Outdoor Wonderland

Imagine floating through the air in a hot air balloon, drifting at the whim of the early-morning breezes. There’s not a sound to be heard, only the vast expanse of the desert beneath. At four to five miles per hour, it’s slow enough to get a good look at the landscape with its javelina, jackrabbits, bobcats, antelope, mule deer and other wildlife.

Then there’s hitting the rubber on single-track trails, mountain biking at brake-neck speed through rolling terrain, arroyos, winding creeks and massive rock formations. Or coasting along in a jeep, a Hummer or an ATV—or perhaps on horseback or foot, taking a deep breath of pleasure as you admire Sedona’s crimson cliffs and towering buttes.

At whatever speed, Sedona is an outdoor wonderland for nature lovers. With its mild, four-season climate, bright clear skies (and starlit nights), more than 100 trails for hiking and biking; world-class golf and tennis; land tours; and aerial adventures in planes, helicopters and balloons, it’s easy to see why nature enthusiasts return to Sedona again and again.

For those who enjoy a little competitive camaraderie, Sedona hosts the Sedona Marathon and the Sedona Century Bicycle Tour. On the second Saturday in February, runners converge in Sedona to participate in the Sedona Marathon. The course (along Dry Creek Road, Boynton Canyon, Red Canyon and Sycamore Pass) is both beautiful and challenging. “With all the hills, rocks and sand this was the toughest of 17 marathons I’ve run,” said Randi Simon, who was the first woman to finish the marathon’s inaugural race in 2006. The Sedona Marathon features a full marathon (26.2 miles), half-marathon and 5K race. It is USATF certified so racers can be confident their finishing times can be officially accepted for other events.

The Sedona Century Bicycle Tour, held each May, offers cyclists an unforgettable ride on beautiful terrain: past river crossings, red rocks, national monuments and prehistoric Indian ruins and along historic districts. This charity ride for the Old Town Mission, a Christian ministry for the working poor, offers participants a choice of three circuits: a Metric Century (62 miles), a 47-mile stretch and a 33-mile “fun” ride. According to Steve McClain, owner of Absolute Bikes, “Sedona Century stands out as a great event for people who like to get out on the road.”

For those who prefer a more leisurely experience of Sedona’s great outdoors there is:

  • Trout fishing in Oak Creek Canyon
  • Bird watching at Red Rock State Park, in Oak Creek Canyon or creekside at Mia’s Place at Los Abrigados Resort
  • Camping in Oak Creek Canyon or at area RV sites
  • Backpacking into the surrounding wilderness areas
  • Visiting Sedona’s Vortex sites
  • Walking labyrinths at Los Abrigados Resort and at the Lodge at Sedona bed and breakfast
  • Picnicking along the creek or in one of two Sedona city parks (Posse Ground and Sunset Park
  • Sightseeing on one of several guided tours – from a trolley or jeep ride to a customized tour with a personal guide.
  • Exploring Indian ruins and petroglyphs at Palatki, Honanki, and the V-Bar-V Ranch
  • Sunbathing and swimming at Slide Rock State Park, Grasshopper Point, Red Rock Crossing, Beaver Creek or at the City of Sedona community pool

“Those who take the time to explore will connect with Sedona’s Red Rock Country at deeper levels,” notes Kathleen Bryant in Sedona: Treasure of the Southwest. “Heart-stealing vistas wait at nearly every turn in the road or trail. But intimate moments—hearing a hawk’s cry echo from canyon walls or feeling a link to the people who took shelter in sandstone alcoves centuries ago—come with patience and an open heart.”