When my husband was able to retire early about 10 years ago, we moved to Las Vegas for several reasons, one of which was our ability to take road trips all over the southwest. One of our favorite places is Sedona, a short four-to-five-hour drive from Las Vegas. 

Cathedral Rock By Alex Bailey

Straddling Oak Creek and guarded by steep canyon walls, red-rock cliffs, and pine forests, Sedona is an oasis in Arizona’s desert. It was not always that way, though. In the mid-1950s, there were 155 residents, many of whom did not have electricity until the 1960’s. It was around that time that Sedona began to attract retirees and tourists… and electricity. If you love the desert, there isn’t much that beats the natural beauty of the Sedona area. 

Red Rock Country 

Airport Mesa By Heather Raulerson

Sedona thrives under a cerulean blue sky. The air, much less infected with car fumes, is clean and crisp, and you can detect the slight scent of juniper and pine. If you believe New Agers, the area contains vortexes full of electromagnetic energy. 

The highlights of Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area are the natural wonders. Paprika-colored formations explode from the landscape dwarfing the man-made buildings below them. Driving among the towering Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Coffee Pot Rock, and Airport Mesa makes you realize just how small we are. 

Viewing the rock formations from within your car is a great experience, but it is worth to get outside and hike the numerous trails that thread through the area. With more than 300 sunny days annually and a high-desert climate, Sedona is the day hike capital of the US. There are more than 100 diverse trails in the area, and whether you are up for a leisurely walk or a more difficult trek, you can find the trail that is right for you. 

The Hike House, dedicated to bringing all facets of hiking to life, is a good place to get everything, from information about the trails to gear for your hikes. Their Sedona Trail Finder rates 101 trails on difficulty, views, and overall experience to help you identify which trails are best for your particular wants and skills. 

Chapel of the Holy Cross 

Chapel of the Holy Cross is built between the buttes of Sedona
Photo by Vicky T. Taka

While you are exploring the area, be sure to check out the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built in 1956, the Roman Catholic chapel welcomes everyone from its berth between Twin Buttes overlooking the valley. Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the chapel so that the huge windows provide breathtaking views of the valley and desert beyond them. Admission is free, and there is a gift shop on the premises. There is a hiking trail that you can access from the chapel parking lot. 

Late Afternoon Sun makes the red rocks glow
Photo by Tim Mossholder

The Vortex 

Native Americans have long considered Sedona to be a sacred spot full of vortices (vortexes). Many believe that a vortex—a mass of swirling air, fluid, or electricity—holds special spiritual powers. The belief is that the energy these vortices produce is some of the strongest in the world, and that people who want to grow spiritually and peacefully will benefit from the power in Sedona. 

While all of Sedona is said to be a vortex, there are four main “hot spots.” The vortices of Bell Rock and Airport Mesa are said to have masculine energy (exuding strength and confidence) while Cathedral Rock and Schnebly Hill, feminine energy (exuding goodness and compassion).  

As you drive along State Route 179, notice the juniper trees whose trunks and branches twist and spiral from the earth, proof, many say, of the earth’s energy. 

Art and Culture 

Bronze Sculpture in Downtown Sedona. Art abounds in Downtown Sedona.
Photo by Heather Raulerson

There is more to Sedona than its natural beauty. Sedona has long been home to hundreds of artists of every medium. More than 80 galleries feature everything, from watercolors and weavings to stained glass and sculpture. And, while Western art abounds, many galleries feature contemporary artists whose work is on canvas, in glass, with metal, with wood, and in photography. 

If you like to gallery hop, the Sedona Gallery Association’s 1st Friday in the Galleries might be the perfect thing for you. A monthly event that highlights artists, exhibits, and galleries, the event is free and open to both locals and visitors alike. As fun as it is to mingle with others while you enjoy refreshments, it’s more inspiring to see what the creative energy of humans has produced. 

After the storm the western sun over the red rocks of Sedona produces a rainbow
Photo by Aram G

If you are lucky enough to steer your car toward Sedona, be sure to check out the Visit Sedona site to help you plan your trip.