Although not a national park, Sedona was filled with outdoor activities and scenery that matched or surpassed many other places we’ve been so far.
October 21 – October 23, 2014
Miles 8709 – 9266
On our way to Sedona we spent one uneventful night outside of Phoenix. Just before getting to Sedona we entered the Coconino National Forest and saw red rocks looming in the distance. Our first stop of the day was at the Red Rocks Visitor Center. We pulled over to take some photographs of the view, but went inside to look for a map. Inside a very friendly ranger asked if it was our first time to Sedona and gave us a long list of hikes and sites to check out.
Our destination for the afternoon had been to hike to Cathedral Rock. The Cathedral Rock trail is only 0.7 miles from the parking lot (1.4 miles round trip), however at the visitor’s center we were told better views and a more interesting hike starts at the Baldwin Trail. We drove to the Baldwin Trailhead and began our hike. Not very far down the trail we had a great view of the cathedral rocks. A bit further down the trail we passed a creek which traveled with the trail for a while. The first half of the walk was shadier than I had expected any hikes in Arizona to be. After 0.5 miles our trail met up with the Templeton Trail for 1.0 miles and finally the last 0.4 mile was along the Red Rocks Trail. One of the reasons we wanted to hike to Cathedral Rocks was because we had heard there is rock scrambling a long the trail, which our route also allowed us to do. The rock scrambling was a lot of fun for us and the view at the top was great. We really enjoyed our hike to Cathedral Rocks and I think we are both glad we walked the longer 3.8 mile round trip trail.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross was our next destination as we worked our way to the hotel. The Chapel was crowded so we took a few pictures, checked out the gift shop, and left. Later I was surprised to find a message on my phone from a high school friend saying he thought he had just seen us at the chapel.
Sweaty, tired, and ready to relax we checked in at the hotel. While checking in the front desk attendant talked up the restaurant on the property, Elote Cafe, telling us it was the number two Mexican restaurant in America. Elote Cafe doesn’t take reservations and the line forms almost an hour before they open, so we put our name on their list and then went to our hotel room to clean up. Just less than an hour later we walked in and were seated almost instantly at the bar. We started our meal with specialty drinks and an appetizer of elote. My margarita de flors, made with hibiscus and lavender bitters was good but Jon’s margarita made with Del Maguery Mezcal Vida which creates strong smokey flavor was like nothing we’d had before. The elote, corn with spicy mayo (but not on the cob), was really good and Jon even mentioned he’d like the recipe. For our main meals we had carne asada and lamb adobe. Both meats were very tender and flavorful and we loved our meals. We also had a nice conversation with the couple seated next to us.
Wednesday morning we dressed for hiking, ate breakfast at the hotel, and hit the trails. Our first hike of the day was to Devil’s Bridge. A mile before the trailhead the road became a rocky, dirt road warning that only 4×4 vehicles should continue. After a short discussion if we should test our SUV on the road we decided not to. We parked and walked the one mile instead. (Tip: From the paved parking you can walk along the Chuckwagon trail, but its shorter to walk along the road). From the Devil’s Bridge trailhead there is another 0.8 mile trail with rocky steps up to the top of the bridge. We had fun taking pictures but got waylaid a few minutes when other people kept asking us to take photos of them. After we were done posing on the bridge we walked down a second path which takes you below the bridge.
To give ourselves a small break we made our next stop a viewpoint without any hiking. The visitor’s center had told us that Sedona airport overlook, which is located on top of a mesa, is the place to go for views, so we did.
Our hiking continued at Soldier’s Pass. Soldier’s Pass was a trail also recommended to us as the ranger’s favorite hike in Sedona. At 0.3 miles we reached Devil’s Kitchen, a large sink hole. We had been told that the trail continues on to the Seven Sacred Pools… but there were a lot of converging trails and we weren’t sure which one to take. For some reason we felt the pools should be towards the east so we hiked along the Jordan Trail, the Ant Hill Trail, and the Adobe Jack trail, all of which seemed to be more geared toward mountain bikers. When we got back to the sink hole we also wandered down the soldier’s pass trail a bit further. Tired, low on water, and with the sun now high in the sky we turned back. (For future reference the correct way to see the seven sacred pools is to follow the Soldier’s Pass trail further than we did).
The last stop of our day was to Snoopy Rock. Once again we followed the visitor’s center’s advice and went down Schnebly Hill Road for our photo opt. In addition to Snoopy, a rock that looks like Lucy is nearby.
Back at the hotel we cleaned up and took a quick dip in the pool. For dinner we wanted something light, so we went to the Wildflower Bread Company. The Wildflower Bread Company was basically a Panera clone. However, we really like Panera and so we really liked our meal (we both had salads) at Wildflower. After dinner we went to the Sedona Beer and Wine Company. Sedona Beer and Wine was recommended to us by some diners the previous night. They had called the place a hangout for locals and said they enjoyed talking with the new owner. They also told us that there would be live Jazz music, so we decided to check it out. We weren’t taken by the atmosphere or service or the band starting 30 minutes late, however the wine I had was really good and the couple who recommended the Sedona Beer and Wine Company were there too.
Before leaving Sedona, we decided that we should backtrack a few miles and visit Montezuma’s Castle. Montezuma’s Castle is an American Indian heritage site of a community built into a cliff side, similar to Mesa Verde National Park (which we aren’t sure if we’ll make it to). We enjoyed Montezuma’s Castle although it didn’t take very long to visit.
On our way out of Sedona we drove North through the remainder of the Coconino Forest toward the Grand Canyon. We stopped at an overlook to eat a picnic lunch of leftovers.
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