp sites so you would want to call ahead and make sure they can fit you in. Parking anywhere in Oak Creek requires a pass. The campgrounds provide little in the way of privacy and depending on your neighbors; it can feel more like a bad refugee camp situation.The other option for camping is to back pack into the canyon, this requires you to go at least a mile into the canyon on foot. Camping close to the hiking area is not permitted.
Of all the places I have ever been in my life, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon are by far the hardest places to find parking. If you are heading into the Canyon go early in the morning or in late afternoon. If you get to Oak Creek in between that time you are not going to find a spot. All the parking is pay to park. Grasshopper point is always full and cars waiting for a spot will line up and at times even back up traffic on 68. In most places parking along the road is prohibited. The ticket people who try to park in random dirt areas along side the road, in some places they will have you towed. Pay for parking and avoid the issue.
Slide Rock State Park
Slide Rock State Park is a beautiful area with natural water slides and pools that are carved out of the rock.This is a fun attraction especially for kids. A word to the wise, take a pair of jeans your child has outgrown and cut them off for your child to slide and swim in. The rock will tear up any and all bathing suits. Sliding will put holes in your shorts. In fact while you are there you can almost determine the locals from the tourists by what they are wearing. Locals don't slide in their swim suits.
Due to it's scenic beauty it is also the busiest place in the Canyon. To enjoy this natural wonder you are going to have to be ready to make new friends and be courteous to others. In the summer Slide Rock is packed, wall to wall tourists. Bring food, there is a gift shop that sells tourist. as of the last time I was there, no restaurant. Bring snacks and drinks it will save you money. There are restroom facilities, however their are only a few stalls at the creek. Think ahead there is usually a line.
When I was younger and slightly out of my mind, I hiked with my husband and two children (one and eight years old) from the camping site we were staying in to Slide rock by way of following the river. Obviously the one year old was in a backpack carrier. It was a crazy way to save $20 on parking, that I'm sure I didn't have. We saw parts of the creek that you can't see otherwise. at times we had to cross the creek under less than idea conditions. If memory serves, it took a few hours and we were exhausted by the time we got to slide rock. Before you consider doing this, be in peak physical condition, and know that it's going to be a rough trip. You will see people walking on the road to get there, I'm not sure where they parked but that is also a bit crazy.
There is a slight hike from the parking lot to the creek. They don't call it slide rock for nothing. People with bad hips ankles and such will want to use extreme caution. Walking around it's not unheard of to see people slide and fall when they don't mean to. A good pair of Teva type hiking sandals wouldn't be a bad idea.
In ever town there is a place that's pronunciation distinguishes the locals from the tourists, in Sedona there are two and one of them is Tlaquepaque. Imagine going to Spain and shopping in a small out of the way Spanish town. There are terracotta roofs and fountains, all the stores look like villas with arches, porticoes, and ivy, that place is Tlaquepaque. The shops at Tlaquepaque feature everything from Mexican imports to Dale Chihuly blown glass chandeliers. If you like to shop it is a must see attraction.
Eating in Sedona
Eating in Sedona
There are some great places to eat in Sedona. The other word that tourists cannot pronounce is Oaxaca (we.Hah.Ka). The Oaxaca Restaurant is in Oak Creek Village and obviously from the title serves Mexican Food. You can sit on the upstairs patio and enjoy the view of Sedona's red rock mountains. We have eaten there several time and it's always good.
Another place we have tried is the "Red Planet Dinner".
In case you didn’t notice the motif is Aliens. At one point this was a 50’s diner but, it has been converted to an area 51 favorite. If you can get past the Star Trek toys and funky aliens watching you, it isn’t too bad. The food was not the quality you would expect for the price. I would say if you insist on going here, get a drink sit at the bar and that should be enough of an experience to cross this place off your bucket list.
Hiking in Sedona
Sedona has many committed trails. My favorite by far is West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon. There is a designated parking lot for this trail. Once you cross the river you head south west through the canyon. The trail winds back and forth across the creek through areas where the red rock is two to five stories tall. The water and wind has carved what looks like waves out of the rock creating amazing reflecting pools. This area is home to small wildlife creatures however, the top rim of the canyon is fenced and large animals such as bears and deer are kept out. Be aware of your surroundings anyway. It is difficult to get lost if you follow the creek. a hiker trick is to pick something you can see from far away to use as your guide. In the canyon that wont always be possible but, if you occasionally, look back it will help to ensure you are headed in the right direction. For people who have a tough time with hills and climbing, the beginning of this trail is not bad. A person could wonder around the settlement ruins and not do the hike back into the canyon.
You may hear people in Sedona talk about the Vortex (Vortice). A Vortex is a place of healing energy. Many people profess Sedona to be a place of health and spiritual healing. There are many hikes to places that people believe are healing spots so to speak. In your hikes you may encounter shrines/altars with crystals and flowers, do not touch them. These are considered sacred spaces and while these crystals may be expensive to purchase, it is considered "bad Luck" to remove pieces from an altar. As for the healing power of Sedona, I consider it a spiritual place. It's a place of quiet reflection.
There are always great places to explore in Sedona. The greatest tip I can give you is not plan your days. Simply head in a direction and stop when you want. There is so much to see and do that you will not be able to take it all in with one trip. Destinations are great yet, they afford a minimal experiences. Get out in Sedona and explore. Have a great day in Sedona!