Of the many destinations near and far on my bucket list, Sedona has always been amongst the top. After a week of roaming this arid paradises’ orange sandstone, climbing its smooth, porous boulders and wading in its freezing yet refreshing creeks, it is now my favorite desert next to Joshua Tree.
My husband, Dan, and I usually camp for three to four days, so carving out almost an entire week for Sedona (besides our first night in Wickenburg) was a real treat and one of our best-ever camping decisions. We really got to settle in and learn the rhythm and soul of a place – like memorizing the shadow schedule at our campsite or the familiar spiced smell of juniper in the wind. For 6 days, we created a little homestead with our loyal 1960s Scotsman trailer, Django, in the BLM wilderness of Western Sedona.
For us, this is the way to camp – free, remote and as far removed from other people as possible. Boondocking, as it’s called, can be jarring at first, but soon the empty silence becomes your dearest friend, the nocturnal critters your welcomed neighbors and the freedom to run around naked in the wild the greatest luxury.
Not all boondocking sites offer the solitude and privacy as our Sedona spot, like our first night at Vulture Mine BLM in Wickenburg. This spot was a gem, though, and surrounded by rolling fields of teddy bear cholla cacti made it a perfect place to split the seven-hour journey between Los Angeles and Sedona.
We opted for the scenic route from Wickenburg to Sedona via route 89A through Prescott National Forest, which offered great views and quaint places to pull over and soak in some fresh air over a cup of joe. Our Sedona campsite was conveniently located off of Highway 89A up Forest Rd 525 southwest of Sedona’s main city center.
With travel days aside, we had four full days in Sedona including one day spent almost entirely in our trailer escaping up to forty-mile-an-hour winds. That ended up being one of our most creative camping days to date, managing to record music for our upcoming album regardless of the rough weather outside (the wind actually became a whimsical, ambient synth sound).
Not to diverge too far from Sedona, but I need to share my excitement in finally being able to efficiently create music and art in the wild. This is something Dan and I have been working towards over the past few years, and thanks to his brilliant mind (and our Honda generator) we are now able to have a mobile recording studio. As a singer and writer who draws a lot of inspiration from nature, this is a huge feat and luxury. I’m hoping to have Dan share his process and tips for creating a mobile recording studio with you soon as I think it’s empowering to artists to have the freedom to create wherever and whenever they like (even in the middle of the desert!).
It would have been a waste to spend our whole time locked in a trailer, though, and fortunately the other three days brought sunshine and a gentle breeze. Probably one of the main highlights was our afternoon spent at the waterhole off of Oak Creek overlooking Cathedral Rock. My goddess sister Kelly lives in Flagstaff and took us to this picturesque spot ideal for a leisurely afternoon of sunning, photography, wading and meditation.
The energy here is palpable. We found ourselves sitting and staring at the rock in silence for minutes on end as if being pulled by an invisible string connecting earth to ether. This may seem woo woo to some, but regardless of how you express it or see it, there is something magnetic going in this magical desert oasis.
There was an ebb and flow of visitors throughout the day, but by sunset, we had the creek completely to ourselves. You can access it by following Verde Valley School Road to the very end or Red Rock Crossing Trail.
We love to boulder and found a great spot with incredible sandstone formations called the Anvil Boulders. The Mountain Project was our guide to finding this treasure trove located on the north end of Sedona off of Highway 89A. If you plan to climb here do study this guide carefully as we took an unnecessarily long detour to get there. After following a tunnel under the highway and crossing a creek (part of the journey), we traversed a precarious cactus grove off the trail (not part of the journey) and finally found nature’s hidden playground.
These were some of my favorite rocks to climb as the sandstone is incredibly solid, smooth and porous making it easy to grip. Joshua Tree’s boulders, in comparison, are flaky, painful and often unpredictable, making it nerve-wracking to take many risks without ropes. We always use our crash pad, but still, it can be a scary and dangerous endeavor.
There are a plethora of amazing hikes in Sedona including the lesser known slick rock trail overlooking Cathedral Rock as well as the popular Cathedral Rock trail itself. We loved watching the sunset over Bell Rock Pathway off of Highway 179 and if we had more time would have loved climbing the actual rock itself.
The Palatki Ruins, located in the Coconino National Forest near our campground, was an easy hike with the ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings and pictographs as the main reward. According to the USDA, these are the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 – 1350. Pretty amazing! Entry if $5.00 unless you have an Interagency Recreation Pass (highly recommended if you frequent national parks, forests and other recreation areas throughout the year).
Besides some quick snacks in town, we made all of our meals at our campsite as eating out in Sedona can get pricey. I’m going to do an article soon on camping meals as I’ve discovered some really easy, cheap, healthy (well, sometimes) and delicious recipes over the years that are perfect for camping.
This adventure also included many hours by our magical campsite just hanging out, enjoying the fire, sipping whiskey during Monopoly Deal marathons and working on our various creative projects. Dan has been practicing star photography and time-lapse (I shared a couple of my favorite images above) and I had a couple brand collaborations I wanted to shoot while in Sedona. Between these photo projects, music time, relaxation, hiking and bouldering, this was one of the most multi-faceted yet fun trips we experienced.
I credit Sedona for much of this. It truly is a wondrous place with something for everyone whether it’s adventure you seek, pampering, creative expression or a myriad of it all. Regardless, Sedona will inspire you.
On a final note, I want to direct you to the amazing boondocking website that has supplied all our knowledge of dispersed BLM camping: Frugal RV Travel. The small price to pay for these goldmine guides is completely worth it if you factor in the money spent on campsites. They can be a little outdated at times as far as layout, but we haven’t found anything as informative in comparison and highly recommend these if you want to get off the beaten path.
I hope these reflections of our time in Sedona have inspired your own adventure. If you have any questions or need recommendations, please feel free to reach out! As always, wishing you a journey filled with freedom, adventure and creativity.