Phoenix Sedona

Comprehensive Guide to the Sedona Vortexes

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 five 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 five major vortexes are: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Boynton Canyon, and Chapel of the Holy Cross.

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 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 efficient, relaxing, and enjoyable.

Table of Contents

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 the red rock country 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

The Bell Rock -- viewed from the trail.


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.

If you don’t want the hassles of renting a car, driving, and finding parking — which is always a pain on weekends and peak travel seasons — consider joining a Sedona Vortex Tour by Jeep. This small group tour is limited to eight participants so that your professional guide can provide you with an intimate and personal experience.

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

Cathedral Rock -- viewed from the trail.


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.

Among all the major destinations in Sedona, getting parking at the Cathedral Rock is the most difficult, if not impossible. One good alternative to driving is joining a Sedona Vortex Tour by Jeep. This cozy small group tour is limited to eight people to ensure that each participant receives personal attention from your informative and professional guide.

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.

Airport Mesa

People on top of the Airport Mesa Vortex.


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 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

The 8 parking spots at the bottom of the Airport Mesa vortex.

From SR 89A follow the signs to Sedona Airport via Airport Road.

There are two places where you can park in the area. 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

Signs at an intersection of trails.

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 this very popular Sedona vortex.

The Gourmet Flyer is near the top of the Vortex and is taking a picture.

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, the majestic scenery of the surrounding red rock mountains will make you feel like you are on the top of the World! An added bonus is an up-close-and-personal view of airplanes approaching and departing from Sedona Airport.

Boynton Canyon

A space is between two red rock formations, a mound like on the left and a spire on the right.


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

A wooden road sign is erected at a crossroad with arrows pointing to the left and right.

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.

A wooden road sign with directions in three arrows has a map underneath it.

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.

A spire-like red rock has a barrel like base and a narrow body.

As you get close to the end, you will get a glimpse of a slender human-like rock formation called the Kachina Woman. You need to endure one more short but steep climb to get all the way up there.

A mound-like red rock structure sits atop a hill under a sunny blue sky.

To the left of the Kachina Woman is a rock known as “the Warrior”. The entire region containing these two rock formations is generally considered the vortex. The ground in between is believed to be an inflow area, while the Kachina Woman and the Warrior (which many people climb on top of) are believed to be sources of outflow energy.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

A tall rectangular structure with a cross sits atop a red rock formation.

Type of Vortex

Chapel of the Holy Cross is widely considered as one of the most beautiful Catholic Churches in America as well as one of the top architectural wonders in Arizona. The church is literally embedded into a massive red rock formation and just the sight of the structure itself is breathtaking. The common belief is that the church is built on top of the vortex, hence to reach the energy center, you need to step inside the church.

The energy is mostly upflow, uplifting, and energizing. There is also a strong spiritual energy that inspires harmony and the ultimate inner peace – peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with our loved ones.

A tall crucifix hangs in front of a window showing sunny blue skies outside.

The interior of the small chapel is solemn, with the crucifix hanging in front of a tall and elegant floor-to-ceiling window and the majestic Sedona mountains in the backdrop.

Be mindful that you are entering a Catholic Church so please be respectful: Take your hat off, keep your noise level to a minimum, and absolutely no eating or drinking.


The chapel is near the Oak Creek Village area and its visit can easily be combined with a trip to the Bell Rock as well as Cathedral Rock. From the famous “Y” roundabout when approaching from either uptown or the west side, take AZ-179 South to Chapel Road.

There are about 45 spaces on the church’s ground which is usually plenty during off-seasons and on weekdays. But during weekends and peak seasons, it could be difficult to find parking. There are plenty of parking along Chapel Road before your reach the church, however, parking there will include a short uphill hike.

The Trail and the Climb

A curved and paved pathway has a scenery of red rock mountains to its right.

This is probably the only major Sedona vortex that you can reach without any hiking or rock climbing. You can literally drive up to the parking lot of the church. There is still a short uphill walk to get to the chapel, but you’ll be walking on a comfortable, scenic, and paved road.


I hope you find this complete guide to visiting the five major vortexes in Sedona both informative and helpful. Most importantly, I hope this guide motivates and encourages you to visit this majestic yet enchanting city 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 your most meaningful, enriching, and fun-filled adventures.

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