I don’t think I’d ever heard much about Sedona, Arizona until something inside me made me book an end of the year trip to the land of red rocks, crystals, vortexes, and beauty. I still don’t know where it came from because I didn’t know anyone who went recently, so perhaps an instagram ad from Enchantment Resort? Either way, I knew I needed to get out of town for the end and beginning of the year to clear my head and embark on some outdoor fitness. I hadn’t seen one of my NYC best friends, Leslie, in a year because of COVID, so we met for 5 nights to ring in 2021 in a safe outdoor resort where we could move easily in and out of our casita without any contact. The 70-acre property is called Enchantment Resort for a reason. Your mind and body feel safe as you set foot and see the gigantic 360 view canyons, tall trees, and you can even hear a flute player sometimes at the top of the rocks. Wild javelinas roam the grounds, you can access a few hikes within using your key card, enjoy some spa and pool time, and imbibe prickly pear margaritas on demand. (I’ll also be writing another article about the full hospitality, food, and spa at Enchantment Resort after this as well as the full spiritual aspect of Sedona). For now, you’ll find where to Hike, Eat, and how to plan an outdoorsy trip to Sedona which is a two hour drive from the Phoenix airport.
WHERE TO HIKE:
While hiking seems endless here, we used the Trail House at Enchantment Resort which is a stand alone center with digital maps, iPads, 3D models, and a great staff to help you find what you are looking for in terms of difficulty level, time, and distance. We covered 24 miles in 4 days. They also offer guided tours which we did at night!
- Cathedral Rock – This was our first hike with sweeping views, and the only crowded one. It’s known for its feminine energy vortex at the top which is supposed to be healing. Either way, you’ll feel a sense of calming, hear the winds whistle, and that alone, will take your breath away. There is a bit of a steep scramble on the way up that has a deep crevice so you’ll have to take your time. Also, when you are at the top, be careful of the ledges! Once you see END TRAIL sign, make sure to take a left and explore a bit further up and over that area. It was my favorite part. We took 90 minutes up and back down. That being said, after this rocky and sandy hike, I went to get some Merrell hiking boots at The Hike House in town which saved my life the rest of the trip. Definitely a necessity if you plan to do all the steep/rocky trails.
- Boynton Canyon Trail– This 2 ish hour hike is accessible with your key card right through the Enchantment Resort. It’s super deep sand which makes you feel like you’re on the beach at times with some uphill action. The end is a narrower canyon than Cathedral Rock, and you’ll sit on the rocks and view a canyon much closer to your face. I love the views here. It felt more private, personal, and was just under 6 miles.
- Bear Mountain – Just a 7 minute drive from our hotel, we were told this was the toughest hike in the area. Naturally, we had to do it then! Yes, it for sure was! It took us 2 hours to hit the summit and each step is over a giant rock/boulder and throughout sand. The white markers help keep you on track, and once you get to the top, you can see all of Sedona and more in both directions. It’s crazy when you spot the parking lot from so far up. There are two peaks as you head up which can trick you into thinking you’re done, but yes, keep looking on and you realize you have an entire other mountain to climb. Make sure you bring at least 2 water bottles. I actually think about half way was my favorite view just because I like being close up to the red, jagged rocks with trees around vs. seeing the whole area from a bird’s eye view. I’m so glad we took on this losing-your-breath challenge. You get to about 6,000 feet up top. 4 hours total if you’re moving fast for about 5 miles. The trail sign says it can take 5 hours fyi.
- Chimney Rock- Because I love a good adventure and to see things in different views, we booked a Full Moon hike through the Trail House where we had a German guide named Chris take us on a 2 hour hike after the sun set. We were so lucky to go on an evening where we saw the Full Moon continue to emerge up in the sky from behind the rocks. The clear skies allow you to see all the stars, and the moon is so gigantic I felt like I could almost hear it erupting upwards as if we were in a movie. We learned all about the vortex history, topography, geology, how Sedona was founded just in 1902, the nearby towns of Jerome and Flagstaff, that the iron in the rocks make it red, and all about why Sedona is so healing and traps people from leaving the mystic place. Chris also told us about cacao ceremonies he leads which I am VERY interested in learning more.
