By Robert Gorden
Massive red rocks, gigantic canyons and geological formations, fantastic views and great hiking country surround this small town replete with art galleries, spiritual centers, quaint shops, fun eateries and beautiful homes. A favorite destination for many RVers, it is my favorite place in the southwest US. Within the town limits are dozens of incredible geological features and within a 30 mile radius there are many ancient Indian ruins and historical sites. Hiking trails abound in the Red Rock Country and the various National Park passes are accepted at trailheads and at the several national parks and monuments. Native American ruins are accessible via auto and jeep tours.
Sedona can be reached by driving south from Flagstaff on AZ 89A or north from Prescott on the same scenic highway. From the east AZ 179 offers the most direct access from I-17. There is no easy access from the west. Each of the highways entering Sedona provides ultra-beautiful views of the city and the geologic formations that identify the region. AZ 179 passes by Bell Rock, Courthouse Rock and Cathedral Rock as it enters town to intersect with 89A in the center of the business district.
The Rancho Sedona RV park is located on Oak Creek near the town center. RV resorts are also located along 89A south of the city and from Cottonwood to east of Camp Verde along AZ 260 and I-17. I have often camped in the Thousand Trails, Western Horizon and Page Springs parks and enjoy each of those resorts. Several of the other parks provide similar positive camping experiences.
Boondocking locations are located several miles south of Sedona and provide quiet, isolated, even sublime dry- camping sites and are within easy driving distance of the town. Most state and national parks and monuments are open for day visits only and do not offer camping of any type. Red Rocks State Park is located on the southern outskirts of the city and both Slide Rock SP and Oak Creek Canyon Park are on 89A north of the city center.
With Sedona, or any of the RV resorts as a base, the RVer can take a toad for day trips east to nearby ruins such as Montezuma’s Castle, Montezuma’s Well, and southwest to Tuzigoot Ruins, Palatki and Honanki Ruins. Jeep tours to these ruins are also available from Sedona. If driving a toad side trips may include Camp Verde State Park and Museum which has nice displays from the General Crook days after the Civil War. Take a “must see” day trip to Jerome, high on the Mingus Mt. with an overview of the Verde Valley, Cottonwood and Clarkdale. The Jerome State Park provides excellent exhibits and descriptions of the mining ventures that extracted gold, silver and other ores worth millions of dollars from the mountainside. This small village was once a center of great wealth and is now a reviving Ghost Town.
On the way to Jerome make a stop in Old Town Cottonwood for a walking tour of the many quaint shops, wine tasting venues, nice eateries and an Olive Oil store, as an enjoyable respite. Clarkdale has a small but nice museum and is the location of the Clarkdale railroad.
AZ 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff is one of the elite scenic highways of the southwest US. Views of Oak Creek, towering cliffs, pine forested mountainsides and startling hills and curves are prevalent. This route is the shortest distance between Flagstaff and Sedona but is not the easiest drive between those cities. Once an RVer is settled in Sedona it is worthwhile to drive north on 89A to Slide Rock SP and on to Oak Creek Park. The latter park offers a very popular and easy hiking trail along and across Oak Creek. This trail exhibited some of the most beautiful foliage that I have ever experienced on the hike one fall. The ruins of a hideaway resort, where Zane Grey wrote one or more of his classic western novels, slowly deteriorates along the trailside. Slide Rock SP is well known for an exhilarating natural water slide over slippery red rocks in the Creek.
If hiking the Red Rock Country and experiencing the spiritual thrill of a Vortex is your goal Sedona is the place for you. Beginning with Bell Rock and moving on to the more than 130 easy to extremely difficult hikes in and around Sedona there are trails for every level of hiking interest and ability. I suggest that serious hikers purchase and study a book such as “130 Sedona Hikes and 5 Vortex Sites” to get them started on many hours of hiking pleasure.
Although I have only completed about 25 of the hikes described by the authors, some multiple times, there are fabulous hikes available. My personal favorite is a relatively easy but isolated hike to Robbers Roost that offers a secluded view of dramatic cliffs and a verdant valley from the small, secure cave. Walking through the Honanki Ruins in the early morning, alone, gives me the feeling of being lost in a time warp. Resting high on a ledge of Bell Rock or at the notch of Cathedral Rock one can focus on Nature’s handiwork and mediate on the meaning and purpose of Life.
