If you’ve never been to Sedona, Arizona before, then get ready for an adventure of the senses! Filled with mysticism, Sedona attracts the curious at heart to voyage to its majestic red rock buttes and thick pine tree forests in search of relaxation and renewal. We spent 3 days in Sedona doing just that – reconnecting with ourselves out in nature while hiking, swimming, and adventuring between Sedona’s many magical vortexes.
Traveler beware – there is an incredible amount of things to do in Sedona that even a 3-day itinerary won’t cover. Nonetheless, spending 3 days in Sedona is a great amount of time to explore the desert town’s bustling shopping squares and art galleries while sneaking in a couple of sunrise hikes and thrilling off-road adventures!
In this post, I’m sharing all the things I wish I knew before visiting Sedona, plus what I recommend for those who are planning a 3-day trip here in the future.
Here’s the perfect 3 day Sedona, Arizona itinerary!
The Best Way to Spend 3 Days in Sedona
1. Visiting Sedona’s Energy Vortexes
If you’ve heard about the earth’s vortexes before, then you know that they are places around the world that are said to radiate cosmic energy. Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, Macchu Picchu… All of these remarkable, ancient sites have mystical energy or “forces unseen.” Well, Sedona is believed to be one of those places where you can feel this vortex energy. And while it’s said that all of Sedona is a vortex, there are certain places where you can feel the energy and vibes more strongly.
There are four Sedona vortexes to choose from to include in your 3 day Sedona itinerary. Each vortex is said to radiate its own unique energy – some masculine, some feminine, each with varying cycles and directions in which the energy flows. If you’re interested in learning more about Sedona’s vortexes, you should take a vortex tour during your time here.
Cathedral Rock – one of the most photographed vortexes in Sedona. This is the vortex we chose to do since it features panoramic valley views — a well-earned reward after a challenging, steep hike up its red rock slopes. The view here is absolutely breathtaking and worth the climb. The vortex at Cathedral Rock is identified as “magnetic” and releases feminine energy meant to calm and nurture your inward reflection or meditation. As such, its nickname is the “womb with a view.”
If you end up doing this trail on your trip to Sedona, make sure to read my hiking guide to Cathedral Rock before you go!
Airport Mesa – said to be one of the most “powerful” vortexes in Sedona. To reach it, you can either hike a short yet strenuous trail or simply marvel at it from a distance at the scenic overlook right beside Airport Rd.
Bell Rock – this bell-shaped butte can be seen from nearly anywhere in Uptown Sedona. Like the other vortexes, you need to hike a bit if you want to get right up under the red rock formations. They say Bell Rock has very strong vortex energy because it is higher up, and you’ll feel the energy more strongly the higher you climb on its slopes. In my opinion, each person’s experience varies enormously and the best you can do is listen intentively to your heart and inner intentions when seeking clarity (whether standing on a vortex or generally in life).
Boynton Canyon – it’s said that there are two vortexes at Boynton Canyon (or one depending on who you ask) – one that forks off to the right onto a side trail and the other at the end of the 3-mile Boynton Canyon Trail. In any case, this vortex is generally less visited as it requires a lengthier hike to reach.
So what does a vortex feel like, anyway?
They say people feel more grounded, connected, and rejuvenated when on/around a vortex. There have even been reports of people crying uncontrollably or having a tingly sensation in their hands or body! I didn’t experience any of these sensations, but we did feel genuinely at peace. Since Sedona attracts those in search of this healing energy, don’t be surprised to see folks meditating while at a vortex (and please respect their practice!).
2. Hiking Sedona’s Many Trails
Hiking in Sedona is a must! How else can you enjoy the yucca trees, desert cacti, box canyons, or red sandstone buttes? There are so many hikes to do in Sedona and with a 3-day itinerary, you can knock a few of those off the list.
What’s neat is that some of the coolest hikes are also some that feature the vortexes. Then there are those hikes that you just have to do if you want to really see Sedona’s wild landscape away from the crowds.
In either case, here are the best hikes to do for 3 days in Sedona:
Cathedral Rock Hike: 1.4 miles round-trip vortex hike with challenging inclines where you need to climb with your hands and knees. An amazing panoramic vista awaits at the top! Here’s my complete guide to hiking Cathedral Rock!
Devil’s Bridge Trail: 4.2 miles round-trip hike featuring the unique “bridge” that you see on Instagram. This hike starts out on a relatively flat and wide dirt road for 0.75 of a mile before getting more interesting. If you have a 4×4 you can drive this section and make the trip a little faster.
Seven Sacred Pools / Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole: an easy 0.9-mile out-and-back trail that features the seven pools and a unique collapsed sinkhole. This trail is what you’ll take to continue onto the Soldier Pass Trail.
Soldier Pass Trail: 4.5 miles out-and-back or loop trail (5.2 miles when combined with Brins Mesa) that gives way to the magnificent red and green landscapes of Sedona. We did this hike in search of the cool “cave” but literally, no one on the trail could find it. It’s extremely hard to find on your own which is why you should go prepared with specific online directions. We ended up hiking into the Red Rock Secret Wilderness where the Solider Trail and Brins Mesa Trail meet. We descended to the right via Brins Mesa which made a full loop around the canyon and hiked the Jordan Trail to get back to the Soldier Pass parking lot.
