We visited Sedona this spring on our Arizona road trip and fell in love with the juxtaposition of red rock canyon walls and the lush greenery thriving below.
It’s a great place for a weekend getaway, particularly during the winter and spring when it’s a little more pleasant to be in Sedona than in the vast majority of US cities.
There’s a lot to do, especially if you’re into hiking (we’ve got a whole post for you on hiking in Sedona), and plenty of other things to do if your idea of fun is packing a picnic and lounging in the sun on the banks of a creek.
Below, you’ll find the logistics you need to know – when to go, how to get there, where to stay – along with a day-by-day itinerary for 2 days in Sedona.
Here’s exactly how to spend a weekend in Sedona if it’s your first time.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Getting to Sedona
Sedona is fairly easily accessible from basically everywhere.
If you’re flying in, you have two options. The best option is to fly into Phoenix (Sky Harbor – PHX) and make the two hour drive from there to Sedona.
We say “best” because your other option is flying into Flagstaff (FLG), and most flights we looked at as we were browsing have a stop in Phoenix (or Dallas) AND are double the price.
Flying into Phoenix offers the most flight options in terms of times and carriers, and gives you the best rental car prices and options. So if you’re flying in, it’s a no brainer.
Click here to check flight prices for your trip on Kayak.
Important note: Book an early flight into Phoenix and the latest possible flight out to give yourself the most time in Sedona.
Do you Need to Rent a Car to Explore Sedona?
Yes, we think you DEFINITELY need a car to make the most of a weekend trip to Sedona. Plus, you’ll want it for the drive from Phoenix to Sedona if you’re following our recommendation above and flying into Phoenix.
Rent a car at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, and plan on returning it to the same location. Click here to check rental car prices and availability for your dates.
Where to Stay in Sedona
The first thing you should know about Sedona is that it’s going to be relatively expensive to stay.
It’s a popular tourist destination. Plan on spending more than $200 a night in the high seasons and shoulder seasons unless you’re camping, which is what we did (we have recommendations on where to camp below).
If we were to go back to Sedona tomorrow and weren’t camping in our van, we’d stay at one of two places. Which one you choose largely depends on the vibe you’re looking for.
First is Sky Ranch Lodge, which is up near Airport Mesa just outside of town. We like it because it has beautiful rooms (some with fireplaces, which is nice if you’re here in the winter or early spring), and the red rock views from the rooms and common areas are pretty unbeatable.
They have a beautiful garden area and a nice (heated) pool, and they’re an eco-friendly hotel, certified by the Sustainability Alliance of Arizona.
The best part? The prices are super reasonable for Sedona. It’s not right in the middle of town, but they do have a shuttle that will take you anywhere within five miles of the hotel that leaves every half hour.
The second place to consider is Junipine Resort, which is a more secluded, quiet place to stay along Oak Creek just north of the center of Sedona on Highway 89A.
We drove past it on the way to our campsite and were instantly intrigued. They have “creekside homes” that sleep two to six people.
They’re essentially your own private cabin along Oak Creek, complete with a full kitchen and plenty of room.
It’s about 15 minutes outside of downtown Sedona, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for a bit more space or want a more quiet and private place to stay.
Here’s where to camp in Sedona – all three are along Highway 89A just north of Sedona, about 10-15 minutes from the center of town.
- Manzanita Campground: Right along the creek in a nice shady spot, this is the closest campground to town, which also means it’s the most competitive. More info here.
- Cave Springs Campground: With 84 sites, this is the biggest campground in the area. You must make reservations in advance (at least three days before you show up), and there’s usually availability. More info here.
- Pine Flat Campground: This is the one we stayed at, and 18 of the 54 sites here are reservable in advance. It’s a nice campground, though it is right along the road (though all of them are, really). More info here.
Responsible Tourism in Sedona
We wanted to touch on responsible tourism first before jumping into the Sedona itinerary below.
Sedona is crowded. Some, particularly locals, would say overcrowded.
Now, we’re not going to sit here and tell you not to go to Sedona. Because we don’t believe in gatekeeping beautiful places. We’re firm believers in helping people explore, but doing it as responsibly as possible. That means educating rather than shaming.
What we are going to do is give you some ways you can be a responsible traveler while you’re in Sedna.
We believe that the more people who get out and see the beautiful places our country has to offer (and the associated benefits with being out in nature), the better.
We’d love to help you experience them, but we also acknowledge that the influx of visitors puts a strain on the ecosystem – both the natural ecosystem, and the surrounding communities.
