Guidelines for domestic travel as it relates to camping and parks:
“Going camping at a time when much of the United States is “Going camping at a time when much of the United States is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities (like restrooms or picnic areas) at campsites or along the trails. Exposure may be especially unsafe if you are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 and are planning to be in remote areas, without easy access to medical care. Also be aware that many local, state, and national public parks have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.” -CDC
Please read all of CDC’s park and rec guidelines for travel here.
my journey in Arizona begins in Page, click here for Part1
or continue to read on for Sedona, AZ.
Sedona was a nice break from my usual rushed schedule. I finally had a hub for 4 nights, 3.5 days. …Not that I unpacked my bags, yet somehow I scattered my things all over the timeshare we were staying in. I also was able to do my laundry! When we arrived it took about an hour to check-in, even when the time-share owner is present there are presentations and promised promotions- ugh! For me, this day would be about planning the stay. After plans were pretty solid we ventured to Jerome to have dinner at the Asylum. The website made this place appear to be better than it turned out- I don’t recommend it.
I think it is worth mentioning that Sedona, Arizona is one of those places known to have an energy vortex. I wasn’t a believer in this at the time of my trip- nor was I interested or open to learning more. After travelling to Siem Riep (6 months later) I felt what an energy vortex feels like. Even then, I was not open to it or looking for one. I didn’t know Siem Reap was a place noted to have one of these vortexes. However, I felt an overwhelming, indescribable, feeling there that people chalk up to the energy vortex found there. I don’t recall feeling it in Sedona- but if you are interested, or want my take… they are real.
Diamondback Gulch OHV trail, Sedona
We scheduled a backcountry jeep tour for the following morning with Arizona Safari Jeep Tour. This would take us off-roading to the Diamondback Gulch trail. Little did we know, at the time of booking, this is a trail many don’t venture or get to see in the backcountry. Or maybe that was just what the guide told us. It was very rough terrain and the Jeep we sat inside had been modified to accommodate this trail.
The tour was worthwhile from the intel alone. The driver/guide told us stories about geology and the plants, as well as the settlement of Sedona; stories of Hopi and Navajo tribes. Overall it was very informative. To see more and to have more time in the backcountry I’d recommend renting a UTV. The settlement of Sedona is worth learning though- so definitely book a guided tour of some sort as well.
Summiting Bell Rock
After our jeep ride we went straight to Bell Rock, a recommendation from my dad’s girlfriend who’d been to here years before. When I looked this up online it showed an easy loop trail around the whole bell. Once we arrived we noticed people climbing to the top of this rock formation. You can guess the route we took… well, not exactly. We went up but we got to the top pioneering our own route. We went off trail and free climbed to the top. It wasn’t the intent; what we thought was the trail turned into a dead end, at which point we decided to continue. The climb was a great challenge for us both with rewarding views in the end.
Dad wasn’t as excited and he “feared for his life”… he still refers to our climb as a parallel to Alex Honnold’s climb up El Capitan. He surely hasn’t been to Yosemite- and is definitely dramatic or theatrical in his telling of the story. I can assure you the hike is not that difficult. When peering back up at the mounds from the ground, I can pinpoint exactly where we stood. We stood on neither of the rounded mounds. Instead, we stood at the top of the little square (pictured here) between both mounds, alone with no one else.
Soon after ‘summiting’ he was ready to get back down. Going down was much more of a challenge. The entire climb was so fun, I love challenging my body with climbs and inclined hikes. I’d have liked to watch the sunset from there and requested my dad to entertain the thought but he declined. I only had my own headlamp and he wasn’t interested in climbing down in the dark. This climb worked up an appetite and we headed back to town for dinner. We found ourselves at a local hotspot having their chili and a wine tasting.
Devil’s Bridge, Sedona
The next day was intended to be strenuous, unlike the impromptu climb we just completed. After dinner, we went back to the resort for an early night. I’d have a pull-out couch for a bed. Of course my dad decided to book a timeshare meeting for the current promotion which is never ‘only an hour’. He was in the meeting twice as long as the ‘promised’ duration setting the days plans back… also causing there to be no parking. Soldiers Pass has very limited parking at the trailhead. Defeated by time and the lack of parking I quickly switched plans with our last day’s itinerary. Off to Devil’s Bridge, we will try Solider’s Pass for our final day in Sedona. I was determined to find the hidden caves.
Devil’s Bridge is a moderate hike with lots of climbing and stairs. Dad enjoyed this one, we stayed on trail the whole time. There was a line of people at the end of the hike. They were taking turns to traverse the natural sandstone bridge. My dad went out on the bridge for a photo opportunity. I went as well, two times actually- finally sitting on the edge for the perfect picture. From the onlookers standpoint the bridge appears tilted but it feels safe and actually has much more surface space than how it looks. This is an easy hike and I highly recommend it for anyone in Sedona- unless you are afraid of heights… then maybe not.