- Kachina Woman/ Vista Trail: We had access to this 1.2 mile trail through the resort. It’s easier than the others with no giant rocks on the path but still gains elevation. We went at sunrise to see spanning views of the hotel canyon as well as miles and miles beyond. We saw hot air balloons getting their groove on, and I actually realized I liked this view almost the best! There is set to be a balance vortex here since there is a combination of both feminine and masculine energy at the top where the rocks are named Kachina Woman.
WHERE TO EAT:
If there is one chef to know in town it’s Chef Lisa Dahl. This powerful female boss runs 4 of the most popular restaurants where it’s impossible to get a table–even during Covid! She started her Italian gem Dahl & Di Luca 25 years ago (happy anniversary!) which is an elevated dining experience with a giant crystal light fixture in the center of the dining room. She said they usually have out of this world piano players on Saturday night wooing the crowd. The room is glitzy and stylish just like herwho you can catch at any of her restaurants wearing gorgeous Gucci earrings that sparkle just like the energy in her establishments. She is even working on a new hotel project to open next year which gives me another excuse to come back. Here are some of my favorite meals while visiting:
- Mariposa– Dahl’s Latin influenced restaurant where everything is cooked on wood. There’s a great view of the rocks and the dining room offers gigantic cozy booths. This was my favorite meal of the trip! Everything felt healthyish yet indulgent and earthy with a perfect charr accent at the same time. If I had to choose one dinner restaurant in Sedona, it would be this one. The flavors are unlike any other restaurant I’ve been to. They are familiar yet very much feels like an Arizona vibe.
- What to Order: I loved the Baby Octopus that was so tender I couldn’t believe it wasn’t sous vide. Go for the Sea Scallops, Lisa’s Chopped Goddess Kale Salad (everyone knows this one and the fresh white cheddar cheese adds the perfect salty touch), and the homemade empanadas. I mean it can’t matter which flavor you order because the warm dough is so good I could even eat it without a filling, but who would actually do that? I’m not a big steak person. If I’m eating meat, it’s tender brisket, but the Filet Mignon Center Cut was so tender it definitely falls into my category of approved meat dishes. The Lobster Mashed Potatoes are too ridiculous not to order as well. I never skip a carb dish without lobster though. To finish off this treat, the Flourless Chocolate Cake is the way to go. I’d almost call it fudge.
- Chocolatree– This sacred spot reminded me so much of my favorite macrobiotic spot in Austin called Casa De Luz.The gluten-free and 100% all organic menu, holistic, and Bali vibes mixed with homemade raw chocolates and nut butters fascinated me and made my taste buds perk up! Radhika Jen Marie is the founder and an experimental gardener and Ayurvedic chef. They have a front store market where they sell tinctures, oils, bags of cacao, nuts, kale chips, chia crackers and chocolate that are all homemade. The backyard garden is self-seated with copper water jugs/mugs, a utensil station, and you can even grab your own blankets to keep you warm. Each item on the menu is made from scratch and with intention to always be seasonal and local. The water they use in the food prep is an artesian spring fed source free of chlorine and fluoride. Of course, I made my way into the other side of the door labeled ‘The Chocolate Room” where all the cacao magic happens and had the pleasure and privilege to meet their chocolate maker Kelly Johnson! Of course, he ended up being from Texas and had a signed picture of Willie Nelson on the wall. He taught me all about the cacao beans, how he doesn’t heat them over high temps as he believes all of the benefits are wasted through a process like that. They get all their beans from Ecuador, and he only uses natural sugars to sweeten them like Maple Syrup, Honey, Agave. As we left, he smiled and said “we make healthy chocolate,” and I could feel an equal happiness in my soul.