Brins Mesa Trail: 3 miles out-and-back trail that starts from the Jordan Trail parking lot. On this hike, you’ll climb up the right side of the red rock buttes instead of the left like on the Soldier Pass Trail. You can hike in and hike out, or swing left to descend via Soldier Pass and pass by the Seven Sacred Pools. If you do the Solider Pass/Brins Mesa Trail loop instead of out-and-back, note that you won’t return at the same parking lot. It’s a 15-minute drive to reach the other lot if you have a second car.
Boynton Canyon Trail: 6 miles round-trip hike featuring the Boynton Canyon vortex. Nearby the Fay Canyon Trailhead.
Fay Canyon: 2.5 miles round-trip hike featuring a box canyon and red rock ravine. Known as one of the best shorter hikes to do in Sedona.
Airport Mesa Trail: 3.2 miles loop hike that features the Airport Mesa vortex with panoramic views on Sedona/Oak Canyon and Munds Mountain Wilderness.
3. Shopping in Uptown Sedona
Sedona is semi-spread out, but the bulk of your window shopping can be done in the curated part of Sedona called Uptown. Here you can leisurely stroll the shops and bustling street-front restaurants with Southwestern themes. Don’t miss out on the hand-carved candle shop, getting a palm or aura reading, and going in to taste the unique honey flavors at Savannah Bee Company.
Another amazing place to shop in Sedona is the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. This outdoor market was actually inspired by real-life Tlaquepaque municipality on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico. The Tlaquepaque Village in Sedona has a charming inner courtyard lined with stunning art galleries and artisanal shops. Because of its endearing atmosphere, it’s often the location for destination weddings and vow renewals.
4. Taking a Thrilling Off-Road Tour
While exploring Sedona’s shopping districts can be fun, nothing beats exploring Sedona on an off-road adventure! There are many tours you can take that will connect you with Sedona’s wild side, but the most popular seems to be the Pink Jeep Tours. You will see tons of Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona. Other tours that you can do with 3 days in Sedona are hot air balloon and helicopter rides, ATV tours, kayak trips, and winery tours.
One of the things we regret not doing in Sedona is renting an off-roader or 4×4 that would be able to roll over the rocks on the hike to Devil’s Bridge. We didn’t realize the hike was so long and we didn’t want to hike during the hot afternoon. If we had known earlier, we definitely would’ve taken the opportunity to rent a jeep and combine the off-roading with the Devil’s Bridge hike.
5. Swimming at Grasshopper Point
Swimming in Sedona? Is there even water in this desert town? Ha, of course! You might be surprised when you see it, but Sedona has incredible forests just on the outskirts of town.
The Coconino National Forest stretches for miles and miles and traverses several diverse types of landscapes. So one minute you can be exploring Sedona’s fiery red rocks and then take a drive upstream and cool off in the forest’s rivers and campgrounds.
For relief from the heat of a Sedona afternoon, hop in your car and drive a few minutes north of Uptown toward Coconino National Forest. Very soon after, on your right, will be a sign for Grasshopper Point. Pay the $9/vehicle fee to access this unique watering hole and river which offers a chilly respite from the desert sun. There’s a sweet ledge everyone climbs up to jump off, too. It’s family-friendly and attracts quite a crowd. Luckily, there’s ample space to find your own shady spot under a tree and enjoy the day by the water.
6. Dining on Southwest / Mexican Fusion
Being smack-dab in the American Southwest, you can expect Sedona to offer some amazing dining experiences. After spending each day hiking and exploring the outdoors, you will work up quite the appetite! We ate so much during our 3 days in Sedona and luckily lived to tell the tale!
Like I said earlier, Sedona is quite the curated destination, so there are fairly expensive places to eat here. But there are some hidden gems that won’t break the bank either. Here’s a complete list of dining options stretching from West Sedona to Uptown to Village of Oak Creek.
One of the places you must eat at if you love breakfast food is the famous Coffee Pot Restaurant where they serve 101 omelets! Of course, they also whip up classic Southwestern and Mexican-style breakfast like huevos rancheros and chilaquiles.
The restaurant has been family-owned since the 1950s and has even welcomed several famous people through its doors. We were surprised to see so many pictures and autographs hanging up on the wall as you walk in the entrance. We learned Elvis Presley – after whom the famous omelet with peanut butter and jelly and banana was created – used to dine here. And we fangirled when we saw that Robert Downey Jr. came here too!
So now we’ve went over the things to do in Sedona for a 3-day itinerary, let’s piece it together!
Sedona 3 Day Itinerary
Getting to Sedona
Getting to Sedona is fairly easy. From Flagstaff, AZ it only takes around 50 minutes driving on Hwy 89A. We came to Sedona after touring the Grand Canyon South Rim which took us around 1 hour 15 minutes from the historic town of Williams. Although it’s a bit of a stretch you could also make it to Sedona in one day driving after visiting Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ (~2 hours, 158 miles).
