I fell in love with Sedona on Instagram. The majestic red rocks, pristine desert skies and mystery were calling me. After a solid week of #sedona searches on Instagram and Pinterest, I knew I had to hop on a plane and see it for myself.
In true Ashley fashion, I picked flights, reserved a hotel, listed 20+ sights to be seen and presented the husband with the whole package. Of course he was down, as he always is with my perhaps impulsive travel plans.
A few weeks later, we boarded a plane to Phoenix in mid February 2017. Sadly, timing could not have been worse. I had been diagnosed with the flu 4 days earlier (yay! TamiFlu!), work was insane, and the strongest storm in years was pounding the entire west coast and heading straight to Arizona (more on this later). But, I’ve never taken a trip I’ve regretted, so I posted my out-of-office, loaded up on meds and packed my raincoat. (Also, I know I’m an asshole for flying with the flu, but we’d already dropped the cash and dammit we were going to Sedona!)
We arrived close to midnight Thursday and stayed in a cheap hotel by the airport. I find a late night arrival works best; you can just hit the pillow and wake up early to start your travel adventure. We picked up the rental car in the morning and decided to get some breakfast before making the 2 hour drive north to Sedona. We decided on fàme caffe (fàme means hungry in Italian and that we were!). I think we were in a hipster area, which always means good food is nearby. We sat outside and enjoyed the warm weather and chill environment. I got the avocado toast (with egg!) and Eric got the omelette and potatoes.
The drive to Sedona was really easy, and I found the extreme changes in environment fascinating. Within the span of an hour I saw desert, rugged mountain-scapes, plateaus, forest, and my favorite saguaro cacti. I wish I took a photograph, but they’re basically gigantic cacti with long, tall arms that define the southern Arizona desert. They’re truly spectacular!
As you approach Sedona, the rocks start getting redder and taller. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the horizon. The contrast of the red rocks and the bright blue sky engrains this place into your memory.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Sedona. It’s brand new and very clean and convenient and away from Sedona “downtown”. It was perfect for our needs and we knew we wouldn’t be there much. With the storm of the century quickly approaching, we dropped our bags, changed into hiking gear, and headed out to enjoy the only perfect weather day we were going to get.
We set out to hike Bell Rock trail first. The flu had really wiped me out so were were aiming for the easier hikes. Bell Rock trail was really customizable. The path to Bell Rock was very flat and well maintained and a great option for any traveller. When you got to Bell Rock you could chose how far to go up. I could see people way up at the top and knew I wouldn’t get all the way up there. I did end up climbing higher than I thought and scaring myself a little on the way down, but the view was worth it. We sat on some rocks together taking in the amazing scenery and hopefully absorbing some of the famed healing red rock energy.
We worked up an appetite, but stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross on the way back to Sedona. The clouds from earlier cleared out and we managed to get a parking spot right at the top and my flu-ridden self was happy (hint- keep driving up; you will see lots of parking spots taken on the way up, but keep going! there were plenty at the top). It was worth checking out the view from inside the chapel windows, but you won’t need to spend a lot of time here.
One thing I really slacked on this trip was scoping out places to eat. Which is very unlike me since I’m ALWAYS thinking about food. It was a mistake because I was tired and achy and didn’t feel like hunting through the internet for the quirky and delicious cafes and gastropubs in the area. We did stumble upon Picazzo’s Italian Kitchen and enjoyed some delicious (and organic) chicken, bacon, herb pizza (with dried cranberries!!) and local beers.
The next day we woke up early, grabbed some tasty lattes from Creekside Coffee and headed north on the 89A towards the Grand Canyon. Sadly, the storm was approaching and the beautiful red rocks were hidden behind layers of dense fog. After a couple of hours on the twisty and scenic route, we made it to Flagstaff where it started to snow. Y’all, Georgians do not drive in snow!
By the time we made it to the Grand Canyon it was FREEZING! Also, sticker shock: a day car pass into Grand Canyon National Park is $30! Totally worth it, but still, not cheap. It was freezing and being sick was really kicking my butt that day so we parked at the South Rim and did an easy walk along the edge. The view is nothing short of Grand. It’s absolutely massive and pictures do not do it justice. I saw the Grand Canyon when I was a kid, but wow I did not appreciate it. I overheard a mother and father jokingly scolding their 10 year old for preferring their iPad over the Grand Canyon and I had to chuckle because I was that kid 15 years ago. The sun decided to show some between the clouds as we walked.
We had coffee and lunch at the El Tovar Dining Room, which has panoramic views of the canyon and is inside of an old lodge. It started to lightly snow as we slurped french onion soup (which is the same recipe they used when they opened in 1905!). I wished we had more time to spend at the Grand Canyon; I know there’s so much more to explore.
That afternoon back in Sedona, the rain subsided and it was a a pleasant evening. We headed to the Teacup Trail towards Coffeepot rock. This was my absolute favorite part of the trip. It was so quiet since it had been a miserable day and we felt like we had the red rocks to ourselves! Also, I had a random burst of energy and was starting to feel better.
Can you see why it’s called Coffeepot Rock??
Of course nothing’s better post-hike than a couple of local brews. We stopped at Oak Creek Brewing Company. It had a really casual, local vibe and we were easily the youngest people there. What do you expect for a popular retirement town?? I never mind being in an older crowd…I like going to bed at 9pm and doing crossword puzzles too, I’m practically a grandma anyway.
The next day the storm had moved in and was not leaving. We took the morning slow, but were determined to continue to explore Sedona. We drove out to the Crescent Moon Ranch in our raincoats and hiking boots to see Cathedral Rock. It was a short, wet walk to Oak Creek where Cathedral Rock appeared through the clouds. This must be a truly magnificent view on a clear sunny day, because it was stunning while obscured by the fog.
We walked about a mile or so down a muddy path along the creek. Cathedral Rock is a location of one of Sedona’s famous vortexes, which is an area near a rock formation thought to concentrate energy promoting healing and inspiration. Being such a spiritual area, it was covered in stacked rocks, or Cairns. I call them zen rocks, but I know that’s not what they’re actually called. You can tell this area is heavily visited by tourists wanting to find their own spiritual calling. I try to leave nature the way I find it, but I enjoy the quirky feel of the formations. If it brings you peace and isn’t hurting anything, why not?
For lunch we had hotdogs from Señor Bobs and were thoroughly impressed. It was still raining so we checked out the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. We ran store to store from the rain and checked out some of the local and traditional art and culture. Also, we had some of the best chai tea I’d ever had at Chai Spot. It was so warming on a cold day.
As night fell the storm continued and the rain sent us early to bed. The next morning was gorgeous and we headed back down to Phoenix to catch out flight home. The weather could have been better, but Sedona was a magical and inspirational place that drew me outside. I can’t wait to go back some day.
We love Arizona!