Sedona, Arizona is magical any time of the year, but I think it is one of the best places on Earth in fall. This time of year is my favorite season. Heading to Sedona from my home in Phoenix is ideal for a fall weekend. It gives me a chance to pull on a jacket, sit by a fire pit and breathe in the mountain air.
Sedona is only two hours from Phoenix but it feels as if it is a world away. The small town of only about 10,000 full-time residents is surrounded by brilliant red sandstone cliffs. At an elevation of about 4,500 feet, there is a mix of desert landscapes, cottonwoods, sage, junipers, and pines. It is gorgeous in the height of the fall with all the colors. You can keep a close check on the changing leaves online to help time your visit.
Sedona is considered sacred by Native Americans, many tribes claiming the area as their original birthplace. It is an interesting blend of rugged beauty, boutique shopping, artwork, restaurants and luxury spas.
Sedona is known for its “vortexes” or invisible whirling dervishes of energy. People travel from all over the world to seek out this destination known for its healing and renewal. The locals say that once you've visited Sedona, you will definitely have a Sedona story. It's a place where unexplained things happen and where I always find some little piece of myself I never knew existed. Somehow I feel at home when I see those red rocks in the distance. Is it because of the vortexes and some magical energy? I'll let you decide for yourself.
Whether you believe in vortexes or not, Sedona offers a perfect retreat for a magical fall getaway filled with hiking, exploring the trails, off-roading, eating, shopping and relaxing. On my long weekend, I took time to simply wander and explore. Let me share some of my favorite moments with you.
Amara Resort and Spa
I enjoy the two-hour drive from Phoenix. It gives me time to slowly let go of the hustle and bustle of city life and anticipate the rest and relaxation awaiting me.
I had booked a room at the beautiful Amara Resort and Spa, A Kimpton Hotel, right in the heart of Sedona, so I start my weekend off there.
As I turn off the main road and wind slowly down the driveway to the hotel's front entrance, I feel the unmistakable pull of Sedona. The city is behind me and I've come to relax.
After checking in, I make a beeline for Amara's patio, where my mouth waters just thinking about a couple of my all-time favorite bites courtesy of Chef Massimo De Francesca at Saltrock Southwest Kitchen. I am barely seated before I order the deviled eggs. No, these aren't your Aunt Sally's deviled eggs. They have a pasilla-maple syrup drizzled over, served with a bacon-onion marmalade and grain mustard. There are three halves on the plate and I savor every little bite.
Another favorite treat at Saltrock is the grilled corn. This is a crunchy treat that pairs nicely alongside the deviled eggs. The corn is served with garlic, and aioli with just a touch of spice, lime, and cotija cheese. Salty, sweet and a touch of spice on every spoon.
The patio offers a front-row view of the beautiful red rocks. It is so quiet and peaceful I forgot I was in the middle of town. I let the fall breezes wash away every ounce of stress.
The rooms at Amara are a bit eclectic and I love it. Bright accent pillows and modern décor are fun and whimsical, but the touches of local materials add a unique connection to space outside the windows. I love that the headboards, a bit different in every room, are handcrafted from local fallen trees.
I stayed in the creekside one-bedroom suite. It is a huge room with private patios looking out on Oak Creek, meandering along just a short distance away. Sitting outside at night, I could see a million stars overhead. The pool is heated and right on the edge of the woods and Oak Creek. I spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool.
As seems to be the case when I travel, I was soon thinking about food. I opted for one of Sedona's newest restaurants, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. I grabbed the Amara shuttle, arriving just in time for happy hour and drinks on one of the most amazing patios anywhere in the world.
Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill is the newest restaurant for one of Sedona's legendary restaurateurs, Chef Lisa Dahl. Unlike her other Italian restaurants in town, Mariposa finds its inspiration from the chef's travels to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.
The setting is simply breathtaking. The restaurant's mariposa theme (butterfly in Spanish) starts when you arrive and magnificent iron butterfly orbs greet you. After dark, the fire flickers inside each one.
Once again, I discovered that food is perhaps the world's best universal language. It reveals not only the chef's soul but the soul of the place. At Mariposa, I found the food so full of love and flavor that I was certain those vortexes were adding to the experience.
My favorite dishes were the Sopa de Justino (a thick, hearty soup with roasted chicken, vegetables, orzo, avocado, and tortilla strips), the handmade empanadas served with a delicious house-made chimichurri sauce and the Boca de Muerto, or flourless chocolate torte.
Taking a Jeep Tour of the Red Rocks
The next day started bright and early with an off-road tour provided by Pink Jeep Tours. These iconic pink jeeps have been taking visitors around the red rocks since 1960. Pink Jeep picked me up at the front of the hotel right on schedule and I climbed in with a handful of other passengers to head out on the company's original Broken Arrow Tour.
The Broken Arrow trail covers about two miles in the Coconino National Forest. The two school-aged kids on the tour squealed with delight—as did the two retirees—showing it's an outing for all ages.
The sights along the trail are magnificent. Our guide pointed out many of the most famous Sedona landmarks with fun names like Submarine Rock, Chicken Point, Bell Rock, and Chapel Butte.
The ride ends with a descent down The Road of No Return. Pink Jeep Tours offers an assortment of adventures from two hours to full-day excursions. You can book one here.
Are there vortexes and magical energy in Sedona? Whether you are a believer or not, you will discover some of the most natural beauty anywhere in the world. Whether you wander along Oak Creek, nibble treats on a patio, head out for an off-road excursion or simply relax and rejuvenate, you will find yourself thinking often of Sedona and that painter's palate of red rocks and blue Arizona sky.
Be sure to check out more on Wander that you can see and do in Arizona.