Sedona, AZ is a great place to hang out and soak up the new age vibes, as well as the magnificent scenery of the Mogollon Rim and Oak Creek Canyon. We stopped by on our way south from the Colorado Plateau and spent a week or so there, but we did it our way and avoided the hustle and bustle of the main shopping drag.
As in many places with high visitation, there aren't many camping opportunities – the local businesses prefer people who drive or fly in, stay in hotels, and spend mucho dinero to us frugal types. The whole Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest, which encompasses about a five mile radius around Sedona, is designated a no dispersed camping area. Fine with me – I just downloaded some maps from the Coconino website and scouted around for some good spots we could get away from the crowds and still be in the area.
One thing about dispersed camping here, though – you have to keep an eye on the weather. It's flash flood territory and any unpaved road you take crosses washes, low spots where you can see signs of violence from past flash floods. Since we always have internet connectivity, it wasn't a problem. We would stay a few days, head into town for supplies when it looked like rain, and then back out to the boonies once the sun came back out.
Our favorite spot was about five miles north of US 89A halfway between Sedona and Cottonwood down FS road 525 and 525C. My trusty dispersed camping map said you could camp anywhere along 525C, so we drove on out, a 20 minute process of crawling along washboard and through the dips in the road a you cross washes. But once you're out there, it's beautiful.
Vegetation is mesquite and juniper scrub, lots of cactus, and not much else. We saw many birds, no mammals, and thankfully no reptiles larger than lizards. It's dipping down into the 40s at night this time of year, so rattlesnake activity is over for the season.
Entertainment consisted of watching the birds and weather, and also the balloons – Sedona has a thriving hot air balloon business, giving the tourists a chance to see the terrain from the air, and we were downwind of the launch site most days. They would land around us, the recovery vehicles would come banging down the road to pick them up, and then everybody would head back to town and leave us alone.
Fiona welcomed the opportunity to sniff around, pick up some of the red dirt and vegetation and track it into out bed, and watch rodent burrows for signs of activity that seldom happened. I know there are coyotes out here, since they're everywhere, so she stayed right by the door where I could keep an eye on her, enjoying the sunset and then coming in for the night. With all the giant owls out here, I limited her to daytime activities.
The weather was wonderful – even though the sun is getting low in the sky and solar power harvesting is dropping, we had 70ish highs and 40ish lows throughout our stay here. The nice thing about this area is the huge elevation change from the 7000 foot Flagstaff area to 3000 foot desert within an hour's drive south, so you can dial in your temperature range with just a small bit of driving. It's a good place to be as the fall weather moves in and it cools off.