Whether you have 5 days in Sedona, AZ or are going for just a weekend this Sedona guide will help you plan your trip and make the most out of your time. I’ve included answers to all the questions I searched for prior to my trip such as, where to stay, where to eat, the best time to go, where to hike, what to pack, and of course what to SEE!
Sedona, a desert town near Phoneix, AZ is synonymous with towering red rocks, energy vortexes, and a culturally rich art scene. If you are a nature lover, hiker, biker or explorer of any kind you will want to spend weeks here, but if you only have a weekend, no fear you can still get a solid taste of this incredible little town.
Sedona makes for a great long weekend if you are coming from the west coast. From the east coast, with limited flight availability and longer travel time, I was glad I planned 5 days in Sedona. This Sedona guide lays out why.
Where to Stay?
There are plenty of hotels, motels, B&Bs, campgrounds and RV parks in Sedona and the surrounding towns. I recommend the area around Bell Rock if you appreciate a less touristy atmosphere. Having a car makes it a breeze to travel from place to place and nothing is too far away.
Just make sure you don’t venture too far from West Sedona or Oak Creek. Cottonwood and Flagstaff are definitely too far if you want to make the most out of a week or less in Sedona.
- Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock – I stayed here on points during my 5 days in Sedona and have almost no complaints. It’s a great location close to many trailheads and only a 5 min drive to Bell Rock, which made it a great place for sunrise hikes. Shopping and additional restaurants are a short walk or 3 min drive away. The heart of Sedona town is only about 20 mins away. My only complaint pertains to the on-site restaurant. Staff was friendly but food taste, cost, and service left a bit to be desired.
- Amara Resort. Located close to Uptown Sedona (which is downtown). I haven’t stayed here myself, but I have heard great things about their amenities, location, and staff.
- Sugar Loaf Lodge and Bell Rock Inn are two budget-friendly lodging options that come with excellent reviews if you are looking to cut costs with 5 days in Sedona.
Where to Eat?
I recommend making reservations or at least calling ahead. Even in early January, most restaurants were packed at lunch and dinner time. Below are my top resturant pics I’m adding to my Sedona Guide. What would you add? Let me know in the comments below!
- Mariposa– Upscale Latin cuisine that comes highly recommend. Apparently not only is the food delicious but the views are too.
- Cucina Rustica– Italian kitchen near Oak Creek/Bell Rock area. Delicious food and A live guitarist was a lovely addition to the incredible atmosphere. Just don’t ask them to spice up your pasta. I love a solid Diavolo sauce but this one was fire!
- Javelina Cantina– For Mexican food lovers everywhere, their classic tacos, margarita menu, freshly made guac, addicting chips, and salsa fast service and a lively atmosphere made it a great place for a yummy dinner. They also have great views of the Red Rocks on their patio if you make it in before sunset.
- The Chocolate Tree– Organic Vegetarian Eatery. This place has a lot of creative dishes guaranteed soy, meat, and grain-free. Many nondairy options and of course homemade chocolate that is worth the $2-$4 apiece price tag.
- The Secret Garden Cafe– Great for grabbing bites and drinks. They have a bar only happy Hour 4-6 pm with 50% select apps wine and beer. They also served me my favorite Chi-tea latte of the whole trip!
- Rene Restaurant– A charming restaurant with a bit of an elegant feel. Rene offers continental cuisine and a lite lunch menu along with wine tastings at their bar from 2:30-5 pm daily. Everything we ordered was delicious!
- Oak Creek Espresso – Stopped here on our way out of town. Passionate coffee makers with a very impressive selection of baked goods.
When to Go?
- To avoid heavy crowds visit mid-December-February. Make sure to pack a coat and layers. I was there in early January and 45 F was the high most days.
- High Season is March-June and Sept- early December. Of course, Spring and Fall have the most enjoyable temps in the 60-80s
- Summers are HOTT. Not a lot of shade on most hiking trails with temps low to mid-90s
- Winter is still usually mild with highs of 50-60s. When I went beginning of January morning temps were low 20s and it warmed up to mid-40s. The sun was shining and I enjoyed the cool weather. Thankfully, there were no rogue storms for us!