In Sedona, here are three ways you can minimize the impact of your visit while still
- Avoid vacation rentals. It seems like every other house in Sedona is a vacation rental, which is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it takes away from the sense of community in Sedona. Would you enjoy it if your neighbors were a constant stream of travelers who stay for a day or two, and occasionally throw loud parties? Probably not. Second, it drives up housing prices, making it harder for people living there to find affordable housing. Lucky for you, there’s a bunch of great hotels in Sedona – that’s what we think you should choose.
- Leave No Trace. Part of being a responsible traveler is minimizing your impact on the places you’re visiting. If you bring it on the trail with you, you need to make sure it makes it back out to a trash can at the trailhead or at your accommodations. We saw WAY too many plastic water bottles, orange peels, and more on the trails in Sedona. It’s unacceptable. If you bring it on the trail with you, you need to bring it out. Learn more about Leave No Trace here.
- Pack a reusable water bottle (or two). The tap water in Sedona is fantastic, and there’s no reason to buy plastic water bottles and contribute to the global plastic pollution crisis. Plus, it’s cheaper for you! Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it over the course of your trip. We like Miir water bottles (they’re EXTREMELY well built, and they donate a portion of revenue to causes we love) if you’re looking for something a little more sturdy, and are head-over-heels in love with our Platypus Collapsible Water Bottles for hiking and traveling.
A Word on Vortexes (Or is it Vortices?)
Sedona’s vortexes are a major tourist attraction. I can’t tell you how many times we were hiking in Sedona and someone asked us “is the vortex that way?”
And every single time our answer was “I have no idea.”
Vortices (or vortexes, if you’d like) are, allegedly, swirling centers of healing energy. Allegedly.
We have some questions about the vortices. Who decides what a vortex is? Is there a pool of sub-vortices who get called up to the big leagues when enough people discover it – like Triple-A vortices?
The most popular vortex locations are at Bell Rock, up on Airport Mesa, at the saddle on Cathedral Rock, and up in Boynton Canyon. We only really found the one at Bell Rock, which was marked by a labyrinth of stones.
Anyway, we wanted to touch on this because you will likely hear about them. If you’re into new age stuff, there’s plenty of it to dive into while you’re visiting Sedona.
If not, it’s still fun to learn about, even if you don’t engage with it in the same way.
Plus, you’ll probably end up feeling better than before you visited the vortex, but that might be because the hike and crisp Sedona air does the body (and soul) some good.
A Weekend in Sedona: A Perfect 2 Day Sedona Itinerary
Below, you’ll find EXACTLY how we would spend a weekend getaway in Sedona if we were to do it again. We spent more than a weekend, and you should think of this guide as a greatest hits list – not everything we did is on the list below.
Note that you’re going to want a Red Rock Pass if you’re planning on doing any hiking in Sedona.
It’s required to park at certain trailheads, and you can figure out where to buy one here. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass (the US National Parks Pass), that works too, so make sure to bring it with you.
Places like Slide Rock State Park, Crescent Moon Picnic Site, and Call of the Canyon (where you park for the West Fork of Oak Creek) all require additional fees – your pass won’t work at those locations.
Friday Evening: Arriving + Sunset in Sedona
First thing’s first, arrive in Phoenix, pick up your rental car, and make the two hour journey to Sedona. Check into your hotel and get settled, then head out for an evening of fun.
Sunset at Airport Mesa
Airport Mesa is one of the most popular sunset spots in Sedona, and for good reason.
From the easily accessible high point in Sedona, you can see both the sun setting out to the west, and the valley to the east, which will light up with all sorts of colors from oranges to reds as the sun drops lower and lower in the sky.
The best place to catch the sunset is here – the parking lot is tiny, so you’ll probably need to park here (it costs a couple of dollars to park here) and walk down the short trail to get there. From the summit of this mesa, you’ll have a nice view in both directions.
You can also catch sunset from the area immediately across the street from the parking lot, which is what we did (we went to the mesa for sunrise on a different morning). It was SUPER crowded, but it’s a nice view.
Dinner and Drinks in Sedona
For dinner, we have two recommendations for you.
The first is Mariposa, a Latin-inspired restaurant with a great outdoor patio with red rock views – perfect for a warm evening in Sedona (or, a cool evening thanks to heat lamps).
The specialty here is the wood-fire grill, which is used to create specialties inspired by the chef’s travels through South America to places like Argentina and Chile. Good wine list highlighting South American wines, too.
There’s a dress-code if you want to sit indoors, but outdoors is more casual (and what we’d choose if we were you).
The second is Picazzo’s, which is more casual. The reason we love it is they do gluten free RIGHT, with separate prep areas to minimize cross-contamination.
They also use gluten free pasta as their base, which is amazing. Normal pizzas contain gluten, but they have a gluten free crust that they prepare in a separate area to minimize cross-contamination (though there’s always going to be a risk, especially with pizza).
