5 Fun Things to Do in Sedona, Arizona

Vacationing in Sedona, Arizona was a change of pace for my family that ended up shifting our taste in travel destinations moving forward. Typically a family that likes to spend our time off exploring foreign cities and tropical beaches, it was out of character for us to chose a desert town on the other side of the country for our next getaway. Nonetheless, I’m forever grateful we did. Sedona reintroduced me to the natural beauty of the country I’ve spent nearly my whole life living in, and gave rise to a newfound passion and curiosity for the outdoors within myself.

If you’ve recently made the wise decision to travel to Sedona, I’m here to tell you that you’re in for a treat. The unmistakable red rocks will act as a stunning backdrop for what’s sure to be a vacation you won’t soon forget. To make planning your trip easier (and help get family member vacation buy-in), I’ve created this list of five fun things to do during your daring West Coast desert adventure.

1. Go for a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip to Sedona was the hot air balloon ride. While this is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, I don’t think I could have chosen a better location than the gorgeous Arizona desert. The views from above the red rocks as the sun came up were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Don’t let fear be an excuse for not crossing this one off your bucket list. Being in the basket of the balloon feels like floating – peaceful and slow, not choppy and chaotic like you might expect.

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My family chose to book our hot air balloon ride with Red Rock Balloon Adventures. The crew was friendly, reassuring, and a ton of fun. They even brought along post-flight mimosas and brunch. Definitely check them out if you can!

2. Take a Hike (or Two)

The first hike I convinced my family to go on was to Devil’s Bridge, a highly popular 4.5 mile out and back trail that leads to a stunning rock formation at the end. Although the hike itself is relatively short, we had to park far from the trailhead which nearly doubled our total time spent hiking. For this reason, I’d suggest bringing twice as much water as you think you need. It was August when my family embarked on this trail, and we were down to our last drops of water by the time we finally reached our car.

The hike to Devil’s Bridge is fairly easy and straightforward. However, it becomes steep and more challenging near the top. There’s a section of narrow, winding steps shortly before you reach the spectacular natural wonder that is Devil’s Bridge. Be sure to use caution when walking out onto the bridge itself. It’s definitely a great photo opportunity, but my family and I stayed away from the most narrow part of the formation due to safety.

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Feeling a bit more confident after our first hike in Arizona, we decided to give the aptly named Cathedral Rock Trail a chance. Although this trail in only 1 mile long, it’s rated as moderate due to a few tricky sections where you must climb steep, slick rock. My mom and younger sister decided to turn back before the rock scrambling sections, but my dad and I pressed on. The view at the top of this trail is most definitely worth the work of hiking up to it. Try to squeeze this one in if you can!

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3. Pay a Visit to Slide Rock State Park

Located just 7 miles north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park gets its name from a natural water slide formed by the slippery bed of Oak Creek. A few locals advised us not to visit the park because it tends to get overrun with tourists in the summer months, but we decided to go anyway despite their well-meaning advice and boy, were we glad we did. This place is a blast.

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Fair warning though: the water will most likely be freezing. We were there in the middle of August, and one trip down the “water slide” was enough to get our adrenaline pumping from just how cold the water was. Luckily, the hot Arizona sun will have you warm and toasty in no time. We spent the majority our day at the park slipping down slide rock, enjoying a picnic by the water, and cliff jumping.

4. Marvel at the Chapel of the Holy Cross

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of the most stunning architectural landmarks I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing up close. Situated on top of a hill and nestled comfortably among the red rock landscape, this spiritual work of art is one of the must-see sights in Sedona. It’s also one of Sedona’s earliest landmarks, having been completed in 1956.

Even more impressive than the views from the Chapel is the calming presence I felt upon entering. Whatever your belief system, I’d recommend leaving time to soak in the peaceful energy and atmosphere of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Entrance into the church is free, and parking is located only a short walk down the cliff side from the Chapel.

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5. Embark on a Pink Jeep Tour

The Sedona Pink Jeep Tour is one of those touristy things you don’t want to do, but are glad to have done once it’s over. If you’re not into hiking, or would like to get some serious sightseeing in at the start of your trip, I’d absolutely recommend this off-road adventure. You get to see all the picture perfect views for only a fraction of the time and effort it would take to hike to them.

Pink Jeep offers a few different tour options in Sedona, but my family and I ultimately decided to go on the Broken Arrow Tour, a 2 hour long rugged ride of our lives. This is Pink Jeep’s most popular tour, and also happens to be the very first tour the company ever gave. Our tour guide was fantastic, stopping at all the right locations along the way and even offering to take fun (and sometimes corny) family photos for us.

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These are the 5 things that stand out most in my memory about our trip to Sedona. Watching the sun set over the red rocks, sharing many wonderful meals with my family, and connecting with nature in a whole new way are just a few of the other moments that made this trip so special. If ever you get the chance to visit Sedona, I hope you find it just as spiritually, mentally, and physically rewarding.

