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Sedona, Arizona — insights for travelers

Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona, USA
Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona, USA


From the very first glimpse of the glorious Sedona red rock landscape, visitors feel the majesty and mystery of a place sacred to its earliest prehistoric settlers. It’s been said, “God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.” It is awesome yet it invites personal exploration. Above plains and canyons soar brilliantly hued cliffs and rugged spires of sandstone sculpted by eons of ocean tides and desert winds.

It is a 25 square-mile enclave surrounded by vast stretches of national and state forestlands that make Sedona seem like a world apart.

Located two hours north of Phoenix, and 30 miles south of the Flagstaff peaks, Sedona’s mild four-season climate and high desert terrain assure good year-round weather for vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Oak Creek Canyon, a spectacular 16-mile gorge with streams and waterfalls between sheer rock walls, beckons hikers, campers and fishermen. It has been termed by Rand McNally as one of the eight most scenic drives in America.


Nearly four million travelers visited Sedona per year, rivaling the Grand Canyon, just 2 1/2 hours north, as a world class destination. Yet the influx does not disturb the small-town ambiance that is part of Sedona’s charm.

Shopping plazas, gift boutiques, galleries and restaurants abound. Tlaquepaque–an Indian name meaning “the best of everything”–is modeled after a Mexican village, made up of quaint courtyards surrounded by specialty shops, galleries and restaurants. First popularized by Zane Grey’s “Call of the Canyon,” Sedona became the backdrop for many films shot on location in the early ’20s. Since then, Hollywood has made the area its back lot, bringing the film stars of each era. Gene Autry, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Rock Hudson, Elvis Presley and Robert DeNiro mingled with townsfolk who often appeared as extras. Several celebrities made Sedona their home, including Lucille Ball, Orson Welles, Jane Russell, Walt Disney, Sean Young, Donald O’Connor and Ann Miller.

As an art community, Sedona has found recognition worldwide. Surrealist painter and sculptor Max Ernst first settled here in 1950 and attracted other artists and writers of his time. In 1965, the Cowboy Artists of America was founded by a group of western painters as comfortable on the range as with oils. In the spirit of Frederic Remington, the group has created a significant genre of modern art.

Where artists flourish, so do galleries. Sedona boasts over 40 showcases for contemporary arts and crafts, as well as Native American arts. The cultural calendar is filled with gallery openings, art and music events, as well as local theater productions. New Age settlers and spiritual seekers have found Sedona a very desirable location for healing and emotional rejuvenation. In the mid-1970s they proclaimed their discovery of four major electromagnetic energy sources called vortexes. Today a community of alternative healing practitioners provide a varied schedule of workshops and events.

When the day wanes, and the jeep tour, hiking and shopping have taken their toll, visitors turn their attention to the magnificent sunsets. It’s easy to understand why the Anasazi Indians chose to settle here centuries ago, and why Carl and Sedona Schnebly—-for whom our city was named—-made the same decision in 1902.

Take a Spiritual vacation in Arizona — what is that?

Designated by USA Today as America’s most beautiful city, Sedona, Arizona offers far more than scenic wonders. Many also consider Sedona the U.S.’s premier destination for spiritual vacationing. Getaways have always been about rest and renewal. Now many travelers seek the additional benefit of spiritual re-inspiration. People of all faiths have long found those effects in Sedona.

Sedona has often been called an open air cathedral. The majestic red rock scenery and year round evergreen vegetation have tangible regenerative power. Sedona’s spectacular trails and overlooks provide numerous opportunities for inspiration, prayer, and contemplation. Within minutes visitors can go from the wonders of wilderness to the awe inspiring vision of a soaring chapel built into the red rocks.

The deep harmony of nature awaits hikers of the West Fork Trail. As it weaves along the west fork of Oak Creek, more species of vegetation abound than in any other location in Arizona. From the benches at the Chapel of the Holy Cross you can feel your Soul soar out to the magnificent red/orange vistas of Cathedral, Courthouse, and Bell Rocks.