You can even get chicken (or eggplant) parmesan! What a treat.
Saturday: Morning Hike, Chai and Wine, and Water Fun
On Saturday, spend the morning on a hike, explore the best shopping center in Sedona, and round out the day with some more stunning red rock scenery.
Morning: Hike to Devil’s Bridge + Tlaquepaque Center
Start your morning off early – and I do mean EARLY – with a hike out to Devil’s Bridge. Then refuel at Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village.
This is the most popular hike in Sedona, and we think it’s worth braving the crowds to see the bridge itself. However, we weren’t quite prepared for the sheer number of people on this hike when we did it in April.
We showed up at 6:15am, thinking we were golden, and got the LAST parking spot in the main lot at the trailhead. And it’s not a small parking lot – there’s room for 40-50 cars or so.
Then, when we got to the top, there was a LINE of people waiting to take pictures on the bridge.
We waited, but I think if we had to do it again, we would take a few pictures of the bridge without people on it and skip waiting in line to get a picture of Alysha out there.
So now that you know what you’re getting into, here’s how to do the hike.
If you get up early and get to the parking lot at 6am, park in the main lot and walk up the Jeep road, which starts from where you turn into the parking lot, up to the trailhead.
It’s possible to drive to the upper parking lot, which is one mile away from the bridge (versus two), but it’s a road with deep ruts and it’s really only passable in high-clearance, 4WD vehicles like Jeeps.
We preferred walking on this road versus the hiking trail on the other side of the parking lot – they go to the same place, and this is the most direct route.
The hike isn’t hard – the first 1 ¾ miles are relatively flat and easy. The last quarter mile starts to climb a bit, and the hardest part of the hike is a short set of stairs that take you up to the bridge.
If you show up late and can’t find parking, you can also do this hike from the less-crowded Mescal Trailhead and hike via the Mescal and Chuck Wagon Trails.
The Chai Spot
Even if you’re not into shopping, it’s worth visiting Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for exactly one reason.
That reason is the Chai Spot.
Alysha is a big fan of chai of all kinds, and this place legitimately has some of the best chai we’ve ever had.
There’s also a cute, shaded patio area that’s a little oasis from the Arizona heat where you can sit and enjoy your chai.
As if that’s not enough, they’re also a social project that funds economic empowerment of women and childhood education in Pakistan.
It’s well worth your time, whether you’re a chai aficionado or you’ve never tried it before. Get the rose-cardamom chai and the butter chai, which we weren’t sure about until the man behind the counter told us it was unique and one of his favorites.
He wasn’t wrong – there’s no butter in it, but it’s rich, creamy, and a little bit savory.
Lunch at Tamaliza
After you’re done poking around the shopping center, head to nearby Tamaliza for lunch. They serve (gluten free) homemade, authentic Mexican tamales.
Whatever you choose – we got the chicken in tomatillo sauce and vegetarian – get it SUPREME, which comes topped with a whole bunch of goodies like cheese, sour cream, salsa, and black beans. It’s amazing.
They also have a bunch of other dishes, like tacos and enchiladas, but you’re here for the tamales, and that’s what we’d recommend.
Afternoon: Bell Rock and Crescent Moon Picnic Site
For the afternoon, head out to Bell Rock and do another short hike with spectacular views, then head to Crescent Moon Picnic Site to take a well-earned dip in the water.
After lunch, head south out of town to tackle the short hike up Bell Rock that gives you some nice panoramic views of the valley to the east of Downtown Sedona, including Courthouse Butte.
Park at the northern trailhead for Bell Rock and start the journey up Bell Rock. It’s a little bit of a scramble with some minor wayfinding, but the trail is well marked for the first half, and so many people do this hike that it’s not too hard to figure out what path to follow.
You can get between half way and two-thirds of the way up the rock formation before it gets a little sketchy, and the views from up here are more than adequate, especially considering the relatively minor effort to reach them.
There’s a vortex here, marked by a labyrinth of rocks.
If you’re feeling up for more of a hike, head back down and continue around Courthouse Butte clockwise to complete the loop back to the trailhead.
You’ll get some nice views of Courthouse Butte and the other side of Bell Rock along the way. If you do both the climb up Bell Rock and the loop trail, it’s about 4.5 miles with 800 feet of elevation gain.
If that sounds like too much, you can make it shorter by just doing the shorter loop around Bell Rock, which is more like 2.5 miles and 400 feet of elevation gain.
Crescent Moon Picnic Site
If it’s a warm day, there’s no better way to escape the heat than taking a dip in the water. Crescent Moon Picnic Site is a fantastic place to bring some snacks and drinks and relax alongside Oak Creek, all with views of Cathedral Rock towering above you to the east.
