A Magical Fall Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

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 Red Rocks by Susan Lanier-Graham

Sedona’s Red Rocks. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

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Sedona Red Rocks

Sedona’s red rocks. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Drive to Sedona

Along the drive to Sedona. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Patio at Amara Resort and Spa in Sedona

Patio at Amara Resort and Spa in Sedona. Photo courtesy Kimpton Hotels

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.

Deviled eggs from Saltrock

Deviled eggs from Saltrock. Photo courtesy Amara Resort and Spa

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.

Grilled corn appetizer at Saltrock

Grilled corn appetizer at Saltrock. Photo courtesy Amara Resort and Spa

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.

Amara Guestroom

Amara Guestroom. Photo courtesy Amara Resort and Spa

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.

Mariposa Restaurant

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.

Sedona from Mariposa

Looking over Sedona’s Red Rocks from the front of Mariposa. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Mariposa Exterior

Mariposa Exterior. Photo courtesy Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

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.

Entry to Mariposa

Entry to Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Mariposa Empanadas

Mariposa Empanadas. Photo courtesy Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

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.

Mariposa Chocolate Torte

Mariposa Chocolate Torte. Photo courtesy Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

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.

Broken Arrow Trail Sedona

On the Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Pink Jeep Tour Sedona

Our pink jeep for the Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Fall in Sedona

Take a Pink Jeep Tour through Sedona’s red rocks. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Red Rocks of Sedona

Red Rocks of Sedona. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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.

Sedona's Red Rocks. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Sedona’s Red Rocks. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Be sure to check out more on Wander that you can see and do in Arizona.

Sedona, Arizona is magical any time of the year, but it is one of the best places on Earth in fall. Head to Sedona in fall to breathe in the mountain air. #Sedona #adventure #travel #Arizona #PinkJeep


Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan's work still regularly appears in print and online. Susan is an award-winning travel writer, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan has worked as an ambassador for Travelocity and is currently a travel ambassador for Rocky Mountaineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders, Alamo.com, Hotels.com, Fairmont.com, So Scottsdale, Uptown, Green Living AZ, Life Refined, Modern Luxury, Marriott.com, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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