Arizona Road Trip: Things to Do in Sedona and Fossil Creek

Sedona, Arizona isn’t exactly a hidden gem. I would say it’s pretty well known but not as heavily visited as say the Grand Canyon. However, Sedona is a magical wonderland that deserves a visit if you love desert landscapes and enjoy the outdoors. The backdrops of the mountains and rock formations are breathtaking. Just driving on the freeway and approaching Sedona is an experience in itself. There’s just something about the reddish-orange formations against the clear blue skies that will leave you in awe.

driving into Sedona

And if you enjoy the desert but love camping in a cooler climate then head over to Fossil Creek for the night and enjoy the activities and scenery that the area has to offer. More on Fossil Creek below.

Sedona was never high on my list I must add but it was the other activities that we would be doing that had me committed. Whether you’re looking to do an Arizona road trip or you’re already in the area, there is plenty to do. So let’s start off with some of the awesome things to do Sedona, Arizona that are fit for an epic day trip…

Hiking

Cathedral Rock
Distance: A little over a mile out and back
Parking: Pay for parking at Kiosk

View from the top of Cathedral Rock
Capture a great photo at the top of Cathedral Rock. Once you’ve hit the “end of trail” sign you can go to the right and walk a narrow pathway (about 4 feet wide) to this spot. It’s a short walk and the pathway opens up. Do this at your own risk. It is dangerous.

So this is the hike that tops my list. It gave me somewhat of a challenge since it’s all uphill. And the views were incredible at the top. On one side you can see nature for miles and miles and on the other side you can see the houses that are built into the mountains. Something I liked about Sedona is that even though it’s a city, there’s still a lot of untouched nature all around.

The view of Sedona while hiking back down from Cathedral Rock

Seven Sacred Pools
Distance: About a mile and a half to Pools and back (hike can be extended)
Parking: Limited parking at trailhead

I don’t want to hype up the Seven Sacred Pools too much because even though in photos the “pools” look pretty cool the pools themselves aren’t that grand. However, the area in which you hike is amazing. You’re surrounded by rock formations, trees and fun sites along the way like the Devils Sinkhole.

Devil’s Sinkhole



Seven Sacred Pools – You can’t see all seven pools in one shot
Soldier’s pass trail that leads to Seven Sacred Pools

Devil’s Bridge
Distance: 4.5 miles out and back
Parking: Limited parking at trailhead (may need a high clearance vehicle for the road)

This is another hike however I didn’t get to do this one. I wanted to leave it on here because it was something that we meant to do but we ran out of time.

For more information on Devil’s Bridge hike check out AllTrails.

Sightseeing

Hot Air Balloon Ride

There’s plenty to do in Sedona and even more to see. The entire area is beautiful and the easiest way to see it ALL is by hot air balloon. When we were driving into Sedona in the morning we noticed hot air balloons in the distance. This immediately brought back a memory of when I was a teenager and took a hot air balloon ride above Temecula, California. I just imagined how beautiful Sedona must look for above since it’s already a beautiful sight at ground level. You can do hikes and get a view from above but that’s just a view of a certain area. In a hot air balloon you can really see the city.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

One sight that’s pretty “iconic” to Sedona is the chapel that’s built right into the buttes of the Coconino National Forest. If you’re driving in and heading northbound into Sedona you’re likely to see the chapel in the distance. It’s a sight that can’t be missed if you’re on the main highway. And if you’re curious about how the chapel looks from the inside, just drive up and take a peek. There are golf carts that give rides to anyone parking in the lower parking lot.

It’s a beautifully designed chapel. I love architecture and was glad I went inside. The views from the outside of the chapel are also incredible.

Shopping

If you like handmade finds and one-of-a-kind pieces then head to an artisan in Sedona. Here are a few…

The Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Show

Two weekends out of the month The Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Show comes to the Oak Creek Factory Outlet Mall and Bell Rock Plaza. Here you’ll see many vendors in pop-up tents selling handmade jewelry, art and more.

The Collective

The first and third weekend of each month The Collective is open and is home to artisans selling their goods as well as farmers market goods.

Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque is a permanent arts and crafts village in Sedona. It’s located in a beautiful plaza that is inspired by Old Mexico.

There’s plenty more to see and do in Sedona like getting an aura reading, taking an off-road tour in a Jeep and tons more. Hopefully some of the things I did during my short visit will inspire your next trip to Sedona. And if you want to extend your trip like I did continue reading…

There are tons of Jeep tours in Sedona

After spending the day in Sedona me and my crew headed for Fossil Creek which is about an hour and a half away from Sedona. We set up camp and stayed the night there. This is also where we finished off the weekend.