Making the Most of Your Day Trip to the Grand Canyon

For serious backpackers, casual day-trippers, and adventurous families alike, the Grand Canyon is a must-see attraction waiting to be checked off their bucket list. Nearly five million visitors flock to the Grand Canyon each year to marvel at the canyon’s sweeping vistas, learn about its rich history, and explore its many trails.

Because of its size, it can be somewhat tricky to cram everything you want to do at the Grand Canyon into a single day. However, when my family and I recently took a trip to Sedona, I knew I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon, if only for a few hours. Better to have seen it briefly and leaving wanting to go back then to have never seen it at all!

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” -Gandalf the Grey

Much to my delight, my family and I were able to make the most of our day in the park, and experience it in a way that felt fulfilling but not exhausting. To help you do the same, I’ve written three tips to ensure you take full advantage of your time at the Grand Canyon. After all, it is one of the seven wonders of the world, and who knows if you’ll make it back to see it twice!

Take killer photos, but don’t kill yourself for the perfect photo

I can not stress this enough: safety always comes first. I don’t know how many people I saw throughout my trip to the Grand Canyon risking their lives for a selfie. There are many areas of the Grand Canyon that don’t have railings and also offer killer (pun intended) views of the park. While it seems like it would be common sense not to stand too close to the edge, I learned during my visit (and subsequent reading of the book Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon) that numerous people have died this way over the years.

I love a good photo op just as much as anyone else, but I made sure not to put myself in any truly dangerous situations close to the edge. With that said, I do recommend taking ample time at the beginning of your visit to take as many photos as you like. The Grand Canyon is a trip you’ll want to remember for the rest of your life, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to remember what you looked like before hiking all day in the hot Arizona sun.

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Get into it, but make sure you can get back out

If at all possible, I would highly recommend going on a hike during your visit to the Grand Canyon. The sweeping views from up above will take your breath away, but there are some details of the canyon that you simply must go over the edge and into the canyon to fully appreciate.

My family and I decided to hike a portion of the Bright Angel Trail, which is located on the South Rim. The trail is 12.2 miles roundtrip, but we decided to turn around at about the halfway point. Hiking this trail in the summer heat is no joke, and I would highly suggest bringing plenty of water and listening to your body. It’s easy to get caught up in the beautiful scenery on the way down and not realize how taxing it’ll be to climb back up and out of the canyon.

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If you’re looking for a shorter hike, the Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge is 3 miles roundtrip, or Grandview Trail to the first overlook is about 2.5 miles roundtrip, but a bit more rugged. No matter which trail you choose or how far you go, I promise you won’t regret taking the opportunity to see the canyon up close.

Take advantage of park resources

One of my favorite parts of our day in the park ended up being a presentation we saw by one of the park rangers. She taught us all about the California condor, a rare bird sometimes spotted in the canyon. Although we didn’t see one during our trip, my family and I really enjoyed learning all about them from one of the highly knowledgeable park rangers. Be sure to make time during your trip to learn about the park by reading the signs, making a stop at the visitor center, or attending one of the park ranger programs.

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Another unexpected highlight of our trip was the ice cream! Nothing is better after a long hike on a hot August day than grabbing a root beer float from Bright Angel Fountain. It’s located right on the rim of the canyon just a short distance away from the Bright Angel Trail Head. I’d recommend packing a lunch for your day trip to the canyon (food can be expensive in the park) and saving your money for a post-hike ice cream cone instead.

And there you have it! Those are my top three tips for enjoying your limited time at the Grand Canyon. Have you ever been to the park before? What made your time there so special?

Opting Outside and Online in 2017

Two things you need to know about me: I crave new experiences and I’m always planning my next trip. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been bugging my friends and family to go with me to a music festival, plan a day trip down the shore, or book a vacation to somewhere new. When I was 12, I went to Europe on my own to take part in a two week ambassador program. I haven’t slowed down since then.

Although I’ve had the travel bug for quite some time, it wasn’t until a recent trip to Arizona that I discovered my passion for hiking. It’s hard to think of a better place to fall head over heels in love with the great outdoors. While staying in Sedona, my family and I braved the August heat to explore the breathtaking red rocks, and made the trip to see the famed Grand Canyon. Soon after arriving at the historic national park, I was dreaming of seeing the other 58 parks in my lifetime.

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Since then, I’ve made it a point to add hiking to my list of things to do on every vacation. As I anxiously anticipate each trip, I comb the internet to scope out all the best trails (and photo ops) nearby. However, I’ve noticed that there aren’t many resources available for casual hikers and beginners like myself. As a result, I’m often left in the dark until I get to a location and can ask a local about the best hiking spots for someone at my level.

I created this blog to share my experiences and insights with newbie hikers like myself who are looking to get outside, have fun, and explore more. I look forward to writing about day hikes located close to home in the tri-state area, as well as more exotic locations cross-country and overseas whenever I get the chance. Exploring is in my blood, and writing has long been my favorite form of therapy. In 2017, I’ve made it my mission to do more of both.