How in heaven’s name have I lived here in the desert for almost twenty years and have never spent time in Sedona? (just a little over two hours away).

I always like to ask for hikes for my birthday. It seems like a good ploy to hit my family up for that kind of gift since they’re suckers for birthday ideas. This year when Dave kept asking what I wanted I told him I wanted to hike in Sedona. And he ran with that idea. The two of us went up just for overnight and packed in three incredibly gorgeous hikes up and over and through all that red rock and the “energy vortexes” Sedona claims.

Wow, that place is incredible, filled with all kinds of wonders.

Ok but back up for just a second, because we made a stop en route to the red rock.

A Quick Guide to Sedona, Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Monument

What is Montezuma Castle National Monument?

Well, it isn’t actually a castle and has nothing to do with Monetzuma). It is a dwelling from hundreds of years ago (between approximately 1100 and 1425 AD), built right into a cliff wall. It was incredible to think of the people who lived there (the Sinagua people), especially the mothers and babies and kids scaling those walls to get water and maneuver through their days.

Can you imagine being the first person to come around the corner and BAM! There’s this amazing architecture built right into the cliff??

Below on the right is the next-door-neighbors…it used to have a similar building built into that “wall,” but has eroded through the years:

Let’s get a closer look at that puppy:


I have a fascination with dying leaves. I know, weird, but don’t you think this is just so beautiful?

Even it’s shadow is beautiful. Gosh our world is so incredible.

From there we drove a little further and started having these views out our windows:


We went straight to our first hike, one we read online would be beautiful for sunset:

Cathedral Rock hike

And they were not kidding around.

Hiking Cathedral Rock at sunset

Here we are at the start, excited to get up there:

Climbing up that red sandstone I seriously couldn’t stop smiling. Was it the energy vortex that was supposed to be there or was it just being in all that beauty, hiking up to those huge pillars of majestic red rock that looked out on the valley below?

At the top:

We had a little bit of time before sunset so we hiked up a little hidden trail to find this incredible pillar:

Then hiked back down to the main panorama view.

Here we are soaking in that incredible vista:

We waited for as long as we could to watch the sunset, but it was cloudy and getting dark so we headed back down.

This was the view from the other direction:

And THERE’S the sunset from below:

The next morning we got up before sunrise to head to our next trailhead.

Devil’s Bridge

How to skip the crowds at Devil’s Bridge, Sedona

The beginning of hint of morning light hitting the tips of the red mountains in front of us stopped me in my tracks as we maneuvered our way with flashlights through the beginning of the hike.

When it got light enough we ran the path to try to make it to the top for sunrise, bounding up all these sandstone red rock boulders for stairs (well, as much as a non-runner can really run, but we sure had some adrenalin pumping!)…

…to reach this most incredible natural sandstone arch that you can walk across (scary!).

Usually there are hordes of tourists waiting for photo ops on the bridge but we had it all to ourselves for at least thirty minutes (after the first two hikers took our picture and hiked away). It was incredible to watch the sun spread out from the tips of the mountains to fill up the whole valley sparkling below.

These pictures don’t do justice to how tall that arch was…

(This one’s for my traveling girls I will have to come back with some day!)

This one shows the scale a little better:

(Yes it scared me to death to see Dave out there like that!)

We explored a little higher up:

Nothing like the sun coming up gradually creeping over all those rock crevices.

We took a little break after that, got some breakfast (Pump House Eatery…it was good!), still so wowed by the views right outside our car windows:

And then we headed to our last hike…(another 4.5 mile one, Dave is the best sport):

Soldier’s Pass

Hiking (and finding the cave) at Soldier’s Pass

We hiked past the “seven sacred pools:”

Yeah, they’re up there, see those pools up there on the bottom left? Yeah, I think they are more flowy after a good rain. Dave was a little under impressed but check out those columns in the background:

Those suckers are impressive.

We also passed by “Devil’s kitchen” which is a huge sink hole. The pictures can’t quite do it justice:

But that last one does capture my husband who never complained at all the pictures I took and listened to me gasp about the gorgeousness 739 times, and enjoyed it right along with me and even carried my camera in the harder parts.

It was the best birthday gift ever.

The greens against the red backdrop taking my breath away.

You have to look really carefully on this hike to find the cave at the end. Other hikers told us to look for the tree with “cave” carved in it to point the way so we sure examined every tree that came our way. Finally we found it (below left):

And we climbed, carefully maneuvering up to the top of the double-cave. See the double cave up there above on the right? Below you can see Dave up in that top little perch looking out on the valley:

It was a little scary to climb up there…I didn’t get a very good angle to show the sheer drop behind.

There was another cave with a double sandstone arch:

It really was so incredible.

We drove away from all that red rock, home looming again ahead of us, sore and tired but filled right up with all that beauty.

I’m already planning when we can go back.

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  1. We visited Sedona several years ago and just loved it! It was such a contrast to our home here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

  2. Happy Birthday Shawni!! I love Sedona and all the beauty there, I hope to go with three of sisters next April and hike these trails.

  3. Beautiful! We are new to hiking and I have a purely practical question: what shoes do you wear? Just regular tennis shoes or something designed specifically for hiking? We’re in the Deep South so we won’t be hiking rocky cliffs, but when I look online for hiking shoes, I’m overwhelmed! Any suggestions?

    Thanks for sharing and happy birthday!

    1. I have spent tons of my 45 years hiking. I am from the same terrain as Sedona in Southern Utah. I personally wear running shoes. I haven’t worn hiking boots in years. I prefer day hikes though. Regular “tennis shoes” are usually adequate.

    2. I agree with Jo, running shoes can work great but when I’m doing tougher hikes I always wear Solomon hiking shoes. (some examples here: It’s amazing how much different hiking became when I got them! They are more “grippy” and make me feel so much safer if I’m hiking rougher terrain

  4. There is something so magical about Sedona. I have family that live there and every time I visit I am awed at the beauty and the peacefulness I feel. It is such a calming place to me. Maybe there’s something to those vortexes!

  5. Happy Birthday! What a great present: time alone with your husband, doing what you want, and surrounded by beauty. Thanks for taking us along.

  6. Beautiful photos, Shawni! My husband and I travelled to Arizona a year and a half ago (and golly aren’t we grateful we did! Who knows will we be able to go back to the States.). We LOVE that red rock landscape. We live on the west coast of Canada in a literal rainforest. Tourists from all over the world come to stand in awe of our mountains and ocean and forests – and of course, we do too – but sometimes you just yearn to see a different type of beauty. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we reached Utah and Arizona. It was like being on the moon! I genuinely think it is good for our brains (and our souls) to see new landscapes. Anyways, this is all to say, I so enjoyed your photos that took me back to that special trip I hope to do again in the not-too-distant-future.

    1. I so agree! SO good to experience all the goodness and beauty we can get to in this incredible world of ours! I want to come your way and stand in awe of all your corner of the world has to offer!

  7. WOW WOW WOW! We sometimes think we have all we need in Utah! This is spectacular! Part of the splendor is your way of seeing and photographing it! That is fabulously spectacular!

  8. If you had to choose one hike to recommend which one would it be? Where did you stay? My husband would love to head up there for a weekend and he would be shocked if I did the planning. Thanks!

    1. Oh you should, you would both LOVE it! I think I’d recommend Cathedral Rock if I HAD to pick one, just for the sheer majesty of it but I loved the adrenaline rush of Devil’s Bridge and the cave at Soldier’s Pass. Cathedral Rock is pretty short, the others are a little longer. And there are others I’m determined to get back and check out some day!

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