TR Robertson…My wife, Carolyn, and I have been lucky enough to have visited, stayed and explored the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, 5 or 6 times throughout the years. A recent trip back to Sedona gave us a chance to take part in some new adventures, eat at some new restaurants and return to some of our favorite spots in one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. The spectacular landscape of Sedona has been inspiration for artists since humans first settled in this part of the country and adventure seekers will find no shortage of things to to or trails to hike. There are 158 hiking trails mapped out in this area. Also, today, there are over 40 galleries in the Sedona area featuring a variety of art media not to mention great shopping choices. An update on some of our discoveries will assist you if you are planning a trip to Sedona, regardless of the time of year you choose to visit.
One of our new adventures included a 20 mile trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad into the wilderness just outside of Cottonwood, Arizona. The four hour trip started in historic Clarkdale, ended at the Perkinsville ghost ranch and back to Clarkdale. The route follows the rail system used by trains when this area was a thriving copper mining industry. The rail line was a combination of air conditioned enclosed cars and open-air cars. There were a variety of price ranges, but for this trip we chose Coach Class, running $59.95 for seniors, $64.95 for adults. The trip took us along the Verde River, past Sinagua Indian ruins dating back to 600 B.C., over several railroad bridge structures, through a 680 foot manmade tunnel and along beautiful cliffs and hills. This was an enjoyable and relaxing way to enjoy this part of Arizona. Drinks and snacks were available for purchase including tasty Prickly Pear Cactus lemonade. When you arrive at the start of the trip a Southwestern-style depot awaits you complete with gift shop, Copper Spike Café and the John Bell Museum. The museum has a number of historical artifacts from the past railroad history. Not far from the train depot is the Native America Tuzigoot National Native American Monument open to the public. The historic town of Cottonwood has an Old West appeal with fun shops to visit.
One thing we have always wanted to experience in Sedona is a helicopter tour over the majestic canyons, valleys and red rock formations of this area. This time we decided to go for it and signed up for a 35 minute tour called Hog Wild, run by Sedona Grand Canyon Air Tours, which covered 52 miles. We flew over Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, The Three Nuns, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Snoopy Rock, Wilson Mountain, Steamboat Rock, Secret Canyon, Boynton Canyon and Red Canyon. We also got a good look at the town of Sedona and saw several of the jeep tours in the back country. A five star resort called Enchantment Resort was pointed out, a place we would visit later in the trip. There are a variety of helicopter trips available starting around $99 per person. The longer trip we chose ran $199 per person. There were 5 in our party plus the piolet. This company also offers doors off heli-adventures and fixed wing aircraft trips over the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. One amazing tip offered is a flight to the Grand Canyon West Airport, a helicopter trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a short trip in a pontoon boat on the Colorado River, a walk on the famous Skywalk sticking out over the Grand Canyon and a visit to an authentic Native-American village of the Hualapai tribe. This will run you $489 per person. Maybe another time for us.
One of the places we returned to in Sedona was a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The Chapel was completed in 1956 and sits on a thousand foot rock wall and is 250 feet tall. The Chapel is part of the St. John Vianney Parish. The Chapel and surrounding walkways give a beautiful view of this part of the Sedona landscape. Another Sedona highlight is the Tlaquepaque Shopping Area. The shopping area is a series of southwestern styled buildings that wind around gardens and art work. The areas have names such as Patio of the Bells, Blue Patio, Plaza of the Fountain, Patio of the Roses and Patio of the Chapel. The galleries, gift shops, jewelry shops, gem shops, clothing shops are all unique in both appearance and in products sold. There are over 43 of these stores. There are several eateries available like the Oak Creek Brewery, How Sweet It Is In Sedona and the El Rincon Restaurant with its #1 rated margaritas. Taking time to leisurely go through most of the stores will take hours, if you wanted to spend that much time shopping, but it is worth stopping by Tlaquepaque just to take in the gardens and buildings.
We did not take a Jeep tour this trip, but there are a number of these tours available if you wanted to include them as part of your Sedona experience. The best known of the tour companies is the Pink Jeep Tours. They have been in the touring business for over 56 years. Some of the other tour companies available are Arizona Safari Jeep Tours, Grand Canyon & Sedona Tours, Great Venture Tours, Personal Vortex Tours. For those that want to venture out of Sedona, the mining town of Jerome offers Tours of Jerome, featuring historic tours, haunted tours and wine tours.
