Opportunities for adventure in Sedona are as endless as the brilliant blue sky or breathtaking red rock vistas. It’s a fact that hits home for me every day – my husband, Daniel Finch-McCaffrey, is Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa’s director of adventure, planning heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping activities for the hotel’s groups and VIP guests as well as locals looking for some extra spice on their days off.
So what makes Sedona such a playground for adventurers? Ask Daniel to rattle off the reasons people from all over the world come here for outdoors fun, and I know he won’t miss a beat: “To hike our trails, experience world-class mountain biking, raft the Colorado River, summit the San Francisco Peaks, watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon…I could go on and on. And from a local business standpoint, adventure vacations aren’t cheap – outdoors enthusiasts typically come here with money to spend and that boosts our economy. I also think adventure activities encourage locals to step out of their routine and get in touch with why they moved to Sedona in the first place.”
It must run in the family: To give adventurers a first-hand view of just what Sedona offers, I surveyed different ways to experience the Verde Valley by land, air, and water. Though I’ve lived and worked in Sedona for years now, I still got a special thrill seeing Cathedral Rock from the cockpit of a biplane, kayaking the class one rapids of the Verde River under the watchful eyes of a pair of bald eagles perched on a cliff above, and navigating the Devil’s Staircase in a Jeep. Even if you’re more comfortable with both feet firmly planted on the ground at all times, I think you’ll still enjoy the ride.
Sedona Adventures by Land
Some of Sedona’s most magnificent scenery is tucked into canyons, clinging to the base of the Mogollon Rim, and up along streambeds – places you can explore via ATVs, Jeeps, Tomcars, and four-wheel-drive trucks.
Four-wheeling in Sedona is “pristine,” says Nena Barlow, manager of Farabee’s Jeep Rentals and owner of Sedona Jeep School. “In general, people aren’t driving off trail and dumping their garbage. It’s a very beautiful place to take a Jeep.”
Four-wheeling is not to be confused with “off-roading,” which is strictly prohibited in Sedona; all Jeep paths here are designated roads or trails. Farabee’s rents from a fleet of 12 to 15 bright red Jeep Rubicons with suspension lifts – the Jeeps are replaced annually with the current model year. Jeeps are rented by the half or full day and drivers must be 25 years old with a valid driver’s license, credit card, and proof of insurance. Sedona Jeep School offers beginners a four- to eight-hour four-wheeling course.
When Daniel and I first visited Sedona in 2000 we took a Jeep tour up Schnebly Hill Rd. and along the basalt trail at the top of the rim. We were hooked. We returned to our then-home in San Diego and within three months bought a Jeep Wrangler. Since moving to Sedona, exploring the trails in the Verde Valley and taking visiting friends for rides has been a favorite pastime. Nena names Soldier Pass, Diamondback Gulch, Schnebly Hill, the Outlaw Trail, and (my own favorite) Broken Arrow as among Sedona’s most popular Jeep trails. For me, nothing compares to driving out on Broken Arrow, parking at Submarine Rock, and enjoying the silence after a winter snowstorm (it’s also a beautiful spot to take a photo for holiday cards).