To enter, you’ll have to pay $11. There are a couple of places where you can set up shop next to the creek – at the southwestern end of the park there’s a nice shaded spot with creekfront real estate where you can relax, and about half a mile east of the parking lot there’s a nice beach area with plenty of options.
Spend a couple of hours relaxing along the banks of Oak Creek.
If you’re up for catching sunset before dinner, head up to Secret Slickrock, which we stumbled upon as we were driving around looking for a nice view of Cathedral Rock.
It’s a very short and easy hike out to a rocky outcropping where you’ve got a nice view over the Crescent Moon Picnic Site below, and Cathedral Rock is perched directly across the valley from you.
This is the perfect place to crack a beer and watch the red rocks start to glow as the sun gets lower in the sky.
Sunday: Oak Creek and Slide Rock
Today, get another early start to tackle our favorite hike in Sedona, and stop by Slide Rock State Park on the way back into town.
Morning Hike: West Fork of Oak Creek
This was our favorite hike in Sedona, and it really wasn’t that close. The parking area opens at 8am and it’ll cost you $10 to enter and park.
If you want to either get an earlier start OR avoid the parking fee, you can park along Highway 89A about a quarter of a mile north of the entrance to the parking lot.
This is a popular trail, and we’d recommend getting as early a start as humanly possible.
We started at 7am and we saw exactly two people on the trail on our way out into the canyon. On the way back, we saw 70-80 people, which tells you all you need to know about when you should start your hike.
Keep in mind that you will need to pay a walk-in fee of $2 a person, which you will need exact change for if you start early and the booth is unmanned.
The hike itself takes you down the canyon, following Oak Creek the entire way. If you’re lucky enough to get an early start, you’ll be alone with the sound of the babbling creek and chirping birds. It’s an easy hike, clocking in at 6.5 miles with just 500 feet of elevation gain.
There are a bunch of places (13, to be exact) where you’ll need to cross the creek – waterproof shoes will come in handy if you have them – but none of the crossings are terribly treacherous or difficult. We saw kids as young as three doing this hike without issues.
Slide Rock State Park
Before you head out of town back to Phoenix to catch your flight home (or continue along on your Arizona road trip), make a final stop at Slide Rock State Park, which is a real treat on a warm day in Sedona.
There are a couple of things that make this a worthy stop. First, it’s an apple orchard. In the surprisingly lush Oak Creek Canyon, Frank L. Pendley figured out how to grow apples here in 1912 and it has been in use ever since.
There’s an intact homestead where you can learn about the history of the area and agricultural development in this part of Arizona that is worth a couple of minutes of your time.
Then, there’s the feature that the park is named after, which is Slide Rock – a natural waterslide that stretches 80 feet long! There’s also plenty of room to relax along the banks of the creek after you take a slide (or seven), making it a perfect post-hike oasis.
Pack a lunch and some refreshments and spend a few hours here before you head back to the car and start the journey home.
This is a spot where you’ll need to pay an additional fee to access – fees depend on day of the week and time of the year.
Most of the year, it’s $30 on the weekend, which might mean it’s not worth a stop for you, depending on how much time you have (It’s only $20 during the spring between March and Memorial Day).
It fills up early, particularly on summer weekends as you might imagine. They’ll start turning people away as soon as it’s full, which tends to be 10am or so on weekends (sometimes even earlier on holiday weekends).
That’s all we’ve got for you! We hope you enjoy Sedona as much as we did!
If you liked this travel guide, we’ve got plenty of other Arizona and Utah guides to help you plan an amazing adventure in the Southwest.
More Arizona + Utah Travel Guides
If you’re heading to Arizona, don’t miss our guide to planning an amazing Arizona road trip, which will take you from southern Arizona (the desert) to northern Arizona.
Phoenix: Plan a perfect weekend in Phoenix, and figure out where to stay in Phoenix.
The Grand Canyon: Planning a trip that includes the Grand Canyon? We’ve got you covered with a guide on exactly how to plan an amazing Grand Canyon itinerary and how to find the perfect place to stay.
Sedona: Plan the perfect weekend getaway to Sedona, and learn everything you need to know to go hiking in Sedona.
If you’re making your way into Utah, you’ll want to read our guides to:
- Zion (2 day itinerary and where to stay)
- Bryce Canyon (the best hikes and how to spend one day in Bryce Canyon)
- Moab (a perfect itinerary, the best hikes in Arches, and the best places to stay and things to do)
Plus, our 10 day Utah National Parks road trip is a super detailed guide to exploring Utah, if you’ve got the time. Otherwise, save it for later.