While there’s no shortage of amazing outdoor destinations in the American Southwest, one that should not be overlooked is Sedona, Arizona.
It took me a while to actually make it out to Sedona, despite living reasonably close in Las Vegas, because I thought it was gonna be all hype and super touristy. But it was amazing!
I spent two nights in Sedona and can’t wait to return for a longer trip. If you’re a hiker, trail runner, or mountain biker, then you are going to absolutely love this place.
But if you’re not into hiking, trail running, or mountain biking, then you might be wondering if there’s things to do in Sedona for non-hikers. The answer is YES!
So, if you’re considering planning a trip and looking for some advice, then I’ll share my experience and recommendations below.
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When’s The Best Time To Visit Sedona?
Since this outdoor lover’s paradise is located in Arizona, it gets incredibly hot during the summer months. Honestly, summer is the worst time to visit Sedona.
If you want to get in lots of quality outdoor time during your visit, then I suggest going in the spring or fall. Even the winter is a better choice than summer.
For wildflower enthusiasts, the best time to visit Sedona is the spring (March to May).
If milder weather and fewer tourists is more important to you, then the best time to go to Sedona is the fall (September to November).
Where To Stay – Sedona vs Village of Oak Creek
Once you start to plan your trip to Sedona, you’ll notice that there are options in both the Sedona city limits and the Village of Oak Creek.
The Village of Oak Creek is basically a ‘burb of Sedona and only takes around 15 minutes to drive between the two (depending on time of year – lots of tourists = busier roads).
After looking at some trail maps and hotel options, I ended up staying in the Village of Oak Creek and that’s exactly where I will stay next time.
Here’s a quick rundown on the differences between the locations where you can stay:
- Sedona is the city itself, which means lots more shops and restaurants, more lodging options, more traffic, and more tourists. It also means higher prices for your nightly stay (in most instances). If you’re a healthy eater, then note that there is a Whole Foods in Sedona.
- Village of Oak Creek is around a 15-minute drive away from Sedona proper. It has limited lodging, restaurant, and shop options compared to Sedona proper. There are several trailheads you can easily walk to here. I think the views from here are amazing.
- Oak Creek Canyon is around a 10 minute drive from Sedona proper. This is the more remote and quiet option – perfect if you want to camp and hike up and around the canyon. But, there’s not as many of those famous red rocks here in the canyon.
If you want to stay in a hotel that is clean and inexpensive, with a decent location in Oak Creek, then I suggest the Holiday Inn Express Sedona – Oak Creek. This is where I stayed and it was a great location at a good price.
The view in the photo above is similar to what I could see from my room’s window. Pretty scenic, eh?
In addition to the price, what I really liked about this hotel was that I could walk to pretty much everything in the area. I really only needed to use my car to drive up to the Upper Sedona area.
Are there nicer hotels in the area? Of course! There’s even a Hilton resort there.
I chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Express because I wanted to save on my hotel so that I could spend more on meals out. But you don’t have to travel like me, so check out all of the hotels in the Sedona area to find what’s a good fit for your trip.
Where To Eat In The Village Of Oak Creek
I didn’t do any dining outside of the Oak Creek area, unless you count the trail food that I bought from Whole Foods for my hikes.
Here’s the restaurants I went to that I’d definitely visit on a return trip:
Desert Flour Bakery & Bistro
This local restaurant is very close to the hotel. Just head south on the main road and you’ll be there in less than 10 minutes.
I ended up here three different times – once for coffee and treats, once for dinner, and once for lunch. It was the busiest at lunch, so plan ahead.
And I’ll warn you, this place doesn’t look like the classiest of establishments. But the food good and the prices are reasonable. Plus, the owner and employees are friendly.
Hands down the best meals that I had in Sedona were both at this lovely Italian restaurant.
The prices are a bit higher than Desert Flour Bakery & Bistro, so be sure to plan for that. It looks like a super classy place, and I was afraid they wouldn’t let me in wearing my hiking attire, but it was no problem.
