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Travel Itinerary: Three Days in Sedona, Arizona


Sedona, Arizona, is one of my favorite hiking destinations in the U.S. If you’re looking for scenic red rock views and an endless array of trails, then a trip to Sedona needs to be on your travel bucket list. While there’s a lot to see and do in the area, in my opinion spending three days in Sedona is the perfect amount of time to get acquainted with the city’s natural splendor.

This 3-day Sedona itinerary is packed with plenty of hiking adventures, but also leaves time for relaxation and exploration. You’ll be sure to leave Sedona feeling refreshed and revitalized, with plenty of photos to help commemorate your trip! 

Hiking the Cathedral Rock trial in Sedona, Arizona at sunset.
Hiking Cathedral Rock at sunset.

How to Get to Sedona, Arizona

Driving

Sedona is located an hour from Flagstaff and 2 hours from Phoenix, making it a popular weekend destination in Arizona for outdoor lovers. 

From Flagstaff: To get to Sedona from Flagstaff you can either take AZ-89A through Oak Creek Canyon, or I-17. Both highways take roughly the same amount of time, but driving through Oak Creek Canyon is much more scenic (be advised Oak Creek Canyon can be subject to weather related closures, especially during the winter).

From the Grand Canyon:

To get to Sedona from the Grand Canyon, head south out of the park on AZ-64 until you reach I-40 in Williams. Drive east on I-40 to Flagstaff. Once in Flagstaff, take AZ-89A or I-17 south to Sedona.

From Phoenix:

To get to Sedona from Phoenix head north on I-17 to exit 298. From there take AZ-179N through the village of Oak Creek to Sedona.

Woman in pink tank top sits on red rock overlooking Sedona from the top of Doe Mountain.
Enjoying the sunset from the top of Doe Mountain.

Flying

Most long-distance visitors to Sedona fly into Phoenix, which is home to 2 major airports. Sky Harbor International Airport is huge and offers regular flights all around the world. While Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is smaller, you can still find affordable flights to a variety of destinations. Once you fly into Phoenix you will need to rent a car to travel to Sedona and get around town during your trip.

Find affordable flights to Phoenix:

Rent a car to drive to Sedona:

Where to Stay in Sedona, Arizona

There are no shortage of hotels and resorts in Sedona, including everything from budget-friendly motels to luxury resorts. In general, Sedona is on the pricier side of things as far as travel destinations go, and I’ve found that hotel rates have gone up over the past few years. 

While there is no real “off-season” in Sedona, I’ve found that hotel prices during the winter are more reasonable than they are during the summer. If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll find most affordable motels and inns typically run from $100-150/night. You may be able to find a hotel <$100 during the week during certain times of the year.

Woman watching the sunset in Sedona.

Hotels & Resorts

Here are some local hotels and resorts to stay at during your 3 day trip to Sedona:

Poco Diablo Resort (Pet Friendly) For a resort experience at an affordable price, check out the Poco Diablo Resort. Rooms feature Southwestern decor, and amenities include a restaurant, spa, pool, tennis courts, and golf course. My dog, Becket, loves staying at the Poco Diablo Resort because they always hook dogs up with a sweet care package that includes a collapsible bowl to help stay hydrated on the trail. 

Sky Rock Sedona (Pet Friendly) Sky Rock Sedona is a boutique hotel that offers modern accommodations with a subtle Southwestern flair. The terrace at Sky Rock Sedona hosts a bar and has stunning views of the red rock mountains. 

Amara Resort & Spa (Pet Friendly) The Amara Resort & Spa combines an upscale experience with fun decor in the heart of Sedona. Relax by the infinity pool, visit the spa, or dine at the trendy on-site restaurant, SaltRock.

L’Auberge de Sedona (Pet Friendly) For a luxury resort experience, book a stay at L’Auberge de Sedona. This resort is located on the banks of Oak Creek and offers cozy rooms with luxe amenities.

An outdoor seating area in front of a fireplace.
Outdoor fireplace area at the Poco Diablo Resort.

Vacation Rentals

It’s important to note that Sedona is facing an affordable housing crisis like many other vacation destinations. There are a variety of factors driving this, but one reason is a sharp increase in the number of short-term rentals in recent years. While everyone’s travel needs are different, I would encourage staying in a hotel or choosing a vacation rental that doesn’t potentially take away from local housing, like a suite in someone’s home.

Camping

If you want to visit Sedona on a budget, camping is the best way to do it. Even paid campsites are much more affordable than a hotel room or vacation rental, which has made camping around Sedona very popular in recent years. Sedona is a challenging place to try to find a last-minute campsite.