Dinner in Uptown, Sedona
After the hike we had dinner reservations for a new restaurant. Mariposa restaurant was known for its sunsets and its chef. Rumors passed along to us suggested it was difficult to secure a reservation. We felt lucky to secure a sunset dinner on a Friday night. I made the reservations Wednesday night without a problem. At the time of writing this post, the restaurant has now been open for about 2 years. In that time some of my relatives moved to Sedona– they still say it is a favorite among everyone in Sedona (visitors and locals).
The story behind the name was beautiful, there is a blurb in the menu and it made the experience even better. The food didn’t hurt either- it was outstanding! I had a simple steak, it was prepared perfectly. We also had empanadas to start and I finished with a Nutella cheesecake. I wish I could’ve captured the sunset in pictures but this was one ladies special moment, a guy was proposing on the lawn and a photographer came to capture the moment. Not trying to be an extra, I just enjoyed the view from a far.
Soldier’s Pass Trail
We only had one full day left in Sedona and I was determined to hike Soldiers Pass. I learned about a connecting trail and even was offered insider knowledge to lead me to the caves. All of this from a kind stranger on Instagram who messaged me; I decided to trust her and followed the instructions/recommendations. My dad was delaying the day again- showering or something. Who does that?! …just kidding, I shower at night. Anyway, we got to the trailhead again with no parking in sight. I hadn’t told him I had insider secrets. We made our way to Jordan trailhead where we would have an even longer hike- there was plenty of parking here.
It must’ve been at least 1.5 miles to get to the Soldiers Pass trail. Once we started the crossed paths we saw the Devil’s Kitchen Sink(hole); the largest active sinkhole in America. Then a little less than a mile from there we found the 7 Sacred Pools. They were on our left. It was early November but they still had water. Next we needed to find the caves. I spotted the clue leading me to the cave. The girl didn’t really explain the next part of our hike in full. She made it seem quite easy, and also didn’t include much details to confirm the ‘clue’ was accurate.
Finding the hidden caves in Sedona
She said there would be a tree marked ‘something in regard for the protected wilderness’: it says “National Forest Wilderness” and then has some smaller font details. The trail will be blocked by either some rocks or logs to help direct people, and to keep them off the path to the caves- she said go beyond the barrier and follow that trail for about a mile then you will spot the caves- continue… I found the description of the scene she described but there were others along the way that I questioned too. For some reason I took this turn- and it turned out to be correct.
It was quite a climb and I couldn’t see the end but finally we arrived and it was spectacular. Essentially the caves are the Soldiers Pass Arches- so if you take the trail on the map there you can climb into the arches. There were only 2 other people there. Two younger girls having a mini photoshoot. I couldn’t blame them, we were about to do the same. We didn’t have long before they cleared the area and the next guest entered- maybe 10 mins of the cave to ourselves. Behind us was a couple and their dog. The cave was the end of our hike that day, my dad gets antsy as it the sun starts to slide west to set. Off we went, to find the car.
Last Night in Sedona
We took the Ciobla pass trail back. We were hiking in Sedona in early November and had perfect weather the entire time. The hikes while seemingly tedious were met with perfect conditions to allow us to fully enjoy them. I forgot I’d been regularly hiking now for a couple months though. For my dad, he was ready to sit down after only connecting back to soldiers pass. We still had at least a mile until the car. Needless to say he was excited to be back at the car and I was so happy we got to hike soldiers pass. I’m so grateful that girl gave me the alternative parking and the hint for the cave. I wouldn’t have had the experience I was searching for that day otherwise.
Fishing for dinner
After we finished our hike we went to the rainbow trout farm to fish for ‘lunch’. My dad caught the first fish- 13 inches and I took about twice as long but ended up with a 15.5 inch fish! By the time we had our fishes cleaned, gutted, and ready to grill it was dinnertime. Dinner was fresh and good; we ended up with too much meat in the end. We tried to finish it all as to not waste it and the resources that went into our food. Thus we needed to walk off the overload of food.
We decided we would spend our last night in town at the stores and then we ended up grabbing a late night drink and appetizer, too! We went to Soundbite downtown. Apparently our appetite caught up with us. After our appetizer we decided to split a chicken picatta. As we walked back to the car we had lots of fun. I was bent over laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe- it reminded me of Father’s Day, a day that always brings lots of fun and laughter.
Next stop: Arizona Part III- Flagstaff, The Grand Canyon.