We hadn't a clue how incredibly beautiful and epic the scenery around Sedona is, so when we crested a hill along the 179 and first glimpsed the Red Rocks Scenic area, it took our breath away. Monolithic red and orange colored stone pinnacles jutted out of the desert in every direction. Carved into the sides of cliffs and arches were patches of green juniper and ravines of cottonwood. It looked like something out of a painting, like a world created in 3D and it was our world for the next month.
Our campsite at Rancho Sedona RV Park was located just below Upper Sedona, along Oak Creek and was the perfect central point for all that Sedona has to offer.
While we definitely settled into a routine again while staying in Sedona, we made sure to take time to explore the area and hike as much as possible. While it would take multiple blog posts to get through all of the interesting places to go and things to see, I'll highlight our favorites from our time.
There are countless hiking trails and while you can't go wrong with any of them, we would highly recommend checking out the Devil's Bridge trail. This is probably the most popular trail in the area, so going on a weekday and early is your best bet for avoiding the crowds. The giant stone arch at the end of the 2.5 mile trek is definitely worth the effort.
From Sedona, you can get up to the Grand Canyon, down to Phoenix, and over to the Petrified Forest in only a few hours in each direction. We were already planning a trip up to the Grand Canyon and over to the Petrified Forest, so we saved those for later. But we did take a day to drive to the old cliffside mining town of Jerome. Our primary interest was that of Caduceus Cellars, the winery owned and managed by Maynard Keenan, the lead singer of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Pucifer. Years ago, Shaun's friend had given us a few bottles of their wine and instructed us to watch "Blood Into Wine", a documentary about Maynard's journey into winemaking. We were instant fans. The tasting room is located right downtown Jerome and they specialize in big Spanish and Italian red varietals. After our tasting and procurement of a few bottles, we set off to explore the town. Jerome was settled in the late 1800's as a copper mining town and after a few prosperous decades, the mine was shut down and the town dwindled into a ghost town. In the 1960's a revitalization of the town began as artists found cheap housing and a community in the ramshackled buildings. It is now known as a tourist destination to find interesting art galleries, shops, restaurants, and wineries. Just beyond the main village is the old copper mine and for $10 you can tour a hillside junkyard museum filled with treasures from a century ago. There are also fun furry creatures to observe around the grounds.
Sunrise and Sunset
Desert equals incredible sunsets and sunrises. For viewing these spectacular occasions, you have a few options. We opted to double up on a sunrise and vortex and woke up early one day to get up to the Airport Mesa Vortex, a highly spiritually charged place. The sunrise was everything we were hoping for in colors and the vortex made for a nice meditation spot. Sunset is a bit trickier due to the location of the town relative to the mountains surrounding it. After much inquiring, we learned that the deck at Mariposa is a great place to view sunset while dining. However, we were lucky enough to be invited by our friends, Chris and Claudia, to join them in their 4-seater RZR and took one of the many forest roads up the Mund's Wagon trail to the carousel feature at the top. From there, we watched in awe as the valley and sky changed colors as the sun sank below the horizon.
There are ancient Native American sites scattered throughout the southwest and many of them are built into the cliffsides of the red rocks, where overhangs protect the structures to this day. One of these sites is only a few miles from downtown Sedona and we made the trip to Palatki Heritage Site for a mid-morning tour. Reservations are required to visit the site, as they wish to control the number of people visiting the site at any given time in order to best preserve the ruins. Palatki was built and resided in between 1100-1300 AD by an ancient Puebloan people, the Sinagua. There is the pueblo and then nearby, there is a rock wall which displays hundreds of pictographs and petroglyphs, some of which date back 6,000 years.
Let me assure you, we did our research on dining in Sedona. From brunch to pizza to mexican to margaritas, we have you covered. Here is what we found:
Best Breakfast - Creekside Restaurant
We visited Creekside for multiple meals and it was by far the most consistently good food. The breakfast menu was our favorite and it has something for everyone. A selection of benedicts, burritos, scrambles, and house favorites make up a nicely curated menu with seasonal and local ingredients. Everything we tried was delicious.
Best Vegan - ChocolaTree
After hiking one morning, we stopped here for lunch and were impressed by the quality and flavor of the food served. There are dozens of options on their menu and we enjoyed wraps, with a type of Indian dosa with coconut dipping sauce as an appetizer. All very good!
Quick tip: The ChocolaTree offers free artisanal spring water to fill water jugs.
Best Pizza - Pisa Lisa
This is the only wood-fired pizza in Sedona, so naturally it is our fave. They do a nice job of providing traditional Italian style pizzas with creative toppings. The space is simple, but cozy and the staff is incredibly friendly.
Best Tacos - Javelina Cantina
It was Taco Tuesday and we were on a mission to find some cheap, delicious tacos, and found the perfect place. The Javelina Cantina serves up $1.50 tacos all day long on Tuesdays and the options are all good, so we ordered plate-fulls.
Best Margaritas - Salt Rock Kitchen and Craft Margaritas
The evening we drove into Sedona, we set-up camp and both proclaimed our need for a margarita. After a quick search, we were parking at the Amara Resort and Spa, a Kimpton Hotel. The Salt Rock is just off the lobby and while the inside dining area is quite small, the outside patio is expansive and includes a huge firepit with lounge chairs with views of the red rocks and Oak Creek. The craft margaritas are delicious and we tried a few small plates off their dinner menu, which were equally good. While it seemed a little pricey for an actual full meal, we were thrilled with our margarita and snack stop.
Best Happy Hour/Upscale Bar - The Hudson
While the restaurant is fairly new, their reputation has exploded and we settled in for an hour wait when four of us arrived on a Saturday evening without a reservation. The space is decorated in unique artwork and funky chandeliers with beautiful wood tables and a central bar. Before our table was ready, we secured ourselves a spot at one of the side bar tables and enjoyed one of their homemade pretzels and a selection of draft beer. The menu is a mix of healthy American dishes with seasonal ingredients and creative flair.
Best Dinner - Elote Cafe
In reading all of the TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Google, and Yelp reviews for restaurants in the area, I was noticing a pattern. Elote Cafe made an appearance on all of them. From the best dinner, best tacos, best sunset, best romantic night, best family, best mexican, the list goes on. It was our last night in Sedona and I wasn't leaving the town without trying this place. It is located inside a hotel and from photos of the dining space, my expectations were low. There was a wait when we arrived, so we lounged on a side patio with mexican blankets to keep warm while we watched the sunset. Finally, we made it inside and we learned why the reviews were raving. Our dinners were both amazing.
To fully appreciate Sedona we could have lived in Sedona for many more months, but it was time to move on. Sedona was certainly a special place and now when anyone asks what our favorite place has been along our travels, we both agree that Sedona is top of the list. We'll miss you Sedona and we'll be back for you someday. Maybe next time, we'll consider a palm reading or some aura photos or maybe a plot of land.