If you look at historical records of Sedona, Arizona weather, the temperatures in late May usually hover in the high 70s during the day. US Climate data reports that it rains so infrequently in Sedona that they have have zero days of annual rainfall. Zero. Comparably, the same resource says Columbus, Ohio has 133 days a year with measurable rainfall. When my husband and I stepped outside the airport in Phoenix, where the temperatures should have been climbing into the 90s, we were both shocked and shivering in the 60-something degree breeze. On our way to Sedona we drove through the edge of a saguaro cactus dessert and into snow. The forecast for the rest of the week in Sedona was chilly, with overcast skies, and even flurries. Everyone was talking about the weird weather and how it affected their plans; in a place that depends on its unending sunshine for outdoor activities, watching a low-key weather phenomenon unfold felt nearly apocalyptic.
I discovered, however, that even when you’re contemplating the imminent demise of your planet due to unregulated human greed, you can still have a great time in Red Rock Country. Kyle and I chose Sedona as our base because we only had six days and didn’t want the hassle and expense of moving from place to place. Plus, we really wanted to soak up that vortex energy. We rented a car and drove as far North as the Grand Canyon, but mostly stayed in and around Sedona because there’s so much to do there. Here’s just some of what I’d recommend to anyone else headed to the Red Rocks and what helped make our trip excellent, despite unusual weather:
Ancient Road-Side Stops
One of the advantages of having a car – and you definitely need a car out here – is that you have the freedom to stop at various parks, historical sites, and trails along your routes to-and-from other places. Sedona is a hotbed of archaeological sites and natural wonders so slow down and take advantage of these! The surprise hit for us was on the way from Phoenix to Sedona, just a few minutes off the highway at Montezuma Well and V-V Ranch Heritage site. Montezuma Well is a natural wonder where the Southern Sinaugan people and later the Yavapai built adobe homes into the cliff-side. Considered a deeply sacred site to the Yavapai, it is believed to be the place where humans emerged into the world. We visited on an overcast day and it was great weather to walk around and soak in the serene ecosystem of the desert well.
Only a few miles down a dirt road away from the well, you can visit a recently re-discovered petroglyph site. A short walk from the parking lot, the site includes a possible sun calendar and hundreds of carvings. Both the docents who work at this site are incredibly friendly and the woman who was interpreting the site when we were there was excellent. She was very informative and made the site come alive with all the possibilities of its former use and long history. Also, because it’s only been open to the public since 2005, there are less visitors here than at other more well-know sites.
Though both sites are free to access, you do have to pay to park at each site. It might behoove you to stop at the National Park Service Red Rock visitor center or buy a Red Rocks pass online so that you save money if you plan on doing a few Red Rocks sites.
While at Grand Canyon National Park
TAKE A HELICOPTER TOUR. I’m shouting because it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done and was a top-notch way to experience the canyon. We flew through Papillon Tours because they offer discounts to airline pilots, but we agreed it would have been worth the full-price ticket. I literally cried. It was so much fun. The flight was the first thing we did on our day at the Grand Canyon and I bounced off the helicopter feeling like if that was the only thing we did at the canyon, I’d be happy.
“10 Things to Do When it Rains in Sedona”
Some people are seriously clueless about rain. When we Googled “what to do when it rains in Sedona,” a list actually suggested options like, “take a drive in the mountains,” and, “really, don’t worry about it because it never rains in Sedona!” Well, it was cold and rainy on Kyle’s birthday and after some light Googling we discovered we had two basic options for indoor activities in Sedona: go to a spa or visit a physic. In the name of Kyle’s birthday, we booked ourselves in at Sedona Rouge Spa, deciding it was the more responsible option. It felt very fancy and luxurious to spend the afternoon getting a massage, especially after all the hiking and climbing we’d been doing. Kyle’s earth-mother masseuse congratulated him because he did, “so well receiving his first massage.”
We also spent some time in Tlaquepaque Art and Shopping village, dodging deluges by running from shop to shop. It seemed like there were some nice restaurants and while the whole thing had a bit of an Epot vibe — with the faux Spanish Colonial style architecture — we had some colorful conversations with local shop owners, which definitely made it worth the stop.
Scrambling Up Rocks
We took the chilly weather in stride, layered on clothes instead of sunscreen, and headed out to numerous famous hikes and rock formations. A lot of these, like Cathedral Rock and the Airport Mesa, are considered particularly powerful vortex sites that radiate with a unique energy. Whether or not you’re a believer in mystic cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the Red Rocks, for thousands of years humans have considered these landscapes sacred. Gravity defying towers of blistering orange and red sandstone soar into the sky, which is a deep cerulean blue when the sun comes out, to create awesome vistas. As you watch the rocks, they change in front of you in an indescribable way. It’s not just shadow and sun, but energy swirling all around them. Birdsong trills through the air, a breeze blows cold and the sun bakes hot.
My favorite climb was Cathedral Rock because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to the top, not being a skilled hiker, but it was extremely fun! Many people had recommended it to us and though the AllTrails app said that it was a hard trail that included “scrambling” we decided to go for it. Making it to the top before the crowds was absolutely worth it. After sitting for a little while listening to the quiet, I understood why it is called Cathedral Rock.
Red Rocks from the Sky
As a surprise for Kyle’s birthday I took him on a hot air balloon ride with Red Rock Balloons. It had to be rescheduled due to the weather, but they fit us in on the last day of our trip, for which I was immensely grateful. A completely different experience from the helicopter flight, hot air ballooning was smooth and steady. Where the helicopter felt like danger and adventure the balloon was magical and dreamy. Except when the dragon fire was going to fill the balloon with heat, once you’re in the air in the balloon basket, it’s so quiet. The landscape in Sedona is perfect for the languorous float of the balloon; you can see and hear the wildlife on the ground running through the evergreen forests and the sun breaking through the red rock formations is blinding, but beautiful.
There are only two companies that are permitted to operate hot air balloons in Sedona. Though their website is old-school, we chose Red Rock Balloons because they were recommended from Float Balloon Tours, which operates out of Phoenix. I would absolutely recommend Red Rock Balloons to anyone who is considering hot air ballooning.