When it came time to plan an outdoor adventure weekend in celebration of my 30th birthday, one destination came to mind immediately: the beautiful red rock landscape of Sedona, Arizona.
Sedona is approximately two hours by car from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It’s a pretty cool drive with desert views, cacti and rock formations along the way!
Where to stay
There are amazing resorts in Sedona, or you can opt to stay in an Airbnb.
Our Airbnb was absolutely perfect for a group trip, just up the road from downtown Sedona on the way to Airport Mesa. We were a short drive from the hikes we wanted to do, the house was very spacious and well-decorated, and we had the most incredible view from our balcony.
We came to Sedona for the hiking! Although we only had two days in our short Arizona weekend trip, we squeezed in as much as possible.
We awoke early on Day 1 (having arrived the night before) and set out for a sunrise hike to Devil’s Bridge. We got a little lost on the drive due to losing cell service, so we didn’t arrive until about 20 minutes prior to sunrise. By this time, the Dry Creek parking lot was nearly full and we were lucky to grab one of the last parking spots! This parking lot is small and fills up quickly, leading many people to park on the main road and hike in.
People should not attempt to drive Dry Creek Road to the Devil’s Bridge trailhead unless they have high-clearance vehicles – the road is extremely rough, rocky and uneven.
It took us just shy of an hour to reach the bridge from Dry Creek parking lot, moving at a leisurely but brisk pace because we were cold. The hike is mostly easy with some steep stairs at the end.
When we reached Devil’s Bridge around 7:20 a.m., there was a short line for photos. It was nothing compared to the afternoon or peak season lines, I’m sure!
Devil’s Kitchen / Seven Sacred Pools
After mimosas and brunch at the Airbnb, we set out for our next hike of the day – which was actually supposed to be to the cave at Soldier Pass. However, when we reached the Soldier Pass trailhead parking, we didn’t stand a chance. It was completely full with no street parking available and many cars waiting. We didn’t have much time to waste, so we rerouted to Jordan Road trailhead and decided to start our hike from there.
You can reach Soldier Pass from Jordan Road trailhead, but we opted to not go the entire way due to time and heat. We had to save some energy for our sunset hike to Cathedral Rock.
The hike along Cibola Pass Trail was still a great one! There were not many people, and we got to see the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole and Seven Sacred Pools (which were dry).
Our final hike for the day was Cathedral Rock – which is really more of a scramble than a hike! It’s only 0.8 miles to the top, but it’s very steep.
Parking was, of course, a nightmare. We were lucky to grab street parking about 0.5 miles from the trailhead, but the extra 10 minutes put as at a disadvantage since we were racing the clock to get to the top before sunset.
My cousin and I scaled Cathedral Rock quickly. We made it up in less than 20 minutes and managed to catch a glimpse of the sun just before it set behind the hills. As we should have guessed, it was very crowded at the top with two wedding photoshoots going on.
We stayed at the top just long enough to enjoy the afterglow of the sunset, then headed back down as it began to get dark. We decided heading down that steep rock in the dark wouldn’t be very fun or safe, so we booked it as quickly as possible with the remaining twilight!
There’s more than enough to do and see in Sedona to spend several days there, but my cousin and I had never been to the Grand Canyon and it was a bucket list item for both of us. Since we were only a two-hour drive to the South Rim, we decided to spend one day of our Arizona weekend with a short visit there.
All in all, we spent about two hours driving there, two hours at the park, and two hours driving back. It was a very brief taste of this grandiose attraction, but it was worth it.
Tip: Check the weather and dress accordingly! While it was around 70° in Sedona, it was only 40° at the Grand Canyon. I was very unprepared in my sundress and cropped jacket. Rookie mistake!
Entry was free thanks to my Military Annual Pass — free for current U.S. military and their dependents.
Visitors to the South Rim may take a free shuttle bus to various viewpoints along the rim.
We arrived back to Sedona just before sunset and wanted to enjoy one final set of views.
We headed to Airport Mesa, just up the hill from our Airbnb, which is believed to be a vortex. Sedona vortexes are said to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration, according to Visit Sedona. People claim visiting a vortex leaves them feeling inspired or uplifted; honestly, how could anyone not feel that way after a visit to Sedona?
We watched the beautiful view of red rocks glowing in the golden hour before heading back to our abode to enjoy our final sunset from the balcony.
Sedona, and this Arizona weekend trip as a whole, brought me to life in a way that most of 2020 lacked. I can’t wait to return again one day.