Not to be missed: Set your schedule for an awesome desert sunset
Sedona's red rock country is one of the most breathtaking places in Arizona to gaze at the beauty of a desert sunset. The glamorous display isn't limited to the western skies, and even a view of the setting sun isn't required. Sedona's canyonlands light up in shades of orange, purple and dark red as the setting sun casts its glow on the towering red rocks.
Best places to see the sunset
In town: Airport Mesa is the number one place to view sunsets in the city. But don't harbor illusions of watching a sunset quietly by yourself; sunset is a nightly event that draws crowds. Get there early to get a parking spot and walk over to the outlook in time for the dazzling sunset display. Limited parking is available with a Red Rock pass – a special parking program – on an overlook halfway up the mesa, or go to the top to park in the Sedona airport lot for a $3 charge. Either place offers prime panoramic views.
West Sedona: Aerie Trailhead is a lesser-known trail off Boynton Pass Road. Paved access and free parking with a Red Rock pass make it easily accessible for any vehicle.
If you decide to hike to your sunset view, bring a bright flashlight or headlamp to light your way back. Sedona is an International Dark Sky City, which means you won't find lighted paths to help you see your way after dark.
When to look to the skies
While consulting a sunset timetable can tell you when the sunset colors will be at their peak, the sun's reflection on the towering monoliths begins about 45 minutes earlier. Turn your camera eastward to enjoy the show.
The sun sets as early as 5:18 p.m. in December. Get to your sunset-watching vista by 4:45 to witness the color-play of the fading winter light. Be sure to bring a jacket; the 56-degree F days drop to below freezing once the sun is gone. By March, the sun dips below the horizon at 6:36 with temps just above freezing after dark.
June sunsets arrive as late as 7:43 in the evening. Summer monsoon storms blow in during the afternoon but often finish before sunset. The clearing clouds provide some of the most brilliant sunset displays of the year. Visit Sedona in October and capture vacation memories of the setting sun adding to the autumn color. Sunset happens at 5:52 and balmy 78-degree F days dip into the 50s once the sun goes down.
During the full moon, watch the moon rise between towering rock formations ablaze with sunset color to the east.
Special sunset experiences
Every sunset is a special occasion in Sedona. Here are a few special ways to celebrate day's end.
- Look for special jeep tours celebrating sunset such as the sunset and winery tour through Sedona Offroad Adventures.
- Head to Red Rock State Park for the Full Moon Hike and enjoy sunset from a park overlook along the way.
- Spend the day in Jerome and dine on the patio of a local restaurant at sunset. The view looks out over the vast red rock canyons from about 20 miles away. Restaurants with the best panoramic patio views include The Haunted Hamburger, Asylum Restaurant and Mile High Grill.