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5 reasons to add Sedona, Arizona to your Grand Canyon road trip

Calling all summer travelers. Everything you've heard about Arizona's bucket list attraction is true: The Grand Canyon plunges a mile into the earth, was carved by a river, exhibits layers of color encountered only in the northwest corner of Arizona and has donkeys! (Mules, actually.) The Grand Canyon is Awesome with a capital A.

Many travelers to north-central Arizona have discovered along the way another awesome geological wonder 100 miles south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon that packs a mighty punch as well. As travelers take to the road this summer, the world-famous red rocks of Sedona add many ways to flesh out the itinerary. Visitors always wish they had more time in Sedona, so bring your bags and stay awhile.

Sunset in Sedona - Don Graham/Flickr

1. A Real Scene-Stealer

Sedona's natural beauty goes so much deeper than the stunning rock formations. Visitors also find inspiration in the way the sun turns browns to yellows and reds to pinks during the course of the day, the way the mossy rocks along the cold creek fill the air with something uplifting. Seriously, visitors find themselves staring at the landscape here. It only takes one glance at the scenery to understand why.

2. Alfresco Everything

The outdoors is always in play in Sedona. Year-round, visitors picnic on the banks of Oak Creek. Shoppers linger in the shady courtyards of Tlaquepaque. Food and music festivals draw crowds to towering red-rock cathedrals.

Serious hikers find an outdoor playground in Sedona. Visitors lace up their boots and join guided moonlight hikes at Red Rock State Park or break a sweat on Bear Mountain in West Sedona-a real quad-buster! Visitors also rent bikes from the bicycle shops along State Routes 89A and 179 and head off on their own adventures. For visitors who prefer a more guided tour of Red Rock Country, Sedona's answer to trail rides on mules comes in the form of off-road vehicles that scale massive boulders. Seatbelts required! Sedona really does have all things for all summer loving people. Find more outdoor adventure ideas in the Nature Experience itinerary.

3. Arts and Culture

Aesthetically speaking, Sedona is to the Grand Canyon what Van Gogh was to Gauguin: pals more than rivals, equal in their mastery of color and composition. Immersed in such natural beauty, artists have found inspiration in Sedona for decades. Visitors ride the trolley to Uptown, West Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek to gallery hop and interact with local artisans in shops full of handmade wares and masterpieces by international artists.

Performing arts plus annual Plein Air and International Film festivals make Sedona a year-round favorite for art lovers. Visitors can easily fill more than three days with the arts of Sedona. The Sedona Arts Experience itinerary offers a good start.

4. Sedona's Spiritual Side

Magnetic energy fields make up the vortex sites Sedona is famous for. Add the invigorating aroma of juniper and red earth, and visitors quickly feel connected here. Their contemplative and open mindset often leads to body and mind nourishment at day spas that offer chakra balancing and energy work along with traditional massages. Others opt for a more interactive approach with tarot readers, astrologers and intuitive healers. Some find inner peace while keeping cool inside at an educational seminar, meditation retreat, or yoga class. Find many ways to connect with Sedona on a Spiritual & Metaphysical itinerary.

5. The OC

That's Oak Creek around here. The cool creek teems with rainbow trout, sprouts massive shade trees from its banks and offers fun-seekers the aptly named Slide Rock-one of Arizona's most popular state parks. For many, the best part of Oak Creek Canyon is the drive. Thrilling switchbacks wind travelers up nearly 5,000 feet of elevation and climate change. The colors and aromas embrace each season, but always ride with the windows down-somebody's bound to be roasting marshmallows at campsites along the creek.

When travelers reach the top of the canyon, they're suddenly surrounded by the largest stand of Ponderosa Pines on the planet. Next stop, all the glory of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Take a look at a suggested three-day itinerary for more ideas how to experience Sedona and the Grand Canyon-the two most visited places in Arizona.

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