Arizona: Hiking at a vortex

Pick up any map of Sedona and chances are it'll have four strange symbols dotted across it. Most don't even have a key to what the little spirals represent, while others simply bear the one-word explanation: 'vortex'.

By Nicola Trup
Published 21 Oct 2014, 14:17 BST, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 14:41 BST

This small Arizona town is an anomaly. The other places I'd stopped off at en route from Phoenix were charming but pure Wild West, with shops selling cowboy hats alongside signs displaying worrying slogans like, 'Gun control means both hands'.

Sedona, however, has long been a hotspot for New Age types — more crystal healers than cowboys.

The alternative appeal all comes down to those little spirals. The vast rocks that surround the town are believed to be home to four vortexes — epicentres of spiritual energy that emerge from the earth — where people come to pray, meditate, heal and perform yoga. Crucially, though, believers say you need to be sensitive and receptive to the energy of the vortex in order to feel it.

The town itself has a lovely vibe, all cute cafes, psychic mediums, quirky gift shops and outdoor activities. As a sceptic, I was still intrigued to see if I could buy into Sedona's spiritual side — so I decided to hike around a vortex.

A 3.6-mile trail leads around the rim of the rather prosaically named Airport Mesa (a mesa being a flat-topped hill) starting by the 'mini mesa' on which the vortex is said to be focused, and looping round a barely noticeable airstrip. The energy in this area is meant to strengthen visitors' 'masculine side', boosting strength, confidence and focus. So far, I feel fine — no better than usual — but I set off anyway.

Vortex aside, the main attraction of Airport Mesa is the incredible view of the craggy red rocks, which rise up from the surprisingly green scrubland below. Locals named these giant formations after what they think they resemble, and along the way I mentally tick off Bell Rock, Teapot Rock and Snoopy Rock — which looks a little like the cartoon dog lying on top of his kennel.

I'd started early to avoid the searing midday sun, but I'm already feeling the heat. And as I clomp along the dirt track, weaving between cactuses and stopping every few minutes for a drink and another look at the view, I'm overtaken by a jogger barely breaking a sweat, carrying nothing but a tiny water bottle.

Eventually, I find myself back where I started, and I still can't honestly say I've felt the power of the vortex — in fact, the two-hour walk has left me feeling totally depleted. I stop to take some photos, and I'm overtaken once again by the same jogger, who doesn't seem to have slowed down at all. At least someone's feeling the energy.


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved