A recent USA Weekend Travel Report named Sedona, Arizona as No. 1 in its list of "10 Most Beautiful Places in America". Once you have been there, it’s easy to understand why.
by Moira126 on March 19, 2010
Driving about 2 hours north of Phoenix on AZ 179 off I-17, the desert brown landscape gives way to the distinct reddish tinged scenery letting you know that you are arriving in Red Rock Country, in beautiful Sedona. The amazing attractions are the fabulous red rock sandstone formations that are instantly recognizable – Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Cathedral Rock, even Snoopy Rock, named after the famous Peanuts character. But even more astounding is how the attractions, the grounds, and surroundings look like they have been painted a reddish hue. Ok, , maybe more like red, pink, burgundy, rust, orange and every shade in between, depending on what day it is and the angle of the sun.So why are the Red Rocks red?This is a popular question that came out of every visitor’s mouth at one time or another. There are about 300 millions of years of explanation as to why the beautiful shades of red characterize this awe-inspiring retreat. It can be a geologist’s dream exploring the answer to that question – something about millions of years of accumulation of deposits and layers of creation as Sedona evolved from being underwater, a coastal area, a swamp, a desert and how it is now. But the simple explanation? Iron. Specifically iron oxide (rust), which remained in the highly porous sandstone giving it its distinct color. But who can really concentrate on technical explanations when you are surrounded by such beauty? I believe its enough to bask in the beauty of Sedona and the mystery that it inspires.Sedona has also designed their community to complement the spectacular landscape all around. There are mostly red-rock territorial style buildings in subdued natural tones and mostly none of the flashy building colors that could clash with the view. Case in point, you will not see the famous McDonald’s golden arches here because Sedona has decided that it does not go with the scenery. Oh there is a McDonald’s, but they traded their famous trademark golden arches with turquoise-colored ones. Yes, Sedona is the only place in the world where McDonald’s has turquoise arches.Ah, Sedona is a perfect place to just sit back and appreciate the wonder and splendor of mother nature’s creations
Sedona is known for its fabulous sandstone structures and picturesque landscapes. But New Age enthusiasts flock to this place for its spiritual potential, too, particularly for its Energy Vortexes. It is believed that Sedona is a center of strong spiritual force that stimulates renewal of the spirit, promotes a sense of well being and enhances creativity. Some people report that after visiting a vortex, they come out with a renewed sense of purpose and a sense of peace. Other people admit that they do not feel anything at all. Whether you are a believer or not, there is value in exploring these points of interest, if only to satisfy your curiosity or to find out if you will "feel" something.So what is a vortex exactly? Hearing that word creates images of the cyclone in Wizard of Oz. I was told that it is like that – a spiraling force of energy that could affect the feelings, temperament or the sense of who you are. The energy may interact with a person’s sense of being and may influence some form of healing or awareness. The vortexes cannot be seen but the physical proof of these vortexes is the presence of twisted juniper trees indicating where the energy could be most powerful. Apparently, the whirling force emanates strongly from these places and twists the juniper branches.Each of the 4 major vortexes in Sedona represent strength in what is referred to as "masculine" or "feminine" energy or a combination of both.1. Airport Vortex From Hwy 89A near the center of Sedona, turn towards airport road to reach the Airport vortex. This is a popular spot to go to because this is on the way towards the Airport Mesa, a scenic vista often a favorite spot for tourists near sunset. This vortex is said to enhance "masculine" features such as self confidence and decisiveness.2. Cathedral Rock VortexThis vortex could be accessed through Hwy 89A going west and turning on Upper Red Rock Loop Road. This area contains strong "feminine" energy and enhances attributes of compassion and patience.3. Boynton Canyon VortexWhile driving west on Hwy 89A, turn right to Dry Creek Road then left going to the Boynton Canyon trail on your way to the strong vortex which emanates a balance between both "masculine" and "feminine" energies.4. Bell Rock VortexThought to be the strongest of the vortexes, this one strengthens all the three parts and could be "felt" all around Bell Rock.Whether they are considered New Age "mumbo-jumbo", the energy vortexes have become part of the culture of Sedona and one cannot help but be confronted with information about them. I have personally visited the vortexes and took time to just sit and reflect and just be. I know I have felt a sense of being overwhelmed, yet a feeling of being calm. But then again, I have always felt this way when surrounded by such beauty. You have to remember that aside from the controversy surrounding vortexes, these places are, in themselves, already fantastic places to visit. There is no harm in receiving enlightenment when you can.
Probably considered the most famous and the most recognizable red rock formation in Sedona, Bell Rock is so called because of distinctive shape which resembles a church bell. It is usually the first sandstone formation you will see driving up to Sedona on AZ Hwy 179, just north of the Village of Oak Creek. Bell Rock has gentle hiking trails which provides some of the most spectacular views of Red Rock Country. And don’t forget that this is also the site of one of the strongest vortexes which, for spiritual enthusiasts, would lead to some form of rewarding introspection. The trail to Bell Rock could be accessed through the Bell Rock Pathway vista about a mile south of the structure itself. This would be the starting point of the 5-mile Bell Rock/Courthouse Butte Loop. You can also go on the secondary trailhead near Bell Rock itself to access the Bell Rock Trail to the base of Bell Rock, or with some sense of adventure, climb Bell Rock itself. Personally, I preferred going straight to the Bell Rock Trail, so excited to touch the famous sandstone structure. But any trail you choose would provide amazing views of the red rock landscape and a wonderful view of the stately Courthouse Butte with its sheer vertical sides.The best time to visit Bell Rock is during early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not so high. The sun at angle provides beautiful shadows which enhance the reddish orange colors of the structures. It would make for wonderful pictures. Its also easier to look up to the top of these remarkable structures without the sun's imposing glare.Bell Rock has gained some notoriety during the "Harmonic Convergence" of 1987 when it was rumored that it would be the base of a spaceship encounter which some people paid money to see. No such thing happened. But this did not deter from the fact that Sedona is considered a spiritual and metaphysical mecca for believers.
