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 Southwest 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.
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.
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 is 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!
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.
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 from the Chapel.
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.
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.