Family Vacations to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

Sedona's Red Rock Splendor, Arizona
Sedona's Red Rock Splendor (Corel)

Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon Highlights

  • Take a scenic drive to see Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and other legendary formations.
  • Go on a jeep tour through the backcountry.
  • Splash in the stream at Slide Rock State Park.
  • Hike and meditate in Boynton Canyon.
  • Count how many colorful javelinas painted by local artists that you can spot on Sedona's streets.

Sedona, 120 miles north of Phoenix and 30 miles south of Flagstaff, as well as adjacent Oak Creek Canyon, embodies the type of landscapes we've come to expect of the West. Simply looking out the car window is a treat in this "red rock country" of pastel-painted bluffs, buttes, and boldly shaped geological formations. Driving into Sedona on Hwy 179, you'll see Bell Rock first and then come upon one of the area's most photographed natural marvels, Cathedral Rock, noted for its tall bluffs and spires flanked by stalwart masses of rock. Also look out for Snoopy Rock, a series of pinnacles and humps that, with imagination, somewhat resembles Charles Schulz's beloved beagle. New Agers are drawn to the region's "power spots," or vortices where the electrical and magnetic fields emit a special energy often described by devotees as peaceful and calming. The area is also a site sacred to Native Americans, one where you can still see ancient Indian rock dwellings.

Sedona, quite apart from being a spiritual mecca, is a place to enjoy the outdoors. Jeep tours into the backcountry take you through gulches and ravines for great views of nearby canyons, while others go to a 700-year-old Sinaguan cliff dwelling at Tuzigoot National Monument, west of Sedona. At this ancient, sheltered Native American pueblo, you can imagine the women weaving, the men lugging stones, and the children playing. Be sure to just stop and listen: the silence is magical, complimented only by the sound of the breeze dancing through openings in the rock face, or what Native Americans call the "footsteps of the wind."

Slide Rock State Park is named for its series of eroded, smooth rocks that form a natural slide in a cooling stream. Bring an inner tube and join the locals as they float along the creek. Red Rock State Park offers some easy hikes and is a birder's paradise, offering glimpses of 160 species of winged wonders, including bald eagles and black hawks, along five miles of interconnected loop trails. The Eagle's Nest Loop promises the biggest elevation gain at 300 feet, while the Javelina Trail winds through piñon and juniper woodlands.

Many come to hike and meditate in Boynton Canyon, at Boynton Pass Road, known for its beauty as much as its source of primal energy. Legend has it that this is also the site of Kachina Woman, revered by Native Americans as the Mother of the Earth. The West Fork of Oak Creek is popular among hikers, including a loop to the Oak Creek Canyon rim and sweeping views of the fiery-red landscape.

The town itself has a vibrant arts scene, plus some good food pickings. Look out for the city-wide public art project "Javelinas on Parade." Painted by local artists, the colorful fiberglass javelinas will line the streets of Sedona until they are auctioned off in October 2007 to support local nonprofits.

Tip: The Sedona SuperPass offers discounts on jeep tours, outdoor recreation, dining, and shopping.

Recommended Side Trips: Flagstaff, Grand Canyon National Park, Phoenix's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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