Word of Mouth: Sedona, Arizona

Red rocks, spirituality and stunning vistas with views stretching for miles

One of the few places on earth where a pinecone can be seen beside a cactus, Sedona’s confluence of flora sprouts from red, iron-rich rocks and sand. Mimicking mountains, large sandstone formations actually came to be through millennia of erosion. They tower with might above the city. Here, visitors gather to hike the trails extending outward, indulge in the spa culture and work their way through the array of galleries and shops. Of course, spirituality permeates. From the mystical vortices across the landscape (purported points of energy pouring out of the earth, often in the form of stunning scenes and twisted juniper trees) to the churches and dedicated areas of peace, Sedona politely requests that guests look inward while gazing, awestruck, at its expanse. Two hours north of Phoenix, on a plateau in a basin beneath Flagstaff, Sedona makes for an out of the ordinary outdoor adventure spot.

L’Auberge de Sedona

Numerous hotels deserve attention in the Sedona area, including Enchantment Resort—a secluded destination of splendor. That said, L’Auberge de Sedona feels miles away from town yet exists right in its center, along the banks of Oak Creek. From guest rooms to a sprawling multi-room lodge, the hotel offers various accommodation levels. An on-site restaurant and spa deliver convenience and quality. This is a peaceful resort-like destination with modern amenities and top-tier customer service.

The Hike House

It would be a crime to visit Sedona and not hike. With trail upon trail offering otherworldly vantage points, visitors of all skill levels can find an appropriate path. For those looking for a bit of guidance, The Hike House offers tours for up to six people in a group. With them, we ventured down the iconic Munds Wagon Trail and veered off on the Hangover, a stunning hike whose first section is ideal for moderate skill level (it gets more challenging thereafter) and passes into sandstone basin with 360-degree views. The Hike House team does more than walk people along—guides explain the area’s history and plant life, and have answers to all questions.

Mariposa Latin Grill

To describe Mariposa Latin Grill, you have to begin with the parking lot. It arguably offers some of the best views of Sedona’s sandstone formations in the entire city. Of course, the same views are available from the restaurant’s outdoor seating area (and inside as well), where a dinner seating allows for beautiful sunset watching. The menu is hearty, with steak options a guaranteed stand-out. That said, from a shrimp ceviche (with cocktail sauce blended in) to handmade empanadas, everything carries substantial flair.

Tlaquepaque Arts + Crafts Village

A refined and luxuriant shopping destination, Tlaquepaque Arts + Crafts Village features many stores filled with art, decorative items, precious stones and more. All of the businesses and restaurants surround an outdoor plaza, complete with fountain. There are many spiritual items for sale, as well. For shoppers looking for something a little more low-key, Sedona has several plazas that offer local specialty products.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Regardless of one’s faith (or lack thereof), passing by the Chapel of the Holy Cross inspires. The striking, geometric Catholic church appears to grow out of a rock formation, much like a crystal. Sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude commissioned the project, which was overseen by architects Richard Hein and August K. Strotz. The site plays host to one of Sedona’s vortices—and the building itself, which was completed in 1956, was voted as one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona.

The Hudson

The Hudson refers to itself as a neighborhood restaurant but the food is world-class, and the signature cocktail menu dazzles. Also outfitted with outdoor seating, the two-year-old spot serves upscale American cuisine, though in a casual manner. Portion sizes here are quite generous, whether you’re looking at a salad, burger, seafood or steak.

Amitabha Stupa + Peace Park

A spiritual destination for prayer, meditation and yoga, the Amitabha Stupa + Peace Park is open to the public from dawn to dusk every day. The destination offers several respites, sculptures, statues and vistas (as well as free spiritual tours from the land’s caretakers). Drawing from Buddhism, a stupa is a destination housing the living presence of the Buddha. For anyone seeking quiet or on a mission for healing or clarity, this is where to go.

Chapel of the Holy Cross image by Mia O’Malley, Tlaquepaque Arts + Crafts Village and The Hudson images courtesy of the respective venues, all other images by David Graver