After almost 25 years of traveling to Sedona, I still find new adventures and unexpected wonders around every turn. Even though this town has changed over time, the heart of this city is still the dramatic scenery that can be seen only here by those who seek the majesty of the Red Rocks.
Due to the overwhelming number of awe-inspiring Instagram-worthy photos on social media, tourism has exploded in Sedona and why wouldn’t it? Sedona’s beauty captures the imagination and desire to roam like no other place I have traveled which is why I return again and again.
For the last four decades, Sedona has been seen as a New-Age mecca, offering healing crystals and vortexes to endeavor spiritual awakening and enlightenment. For some of the 3 million visitors each year, the opportunity for renewal comes in another form, that of outdoor adventure and the awesome appreciation of the natural beauty that is Sedona, Arizona. With its Red Rock cliffs and mesas and the vast trail system that surround this city, visitors hope to find a reprieve from their daily lives in search of a powerful connection with nature.
With a population just north of 10,000, Sedona has a reputation that far outweighs its size. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful small towns in America. Plus, there are enough things to do in Sedona, that you’ll want to push back the visit to the nearby Grand Canyon to spend extra days enjoying its scenery.
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The town’s innumerable hiking trails bring you to stunning vistas and iconic destinations like Cathedral Rock. Forget traditional museums; those visiting Sedona will have museums without walls with Mother Nature leading the exhibition. The town is surrounded by incredible scenery punctuated by vortex sites and rock formations that will have you scratching your head. Plus, after a big day of exploring, you can kick back at the many local wineries before enjoying the iconic desert sunset.
Nearly 3 million tourists visit Sedona annually—a figure that’s tripled over the last decade or so. Just a day trip from Phoenix, Sedona is a gem-of-a-town surrounded by forests and red rock buttes that thrust into the sky like skyscrapers with streets lined with crystal shops and cafes, all obvious reasons why so many seek out the new-agency Northern Arizona town.
Recognized for their powerful energy and scenic views, Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon, Airport Mesa, and Cathedral Rock are said to be the strongest vortexes in town. What does a vortex feel like, exactly? You’ll have to experience it for yourself in Sedona.
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Sedona is a four-season, red-rock playground where families can escape, romantic adventures materialize, and photographers’ dreams come true. Surrounded by stunning red rock formations and an abundance of activities for people of all ages and interests, it’s no wonder Sedona has been ranked as one of the most beautiful places on Earth by Good Morning America.
There’s no denying that Sedona occupies a setting that’s rife with romance. It is a vertical land of soaring red rocks, columns, and towers rising above forests and streams. That romantic allure should come as no surprise. The town began with a love affair.
Although American Indians lived in the region as far back as 1100 AD, European settlers didn’t arrive until 1876. Drawn by the abundance of water and fertile soil, pioneers began farming crops and planting orchards on the banks of Oak Creek. The community continued to grow, and by the turn of the century, about 15 homesteading families worked the land.
At the turn of the 20th century, T.C. Schnebly built a large two-story home that served as general store and hotel near Oak Creek. He also organized the first post office. When it came time to name the community, his original suggestions of Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly’s Station were rejected by the Postmaster General as too long.
That’s when Schnebly came up with a grand romantic gesture—the kind of thing that would have gone viral on social media today. He simply named the fledgling community after his beloved wife, Sedona.
It was a name invented by Sedona’s mother because she thought it sounded pretty. It has no other origin. Little did she know how much the name Sedona would come to define beauty and romance for generations of travelers.
Although the Schnebly family moved away from Oak Creek for a time, they returned. Sedona—or Aunt Dona, as she was known by many residents—was a cherished member of the community until she died in 1950. Her husband T.C. died in 1954. Both are buried in Cook Cemetery off Airport Road.
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To truly appreciate the legacy of Sedona’s early pioneers, spend time outside reveling in the same heart-freeing beauty they experienced. Hike the trails they carved from this wilderness. Over a century later—even as Sedona has grown into a world-class destination filled with art galleries, resorts, spas, and restaurants—you can still walk the same pathways the earliest residents walked. That’s part of the magic of this landscape, how closely connected it is too wild country.
Some of the grandest sights of all can be found by traveling Schnebly Hill Road. The rugged wagon road was scratched from the steep, rocky hillsides by Sedona pioneers. And it hasn’t changed much in the years since. This was the route Schnebly used to haul wagonloads of produce north to Flagstaff and how he brought in supplies for his general store.
Schnebly Hill Road makes a twisted ascent through red rock tablelands to the pine forests of the Colorado Plateau with sprawling vistas along the way. While the first mile is paved, don’t be fooled. The road quickly turns primitive—a lane pockmarked, ledged and littered with stones. If you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle, consider taking a Jeep tour. A steady stream of Sedona’s commercial Jeep companies snake their way up Schnebly Hill daily.
One notable formation the road passes on its steady climb is Merry-Go-Round Rock, which has become a popular spot for weddings. People travel from all over the world to tie the knot in Sedona, or to renew their vows. That should come as no great surprise. It’s a fairytale setting filled with romance.
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And after all, the entire town was built on a love affair.
There are only two places in the world
I want to live—Sedona and Paris.
—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter