From the Road: What’s New in the Red Rocks

After years of family vacations and college-scouting trips, my husband and I set out on our first solo getaway in ages. We packed two small bags and headed for two days in Sedona.

We had been invited to Amara Resort and Spa, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation designed to let guests chill out and get out.

The Location

Located in the heart of Uptown Sedona, Amara is nestled in the natural surroundings of Oak Creek. Situated next to the rushing water, the resort is two blocks down the hill from Sedona’s bustling shops and uptown scene.

Guests appreciate the resort’s convenient location and views of beloved landmarks like Snoopy Rock. It also earns high marks for its expansive courtyard and inviting outdoor fire pits.

The Rooms

The new concept of the hotel is to have a “tree lodge” aesthetic that reflects the area’s natural surroundings by encompassing the five elements — earth, wood, metal, fire and water. The resort’s two wings of guestrooms are positioned to frame views of the famous red rocks that are said to emanate regenerative and inspirational energy. 

Indeed, our Junior Suite chilled us out very fast. The elegant retreat offered panoramic views and sat above the edge of Oak Creek, which we enjoyed hearing gurgle from our patio every night. In the day, my husband used an app to count the types of bird we could hear singing. Answer: 23. (What up, Yellow-rumped Warbler?)

Our sleek room featured a low-slung King bed and architecture that brought the outdoors in, making the desert surroundings supreme.

The Amenities

Those looking for genuine service will be pleased with Amara. Amenities anticipate every need — like umbrellas in guestrooms or the “public bikes,” free to all guests, for exploring shopping, art galleries or single-track. 

As cozy as it is, Amara’s prime location encourages guests to explore the iconic red rock formations and fabled vortexes before heading back to float in the heated, infinity-edge pool. Hiking trails, shopping and other adventures are minutes away, thanks to the resort’s complimentary shuttle.

And a note to pet lovers. Amara is quite pet-friendly. A sign in the lobby welcomes every furry friend staying as a guest. There are also dog treats and a water bowl near check-in.

The Restaurant

Each day of our stay, we enjoyed the gorgeous red-rock view from the patio of Amara’s signature restaurant, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen. Led by executive chef David Duncan, SaltRock’s menu features fresh, seasonal ingredients inspired by the Verde Valley. 

SaltRock’s craft cocktail program spotlights the most extensive selection of agave spirits in town, along with drinks with a Sedona twist. Case in point: Guests can order Vortex Therapy, a cocktail with turmeric-infused vodka and inner peace flower elixir. 

The Spa

After a day of play, unwind at the award-winning Amara Spa. Treatments range from head (CBD facial) to toe (foot reflexology) and focus on Sedona-centric experiences. Try the Winds of Change, a signature service featuring native rattles, sage, crystals and specially crafted oils.

Just Opened — and Jaw-Dropping

Ambiente — Sedona’s first new luxury hotel in decades — combines luxury with sustainability 

The majestic red rocks of Sedona are on full display from Ambiente’s 40 cubed-shaped, glass-encased “atriums” that seem to float above the rugged terrain. One of the most anticipated hotel openings in the country, Ambiente made its much-buzzed-about debut as North America’s first landscape hotel in February. 

Situated in the National Forest of Sedona, all atriums in the property offer the same 576-square-foot king accommodations. However, the dramatic 360-degree views vary drastically as each atrium has been expertly placed to maximize view corridors. 

Elevated above the ground by steel piers and constructed using floor-to-ceiling, bronze-tinted glass and matte-charcoal and rusted metal, Ambiente’s atriums are designed to blend in with and reflect the surrounding geography. With a focus on sustainable methods and organic, modern architecture, the atriums’ sleek design reflects elegant minimalism, while the interiors offer the best in luxurious contemporary accommodations. 

All atriums have access to their own private rooftop deck for the ultimate sunbathing and stargazing experience. Lounge seating, a roaring firepit and a comfortable daybed make it an ideal perch to see the beaming stars, thanks to Sedona’s Dark Sky Association. 

The adults-only hotel features the Velvet Spa, an intimate, five-room spa offering a range of restorative treatments that use locally sourced ingredients.

Forty1, the restaurant at Ambiente, has an all-female executive team. It is led by executive chef Lindsey Dale, a talented young chef with an appreciation for the spirit of the Verde Valley and a commitment to showcasing its abundance in her cuisine.

Keep the Vibe Going

The entire point of going to Sedona is to enjoy nature, and the options for doing that are almost limitless. Jeep tours, stargazing, wine tasting — not to mention the countless hikes and bike rides Red Rock Country has to offer — are perfect ways for weekenders to enjoy the cooler weather and clear blue skies. Here are tips from locals for keeping it chill.

Skip the Traffic

Consider driving into Sedona via wine country. Take the Cornville Road exit and go by the wineries and tasting rooms. Rocker and winemaker Maynard James Keenan recently opened his new tasting room, Four Eight Wineworks, in Old Town Cottonwood. It offers a variety of wines and a limited food menu. Visit to learn more.

Oh So Zen

The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park is an outdoor venue for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal for people of all faiths. It is filled with two Buddhist stupas, a Native American medicine wheel and numerous spots for meditation and quiet contemplation. Open daily and free of charge. 

Take the Shuttle

In April 2022, the Sedona Shuttle became the City of Sedona’s first foray into public transportation. In the last year, the shuttle has been used by well over a quarter million passengers to provide free parking, rides and access to five popular trailheads from three park-and-ride locations. 

This free, easy and eco-friendly service is an ideal way to explore popular sites like Cathedral Rock, Dry Creek Visa, Little Horse, Mescal and Soldier Pass without worrying about parking. Trailhead shuttles run year-round from Thursday through Sunday, 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Info at

The Road Less Taken

The locals will tell you — social media has changed the area. Sedona is so popular, droves of people coming wanting to snap pictures with a short list of famous red rocks. To encourage hikers to explore more than just the same top trails, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau introduced Sedona’s Secret 7.

The Road Less Taken

The locals will tell you — social media has changed the area. Sedona is so popular, droves of people coming wanting to snap pictures with a short list of famous red rocks. To encourage hikers to explore more than just the same top trails, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau introduced Sedona’s Secret 7. 

Aimed at hikers looking for paths less traveled, it offers trails deemed “hidden gems” by locals. It also offers seven locations within seven categories — hiking, biking, vistas, picnics, stargazing, arts & culture and the journey of the Indigenous Peoples — for a total of 49 hidden gems scattered across the Greater Sedona area. To learn more, go to

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.
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