One of my favorite places to visit in the fall is Arizona. The weather in September is gorgeous - warm, sunny days and crisp cool night. My kids have also fallen in love with this state. When we asked them where we should visit this September they instantly said, “We want to go back to Arizona.” Last year we explored the southern Arizona area of Tucson. This year we decided to head north to the beautiful red rock town of Sedona. We couldn’t have been happier with our choice.
Sedona was named for Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly, the wife of the town’s first postmaster, T.C. Schnebly. Her name was actually made up by her mother who though Sedona “sounded pretty!” It is located an easy hour and 45-minute drive north of Phoenix. The coolest thing about the drive is the change in elevation and landscape. Phoenix is at sea level and full of the cactus of the Sonoran Desert. In contrast, Sedona is located at 4300 feet surrounded by red rock sand formations. It feels like you have arrived in this surreal spot with the gorgeous orange and red colored landscape. The red color of the sandstone rocks is due to the presence of hematite or iron oxide. Sedona is located at the bottom of the Colorado Plateau but millions of years ago was submerged under the Pedregosa Sea. The geology of the rocks is amazing! In addition, to the natural beauty and outdoor adventure, Sedona has a thriving art scene. It was the perfect place for our family!
Our hotel, L’Auberge de Sedona, was incredible. Located in the heart of Sedona on the banks of Oak Creek, the hotel provides luxury, peace, a friendly staff and an incredible art collection. L’Auberge had a vibe reminiscent of Napa, CA. The hotel is literally right on the banks. Every morning, we woke to the incredible sound of the babbling creek. Our Creekside Suite Cottage was located on the lawn adjacent to the creek. The room itself was comfortable and pretty but it was this location so close to the creek that made it truly special.
Swimming in the creek was incredible. While the rest of my family dove right under I only waded in knee deep. The water is pretty cold but beyond refreshing. While we loved the running, babbling sounds of the creek, the sound of the cicadas singing and talking in the evening was equally as spectacular.
L’Auberge offered several really cool experiences. My husband had a fantastic massage in the spa which used all natural, healing products. Early in the morning, a big bucket of bread was brought out for people to feed the ducks in the creek. In the evening, guided stargazing provided an incredible view of the stars in the clear Sedona sky. Breathtaking! The hotel also has two restaurants. Etch Kitchen and Bar presented breakfast and lunch at tables sitting on the edge of the creek. It was a pretty amazing way to begin the day. Dinner at Etch was presented on the deck of the bar. Cress on Oak Creek offered a fine dining pre-fixed dinner at the tables right next to the creek. We opted for Etch since my kids preferred that to the more refined, gastronomical experience.
I was completed wowed by the art collection of L’Auberge. It was fantastic! Art in all different mediums appeared throughout the resort: in the lobby, along the paths, in our room, and the spa. The art reflected the people and characteristics of the southwest, the landscape of Oak Creek, and peaceful sculptures near the spa. This gorgeous art collection is a result of a partnership between L’Auberge and the Goldenstein Gallery. They created a program called La Galerie Art. L’Auberge exhibits all of these wonderful artworks that the Goldenstein Gallery provides. Another incredible program the hotel offers is a weekly artist in residency. Different local artists from Sedona come to the resort to paint, sculpt, or create while guests are encouraged to watch and discuss the works with the artists. I could have stayed all day in this peaceful haven but there was too much adventure (which my kids embraced) in Sedona to stay at the hotel!
Everyone that visits Sedona should take one tour from the Pink Jeep Company. Nothing is cooler than four wheeling on the red rocks! We did our tour on our first day since the guides provide an excellent history of Sedona and its highlights. The most popular tour (which we took) is the Broken Arrow tour. An open aired pink jeep, driven by a knowledgeable guide, picked us up at L’Auberge. The Broken Arrow tour is about 2 hours long. It starts on a rough road surrounded by Juniper and Cypress trees. Eventually the jeep starts to climb the actually rock formations including Submarine Rock, Chicken Point and Mushroom Rock. The views from all these spots are incredible; we were in awe being surrounded by these red rock formations. The tour gets its name from the Jimmy Stewart, Oscar winning movie, Broken Arrow, filmed in 1950 on the actually rock formations we visited.
Sedona is known for its incredible hiking trails in Red Rock State Park. Many of the hiking trails lead to or are surrounded by the vortexes that Sedona is famous for. Vortexes are spots on the Earth where energy is either entering into the Earth or leaving it. The energy is believed to move in a spiral cyclone motion. Each are characterized as either feminine energy (which enters the Earth) or masculine (which exits). Some people can really feel a change or the energy when they are at these spots. There are many vortexes in Sedona but the four main ones include: The Airport Vortex (male), Cathedral Rock (female), Boynton Canyon (both male and female) and Bell Rock (both as well). Whether you can feel the energy or not, each of the vortexes provides incredible hikes and views.
