Sedona, Arizona: Wheelchair Travel Tips

What brings people to Sedona, Arizona in the Southwest of the United States are the majestic Red Rocks that surrounds this area. To the Native Americans the Red Rock is sacred and continues to draw people like a magnet from all over the world year round. Thanks to John Muir and President Roosevelt much of the land remains undeveloped so countless generations can enjoy the natural beauty of the Red Rocks. When I visit Sedona, I always return with red dirt on my wheels, but I also get something more and unexpected; something you cannot buy in a store. “In nature we receive far more than we seek” (John Muir), and I experience this every time I come to Sedona and her mystical red rocks.

Over the years, Sedona has grown to be a very popular tourist spot, especially during the spring and fall months, and has expanded Upper Sedona to accommodate all the visitors. From the surface, Sedona looks to have an amusement-park-type mentality. Throughout the day, jeeps continue to roll in and out of town centers and into the red rocks, but look within. (Driving Note: If you are not familiar, practice driving round-abouts as there are few in Sedona, and you don’t want to be that obvious tourist who unnecessarily stops traffic and enrages locals.)

Access to the Sedona Red Rocks

Maps to the massive Red Rock Landmarks are available almost everywhere and along roads to them are numerous pathways and trailheads. A fee is required to access most areas in the Red Rock Valley, and usually comes in the form  of a Red Rock Pass. However, if you are a United States citizen and have a Golden Access Pass issued by the National Park Service, this may be used in lieu of a Red Rock Pass. Regional parks will still require a fee. Countless tours exist in Sedona, including many involving ATVs and Jeeps, but none have made any specific access modifications to the vehicle or the activity itself. Blow are the most accessible options to explore Sedona’s Red Rocks. 

  • Self-Guided Drives:Driving tour CD takes your around various Red Rocks. Boynton Pass Road off Dry Creek Road, is a very scenic drive, especially at sunset and sunrise. Many unpaved roads lead to red rock sites of interest, some of which require 4-wheel-drive and heavy suspension, but not all. See off-roading trails
  • As part of the Coconino National Forest is a park called the Crescent Moon Ranch at Red Rock Crossing. This is a favorite park because the cemented walkway that weavers all over the park is an ideal and easy way to enjoy the outdoors of Sedona and witness amazing views of Cathedral Rock. Meandering through most of the park is Oak Creek; sometimes it is more like a stream and other times it is like a small river. There is also a large picnic area with shaded and non-shaded picnic tables and a wheelchair accessible restroom. Here, it may be possible to visit a vortex (1 of 4 main ones). Travel toward the back corner of the park towards Cathedral Rock. The path is almost barrier-free, but there are three crucial areas that some may need assistance getting over.The first area of caution is the initial slope off the cemented path to the one that leads to the Vortex because there are a number of small rocks. The Red Rock sediment was very easy to roll over when dry, but is very sandy when wet. A little further down the path there was another set of small rocks, which was difficult to get over. Near the Vortex the last obstacle consists of a set of roots sticking out of the ground. However,  it was certainly worth despite the obstacles to be in the presence of the enormous piece of flat Red Rock in perfect view of Cathedral Rock and in view of the vortex. The path goes along a creek, which can flood in a storm and block the trail.
  • Three National Heritage Sites exist around Sedona, which feature remnants of the ancient Hopi civilization: Palatki, Honanki and V-Bar-V. At each National Heritage Site, a barrier-free trail leads to a point of interest, but most of the area remains inaccessible unless you can scale stairs carved on the sides of rocks. For some, the Palatiki Trail may be too rocky and the Honanki Trail too sandy, but we powered through both. The descending ramp at the V-B-V trailhead is a little sandy, which is harder to navigate with a manual wheelchair than one with power, but then the trail is much firmer and basically level. The trail is a little less than a mile-long, passes through a meadow and trees, and ends at a gated, large rock wall covered in petroglyphs from ancient Hopi. Other petroglyphs in the Sedona area are not accessible. The petroglyphs seen at V-B-V are special because a section is astrologically synced and used to guide the Hopi through important phases of life; a fact that the ranger/docent lectures repeatedly while the gated area is open; much of everything else is I heard was speculation that was openly admitted by the ranger/docent.   
  • Red Rock State Park requires an entrance fee to access the area around the Miller Visitor Center, where there’s accessible facilities and picnicking. A barrier-free trail leads from the visitor center, through a meadow and across a creek with views of the surrounding red rocks. The beginning of the trail is paved, but becomes packed dirt and rocks after diverging to the right towards the creek. Follow the wheelchair sign marker for the pathway with the least incline.  Some hikers may be able to continue the once over the bridge as there are trails going off in all directions. The Kisva Trail runs along the creek and is the most level. 
  • In West Sedona, you can visit the Amitabha Stupa and Buddha Statue at Peace Park. For the closest access, call the docent to setup (usually at least 24-hours in advance). Surrounded by colored flags and ringing bells, this statue is considered to be the body of the Buddha, and thus sacred. Even getting to the closest spot, one must be able to get out of the vehicle on a dirt hill and get down a moderately rocky hill to the stupa. There’s an asphalt pathway around the stupa, but no official accessibility.
  • No matter one’s religious beliefs, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is an inspirational landmark built right into the Red Rock and has breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Handicapped parking is available but the ramp up to the church itself is steep so be prepared to receive a push or to make a couple of stops. The church is wheelchair accessible but the gift shop is not.
  • The area known as the Call of the Canyon is near Oak Creek and Slide Rock State Park on the way to Flagstaff, Arizona, and along the road are a few places to stop to purchase some authentic, hand-made Native American artwork, jewelry and crafts. The accessible part of the trail itself is incredibly short, but does lead over a bridge into the canyon, and some may be able to continue a little further to reach the cabin ruins of a founding pioneer, though the pathway becomes quite soft.
  • Sunset Trail travels along the Soldier Pass Road in the trees with incredible mountain views. A good place to park is at the Sedona Dog Park where there’s two accessible spaces, and if you have a canine with you, it’s a must stop because not only does it include areas for big and small dogs, but there’s also an enclosed wilderness area for dogs to hike and sniff around. People are friendly and you cannot beat the views. Plus, there’s plenty of shade, and I saw the only true ADA picnic table here with the extended end.
  • Slide Rock is also somewhat accessible for wheelchair users. It’s a place where kids are often found playing and sliding on the large, red rock formation; you have to pay to get in, and the areas of most interest are not accessible, but there’s a gift shop. Shops and galleries displaying and selling jewelry, art and other gifts.
  • Along Highway 89, a smoothly paved bike path runs along the road for over 50 miles from north to south.

