Best things to do in Sedona, Arizona on a first-time visit + travel tips

Sedona, Arizona is an exceptional travel destination, attracting visitors with its radiant red rocks, outstanding hiking trails, and reputation as a spiritual Mecca.

My husband and I recently drove from Houston and spent three whole days there.

We brought our two small dogs and found that many restaurants are pet friendly, with some even offering dog menus. Still, we left the little ones in our cabin during strenuous hikes.

Here are four things you shouldn’t miss in Sedona.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is built into the rock formations

A tall church with windows built into the side of a red rock formation in Arizona

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is right in the red rocks.

Courtney Rudzinski

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is wedged directly into the dramatic red cliffs.

You can reach the small chapel by taking the incline up, or by paying one of the golf cart drivers at the bottom to take you to the top.

I chose to ride as we had our dogs with us.

Author Courtney Rudzinski with one of her dogs on the back of a golf cart in Arizona

We took a golf cart to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Courtney Rudzinski

Visitors can go inside and sit, say a prayer or light a candle. The chapel is free to visit.

My husband and I enjoyed sitting outside on the wraparound stone benches and enjoying the amazing panoramic view.

The Devil’s Bridge is a popular place to take impressive photos

Author Courtney Rudzinski with her hands up on a red rock ledge in Arizona

Devil’s Bridge is one of the best places in Sedona to take photos.

Courtney Rudzinski

Hikers could spend weeks in Sedona and not hit a fraction of the hiking trails, but nothing compares to Devil’s Bridge.

This large sandstone arch, which looks like a rock bridge, is accessed by trails in the Coconino National Forest.

After our 2-mile trek there, I took one look at the landmark’s steep rise and stopped. Not for the faint of heart.

We saw some intrepid hikers doing handstands or jumping into the air for photos on the ledge, while the rest of us held our breath at the sheer drop on each side.

By the time my husband got to the front of the photo line — about a 20-minute wait — I decided I’d go too.

The bridge was wider than it first appeared, but I made sure not to look down when it was my turn.

The drive to Oak Creek Canyon is one of the most beautiful in the country

A view of the trees in Oak Creek Canyon

We saw amazing scenery in Sedona.

Courtney Rudzinski

My favorite part of most trips is the scenic drive, and the drive up Oak Creek Canyon is top notch.

We drove State Route 89A from Sedona to Oak Creek Vista, a National Scenic Byway, and the winding road hugs the jagged red rocks on one side with the deep and lush canyon on the other. It’s a visual feast.

There are picnic spots, swimming holes, and a state park along the way, but staying in your car is just as enjoyable as walking.

At one point we pulled up to a scenic overlook where Native American merchants were selling jewelry and crafts and bought some to take home.

Cathedral Rock is a challenging climb, but worth it for the view

Author Courtney Rudzinski takes a selfie with red rocks and trees in Arizona

Many people claim to have a spiritual experience at Cathedral Rock. I didn’t, but I enjoyed the walk.

Courtney Rudzinski

Many consider Sedona a sacred place because of its vortexes, a place where energy is said to flow in and out of the Earth. Cathedral Rock is believed to be one of them.

I didn’t have a spiritual experience, but I enjoyed my time there.

The Cathedral Rock Trail is relatively short (about a mile) but steep and more like a vertical rock climb than hiking.

I’m in relatively good shape, and it took me two hours — arms and legs — to get to the top.

Fortunately, I had packed snacks and water in a small backpack and took frequent breaks.

A wooden sign in Arizona in front of a canyon of trees and rocks

I loved the views from the top of Cathedral Rock.

Courtney Rudzinski

The higher we climbed, the crowds thinned out, but it was heartening to see dogs and small children making their way further up the trail.

Reaching the end of the trail was a monumental achievement.

I don’t know if I felt the maelstrom, but I felt a rush of euphoria, pride and awe looking out at the red rock hills of Sedona.

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