Sedona. Red-Rock Country, yoga, vortexes, recreation and wellness. It’s one of the top travel destinations in Arizona. Like every other popular tourist spot, you have to take the good with the bad. Sedona and I have had a love-hate relationship since 2011. The scenery is amazing, the archaeology is cool, but… there are things that I can’t stand about Red Rock Country.
It’s time for a talk.
Love: Driving Around
Before planning any activities around Sedona, I recommend riding around and getting a feel for the town. There’s a lot to see and do. If you only have a few days it’s hard to decide on an activity. Riding around will help you prioritize. The Sedona Chamber of Commerce is on 331 Forest Rd. They have free coffee, maps, and a restroom. Their selection of hiking and vortex maps are a great resource to get started on your Sedona adventure.
Love & Hate: Driving From Flagstaff
Coming from Flagstaff into Sedona is definitely the most scenic route. It’s a 30 mile switchback that loses several thousand feet of elevation. Follow highway 89A south from Flagstaff, through Oak Creek, into the main shopping area of Sedona. There are several pull-outs along the way for photographs. So why is everyone in such a hurry! I hate this, really. If you’re in that big of a hurry then use I-10 and bypass the scenic route. It never fails. Every. Single. Time. I take this road someone is honking, riding my bumper, or aggressively passing on the switchback. Slow down people!
Love: Hiking in Sedona
Sedona has dozens, maybe hundreds of hiking trails. The Bell Rock Pathway is my favorite. The trails range from very easy to extremely difficult. I’ve hiked Sedona’s trails in every season. My advice is don’t try to hike during the day in the summer. Early morning and evening hikes in summer aren’t bad as long as you take enough water.
Visiting Sedona in the summer is far from ideal. It’s crowded, the hotels and Air BnB’s are booked, people leave their garbage and dirty diapers on the trails, and the heat is miserable. The prices also go way up. Although the weather is perfect, fall and summer are off seasons in Sedona. Hiking in Sedona in the fall is beautiful and quiet, especially if you choose one of the lesser known trails.
Love More than Anything: Visiting Ancient Ruins
It’s the history buff in me after all, what can I say? Palatki and Honanki are ruins left behind by the Sinagua people. Not many people go to these sites here so if you really don’t like being around a lot of people, and I confess that I really don’t, these ruins are awesome. Exploring the 900-year old history of the Sinagua people is worthy way to spend a day. Sedona isn’t just about scenic rocks, there’s history all over the place if you know where to look.
It’s a long and dusty drive to get to these archaeological sites. Much like Chaco Canyon, (which I’m visiting this summer) the roads to Palatki and Honanki are intentionally kept inaccessible. Leaving the roads unpaved cuts down on vandalism, theft, and overcrowding. In fact, it’s recommended that you call ahead and make reservations for the guided tour up to Palatki.
Love & Hate: Shopping
What I love about shopping in Sedona: the stones, minerals, and jewelry. On my last visit I got a pretty good deal on a forty-pound of Brazilian (although Uruguayan is higher quality) amethyst that now sits on my desk. If you want to buy a few stones or few pieces of jewelry from the Hopi or Navajo reservation, shopping Sedona’s main street is fun.
What I hate about shopping in Sedona: constant harassment by timeshare vendors, wading through the crowds, the noise, overpriced, horrible food, (hair in your ice cream anyone?) and the garbage. You would think a city as beautiful and popular as Sedona would do a better job of removing the garbage. Oh and if the garbage can is full, tourists just throw the trash on the ground next to the can and walk away. I’ve watched people do this like it’s no big deal. I want to say something, but I hold back. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to be so polite?
Hate: Hiking in Sedona (It’s the garbage)
It’s not what you think. Hiking is great. It’s the garbage. For the love of God people pack out your garbage, especially the dirty diapers. Oh and who’s smoking a mile into a trail? Even though I try to eat healthy and don’t smoke or drink, I still get a little winded a mile into a Sedona trail, so I can’t imagine smoking and hiking at the same time. Seriously, at least pack out the cigarette butts, or just stop smoking on the trails completely before you start another Arizona summer wildfire.
I hike a lot of pristine trails all over Arizona. When I see a piece of garbage, even if it isn’t mine, I’ll usually pack it out. However, I’m NOT packing out dirty diapers. Why is this happening in Sedona? Would you do this at home? I’d like to conduct a survey of hikers and ask them why they think it’s ok to just leave a dirty diaper on a trail. It’s something that seems particularly unique to Sedona. Why? I haven’t a clue, but I wish people would stop doing it. It’s gross and stupid.
It’s Okay: Taking an Off-Road Jeep Tour
Taking an off-road jeep tour was moderately fun. However, there’s nothing on a tour that you can’t see on your own with a rented 4×4. Also the jeep was packed full, which means touching other people, complete strangers, something I don’t like to do.
What can I say? I’m an introvert who prefers the company of myself, my husband, my animals, and nature. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a misanthrope (a hater of humanity), but I intensely dislike the noise, garbage, disregard to wildlife, and disregard for anyone but the self that is common to most of the population.
Does being an introvert conflict with being a teacher? Not really. I love being around my students, and look forward to going to work every day. It’s incredibly rewarding to have a positive influence on adolescents. In addition to teaching history, I also teach (or at least I try to teach) compassion, resilience, care for the environment and wildlife, and compassion towards other people.
Anyway, back to the Sedona jeep tours. It’s fun for something to do if you want to try it once and don’t mind spending $80 – $100 for two people. Otherwise, it’s not that great.
Hate More than Anything: Slide Rock State Park
If you saw a line of people a quarter-mile long, and a line of cars stretching more than a mile, would you still go to that place? Although I can’t scream, “no way ever” fast enough, you can see this ritual line every summer, especially on the weekends. Slide Rock state park is cool. Is it so cool that I’m willing to walk at least a mile lugging umbrellas, chairs, coolers on a road lined with cars and no sidewalk, shoulder to walk on? Ummmmmm no!
Although I knew better, I accidentally got caught in this line last year. Never again! Aggressive honking, people nearly being run off the road. It’s a fight between the cars and the people walking up the highway to get into the park and someone’s going to lose. The park is nice, but it’s not THAT Nice. Plus do you want to slide down the rocks thigh-to-thigh with other screaming tourists, fighting for chair space, each competing to have the loudest music, while wading through their garbage that’s left wherever it drops? I don’t. Skip Slide Rock State Park in the summer!
Love: The Views
I will always love the beauty of Sedona. In all my travels to twenty countries, I’ve never seen anything like this place. Although I’ve considered moving to Sedona, it’s too expensive, especially during the summer. It seems like moving to a place might take away some of the the magic. People I talk to that live in Sedona don’t even notice the views anymore. That’s natural I suppose. Overall, it’s a nice place to visit, but like all travel destinations, it isn’t perfect. I’ve had many good visits to Sedona, but only after learning when to go, what to avoid (anything in the summer), and where to go to carve out a few minutes (or hours) of beautiful, scenic, solitude.