Mountain biking in Sedona
Mountain biking in Sedona

Where’s the best place for a weekend getaway in the Southwest?

I want to plan a rugged weekend in the Southwest with a group of my buddies. Some aren’t very outdoorsy, others are moderately experienced, and one could vanish for a week in the woods with nothing but a knife and dental floss and come back fatter and stronger. What would be a fun, not-too-cold adventure that would please everyone?

Mountain biking in Sedona
Greg Melville

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Easy. Go to Sedona. The high temperatures during winter generally hover in the 50s and 60s, and the nights barely drop below freezing. Even better: there are no crowds. You’ve practically got all of Sedona and its famed red-rock countryside to yourselves. Here’s how I’d plan the trip.

Base Camp
Choose an affordable lodge or campground near the center of the action. My suggestion would be the spare but friendly Sky Ranch Lodge atop Airport Mesa, where you’ll get an eagle-eye view of the rugged landscape. Rates start at $85 a night. A more rustic choice would be to stay by the banks of rainbow trout-packed Oak Creek at tents-only Bootlegger Campground ($18 per night per campsite, $7 for each car after the first). No reservations are accepted, so come early to get a site. Contact the Red Rock Ranger District at 928-282-4119 for more info.  

What To Do
Bike: Visiting Sedona and not going mountain biking is like going to Cape Cod and not dipping your toes in the ocean. The riding here is just as otherworldly as Moab, without the hype. If you don’t want to bring your bike, Sedona Bike & Bean rents rigs, and provides customized tours among the hundreds of miles of slickrock and single track if you’re not good with maps.

Fly fishing: Your buddy with the dental floss and knife can fly fish right at the campground, but you’re better off hiring a guide who can give some lessons to the less experienced folks in your group and lead you to the best spots. Outfitters will generally take you to tree-lined and well-stocked Oak Creek, or maybe the Verde River by Dead Horse Ranch State Park. The Hook Up Outfitters in town can lead you. 

Hiking: If you’re really ambitious, you can drive 110 miles to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but you’d be burning up too much of your precious weekend time in the car. The area’s best hikes lie in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, 47,000 acres of mesas, arches, cliffs and canyons. The oak-lined Secret Canyon hike, a five-mile out-and-back up a dry creek bed with great views of the Martian landscape, is a local favorite. The higher you climb, the greater chance you’ll see a little snow dusting the ground.