Sedona, Arizona, with its amazing Red Rock formations and mysterious vortexes, is a draw year-round. But in summer, you’ll see Arizona visitors flock to Sedona for another reason. While it's more than 100 degrees (maybe even 115 degrees) in Phoenix, a Sedona summer getaway offers temps at least ten degrees cooler.
It was on one of these hot summer days that I gleefully packed my car, including Cinnamon the Coonhound, for a two-night Sedona summer getaway in the land of the Red Rocks.
Getting to Sedona
The 2.5-hour drive to Sedona, north on I-17 offers a peek at the varied landscapes of this desert state. You’ll first see stands of massive Saguaros on hillsides and eventually arrive at a flat plateau with high desert plants. Then you’ll descend into the Verde Valley to enjoy the cottonwoods and lush greenery fed by the Verde River.
Continue along and you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Red Rocks of the Colorado Plateau. These Sedona Red Rock formations date back several million years, formed by the gradual lifting of the Colorado Plateau that also formed the Grand Canyon.
You’ll be exiting I-17 to enjoy the scenic drive into Oak Creek Canyon on SR-179. There are several stops along the way where you can marvel at the rock formations and beautiful high desert terrain.
Amara Resort and Spa for a Sedona Summer Getaway
My destination was the Amara Resort and Spa, situated along Oak Creek right in Uptown Sedona. I drove down the steep winding street to the quiet resort below the hustle and bustle of visitors in Uptown checking out the shops, stopping for lunch, and signing up for Pink Jeep Tours.
The staff greeted me and offered to unload my car and park it in the valet parking lot above. It's quite a distance from your room to your car, so take everything you need out of your vehicle. The staff can wheel it to your room.
Amara Resort Offers Pet-Friendly Accommodations
By the 4 p.m. check-in time, it was getting quite toasty in Sedona so the cool room was welcoming. A pet-friendly resort, Amara also greeted Cinnamon with a hotel dog bed, dog dishes, and pick up bags. But she was excited about going out to explore.
Our first-floor patio room opened right on to a shady grassy area that she loved and she enjoyed walking past the busy pool to check out the steps down to Oak Creek.
I sat for a moment, in one of the bright yellow Adirondak chairs to admire the view of imposing Snoopy Rock (they name the formations in Sedona) and picked up a frosty Margarita to take back to my shady patio. This is exactly why Sedona is such a popular summer getaway!
Experiencing the Sedona Scenery at Amara
Mornings were cool at this creek-side resort which afforded plenty of time for great dog walks. Cinnamon is an early riser so we also went walking through the adjoining property, L’Auberge de Sedona, and enjoyed the gardens and sculptures.
A huge surprise was the young javelina (wild pig) we encountered down by the creek. That was topped only by the surprise on our last morning when we came upon a fluffy-tailed skunk that took one look at Cinnamon and ran into the forest, thank goodness.
At Amara, you can keep busy with spa treatments, hang out at the pool, or walk up the steep access road to join the throngs in Uptown. Or, you can just relax in one of those Adirondack chairs and watch the changing light on Snoopy Rock. It’s hard not to relax there, day or evening.
Salt Rock Southwest Kitchen
One of the high points of my visit was the cuisine, service, and view at the Salt Rock Southwest Kitchen. The first evening, I was happy to stay and rest up at the resort once I saw their patio dining area with that great Red Rock view. I was seated next to a water feature and was happy to see that the whole patio was shaded by 5 p.m. It was refreshing… something I certainly couldn’t do in the Phoenix area.
Day 1 Dining: Time to Relax
The wait staff was attentive and I slowed the process by having trouble selecting a Margarita from the four craft Margaritas listed on the menu. They all looked so interesting! Would it be the West Fork Margarita, the Sun Devil Margarita, or Kokopelli? Nope, I opted for the El Classic Margarita.
I wanted a light meal so selected the Chicken Tinga Tacos (after all, it was Taco Tuesday). I wasn’t prepared for how delicious and fresh they were… soft white corn tortillas, light cotija cheese, spicy pulled chicken, lima crema, and pico de gallo. Excellent!
After Cinnamon’s evening walk, where she met several other happy dogs, I climbed into my king-sized bed and drifted off to sleep.
Day 2 Dining: Best Salmon Meal Ever
The second night, it was a bit hotter out when my early dinner time rolled around, but I noticed a soft breeze on the patio. I asked to be seated out there. Wayne, my excellent server, happily served me outside. We were both happy to see that it cooled down quickly and I savored a glass of Arizona red blend wine.
