Sedona: a wonderfully relaxing getaway

My husband has been bugging me for years that we should do a getaway to Sedona. As we live in Colorado, it’s just a short flight away (to Phoenix and then a 2 hour drive north.) So we finally decided to go in 2020 for our anniversary in April. But then the pandemic came and that plan went up in smoke.

However, we decided to try again in 2021. We discovered in 2021 that we liked staying in AirBNBs. Originally we had planned to stay in Sedona proper in a hotel but being that it was March this time (my birthday) and neither of us were vaccinated yet, we decided to skip the hotel and find an AirBNB in the Village of Oak Creek, just about 10 minutes south of Sedona. Good choice! It’s less crowded here and a lot less traffic. We stayed in a house just minutes away from shopping with tons of privacy, and of course, great views. Well, pretty much anymore in Sedona has great views but we feel that Oak Creek is a lot less hectic. The con is that there aren’t as many dining options. But that was the point – we wanted to stay away from crowded restaurants.

What to do: Well, first of all, Sedona is known as the day hike capital of the US. And from my observation, that’s a very accurate description. Since we were there only 3 nights, we devoted one day to hiking, although we could have easily done more. But for the non-hikers there’s plenty of shopping, “new age” activities such UFO tours and Vortex experiences, and your usual group tours. I’m not into new age stuff, but I did wish we could have gone to Slide Rock. I recall going there as a child. But it was too cold in March to do this. It’s a natural sandstone slide on Oak Creek. Not surprisingly, it’s super popular during the hot summer.

Slide Rock State Park (PC: azswimmingholes.com)

The hike we chose to do was the Bell Trail that takes off from the Bell Rock Trailhead and encircles Courthouse Rock. It’s about a 4 mile loop and is pretty easy with hardly any hill climbing, unless you decide to climb up to the Vortex at Bell Rock. Start early, though! This parking lot can get packed. Many people just chose to go up to the Vortex and by the time we returned the parking lot was packed. And this, as I mentioned, was in March! It was a little drizzly when we started but it cleared off quickly and we were treated to a beautiful hike.

View from our AirBNB

Courthouse Butte

Baby Bell Rock

Bell Rock

Another hugely popular trail is the Cathedral Rock trail. The picture below is from our vantage point on the Bell Trail. But it does have its own trailhead. I imagine it’s a zoo in the summer. They were doing some work there to prevent people from parking on the entrance road as it is near a residential area.

But if you’re not into hiking there is still plenty of sightseeing to be done. Two places I recommend are Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout with spectacular vistas of the Sedona area and also the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is built into the rock cliff face.

Last but certainly not least, there’s plenty of shopping to be done. On the north side of town on 89A there are plenty of the typical touristy shops to get souvenirs and such. I couldn’t help myself and posed in front of these cute pink Javelina.

But for a more upscale shopping experience wander over to Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village on the west side of 179. Even though I didn’t buy anything they did have a lot of interesting shops and galleries and I enjoyed the pueblo-like atmosphere there. It’s very interesting to look at all the Sycamore trees which the buildings seem to be built around.

Overall, I have to say that Sedona was a pleasant surprise. It was very temperate in March and during the pandemic the crowds weren’t bad. Fall would also be a great time to go as well. If you’re coming to enjoy the water activities along Oak Creek, well, obviously March would not be a good time. But try to hit it before it starts to get scorching hot in the summer months.

Checking out scenic Phoenix

If you fly into Phoenix, make sure to spend some at the Desert Botanical Gardens, as well as Hole in the Rock, both just minutes away from Sky Harbor Airport. We were down in Arizona in March for a quick visit to Sedona. As we arrived late in the day, we spent the night there, and before driving north, visited these two attractions. They didn’t disappoint!

You do need to make reservations to get into Desert Botanical Gardens, but I had no problem doing it the night before. Admission is $29.95. There is an onsite restaurant, but at the time there was limited seating due to Covid-19 restrictions, so the wait time was long (although you can make reservations.)

I took a ton of pictures and it’s hard to exclude too many. As you can see, it’s not just traditional cactus, but a wide range of succulents as well.

After enjoying our morning here, we picked up some sandwiches at Subway and were able to find some picnic tables outside the park to enjoy the pleasant Arizona sun (not yet scorching hot summer sun). We then headed over to Hole in the Rock. It’s in the same general area as the Botanical Garden and the Zoo. It gets a lot of visitors since it’s an easy .3 mile hike up to the hole and offers spectacular views of the Valley of the Sun.

Vacation Planning in the Pandemic

I was very fortunate to travel to Italy last September.  In a nutshell: my husband and I flew into Milan, took a quick side trip to Lake Como, then continued down to Florence for a few days, hopped on another train to Naples, transferred to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei and Sorrento, and ended our trip in a wonderful 400 year-old apartment (updated of course, but still with original wooden ceiling beams) in Rome. So many wonderful experiences. We couldn’t wait to get back to Europe, with the planned destination being Spain (with a sidetrip to Morocco).

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Outside our apartment in Rome

Then Covid-19 happened.

Even my spring birthday getaway to Arizona got cancelled. Fortunately, however, I had made campground reservations for this summer. Campgrounds book up quickly for the weekends and typically you need to do it 6 months in advance. Fortunately, we’re allowed to go camping here in Colorado and judging by the line at REI the other week, a lot of people are opting for this.

We’ll be camping near Twin Lakes just south of Leadville. The campground is at 9,500 feet – I think that’s the highest elevation I’ve ever camped at. Leadville itself is the highest incorporated city in North America (10,152 feet).

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Lakeview Campground, near Twin Lakes and Leadville

As it so happens, my oldest brother will be passing through on the Colorado Trail (part of the Continental Divide Trail) that same weekend. It’ll be nice to meet up with him.

His hike also presented us with another opportunity to do another Colorado staycation. The CT terminates in Durango, about 6 hours from Denver. Since I volunteered to pick him up, naturally I decided to  turn it into a mini getaway. We’ll sightsee  on some of the scenic mountain highways and visit the former mining town of Silverton. We’ll also stay a night in Pagosa Springs. Their hot springs resort has been on my bucket list for years.

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The Springs Resort at Pagosa Springs – check this one off the bucket list!Silverton-Valley-COSilverton, Colorado

Once September comes (when we had planned to go to Spain) it would take nothing short of a miracle to make it to Europe. We still have our tickets as Norwegian Airlines has not officially cancelled our flight to London Gatwick. But we’re expecting that to happen. So in the meantime we’re talking about some things we can do here in the US. One is to rent an RV and do a road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a 2-day drive. I’m not sure if I could stand my husband’s driving. But it might be fun as we could bring our pug. He’s almost 12, getting up there in years, and he’s never been on a road trip. We’ll see.

In the meantime I hope you all manage to do something fun and still STAY SAFE!