full moon over sedona

Airport Mesa Sunset

If you like this article, please share. Thanks!

I’ve followed many threads about Sedona on a Facebook Travel Group. It seems almost weekly someone asks for the tops things to do in the Sedona area.  Almost always, someone comments to watch the sunset at the airport mesa.  Additionally, there is also an earth vortex at the airport. As with Bell Rock, also a “masculine” vortex, meaning the energy exits the earth at this location.

While normally I prefer early morning hikes, I wasn’t sold on hiking in the morning, going back to my campsite for the afternoon near Camp Verde, and then going to the airport later.  As a result, I planned on killing two birds with one stone by hiking the 3.2 mile airport loop trail and then watching the sunset.

Changing Campsites Near Camp Verde

First, I switched my camping location because these folks parked 20 feet from me.  I couldn’t even let Annie out of VANgo on her long lead without her being at their front door.  I didn’t drive hundreds of miles to be closer to a camper in the wilderness than I am to my nextdoor neighbor’s front door!

crowded campsite on FR 689
I was camped across from the two fifth wheels, then to two campers in the middle joined along with another car

I guess I owe them a “thank you”, because I didn’t like the spot that much, but there weren’t many to choose from off FR 689.  There was, however, a dirt road offshoot with big trenches in it that everyone avoided, likely due to their big rigs.

Being in my sprinter, I decided I could drive on the high parts and avoid the ruts.  As a result, I ended up with an incredible spot away from the masses with a magnificent sunrise view!  To boot, there was an unmarked trail that followed a fence line through the rolling hills.  With no one around, Annie got to run free on our morning stroll.

Best Free Wifi in Sedona

Later in the afternoon, we headed toward the Airport Mesa via a stop at the Sedona Library to use the free wifi.  My hotspot hardly worked at the campground, and the library wifi was more secure and more stable than the McDonald’s I tried the other day. At least I got to see the only turquoise “golden” arches.

turquoise golden arches in sedona

Airport Mesa

Anyway, I arrived at the airport in the late afternoon.  The giant dirt lot was only about half-full with hikers finishing their walks as sunset viewers trickled in slowly.  There is a $3 fee for cars to park in the lot.  The attendant was very chatty and had a treat ready for Annie.

I hoped for a second wind when I pulled into the parking area, but my stomach was doing backflips all day and hadn’t stopped. I ended up resting while taking advantage of better cell service.  I texted my friend Colin who asked me to take a picture of the airport vortex.

I asked, “Is there a specific location?”

He said, “It’s at the pull-out ¾ of a mile down the road from the overlook.”

Since I had seen a sign, “No hiking on the road,” I responded, “Too late.  I already passed that.”

As a result, I lounged a little more before I finally got my act together and at least walked Annie around the parking lot before I prepared to photograph the sunset without her.  My dog and one hundred of my closest friends were not going mesh well. 

Airport View Trail

During my walk, I noticed some people passing through a gate to the Airport View Trail.  I thought, maybe this will lead to a quieter place to watch the sunset, and I could bring Annie along for her birthday.  It would be much better than the main viewing location which is a huge overlook with cheap telescopes you find at tourist attractions. 

Soon, Annie and I were meandering along the trail.  Then, I realized it leads to the vortex.  I vaguely remembered a short trail on AllTrails.  This was it.  I couldn’t recall the distance, but thought it was around a mile.  Consequently, I picked up my pace in hopes of seeing the vortex while keeping an eye out for the best place to watch the sunset.

There were two benches along the trail, and I almost stopped at the second one as no one was there.  My half second delay, however, was all that was needed for another group to do the same thing.  Since they headed for the bench, I continued to the vortex when the full moon caught my eye.

Actually, it was one day short of the full moon, but you couldn’t tell.  The bright ball of white rising over the sun-marked, red cliffs was mesmerizing.  In order not to block people on the trail, I’d walk really fast, snap a photo, and continue.  I got to a great place, and just as I snapped a photo with the trees framing the distant moon and glowing cliffs, people walked into the shot.

sunset and full moon at the airport mesa

At first, I was disappointed.  Then I thought I could edit them out or perhaps they could add some depth. In the end, it is my favorite of all my moon shots.  It looks like a poster!

Airport Mesa Vortex

Eventually, Annie and I made it to the small knob, which is the vortex, and joined another 30 folks up there.  I asked a young lady if she’d take a picture of us with the moon.  She was very focused on Annie.  Of the four photos she took, only one was with the moon (just barely), but at least it was decent!

Annie and me celebrating her birthday watching the sunset at the airport mesa

7 second video view from the Airport Mesa Vortex

I dilly dallied for a while as the sun dropped toward the cliffs.  Then I realized, this is not the best location to watch the sunset, the bench was.  I rushed back, but by then, the sun was no longer lighting up the rocks.  The trail was 1.4 miles and just a little too long for my disorganization. 

view of sedona from the airport mesa

While it would have been nice to capture the perfect moment, I got some shots along the way which are still nice.  And the cloudless sky didn’t add any drama.  All in all, I wouldn’t trade it for the moon shot!

sunset to the left and full moon to the right at the airport mesa
sunset on the left and the moon on the right!

Other Ways to Watch the Sunset at the Airport Mesa

If I had to do it over again, I’d consider a few options.

  1.  The luxurious way would be to stay the night at the Sky Ranch Lodge and watch the sunset from my own private balcony!
  2. That said, I think the better view of the rocks with less of the city in the shot is at the second bench.  I’d plan a night of the full moon again.  Then I’d try one of two ways.
    1. Try to snag one of only a few parking spots in the pullout by the vortex.  Snap a few photos there and then beeline to the bench (which would be the first one in this direction). Or,
    1. I’d drive to Mesa Grill at the Airport Mesa and order my dinner to go.  The Mesa Grill is free standing, so you don’t have to enter the airport.  With dinner in hand, I’d walk the rocky trail to the second bench and just wait.

When I first realized there were going to be hoards of people, I didn’t think I would truly enjoy the experience.  But in the end, it was a great way to celebrate a year of crazy dog Annie being in my life.  And to top it off, the traffic leaving the Airport Mesa was easy, which I didn’t expect.  Parking at my campsite in the dark proved a little more challenging, but we enjoyed a dark sky and beautiful moon overhead.  ETB

Other Articles About Arizona You May Like


Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

photographic note card, sunset in mississippi

If you like this article, please share. Thanks!

Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

5 thoughts on “Airport Mesa Sunset

Leave a Reply