Wayne was helpful in explaining the wines and how the salmon would be prepared… a real pro. I was determined to sample the best that Salt Rock Kitchen could offer so I selected an unusual (to me) pan-seared salmon dish… served with compressed grilled pineapple, fennel slaw, Fresno chiles, pineapple vinaigrette, and lime orzo pasta. Different, right? But what I discovered was the best salmon dish I had experienced.
The salmon was perfectly cooked… crusty on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. The orzo was amazing and the pops of flavor throughout the dish including little pieces of curled pancetta, fresh cilantro, and petitely diced chiles kept my palate dancing. I savored the dish down to the last bit of orzo.
Sedona Summer Activities
My Sedona summer getaway was only two days—and the resort was so inviting that I was reluctant to leave—but I wanted to re-visit some favorite Sedona places during my stay. And, since it was cooler in the mornings, I planned a creek-side hike for my first morning.
Crescent Moon Ranch Day Use Area
It’s a quick drive from Amara via 89A, past the turnoff to the airport to Upper Red Rock Loop Road. You then follow the signs to Red Rock Crossing and Crescent Moon Ranch Day Use Area.
It’s a place I have visited often, sometimes to photograph beautiful Cathedral Rock, and sometimes just to wade in the creek. I arrived when they opened at 8 a.m. After paying the $11 day-use fee, I parked in one of the first parking lots (very few cars were there at that hour) and took the pathway past a giant tree to the creek.
I found what they call Red Rock Crossing. The water runs pretty deep here, so I admired the view as I sat on the shady rock. I dipped my toes in the cool water and enjoyed the blue skies.
Refreshed, I moved my car to a parking lot farther down and followed a sandy creek-side trail into the shady woods, stopping to enjoy watching kids, and even a dog, taking advantage of the swimming holes. Dogs are allowed at the park on a leash.
Keen makes some great sandals wading that are also tough enough for hiking. You can shop for them here.
After enjoying clambering over the water-worn red rocks and photographing the rock cairns at Buddha Beach, I walked back to the car.
It was getting warm and I was happy to drive back to my air-conditioned room for a quick nap. Since I had my day pass, I knew I could return to the park to photograph Cathedral Rock in low light in the late afternoon if I wanted to.
Tlaquepaque Shopping Village
Another Sedona favorite of mine is the quaint walled Tlaquepaque, made to look like a little Mexican village and full of tempting shops.
Beautifully decorated with plants and bubbling fountains, Tlaquepaque is a draw for visitors who want to stroll the shady courtyards, have ice cream, or enjoy a sandwich and brew at Oak Creek Brewing Company. It makes for great photography too! Dogs on leash are welcome and also are happy to have a shady place to walk.
I stopped in the glass shop and marveled at the art glass creations from all over the United States. There were new-age offerings at a couple of shops and a whole Center for the New Age across the street where you can get a reading, buy crystals, and sign up for a vortex tour. (I'll be writing more soon about Sedona's reputation as a new-age center and about the vortex sites.)
Also, across the bridge, you’ll find authentic Native American jewelry, pottery, and Navajo weavings at Garland’s. These places have been there for years.
Scenic Schnebly Hill Drive
After passing Tlaquepaque Shopping Village, cross the bridge and turn left up Schnebly Hill Road. You'll have some marvelous views as the road winds and climbs the short distance to the Huckaby Trail parking area.
If it's a hot afternoon, you can stop for a while and photograph the rock formations. On summer mornings, consider a scenic hike down the trail. Be sure and purchase a Red Rock Pass. You need it if you are going to park for more than a few moments at this trailhead and others throughout the Coconino National Forest.
Schnebly Hill is a destination for those who want to follow the road farther, where it becomes a rocky dirt road, and get some amazing photos. Many of the jeep tour companies offer the area on their itineraries.
If you are in a regular vehicle, stop at the end of the paved road. You won't be able to drive on the rocky, rutted road that actually leads to Flagstaff.
When You Plan a Sedona Summer Getaway
Sedona, with its milder temperatures and tree-shaded creek, makes for an ideal summer getaway. Find a resort such as Amara Resort and Spa where you can relax in a pool with a cocktail in hand or sign up for a signature spa treatment and you’ll have the makings for a wonderful Sedona summer getaway or vacation.
Add in a culinary find like the Salt Rock Southwest Kitchen and you may not want to leave. For more information on Sedona, see our Sedona articles by Wander writers. We also have recommendations for other spots you can see during your visit to Arizona.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of the review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.