Sedona: Where Cowboys Still Roam
May 17, 2017
If Sedona, Arizona, looks familiar to you, it’s for good reason. Thanks to the red rock canyons, with sand-colored mountains towering over vast landscapes like intimidating giants, Sedona is often used as a backdrop for Western films. You might have seen Robert Mitchum get into a gunfight in “Blood on the Moon” with a mirage of the red rock formations in the background, or Rock Hudson sweeping Donna Reed off her feet after rescuing her from a band of bandits in “Gun Fury.” There’s no denying Sedona makes a fabulous movie setting for Western films. In fact, there have been more than 100 movies filmed in the Sedona area.
Put on your best cowboy boots—it’s time to retrace the steps of your favorite cowboy film stars. Here are a few ways you can live like a bona fide cowboy during your visit to Sedona.
Horsing Around and Motorized Tours
There’s no more authentic Western experience than hopping on a horse’s back. First-timers can learn to ride a horse at M Diamond Ranch LLC, where ranchers have raised cattle for more than a century. By surrounding yourself in an environment with a rich history of ranching, you can learn the ropes of what it’s like to live like a cowboy on a day-to-day basis. Start your morning with a one- to three-hour guided ride through the desert, where spotting a family of javelina, sunbathing lizards or coyotes scampering away in the distance is common. As lunchtime rolls around, dismount your horse and enjoy a cowboy cookout, where you’ll dine on vittles like mesquite grilled steaks and peach cobbler—the perfect recipe after a long ride. Or spice up your evening by joining Ranch Rendezvous, where guests can kick back under the stars during dinner. Keep in mind the night skies in Sedona are nothing like you’d find in the city, so expect to be seduced by the glittery darkness as it cradles you to sleep.
Another company highly praised for its horseback riding tours is the family-owned Horsin’ Around Adventures in nearby Cornville, Arizona. Wine lovers, you’ll want to jump in on this. Paired with professional guides, you’ll embark on an adventure along Oak Creek, where you’ll see dramatic landscapes of Arizona’s wine country along with a wealth of wildlife. In the middle of the tour (depending on the package of your choice), guides will make a lunch stop for a picnic at one of the best-kept secret spots to enjoy the view. Or, riders can opt to stop at a local winery for a wine tasting, where a picnic is permitted on its premises. This is your chance to sip on local flavors while watching your horse graze in the idyllic vineyard. If horse riding isn’t your thing, the company has its own Wild West Wagon Rides as an alternative way to enjoy a Western experience. The horse-drawn ride can carry up to 12 guests and the wagon will make a stop in a scenic spot for groups to have a picnic during sunset hours.
Sedona is famous for its ATV and Jeep tours, and the best place to get started with your first expedition is through A Day in the West. The tours make for a perfect adrenaline rush experience through the rough terrain, and guests can choose various packages including a trip through wine country, a hair-raising 7,500-ft. climb up to a peak to get a bird’s-eye view of the Red Rocks, or a movie tour through various spots where iconic Hollywood Western films like “Billy the Kid” and “3:10 to Yuma” were filmed.
Dinner and A Show
You can’t feel like a cowboy unless you eat like one. Unbutton your belt buckle and indulge in some of the best chicken and ribs in Arizona, along with authentic sides like prickly pear coleslaw and cowboy beans at Blazin M Ranch in Cottonwood. Drive up to the ranch and you’ll instantly feel as if you’ve stepped back in time when you see rows of wooden buildings and a saloon along the Verde River. Make your way to Copper Spur Saloon and you’ll be in for a treat as you watch a cowboy show unfold before you onstage. The performance centers around a cowboy named Otis who spent years looking for a damsel to make him honest. It’s not long before the plot thickens and Otis faces Ghost Rider, the villain who threatens the livelihood of his beloved town in this comedy show.
Hang up your cowboy hat for the night and enjoy one of Sedona’s Western-themed properties nestled among the famous red rocks. Sedona is a haven for luxury resorts and accommodations, where nearly every room in town has a remarkable sight of the red clay landscape, making it a fail-safe way to book a room with a spectacular view. Whether you prefer to stay in a popular name-brand hotel or a locally-owned and operated property, you’ll find a grand overnight experience right here in Sedona.
Consider Arabella Hotel Sedona, a 44-room accommodation with sweeping views of the Red Rocks. Newly renovated, the hotel has a pool that’s to die for—imagine floating in refreshingly cool waters with the red peaks staring back at you. Inside, you’ll find an upscale modern layout with Western motifs to keep the essence of Sedona alive throughout the premises. The hotel is located along State Route 179 and sits on 8 acres, allowing guests to easily venture from the hotel for a hiking trip. A few minutes’ walk from the hotel will take you to El Rincon Restaurant Mexicano, where you can sample delicious Mexican and Southwestern fare.
Another local option is Whispering Creek B&B nestled in the base of the Red Rocks. Considering you’ll be a stone’s throw away from one of the mountains, this bed and breakfast provides one of the most convenient ways to get away on a hike. It’s advised to reserve your room as soon as possible: There are only five rooms at the inn, but it’s well worth it, considering you’ll wake up to the breathtaking view while smelling the aroma of freshly cooked huevos rancheros.
Or, go for a more rustic experience at Briar Patch Inn, where you’ll be immersed in Native American arts inspired by the early residents of Sedona. All 19 of its cabins have a wood-burning fireplace, and guests will have a hearty breakfast before they start their new day in the country’s most beautiful natural marvel.
Ready to start your Sedona adventure? Plan your Western vacation at visitsedona.com.