Unless you have a campground reservation it’s important to come prepared with a backup plan in the event your first choice campsite location is full. I’d also recommend having a backup plan for your backup plan if you’re traveling on the weekend during the spring or fall (aka prime desert camping season).

Sunset in Sedona, Arizona.

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping in Sedona is restricted to certain areas, primarily around West Sedona. There are 8 areas in West Sedona with designated sites. These sites are free and first-come, first-served. Charcoal and wood campfires are prohibited, but propane fires are allowed.

When dispersed camping make sure that you’re prepared to be fully self-sufficient, which means that you bring all of the food and water you need, and you pack out waste properly. In the desert the recommended way to dispose of human waste is by packing it out with a portable toilet or WAG bag.

Campgrounds

Most of the Forest Service campgrounds around Sedona are located along AZ-89A in Oak Creek. Campgrounds have bathrooms and water, and provide picnic tables and fire pits at each campsite. 

Because camping in Sedona is so popular, many campgrounds allow you to reserve campsites in advance. Sites fill quickly on weekends, so be sure to secure reservations ahead of your trip (most open for reservation 6 months in advance). Check out these campgrounds near Sedona:

Manzanita Campground 

  • Tent only
  • Open year-round
  • $26/night
  • Reserve

Pine Flat Campground West

  • No hookups
  • 2 night minimum on weekends
  • 3 night minimum on holiday weekends
  • 2023 Season: April 14-October 29
  • 2024 Season: April 16-October 30
  • $26/night
  • Reserve

When to Visit Sedona, Arizona

While Sedona has attracted tourists seeking red rock views and vortex healing for decades, visitation has increased tremendously in recent years. Tourist season is arguably year round, but there are certain times of year when you’ll be less likely to encounter crowds. 

Peak season in Sedona occurs during the spring and fall from March through May, and September through December. Summers in Sedona are hot, with temperatures typically reaching 90-100°F. There are a number of places to find water around Sedona, but the high temperatures help curtail the crowds (although it’s still a popular time to visit).

Winters in Sedona are cold and the area typically sees at least a few inches of snow each year. My favorite time of year to visit Sedona is during the winter (specifically late January) when crowds and temperatures are low.

Woman leaping in the air on a snowy rock in Sedona, Arizona with a red rock butte covered in snow behind her.
Contrary to what many people believe, it snows in Sedona during the winter!

Recreating Responsibly in Sedona, Arizona

With so many people visiting and enjoying Sedona’s trails, it’s incredibly important that everyone does what they can to minimize their impact on the land. Most of the hiking trails in Sedona are located within the Coconino National Forest, which is administered by the Red Rock Ranger District. Many trails enter Wilderness Areas that are subject to heightened regulations including a strict prohibition on drones and other motorized uses (this includes bicycles).

Here are some tips to recreate responsibly in Sedona:

Respect archaeological sites. This itinerary does not include any trails where archaeological sites are located, however Sedona is the ancestral home of the Sinagua, Hopi, Diné, Yavapai, and Tonto Apache peoples. There are countless archaeological sites in Sedona, many of which are still used as sacred, ceremonial locations by Indigenous peoples. These sites are also protected by federal laws, including, but not limited to, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Damaging, defacing, or destroying archaeological sites is a federal crime. Please treat these places with respect.

Here are some best practices when visiting an archaeological site:

  • Never sit, touch, lean, or stand on walls of archaeological sites. 
  • Don’t touch petroglyphs and pictographs (the oils from your fingers can break them down faster). 
  • Leave all artifacts where you find them. 
  • Don’t allow pets or small children in archaeological sites. 
  • Don’t share locations or coordinates of archaeological sites online.

Don’t bust the crust! A lot of the exposed land around Sedona is covered in biological soil crust, otherwise known as cryptobiotic soil. Cryptobiotic soil plays a critical role in preventing erosion in the desert and is extremely delicate. It can take years to decades to recover from damage, so it’s important to stay on trail, or travel over durable surfaces like dry washes or slickrock, to avoid disrupting the cryptobiotic soil.

Sign with information about parking at trailheads in Sedona.
Most trailheads in Sedona require a Red Rock Pass to park. An America the Beautiful or other federal recreation pass is also accepted.

Park appropriately. Many of the trailheads in Sedona have limited parking, which leads to overflow parking on neighboring roads. In order to alleviate some of the parking issues, the city has begun implementing a shuttle system to transport hikers to certain trailheads.

