Nestled between remarkable red-rock facades in Arizona’s high desert, the small city of Sedona draws 3 million people a year to its towering sandstone and limestone formations, intricately carved by time, wind and water. The light and shadows blend beautifully on the rocks, especially at sunset and sunrise, captivating tourists and inspiring artists. And thanks in part to the area’s skyrocketing popularity as a travel destination over the past two decades, Sedona’s government has given attention to creating access for everyone, including designated parking, barrier-free entrances, elevators, and ADA-accessible public toilets.
Located less than a day’s drive from Phoenix, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sedona is a great spot to stop if you’re traveling between cities or on a road trip between the Grand Canyon and any of the many other nearby national parks. About his first visit, Steven Sanchez a manual and power chair user, was quick to say he loves “the vast remoteness of Sedona. In 15 minutes you can drive somewhere and escape all the tourists and just be in nature.” I couldn’t agree more — having a fully-functioning city in such close proximity to the great outdoors is special. Even without any specific itinerary, there are plenty of accessible things to do to keep you busy exploring, and you can see the majestic red rocks everywhere, guarding and watching over Sedona.
Vortexes and Views
New Agers say that in Sedona electromagnetic energy projects out of the earth’s surface and creates ley lines which, when intersected, form vortexes with healing and enlightening properties. Perhaps if a spiritual seeker is in tune with a vortex’s subtle frequency, they’ll feel its energy pulsating through them. For proof that these energy fields exist, skeptics are shown how trees twist and bend toward the ground. “The energy is just different in Sedona than in other places in the world,” says Sanchez.
Vortexes are believed in so strongly that they are tourist destinations. For barrier-free panoramas of the surrounding red rocks and an aerial view of one such vortex, travel to the intersection of Highways 179 and 89, the main roads out of town, and follow the road up to Schnebly Hill Vista. For advanced wheelchair hikers, there is an uneven, rocky slope that leads down to the main path near the vortex, and there you may find a route to get down to where the vortex is said to be. But hike with precaution and don’t do it without someone knowing where you are because it’s tricky terrain.
For the less adventurous, Highways 179 and 89 offer many wheelchair-friendly scenic overlooks. One popular view is at Airport Mesa, off Highway 89 in West Sedona. A similarly impressive view can be seen at the nearby Mariposa Latin Grill. Arizonan Gina Schuh, a manual chair user, makes sure to stop in on her frequent day trips to the area. “The restaurant’s view and food are phenomenal,” she says. “It’s a great place to go if you want to get fancy. It’s one of the top-rated restaurants.”
Two of Sedona’s most famous formations are Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, named after their iconic shapes. Both are about a 10-minute drive south of the city, with Cathedral Rock 4.3 miles away and Bell Rock 6 miles. My favorite trail may be the Bell Rock Trail, which has a few access points. I like starting at the Courthouse Vista parking lot because the barrier-free pathway to the base of the rock is wide and firm with just a slight incline. It’s a reasonable trail for views of Bell Rock, Courthouse Rock and the Red Rock Valley.
“Bell Rock Trail is pretty accessible, and even though you can’t hike up the rock, the views are all you need,” says Sanchez. “It’s a trail that’s fun to explore in a wheelchair to see where and how far you can go. I was able to almost complete the whole thing in a power wheelchair. One section in the middle was just too rocky and steep to pass, especially since I wasn’t hiking with someone who could assist me, but I explored the trail on both sides of that barrier.”
The vortex at Bell Rock is only accessible to the most seasoned climbers and isn’t feasible by wheelchair, but it’s worth noting that spiritual teachers say that the entire formation of Bell Rock resonates with a healing frequency, so even if you’re just in the vicinity, the vortex’s energy may still be at work. Furthermore, it is common for spiritual teachers and healers to come to Bell Rock to “tune” their instruments to the earth’s frequency. The shape of Bell Rock is considered by some to be a kind of antenna outwards from the earth’s core.
