One of the places I’ve been dying to visit here in the US, is Arizona. Whether it was visiting Phoenix and Scottsdale, or checking out the gorgeous red rocks in Sedona to the Grand Canyon, I’ve always wanted to explore this state. A few friends of mine sent me a text recently asking “you down to go to Scottsdale and Sedona?” and I instantly wrote back “YES”. I could not be more excited to explore someplace new and finally check this destination off my bucket list.
This was a much needed vacation and unplugging from the internet and social media. I deleted my Instagram app the second I left, sent one single email, and focused on being present. Surprisingly, it was easy as can be. I didn’t even bring my camera so everything you see here is from the good ‘ol iPhone. Our trip was one full week and I could have totally stayed another week easily soaking up the desert sun.
Arizona 8 Day Itinerary
We left Atlanta on a Saturday morning and arrived in Phoenix around noon. The 3 hour time difference (sometimes 2) allows you to have plenty of time the day you arrive. A great perk to flying to the west coast. We split up our time between Sedona to do some hiking and exploring, followed by a few days in Scottsdale to relax after all the activities. It was the perfect combination. Our 8th day was really just a travel day and we packed in one activity and one meal.
Sedona 5 Day Itinerary
We spent the bulk of our time in Sedona. With a lot of things to do here, we could have totally spent the full week and still had so much left to do. We stayed at this AirBNB which was about 15 minutes from the heart of Sedona. Here’s what we did each day.
Arrive from Phoenix. It’s about a 2 hour drive from the airport. The rental car line was INSANE as in, we spent a solid 2 hours waiting to get the keys to our car. We arrived just in time for a little refresh and dinner.
Our MOST packed day. We started our day off with a Pink Jeep Tour which came highly recommended. The tour we selected was the 2 hour Broken Arrow tour. It was bumpy, it was off road, it was so much fun. We got out a few times to snap pics, take in the views and learn a bit about the red rocks, cacti and agave.
After our tour, we headed to Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village which is a gorgeous open air shopping and restaurant destination. It was a short walk from where our tour started and ended. We had lunch at the Secret Garden Cafe and devoured the best portebello sandwich I have ever had. Still thinking about it. Also had a spicy margarita which I highly recommend. Something you find on every menu here is a prickly pear margarita. It’s a purple syrup added to margaritas that has a bit of a floral note to it. It’s the flower from the prickly pear cacti that you see everywhere. Personally, I’m not a big floral person. But my friends loved them!
We also checked out The Church Of Christ which is definitely worth a quick visit. It’s a tiny little 20 person church built into the rocks. It’s stunning! And visited the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park which was a quick visit as well.
To finish off our day, we did a sunset hike to Cathedral Rock.
I swore we were going to die this night because this hike was STEEP. And we definitely went off trail slightly thinking it looked easier than what was ahead of us, but we were dead wrong. This hike was only .7 miles, but we gained 800 ft in elevation. Meaning you went straight up in some areas. I learned what “scrambling” means, which is literally getting on your hands and knees pretty much to hike. And yes, on your butt like crab-walking to get down. Once we got to the top, we realized why this hike was so popular. The views were insane. The wind was powerful and there are no railings of any sort. Proceed with caution!
For dinner, we got really lucky by getting a table at Cucina Rustica. The same chef as Mariposa which is always booked. We rolled in after trying 3 other restaurants that were booked (this town was busy!) and walked into this somewhat fancy restaurant sweaty and dusty from the day. But it was delicious and the glass of wine was worth it at the end of the day.
This was our Grand Canyon day. None of us have ever been and since it’s about a 2 hour drive, we thought we’d give it a go. We stopped at Indian Garden Cafe for breakfast and I had the BEST breakfast burrito of my life. I swear the tortilla was really some sort of pastry dough it was insane. Then we grabbed a few PB&Js for the road and we were off. Once we got to the Grand Canyon, we walked along the South Rim for a little bit taking in the breathtaking views.
And finally sitting down for lunch with our PB&Js in hand. We didn’t spend a ton of time here as we quickly realized it’s not really a place to spend a whole day at. We envisioned doing a hike but couldn’t really figure out how to get to what we wanted to do without a shuttle, and additional walking.
Once we decided we’ve seen enough of the Grand Canyon, we headed back to Sedona to do the Airport Loop scenic trail. It’s a short walk to this stunning outlook. It was a great walk to take before dinner at SaltRock in the Amara Resort. The food was amazing, and the view at sunset was even better. Highly recommend making a reservation here.
My two girlfriends woke up at 4:30 am to do a hot air balloon. I’ve done it before and didn’t feel the need to go, but they loved it. Incredible views! If you’ve never done one, highly recommend it. But I feel like if you’ve done it once, you’re good. And I promise, it feels like you’re floating, it’s not scary at all! Then we headed to lunch at Hideaway House for a delicious Italian sub sandwich and big salad.
Then we visited Jerome, this “ghost town” that a lot of people suggested adding to our list. It was a complete dump with nothing open. I do not recommend and do not understand why it’s on every travel itinerary. Skip it, trust me. We did a horseback riding tour that was *fine*. It was quite far out from Sedona as the one in the area was booked. For dinner, we headed to Rotten Johnny’s pizza.
For our last day in Sedona we wanted to attempt Devil’s Bridge. It’s the most popular trail and the busiest. Meaning, we had to get there SUPER early in hopes for even a parking spot. We were stoked when we arrived about an hour after it opened and got front row parking. We started on our first part of the trail and realized a good mile in that we went the opposite way. Turned around to walk a mile or so back and realized it was right in front of us. All 3 of us missed it.
