Travel Guide: Sedona, Arizona

In the darkness of our rental car, squished between overnight bags, food and camp gear, we took turns reading aloud from our 23-page aura reports.  Just a few hours earlier, my best friend Laura and I had visited one of Sedona's many new age stores, and left with a new gemstone ring (for her), a citrine crystal (for me) and two colorful aura photos with a detailed interpretation of what the colors meant. I paused at page 14, which asked; 

"Is it a very stressful time for you right now? Are you going through a lot of changes or are you working on too many projects at once? Your aura shows that you are not very energized. You might be active but in reality, you are using up your internal battery. Why not go to the beach or mountains to unwind and recharge your inner batteries?"


I read this not from the beach, or the mountains, but from the backroads in the Cococino National Forest outside of Sedona.  I didn't go there to unwind or recharge, though it certainly was a by-product of the trip. The primary reason was to visit Laura, who's been traveling on the road for the past year and building community through her podcast " Women on The Road".  The secondary reason for visiting AZ was to live a few days feeling "sweaty, dirty, happy." I was craving an immersive outdoor experience, the kind where you spend all hours of the day outside basking in sunlight. I needed the kind of long days that leaves your skin bronzed and dusty, your feet perpetually dirty, and your car (and home in our case) a total mess. In short, I felt like dirtbagging it.

I arrived just in time to see the prickly pear cactus blooming. 
Photo by Laura Hughes

Photo by Laura Hughes

And at the end of the trip, my dirtbagging body definitely needed a shower. Laura and I spent four days climbing on red rocks, cooling down in swimming holes, and sleeping on quiet national forest roads. I wouldn't spend anything less than 3 nights here, but I could have easily extended my stay for a week. It's easy to see why Laura has fallen in love with the area, and I'm so grateful that she shared all of her special Sedona spots with me. 

What to Eat, See & Do in Sedona, AZ

Bell Rock at Sunset from the Made in the Shade trail 


Where to Spend Time Outdoors:

Hiking:  Sedona's trails can be summed up in 3 words - short, sweet and stunning. We chose low-mileage hikes which allowed us to do multiple a day.  Below are some of the most popular trails that we ventured on. 

  • Cathedral Rock: This is one of the most scenic and recognizable hike in Sedona. It's actually more of a climb than a hike, and is around 1.5 miles round trip.  It's short and steep and a moderate climb. Basket cairns lead the way as you climb 550 feet to a wide saddle between two spires. We did this trail a little after sunrise and had the area to ourselves for most of it.
  • Bell Rock (lower Bell Rock to upper Bell Rock trail): Bell Rock is said to be one of the larger vortex sites in Sedona and it's also one of the most identifiable red rock formations. The trail is only .75 miles and takes you along the northern face of Bell Rock. You can keep climbing as long as your comfortable with heights. We took our time and stopped in spots along the way for photos and to see the colors of the rocks change as the sunset. 
  • Boynton Canyon: We didn't do the full 6-mile trail but opted for the short climb up to the Boynton Spire vista area. We were greeted by Robert, a local who hands out heart carved rocks and plays the flute for visitors on a regular basis. I don't know if I can define what the quintessential Sedona experience is, but that morning could have been it. 
  • Made in the Shade: This is a 2.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail. We started just as the sun was setting behind us which cast a beautiful light on Bell Rock. It was a quiet evening on the trail, though other websites point out that it's a popular mountain biking spot. 
Cathedral Rock after sunrise - We finally got a photo together! 

*Note: A red rock pass is required for all of these hikes unless you find parking outside of the parking lot. You can get a weekly red rock pass for $15 or a daily pass for $5. 

The Red Rock Pass Program is conservation tool designed by the U.S. Forest Service to protect, enhance and maintain Sedona’s red rock landscape for future generations of the public to enjoy. It also helps maintain recreation amenities like picnic areas, restrooms, informational and interpretive signing, and road maintenance. 

Where to Shop: 

Natural Grocers
1915 West State Route 89A - (928) 282-1961

Sedona's community grocery store focuses on providing natural and organic food at affordable prices. We stopped here on our first day to stock up on ingredients for meals and snacks to bring along for hikes. Compared to other organic grocery stores like Whole Foods, I was pleasantly surprised at the lower prices and array of great food options.  

Mystic Bazaar
3058 West SR 89 - 928-204-561

Are you mystically curious? This spacious new age store can satisfy your curiosities with psychic readings, aura photography, vortex tours, gemstone jewelry, and crystals. I knew I wouldn't be able to get out of this store without dropping some cash. I was on the lookout for a larger crystal and found a gorgeous citrine stone that had to come home with me. Laura and I also got our aura photos taken which comes with a 23-page analysis of our results. 

Photo by Laura Hughes 

Photo by Laura Hughes 

Where to Eat: 

volcano bowl at Berry Divine 

Berry Divine Acai Bowls -
2710 State Route 89A - 928-862-4111

My standards for acai bowls are high thanks to living in Hawaii for 7 years. Laura raved about Berry Divine and although I trust this gal with my life, I had hesitations that it would live up to my expectations. Well, it did and then some. In addition to the traditional acai bowl, they offer a soft serve which is a blend of Acai puree, lemon, beet and apple juice, with a bit of cane sugar mixed in. It took me a good 5 minutes of staring at their menu before I could finally decide on something. I went with the Volcano bowl, a combo of Acai, fruits, seeds, and guarana topped with hemp seed granola, kiwi, strawberry, blueberry, and coconut oil.

Matcha mint smoothie at Local Juicery

Local Juicery
3150 West State Route 89 - 928-282-893

This spot is an organic cold-pressed juice bar and superfood kitchen. All the recipes are created by a holistic nutritionist/raw food chef who happens to be the co-founder. There wasn't one thing on the menu I wouldn't have ordered if I had multiple stomachs and a larger wallet.  I got the Superhuman smoothie which consisted of 'Pure Greens' juice, blueberries, spirulina, bee pollen, maca powder, coconut flakes, almond butter, MCT oil, and stevia. It's not the cheapest option in town, but most of my travel budget is dedicated to food anyways. 

Prickly Pear Margarita at 89 Agave

89 Agave -
254 N. Hwy 89 - 844-828-352

Word to the wise - share plates here. The food portions are massive and it fed Laura and I for both lunch AND dinner. We devoured the mojo Guacamole (lime roasted garlic, sundried tomato & onions) and the Cilantro & Black Pepper Portobello Mushroom fajitas. Their prickly pear margaritas were also delicious and I'll definitely be recreating the recipe at home this summer!