Between March and October, I think I spent maybe a month in Arizona, so traveling during the pandemic wasn’t as overwhelming for me as it might be for others. Nick’s parents lived in Laguna Beach (they have since moved), so we road tripped out to stay with them for about two months before returning back to Phoenix.
It quickly became apparent to me that spending the summer in Phoenix was not ideal, especially when the restaurants, movie theaters, and other entertainment places were closed or at limited capacity.
So off we went again to Michigan, where my parents live. Things were closed there, too, but at least the temperature didn’t get above 80.
We returned to Phoenix again in September, and I immediately was itching to travel within the state. We decided to attempt a “socially distanced” version of a Sedona weekend.
Sedona, but make it COVID-friendly.
When people think Arizona, there are a few things that come to mind. Primarily the blistering heat, the Grand Canyon, and the famed red rocks near Sedona. Taking a trip to the Grand Canyon State is a bucket-list item for many, and road-tripping is one of the more popular ways to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
As the popularity of these places increases, the crowds become more daunting than ever. Especially in a time when avoiding large groups of people seems prudent. This road trip to Sedona takes you to lesser-known hikes, offers suggestions on places to stay that don’t pose a risk, and where to eat without having to wait in line or crowd into a tight space.
If you’re coming from Phoenix, I recommend getting a very early start.
Things heat up quickly here, and beating the crowds can be tough. Getting into Sedona the night before is your best bet to ensure the earliest start possible the next day. Rather than staying in the town of Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek is just south and offers less-crowded hotels and campgrounds but maintains the same stellar views and close proximity to hikes.
Chavez Crossing Campground is a great option for tent, RV, or trailer camping. It’s got plenty of shade, is incredibly close to all the hikes, and still has the views of the red rocks. There are also pretty reasonable hotels, such as the Views Inn Sedona (which is actually in The Village) that offers rates as low as $150/night.
Some of the best hikes are those that often go overlooked.
Courthouse Butte Loop Trail is about 5 miles with no serious elevation change (read: easy to do even in the heat) and with practically no crowds. Last time I went we saw less than 10 people until we got back near the parking area.
Seven Sacred Pools via Soldier’s Pass Trail is also a less-popular hike with breathtaking views for less effort. At about 2 miles long, it’s relatively flat and a great way to check out some of the massive rocks without putting in a whole day’s work.
For some more intense hikes, Thunder Mountain Trail to Andante Loop is a moderate 3-mile hike with some elevation and high rewards. The views from this trail are incredible.
First Bench of Wilson Mountain has some of the most stunning vistas of the whole area at the top — without all the crowds. You’ll be hiking a mountain though, and this 6-mile hike will take over 3 hours to complete.
Eating out can prove difficult if you’re trying to avoid crowds. Outdoor dining is always in season in Sedona, though, so you’ll be able to eat al fresco and without all the people.
If you want to eat in Sedona, check out Sedona Pizza Company. Being below the level of the main walkway helps keep the traffic here moderate, plus their prices are super reasonable for Sedona.
TC’s Bar and Grill is south of Sedona and also has inexpensive food and a large outdoor seating area.
If you really want to avoid the crowds and the expense of meals out, I recommend stopping at one of the grocery stores in Sedona. Heading west along 89-A will take you to a Safeway, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and Basha’s. We grabbed stuff to make sandwiches, plus some fruit and snacks, to minimize our time and money spent at restaurants.
Hopefully this information is useful to anyone who still wants to check out Sedona but doesn’t want to do all the work of planning it themselves, or doing the homework to figure out what’s busy and what’s not.