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Sedona in a day: Stunning landscape, family adventure and more


While we were planning our summer trip to California and Arizona, the consensus amongst friends and acquaintances in India was to drive from Las Vegas for a visit to the Grand Canyon. But a friend staying in the USA suggested an alternative which worked out beautifully for us. We got introduced to the red mountains and enjoyed the rugged landscape of Sedona in one day.

The red rocks of Sedona are a delight!

We took a flight to Phoenix after a weekend in San Francisco, rented a car at the Phoenix airport and then drove to Sedona to enjoy it for a day. The plan was to soak in the beauty of the red rocks that Sedona is famous for and then drive further to Grand Canyon. However, if you are considering a stopover in Las Vegas, check out this post on 5 unique activities for families.

This drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim is considered as one of the top 10 scenic drives in America.

There are many more scenic road trips in Arizona, and I am glad that we could do one in the limited time we had.

Sedona in one day

You can easily spend a few days exploring Sedona but we had just one day. The drive from Phoenix airport for most of the route was on a standard highway, with patches of enormous attention-grabbing cacti to break the monotony of the journey. But the last leg of this road trip when we got close to Sedona town was a different story altogether. The red rocks towering on both sides of the road and the sheer beauty of the landscape were delightful.

As you drive towards Sedona’s main town, the rugged beauty of the landscape captures your imagination.

We wanted a fun way to get up, close and personal with Sedona red rocks and the Pink Jeep Tours worked well for an afternoon family adventure.

If off-road adventure clubbed with some scenic spots of red mountains is what you are looking for, you should consider the Broken Arrow adventure tour offered by Pink Jeep Tours.

It was late afternoon by the time we checked in the Hyatt hotel at Pinon Pointe in Sedona. Pinon Pointe is a large marketplace with many cafes, restaurants, and shops so it was easy to grab a quick bite before the tour began.

Sedona Pink Jeep Tours

My 7-year daughter couldn’t contain her joy when she saw the Pink Jeep Wrangler that came to our hotel reception for a pick-up. A quick greeting to our guide/driver and co-passengers and we were off for the Broken Arrow Adventure we had booked with Sedona Pink Jeep Tours. 

You have to hold on tight once you veer off from the main road and the jeep starts crawling over rocky paths. At first, you may be skeptical whether the jeep could drive over the big boulders that make up most of this off-beat path. But this jeep has been designed for exactly this purpose and the driver’s skills match the vehicle abilities beautifully!

Scenic vistas wherever you look!

We took a stop shortly to stretch our legs. The panoramic vistas that opened up begged for a wide-angle lens to be captured perfectly.

Our guide spoke a bit about Sedona red mountains, where the red color comes from, history of the town including how it got its name from. 

This rugged landscape is a dream for the adventure enthusiast.

The next stop with its towering rock spires and the Coconino national forest spread across was even more stunning. The guide also pointed to a white line that cuts across the rocks. I was amazed to know that the white line in the far distance was a mountain biking trail. It seemed quite challenging to bike on that narrow a trail. And then we were off again to conquer the next boulder!

You have to experience this thrilling adventure!

There was a lot of off-road action in between the stops, which had some passengers flying off their seats, and others shrieking with joy.

Finally, we reached the aptly-named tour’s grand finale – The Road of No Return. The steep descent started from a huge boulder and it was surreal to see the driver handle the vehicle expertly over large boulders, rocks, and roots all the way down.

Definitely a fun adventure for the whole family! If you want to experience the best of Sedona red rocks or are doing just a day trip to Sedona, I would recommend taking a tour with Pink Jeep Sedona.

Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim

The next day turned out to be equally fun. The drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon was everything that our friend had promised it to be.

The views on this drive were even better.

With clear detailed instructions from the hotel concierge, we took the 89A route via the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. The red rocks give way to a thick, lush forest and you can smell the fragrance of pine and juniper trees on the way. There are watering holes to dip your toes and have a picnic. Alas, we didn’t have time for a picnic stop. 

And then, we took a winding road that climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona to the top of the Mogollon Rim. The road is fraught with a few hairpins turns that required my husband’s full attention. But I was free to take in the many scenic vistas that open up with each twist and turn. Definitely worthy of being one of the top 10 scenic drives in America.

Stay and food options in Sedona

Now that’s a beautiful parking lot of a hotel!

We stayed at an apartment at Hyatt Residence Club at Pinon Pointe. Though we didn’t use many of the amenities during our short stay, the suite comes equipped with a kitchen, washing machine and an outdoor sit-out area – perfect for couples and families. The location offers scenic views of Sedona red mountains but that’s pretty much any location in this lovely town. What is a huge benefit is the Pinon Pointe marketplace with its many eateries, cafes, grocery store, and a few boutique stores.

The gentle gurgling of the stream amidst the lush forest makes for a romantic setting.

It was a pleasant surprise for us that Sedona has many fine dining options – Cress on Oak Creek and Mariposa Grill to name the top two. We had to make a choice between the two for our only evening in Sedona and we chose Cress on Oak Creek simply because of proximity to the hotel. The setting is certainly romantic and perfect for couples, less so for families with young kids. The food is fresh and tasty but that is to be expected for the price charged. 

Our breakfast next morning at Wildflower Bread Company at Pinion Pointe was very good. The variety, taste all on point. While driving back from Grand Canyon, we made a brief stop at Chipotle in the same marketplace, good food and perhaps the best view that any Chipotle restaurant could have in the USA.

I would surely remember to carry my wide-angle and fish-eye lens to capture the beauty that is Sedona.

If I had to do this trip all over again, what I would do differently is stay for 2 nights in Sedona instead of the one night that we could fit in our Arizona itinerary. There are enough activities to do for 2 days in Sedona – hike, bike and see the red sandstone mountains that are visible from every spot in this small town. Even the 1.5 day we spent in this beautiful area was an unexpected bonus in our 2-weeks USA West Coast Itinerary.

You should budget for even more time if you want a spend a day or two exploring the Oak Creek Canyon nearby – go to Slide Rock, a popular water recreation spot in the summer or follow the many trails in this densely forested Canyon. Sedona offers many stunning moderate to difficult hikes, both on mountain bikes and on foot.

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Have you been to Sedona? What did you enjoy the most in this beautiful town? Share in the comments below.

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