Photo: Chris Tollette

THE THOUGHTS OF DESOLATE, boring, uninhabitable, and without water often come to mind when thinking about living in an actual desert. I had the same perspective until I discovered the town of Sedona, a hidden gem in the Southwest of the United States. This is a playground for any outdoor enthusiast and spiritual seeker searching for enlightenment. Here are 11 temptations that might have you packing your bags and heading out to the State of Arizona.

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1. Bear Mountain

 Bear Mountain trailSedona, United StatesIf you like challenging hikes that last 3 to 4 hours, the rewarding views at the top of Bear Mountain in Sedona are for you! Make sure you tackle this trail early or bring a headlamp if magic hour is your obsession. #hiking #bearmountain #trails #christollettephotography #sedona #travelarizona #travelphotography #adventure


One of the more strenuous hikes in Sedona, Arizona has views at the top of the summit worth every step of sweat and tears. Head down Dry Creek Road from 89A and follow your map to the parking lot. You will need a Red Rock Pass for this excursion. The 5-mile round trip hike begins across the road from where you parked and will elevate to about 2000 feet. Bring plenty of water, food, and protection from the sun, for this trail, will take about 3 to 4 hours to complete roundtrip. If you plan on tackling this mountain in the late afternoon, a headlamp will be necessary!

2. El Portal

 El Portal Sedona HotelSedona, United StatesThis is one of my favorite Dog friendly, Luxury Inns in Sedona that I been coming back to for years. Each suite is individually different and some rooms even have their own private yard for your dog. #elportal #sedona #travelarizona #christollettephotography #dogfriendly #luxurytravel #luxuryinn #boutiquehotels


El Portal, a terrific dog-friendly hotel with individualized suites for you and your best friend. The Hacienda Boutique Hotel is located in Sedona’s art district. You can find juniper firewood burning in the fire pit nightly and a variety daily tours offered by the hotel staff to the Grand Canyon and Sedona’s local attractions. Walking distance from El Portal are several great restaurants and the world famous Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.

3. Wildflowers of Oak Creek Vista

 Oak Creek VistaFlagstaff, United StatesThe land surrounding Oak Creek Vista is a plethora of wild flowers that can be seen in spring and summertime.


Spring and summer bring to Arizona an opportunity to photograph landscapes filled with wildflowers, especially between Flagstaff and Sedona along SR 89A at the Oak Creek Vista.

4. Honanki Heritage Site

 Honanki Heritage SiteSedona, United StatesThe Honanki Heritage Site is an ancient rock site and clif dwelling that belonged to the Sinagua and Ancestors of the Hopi Nation. #hiking #HonankiHeritageSite #sedona #travelarizona #indianruins #Hopi #Sinagua #christollettephotography #travelphotography #desert #dwellings


The Honanki Heritage Site is an ancient rock art site and cliff dwelling that belonged to the Sinagua and Ancestors of the Hopi Nation. This historic ruin is located 17 miles Northwest of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. From Sedona take SR 89A and turn right onto Forest Road 525 for about 10 miles till you reach the site

5. Sedona Weather


You can experience a blizzard just 30 minutes up highway 89A towards Flagstaff with its own unique climate system and also drive back down into town with another climate system of sunshine and dry desert landscape, all in the same day. I had this lucky occurrence happen to me during spring break a few years ago.

6. Red Rock Crossing Park

 Cathedral RockSedona, United StatesCathedral Rock is my favorite rock formation to photograph in Sedona. There are numerous places to get this view. Try the Red Rock Crossing Park or Red Rock Loop Rd at magic hour! #sedona #cathedralrock #travelphotography #travelstoke #travelarizona #christollettephotography #sunsets #magichour #hiking


Red Rock Crossing Park is located along Oak Creek with photogenic views of Cathedral Rock. The park is open from sunrise to sunset with plenty of opportunities for swimming and hiking. If you are looking for less crowded swimming holes in Sedona, this is your spot! There is a parking fee per vehicle and dogs are allowed on a leash. This area is probably the most photographed location in Sedona, so take full advantage of magic hour and have your camera ready!

