Updated May 8, 2023
Visiting, hiking, and even climbing the vortexes (the plural form vortices is rarely used) is certainly one of the most popular, stimulating, and enriching things to do in Sedona. This is a complete guide to help you navigate your journey through the four major sites based on my several trips to the red rock city as well as my extensive explorations at the famous energy centers.
There is no consensus on how many vortexes there are in Sedona and which sites are considered such energy centers. However, there are few arguments that the four major vortexes in Sedona are: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, and Boynton Canyon.
I will show you how to get to each of the trailheads to access each of these destinations and go all the way to the top. While the spiritual experience varies widely among different people, I will explain to you what to expect at each site and the type of energy that you have the best chance of experiencing at each site. I will also give you plenty of tips along the way to make your visit more relaxing and enjoyable.
I promise you, visiting these red rock energy centers here is one of the most enlightening, spiritual, and life-changing things to do in Sedona.
Table of Contents
- What is a Vortex?
- Bell Rock
- Cathedral Rock
- Airport Mesa
- Boynton Canyon
What is a Vortex?
The definition of a vortex is not precisely scientific. According to Pete A. Sanders Jr., who has written about the subject extensively, “Sedona’s Vortexes are sites where it is easier to do prayer, meditation, mind/body healing, new discovery, and outside the box creative thinking.” Some call them “swirling centers of energy” where the Earth’s energy is most concentrated and embedded into the depths of the red rocks.
Some areas are known as “upflow” or “masculine” where the energy is flowing upward from the core of the Earth into the open space in the air. These energies produce an uplifting feeling and motivate you to new highs. “Inflow” or “feminine” sites are where the energy flows inward from the space above the land and into the unfathomable depths of the Earth. These energies bring you down to earth so you feel more comfortable with yourself and can reconcile pains in the past. Some sites, such as Boynton Canyon, are a combination of the two.
Native Americans view the Sedona vortexes as the source of their spirituality and perform rituals there to help their body and soul connect to divinity. Millions of people travel from all corners of the World to Sedona each year to experience the heightened spirituality and awareness, as well as a complete relaxation and rejuvenation of body and mind. Throughout your visits to these spiritual sites in Sedona, you will see people practicing yoga, meditation, or religious rituals. Please be respectful and please keep your noise level down.
Different people report widely varying degrees of experiences, and some people do not feel anything at all. Some people may be more compatible with one site than another. You might even feel different experiences on different days, depending on your state of mind.
But whether you feel any special energy at all is really not that important. Just the sheer beauty of the red rocks and the majestic landscapes will be enough to inspire you, to rejuvenate you, and to energize you.
Go there with an open mind and enjoy!
Bell Rock is an upflow site and is generally considered one of the strongest upflow vortexes in Sedona. Upflow sites generally provide an uplifting energy that facilitates motivation and spiritual connections. You don’t need to go to the top to experience this energy. In fact, about halfway to the top, there is a large plateau area which provides a majestic view of the red rocks and is a perfect place for meditation and reflection.
Access and Parking
It is easiest to access the Bell Rock and surrounding hiking paths if you manage to score a parking spot in the main Bell Rock Pathway parking lot. You have the best chance on a weekday or during slow seasons. A Red Rock Pass for $5 a day or $15 a week is required and is good for all 19 Red Rock Ranger District sites. You can purchase the pass from a machine using a credit card at the parking lot. Go here for more information on the use of a Red Rock Pass.
If you are going southbound from SR 179 (coming from Uptown Sedona), the entrance is near where the passing lane ends and traffic merges into one lane. From there, make a left turn, cross the other side of the highway, and enter the parking lot.
During the popular hours in peak seasons, parking can be very difficult to find at the main trailhead. More parking can be found at the Yavapai Vista Point, which is just a little north of Bell Rock. Going southbound on SR 179, you will actually pass by Yavapai Vista Point before the Bell Rock trailhead. The walk is not long, but you have to cross the highway so be very careful.
The Trail and the Climb
The first half mile or so of the hike is easy and there are signs and markers to guide you. At some point you will have to decide whether to continue with the path or to do the climb. The ascend is really not difficult for anyone with a moderately degree of fitness. The key is to go only as high as you are comfortable with. Don’t forget that after going up you’ll have to come down too so be sure to choose a level that you know you can handle.
A rather easy initial climb will lead you to a large plateau which offers a stunning view. This is also a great place to take a break and enjoy the scenery and catch your breath (if you have to). This is also a perfect place to soak in all the energy if you can feel it. The climb from there is moderately more challenging and requires some thigh muscles and upper body strength. Again, go only as high as you are comfortable with.
Cathedral Rock is generally considered a combination site. The first half of the journey is an easy hike and leads you to a rather flat plateau which is the outflow area. To reach the inflow area, you need to take on the more challenging path and climb up the rock into the saddle area. A combination of outflow and inflow energies is believed to facilitate more profound spiritual connections as well as body and mind healings.
Access and Parking
Going southbound on SR 179 from the “Y”, you will turn right at the fourth roundabout into Back O Beyond Road. If you see the Chapel of the Holy Cross, you are almost there. If you see the Yavapai Vista Point, you’ve gone too far.
The small parking lot is about half a mile down the road on your left. You need to purchase a Red Rock Pass from the vending machine for $5 a day or $15 a week. Go here for information on the Red Rock Pass. There are not many parking spaces in the lot and there is absolutely no parking anywhere else on the very narrow street, so taking the shuttle is probably your best option.
