We just came back from 10 blissful days there. I can see why people fall in love with it. This was the least prepared I've entered into a vacation, yet it all worked out perfectly. I just didn't want to be tied to a reservation or plan, in case weather/mood/fatigue or anything else played into our day. As background, we are in our 50s, active and pretty fit. We were up and out by 7 am (which is a miracle for me at home). We ate early dinners, because our days started early and we were famished by 5 so we didn't have an issue as walk-ins. We stayed at an AirBnB in West Sedona. Personally, I liked being away from the traffic and crowds uptown. We certainly did go in, but after long days, it was nice to retreat a bit. Plus, there were lots of great trail heads out that way. We made great use of our unlimited miles, rented cross-over vehicle. Arizona is amazing in that the climate and landscape seems to change every 2 hours north that you drive!
Day 1- nothing exciting here except shopping, unpacking and getting the lay of the land.
Day 2- hiked Soldier Pass via Teacup Trail (easier parking). Was about 7 miles. Bit of a steep scramble at the end, but well worth it. The first 6 miles were good, as the sun was behind clouds, but the last mile in 90 degree sun challenged our stamina, even with good hydration and snacks. I was whooped!! We ended the day with sunset at Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Day 3- started the day at Bell Rock. Few others were there, so we didn't see anyone climbing the trail that goes up the center. We saw a sign for the trail with left and right arrows, of which neither were really correct. We went left, which was not the trail and ended up being quite the adventure. Met up with a young, solo traveler who was an avid climber. We adopted him as our sherpa and the 3 of us climbed to the summit. Truly amazing views. On the way back, we stopped by the lesser known Sedona Caves, which were a hidden gem and then we hiked down to the cool and refreshing Oak Creek. Ended the day with an exhilarating Pink Jeep tour- 2 hour broken arrow trail. Our guide was excellent and the ride was a crack up- my triceps and core hurt the next day from keeping myself in place.
Day 4- did Cathedral Rock, which was steep and rocky at parts...occasionally challenging my mental game. Everyone was kind, patient, friendly. Traversing the rocks felt like a team sport. We got to the top and the views were astounding. I felt really relaxed (vortex vs exhaustion? LOL). After that, we headed to Devil's Bridge via Mescal trail (parking way easier there since it was later 10am). The crowds diminished my enjoyment, but it is a very cool formation. We didn't wait in the hour plus line for photos- walked to the side and were still able to capture the bridge behind us.
Day 5- Grand Canyon. It's vast, it's amazing, but I was honestly a bit underwhelmed after spending days in the grandeur of Sedona. We were tired, so decided to drive the 22 mile loop and get out at all of the vistas. Remember your face mask on federal property. On the way back, we drove through Navajo land- high plains desert cut with gorges. We ended up in Flagstaff for lunch, which is a cool little town and the elevation, winding road and tall fir trees makes for a stunning ride! It began to rain, but we ducked into Slide Rock park 30 min before closing and had the place to ourselves. I can see why it's packed on hot, sunny days.
Day 6- started the day hiking Fay Canyon trail- cool natural arch, trail was relatively easy and not crowded. Then we headed to Cottonwood to avoid the rain in Sedona. We got there before the stores opened, so did a spontaneous horseback ride with actual working cowboys. It was a nice hour. Headed to Merkin for lunch- enjoyed the wines and their potato soup was an epiphany! Finished up with fun antiquing at Larry's- a vast array of buildings filled with all manner of things.
Day 7- started off with a hike to the Birthing Cave- once up there, it's really apparent why they call it that. Then headed to Montezuma's Castle monument before checking out Jerome. It's a fun, funky town with amazing views (I keep using that phrase, but it literally applies almost everywhere). The drive up and through town was filled with twists and turns. Then stopped at Tuzigoot Ruins before heading back to Sedona. We ended the day there randomly going to Crescent Moon Ranch Park. Saw Cathedral Rock in the distance, reflected in the rain pools and watched dogs in the Oak Creek.
Day 7- did a spur of the moment, 4 hour ATV ride. It wasn't cheap, but I don't know the last time we had this much fun. We got wet, dirty, bumped around but didn't stop laughing or smiling the entire time. I was impressed that I capably got up and down steep, boulder-y (is that a word) climbs, but these machines are amazing! Got to see the Honanki Ruins, as well. Advil was needed afterward, but worth the aches and pains.
Day 8- did an easy hike to Chimney Rock, then spent a few hours shopping at Tlaquepaque. Beautiful architechture there made for great photos. We ended the day with sunset at Airport Mesa- $3 to park if you want to view it from the vista- it gets crowded, but watching everyone enjoy it was a really neat, communal experience. After dark, we drove back West Sedona and found an overlook close to the apartment to take in the starry sky- it's amazing what it looks like without light pollution.
Day 9- drove back to Phoenix. En route, stopped at Frank Lloyd Wright's house, but tours were sold out, so we had to make due with viewing the outside. Then went to Scottsdale to wander around Old Town. Ended the day at the Musical Instrument Museum- which was excellent- highly recommend! Collapsed into bed.
Day 10- flew home. I need a vacation from this vacation. But in all seriousness, if you've read this far- I've never had a vacation at once physically strenuous, but also mentally relaxing. It lived up to all of the hype. Just go!!