Sedona Facts

The Location of Sedona

  • Sedona is located in the Upper Sonoran Desert of northern Arizona at an elevation of 4500 feet.
  • Uptown Sedona (the part in Coconino County) and West Sedona (the Yavapai County portion) form the City of Sedona. Originally founded in 1902, the town was incorporated into a city in January 1988. The Village of Oak Creek, despite its location seven miles (11 km) to the south and outside Sedona city limits, is a significant part of the community.
  • The city of Phoenix lies 114 miles to the south, Las Vegas is 278 miles to the northwest and Los Angles is 482 miles to the west. The Grand Canyon is 110 miles north of Sedona.

The Geology of Sedona

  • The famous Red Rocks of Sedona are one of the most beautiful natural sites in the United States. Part of the eroding Mogollon Rim of the vast Colorado plateau.
  • Sedona’s canyon walls show nine layers of stone from different geological periods spanning hundreds of millions of years. There are six layers of sandstone, two thin layers of limestone and atop all of these, one igneous layer of basalt stone. The different sandstone and limestone layers were formed by wind blown sand dunes or mud deposited by inland seas. The red colors of some of the sandstone layers are the result of iron oxide staining the rocks over great periods of time. The uppermost igneous layer was deposited by volcanic eruptions 14.5 million years ago and once covered the entire Verde Valley several meters deep in lava.
  • The Verde Valley, meaning Green Valley, is so named because of the natural copper, appearing green when extracted from the ground, which had long been mined in the nearby hills and not because of the colors of local vegetation. The waters of Oak Creek come from the many natural springs along the course of the creek and not, as is commonly assumed, from melting snow of the nearby sacred mountain of Kachina Peak.

History of Sedona

  • Evidence of human presence in the Sedona region begins around 4000 BC when hunter-gatherers roamed through the Verde Valley. As early as 300 BC the dry desert soils were being farmed by the Hohokam people, who developed systems of irrigation canals by 700 AD but then mysteriously abandoned the area, perhaps because of a regional volcanic eruption in 1066 AD.
  • Next to arrive were the agrarian Sinagua Indians, whose Spanish name means ‘without water,’ this being an indication of their ability to farm in the dry environment. Settling in the area from about 1000 to 1400 AD, they built pueblos and cliff dwellings, perhaps influenced by the architecturally more sophisticated Anasazi Indians, and made baskets, pottery and jewelry. They also established trading relationships with tribes from the Pacific coastal regions and northern Mexico, and exported the high-grade copper, which they mined west of Sedona.
  • Traces of the Sinagua may be found in the remains of their ruined pueblos scattered around the Sedona area. Sites such as Palatki, Honanki, and Wupatki had dozens of rooms in double story buildings and were decorated with intriguing pictographs and petroglyphs depicting clan affiliations, mythological beings and astronomical observations. Archaeologists theorize that the Sinagua may have conducted religious celebrations during particular periods determined by their celestial observations.
  • Early in the 15th century, the Sinagua disappeared from the area for reasons that remain a mystery and about this time the Yavapai and Apache Indians began to settle along the sides of Oak Creek canyon.
  • Europeans first arrived in the region in 1583, when a group of Spanish explorers came in search of gold and silver. Following the end of the Civil War and the creation of the Territory of Arizona in 1863, homesteaders began to settle in the Verde Valley and along Oak Creek from the 1870’s. The early settlers were farmers and ranchers, and Oak Creek Canyon was well known for its apple and peach orchards.
  • Growth was slow at first because of the remoteness of the region. In 1902, when the Sedona post office was established, there were 55 residents. In that year the small town was named Sedona after Sedona Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness. In the mid-1950s, the first telephone directory listed 155 names. Parts of the Sedona area weren't electrified until the 1960s.
  • The first spurt of development came during the 1940’s and 50’s when Hollywood began filming western movies amidst the red rocks, such as the classics Billy the Kid, Apache and Broken Arrow. Many of Hollywood's classic westerns were filmed in or near Sedona. The red rock buttes and desert landscape provided a striking setting for these films, most notably Broken Arrow (1950), starring James Stewart. Other famous actors who have appeared in movies filmed in Sedona include John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Glenn Ford, Rock Hudson, Gene Autry, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Ryan O’Neal, Elvis Presley and Robert De Niro.
  • In the 1960s and '70s the beauty of the red rocks began attracting retirees, artists and an increasing number of tourists. Currently more than four million visitors pass through Sedona each year. While there is no evidence that the area of Sedona was a highly venerated sacred site in antiquity, it has since the late 1980’s become the most visited ‘new-age’ pilgrimage destination in the United States.

Interesting Facts about Sedona

  • At an elevation of 4,500 feet (1,372 m), Sedona has mild winters and hot summers. In January, the normal high temperature is 51 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 21. In July, the normal high temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 63. Annual precipitation is around 19 inches.
  • According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.6 square miles (48.2 km²), all of it land. As of 2009, Sedona’s population is 11,500 people. Sedona’s cost of living is 50% higher than the U.S. average. The cities ethnic mix is 91% Caucasian, 1.6% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.4% and African American, 5.5%.
  • The major Industries in Sedona are tourism and hospitality, recreation, retail shopping and art galleries.

Important places to visit in Sedona

  • Sedona's main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.
  • Among the rock formations is one that closely resembles the character Snoopy (from the popular Peanuts comic strip) lying on top of his doghouse. Another nearby rock is said to resemble Lucy, also from Peanuts. Other landmark rock formations include Coffeepot Rock, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Chimney Rock, Courthouse Butte, the Mittens, the Cow Pies, and the Rabbit Ears.

Sedona Vortexes

Various local tour guides speak about ‘vortexes’ or specific sites of concentrated energy at different places in the Sedona landscape but geologists and highly experienced dowsers strongly refute these notions. The general area of the red rocks does seem to have an inspirational effect upon some people, but this effect cannot be attributed to particular places in the landscape.

Martin Gray is a cultural anthropologist, writer and photographer specializing in the study of pilgrimage traditions and sacred sites around the world. During a 40 year period he has visited more than 2000 pilgrimage places in 165 countries. The World Pilgrimage Guide at is the most comprehensive source of information on this subject.