One of the new places we visited on this trip to Sedona was out to Boynton Canyon to have drinks at the beautiful Enchantment Resort. This all-inclusive resort features award winning restaurants, a spa and a magnificent golf Course called Seven Canyons. The resort began as John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch and would soon become Enchantment Resort, situated on 70 acres, and establish itself as one of the finest southwest resorts in the area. The restaurants and bars all have views of the red rock cliffs of Boynton Canyon. Conde Nast Traveler rated the resort as one of the Top 10 Resorts in the Southwest and Reader’s Choice Award rated the resort as in the Top 10 Spa Resorts and Top 10 Best Golf Resorts.
Another stop on our list of places to see for the first time was breakfast at the Briar Patch Inn, located on Oak Creek, a short drive into Oak Creek Canyon. This bed and breakfast resort has been rated the #1 Bed & Breakfast resort in Arizona and one of the top 25 Best Romantic Weekend Getaway destinations. The resort began as a small cottage on Oak Creek in 1940. Situated on 9 acres along Oak Creek, the Inn is now owned by Ike & JoAnn Olson who purchased the Inn in 1983 along with the neighboring Terracotta Resort. They would combine the two, keep the name Briar Patch Inn and the resort would grow to 19 elegantly rustic cabins of varying sizes, along with a relaxing large living room and dining area. The Inn is furnished in Southwestern décor and Native American Arts. Next to the dining area is a small gift shop. There are comfortable chairs, swings and tables scattered throughout the 9 acres where guests can relax, listen to the sounds of Oak Creek and let the troubles of the world pass by. Briar Patch now allows reservations for breakfast for non-guests of the Inn. Breakfasts offered are healthy breakfasts that can be enjoyed in the dining area, in your room or anywhere in the outside area.
One of the new dining experiences we tried on this trip to Sedona was a delicious meal at Javelina Cantina, voted Sedona’s Best Mexican Food and serving this area for over 18 years. Javelina is located in the Hillside Shopping Center. We also returned for dinner to the Cowboy Club, known for incredible steaks and ribs. The Silver Saddle Room of the Cowboy Club has wonderful western décor and the menu will satisfy anyone’s taste buds. For lunch one day we asked a local for their recommendation and they said you can’t beat the burgers at PJ’s Village Pub in the Village of Oak Creek, a short drive out of Sedona. Lots of big screen TV’s with sports games going on, a great bar featuring local craft beer and a huge menu. They offer a burger called the world famous Boomer Burger, more than one person can eat. Prices are reasonable and with lots of locals inside, you can’t go wrong. We also enjoyed lunch, on another day, at the Olde Sedona Bar & Grill and took in a Charger victory over Atlanta. They also had reasonable prices, big menu and great bar food.
Our big dining splurge was dinner one evening at the famous L’Auberge Cress on Oak Creek Restaurant. L’Auberge is a world class resort with 87 rooms of varying sizes and decors. Some are in the Lodge, some are cottages and suites along Oak Creek. There is also a spa in the resort. But the reason many come to L’Auberge is to eat at Cress, rated by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the Southwest. Your choices for the dining experience is to choose from a 3 or 4 or 6 course prix-fixe menu. The cuisine is described as French with an American approach. There is an indoor eating area but most choose to get a table outside along the creek. There are heaters that are wheeled into place to keep you warm. L’Auberge was established in 1984 with major revisions in 2006. Dinner was excellent and worth every penny spent.
Of course, one of the things visitors to Sedona always do is wander the downtown area and take in the numerous tourist shops selling anything to can imagine. We wandered around for a bit and this time we also returned to Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art. This gallery has won Best Gallery in Sedona, Best Jewelry Gallery in Sedona and names one of the 25 Best Galleries in America. It features amazing displays, paintings, ceramics and huge statues (mostly bronze pieces). It is a fun place to wander and dream. Not far away from here we also took in Garland’s Navajo Rugs and Jewelry, famous for its amazing collection of American Indian rugs, weavings and wall hangings as well as other American Indian art.
I should mention we were traveling to Sedona in October and this time we took in the Red Rocks Oktoberfest on Posse Ground Park, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sedona. This events featured about 7 or 8 craft breweries, fish and chips or bratwurst, an authentic German polka band followed by a very good rock n’ roll band. Some of the breweries featured were Mother Bunch, Grand Canyon Brewing, Mudshark, Mother Road, Four Peaks to name a few. This was an unexpected, fun annual event to attend.
This is an amazing place. Mystical, artistic, natural, relaxing and a place that keeps drawing us back. There is something for everyone here. I picked up a small brochure called Red Rock Artists that even lays out all of the studio galleries you could tour and their locations. There is no limit to what you can do. Trail guide are found everywhere for those wanting to be more adventuresome. You will not run out of things to do in Sedona and we will most certainly return to Red Rock Country.
I’ve always wanted to go to Sedona and after reading this article I have put it on my calendar to do it in the next six months thanks Tom for all your great articles on travel and theater