We decided to add Sedona to our Arizona itinerary because it was a good midway point between our two planned stops in Phoenix/Scottsdale and the Grand Canyon. I’m so glad we spent a couple of days in Sedona because there were so many kid friendly activities! There are so many places in Arizona we still want to explore, but Sedona will definitely be on our list of places to return! Here’s how we kept ourselves busy for two days.
Slide Rock State Park
When I asked for ideas on what to do with kids in Sedona, the #1 suggestion was Slide Rock State Park (which happened to make the Travel Channel’s list of “Top 10 Swimming Holes in the United States”)! The park is 7 miles north of Sedona and gets its name from the 80 foot-long natural water slide that is worn into the sandstone by Oak Creek. 1/2 mile of the creek is open for swimming, wading and sliding.
There is a large parking area and then about a half mile walk along a paved path to the creek entrance. There were plenty of places to sit and wade in the water, deep swimming holes for jumping, and of course the slide!
In early April the water was very cold, but that didn’t stop anyone from getting in. We went in the afternoon in hopes of warm afternoon temperatures (which we got – around 90 degrees). There was definitely a crowd, but our kids never had to wait long (if at all) to go down the slide or to jump into a swimming hole. In the summer this might be different.
Tips & Cost
- There was a cost to enter the park. We paid $20 for one vehicle (1-4 adults). There were 10 of us (4 adults; 6 kids) so this worked out to $2/person.
- There was a vendor selling drinks and snacks.
- The sandstone rocks under the water’s surface were very slippery. We all wore water shoes (like Keenes) which really helped with traction.
Pink Jeep Tour
Another activity that came highly recommended to us was the Pink Jeep Tour. We chose their most popular (and exclusive) Broken Arrow tour as they are the only tour company in the area allowed to use this trail.
We started at their office in downtown Sedona where we met our guides and boarded our open air Jeeps. Each Jeep fits up to 8 passengers and since we had 10 we had to split into two Jeeps. When we made the reservation, the person we spoke to was great and promised that our two Jeeps would stay together on the trails and make all stops at the same time. Sometimes prearrangements like this don’t work out, but in this case, it did and was seamless.
We drove about 10 minutes through town to the trailhead. Our guide pointed out highlights and landmarks along the way.
I was in a Jeep with the two 8-year-olds and our 4 older kids were in the other Jeep. Our guide did a great job of engaging our young boys – asking them about the animals they thought they’d find out in the Coconino National Forest, the history of the Pink Jeep Tour company, movies that were filmed there, how the red rocks were formed, and talking about National Parks and how we own them and should use them. He was also very patient answering their many questions.
We stopped several times to enjoy the views, take pictures and let the kids run around. The Jeep ride was really fun and seemed to defy gravity at several points. We went over some crazy rock formations and parts of trails that didn’t seem like they should have a Jeep driving on it! But I felt very confident that our guide had it under control. The 8-year-olds didn’t seem phased at all!
Our guide showed us this cool example of shifting Earth on a fault line. The white part of the rock below used to line up to form an oval!
Tips & Cost
- This was a bit of a splurge, but we all thought it was well worth it and it topped our list of best adventures during the trip! $110/adult and $99/kid (ages 1.5 – 12)
- There were points where it got pretty windy and dusty. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes!
Hike: Fay Canyon
We were a bit overwhelmed trying to choose a family-friendly hike because there are just so many options. I had really wanted to hike to Devil’s Bridge, but given our time constraints that wasn’t an option. When I asked our Pink Jeep Guide for a recommendation, he said “Fay Canyon” without hesitation. So after lunch, we headed to the trailhead.
Fay Canyon was a perfect hike for us. It’s a fairly easy, partially shaded 2.2 miles out and back – good for basically any skill level.
We extended our hike a bit once we got to the turnaround point on the trail. Instead of turning around, we decided to hike up some boulders to get a better view. It was fairly steep and more like climbing boulders than walking up them. After a steep incline, we got up to another narrow trail with a steep dropoff on one side – be careful with little ones!
The views at the top were well worth the effort and this was my favorite part of the hike! It was beautiful! We hiked a little bit further but decided to turnaround as the trail was really narrow and not all the kids were feeling comfortable. At this point, we seemed to be hiking away from the view so instead, we decided to look for a hidden arch we had read about.
We had read about a hidden natural arch that could be found by following a side trail. In all the reviews we read, there was no specific detail about which side trail (there were many), how far to go, or exactly where to look. Most people we ran into on the trail asked if we had found the arch – no one had seen it that we ran into. A review left a few days before we were there said to look for a cairn (a human-made pile of stones – I had to look it up) and head off on the trail nearest that. When we found it we headed off through a bushy trail and got to a point where we were blazing our own trail. We kept going until we just felt it was improbable we were in the right spot. But we did find some more great views!
So, we never did find the arch. Has anyone ever seen it on this trail? I’d love to know!
Where We Ate
Sedona had so many delicious sounding restaurants with great reviews. We wanted to try many of them, but with a party of 10 we found it difficult to make a reservation and we weren’t keen on just putting our name down and waiting, especially with hangry kids. So we found a few off-the-beaten-path places to eat that we all loved and highly recommend!
Indian Gardens & Cafe – We came here twice. Once on our way into town for lunch and a second time for breakfast on our way to the Grand Canyon. You order at the counter and then find a seat. The restaurant felt busy, but we never had a problem finding tables to accommodate all of us. Plus there was space for the kids to get up and walk around while we waited for our food to arrive. For lunch, there were pizzas, sandwiches, salads, burgers etc. For breakfast, there were breakfast burritos, bagels, acai bowls. Had we spent more time in Sedona, I’m sure we would have been back again!
Pizzeria Bocce – Cottonwood – Our first night in Sedona, our concierge recommended Pizzeria Bocce in the neighboring town of Cottonwood (about 30 minutes away). We were a little skeptical of the drive but decided it might be worth it to just drive 30 minutes and get a table instead of waiting around for a table somewhere closer. We were all smitten by the adorable main street in Cottonwood. The restaurant was full of life and we were immediately happy with our choice. There was a huge fire pit area on the corner outside, a bocce court in the back with couches and comfortable seating, huge wood fire grills inside, a large bar, and a huge open restaurant. We did have a short wait for our tables, but we had barely gotten our drinks and the kids hadn’t finished their bocce game before our tables were ready. We were starving, but still slightly disappointed we hadn’t had to wait a little bit longer!
Tavern Grille – Cottonwood – Since we had such a positive experience in Cottonwood, we decided to try another restaurant owned by the same family. Tavern Grille was smaller than Pizzeria Bocce, but still had a great atmosphere. It was originally built in 1923 as the Rialto Theater, the longest running single-screen theater in the US until 1998, when a fire gutted the building. It was rebuilt and opened as the Tavern Grille in 2005 and you can still see the charred concrete walls that frame the dining room. We were seated at a big table in the back with cushioned couches and chairs. The service was great and we enjoyed our drinks and meals. I got a mini-sandwich sampler which I loved. There were many salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrees from which to choose.
Have you been to Sedona? What should we do next time? Let me know in the comments!