Boynton #47 trail leads high to an overlook down the canyon that is thrilling to see.
You will need a National Parks or Red Rocks pass if parking and using the area. There are several easily accessible free RV parking spots off 89A south of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. Park your RV, get in your Toad, drive to and hike one or all of the 130 hiking and biking trails in and around this scenic region.
Today, with the temperatures in the mid-70s, clear blue skies and a light breeze, was a perfect time to take a small pack with a few snacks and water bottle and head for a new hike (for me) in the Sedona Red Rocks. A few miles south of Sedona off AZ 179 the Back of Beyond road curves under the shadow of the towering Cathedral Rock. This famous rock formation has probably been seen, observed, photographed and spiritually experienced by more tourists, RVers and locals than any other. As a Vortex site and the focal point of several trails including the Cathedral, Templeton, HT and Baldwin, the massive formation may be viewed, studied and worshipped from many angles.
On the trail today two lady bikers, from Long Beach, CA, were among those using the Templeton Trail. One had never biked this trail before and declared that mountain biking “is So Much Fun!” If you decide to bike instead of hike be sure to stop often and view the surrounding rock formations. Take a few photos to help you remember the beauty and to remind you and others that Sedona is not all about the desert, but rather, there are trees, brooks, a famous stream in the Oak Creek Canyon and there is beauty, majesty and wonderful spirits flowing and glowing throughout the entire Red Rocks region.
Take the Page Springs road off 89A midway between Sedona and Cottonwood. This twisting 2 lane road boasts 2 RV resorts, Lolo Mai and Page Springs Sunrise parks, 3 wineries/ wine tasting shops and 2 state fish hatcheries plus some nice houses before flowing into Cornville.
Sedona stores offer high end clothing, jewelry, art galleries, spiritualism stores, gift shops and a supermarket or two. The stores in Cottonwood include WalMart, Home Depot, Food City and a wide variety of similar outlets for basic RVer needs.
This beautiful, unique and historic Chapel in the Rocks was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is open from 9-5 daily except a few holidays. The chapel may provide not only a lovely view of Sedona but a mellow spot for meditation and prayer.
TLAQUEPAQUE of Sedona is an Indian term meaning “The Best of Everything” that is offered in this cluster of shoppes, dining and lodging located along Oak Creek near the center of Sedona. Constructed by amateur artisans under the guidance of a gifted and eccentric architect and developer the complex displays much of the natural and man-made beauty of the city. See the Tlaquepaque website for a complete description of history of this unique complex.
Dining opportunities are abundant in Sedona as demonstrated on the Sedona restaurants website that lists 140 restaurants, cafes and eateries. Small, off-the-beaten-path restaurants with great food include Manzanita’s, Cornville, Nic’s in Old Town Cottonwood and La Fonda Mexican Foods, Horseshoe Drive, Camp Verde. The Haunted Hamburger, Jerome, offers build your own hamburgers and a great view of the Verde Valley and the Red Rock Country, especially at sunset. All of the above and many others provide good food in a family atmosphere.
Two RV repair shops operate near Sedona. Camelot on 89A in Cottonwood has a complete venue with a resort, repair shop and RV parts store. The manager is knowledgeable and helpful. It is located near Dead Horse State Park and Old Town Cottonwood. A1 RV Repair is located on Hwy 260 midway between Cottonwood and Camp Verde. The shop is not easy to see but is located within the fenced compound of an RV storage facility. A1 is a family owned and operated business that has provided me with good service at reasonable prices. There are 2 or more mobile RV repairmen who make the rounds of the numerous campgrounds in the general Sedona area.
Anytime is a great time to visit the Red Rock country. There are four seasons in the Red Rocks and each season has a lot to offer the RV visitor. Sedona has numerous festivals, film events and special events throughout the entire year. The red rock formations are beautiful during every season and are especially gorgeous when dusted with snow. Come to Sedona at any time to experience and enjoy the abundant delights of the RED ROCK COUNTRY!