One of the best ways to see Cathedral Rock is via Crescent Moon Ranch Regional Park. The park is one of my go-to spots because of the creek, large sycamores, red rock views and access to a vortex. Additionally, since an entrance fee is required, it doesn’t get as overrun with tourists as other locations.
Facilities and parking are wheelchair-friendly, and there’s a lovely picnic area with a creek running through it. A pathway linking the picnic area to a group shelter crosses over to a meadow where the creek enlarges and views of Cathedral Rock begin to emerge. It’s one of the only trails that’s paved.
The pathway leads to a corner of the ranch and loops back to the parking lot. In that corner is a dirt trail that leads to a vortex. Dips and turns, sand traps, rocks and roots are all present, making it a challenge but not impossible for an adventurous wheelchair hiker. It travels along the creek, and if you make it all the way, your efforts are rewarded with a closeup encounter with a vortex.
There’s no ramp to get on top of the vortex, but you can possibly get others to hoist you up. The view is breathtaking, and when it rains, pools of water collect at the base of the rock, creating an incredible reflection of Cathedral Rock. After continuous rain, however, prepare for the trail to be washed out and unsafe. On my three visits, this has only happened once — and even without getting to the vortex, I was fulfilled.
A little further south is V-Bar-V. It is one of three National Heritage Sites within an hour of Sedona and features ancient cliff dwellings: Palatki, Honanki and V-Bar-V. The V-Bar-V trail is a little less than a mile long, passes through a meadow and trees, and ends at a gate protecting ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock.
A section of the petroglyphs is astrologically synced and it’s thought that they were used to guide native peoples through important phases of life. It’s the only barrier-free place that I’ve found in the area, but Sanchez notes that, “to get really close to the petroglyphs, you have to go up a short, steep hill.” The rock ramp is about 20 feet long. You can still see the petroglyphs from the base, but they are fascinating up-close. The rock is a little slippery, but the ranger is there to assist if needed, so speak up. Whether you use a power or manual chair, I recommend wheeling backwards for more stability when going back down the rock ramp. The other heritage sites are west of Sedona and a slightly longer drive, but still eminently doable as part of a longer day trip.
The Truth is Out There
It could be the ley lines and magnetic forces or the nearby military presence or both, but for some reason there are a lot of unidentified flying objects reported in and around Sedona. With so many daily sightings, tours have been established to show the curious what exists in the night sky. I recommend booking with UFO Sighting Tours, run by Melinda Leslie, the first person to start doing such tours and an avowed “lifelong abductee.”
Leslie says military-grade, night-vision goggles are the key to distinguish the difference between objects moving in the sky, but since her company only has a few sets of goggles, UFO seekers are expected to share. Viewing the night sky in Sedona, even without the goggles, is spectacular because of the enforced light pollution ordinances. It is one of the few communities worldwide that has earned a Dark Sky designation from the International Dark-Sky Association.
To see the most stars, pick a night when the moon is at the start of its cycle, as moonlight can be too overpowering. Prepare for low temperatures because once the sun disappears, it gets cold, a fact that some tourists ignore despite being warned. I came over-prepared and was thrilled I did because as the night wore on, most people retreated to their vehicles, but I happily stayed searching our galaxy with my own set of goggles and witnessed numerous flying objects that I could not identify.
Something for Everyone
If a UFO tour is not on your bucket list, then perhaps a stargazing tour is more your light speed. With so many cosmic, astrological, ancient, philosophical, and spiritual opportunities to explore in Sedona, it’s a place to tap into your own intuition and let your heart be your guide. Do something you always wanted to do or have loved to do since you were young. Let go a bit and loosen up, and don’t worry about who’s watching.
Strolling in the Sedona red rocks and dirt is one of my happy places; it’s grounding and uplifting and ever so insightful. As John Muir beautifully states, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” I love going to Sedona because I don’t have to look for experiences — coming with no expectations and an open heart has continuously led me on fulfilling travel adventures.