Internationally known for the uplifting power of it’s Vortex meditation sites, Sedona also offers the full range of spiritual explorations and metaphysical services. A wide range of readers, healers and spiritual guides are easily accessible to Sedona visitors. A five to fifteen minute drive can connect the seeker with a variety of metaphysical bookstores and centers where spiritually based massage, readings, and other services are all available.

What makes Sedona additionally unique is that most of its Vortex meditation and prayer sites are interwoven with the real world of a small town. As a result, seekers get insights for truly living their spirituality in their daily life. Rather than having to escape from civilization to find peace, visitors discover that Sedona’s splendor gives them a sense of awe and harmony they can carry home with them. The wide range of hotel, RV, and camping options in Sedona makes visiting affordable for all budgets. Travelers can find accommodations ranging from economy to the finest of luxury resorts. Dining selections are similarly diverse. With choices from ranging fast food chains to health food deli’s; Mom and Pop ethnic restaurants to gourmet cuisine, no palate will go unsatisfied.

Sedona: The Ancient Ones

The Anasazi, a Navajo term meaning “the ancient ones,” fished the rushing Oak Creek waters, farmed the land and tracked the plentiful hunting grounds. In prehistory, Sedona was a ceremonial meeting area and a major crossroads for trading routes from the north and from South America. Today, among the red rock canyons of Sedona, one can view the remarkable remains of once thriving cultures – walking the ancient pathways and touching the ancient mortar.

Montezuma Castle, the oldest and best-preserved cliff dwelling in the Southwest, was constructed by the Sinaguans in the 12th century. A complex of 20 rooms was built into a cliff 100 feet above the valley. Another six-story apartment building of 45 rooms was built against the base, but it has not weathered as well. Early settlers, astounded by the sophisticated structures, mistook them for Aztec and the name they ascribed to the “castle” still remains. Montezuma Well is a lush oasis of verdant growth in the midst of the desert. A huge sink hole formed by the collapse of a subterranean cavern, the well is fed by underground springs. Irrigation canals were developed from these springs by the agrarian Sinagua and Hohokam tribes.

Tuzigoot, the Apache word for “crooked river,” is a Sinaguan village built on a ridge above the Verde Valley. Originally a pueblo of two-stories in places, it had 77 ground-floor rooms, many of which have been restored to permit entry. The wood beams and stones almost breathe the lives of those who dwelled there between 1125 and 1400. The Visitor Center at Tuzigoot houses many artifacts found at the ruins, and has a life-size example of what an average room at Tuzigoot might have looked like long ago.

In the Boynton Canyon area, there are two Sinaguan sites remarkable for their petroglyphs and pictographs, symbols created by pigment rubbed into the rock. Visitors may explore these sites independently or take one of the guided tours, which are scheduled throughout the day. Amateurs enjoy recognizing some universal images, such as water, sun and animals. Or ask your tour guide for an interpretation. Do they portray events and the arrival of visitors? The guides provide historical background and weave magical stories about these people who disappeared so suddenly and mysteriously in the mid-1400s. It’s an experience every visitor treasures.

Sedona’ s Parks and Hiking Trails

Slide Rock is America’s favorite Arizona State Park, providing a natural water slide that invites everyone to be a kid again.

Carved by the cascading waters of Oak Creek, the smooth sloping ledges curve downstream, carrying even the most resistant along in the current. Pools for swimming abound and trout fishing enthusiasts can wet their lines. Shaded by cottonwoods and sycamores along the canyon walls, hikers can explore the trails, and the less athletic can relax at picnic tables in the meadow.

