I live on the East Coast but, still, haven’t met too many people who have not heard of Sedona, Arizona. It seems to be THE town to visit if you’re heading to AZ or the Grand Canyon. I believe I first came across Sedona while researching women’s retreats. There are a lot of spaces for healing there and it certainly gave off that vibe.
My youngest, Riley, was graduating from college in spring 2022 and I wanted to surprise her with a trip. She loves to travel and since she’d be heading directly to Florida after graduation for an internship, I wanted some quality alone time with her and to give her a gift she’d treasure, so a trip to the west seemed to be the perfect graduation gift. I booked our flights, a rental car, and the Airbnb which was a cute little apartment above the owner's home. I gave Riley the dates we’d be gone, a short list of items to pack, and she knew we’d be flying.
The list of items to pack included hiking boots which I feared may give it away. Craig dropped us off at the airport, we walked in and looked at the flight board (FIDS - Flight Information Display System) and I said, “I told her we were flying on Frontier and asked her to guess where we were going.” She looked at it for a few seconds (see reel if you haven’t already,) looked at me, and asked, “Are we going to Phoenix?” She’s so smart! I was like, “Yessss….we’re going to the Grand Canyon.” She was so excited! We filled up on some Chick-fil-A before loading onto our flight.
The flight chased the sunset which was fascinating as it was the longest sunset I’d ever watched.
Once we landed, we rented a 2020 Nissan Murano. I wanted an SUV in case we ended up having to sleep in our car on our adventures. I also picked up a bunch of water and made sure to have enough with us the entire time. I mean…it’s a desert, right? We should be prepared…lol. Honestly, not having been there before, I was anxious and wanted to cover all the bases. I also booked a hotel room close to the airport because we flew in at night. I don’t know Phoenix and didn’t want to end up in a bad area at a bad time so we went right from the airport to the hotel. I also read through hotel reviews to get an idea of the safety of the location.
The next morning, we took off for Sedona. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Phoenix. We stopped at a Target to get the water and our conversation with the cashier was hilarious. She asked where we were from and said she’d lived in PA for a while many years ago. Riley explained that she was moving to Florida and the woman was like…”Oh, no thank you. I lived there too. Way too hot. The hurricanes are terrible. My father-in-law almost died because we lost electricity for days and he was in the hospital and they had to move all of the patients to another facility.” She basically tore Florida to pieces and then ended it with, “Alright…well, good luck and have fun!” We were like…okayyyyy…on that positive note…I guess we’ll try. LOL.
The drive to Sedona was very nice. The highways were smooth and taken care of and seeing cacti for the first time was such a dream come true. At the same time, it was also eerie to see all of the creeks waterless. Coming from the Great Lakes area, we’re used to water and everything being green. And this was just brown and tan landscaping, dirt, and some yellow-green cactus. It was certainly a change and I felt a bit anxious, to be honest.
Once we got to Sedona, we dropped our stuff off at the AirBnB we rented and went to get a bite to eat. We went to a small, cute restaurant called Hilltop Deli and they had the best sandwiches ever! We rated them a 10/10. Definitely recommend.
The rest of the day, we drove around Sedona to check everything out. The biggest memory I have is the drive into Sedona. Seeing those red mountains lit by the sun was just awesome. Truly. It seemed so fake and I was thinking, “Is this real?” It was just so beautiful!
The next day, we had coffee on the terrace of our apartment and followed it up with a 3.4-mile hike with a 440 ft elevation gain hike on the Airport Loop Trail. If I remember correctly, I read reviews on AllTrails that said to go backward on the trail if you go in the morning and it seemed to work well for us. We were in the shade for most of the first half which was mostly up the mountain and then the second half had some shade but it was still early so it was cool enough for us. It was a beautiful hike and we ended it by going over to an outlook and hanging out there a bit.
We walked around the shopping district a little after our hike, then had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that was really nice! Then we watched the sunset and stargazed at our Airbnb. If you didn’t already know, Sedona is a designated dark sky community so you can see the stars super well. It was amazing!
On the 4th day of our trip, we drove to see the Grand Canyon! If you haven’t already picked up on it, I have generalized anxiety and have for decades. I wasn’t on medication at the time but this trip helped me realize maybe I should be. I was so nervous driving along the winding roads through the mountains when we were near drop-offs. I’m not a fan of heights so while I truly appreciated how beautiful it was and wanted to just enjoy it, my brain kept telling me to be scared and not drive off the road. It was challenging. You just want to enjoy the time with your daughter and here you are, having anxiety which causes angst and irritation. It’s not enjoyable for anyone and can be a real struggle. Anyway, that stretch didn’t last too long so luckily we got higher into elevation and the views were more vast and the pine trees were just gorgeous! We even went by a mountain that had snow on it which was cool to see (when you don’t see that every day back in PA.) Come to find out, it was the highest elevation point in AZ. Makes sense why there was still snow in May.
I don’t even know how to capture or what to say about the Grand Canyon other than wowowowowow! So so pretty!