NOTE: As of this writing, Back O Beyond Road is closed to non-resident traffic Thursday through Sunday. Go here for shuttle information.
The Trail and the Climb
The hike from the parking lot is the shortest way to access the Cathedral Rock and is only about half a mile. The path is rather easy, even though it could get rocky sometimes. To get to the vortex, be sure to follow the sign that leads to the Cathedral Rock Trail, and not the Easy Breezy Trail. The path will eventually take you to a flat area known as the Outflow Plateau.
To reach the inflow area, you need to climb up the rock to get to the saddle. The trip up is actually easier than it appears to be, and most people with moderate physical fitness should be able to get to the saddle. However, you need to know what you can handle and only go as high as you are comfortable with. Be patient with your approach and look around for the best path to get to the next level. Sometimes the easiest path may not be the one in front of you.
The Airport Mesa is a strong upflow site and it is one of the very few Sedona vortexes that you can easily (with moderate physical fitness) get to the top and literally sit atop the energy center. This is the perfect site if you are seeking a strong uplifting experience, motivation that takes you to a higher level, or a spiritual connection to divinity.
With or without such spiritual energy, the vibes there are just amazing. The top of the vortex is rather flat and spacious so you can “claim” your spot and have your own space for spiritual connections even if there are people around you. On a weekday during the slow seasons, you could be the only person up there and some people could experience an enhanced experience in complete solitude.
Access and Parking
From SR 89A follow the signs to Sedona Airport via Airport Road.
There are two places where you can park and access the vortex. As you go up the hill on Airport Road you will actually be able to see the red rock site on your left-hand side. At the base of the knoll there are about 8 parking spaces (see picture above). During peak seasons and especially on weekends, you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a parking spot there. But on a weekday, especially during off season, that will be the ideal parking spot, as it is the shortest and quickest path to get to the spiritual energy site.
If you go further up the road for about another half a mile, there is a large parking lot on your left with plenty of spaces. It costs $3 to park there and you can even go in and out on the same day – go there for a morning hike and then return to view the sunset. Red Rock Pass is not accepted. This parking lot is also directly across the street from a lookout with panoramic and stunning views.
The Trail and the Climb
If you are lucky enough to grab one of the 8 parking spaces at the bottom of the site, follow the signs to the Summit Trail (see picture above). In a nutshell, you will go up a set of steep stairs, turn left, and follow the path that leads you to the ultimate ascend up to the top of the vortex.
From the main Airport Vista parking lot, stay on the side of the parking lot and follow the sign to the Sedona View Trail. If you are on the right track, after a few hundred yards you will reach a gate that keeps deer off the airport runway. Please close the gate behind you. The hike from there is easy, relaxing, and scenic. There are many photo opportunities along the way for you to snap that Instagram worthy picture of epic red rock formations.
This hike is about 0.6 mile long and it ends at a lookout and rest area. The lookout has a map with pictures to help you identify all the famous rock formations. From there, you will take a left and follow the path to the vortex.
The climb up the knoll is short and not too strenuous, and there are handrails to assist you. However, you still need to be moderately fit and be able to walk up a steep slope and navigate through a few steep and narrow steps. There is no halfway point to this climb, so you just have to go all the way up. Once you get there – vortex energy or not – it feels like you are on the top of the World!
Boynton Canyon is a combination site with both upflow and inflow energies. The canyon floor is an inflow area where the energy facilitates the healing of mental wounds and helps achieve peace of mind and peace within oneself. The outflow areas can be found in the ridges and peaks above. As with other outflow sites, the energy here could induce an uplifting spiritual experience.
Access and Parking
From SR 89A go north on Dry Creek Road which becomes Boynton Pass Road after 2 miles. Go another 2.5 miles then turn right into Boynton Canyon Road. GPS does not display directions to the Boynton Canyon Trailhead parking lot properly. For best results, set your GPS to Enchantment Resort and follow the directions there. The parking lot will be on your right before reaching the Enchantment Resort.
You need to purchase a Red Rock Pass from the machine with a credit card for $5 a day or $15 a week. Go here for information on the Red Rock Pass and a list of all the sites where the pass is accepted.
The Trail and the Climb
The trailhead is located right at the main parking lot and is easy to find. The journey starts out flat and easy. When you reach the first intersection, take a left and follow the sign to stay on the Boynton Canyon Trail. After a little over a quarter of a mile, follow the sign to the Vista Trail. From there, the uphill hike is getting a bit more strenuous, but it is certainly worth the extra effort.
As you get close to the end, you will get a glimpse of a slender human-like rock formation called the Kachina Woman formation. At the end of the trail is the vortex site. If you are a rock-climbing fan, then this is like a playground to you. As always, be very careful and only go as high as you are comfortable with.
I hope you find this complete guide to visiting the four major vortexes in Sedona both informative and helpful. Most importantly, I hope this guide motivates you and encourages you to visit Sedona and explore the red rock wonders there. If you are skeptical about the concept of spiritual energy, don’t worry about its existence. I am not trying to convince you one way or another.
You don’t have to go there expecting a divine revelation or any life-changing experience. But just go there with an open mind and an adventurous spirit. Focus on the journey rather than the destination. Enjoy the exploration rather than expecting a transformation.
The most important thing is – spiritual energy or not – you feel peaceful, relaxed, rejuvenated, or even uplifted or motivated. This will truly make your trip to the Sedona vortexes one of the best and most meaningful things to do.