Where to Stay
There are tons of beautiful places to stay in Sedona that will make your trip magical. However, staying in Sedona definitely comes at a cost (there weren’t many budget options that we could find). Even a regular hotel comes in at around $75/night, so we opted to stay outside of Sedona in the neighboring wine country in the Verde Valley. So instead of snoozing it at a Holiday Inn in town, we decided to splurge and celebrate my birthday by staying in a sweet Southwestern home on Airbnb Plus.
If you want to stay close to Uptown Sedona, and if your budget allows, the Sky Ranch Lodge and the popular Enchantment Resort both offer incredible views of the majestic red rock buttes surrounding Sedona.
Day 1 in Sedona
Morning: Explore & Shop Around Sedona
Depending on when you arrive in Sedona, you might or might not have time for any type of tour, hike, or outdoor activity.
Instead, you might want to take time to settle in and go explore Sedona by car. The drive from Village of Oak Creek to Uptown to West Sedona will already give you amazing views of the red rocks from your window. Getting a good “feel” of the lace will help you navigate during your 3 days here. It’s also the best way to scout out any tempting restaurants and stores you want to save for later.
If you have time for it, spend the afternoon out of the heat and plan for a small sunset hike or viewpoint.
Late Afternoon/Evening: Sunset Hike/Viewpoint
Airport Mesa has a scenic overlook that’s perfect at sunset, but if you want a challenge, hike up to Cathedral Rock at least 30 minutes before the sunset. Not only will this be an awesome introduction to Sedona, but you will also already have checked off one of the vortexes from your bucket list.
Nearby Cathedral Rock is the Chapel of the Holy Cross – a Roman Catholic chapel built in the sandstone of the red rock buttes. From here, marvel at the expansive panoramic valley views before taking a quick peep inside to see the small yet endearing interior. It’s only open from 9-5 PM so I’d recommend stopping here in the late afternoon before carrying on toward Cathedral Rock or Airport Mesa.
Of course, if you have time to do activities in the morning, flip this itinerary around and start out with a sunrise hike to Cathedral Rock!
Day 2 in Sedona
Morning: Longer Sunrise Hike
I always like to keep my “grueling” hiking day for the middle of any trip itinerary so I’m not exhausted on the first or last day. For day 2 of your 3 days in Sedona, opt for either the Devil’s Bridge Hike or the scenic Soldier Pass/Brins Mesa Trail. If you want to see more vortexes, instead of these hikes, do the Boynton Canyon Trail since that one is a litter longer. Always plan to hike during the early hours of the morning. By 9 AM, it can already be quite hot in Sedona and heat exhaustion is a real possibility on these long wilderness hikes. Bring at least 1 gallon of water per person!
Afternoon: Water Activity
After a morning full of hiking, go on a refreshing swim at Grasshopper Point or take a kayaking tour on the Verde River.
If you want to skip out on the water activity, consider doing an afternoon off-road jeep tour. It will still be hot, but at least you won’t need to be hiking in it! There are several jeep tours that take you along canyon rims and rocky roads for a thrilling adventure.
Sedona is one of those amazing places where you can witness a Dark Sky. If you live in the city, take advantage of this opportunity to relish a night under a full blanket of shining stars. While you can stargaze on your own, I recommend doing an official stargazing tour so you can make the most of the experience with experts who can share their knowledge and stargazing tools with you. There’s even have a fun Stargazing and UFO tour you can do!
Day 3 in Sedona
For your last day in Sedona, you can either go hard or take it easy. The Fay Canyon Trail is an easier hike if you want to squeeze one last hike in during your trip. Bell Rock is another option for a short hike (0.75 mi up and back out) that doubles as a known vortex. You can also opt to do a hot air balloon or helicopter ride, revisit Uptown, or book an appointment to get a mystical tea reading or palm reading!
If you have extra time, I recommend taking a drive down to the Verde Valley and exploring the smaller towns of Cottonwood, Camp Verde, and Cornville. There are over a dozen or more wineries around here and you can visit a couple of them on a fun Verde Valley Wine Trail.
Last Travel Tips for 3 Days in Sedona
Park Pass: If you park at Cathedral Rock or anywhere inside the Red Rock State Park, you can use your America The Beautiful National Park pass instead of the Red Rock Pass since it is an approved interagency pass. America The Beautiful card also gets you free entry into all US National Parks so it would come in handy for an American Southwest road trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park!
Climate: Sedona’s weather in the summer is extremely hot. In spring or fall, the temperatures are dry and warm and cool in the winter.
What to pack: Make sure to pack plenty of breathable hiking clothing including moisture-wicking shirts and shorts/pants. Proper hiking boots or sneakers is also wise for the hikes. A bandana or sun hat and sunscreen are a must since there’s little shade on many of the trails.
If you plan on hiking a lot in Sedona during your trip here, make sure to take advantage of the fresh morning hours. This way, you’ll be ahead of the crowds. Plus, it’s the best way to get some epic photo opportunities with the golden light! I hope this 3-day itinerary and guide to Sedona helps plan your stay! If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly fall in love with this majestic and adventurous destination.
Lastly, if you have any questions about Sedona in preparation for your trip, feel free to drop them below in the comments!