If you love stargazing, there are certain destinations that simply must be on your list. Sedona, Arizona, is one of those places. If you have your heart set on stargazing in Sedona, here’s everything you need to know.
From when to visit and where to go, to the stargazing tours and night-sky friendly hotels you can stay in, and even what to do during the day – this guide will give you all the info you need to plan a perfect stargazing trip to Sedona, plus enjoy everything else this desert city among the red rocks has to offer.
When to Visit Sedona for the Best Stargazing
Photo credit: Darryl Brian via Unsplash
Sedona is a great destination for stargazing pretty much year-round – with one exception. In the late summer months between early July and late August, it’s known as monsoon season in Arizona. This season lives up to its name, as storm clouds build up and rain pours across the desert on an almost daily basis. During this time, there’s a lot more cloud cover than other times of the year, which can definitely interfere with your stargazing prospects.
Traveling to Sedona
The easiest way to travel to Sedona is by flying into Phoenix, Arizona. Sky Harbor International Airport is the primary airport in Phoenix and serves as a hub for both American Airlines and U.S. Airways. 16 other airlines also fly to Phoenix, including Air Canada and British Airways.
From Phoenix, it’s a two-hour drive on Interstate 17 to Sedona – assuming there’s no traffic!
Where to Go Stargazing in Sedona
Sedona is arguably one of the best communities in the world for stargazing, as it is one of only 20 certified Dark Sky Communities in the world. The city has made conscientious efforts to reduce light pollution, from low-lumen lighting to properly hooded and directed light fixtures. If you go stargazing in or around Sedona, you’ll notice that there’s substantially less light pollution than other cities.
Combine this with the iconic red rocks surrounding you and Sedona is a stargazing haven – and a dream destination for astrophotographers. (Need astrophotography tips? We got ’em!)
To go stargazing in Sedona (and to get to Sedona), you’ll need a car. Make sure you give yourself enough time to arrive at your stargazing location, turn off your car, and let your eyes adjust. Depending on where you go, you may also need a Red Rocks Pass to park in certain areas. We’ve noted that where we could find the information.
Photo credit: Justin Beck via Unsplash
Two Trees Observing Area
Two Trees Observing Area is located off State Highway 89A near the intersection of Forest Road 525A and Forest Road 761B. There’s a field where you can pull off the road, turn off your ignition, and let your eyes adjust. This area is a popular spot for the Sirius Lookers, Sedona’s astronomy association.
Nearby Two Trees Observing Area, you can also stargaze at the Highway 89A Trailhead.
The Jordan Trailhead Observing Area
The Jordan Observing Area is another favorite spot of the Sirius Lookers. It’s located at the Jordan Trailhead, at the end of West Park Ridge Drive. This is a dirt road can be washed out or sandy at times but is usually passable for most cars. At the end of the road, there’s a parking area with a big field where you can set up to enjoy the stars.
Crescent Moon Picnic Site
Crescent Moon Picnic Site is located at the end of Red Rock Crossing Road, near the parking for the day use area. As a picnic and day use area, there are some open spots far away enough from the trees, as well as a few trails you can walk along to find a good night sky vantage point.
Merry-Go-Round Rock along Schnebly Hill Road
It’s a bit of a drive to get to Merry-Go-Round Rock along Schnebly Hill Road. The road winds its way up the mountains and rock formations well away from any lights in Sedona. There’s a small pullout area near Merry-Go-Round Rock where you can park and walk away from the roadway to get a good stargazing spot. Be sure to bring a good red flashlight to help you see your way.
Photo credit: Darryl Brian via Unsplash
Turkey Creek Trailhead
Turkey Creek Trailhead is located on Verde Valley School Road outside Oak Creek, which is south of Sedona. The trail itself is a 3.4-mile out-and-back that includes some interesting geology and rock formations by day. At night, it’s better to stick near the trailhead and park in the lot.
Baldwin Trail is a ring route around one of the rock formations near Cathedral Rock, and can only be accessed from the town of Oak Creek. It’s a popular biking trail by day, but at night, you could take a short walk along the 1.6-mile loop to find a spot for stargazing. The trailhead and parking are located on Verde Valley School Road beyond Turkey Creek Trailhead.
Centennial Trail is one of the few hikes you could do at night since the trail is only 1 mile out-and-back. With a good flashlight or red headlamp, make your way from the Cultural Park trailhead to an overlook that by day shows Mingus Mountain, Cockscomb, Doe Mountain, Bear Mountain, and Secret Mountain. At night, you’ll see a whole lot of stars!
Dry Creek Road
Dry Creek Road heads north out of the western part of Sedona. While there are no specific spots for stargazing, it’s a great road to get away from the lights in town. Some popular trails, like Devil’s Bridge and Brins Mesa, start along Dry Creek Road, so there’s plenty of roadside parking and a few parking lots you can base yourself from.
Boynton Canyon Trailhead
Boynton Canyon Trail is one of several trails off Boynton Pass Road after the end of Dry Creek Road. It’s a 6.1-mile trail most people pass over for other, shorter trails in the area. It has a good lot near the trailhead where you can park to base yourself for some stargazing.
Bonus! You’re near the Boynton Canyon Vortex, which may or may not have any impact on how impressive the stargazing experience will be.