Fossil Creek is an oasis fit for those who do enjoy the desert but love to cool down next to a creek. It’s really the best of both worlds in the Fossil Creek wilderness which straddles the Coconino National Forest and the Tonto National Forest.

So if you love yourself a good camping trip, swimming in a creek and jumping from waterfalls you’ll probably like a visit to Fossil Creek. Fossil Creek is about an hour and a half away from Sedona Arizona. The closest cities are Camp Verde if you’re driving from Sedona and Strawberry if you’re coming in from the east, and then you drive into a mountain range. The drive itself is strenuous for smaller vehicles and I don’t recommend the drive unless you have an off-roading vehicle. Also, this area has no cellular service so plan ahead and have a map handy!

Know before you go! Check the US Forest Service website.

Fossil Creek Camping

Note: Camping is only permitted October 2nd – March 31st. A permit is needed for day-use between April 1st and October 1st. Please keep in mind that there is no trash service and you must pack out all your trash.

Don’t forget to pack out all your trash and belongings. We picked up trash along the Fossil Creek Waterfall trail. We found lots of beer cans, water bottles, socks, floaties and more. Please practice “leave no trace.”
We camped in a semi-grassy area with lots of trees

Fossil Creek is an area where you don’t get the typical desert camping feel. It reminds me a little of Havasupai (also in Arizona) with the waterfalls except it isn’t easy to get from on place to the other on foot. It’s an amazing area; there are lots of trees, it’s pretty shady and there’s plenty of water!

There are a few different campgrounds and we decided to camp the night at Homestead Campground. It was a grassy campground that was near the river so we heard the sound of water all night which was pretty relaxing. There’s also plenty of trees so it was easy to set up a hammock.

You can also camp at Verde Hot Springs Campground, near the hot springs (we’ll talk about the hot springs in just in minute). It’s an interesting campground that seems like a little village. The road down to the campground is extremely uneven and not fit for anything other than a high clearance off-roading vehicle. Make sure your car can handle the road and pack a shovel in case you get stuck. The campground is mostly dirt but there are plenty of trees.

Hot Springs

If you’re looking for a hot spring in Arizona there’s Verde Hot Springs which is located at Child Power Plant right next to Verde Hot Springs Campground. We attempted to go to the hot springs just after sunset but it was too dark to navigate. Apparently, from the campground, you just walk for about a mile along the river then cross the river to get to the hot springs. The river crossing can be hip high to neck deep so anticipate swimming across and packing any belongings in a waterproof marine bag.

Waterfalls

We left camp in the morning and headed for Fossil Creek Falls. Getting to the trailhead is relatively easy. You’ll take Fossil Creek Road until you hit the “Waterfall Trailhead” parking lot. Remember you’ll need a permit for parking if you’re visiting between April 1st and October 1st. You’ll know you’re close to the trailhead when you pass the Coconino National Forest/Tonto National Forest Sign.

The sign you’ll pass before getting to the trailhead

Take the trail down for about a mile, you’ll be following along the right side of the river the entire way until you hit the waterfall.

I was happy to be in the water and have the sunshine
And even happier to be in the water

Now if you think Fossil Creek Falls sounds amazing and you’re up for a longer hike then I suggest going to Fossil Creek Springs. This was also on the agenda however we ran out of time. Fossil Creek Springs is just a little over a four-mile hike in one way. It’s a larger waterfall, there’s are also caves and the “toilet bowl.” Yeah, I know that sounds weird but that’s what they call this natural whirlpool tub. If you’re looking for amazing Arizona waterfalls these won’t disappoint!

I wore my Merrell water sandals for the hike to Fossil Creek Falls. I actually wore them for the entire time I was at Fossil Creek area and a recommend wearing a pair of sturdy water sandals you can hike in while visiting the area. There’s a lot of water and it just makes it easier to hike in something that can go through and not worry about soaking your shoes.

These shoes came in handy!

What To Do Next?

The options are endless if you want to extend your trip. The Petrified Forest which was originally on the agenda is a three-hour drive from Fossil Creek. You can also start your trip at Fossil Creek then head up to Sedona, followed by Page (where you can see Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and more). Or Head to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. Those are just some suggestions. Make your trip your own and have an amazing time!

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