by Moira126 on March 20, 2010
Cathedral Rock towers over Sedona and its recognizable spires may just compete with Bell Rock as the most famous structure in Sedona. The guides like to tell local legends which talk about lovers who were constantly bickering until the Great Spirit showed them the beauty all around them and their fighting stopped. The two spires in the middle of Cathedral Rock (those that look like two lovers together) represent the lovers. Quite appropriately, Cathedral Rock is also the location of a strong vortex with a strong "feminine" vibe. For spiritualists, this promote traits of patience and compassion, quite handy attributes if you find yourself in an argument.Hiking Cathedral Rock is a rewarding experience. You may go to the Airport Mesa at the end of Airport Road off Hwy 89A. The trail is generally easy and it gives you amazing views of Cathedral Rock without the distraction of too much crowds. Or if you want to drive, you can drive to the Village of Oak Creek at the southern side and then turn west to the Verde Valley School Road where you can view the majestic structure with a view of Oak Creek, too. But I believe Cathedral Rock is best seen from Red Rock Crossing, the view of Cathedral Rock over Oak Creek may just be the most photographed view in Sedona. Red Rock Crossing in itself is a captivating place to visit. It can be accessed by driving west on Hwy 89A, turning on Upper Red Rock Loop, then following the signs to go to the Crescent Moon Picnic Area. There is a picnic area with the Cathedral Rock as a backdrop which is just heavenly. Most times, you can see artists sketching, photographers with their tripods or maybe a wedding pictorial or two. But going on the trails and hiking along Oak Creek is the highlight. The lush greenery, the sparkling creek combined with the red rock views are just unforgettable.
This distinctive and elegant architectural wonder was designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude (sculptor and philantrophist) through a revelation she received after gazing upon the newly opened Empire State Building in 1932. Her vision encountered a lot of obstacles to fruition but finally, in 1956, the Chapel of Holy Cross was completed. It became the first contemporary structure of its kind which was constructed as a Catholic Church. But eventhough Catholic in orientation, it welcomes peoples of all faiths and denomination and serves as a shrine for reflection and prayer, introspection and insight.The structure is a masterpiece of contemporary art. Seemingly built into and between Sedona’s red rocks, it stands majestically rising about 200 feet above the ground and blends beautifully with the surrounding red rocks. The 90-foot cross is prominently displayed in front and the stained glass windows let in light in a myriad of colors that is dazzling and awe-inspiring. The views from the chapel are just breathtaking. Sitting up on a hill, it is surrounded by panoramic views of the majestic red rocks.Inside the chapel, it is lovely, yet serene and intimate. There are only two rows of 7 pews on each side, and encourages an atmosphere of rumination and reverence. It is also believed to be the site of one of Sedona’s vortexes (though not one of the popular ones) reinforced by the general feeling of calm and inspiration that people report after their visit. Personally, being in the chapel and around it was relaxing for me. It certainly encouraged meditation. But even aside from its strong spiritual significance, there is no doubt that this dramatic edifice would be appreciated for its artistic merit.The chapel is accessed at the end of Chapel road off Hwy 179. Although easily accessible, the steep climb up the hill from the parking lot might be a little daunting. There is a small gift shop under the chapel where unique religious trinkets are available. It is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. There is no permanent mass services held on this chapel but a regular prayer service occurs every Monday at 5pm.
A Red Rock Pass is necessary to park or "recreate" in various popular spots in Red Rock Country. This was their way of ensuring that they have funds to maintain and preserve the various scenic landscapes and popular spots of Sedona. Every vehicle is required to display the pass prominently in the windshield, a violation thereof would receive a citation. We were told that "incidental stopping" for a quick picture is allowed without a pass, but they were not very clear on what this means. Some descriptions say, "15 min or less" but it was difficult to gauge how our stay is being timed. Nevertheless, if you are planning to visit several popular sites in Sedona, it would be wise to buy Red Rock Pass. There are 3 options which include the Daily Pass ($5), the Weekly Pass ($15) , the Annual Pass ($20) and the Grand Annual Pass ($40). They are widely available and can be bought from ranger offices, visitor center and other commercial stores, gas stations, etc, as well as online and some self-service machines in various locations (including Bell Rock pathway). But its important to remember to read the considerations carefully because some of the passes may not be allowed in certain areas such as Crescent Moon, Grasshopper point, Slide Rock or other organized swimming/picnic area or campground.One happy note is that the national inter-agency pass, America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80), or its equivalent is accepted in lieu of the Red Rock Pass. So if you are planning to visit several National parks or monuments in northern Arizona (including the Grand Canyon, etc), or other popular parks all over the country, it may be practical to invest in this inter-agency pass. But like the Red Rock Pass, it is also important to remember to read the accompanying paperwork because some organized campgrounds and recreational areas do not accept this and may still charge entrance fees. A prominent example of this exception is Slide Rock State Park.
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