12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sedona
Set amid beautiful red rock mountains at the foot of Oak Creek Canyon, 30 miles south of Flagstaff, Sedona is one of Arizona's rare gems. The scenery here is nothing less than stunning, with fine views from every street corner and hiking trail. Known not only for its red rock landscape, but as a popular spot for New Age people who believe that Sedona is a focal point of strong spiritual energies, the city also has a unique vibe. Artists' galleries and all kinds of unique shops - crystal sellers and psychics included - line the main street of the downtown corridor.
Most visitors will want to get out and explore the surrounding landscape. Sedona has some wonderful hiking and mountain biking trails that take visitors into the surrounding mountains for spectacular views. Easy hikes and riding trails can be found throughout the area. Jeep tours are another great way of exploring the setting.There is also no shortage of great restaurants, from casual diners to fine dining. Numerous tours are available in Sedona, ranging from the popular Jeep tours to UFO watching tours, and everything in between. Many visitors come to Sedona on a daytrip from Phoenix, but for those with more time, a longer stay is definitely worthwhile.
See also: Where to Stay in Sedona
1 Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock is the most photographed attraction in Sedona and one of the city's most inspiring sites. The classic picture of the mountain shows the red spires reflecting in the calm waters of Oak Creek but there are numerous areas offering great views of this famous site. The most popular viewing area is from Red Rock Crossing (entrance fee required), where it's possible to walk down to the water's edge and see the mountain reflecting in the river. The backside of the mountain can be seen from Sedona and the main highway leading through the town, making it rather hard to miss for anyone driving through the area. It's also possible to hike up Cathedral Rock, although the trail is demanding and can be particularly hot in summer.
2 Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a unique structure which sits on a red sandstone ridge at the base of a cliff. It was built in 1956 by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a breathtaking landmark in Sedona, with a 90 foot cross that dominates the structure and a massive stained glass window. The modern appearance, with sharp lines and angles, contrasts with the rounded red rocks that stand around it and can be seen in behind.
Address: 780 Chapel Road, Sedona
3 Oak Creek Canyon
The stunning Oak Creek Canyon is just upstream from Sedona, south of Flagstaff. It has dramatic rock formations, cliff walls, and forests, and is particularly beautiful in the autumn. Highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff follows the canyon, offering some beautiful views and challenging driving. Sharp corners and steep hills make this a road you will want to drive during the day and try to avoid after dark. Nonetheless, the drive is one of the local highlights. Two of the main attractions along this route are Slide Rock State Park and V-Bar-V Heritage Site. Oak Creek Canyon is part of Coconino National Forest and there are hiking trails and camping facilities for visitors who want to spend some time exploring this lovely landscape.
4 Jeep Tours
For those looking to experience the landscape close up, without the exertion of hiking, Jeep tours are a great option. These tours are one of the most popular things to do in Sedona and the thrill of riding in the back of a bouncing Jeep over crazy terrain is not to be missed. The Jeep tours are offered by several companies in town and take visitors to the highlights of the local red rock scenery and also to nearby ruins. These Jeeps make their way through seriously rugged terrain! The drivers are knowledgeable and keen to share the local history and geology of the area.
5 V-Bar-V Ranch Petroglyphs
V-Bar-V Heritage Site is one of the best-preserved and largest petroglyph sites in the Verde Valley. There are over 1,000 petroglyphs found here in the Beaver Creek Rock Art Style, which dates to between A.D. 1150 and 1400. This archeological site is best experienced on a guided tour by the Verde Valley Archaeological Society and Friends of the Forest (Coconino National Forest). These interpretive tours offer insight into the history of the site, and give meaning to what you see. There is an on site visitor center and bookstore.
6 Slide Rock State Park
Slide Rock State Park is located in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. The park is both an historic site and a natural attraction. The site was once a large apple farm owned by Frank L. Pendley. He was able to devise an interesting but successful irrigation system that allowed for the growing of apples. The original homestead can still be seen.
Adjacent to the homestead is the natural attraction that makes this place so popular in warm weather. It features a 30 foot long natural "water slide" where the creek has worn the rocks smooth. Visitors come here, particularly in summer to play in the water that cascades down the gentle rapids. Kids and adults swim and splash about in the creek. A fire in 2014 caused some damage to this area.
Address: 6871 North Highway 89A, Sedona
7 Hiking Trails
One of the best ways to see Sedona's red rock landscape is to put on your hiking boots and walk amongst the towering formations. Almost all of the most famous formations are accessible by well-marked hiking trails. The level of difficulty is easy to moderate and there is parking at all the trailheads. The trails around Bell Rock are not to be missed and the view out from the top of the Doe Mesa trail is one of the best in the entire area. The Devil's Bridge trail takes visitors to an ancient rock bridge with views from above and below this structure. Other popular hikes include Bear Mountain, Long Canyon, and Boynton Canyon. Be aware that the trails can be hot in the midday sun so be sure to pack lots of water.
8 Palatki Ruins
The Palatki Heritage Site is a well-preserved ruin, and one of the largest Sinagua villages in the area. Palatki was inhabited by the Sinagua about 800 years ago, however the rock art indicates cultures used this site 3,000 to 5,000 years earlier. There are two trails at the Palatki Heritage Site, one trail takes visitors to the Sinagua cliff dwellings, and a second trail that leads to the rock art alcoves.