What to Pack?
While apparel depends on what time of year you go below are a few items I recommend carrying year around.
- Head Lamp- in case you do a sunset hike. you will need light on the treck down
- Day Pack– Any kind of small backpack will work. I usually carry snacks, wet wipes, a hand towel, water, and a portable charger in my day pack
- Sunscreen– a must even in winter. That sun is intense!
- Water bottle– Duh! Never go hiking without water! We didn’t sweat much in January but the hiking was exhausting at some points. Water is a savior.
- Snacks– Another must! I usually bring protein bars or dried fruit and nuts when I travel.
- Sturdy hiking boots-I have a Columbia pair I purchased 3 years ago and still love them. I’d forgo the tennis shoes and invest in a pair of sturdy waterproof boots.
I’m currently working on complete “cold weather hiking” packing list to add to this Sedona Guide (check back later for that one).
What to See and Do?
While most people come to Sedona for the Red Rock trails there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy if hiking just isn’t your thing. I hiked three+ trails in Sedona during my 4 night stay and did a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We also took a few scenic drives through town and enjoyed some downtime taking in the majestic views and devouring many delicious meals and cozy lattes along the way.
- Hiking, Hiking, did I mention Hiking? I used the free account option at Alltrails.com to gain insight into trails, look at maps and read reviews from fellow hikers. It’s a great resource for all things hiking in locations across the globe.
- Mountain Biking– many trails are good for biking
- 4×4 off-roading– you can rent dune buggies for a self-drive tour of the backcountry
- Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village– food, coffee shops, and art galleries. A great way to enjoy some downtime.
- Spa: Why not have a relaxing self-care day at one of the many world-renowned Sedona spas? Come on, you deserve it!
- Vortexes: Experience the energy of the earth at one of these widely popular sights. No guarantees here, I’m still working on my earth energy feeling skills.
- Wineries: Tour a winery and go to a tasting. Most wineries are about 30 mins outside of Sedona.
- Grand Canyon: The perfect day trip. Only a 2-hour drive from Sedona and $35 entrance fee
- Chapel of the Holy Cross– The chapel in the rocks. You can drive up the access road to a small parking lot between 9-5 pm otherwise the gate allowing access to the road will be locked.
- Pink Jeep Tours– We saw this tour company advertised all around town and heard good things about their guides and overall experiences. Check them out for guided adventure tours of the vortexes, hiking trails, off-roading and more.
For complete hiking details regarding Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge (plus a few more) read “3 AMAZING hikes you don’t want to miss in Sedona”.
A Complete Sedona Guide
Sample itinerary for 5 Days in Sedona, AZ.
Day 1: Arrival Day – drive from PHX to Sedona
Most travelers fly into Phoneix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). Try to arrive in the am to get the most out of your stay. Renting a car is a must so make sure you book a rental in advance.
- Drive about 2 hours (120 miles) from PHX to Sedona via I-17 N to exit 298 towards Sedona
- Check in to your hotel and grab lunch
- Hit up a grocery store in town for snacks, water, and breakfast items to save time (and $$) on your full days
- If you feel up to it a short hike before sunset is do-able
- You can also drive around the area to take in the sights, visit art galleries, or grab a drink.
- Chapel of the Holy Cross is a lovely stop to make. We attempted to drive up to it but the driveway’s gate was locked (closes at 5pm)
Tip: Originally when I booked a rental car through the Avis app the cost was quoted $100 more than the quoted price on their website. I called Avis and they adjusted the price immediately without any hassle. Definitely a call worth making!
Day 2: Full day in Sedona
- Time for a full day of hiking
- If you are an early riser and close to a trailhead opt for a short hike in the am for sunrise. You will love the atmosphere and appreciate the quiet trails.
- However, if sleeping in sounds better that is an option too. Just know parking may be a little tight after 9am
- I hiked around Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte each morning between 7-9 am. Sunrise was around 7:00 am. I enjoyed seeing the sandstone light up when it was touched by the morning sun and no kids screaming!
