travel & recreation
a Vacation Favorite
Sedona is admired by many, and derided by others for its New Age consciousness. Completely surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, the ethereal quality of the red landscape and the southwestern light has brought together a population of laid-back souls who seem to operate more crystal shops and New Age establishments here than anywhere else on the continent. Maybe some of the off-the-wall local atmosphere comes as a result of Zane Grey's writings and surrealist artist Max Ernst living and painting here.
To be serious about Sedona, the red rock landscape here fills one with wonder, and Sedona has taken advantage of this superb natural setting to become a resort community of some stature. It's a new town -- incorporated in 1988 -- with a full range of amenities, including distinctive resorts such as Enchantment, Poco Diablo, and the Southwest Inn, plus many motels, more than a dozen bed and breakfasts, and shop-till-you-drop boutique plazas in different parts of town. The golfing is challenging and scenic, horseback riding through Red Rock Country is exciting, and there are restaurants of every kind, including two superb Mexican establishments. Above all, the scenery is staggering -- particularly on the Red Rock Loop Road, just south of town.
After World War II, the area became a retirement haven, and artists led by Max Ernst came to the valley to paint the surrealistic scenery. The Sedona Arts Center was founded in 1968. In 1984 the population was 7,500; it was not until 1988 that the city was incorporated.
Thus, one of the newest cities in the U.S. has become one of the most popular vacation centers for Arizonans, as well as attracting thousands of annual visitors from afar. Tourism caused a jump in population, and now about 15,000 people live in this city, which is like almost any other small western town, except for its magnificent geological scenery. The older towns of the area are to the south: Clarkdale, Jerome and Prescott. Jerome is a near ghost town while Sedona flourishes in the light of the New Age.
The Chamber of Commerce Information Center is located on the corner of Highway 89A and Forest Road, at the north end of town. This is the area known as Uptown Sedona -- filled with both chic and rustic boutiques, restaurants, and creek-side motels.
How to Get There
Located south of Flagstaff, the Oak Creek Canyon is a fine introduction to the area, with forest camping, historic sites, and joyful children sliding down the natural chute at Slide Rock State Park. Highway 89A leads into the canyon, through the Coconino National Forest. This short drive (27 miles) offers a full day of interesting things to see and do. The whole drive is a changing spectacle of steep canyon sides and wooded valley.
From Phoenix, the shortest way to travel to Sedona is via Interstate 17 and then north into the Verde Valley on Arizona Route 179. If you have a day to spare, the more scenic route from Phoenix is via U.S. Highway 60 through Wickenburg and Prescott, entering the valley by taking Highway 89A across Mingus Mountain. What to See & Do
Red Rock Splendor
Psychic energy vortexes aside, this is what we come to Sedona to see: the magnificent ridges, cliffs, peaks, and pinnacles formed of dark red rock. There are several conglomerations of rocks to admire. Stretching behind the town is the longest display, with the Cockscomb at the left (to the south), Chimney Rock slightly to the right and in front, Capitol Butte (with a rounded top looking as if it should be the Capitol dome in Washington), Sugar Loaf in the center, Coffee Pot Rock sticking out from Sugar Loaf, and then to the right the Mt. Wilson area, with Steamboat Rock at the extreme right side.
A tour of Schnebly Hill Road (off Hwy. 179 at the north end of town) leads past Elephant Rock and Snoopy Rock. Snoopy looks, from certain angles, like the cartoon dog, lying on his back with feet and nose in the air. Farther down Hwy. 179 is Submarine Rock. The Chapel of the Holy Cross (see below) is atop another rock beside the Two Nuns. Take Chapel Road to see this formation and the church. Farther south are Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.
Cathedral Rock, considered by most the finest formation of them all, is best viewed from the Red Rock Loop Road.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross sits on the rocks -- a startlingly modern chapel that contrasts with its natural environment.
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