A short drive away from here, but in the same vicinity, are the Honanki Cliff Dwellings. Honanki, occupied from AD 1130-1280, originally contained about 60 rooms and an unknown number of pictographs. These cliff dwellings are an excellent example of Sinagua architecture and rock art. This sacred site has been well-preserved and a trail has been added for better viewing.
9 Red Rock State Park
This park, located approximately 10 minutes outside of Sedona towards Cottonwood, is an easy outing for those looking to experience some nature and local history. Located on over 286 acres, the park encompasses a section of Oak Creek, several hills, and the former site of the Smoke Trail Ranch owned by the famous Jack and Helen Frye. The visitor's center provides an in-depth overview of the flora and fauna found around Sedona, with interactive exhibits suitable for all ages. The fascinating history of the Frye's and their Smoke Trail Ranch, along with the development of the park, is also chronicled. One of the parks more interesting sites is the abandoned House of Apache Fire, built in 1947, situated on a hilltop commanding beautiful views.
Easy hiking trails providing views out to the red rock countryside and allow for a close up look at the House of Apache Fire. One of the more impressive views is the Seven Warriors formation, seen from the Bunkhouse Trail. The park is also a favorite haunt of bird watchers, and on the lower side of the visitor's center a bird feeding station has been set up which attracts a diverse set of avian visitors ranging from hummingbirds to woodpeckers.
Address: 4050 Red Rock Loop Road, Sedona
10 Mountain Biking Trails
Sedona is known for being a great spot for getting out on your mountain bike. Trails wind their way through the spectacular mountain scenery, across dirt and patches of slick rock. Some of these trails lead past interesting attractions like the Devil's Sink Hole, the Seven Sacred Pools, Coffeepot Rock, Bell Rock, and Doe Mesa. The level of difficulty ranges from easy to extreme but there is really a trail for everyone. Local bike shops offer repairs, rentals, maps, and information, and are friendly and helpful. The trails are very well marked and rated on maps according to difficulty. They are also very well maintained. Be sure to bring your camera - these trails feature some of the best photo locations in the entire area. Some of the most popular trails include Bell Rock, one of the least difficult in the area, Aerie, Chuckwagon, and Mescal.
11 Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Tlaquepaque is a recreated Mexican style village with art galleries, craft shops, clothing stores, and restaurants. The original idea behind the village, in the 1970s, was to create an artists community. Shoppers can still see artists at work, although most of what you will find is simply retail establishments. The setting here is quite unique with cobbled streets and two story Spanish style buildings with balconies, rounded arches, and fountains. Art includes works in glass, ceramics, sculptures, weavings, paintings, decorative arts, photography, jewelry, and decor, among others.
Address: 336 State Route 79, Sedona
12 Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art
Exposures International is hard to miss as you drive by, with large pieces of beautiful art standing outside the front of the building. Located on the main highway running through the town, this is a prime stop for many tourists. Several showrooms display high end fine art pieces for sale, from sculptures to paintings, glass work, and much more. Many styles are represented with pieces designed for indoors or outdoors.
Address: 561 State Route 179, Sedona
Where to Stay in Sedona for Sightseeing
Sedona is a small town surrounded by towering red rocks and known widely for its natural beauty. The best place to stay is near Uptown Sedona, close to shops, restaurants, and galleries, but the luxury resorts outside of town make attractive bases for hikers and nature lovers. The nearby Village of Oak Creek, a six-mile scenic drive to the south, is smaller but is also surrounded by mesas and mountains, and offers a range of budget hotels. West Sedona is a five-minute drive from Uptown and also offers some good hotel choices. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these areas:
- Luxury Hotels: The Adobe Grand Villas, in a quiet area in West Sedona, is a boutique hotel offering large and private, themed luxury villas, along with an outdoor pool and exceptional service. A private chef is on call for your dining requirements. With lodge and cottage style high-end accommodation, L'Auberge de Sedona lies along the banks of Oak Creek and is within easy walking distance of Uptown Sedona. About eight miles from Uptown and spread out over 80 acres in spectacular Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort features upscale rooms with amazing red rock views, an outdoor pool, and some great on-site restaurants.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Casa Sedona Inn is a cozy boutique property set on one acre of Junipine Forest in West Sedona. The southwestern-style rooms come with fireplaces and a complimentary gourmet breakfast. Perched on a hill about a mile west of Uptown, the BEST WESTERN PLUS offers comfortable rooms, a shuttle service within three miles, and a promenade deck with fire pits and outdoor seating. The pet-friendly Sedona Real Inn and Suites, in West Sedona, has a relaxed feel, a great outdoor pool, and well-priced suites.
- Budget Hotels: The following budget hotels are all in the quaint Village of Oak Creek, six miles from Uptown Sedona. A good option for the value conscious is the Wildflower Inn, a short walk from the trailhead of some of the best hiking in the Sedona area. The Desert Quail Inn and The Views Inn Sedona are both centrally located in Oak Creek and offer affordable rooms and outdoor pools.