Overlooks

Airport Mesa is a very popular lookout spot right on Airport Road off Highway 89A. This area is particularly beautiful at sunset. Here also another vortex, but not accessible by wheelchair.  More off the tourist path is the Dry Creek Vista. Further along Highway 89, on the edge of town at the Cockscomb Trailhead, is an overlook of a valley in the Coconino National Forest. Off Highway 179 on the other side of Sedona, the Courthouse Vista overlooks the red rock valley, and the Schnebly Hill Vista there’s an aerial view of a vortex. A rocky slope leads down to the main path near the vortex, hike with precaution, and if you follow the trail you may find a route to get down to the actual vortex, but don’t do it without someone knowing where you are because it’s rocky surface. 

Arts, Crafts Shopping and Restaurants

Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque is the artsy shopping center of Sedona and being perfectly flat, it is an ideal attraction for the art-loving wheelchair traveler. One can almost get lost meandering through the many nooks and courtyards of Tlaquepaque; in one small corner is even a small church. Directories are available if there’s something specific you are looking for; otherwise it’s best to explore. The walkways are made up of a variety of cobble stone all for the the most part are tightly sealed to make the surface as even as possible.

The majority of shops located at Tlaquepaque finely display various art pieces ranging from paintings to blown glass, jewelry, sculptures, and windmills. Many of the pieces are from local artists but there are others, including international ones. There is a second floor that one can access via elevators.

The importance of the Native American culture is present all over Arizona and is particularly sacred in Sedona. Therefore, you will also expect to find art and crafts that have been created by Native Americans as well as pieces from artists that have been inspired by these people. Setup as the decor around Tlaquepaque are statues, like of this young Native American woman or the warrior and travelers shown in the below photos.

