As soon as I landed at the airport and picked up my bags, met Cindy at her baggage carousal and we jumped on the terminal bus to the car rental counters to pick up a car for a few days and we headed off for an adventurous day and a half in Sedona. On the way north, it started to rain pretty hard; windshield wipers going full blast and still a little hard to see. When the rain let up a bit, we saw a sign for Montezuma Castle National Monument, we had no place to be, so why not take the exit and check it out.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle is an eight hundred year old, 20-room cliff dwelling, and is considered one of the best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America. When President Theodore Roosevelt passed the Antiquities Act in 1906 he selected Montezuma Castle as one of four sites of historic and cultural significance to be our nation’s first National Monuments. A paved path leads through a grove of sycamore trees to the ruins which are located in a beautiful setting along a creek. A larger structure called Castle A once existed next door and boasted 45-50 rooms, but it burned down in antiquity. In 1933 the Castle A ruin was excavated and a wealth of artifacts was uncovered. These have helped greatly in understanding the Sinaguan people who inhabited the area for four hundred years.
As soon as I spotted Red Rock Country, I fell in love with its’ beauty. Sedona is one of those places where you have to visit yourself to truly appreciate it. The landscape is unlike anything you have ever seen before. I am looking forward to returning with my family and exploring some more!
Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is something you have to see in person to truly understand its beauty. A beautiful church is nestled in the red rock formations. Park at the bottom and walk to the top to enjoy even more beautiful views of the red rocks. You can also drive to the top and park if you prefer not to walk but please take note that there is very limited parking.
Airport Mesa & Airport Loop Trail
In all the research that I did before this trip, it was recommended when visiting Sedona to go up to Airport Mesa and Airport Loop Trail. You don’t even have to hike to visit the Airport Mesa. You can drive your car to the top, park and enjoy the views only steps from your car. The Airport Mesa is a great way to view much of Sedona from one location. We also hiked part of the Airport Loop Trail which loops around the airport and offers stunning views from all locations.
For the spiritual (or even just the curious), a visit to one of Sedona’s famous “vortexes” is a must. Sedona went through a big New Age movement in the 1980s, and four spots became popular to visit for spiritual reasons. These “vortexes” are said to have been created by spiraling spiritual energy that can facilitate prayer, meditation, and even healing. There are tours that will take you to all 4 sites (located at Bell Rock, Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, and Boynton Canyon), or you can visit them on your own as we did. The closest Vortex to the center of Sedona is located at Airport Mesa, which is along Airport Road. Even if you have no desire to visit a vortex, driving to the lookout on Airport Road is well worth you time. From here, you can get a bird’s-eye view out over the town and the nearby red rocks as seen the photos above.
The next morning, we had scheduled a fun tour with Pink Jeep Tours and chose the Diamond Gulch and Ancient Ruin Tour. We checked in and then went next store to the Pink Java Cafe for a light breakfast of coffee and a pastry.
We wanted to enhance our Sedona experience by combining an archaeological adventure with a rugged off-road excursion.Our tour guide Renee was awesome, she is a professional tour guide who is a trained 4×4 and driving expert and also a Certified Interpretive Guide, trained to bring the landscape alive through historical facts, stories and not to mention a great sense of humor.
The Ancient Ruin & Diamondback Gulch Combo Tour offers both, plus fantastic views of the valleys and rock formations Sedona has to offer. Explore a 900-year-old Native American cliff dwelling and take an exciting 4×4 ride on the Diamondback Gluch while taking in the sights of popular red rock formations and other amazing landmarks along the way. You ride along with your professional tour guide in a custom built 6-8 passenger open-air Pink Jeep. Renee was well versed in the local wildlife, plant-life, terrain, and trivia about the area as well as being professionally trained to skillfully navigate the sometimes rough terrain of Sedona’s Southwest region. We heard numerous stories about the area, fun facts about the terrain and rock formations, and information about the wildlife and plant-life you pass by.
We started our tour down the Diamondback Gulch trail, and roll through the outback, keeping an eye out for local animals like jackrabbits, red tail hawks, and mule deer.
Chimney Rock looks a lot like three fingers pointing skyward or as our guide referred to them as the Girl Scout sign or the Mocking jay sign from the Hunger Games movies.
The Bart and Lisa Simpson rocks (as named by our guide)
Lizard Head, an extension of the larger Capitol Butte mountain. While the USGS has named it Capitol Butte, many know it as Thunder Mountain, and it served as the inspiration for Disney’s Thunder Mountain Railroad.Pretty cool, huh?
Honanki Heritage Site
The second phase of the tour takes you to the Honanki Heritage Site, where we got out of the Jeep and walked approximately 3/4 mile, marveling at the cliff dwellings that have remained preserved for hundreds of years. There were over 2,000 examples of pictographs and petroglyphs that showcase prehistoric creativity, and stone with fire marks on it, where a large fire burned down a portion of the rooms in the cliff dwellings and the stone was later reused to rebuild rooms.
Honanki was one of the largest prehistoric pueblos in the Verde Valley. The Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi, lived at Honanki from about 1100 AD to 1300 AD. The name means “Bear House” in the Hopi language. Pictographs are a key feature of the site and most were created when the Sinagua inhabited the area, although some date as far back as 2,000 B.C. The location was later home to the Yavapai and Apache who also left artwork on the stone walls between 1400 AD and 1875 AD. While living in the shade of the high red cliffs the Sinagua made tools from stone, leather and wood; hunted deer and rabbit; and tended crops and gathered edible wild plants.
After our jeep tour and walking around the shops, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed south. On the way, we stopped at the Tuzigott National Munment and the town of Jerome.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot was the largest Sinaguan complex in the Verde Valley with one hundred and ten rooms built to a height of three stories in parts of the complex. The elongated complex was constructed on a limestone and sandstone ridge just east of Clarkdale, AZ, about one hundred and twenty feet above the Verde River floodplain. There are very few doors at Tuzigoot; the Sinagua preferred to use trapdoor style openings in the roofs with ladders leading to each room. The remains of several pit houses are visible, as well as petroglyphs, although the area with the petroglyphs is only open to the public on certain days of the week and we arrived too late in the day to see them. We did however, see a spectacular full rainbow.
We both flew out of Phoenix early on Monday but we explored Phoenix on Sunday and had a fun day at the botanical gardens and in old town Scottsdale. We started our day with a awesome breakfast place that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Matt’s Big Breakfast is just that BIG and the bacon was dynamite!, so thick and the smoke flavor was out of this world!
Then to burn off this hearty breakfast, we toured the Desert Botanical Garden. It was amazing that nestled in the bustling city of Phoenix, the garden effortlessly displays the unique beauty of Arizona’s desert plants. Each section of the garden is designed with nature’s aesthetic in mind. The structures on the premises are treated with the same dignity. We saw some Monarch butterflies as well as a Roadrunner eating crickets and a Chipmunk and Quail.
I hope you have enjoyed my long post about my adventures in Sedona and Phoenix. It was truly amazing and beautiful as well as unbelievable and spiritual. I am still in complete awe and totally mesmerized by the red rock formations.