What to Do in Sedona, Arizona

December 21, 2021

Filed in: Field Guide

After we had peeled away from Horseshoe Bend (literally peeled, it was so hot our clothes stuck to us as soon as we stepped out of Fitz), we tapped our next destination into the GPS. The sun was bright, the sky was clear, and I already had a short list on what to do in Sedona, Arizona—the red rock valley that inspired Cars. To say I was eager was an understatement. I was ready for nature to put on her finest show.

courthouse butte in sedona, arizona

After a few hours on the road, we crested into the city on the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and quite honestly, scenic is an understatement. The majestic, rust-colored buttes rose above the valley, their vivid color a sharp contrast to the somehow lush see of greenery below. It was a half-cloudy day with the promise of rain, but despite the forecast, I was determined to see something after we checked into the hotel.

red rock formations of the red rock scenic byway in sedona, arizona

An hour later, we bumped down a dusty, unpaved red road that rattled poor Fitz in a way that made me want to turn him around, and found the trail entrance, and under ominous skies, began the walk. The rumbling thunder, flashes of lighting, and fat raindrops soon had us scurrying back to the car, but overall, our short stay was nothing short of inspiring. It felt like we were in Radiator Springs, nostalgia and all. Definitely a highlight en route to Alabama.

rabbit ears red rock formation in sedona, arizona seen from the Yavapai Vista Point

What to Do in Sedona

There are so many things you could do in Sedona, but since we were only passing through, we opted for as many scenic views as possible. Just driving on Highway 179 is incredibly beautiful, and there are signs all over the place that indicate trails and lookout points where you can pull over briefly. Here’s what we did:

  • Cathedral Rock Trail

You can hike up the massive butte, but it is indeed steep. I am not an avid (nor skilled) hiker, and so opted to take in the view from afar. All the more ambitious climbers looked like ants crawling up the side.

  • Chapel Rock

This one is a literal church, but the vantage point is really the road that leads up to the turn for the parking lot. It’s carved into the rock and quite impressive.

  • Yavapai Vista Point

We pulled over to find a good view and chose this trail on accident. It was the best the detour.

  • Baldwin Trailhead

The day we arrived in Sedona, we tried to walk this trail. The thunder and lightning had us dashing back to Fitz. We tried again the following day—it’s easy, relatively flat, but not well marked at times.

At most sites, you will either need a National Parks Pass or a Red Rock Pass, which starts at $5.

chapel rock in sedona, arizona is a church built into the red rocks

cathedral rock red rock formation in sedona, arizona

bell rock butte on the red rock scenic byway in sedona

red rock valley from Yavapai Vista Point in sedona, arizona on a cloudy day

view on the way to the baldwin trailhead in sedona, arizona

courthouse butte (left) and bell rock (right) in sedona

view of cathedral rock in sedona

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Paris & California strolls; plenty of flowers; stories; and looking for the beauty in the everyday. I hope you'll come along as I take the year to document the entirety of my home state!