SEDONA, Ariz. --
Agents typically advise clients planning trips to the western U.S.
to include Arizona in their itineraries, and for good reason.
The state is home
to some of North Americas most astounding natural wonders, from the
colossal chasms of the Grand Canyon to the intricately carved
monoliths of Monument Valley and the radiant red rocks of
While best known
for its vast expanses of desert terrain, depending on where one
travels across the state, its possible to encounter snow-covered
peaks, emerald forests, raging rivers and azure lakes.
abundance of sensory stimuli is combined with superb outdoor sports
and recreation, and the states cultural diversity revolves around
influential populations of Native Americans and Hispanics and
strong links to cowboy culture.
Among the most
popular places to visit for FITs, groups and motorcoach tours is
Sedona, a resort town of 17,000 situated two hours north of
Blessed with a
mild, four-season climate, it sits on high desert terrain (altitude
4,200 feet) in a valley surrounded by a series of surreal rock
formations with names such as Coffeepot, Snoopy, Bell and
bears a striking resemblance to its description, and Cathedral Rock
is most closely identified with Sedona, as this mammoth natural
landmark -- one of the most photographed sites in the state --
looms high above the town.
Sedona also is
known for spectacular sunsets, and last year USA Weekends Annual
Travel Report rated Sedonas Red Rock Country as the most beautiful
place in America.
Likely to surpass
4 million visitors in 2004, it has been a tourist draw since the
1920s when it became the backdrop for many Hollywood
I recently spent
several days exploring Sedona and vicinity, during which I also
took a couple of day trips to nearby attractions.
With its scenery,
restaurants, art galleries and shopping, Sedona is a destination in
itself as well as a base from which to explore the
two-hour Broken Arrow Jeep tour through the backcountry is a good
introduction to the area. A Jeep is the perfect vehicle to
negotiate the rocky terrain, and at times it felt like a
roller-coaster ride as we jostled over boulders and up and down
sheer rock faces.
Lovers of outdoor
sports flock to Sedona year-round due to its full spectrum of
recreational activities. Especially popular are hiking, mountain
biking and horseback riding along the network of trails that
crisscross Oak Creek Canyon just north of town; other favorite
pursuits are golf (two 18 hole championship courses) and
In the winter,
there is skiing and snowboarding a half-hour away at San Francisco
Peaks where Mount Humphrey, Arizonas tallest mountain (12,600
feet), rises above a winter sports mecca known as the Arizona Snow
Sedona is also
adjacent to the Coconino National Forest, which puts on one of
Arizonas most brilliant autumn displays. Another major draw is the
art scene, as more than 200 artists live and work in Sedona. It now
rivals Santa Fe, N.M., as an art center with a full calendar of
openings, artist receptions, demonstrations and workshops
The New Age
movement is also very much alive and well in Sedona, as spiritual
seekers have found it to be a fine location for healing and
emotional rejuvenation. In the mid-1970s, New Agers claimed to have
discovered four major electromagnetic energy sources here called
vortexes, and today a thriving community of alternative-healing
practitioners offer a year-round schedule of workshops and events.
There is also a Tibetan Buddhist Center, which is open 24 hours a
day, and insomniac visitors are welcome to meditate at 3
attractions are within an easy days roundtrip drive from Sedona,
and among the best are the Verde Canyon Railroad and the former
mining town of Jerome. A half-hour from Sedona is Clarkdale,
departure point for the Verde Canyon Railroad, which transports
passengers on a four-hour ride into the remote wilderness of the
Verde River Canyon, past towering basalt, granite and red rock
trip, I took another excursion to Jerome, which boomed in the early
years of the 20th century when copper was discovered in the hills
outside town. By 1920, the population had swelled to 15,000, but
eventually boom went to bust and, after the last mine closed in
1953, it became a virtual ghost town.
However, due to
the towns magnificent location and rock-bottom real estate values,
groups of artists and craftspeople began moving in again in the
1960s. Today the town is prospering as an artists colony, and many
of the century-old buildings have been restored.
information on Sedona, call (800) 288-7336 or visit www.visitsedona.com.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].