You can easily walk here, since it’s just under a mile from the Holiday Inn Express, but do know that there is limited lighting along the main road for the walk back. I did it two nights in a row with no issues, but I do want you to know what you’re getting into.
If you go for dinner, and I suggest that you do, then either make a reservation or go early because it is a popular place.
Oak Creek Espresso
If you’re a coffee fiend, like me, then you’ll enjoy this small coffeeshop. There’s a lot of seating inside if you want to relax for a bit.
It’s just a bit further south from Desert Flour Bakery & Bistro. You can also get some baked goods here to go with your coffee.
This is my favorite coffee shop in the area, and their baked goods are great as well.
Rocky Rd Ice Cream Co
After a long day of hikes, I was so ready to fill my belly with some cold sugary goodness, and this ice cream shop did not disappoint.
It’s a small shop, so don’t expect to find a place to sit once you get your cones.
This shop serves homemade ice cream and they even make their own waffle cones. The flavor is amazing and this should definitely make your must-eat list for Sedona.
I also ate and got coffee at a few other places in the area. Most of them were not memorable enough for me to even tell you their names.
I did end up getting coffee at Firecreek Coffee one day, and while it was okay, it was not worth returning to.
Where To Hike, Trail Run, & Mountain Bike In The Village Of Oak Creek
If you want to make the most of your time in Sedona, then you’ll find plenty of trails that you can walk to from the Holiday Inn Express in the Village of Oak Creek.
I want to show you my favorite options with the three trails below.
Bell Rock Trail
Just a few steps away you will find the trailhead for Bell Rock. Like all the trails in Sedona, you end up great views along the way.
This trail. which is formally known as Bell Rock Pathway, is 3.6 miles, so give yourself a good 2.5-3 hours to complete it on foot (depending on how often you stop to snap a picture).
I think most of the trail is relatively easy and should be fine for even the most novice of hikers or trail runners. However, some parts of it are steep and the areas around Bell Rock are a bit rough and rocky.
If you want to mountain bike on this trail, then you can do so. Just keep in mind that it’s a very popular trail, so you must be ready to stop on a moment’s notice since a hiker could be just around a curve.
Also, horses are allowed on this trail.
Made In The Shade Trail
This is an interesting trails because you can’t access either trail head without first doing part of the Slim Shady trail.
One-way, this trail is 1.3 miles in length. I’m not sure why you would turn around at the end of this one and go back, which is why I’m only giving you the one-way distance for it.
Hike Arizona rates it at a beginner level, which I guess I would agree with for the most part. It’s not the most level trail though, so it may present some challenges for the mobility impaired.
A great aspect of this trail is that you get some amazing views of Bell Rock as you ascend up a bit.
I used trekking poles on this hike, and I highly suggest that you do as well if you’re hiking it.
During my hike, I met several mountain bikers on the trail. Some were first-timers who were enjoying their ride, though some parts of the trail saw them dismount and push the bike.
Slim Shady Trail
Despite being busy with hikers and mountain bikers, this trail was my favorite that I did in Sedona.
I did the Slim Shady and Made In The Shade Loop Trail, which has a distance of 2.3 miles. If you just do the Slim Shady trail, it measures 2.6 miles from point to point.
I’d rate this trail intermediate to difficult because it’s got some tree roots, rocks, steep inclines, and loose dirt/gravel to deal with.
For mountain bikers, if you’re concerned about it being too advanced for you, I think you’ll be mostly fine but will likely have to get off your bike and walk through a few areas.
For hikers, no matter what your experience level I 100% recommend trekking poles. If you don’t take them, you will likely regret it.
If you’re going to be in Sedona for the weekend, then I think you’ll really enjoy these three trails. Of course, there are other great trails in the area, if you stay longer or want to squeeze in a few more.
Before you set out, just remember to let someone know where you’re going and to take plenty of water with you. This is the desert and you’ll end up dehydrated before you know it!
Need a trail map for the Sedona area? Find one here.
Shawna currently lives in Las Vegas where she gets in lots of great hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park. When she has time, she visits National Parks in a quest to visit each one in the U.S. Shawna’s favorite outdoors activity is hiking and her favorite National Park (so far) is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
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