Always make sure to follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles:

  1. Plan ahead & prepare. Hiking in the desert comes with unique considerations, so make sure you research your trails and pack appropriately.
  1. Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on trails or other durable surfaces like slickrock and washes.
  1. Dispose of waste properly. Pack out all waste, including pet waste.
  1. Leave what you find. Don’t carve into, take, or stack rocks.
  1. Minimize campfire impacts. Check for fire bans and practice campfire safety. This means respecting campfire bans and restrictions; creating your campfire in an existing fire ring; making sure the fire is attended and doesn’t get out of control; and making sure the fire is out completely (stir the ashes until they are cool to the touch).
  1. Respect wildlife. Never feed wildlife. Make sure to maintain a safe distance from wildlife.
  1. Be considerate of others. Wear headphones instead of blasting music over a bluetooth speaker. Remember uphill hikers have the right of way!

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to  enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

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Trip Itinerary: Three Days in Sedona, Arizona

This three day itinerary for Sedona, Arizona is best completed in the spring, fall, or winter, when temperatures are mild enough to hike throughout the day. If you’re traveling to Sedona during the summer consider substituting the afternoon hikes that are included for some time by the water. Alternative activities include hiking West Oak Creek Trail or visiting Slick Rock State Park.

As you go through the itinerary keep in mind that Sedona is chockfull of scenic hiking trails. The hikes that are included in this itinerary are mostly easy-moderate with noted exceptions. I also included a mix of popular hikes along with more off-the-beaten-path trails. You can always substitute any of these hikes for a different trail.

Day 1 in Sedona, Arizona

Kick off your trip to Sedona with a sunrise hike to the iconic Devil’s Bridge. This is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona and long lines often form to take photos on the bridge, so the earlier you start the more enjoyable your experience will be. Starting about an hour before sunrise will allow you to get to the bridge in time for the best morning light!

The hike to Devil’s Bridge is only 2 miles out-and-back with 525 ft. of elevation gain with a 4WD vehicle. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, you’ll need to park in the lot at the beginning of Dry Creek Rd., which adds another mile each way. The trail is dog-friendly, but dogs must be kept on leash.

Woman hiking across Devil's Bridge in Sedona.
Hiking across Devil’s Bridge (it’s a lot wider than it looks!).

After your sunrise hike head to downtown Sedona to go shopping and explore the area. In addition to your standard touristy souvenir shops, there are a plethora of crystal shops and other spiritual merchants around Sedona. If you’re feeling called, you can find offerings like psychic readings, astrological chart readings, tarot card pulls, and aura photography all over Sedona (I’d always recommend researching a practitioner before committing!).

Make sure to stop at Tlaquepaque for some shopping while visiting downtown Sedona. This is not a traditional shopping center. Tlaquepaque is nestled amongst oak trees and looks like a historic Mexican village with Southwestern flair. There are over 50 shops, galleries, and eateries to peruse. If you forgot hiking gear at home, this is also a good time to visit The Hike House to pick up what you need to hit the trail safely.

After enjoying your time downtown you’re going to tackle another classic, popular Sedona hike- Cathedral Rock. While the hike is only 1.5 miles out-and-back, it packs 750 ft. of elevation gain and requires some scrambling to reach the top. This is objectively the most difficult hike in this itinerary, but your efforts will be well rewarded with some of the best sunset views in Sedona!

Woman sitting watching the sunset from Cathedral Rock in Sedona.
Taking in the sunset from Cathedral Rock.

After working up an appetite on your hike, end your day with dinner at a local Sedona restaurant. For tasty Italian food, I recommend Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen. If you’re in the mood for a fancier meal, make reservations at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill.

Day 2 in Sedona, Arizona

Your budget for your three day trip to Sedona is going to determine how you start day 2. If you’re ready to splurge, then start the day with a bucket list worthy hot air balloon ride over Sedona’s red rocks. You can book a tour with Northern Light Balloon Expeditions or Red Rock Balloons.

If a hot air balloon ride isn’t in the budget you can still take in 360° views of Sedona while hiking the Airport Mesa Loop trail at sunrise. As the name suggests, the trail takes you around Airport Mesa, which allows you to experience a number of scenic vantage points. The loop is 3.3 miles with 425 ft. of elevation gain.

After your hot air balloon ride or hike, head to brunch at Creekside American Bistro. Creekside is located in the heart of downtown Sedona and offers a robust brunch menu with classics like French toast and breakfast tacos, along with lunch items like a grilled chicken sandwich and vegan bento box.

During the afternoon, take a day trip to Sedona’s wine country with a visit to Page Springs Cellars. Enjoy a tasting flight of sustainably produced wines and explore the lush creekside property. In addition to wine tasting, Page Spring Cellars also offers private massages, yoga, and hoop dancing. 

Woman stands on top of a red rock mountain looking out over red rocks illuminated by alpenglow at sunset in Sedona.
Sunset on top of Doe Mountain.

