SL mag's intrepid traveler, Bridget Williams, feels the love at L’Auberge de Sedona, a four-season playground for art and adventure.
April 01, 2019 10:00 AM
Sedona, Arizona is a curious creature. I cannot think of another place where you can be standing in the parking lot of a CVS at sunrise and be absolutely gobsmacked by the view, as I was during a visit last summer.
As part of a pre-dawn run, I’d made my way from the verdant valley oasis of L’Auberge de Sedona, an 11-acre resort nestled beneath a canopy of trees on the banks of Oak Creek, and up into the high desert to reach Airport Mesa, the site of one of Sedona’s four main natural vortices. For the uninitiated, a vortex is a place where concentrated energy radiates from the earth’s surface, and is purported to facilitate balance, prayer, healing, and intuitiveness. This cosmic presence also helps to explain the surplus of soothsayers, alternative healers, and “magic” crystal shops in Uptown Sedona.
After stopping to catch my breath in the aforementioned parking lot, I joined a hoard of people speaking a multitude of languages who’d assembled to patiently wait as the sun’s rays slowly animated the panorama of anthropomorphic and kaleidoscopic red-rock peaks. I can’t say whether I benefitted from the “masculine” energy said to be present there, but based on the expressions of awe plastered on the faces of those around me, there was definitely something powerful about the majestic sight.
Situated at an elevation of 4,326 feet, Sedona is a town of 10,000 residents surrounded by more than 1.8-million acres of stunning scenery. A 90-minute drive north of Phoenix, 30 miles south of Flagstaff and just two hours from the Grand Canyon, the area is a four-season playground, complete with seven golf courses; hundreds of hiking and biking trails in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness Area, the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area and the Coconino National Forest; 80 art galleries with 200 local artists represented in local shops and galleries; the Verde Valley Wine Trail; and a host of tour operators offering everything from off-road jeep excursions to hot air balloon rides.
It was easy to forget that we were still in the desert as we turned off of bustling Highway 89A and into the valley where L’Auberge de Sedona, A Destination Resort, is located. The grounds are lush, green, and dotted with mostly single-story cottage-style structures. If it weren’t for the famed red rock buttes crowning the treetops, it would be easy to envision this as an upscale camp in the Northeast.
Lodging options encompass 62 luxury cottages (many with an outdoor, open-roof cedar shower), 21 traditional lodge-style guest rooms, or a stand-alone five-bedroom Creek house. The recently renovated rooms, suites and cottages rely on a muted color palette to reinforce an aura of tranquility.
Oak Creek is the property’s main attraction, and the sound of water rushing over smooth stones in the creek bed provides a constant calming soundtrack audible throughout the property. The most covetable rooms, in my opinion, are the Creekside Cottages with a covered porch, which deliver a dry front-row seat for enjoying fleeting desert deluges during monsoon season (June-September).
Even if you aren’t staying creekside, you can dine next to the water’s edge at one of two recently renovated restaurants on property. Cress on Oak Creek is a fine-dining destination that pairs informed and attentive service with a constantly changing prix fixe dinner menu built around locally sourced seasonal ingredients that meld Southwest culinary traditions with French cooking techniques. More casual in concept, ETCH Kitchen & Bar complements its cuisine with a creative and comprehensive beverage list, including custom wine labels created in partnership with local Verde Valley winery Page Springs Cellars.
While Sedona’s beauty sells itself, L’Auberge de Sedona’s healthy lineup of on-property amenities and activities enhances the destination’s healing heritage. In the L’Apothecary Spa for instance, guests can concoct their own bath soaks and body scrubs using fragrant local plants and herbs such as rosemary, piñon pine, juniper.
A daily schedule of events encompasses activities such as lectures on local geology and history, guided photographer’s walks, Forest Bathing (a practice that originated in Japan, and is focused on soaking in the essence of the forest rather than taking a literal bath there), guided meditation, interacting with local artists through an artist-in-residence program, fitness hikes and yoga classes, and seasonal offerings. The recently completed Vortex Treehouse offers a reflective space for private meditation sessions and wellness experiences. The signature Vortex Treehouse Session is a series of four rituals is inspired by specific Sedona sites where the energy is believed to be most intense.
After a creekside coffee each morning, we never drove more than a few miles in either direction to reach a trailhead. While the most popular routes are heavily trafficked during high season, it takes minimal effort for those craving solitude to find roads less traveled (visit sedonasecret7.com for tips). If you are looking for greasy-spoon goodness, head over to the famous Coffee Pot restaurant (coffeepotsedona.com), which literally offers 101 omelet choices (don’t even think about asking for any substitutions). For a more elevated experience, time your dinner for sunset at Mariposa (mariposasedona.com), where the views are as delectable as the Latin American cuisine prepared by Chef/owner Lisa Dahl. Guacamole greatness and 89 different tequilas can be found at 89Agava Cantina (89agave.com), a lively bar and Sonoran-style Mexican restaurant operated by L’Auberge and located just above the resort on Highway 89A.
From the time that dawn’s first light tickles the trickles of Oak Creek, through guided stargazing with an astronomer, staying at L’Auberge de Sedona makes it even easier to feel the love for Sedona.