- What Food to Order: Saffron Coconut Dahl; Corn Enchiladas with Spicy Tomato Wrap, Organic Stewed Corn, Basmati Rice, Tomato Sauce, Guac, Hot Sauce. The woman who took my order told me to add beans as a little secret. It was great! The Avocado Herb Sandwich is made on their onion flat bread (which they sell in store and online) with cream herbed pate, avocado, tomato, and greens. It was hearty and very healthy. The Turmeric Latte was the best golden milk I’ve ever had! They used coconut oil and maple in it as well. I loved it!
- What Chocolate to Buy: You can buy their chocolate bars online here. I loved the Raw Smooth Vanilla and wish I had gotten more than just 2 bars! The Jungle Cups which I got to see them make behind the doors isn’t sold online but was like a big chocolate Reese’s cup –just not as nutty/sugary, obvi. I liked the Salted Caramel Hearts as well. I got a jar of Almond Butter, but the security at the airport took it from me saying paste can’t go through. 🙁 I guess I have to go back to see Kelly!
- Dahl & Di Luca: As mentioned above, this is Queen Lisa Dahl’s first restaurant that is a bit more intimate and special occasion-esque. I think she really knows her market and how to make people happy. She runs a tight ship! My favorite dish by far was the Eggplant Parmesan that the waiter made sure to say is only “lightly” breaded. I LOVE that! Let’s focus more on the veggies and tomato sauce, right? I was also so impressed with the mozzarella appetizer paired with tomatoes and portobello ‘shrooms. I had to ask if it was flown in from Italy because it was so melty and fresh, yet it was from Wisconsin.
- What Food to Order: Caprese d’Amore, Brutus Cesare, Eggplant Parmesan. DO NOT MISS THE LIMONCELLO CHEESECAKE. Like I told the waiter, I am a chocolate and ice cream person. I didn’t want to waste my dessert on cheesecake, but I do love limoncello and they make their own syrup for the cake, so I let him twist my arm. Let’s just say I ate half of it before my friend Leslie got to dig in!!
- Picazzos: This is called a healthy, Italian kitchen and has pizza, too. It’s super casual, and a place I can see being replicated and done well anywhere. We got curbside during covid, and I loved everything we had even in little to-go boxes in our hotel room.
- What to Order: Sweet Potatoes with Yellow Thai Curry, Sustainable Salmon Picatta, Eggplant Parmesan (yes another one!)
Since Sedona is known as a healing, creative, energetic, and woo-woo place, you’ll see a lot of rock shops, psychic signage, appointments with healers, breath work, etc. I didn’t want to meet a psychic, but I am always interested in a neuromuscular massage and a little spirituality. A friend from Next Level recommended Steven Jaggers in Phoenix. We DM’d on instagram back and forth for several weeks as I really wanted to experience his practice after watching his videos. We finally made it happen just a couple hours before my flight back to Austin. I showed up at his studio and immediately discussed how I was looking for a combination of breath work and body work. He told me to pick something I wanted to let go of and something I wanted to fill myself with in return.
My whole trip theme and throughout COVID has been to be able to receive more love that balances out with my giving side and to let go of overthinking and always trying to make a situation comfortable for others. I wanted some mobility and also the special Sedona touch. He began massaging my diaphragm with instructional deep inhaling and exhaling. After about 10 minutes, my hands were numb and tingly, and I couldn’t control the movement. My head felt elevated and high— very similar to after my mile swims in Barton Springs. I wasn’t sure what was happening as I started to shake, but I know breath work is great to let things out. Steven advised me to let it all out, let go of body armor, and stop putting so much pressure on myself–ya think!? It felt really good, and the release in my hips through his massage also played a great part after all the days of hiking. I really enjoyed his “energy,” gentleness, and new perspective. It was a feeling I’d never experienced before with other massages, and I needed a minute after to come back down to earth– in a good way. I was so relaxed and free, and it was the best ending to my exploration in Sedona. He is planning to make a trip to Austin sometime soon (fingers crossed for summer) and works with Aubrey Marcus and the Onnit team as well. I can’t wait to go back and continue to work on my balance!