As part of our baby moon to Arizona last week, we spent 2 nights in Sedona, an easy 2 hour drive north of Phoenix. It was absolutely magical and if we’d had more time, money (accommodation is EXPENSIVE) and I wasn’t pregnant (it sadly rules out a lot of the fun outdoors activities) I would have loved to stay longer, but there’s a lot you can pack into 48 hours if that’s all you have!
We arrived just as dusk was turning to night, catching glimpses of the red rocks silhouetted against the sky before everything turned to black ink. Checking into the Arabella, we dumped our bags and headed straight out for dinner.
Accommodation, as I’ve already mentioned, is wildly expensive in Arizona. The fancy resorts (such as the L’Auberge - major goals) are outrageously priced - try $600+ a night for size - which we were never going to stretch to, settling on The Arabella instead which in itself wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination at $300 a night! I’ll admit that we booked less than 6 weeks in advance of our stay but I honestly couldn’t find anything for much less than $700 for two nights and the other options in our price range were miles out of town. The Arabella is very conveniently located on the drive into Sedona, less than a 10 minute walk from the centre of town (and bikes are available if you want to get there faster) and offers comfortable if distinctly average rooms for the price point. It does the job.
On our first night we ate at The Hudson - a 2 minute walk, if that, around the corner from the hotel, the gastro-pub style restaurant was absolutely buzzing as we wandered through to settle in at our table on the back patio. During daylight hours it must have amazing views of the mountains, but even at night the lights of Sedona twinkled around us and we were glad to enjoy the cool evening air. The food was delicious and it was the perfect, casual start to our stay.
Top tip - you need reservations if you want to eat in decent restaurants in Arizona so call ahead before you travel - I made our dinner reservations two weeks in advance!
Rising early on our first day to head out for a hike and get ahead of the midday heat, we made the most of the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. If you stay at the Arabella, get your breakfast to go (it’s a buffet) and take it back to your room to enjoy on the balcony with the stunning views!
Having fueled up, we hit the road making a quick pit stop at the Hike House for some directions and local knowledge. I highly recommend a stop at this quirky little shop, and you might want to pick up their very handy guide book! It has a summary of all the most popular hiking trails alongside maps and detailed directions - very well put together and for $20 it’s just a few bucks more than a regular trail map which, if you’re anything like me, will have you challenging your brain back to GCSE geography days navigating around the Peak District….ie LOST.
We tackled the Devil’s Bridge trail first - thank you instagram for the inspiration. Yes, I’ll admit, I was hankering for “that” photo on the bridge, but a quick chat with the folks at Hike House confirmed that the views were genuinely worth it and it was a good trail. It does get pretty busy so starting early is recommended (the same could be said of most of the trails in the area) but it’s easy to find, just a 5 minute drive from Sedona town centre and you only need 2 hours to complete it.
The views from the top are truly breathtaking and if you have the nerve to face the “bridge”, other hikers are pretty good at taking it in turns to let you everyone get the shots they’ve hiked up for.
If you’re not a fan of heights and exposure, there are lots of “safer” lookouts at the top and some very cool red rock formations to explore.
Having worked up a good appetite, we headed to the Indian Gardens Cafe & Market for lunch - HIGHLY recommended. The deli-style restaurant is just of the 89A, the main road that runs from Sedona to Flagstaff, some 10 minutes north of Sedona. Pulling off the road you don’t expect that you might find delicious food here, but the garden at the back is absolutely charming and cool, even in the heat of the middle of the day.
Serving fresh, homemade soups, sandwiches, salads as well as awesome coffees and pastries, it’s the perfect place to while away a couple of hours (and maybe enjoy a rose or 3….I really wanted to!)
There’s a gallery of Indian arts and jewellers next door to the deli which we stepped into on our way out and picked up a couple of authentic sand drawings. I love collecting souvenirs from our travels to display in the dream house and this boutique works with local artisans to sell authentic wares from the region - most of which are pretty pricey but our two little framed pieces were $20 each and I love them!
With just enough energy left in our legs for a short walk, we left the gardens for the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Perched high up on a hill on the other side of town, I’d recommend parking at the very bottom of the hill by the entrance and walking up the winding road (it doesn’t take long) for the best views of the chapel from below, before exploring inside.
The chapel's most striking feature is a central cross that seems to have been wedged into the rock and creates awesome angles to contrast the natural shapes of the rock surrounding it, while inside, the chapel is simple and has a cosy feel. The backdrop is pretty special too - the Two Nuns rock formations rise up alongside the Roman Catholic Church making the whole area a sight to behold.
We had dinner reservations for that night at Mariposa, a very highly rated upscale latin-inspired steak restaurant with incredible views of the Sedona landscape - we arrived early to catch the sunset and enjoy a couple of drinks on the outdoor patio. Watching the rocks change colour as the moon rose from behind them was a spectacular way to start dinner! Again reservations (made well in advance!) are definitely recommended otherwise you can expect a decent wait for a table.
Day 2 followed a similar theme to day 1 – up early, hike, eat, swim, eat some more….
Having rehearsed our morning routine the day before, we had a quick breakfast on the balcony before packing up, checking out of the hotel and jumping in the car for the short drive to Cathedral Rock. If you want to do this hike you need to start early as there aren’t many spaces in the car park at the bottom. You also need a trail pass which you can either buy in town, or from the machine at the trailhead for $5.
The hike starts off with a friendly traverse across a river bed before taking a steep incline and becoming more of a “scramble” up through the rocks. Grippy shoes and free hands to help you “crawl” are recommended!
The scramble turns into a more established path with steps in the rock towards the top of the trail and although it remains fairly steep it’s not a long hike – 45 minutes at most – and the view from the top is worth the effort.
If you’re feeling brave you can walk out to the right onto the Cathedral Catwalk – the path is fairly wide but watch your step because it’s definitely not somewhere you’d want to fall! There’s lots of shade in the saddle of Cathedral Rock so take your time to drink in the view and get your breath back before heading back down.
After a quick swim back at the hotel it was time to bid our farewell to Sedona and start the drive back to Scottsdale, but on a friends recommendation we took the scenic route via the ghost town of Jerome. What struck me as soon as we left Sedona, was how quickly the landscape changed and the red rock disappeared behind us. Vast expanses of desert plains opened up on each side of the highway which then gave way to towering mountains in front of us. We started climbing and soon realized that Jerome is actually perched precariously on the side of a mountain! An old mining town, it reinvented itself when the industry shut down and threatened to leave it abandoned, creating a home for artisans and tourists to thrive.
It’s full of historic sites alongside little galleries and boutiques - the perfect spot for a little wander, a hearty lunch and a locally made ice cream.
After a quick explore we continued our journey, ending up at 7000 ft with views like this….
A truly stunning and surprising drive! Soon we were back on the main highway hurtling towards Scottsdale and our new home for the next week….more on that to come!