Fay Canyon Trailhead
Fay Canyon Trailhead is located further along Boynton Pass Road. The trail itself is a 2.2-mile out-and-back trail, a bit long for a night hike despite the prospects of a great overlook about two-thirds out. Instead, park at the trailhead and step a few feet onto the trail (or Cockscomb trail, which also passes this trailhead) for dark sky viewing.
Doe Mountain / Bear Mountain Trailheads
Doe Mountain Trail is a short 0.7-mile switchback-heavy that is great by day if you want to summit one of the mesas in Sedona. At night, park in the large parking lot that also serves Bear Mountain Trailhead Bear Mountain Trail is a 4.3 out-and-back, so definitely not great for a night hike. From the trailhead lot, you’ll have plenty of open space to enjoy the stars with red rocks in every direction.
Aerie Trailhead is located near the Doe Mountain/Bear Mountain Trailhead; it’s the farthest one down past the end of Boynton Pass Road. Aerie Loop is a five-mile trail that’s popular with mountain bikers and crosses several of the other trails in the area. The parking lot isn’t huge but can accommodate about a dozen cars, so there’s plenty of room for everyone who wants to go stargazing.
Photo credit: Kenneth Hagemeyer via Flickr
Both Marg’s Draw Trailhead and Thunder Mountain Trailhead receive local recommendations for stargazing, but they’re pretty close to town. If you’re open to a night hike, you could check either of these out. Cathedral Rock Trailhead is also popular, though you’ll be starting from in a more residential area; you’ll need to walk out a bit along the trail to get away from the light.
Stargazing Tours in Sedona
If you’d rather have a guide to the night sky while stargazing in Sedona, you’re in luck. There’s a fantastic (and highly acclaimed) tour operated by Sedona Stargazing. They offer small-group tours of no more than 12 people. You’ll see at least six night sky objects through the telescope during their 90-minute tour. Tours are offered almost every night and prices range from $40-$70 per person.
Photo credit: Brett Morrison via Flickr
If you want a different experience, consider attending an astronomy night or star party hosted by one of the area’s two astronomy clubs. Sirius Lookers hosts star parties several times per year, usually in conjunction with meteor showers or other important astronomical events. The Astronomers of Verde Valley host star nights and weekends throughout the year, and welcome the public to come to learn about the night sky at their events.
Where to Stay in Sedona
Sedona is a great spot for stargazing, and the city also knows it. As such, you can find accommodation that focuses specifically on stargazing and night sky experiences.
Photo credit: Mark Sugi via Flickr
For example, Kathy and Dan run a Stargazing Capsule in their backyard, where you can sleep directly under the stars. The bubble dome gives you privacy while still offering an uninterrupted view of the stars. Rates range from $76 to $124 per night, and you can also book on Airbnb. If you’ve never booked on Airbnb before, you can also receive $40 in travel credit by clicking this link before you book.
L’Auberge de Sedona is a resort and spa that has all the amenities you might need. They also offer a ‘Written in the Stars‘ special package that includes a stargazing map, throw blanket to take out for your stargazing session, and star cookies to snack on. The whole package starts from about $640 per night. This includes a $200 dinner credit at the on-property restaurant, Cress on Oak Creek.
Enchantment Resort is another splurge-worthy spot if you really want to have an all-out stargazing-focused trip in Sedona. Twice per week (Tuesdays and Saturdays), two astronomers are available for a stargazing session with telescopes on-property. These are offered free to guests and are especially popular during the peak season. Rooms start from around $400 per night.
What to Do During the Day in Sedona
Aside from stargazing at night, there’s plenty to do during a trip to Sedona.
- Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride – There’s no better way to start the day after a night of stargazing! Hot air balloon rides in Sedona allow you to peacefully rise above the red rocks as the sun comes up, and see the whole of Sedona spread out below you.
- Explore the Hiking Trails – As you might have guessed from all the stargazing spots, there are some amazing hiking and mountain biking trails around Sedona. If you brought gear to go hiking, all you need is sun protection and a lot of water before you set out.
- Cool Off in the Watering Holes – When the Arizona sun gets too hot, there’s only one place to go: one of Sedona’s watering holes. Some of the most popular swimming holes in Sedona include Grasshopper Point, Slide Rock State Park, and Red Rock Crossing.
- Visit the Vortexes – Whether you believe in them or not, Sedona’s vortexes are one of those interesting aspects of the city you might just need to visit. These energy centers are located all over town, but the four most popular are at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon.
- Wine Tasting at Local Vineyards – For a desert climate, you might be surprised how good the wine in Sedona and the surrounding Verde Valley is. Some popular wineries in the area are Page Springs Vineyard and Javelina Leap Vineyard in nearby Cornville, and Burning Tree Cellars in Cottonwood. You can also look for local wines (and beer) on the menu when dining.
- Support Local Arts & Culture – Sedona has an admirable strip of shops where you can find everything from kitschy souvenirs to crystals and local crafts. Supporting local businesses is good for the Sedona economy.
If you’re looking for the night sky, there are few places better for stargazing than Sedona. Even better, there’s plenty to do during the day in between nights of admiring the starry skies.