If craving something on the healthier side, I would recommend the Secret Garden if hungry for quality ingredients. Indoor and outdoor seating is also available and everything on the menu looked delicious including soups, salads, and sandwiches. There was also a fine selection of teas and coffees and pastries. Other places to dine at Tlaquepaque included a the Oak Creek Brewery & Grill located on the 2nd level and a Mexican restaurant called El Ricon, both with nice indoor and outdoor seating.

Creekside American Bistro also has an outdoor patio and overlooks the creek; this place is also has a dog menu. Almost right next door is Creekside Coffee, which serves delicious brew, teas, wine and beer.

Uptown Sedona

Uptown Sedona is a shopping area with flat walkways and views of the Red Rocks. Parking rules are strictly enforced, so don’t forget to pay. Sedona is historically known for being the backdrop for some of Hollywood’s most famous Westerns, and in Upper Sedona there is a Motion Picture Museum, which talks about the hundreds of movies that were filmed in Sedona. The Sedona Art Center in Upper Sedona features works by local artists, including jewelry, fiber arts and photography, and on the ground floor there’s an art studio for classes. Sedona is HUGE artist community. 

Though there is main section, side streets also have equally cute shops to find great keepsakes and more. There are of course plenty of places to eat or get a cup of coffee, many with outdoor seating. You’ll find many souvenir shops, including items made by and inspired from Native Americans, like warrior dolls, but perhaps the popular item is the world famous t-shirts made with the dye of the Sedona Red Rock called the “Red Dirt Shirt.” Home on the Porch features stuff for the kitchen garden as well as gifts and collectibles. Colorful blown glass vases and jewelry are displayed in a couple of places. Crystals and gem stones of all kinds and sizes can also be found for purchase. There are many Western-inspired shops, including clothing too, like the Cowboy Corral. 

There are a number of places to choose from when it comes to food. The Black Cow Cafe serves homemade ice cream but one can also take a seat at the coffee bar and enjoy a fresh baked pastry with a cup of joe. Another sweet treat favorite is the Sedona Fudge Company, slicing up fudge since 1887. If looking for a nice meal to sit-down American steakhouse then try the Cowboy Club. Nonetheless, the Cowboy Club serves in their dimly lit dining room or outside on a patio. Thai Palace Uptown is located in Upper Sedona, but off the main tourist road, and has a small patio in front. 

West Sedona

In West Sedona, the all-vegan restaurant, ChocolaTree Organic Eatery, is delicious, even if you’re not a vegan. Mariposa is upscale Latin cuisine with an elegant ambiance and pricey menu. Red Rock Deli is good place for sandwiches and is reasonably priced, good cookies too. If looking for live music, try the Rouge Hotel & Spa, which commonly features performers.  The International Sedona Film Festival draws a lot of people every year, and most screens are setup in West Sedona. 

Just outside of West Sedona, in Cottonwood, is the Verde Valley Medical Center with a hospital and 24-hour ER, just in case something happens and you need medical attention.

Spiritual Sedona

Sedona has drawn many spiritual practitioners, healers and teachers. Vortexes in Sedona release electromagnetic energy through the earth’s surface. For this reason, any many others, the spiritual are strong in Sedona. Aura, palm, astrology, and physic readings are ways to tap into your guides and provide insights. Various reiki sessions are offered throughout Sedona, in which someone works with you to reset and uplift your personal energy field and system, often working with your chakras. Seminars and classes on holistic healing methods are also offered in Sedona. Here are some places to explore, but there’s more:

U.F.O Tour

Using military-grade, night-vision goggles, you are able to compare the difference between planes, satellites, shooting-stars, and unidentified flying objects–all of which are very easy to distinguish. Led by extraterrestrial expert and lifetime abductee, Melinda Leslie, the group spends part of the evening hunting for moving objects in the sky and determining their origin. The location is remote, so everyone is told a meeting spot and follows one another. Once the sun goes down it’s cold, so dress extra warm and bring a blanket–cannot emphasize this enough because most people spend their time in the car being cold. The ground is covered in a thick layer of small rocks, which isn’t easy for a wheelchair user, but everyone is just looking up, not moving around, so it’s still workable. Melinda starts the evening off by explaining what to look for, how to notify the group, etc.. Most people are eager to jump right in, but getting the whole explanation comes first, so be patient and respectful. There’s about six pairs of night-vision glasses that the group shares, so it’s kind to be mindful. For more information and reservations, visit the website.       

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