7. Red Rock Crossing Trail

 Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon Day Use SiteSedona, United StatesRed Rock Crossing Park is located along Oak Creek with some of the best views of Cathedral Rock! If it’s your first time in Sedona, put this spot on your priority list!


The 1.1-mile trail inside Red Rock Crossing State Park attracts a variety of people including painters, artist, meditators, and even full moon dancers. The meditation art of stacking rocks has become quite popular to this particular trail and almost impossible to miss.

8. The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park

 Amitabha Stupa and Peace ParkSedona, United StatesOne of my favorite places to meditate in Sedona and clear my energy. The park is located off Pueblo Rd next to Thunder Mountain. Walking around a Stupa clockwise while praying or chanting a mantra is how most utilize this beautiful park. Enjoy and be mindful to those around you! #hiking #amitabhastupaandpeacepark #travelarizona #sedona #travelphotography #christollettephotography #buddhism #parks #secretspots #sacredsite


The Amitabha Stupa is located in West Sedona and can be reached from Highways 89A. Turn north onto Andante Road and head a mile toward Thunder Mountain. Take the last left on Andante road onto Pueblo Road and the parking will be on your right. People from all over the world come here to pray and can be found walking clockwise around the Stupa chanting a mantra or deep in prayer. Daily offerings are given in the morning at the front of the altar with seven bowls filled with water, representing the seven states of Vajradhara (enlightenment).

9. Harding Spring

 Harding Springs TrailSedona, United StatesOn the way to Sedona from Flagstaff traveling 89A is Harding Springs. Water connoisseurs know that this spring has some of the best tasting water in the Southwest. Utilize www.findaspring.com for springs in your local area. #hiking #hardingspring #springwater #travelphotography #travelarizona #christollettephotography #findaspring #waterislife #sedona #drinkfromaglass


Locals from Sedona, including tourists on the side of Highway 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona gather water at this tapped-off spring. This is some of the freshest water I have found so far in the Western United States, besides Mount Shasta, CA. There are several campsites around Harding Spring, so feel free to take advantage of this area. Remember to check the water yourself, or ask the town if they have tested the water for safe use. When in doubt, always filter!

10. Broken Arrow Trail

 Broken Arrow TrailSedona, United StatesThe northern views of this 1.4 mile trail are amazing during stormy weather. You can find the trailhead off Morgan Rd. from 179S in Sedona. #BrokenArrowTrail #sedona #tavelarizona #travelphotography #christollettephotography #hiking #storm #epicweather #southwest #desertscape


From Sedona, head down 179S for 1.4 miles and take a left onto Morgan Rd. Drive another half a mile and cross onto the dirt road, pass the cattle guard, and carry forward another 80 yards to the front of the Broken Arrow Trailhead. The northern views of this trail during monsoon season are a haven for any timelapse photographer looking to capture the distant storms. The trail is about 2.5 hours round trip and often shared with mountain bikers and jeep tours using adjacent roads.

11. ChocolaTree Eatery

 ChocolaTree Organic EaterySedona, United StatesChocolaTree is the only Organic Vegeterian Eatery with a Nubian Pyramid with a silk attached for any wandering aerialist to play on. The food they served is based on Ayurvedic principals and the cacao is the best I’ve ever tasted! #sedona #travelphotography #travelarizona #organicfood #vegetarian-friendly #circus #ayurveda #pyramid #fine-dining #cacao #rawfood


There are plenty of boutique restaurants in Sedona, but none like ChocolaTree Eatery. The organic vegetarian restaurant has some of the best medicinal raw cacao chocolate in the world. It is probably the only restaurant ever created with a silk tissue attached to a Nubian Pyramid, perfect for fellow aerialists like myself! You can enjoy both raw and cooked food and even choose meals according to your Ayurveda body type.

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