Slide Rock exists as a State Park because of the personal experiences of Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton Administration. As a child, his Flagstaff family visited friends in Sedona to picnic and splash down the magical rock slides. In 1981, then-Arizona Governor Babbitt wanted to share those memories with his young son. The return visit, however, revealed that years of public misuse had taken its toll on the property. He was appalled and immediately initiated steps that would restore the original beauty of this setting. His appointed task force resulted in a non-profit foundation that purchased the land. The 53-acre park was originally homesteaded by farmers in the late 1800s. Frank Pendley, one of the earliest landholders, was the first to successfully grow apples. His irrigation ditch, dug in 1912, still serves the orchards that flourish today. Several original structures, recently refurbished, remain in the park. They were used as sets for the 1953 film “Gun Fury” which starred Rock Hudson and Donna Reed. In June of 1985, Bruce Babbitt stood where he had once played and dedicated the site to the State of Arizona. “This State Park will be developed in a manner that will honor some extraordinary pioneers.” he told the gathering, which included some proud descendants of Frank Pendley.

Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona, USA
Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona, USA

Sedona’s Red Rock State Park, was dedicated in 1991. With a mission of preserving the riparian habitat along Oak Creek, it offers an environmental information center as well as wonderful locations for hiking, biking, birding and fishing. The 286 acres were originally part of the “Smoke Trail Ranch” owned by Jack and Helen Frye. Jack Frye, then president of TWA, purchased the land in 1941 to develop into their vacation retreat, and, in 1946, he started construction. Using stone, rock and timber from the area, the house resembled a pueblo. Much of it was built by the Yavapai-Apache Indians, who camped along the creek. The smoke from their fires led to the name “House of Apache Fire.”

The park affords three main trails designed to appeal to every energy level. The Smoke Trail follows the creek and is an easy half mile through the lush wooded area. The Apache Fire Trail of 1.7 miles includes the Frye property, and the almost two-mile Eagle’s Nest Overlook Trail offers spectacular views, as the name promises. Protecting the ecosystem of the area requires unique rules. Swimming and wading are prohibited. There is no overnight camping, and visitors must remain on designated trails and roadways, and pack out what they bring in.

Sedona – An Artist’s Mecca

Spires of sun-struck red rocks; fringes of green forest and eye-searing azure skies create an instant painting. Sedona, ever-changing in the light, has mesmerized artists, challenging them to capture its splendor. It lured Max Ernst, a surrealist painter and sculptor, to this undiscovered hideaway in 1950. Other artists and writers have followed ever since.

Today, Sedona is home to over 200 artists of every medium and aesthetic bent. It is an art community of ruggedly individualistic expression, from cutting-edge contemporary to visionary, Native American to modern realism. This burgeoning level of cultural activity helped foster Sedona’s reputation as a destination. Sedona now rivals Santa Fe and Scottsdale in its richness of the arts. Where there is art, there are galleries and more than 40 exhibit a wide spectrum of Southwestern, Western and Native American arts. The galleries showcase contemporary, representational and traditional artists who are known nationally and internationally. This creates a full calendar of openings, artist receptions, demonstrations and workshops to keep the art aficionado entertained year ’round.

In 1965, the Cowboy Artists of America was founded in Sedona by four western artists who were as handy with a horse as they were with a paint brush. Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen formalized the organization while at the “local watering hole.” The result is an annual show, now held in Phoenix, which draws thousands of people from around the world who appreciate the earth-bound beauty of this popular genre of painting and sculpture.

The Sedona Sculpture Walk, a three-day event which occurs in the fall, has achieved national recognition. More than 100 participating artists, from all over the U.S., represent every aspect of the arts, from miniatures to monumental-size sculptures. Also held in the fall is the Sedona Arts Festival, an arts and craft fair. The Sedona Arts Center provides regular exhibits, and its workshops offer instruction in both fine and applied arts and crafts. The Center’s Community Theater group and the Actors Repertory Theatre stage first-rate productions.

A varied calendar of classical music programs is offered in Sedona, with gifted performers from the Phoenix Symphony, Flagstaff Symphony, Sedona Chamber Music Society and the Verde Valley Concert Association. Pop, rock and jazz concerts are also available. The annual autumn production of “Jazz on the Rocks” attracts nearly 5,000 visitors and has featured noted headliners such as Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespi, and Diane Shure.

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