For our first hike, we choose the Soldier’s Pass and Brin Mesa Trails. This was a moderate hike that began at a trailhead surrounded by homes that led us into Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. There are some interesting landmarks to check out on this hike. ¼ mile in we passed the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole followed by the Seven Sacred Pools. The entire trail is very peaceful as it winds through the red rocks. Soldier’s Pass is about 2.4 miles to the top and really only gets a bit steep at the very, very top. After climbing the steep part, we arrived at the intersection to the Brin Mesa trail. Talk about a contrast! We followed the Brin Mesa trail straight across the flat mesa top. Instead of the gorgeous red rocks, we were surrounded by the green of the grass and small bushes. The views of the canyons from the mesa’s plateau are beautiful. Eventually the trail led us down a steeper incline back into the red rocks. We arrived back at the Soldier’s Pass trail head through two small connecting trails: the Cibola Pass Trail and the Jordan Trail. My daughter got a bit nervous when we missed one of the trail markers but all was ok. All totaled we hiked about 5.2 miles.
Our next hike was one of the most incredible hikes I have ever been: The Devil’s Bridge Trail. We opted for the shorter trail to get to Devil’s Bridge which was about 2.2 miles round trip from the parking lot. The first part of the trail is a red rock sandy road that undulates and twists through the canyon. Other than hikers, only 4x4s or horses are allowed on the road. When you reach the actually trailhead, the terrain changes. We didn’t have any idea what to expect but it was awesome. The trail starts out moderate but eventually becomes narrow and a bit steep. There are stone steps carved into the steeper parts of the hike. But it is worth it when you arrive at the top. Devil’s Bridge is a stone bridge formation; it is the largest natural stone arch in the area. My kids and I braved walking out onto the arch but didn’t have the nerve to dangle our feet over the edge like other people. This is an incredible hike with amazing views but it’s very popular so going early is a must to avoid crowds later in day!
The last hike we did was the Cathedral Rock Trail in Red Rock State Park. Cathedral Rock is one of the most photographed sights in Arizona. The saddle points or gaps between the taller formations are considered to be one of the most powerful energy vortexes in Sedona. The trail to them is short (about a mile) but very steep. I had no idea when we started! My daughter, the adventurer, was in heaven climbing the trail; at one point, it felt like rock climbing rather than hiking! The views from the top were worth the crazy climb. Definitely a must!!
Located just up the road from Tlaquepaque and near Cathedral Rock is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is located in the buttes of the Red Rocks and considered a vortex site. This Roman Catholic Church was built in 1956 for $300,000. But Sedona was not its intended original location. Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a rancher and sculptor, was inspired by the building of the Empire State Building in New York in 1932. She wanted to build this church in Budapest, Hungary. She was aided by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. But unfortunately, due to the outbreak of World War II, she couldn’t build it there. So, she decided to constructed the church in Sedona, her hometown. The chapel is very peaceful. The design is incredible in the way it sits right in the Red Rocks like it was one of the sandstone formations. There are two larger rock formations above the church that are called “the sisters;” they losely resemble two nuns gazing at the chapel. In 2007, it was voted as one of the man-made wonders of Arizona.
There is a thriving art scene in Sedona. The incredible changing light is very appealing to artist. At sunrise and sunset, the red and orange colored rocks glow brilliantly form the sunlight. In 1946, Max Ernst, the Dada/ Surrealist painter moved to Sedona. Over the years many famous western artists, including Joe Beeler and George Phippen resided here. Today on every first Friday, galleries host receptions and demonstrations. The Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is a really cool arts center. Built in the 1970s by Abe Miller, the village located along Oak Creek reflects his love of the Mexican city of Tlaquepaque. Miller loved Mexico, its charm and vibrant art scene. The village is built in the Spanish Colonial style with small squares with fountains, cobblestone streets, mosaics, and flowers. It is host to many galleries, restaurants, and stores as well as a beautiful chapel that is reminiscent of the private chapels found on haciendas in Old Mexico. It is truly charming. My favorite gallery is the Mountain Trails Gallery which has for the past 30 years has presented works by local artist. The art works include Western painting, figurative and wildlife sculpture, landscapes, and Native American figures. During our visit, an artist was in the gallery working on her clay mold for a western sculpture. So cool! Another must stop in the village is How Sweet It Is- an ice cream shop that my kids loved!
We loved our time in Sedona! We left feeling rejuvenated from our hikes, our creek swims, and the amazing art surrounding us. L’Auberge de Sedona provided us with a luxurious, fabulous, friendly place to stay on the beautiful banks of Oak Creek. We did spend one day visiting the Grand Canyon (more on that to come in my next post). Sedona offers the outdoors, luxurious accommodations, and a thriving cultural scene for visitors. We can’t wait to go back!QU