Among all of the unique pleasures of Sedona, two of the simplest and most gratifying are its stunning sunsets and inspiring sunrises. It is nature at its best, and Sedona is one place where connecting with nature seems to go with the territory.
Between the elements of cloud formations, which include everything imaginable in the “you have to see it to believe it” category, and the quality of light that filters through the sky and clouds to create a living, breathing impressionist painting, or maybe one of exquisitely intense colors that flame and flicker in the sky, your visit cannot be complete without including a sunrise or sunset watch on your itinerary.
There are so many great spots that we can not even begin to list them all here, but these will certainly get you started (although we can’t guarantee a spectacular sunset every time). Besides, part of the fun is wandering around the red rocks and finding your very own special place! TIP: take your camera.
Probably the most popular for both sunrise and sunset viewing is Airport mesa, where panoramic views of Sedona and spectacular long distance views of Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte never fail to elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” from awestruck visitors.
Sunset is generally crowded, so get there early for parking and a viewing spot. Sunrise is much quieter and easier – you will most likely be alone or among only a few people, and it’s an ideal time for meditation.
There are two specific spots, one of which is perfect for those who don’t want to hike at all. From the juncture of Highway 179 and State Route 89A uptown, go west toward West Sedona for about one mile and turn left on Airport Road. About halfway up, you will see a very small parking area on your left. If you park here, you will hike up to a small knoll or stop anywhere along the way for great views. Another option is to go straight up the road to the top (before you reach the airport), where you will see a flat area to your right (there will be people there already) and a parking area to your left. Just park and walk over!
Red Rock Crossing & Cathedral Rock
Pack supplies for the day, take Upper Red Rock Loop Road off 89A, and you’ll find fantastic vistas along the way. Continue on to Crescent Moon Ranch (follow the signs) for sunrise and meander along the creek and explore, and then stay on for sunset. It’s that beautiful of an area. You will very likely find a few photographers already setting up their equipment along the creek an hour before sunset.
Schnebly Hill Vista
This journey is easier with a four-wheel drive and/or a vehicle with higher clearance, but many have made it (very carefully) with a compact car. At the roundabout junction of Highway 179 and 89A, go toward Highway 179 to the next roundabout and take it round to the left directly to Schnebly Hill Road. At the end of the paved road, there are parking and picnic tables where you can take a gander at the views. From then on, the road is extremely bumpy, but the rewards are great as you climb up towards the vista (there is a sign), which is about five more miles. Go back, and less than a mile down, on your right, will be Merry-Go-Round rock. Get out here and perch yourself on a rock with fabulous views of Bear Wallow and the sunset.
Hike up Doe Mountain for a great sunrise or sunset opportunity. It’s just .7miles long with a 450-foot elevation and 360-degree views that include higher mountains to the north, downtown Sedona, Capitol Butte, and the Verde Valley. Great for meditation, too.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
This is a popular and famed visitor destination on the way to the Village of Oak Creek and also a great place for sunset views in the winter, since it closes at 5:00 p.m. From uptown Sedona, take 179 south toward the Village of Oak Creek, turn left on Chapel Road, and take it to the end.
Dry Creek Road
Drive several miles from uptown on Highway 89A, take a right at Dry Creek Road, and follow it for some of the most spectacular views around. It’s especially beautiful here at sunset, where you can stop along the way, either toward Enchantment Resort or Long Canyon, and enjoy the views in solitude.
From uptown, take 89A to Coffee Pot Road, turn right, then left on Sanborn, and right on Little Elf. Follow that up to the little parking lot that requires no pass. This trail is generally not crowded and delightful for sunset or sunrise. The latter is even more peaceful if you choose to meditate. Not long into the trail you will see a detour to the right and up a hill that offers views in every direction. Return to the main trail and not much farther is cliff overlook from which you can see the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole at Soldiers Pass.
- HYATT PINON POINTE: At the roundabout uptown, take the curve into this enclave of shops and restaurants. Next to Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery are two wonderful little outdoor sitting areas with some of the best views in town that include some fancifully sculpted red rocks. It’s great for sunrise and you’ll most likely be alone to enjoy a little time for quiet meditation.
- CANYON BREEZE: Have a hot toddy or a refreshing drink on this uptown restaurant’s patio for terrific sunset views.
- THE HIDEAWAY and KEN’S CREEKSIDE: About 200 yards from the uptown roundabout, both restaurants are on your left as you go south on Hwy. 179. The former is first, and just a stone’s throw down the road is the latter. Great sunsets!
- HUNDRED ROX AT AMARA RESORT: wonderful sunsets right uptown.
- SHUGRUE’S HILLSIDE: Located in Hillside Plaza on Hwy. 179; very easy to find on your left as you travel out of Sedona toward the Village of Oak Creek. Large windows provide great sunset views.
- ENCHANTMENT RESORT: Take Dry Creek Road and follow the signs to this beautiful resort for a drink or dinner and lovely sunset views. Dinner requires reservations
Hot Air Balloon & Helicopter Rides
If you want it all right away, take one of these at sunrise or sunset for unimpeded views and more than a little excitement!