- Plan a 3-4 hour hike. We opted for Cathedral Rock via Baldwin/ Templeton route off of Verde Vally School road
- We headed to Chocolate Tree Cafe for a late lunch and strolled around a few art galleries in town after.
- Watch the sunset from Airport Mesa lookout. If the main (but very small) parking lot is full, a nearby $3 lot should do the trick. If you can’t get there early enough for parking, a drive up the hill to the airport and nearby hotel will suffice. You will still get to enjoy the sunset views.
Day 3: Full day in Sedona
- If you are not too sore from the day before gear up for another day of hiking
- If you rather, check out an off-road jeep tour or make it a winery day. Or better yet, why not kick back with a relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatment?
- We opted to hike Devil’s Bridge. The hike to and from the parking lot took us about 3 hours to complete. It’s around 4 miles. It was a busy trail and we did stop to enjoy the scenery quite often.
- After hiking a much need refuel is in order. We stopped at the popular Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for wine, lattes and small bites.
- Grab a lite lunch and local wine at Rene’s Restaurant or take advantage of Happy Hour at the bar in Secret Garden
- If you are into nightlife, well you came to the wrong place! There are a few dive bars around town but we opted for a nightcap at our hotel bar with some live music.
Day 4: Day trip to the Grand Canyon
- It’s definitely worth the 2-hour drive and $35 entrance fee per car to see the beauty of the Grand Canyon.
- We headed to the South Rim (North Rim is closed during winter) arriving by 9am and found parking at the Visitor Center easily
- You can hike Rim Trail along the canyon and ride the buses to avoid parking multiple times.
- If you are feeling adventurous you can hike down into the Grand Canyon from the popular Bright Angel Trailhead just past the Village near Hermit road. In winter it’s a bit icy- so be careful!
- Watching the sunset on the scenic drive back to Sedona was a great way to end a bucket list day!
Day 5: Departure Day
- Your 5 days in Sedona are almost up…sob.
- Wake up early for one last sunrise hike-If you haven’t done it yet this is the day!
- As you head out of town stop at a few galleries or shops for some handcrafted souvenirs.
- If coffee is your thing Oak Creek Espresso was a good find on the way out of town
- Plan for a two-hour drive back to PHX and extra time to get gas and return the car
- Start planning your next trip back!
I loved my experience in Sedona and can’t wait to explore more in the future. If you have any recommendations for the best hiking trails, restaurants or unique things to do that I can add to this Sedona Guide, let me know in the comments below!
Lastly, apart of this Sedona Guide, I want to share my exact travel details highlighting most importantly, the true costs from my time in Sedona.
Originally flights and hotels were more than my monthly travel budget would allow me to spend but with some searching and asking, I was able to cut costs by using air miles and family hotel points. I totally lucked out on that one which made the trip possible for me. I like being transparent about trip costs to give everyone an idea of how much travel actually costs…..if you travel the way I do, which I’ll call “comfortable without breaking the bank.”
My exact travel details
- Who: Me and a friend based in LA
- What: 4 nights or 5 days in Sedona, AZ
- Where: Flying into Phoenix, driving to Sedona and Grand Canyon as a day trip
- When: December 30, 2019- January 3, 2020
- Weather: 29-40 degrees Fahrenheit, colder at the Grand Canyon but lucky for us it was sunny almost every day!
- Flight: 23,000 miles + $246 on American Airlines from Miami, FL
- Hotel: Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock 256,000 Hilton Honors Points (rates around $240 a night, if you don’t use points)
- Food: $18-$25 a sit-down meal with taxes and tip (without alcohol)
- Rental Car: Avis $276 + $40 in gas
- Park fees: Grand Canyon entrance fee $35, Red Rock Parking Pass $5 a day, $15 a week $20 per year (suggested for almost all parking lots in the Red Rock State Park)
I hope you got some useful information out of this Sedona Guide. It is a beautiful place with friendly, helpful people and stunning sceneary. You will be glad you went!
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