August 2022, during the heat of the summer, we made the trip to Sedona, Arizona. After hearing about the beautiful hikes with red rock views and evergreen vegetation, I knew I HAD to visit this place. However, between COVID-19 and not wanting to spend a lot of money (Sedona can be a very expensive place to visit) it seemed like the trip wasn’t in the cards. I was determined though and started doing some serious research at the beginning of the year to see how I could take an affordable trip to Sedona.
*Below are my recommendations on how to get to Sedona, where to stay, where to hike, where to eat and where to explore. Note that there are an abundance of options; this is what worked best for us. I hope this information is useful if you are in the process of planning a trip!
First, I needed to figure out how to get to Sedona. The best option for us, was to fly to Phoenix, rent a car and drive to Sedona. Sedona is approximately two hours north of Phoenix, and although this sounds daunting, the drive felt fairly quick.
I had opened up a Southwest CC and saved up enough points to cover my flight. Note that this takes time, but it is a great option if you fly often for work or in your free time. Southwest also has a low-fare calendar and has deals every so often, such as $49 one-way flights:
Another option is to utilize travel websites that offer flight deals throughout the year:
I always choose the cheapest option for rental cars and Alamo was the winner for this trip. I used the Southwest “Book a Rental Car” feature to compare prices:
Again, Southwest is only one option. Other websites can be used to compare prices to find the cheapest car rental company:
I researched places to stay in Sedona and every option seemed overwhelmingly expensive. One place stood out at $89 a night, Beaver Creek Inn in Cottonwood, but it was 30 minutes outside of Sedona. I almost booked it but decided to continue researching. I found the Sedona Village Inn through Hotels.com. The rate was $109 a night and was within walking distance of the Bell Rock Trail. I booked it immediately.
Sedona Village Inn is located in the Village of Oak Creek, which less than 10 minutes outside of the heart of Sedona. I would book this place again whenever I make my way back to Sedona. Note that there is an “old” building and a “new” building. Our room was booked in the new building, so I can’t speak for what the old building is like. There was a public deck with tables where we were able to hang out and enjoy the view of both Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The furthest trailhead was just under 20 minutes away.
The rates range anywhere between $89-$189 depending on the day and the time of the year. When researching other options, be aware of the seemingly better deals that are located in Cottonwood. Cottonwood is a 30 minute drive outside of Sedona, so if you book here, you’ll need to factor in extra gas money and time driving back and forth.
Prior to arriving in Sedona, I had briefly researched a few hikes and the trailhead shuttle system. The shuttle service made more sense once we were physically there and were able to visualize everything.
Schedule: Thursday through Sunday from 7AM to 5:30PM (year-round).
There are four shuttle lines, labelled “11, 12, 14 and 15”. There are two designated parking lots for the shuttle service (pictured above). I utilized the AllTrails app to figure out which trailhead to use for each hike. From there, I figured out if we were able to drive to the trailhead parking lot ourselves or if we needed to utilize the shuttle service.
These are the options for the hikes I completed:
- Bell Rock – Line 15 or Trailhead Parking Lot
- Birthing Cave – Line 11 or Trailhead Parking Lot
- Cathedral Rock – Line 15 – Shuttle ONLY
- Devil’s Bridge – Line 12 (Dry Creek Vista and Chuck Wagon Trailheads), Line 11 (Mescal Trailhead) or Trailhead Parking Lot
- Margs Draw Trail – Trailhead Parking Lot ONLY (No shuttle service)
- Soldier Pass Trail – Line 14 – Shuttle ONLY
- Thunder Mountain – Trailhead Parking Lot ONLY (No shuttle service)
A few important notes:
- You MUST utilize the shuttle service for the Cathedral Rock and Soldier Pass Trail hikes. Both trailhead parking lots are closed Thursday through Sunday due to the high volume of people on these trails.
- Thunder Mountain and Margs Draw Trail are NOT apart of the shuttle service. Parking is located at the trailhead.
- Devil’s Bridge has a parking lot, but the space is very limited. I highly recommend getting there prior to 7AM (the first shuttle run) if you plan on driving yourself to the trailhead. After 7AM, the trail starts to get busy.
Below are a few food options in and around Sedona. We found these to be the best places to visit!
Starbucks – $
Wildflower – $$
Hilltop Deli – $$
Natural Grocers – $$$$
Sedona has several shops, tourist attractions and churches. Below are a few places we absolutely loved!
Native American Art & Shops:
Crystal & Healing Shops:
I would love to go back someday and explore the trail systems even more; there were more trails than I could even fathom.
Sedona is truly a magical place. The hikes were amazing, but what I wasn’t expecting were the people. Everyone we encountered, both tourists and locals, were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I won’t forget the couple who talked to us about Flagstaff and offered us free weed (we declined LOL) or Janet, a local who had worked on Capitol Hill and who was an environmental activist. She showed us a video of a tarantula that she saw about 10 minutes before we met her on the Bell Rock Trail. Enjoy the touristy areas, but really try to find the spots where the locals hang. You just might meet some really cool people!
My final recommendation is to take your time and enjoy every place you visit in Sedona. Keep an open mind and enjoy all the unique experiences Sedona has to offer!