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Sedona: Vortex power combines with scenic beauty, hikes

With stunning scenery that is arguably among the prettiest on the planet, Sedona, Ariz., is the place to relax by a river stream, hike in the hills and energize your soul and metaphysical strength at its many vortexes.

The tourist town is situated in north central Arizona about an hour south of Flagstaff, 90 minutes north of Phoenix and less than three hours from the Grand Canyon. Here are some ideas of what to do and see in this magnificent alpine desert paradise.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

This spectacular 7.5-mile drive winds through Northern Arizona’s Coconino National Forest covered with evergreen pinion trees. With stunning views of prehistoric red rocks at every turn, Sedona’s Red Rock Scenic Byway tops the list as one of the Southwest’s “must do” drives with numerous “must see” pit stops along the way.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Appearing to rise out of the red rock formations, the Chapel of the Holy Cross towers in a panorama of buttes, valleys and sky – all a source of inspiration inviting rest and reflection. Designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Chapel has been a compelling Sedona landmark since its completion in 1956. For more details, visit www.chapeloftheholycross.com.

Bell Rock Pathways

Named for its silhouette, Bell Rock is one of Sedona’s iconic red rock formations and is home to the Bell Rock Pathways trailhead that connects adventure seekers to over 100 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails for all ages and skill levels. Bell Rock is also recognized as an energy vortex, a center of spiritual power that many believe saturates the area in a subtle but positive way. Visit www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recreation/ohv/recarea.

Cucina Rustica

One of Sedona’s most celebrated local restaurants, Cucina Rustica serves up Italian-inspired cuisine in a romantic, villa-style setting. Chef and owner Lisa Dhal takes pride in offering a menu that is focused on a healthy Mediterranean theme that allows versatility and creativity and remarkable flavors that never fight. For menu and more details, visit www.cucinarustica.com/.

Country Visitors Center

Located at the southern gateway to the Sedona area, the Red Rock Country Visitors Center allows you to stock-up on helpful information to guide your exploration of the many hiking and biking trails, lakes and more. The center also serves as a National Forest Ranger Station, offering Arizona Natural History Association maps and guidebooks, and selling Federal Pass and Red Rock Parking Passes that allow vehicle access to the area’s National Forest land.

The Warrior Pit

Experience the newest outdoor athletic yard in Sedona complete with views of the surrounding Red Rocks. Designed for Cross Fit and other hard-core workouts, the park invites you to break a sweat with tire pulls, pull-up bars, box jumps, and more. It’s located at the Sedona Athletic Club.

Airport Mesa at sunset

Before sunset, do what everyone from visitors to residents do, pack snacks and drinks and head uphill to the Airport Mesa to experience panoramic loop trails of some of the best-known rock formations and get buzzed by one of the vintage aircraft as you are atop the vortex points.

Uptown Sedona

From the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to the Open Range Grill & Tavern to dozens of psychics, mystics and crystal shops, this picturesque part of town is where to go for a bite between hikes, bikes and other outdoor adventures. Book a Pink Jeep tour here and enjoy a cool ice cream cone.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Gaze into the “windows” of the past into one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in all of North America just a short ride south of Sedona at the Montezuma Castle National Monument. Pay a $10 fee for national park admittance; or if you are a senior, pay $10 for a card for life that will get you in any national park with three friends. Take a short stroll and marvel at the legacy of the Sinagua culture as they built 20-story high dwellings like an ancient, protected condo in the cliffs. Sit by the river and view the interactive exhibitions in the visitor center. You may go online to www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm.

Golf and spa retreat

After a day exploring the sites of the Red Rock Scenic Byway, many opt to retreat to Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock where 219 renovated guests rooms and a spacious new lobby well designed for socializing and reconnecting await. The recent extensive renovations bring the essence of Sedona through the doors of the resort, plush with amenities including three pools, full-service spa, 25,000-square-foot athletic club and adjacent 18 holes of championship golf at Sedona Golf Resort. For more details, visit www.hiltonsedonaresort.com.

Oak Creek Canyon

Located north of Uptown Sedona on the way to Flagstaff, this popular recreation area is the place to go for bicycling, fishing, camping and cabins, hiking, hunting, nature viewing and picnicking. You may also enjoy water activities as well as winter sports.

Ghost Town of Jerome

Situated high in the Black Hills of Yavapai County less than an hour from Sedona, the ghost town of Jerome was a billion-dollar former copper mining camp that now houses a museum or two and places to dine such as the Asylum and the Haunted Hamburger. It’s more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

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