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When it comes to imagining the desert, it’s likely to take the form of something out of a Western, perhaps some John Wayne classics like Angel and the Badman or The Comancheros. Maybe even films like Apache, Broken Arrow, and the original 1957 classic, 3:10 to Yuma. What all of these films have in common is Sedona, AZ, one of the early Hollywoods of the Western craze. There was no better location with easy access from Phoenix or Flagstaff and stunning vistas of red rock buttes, plateaus, and canyons paired with wide open arid scrub lands stretching across the Verde Valley. Sedona has left its film phase in the past and now plays host to tourists, New Age enthusiasts, and retirees alike - a mix that creates one of the most unique towns in the state, in the Southwest, and maybe even the country.
First and foremost in Sedona is what’s around Sedona, from anywhere in town the red rocks dominate the immediate landscape, inviting eyes to wander, feet to hike, cyclists to shred their single tracks, and climbers to summit. The New Age enthusiasts engage with the landscape in their own spiritual practices, with a focus on the “vortexes” of Sedona, places where the Earth’s energy spirals into or out of the ground, representing the feminine and masculine respectively. If you wanted to partake in such practices, a myriad of options exist from Aura photographs to psychic readings, to Reiki sessions and tarot cards. Or you can simply stop by the Amitabha Stupa or the Chapel of the Holy Cross to engage with the peacefulness of the surroundings on your own terms.
Despite the metaphysical leanings, there are still ways to speed things up here. You can heat it up on the trail by renting a Jeep or ATV, leaving you free to explore on your own terms. Although if you haven’t off-roaded before, there are also guided tours that will take you into the best parts of the backcountry, on lands with restricted access. Although if bumping along isn’t your style, helicopters depart from the Sedona airport to whisk visitors up and away for a bird's eye view of Sedona’s ancient lands. While romping through, or soaring above, the hidden canyons and valleys, you may come across some of the remnants of the region’s historical inhabitants which include members of the Hohokam, Sinagua, Yavapai, and Apache tribes. They all left their mark on the landscape, with petroglyphs and cliff dwellings tucked into various caves and overhangs.
Sedona is ultimately part magic and part reality, a claim reinforced by the belief that Sedona is a place where the barriers between different “worlds” thins--and even if you don’t leave this place believing that magic is real, we know you’ll leave believing that Sedona embodies the essence of the word and even as the years thin memories, you’ll still return here in your dreams.