We hiked as much of the rim trail as we could. Due to my fear of heights, I got a little wigged out toward an area that gets very close to the edge. I ended up asking Riley to turn around. I felt bad but I literally just wanted to crawl back down but knowing that’s not an option, I put one foot in front of the other and we made it back just fine. We got our first National Park passports and stamped them which was exciting! We also met some really nice people on the shuttle and had some good conversations with them (and one guy was a Steelers fan so he and Riley were automatically best friends).
On our way home, we stopped in Flagstaff at a restaurant called Mama’s Burgers.
O. M. G. Possibly the best burger we have ever had. It was some sort of spicy bbq burger with caramel-fused onions and pickles. Oh goodness. It was so good. I was also a big fan of the fries too. Riley said she wants that burger, Five Guys fries, and Sara’s peanut butter shake (from Presque Isle) to make the perfect meal. The ride from Grand Canyon to Sedona was gorgeous! The highest point may have been 8025 feet above sea level. Absolutely incredible. Back in Sedona, we stopped at Safeway to grab some seltzers, then chilled out at the Airbnb for the rest of the night. We were exhausted.
The next day, we slept in until 8am. Then we sat on the back terrace with our coffee and books/travel guides until around 10.
We got ready and hit the Sedona Artist Market which was super cool! Lots of amazing local art. After that, we went to the Tlaquepaque shopping district. It was a super cute little shopping area that had lots of stonework, large monuments, and beautiful courtyards. It was cool to walk around and see everything but we thought the shops were just okay. I think I expected more artsy, creative shops but most were just high-end, expensive, kind of boring stuff. People in a different tax bracket probably enjoy it more than we did…lol. Honestly, we enjoyed the art market more. However, the Chipotle-something sandwich at the Secret Garden restaurant was to die for.
We also got some of their special iced tea and finished it off with some carrot cake that our neighboring patrons actually had to ask about. It was that beautiful of a dessert.
It was a pricey little bistro but it was so freaking good. On the way back to the AirBnB, we stopped at the ChocolaTree to get a cold brew with maple almond milk and it was top-notch. Riley described it as earthy and chocolatey.
We then took a nap and prepared for another hike which we took off for around 4:30 pm. We hiked the Chimney Rock trail which was our favorite. The terrain was comfortable and well-worn. Everyone we met was so nice! We saw a few dogs on the trail which was a plus. We then came back to the Airbnb and had eggs, toast, and fruit for dinner.
When we travel, we often mix budget with a little extravagance. Meaning, if we spend a lot on lunch, we’ll try to cook dinner or just eat sandwiches to save money. I’m just not into coming home with debt due to a trip I take.
We were told there was an artisan well on the side of ChocolaTree restaurant and were given glass jars we could fill from our Airbnb hosts. So we went there and filled the jars up. This well would be perfect for anyone traveling through Sedona with an RV or van and needing a water fill-up.
Day 6, in the morning we hiked the Soldiers' Pass trail. We loved this hike…highly recommend it. We walked the loop past the Seven Sacred Pools. We were too late in the season to see them filled with water so there was just some mud left at the bottom but still cool to see!
On our way back, we stopped at a vortex point and meditated/prayed. If you’ve never heard of a vortex, just Google “Sedona vortex”. It’s very interesting!
Went headed back to the apartment and made a lunch of lemonade, eggs, toast, and veggie burgers. Pro-tip (“pro” from someone who visited once…lol): for the southwest: take lotion and chapstick! Wowowow! We didn’t realize that while dry heat is nice, it also dries out your skin a lot. My lips felt dry all the time! It was crazy. Even though we drank tons of water.
That evening we took a Pink Jeep tour which was so much fun! We met some wonderful people on the tour, learned about the earth’s surface at some of the canyons, rode around the canyons in a Jeep (hello…can’t get better than that!) and our guide was phenomenal. He was so kind and funny and totally made every penny that tour cost worth it!
The next day, we visited Bell Rock - one of the largest vortexes in Sedona and stopped for ice cream at Rocky Road Ice Cream Co.. One of the coolest things at Bell Rock was the number of twisted trees there. That’s something they say is due to the energy of the vortexes.
Later that evening, we visited Buddha Peace Park which was interesting. A cool little place to check out! It was within walking distance of our apartment so that was nice!
On our last day in Sedona, we walked the loop near Devil’s Bridge. We intended to visit Devil’s Bridge as that’s one of the big IG photo opps but Riley wasn’t feeling well so we decided to not hike that far. However, due to accidentally heading off the road onto a path early in our hike, we were led around a loop which was an interesting terrain mixed of flat rock and areas of dense trees. Much better than just hiking the rocky road that leads you to Devil’s Bridge. What’s the saying…Take the road less traveled.
If you decide to take a trip like this, I can’t recommend enough to download the AllTrails app and use it while hiking. I couldn’t believe how many people we met out on the trail who had no idea where they were or how much further they had to go. The app will give you the length of the hike, the reviews, and a difficulty rating. I can’t recommend it enough!
On the last day in AZ, we drove back to Phoneix, ate at Chick-fil-A of course, and hung out by the pool. That’s when I first really recognized that I could benefit from anxiety medication (which won’t actually happen for a couple more years.). It’s too long of a story to get into here but I will write an article about my journey with anxiety soon. Until then…I hope you enjoyed hearing about our mother/daughter's trip to Sedona, Arizona. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask! I love talking about travel!