With columns of red rock as tall as organ pipes, sentry post cactuses and mile upon mile of Arizona wide-angle skies, Sedona feels like the capital of all things desert, mystical and remote.
Although relatively under-visited, this achingly beautiful national park region, surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, is not only one of our most highly recommended natural north American destinations, but also one of Native Americans’ most sacred locations. It is believed to be a spiritual place of healing and renewal, because of its position astride one of the continent’s most powerful energy lines.
The region can be explored through countless wilderness trails, taking more adventurous explorers up high mountains, through deep open canyon valleys and across the most dramatic of Hollywood landscapes. Travelling to the region on either Highway 17 or 89, visitors enjoy dramatic scenery with big Saguaro cactuses, tall sunset-red cliffs and dust-devil sandstorms. You soon feel as if you are on set with John Wayne in John Ford’s 1938 film, ‘Stagecoach’.
Driving from either Phoenix on Highway 17 or the Grand Canyon on Highway 89 you pass the huge areas of open mid-west terrain, with predictable sun-soaked weather allowing for a perfect journey during the mild winter months, as well as clear warm spring and autumnal periods. Even during the fierce summer temperatures the twilight hours remain as stunning in this region as anywhere else on the continent.
As you follow the asphalt snake from north to south, across the vast open spaces of Arizona landscape, it is easy to imagine how enthralled early settlers must have been when they first came to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon at the end of the 18th century. By the turn of the century less than a hundred registered farmers and ranchers lived in this predominantly Yavapai and Apache native area. Life remained slow and isolated, with electricity only wholly arriving across the Sedona region in the 1960s.
For Nomadic Thoughts it is one of our best kept secrets, especially when added to a more traditional Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell itinerary. Equally, being so close to Phoenix and Scottsdale, Sedona is the perfect ‘escape-to location’ for travellers on a short trip, looking for a blast of wilderness, charm and enlightenment.
Whether a hiker, rock climber, painter, photographer, spiritualist, sun worshipper, film buff or wilderness craver, Sedona and surrounding area offer a truly wonderful experience at pretty much any time of the year. My advice is to plan little and embrace all on arrival. If you do want to focus on one of the region’s more specific events you can join the Sedona International Film Festival (not all spaghetti westerns), the Yoga Festival, the Red Rocks Music Festival, or the Harmonic Maya calendar Convergence among others.
For my part, in addition to the hiking, biking and chillaxing options, the photographic light is fabulous, constantly throwing up a maze of ever-changing faces, shapes and wonderland images. Deep colours, majestic reflections and a sense of being somewhere spiritual are omnipresent.
As these photos show, perfect flat light ushers in a fusion of colours, bright skies and dramatic views. No wonder the Native American people have always been so drawn to and enamoured with everything to do with Sedona.