To end the second day of your trip, head to Doe Mountain in West Sedona for a sunset hike. This short, 1 ½ mile out-and-back trail is one of the best sunset hikes in Sedona. A quick 500 ft. climb from the valley floor takes you to the top of Doe Mountain and provides sweeping views of the surrounding red rocks illuminated by alpenglow. After your hike, drive over to Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante for a tasty Italian dinner. Or, if you’re craving Mexican food, make reservations at the popular Elote Cafe

Day 3 in Sedona, Arizona

Sunrise is one of the best times of day to hike in Sedona so start day 3 with a hike up to Bell Rock. The hike up to Bell Rock is short, but there’s ample room to scramble and explore around the area. If it’s on the way, make a stop at Sedonuts for fresh donuts and coffee to enjoy at Bell Rock. If not, you can stop by after your morning hike!

Woman stands on a red rock at sunrise in Sedona.
Sunrise at Bell Rock.

After your hike, head back to your room or campsite for a little downtime. Hit the pool, go golfing, head to the spa, and soak in your time in Sedona. If you have the itch to keep exploring, stop at Chapel of the Holy Cross to see a unique Catholic church built into Sedona’s red rocks.

During the early afternoon, hit the trail for a hike or mountain bike ride. Hikers can head to the Thunder Mountain, Andante, and Chimney Rock Loop and take a spur trail to the top of Chimney Rock for 360° views of Sedona. Mountain bikers can head to the Chuckwagon Trail for epic slickrock riding.

Wrap up your 3 day trip to Sedona with a sunset drive to Merry Go Round Rock. You will need a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle to drive all the way up the road, or you can hike in. You can also sign up for a Jeep tour with a local guide. Before you head out pick up takeout from Red Chopstick in Oak Creek or hit up the hot food bar at the local Whole Foods to enjoy a sunset picnic.

What to Pack When Hiking in Sedona, Arizona

Hiking Pack

A backpack is an essential item, but hiking pack recommendations are incredibly subjective. I personally use and love the Osprey Sirrus 24L, but you could definitely get away with a smaller pack for these Sedona hikes. A trail running vest is a great option if you want to be able to carry sufficient water while staying light on the trail.

Hiking Boots

Many of the trails around Sedona involve hiking over slickrock, which means wearing hiking shoes with good traction is a must. Hiking boots, like the Merrell Moab 3, are a great option. You can also wear a trail runner, like the Altra Lone Peak 8, for a lighter shoe.

Water

You should plan to carry at least 1L per hour of hiking that you plan to do in the desert, either in a water bladder or water bottle. Depending on the time of year, temperature, and how acclimatized you are to the desert, you may need more or less. Also consider carrying electrolyte packs like Liquid IV to add to your water, especially if you’re hiking during warmer months!

Snacks

Most of these Sedona hikes are fairly short so you don’t need to pack a ton of snacks. A protein bar, trail mix, pb&j, dried fruit, or jerky all make great snack options!

Headlamp

If you’re going on a sunset hike it’s important to carry a headlamp to help you see the trail after it gets dark.

Woman standing on a red rock while hiking in Sedona at sunset.

Sun Protection

There’s plenty of sunshine in Sedona, so it’s important to bring sun protection like a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

First-Aid Kit

A well stocked first-aid kit should always be in your pack as one of the 10 essentials, but while hiking in the desert make sure you have band-aids, moleskin, tylenol, and tweezers.

Map & Compass

While all of the trails on this list are easy to navigate, you should always carry a map & compass in the event you get lost. At the very least be sure to download the trail map to your phone before heading out!

Knife

A knife can come in handy for a variety of purposes from cutting an apple to fixing your gear. Plus it’s one of the 10 essentials, so it should be one of those items that just lives in your pack!

Emergency Shelter

Injuries that require a hiker to spend an emergency night on the trail don’t happen often, but they can happen, so it’s important to carry an emergency bivvy or space blanket to help you stay comfortable during an emergency situation.

Couple sitting on a red rock in Sedona, Arizona.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are an optional piece of gear, but I recommended them to help your balance during some of the steeper hikes in this itinerary.

Appropriate Layers

What clothing you specifically need to wear or carry when hiking in Sedona depends on a number of factors, including the forecast, time of year, and your personal preferences. Keep in mind that even if it’s going to be hot during the day, temperatures drop quickly once the sun goes down so you should carry appropriate layers for hiking in the dark. Helpful layers to consider wearing/bringing include a sun shirt and outer layer (how heavy of an outer layer you need to carry will depend on the month you’re hiking).

Emergency GPS

I always carry a Garmin in-reach mini GPS on hikes to easily get in contact with authorities in the event of an emergency. Sedona has great cell reception so you may find that you have service on the trail, but it never hurts to have an emergency device just in case!

Enjoy your three day trip to Sedona, Arizona!

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