Sedona: A Southwest Surprise

As we headed west on I-40 from New Mexico after leaving Santa Fe, our elevation changed as we approached Flagstaff, Arizona. My heartbeat rose along with the elevation. I’m beginning to think I really am a mountain girl (though I’m not a fan of mountain roads). I was excited to see the green pines and to smell the fresh, mountain air.

Then, we turned south to head down to Sedona. Down, down, down. My heart began to sink. Maybe I had made the wrong choice. Why weren’t we staying in the lovely Flagstaff? I didn’t want scrub bushes and red clay.

But, then we turned a corner and spied our first set of massive red rocks looming above the small town of Village of Oak Creek. Whoa! The sun was at just the right point in its setting that it made the rocks appear to glow. Maybe there was something to this Sedona thing after all.

Sedona, Arizona

We spent a day exploring the little shops along the main street in town. All the while, our eyes kept looking up at the red rocks as they changed with the sun.

Red Rocks above Sedona

Red Rock Crossing

We knew to truly experience Sedona, we needed to hike out to the rocks. For our first hike, we headed to Red Rock Crossing. This is supposed to be one of the most photographed areas of Sedona, so we expected amazing views, and it didn’t disappoint. Sometimes, water runs along here and reflects the red rocks looming above.

Red Rock Crossing

We continued up the trail to Buddha Beach. You know you are getting close to Buddha Beach when you begin to see cairns (balanced stacks of rocks). These added a Zen-like magical quality to the area. They were everywhere…even on a fallen tree.

Rocks at Buddha Beach

Buddha Beach is a great place to take the kids to play. Kids can cross from one side to another via a shaky log. Across the way, there are huge boulders to scramble up. The water is shallow enough to allow for relaxing water play, but deep enough in places for some real swimming.

Buddha Beach in Sedona

Buddha Beach Sedona

Hiking in Sedona

The next day, we were ready for more adventuring. We googled “easy family hikes in Sedona” to get some recommendations. We chose to head to Boynton Canyon Vista Trail, which is a little over a mile long but has a good climb at the end.

This hike truly took us into the landscape of Sedona. Many places we’ve visited feel a lot like home, but Sedona was strikingly different.

Sedona Landscape

The hike started off fairly easily, and at the end, there was a climb up a spire. This part made me nervous (admittedly, I get nervous easily). My younger son really wanted to climb higher up the rock, but all I could imagine was him slipping down and falling hundreds of feet below. Look for the tiny people in the picture below to get a sense of scale:

Boynton Canyon Vista

Climbing to the top of the vista

We tried to settle this discussion quietly because we were close to some people who were meditating on the spire since it was known as a vortex area. Despite some disagreements about how high to climb, the boys truly enjoyed exploring this natural playground.

Boynton Canyon Vista

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Another must-visit place in Sedona is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. From the road, it’s interesting to see this chapel sticking out of the rocks, yet somehow blending in. We traveled up to the top to take in the view.

View of the Chapel from Below

View from Chapel of the Holy Cross

View from Chapel of the Cross

4-Wheel Driving

My husband and older son were eager to explore some of the 4-wheel driving trails so we headed to Schnebly Hill Road. Since this “road” is considered an easy 4×4 trail, I thought it wouldn’t be too bad; however, not long after taking off, we saw why the signs warned that it was for 4x4s only. 

Our Toyota FJ Cruiser seemed to buck and thrash through the potholes, which the boys loved (me, not so much). Then, the road turned and began to run along a canyon with no guardrails. That was when I decided this was better for a boys-only journey, so they took me home.

4-Wheel Drives Only
Rough Road Ahead (and that’s an Understatement)

Moving On

In addition to enjoying all of the activities in Sedona, we also stayed at a great RV park. We were sad to leave Sedona after only two days to explore. It’s a place that has endless trails and endless views. The landscape, full of technicolor flowers and looming red rocks, really struck our imagination and sense of adventure. 

Hear more about our adventures in Sedona and the Rancho Sedona RV Park on the Campground of the Week podcast. Find it here or on iTunes: Episode #10 Rancho Sedona.

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Llisa Tillman
Llisa Tillman
8 years ago

Beautiful photos and commentary – thank you for sharing!

Lindsay Jameson
Lindsay Jameson
8 years ago

I wanted to “like” every one of these photos! Sounds and looks beautiful 🙂