There is an intense and spiritual place at the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona where canyons, spires and mesas are carved into and out of the red sandstone layers.
Often associated with vortexes, crystals and new age psychics, there is no question that there is something special going on around Sedona. But it has nothing to do with vortexes. I have experienced the same feelings deep in Matcatamiba Canyon and in the middle of the Pinacate - it is simply the land.
Canyons, Buttes, Mesas and Slickrock around Sedona
So, go ahead get it out of your system and look at the t-shirts, aromatherapy oils and past life regression astrology reports in the shops in Sedona. Then head out of town and into the canyons and along the slickrock where the magic is real and the mysteries are free.
For hiking opportunities, this country is hard to beat. If you want a beautiful, intimate and easy hike to introduce yourself to the canyons, head west out Dry Creek Road to Fay Canyon, Boynton Canyon’s less visited sister. Grab your camera and a set of trekking poles and enjoy the three mile round trip hike up the canyon that takes you by Fay Arch. Continue on up the canyon beyond the arch for a private glimpse of this diverse ecosystem and remnants of an ancient dwelling. Throw in a few more ravens and it would be perfect.
Sycamore Canyon, western neighbor of the more famous Oak Creek Canyon and considered more scenic by many, is accessible by foot and an ideal place to go for some secluded backpacking or longer day hikes. Trailhead access is west of Cottonwood as well as south of Williams up on the rim. There are more difficult hiking and backpacking opportunities in the Red Rocks/Secret Mountain Wilderness Area. Administered by the Coconino National Forest, find more information at www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/.
Oak Creek Canyon, with its more than 5 million visitors a year (more than the Grand Canyon), is full of swimming holes, hiking, campgrounds and fly fishing. I’ve been assured that brown trout lurk in the upper sections of the creek, but brookies are the only ones that seem to like my flies. This is an ideal place to go hiking with children because it has it all – easy trails, scenic beauty, natural and cultural history, and perhaps most importantly, the classic childhood boredom remedies of wading and looking under rocks. In warmer weather, consider a hike into the West Fork in the canyon. Water shoes or sandals are a must, as there are many creek crossings on this magnificent hike. The parking area fills up early, especially on weekends, so try this one during the week.
A drive up the 13 mile historic Schnebley Hill Road dirt road affords sweeping panoramas of the region. The road is a bit bumpy but suitable for passenger cars. You can’t go wrong stopping anywhere along the road and taking a short walk along the canyon floor. After a climb of over 2.000 feet to the overlook, turn around and head back into Sedona or continue on to I-70 through the ponderosa forests if you are going on to Flagstaff or Phoenix.
Canyon hike west of Sedona, Dry Creek/Vultee Arch Road
Prehistoric rock art and ruins dot the region. Palatki and Honanki ruins west of Sedona, and Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot and the V Bar V Heritage Site in the Verde Valley are just a few worth visiting. Try the drive out Dry Creek Road west of Sedona, past Doe Mountain and Palatki Ruins and Red Canyon to Loy Butte and park along the road where there are no other vehicles. Wander along the southern face of the butte, perhaps the most sacred place (in my mind, at least) in the area. Strange feelings surround this spot. Stop at one of the ancient dwellings at the base of the cliffs, sit quietly and experience it without conversation and your drive back out will be much different than your trip in.
Winter is no excuse to stay home. If you are lucky enough to be there after the intense quiet of a fresh snowfall, white covering the vibrant reds and greens and the cobalt sky covering it all is not something you will forget. Wander down to Oak Creek where the lazy summer pools, riffles and waterfalls are all of a sudden sparkling crystalline sculptures and sit and listen to them awhile.
You may even start to wonder if there really is more to it than simply the land.
Sandstone towers along Schnebley Hill road
Looking for an alternative to expensive or chain dining? If so, the Page Springs Café, about 12 miles south of Sedona off of highway 89A on the Page Springs Road is the place. Overlooking Oak Creek, the café’s rustic setting, good food, reasonable prices and charm is the signature of this local favorite that’s been there forever.
Red Rock Passes are required to park along the roadside in the area and can be purchased at many locations around Sedona. The full range of lodging is available in the area. Some Forest Service campgrounds in Oak Creek Canyon are closed in winter, so check before you go. Primitive car camping is permitted on adjacent Forest Service land.