Since we had already walked nearly 2.5 miles at this point and it was quickly getting very hot, we decided attempting Devil’s Bridge (4.5 miles roundtrip) was going to take all day and we had to be in Scottsdale soon. Thankfully there are TONS of trails to do in Sedona, and Birthing Cave was just half a mile up the road and barely a mile long trail to the cave. This was an easy hike (but hot!) and was worth the ridiculous view. At the top in the Birthing Cave was a sweet Golden Retriever named Luna. Made it all worth it!
Once we got back to our car and successfully sweat through our clothes and got our official sports bra sunburns, we headed to Hilltop Deli to grab sandwiches for lunch and hit the road to Scottsdale. If you’re in Sedona, make sure you grab one of these sandwiches. Hands down the best sub sandwiches I have ever had.
3 Day Scottsdale Itinerary
The last portion of our trip was all about the relaxation in Scottsdale. We stayed at The Scott Resort & Spa and absolutely loved it. So adorable, great food, nice pool and convenient to Old Town.
We arrived in Scottsdale just in time for a cocktail, a shower and dinner. Dinner was at The Henry which was so good. I had this kimchi Korean steak bowl that was out of this world. Then it was off to bed because Sedona really kicked our asses!
A total spa day at The Fairmont. Started the morning with aerial yoga at the spa which was a fun experience and a great stretch after all the hiking. Then massages and pool time. We spent the entire day here and finished with dinner at La Hacienda. The lobster tacos are a must and be sure to order the guava empanadas for dessert.
I woke up nice and early (per usual) and grabbed us a few pool chairs for the day. This was a total lazy day of naps, reading, cocktails and pool time. For dinner, we headed to Old Town which is 100% for the young people, as in Bachelorette parties galore, DJs in restaurants, and the like. Grabbed some delicious fish tacos at The Montauk and then off to bed.
On our last day, we did brunch at The Herb Box which was super delicious and very much appreciated a $5 mimosa bar. Then we spent about 45 minutes walking through the Desert Botanical Garden which was right next to the airport making it an easy activity to do right before our flight. It was so pretty. So much cacti, agave and succulents. I loved it so much. And then it was off to the airport to head home.
Where To Eat In Sedona
Casual spot in Sedona with incredible views. Pizza, subs and salads. This was a great place for lunch and was packed for dinner. Recommend a reservation.
Located in the Amara Resort, this upscale restaurant served up southwestern inspired dishes. The views were also breathtaking. The elote corn was divine.
Indian Garden Cafe
About 20 minutes north of Sedona, this little fast casual restaurant serves up breakfast and lunch and has a great little pastry window and grocery section. Perfect for grabbing a few snacks, sweets and beverages. We loved the breakfast burrito and avocado toast topped with a hibiscus hard boiled egg. And get the chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
An upscale Italian restaurant by chef Lisa Dahl who is known for her restaurant also in Sedona, Mariposa. A classic Italian meal and quite possibly the most tender calamari I’ve ever had. Recommend making reservations.
Secret Garden Cafe
Super casual spot for breakfast lunch or dinner. Great sandwiches, quiche and salads. Loved the portobello mushroom sandwich. This is located in the Tlaquepaque shopping district.
The Chai Spot
For an afternoon pick-me-up, try a spicy chai latte at The Chai Spot inside Tlaquepaque. Also grabbed an almond biscotti to dip in it.
Super quick and easy sandwiches at this classic deli shop. Hands down one of the best sandwiches I ever had. I went for the turkey with “the works”. These are great taken to-go for a picnic on a hike, or have a seat at one of their tables.
Where To Eat In Scottsdale
A cute neighborhood restaurant serving breakfast lunch and dinner. We did dinner and absolutely loved everything we ordered along with great service.
The Herb Box
Cute little brunch spot that had a lot of great Southwestern dishes. The breakfast tacos, peach french toast and chilaquiles were all delicious
A popular spot for dinner which is definitely a party scene. The fish tacos though were SO DAMN GOOD. Great cocktails too.
Things To Bring With You For Hiking In Arizona
I’m definitely not a hiker or someone who considers themselves super outdoorsy. But I will definitely tell you that there are things you need to make sure you have for a trip to Sedona or any hiking trip you’re going on no matter what. Here’s the list of things we always had for a successful and safe hike.
- Hiking sneakers
- Water bottle
- Phone & charger
A few tips…
All The Water
Keep a gallon of water in your car in addition to whatever you put in your reusable water bottle. You’ll 100% go through whatever you bring in your backpack and will be thirsty as soon as you get back. Between the elevation, heat and activity, DRINK LOTS OF WATER!
Our friend had a fancy Apple Watch that kept track of our distance and elevation. This really came in handy when we knew we should be on a trail for less than a mile before finding our next trail to take to Devil’s Bridge, but ended up going easily 1.5 miles. We realized we had gone the wrong direction on the trail. And on that note, use AllTrails.com to get familiar with the trails, notes and tips. You can also download the map to use offline.
It’s also a good idea to tell someone where you’re headed and when. A simple text to a friend back home to let them know “I’m heading on a hike be back in 3 hours or start to worry”. A lot of these hikes are busy with other hikers but a wrong turn could mean a really bad situation. Someone should know where you are! Preferably someone with who you share your location with too.
Your phone will likely not have great service while out on your hike. To save the battery life, put it on airplane mode before heading on the trail.
- PIN IT