Celebrate National Public Lands Day



September 24, 2021

montezuma-castle-5-copySaturday is National Public Lands Day, celebrating our connection with the vast public lands that contain our national parks, forests, monuments and historic sites. On the fourth Saturday in September, entry fees are waived to encourage us to explore the rich history and incredible natural beauty that is often right in our backyard.

In Sedona, we live amidst stunning landscapes and at the foot of Oak Creek Canyon, one of America’s most scenic drives. Accustomed to such grandeur, we may sometimes overlook the amazing destinations within a few hours of Sedona where you and your family can discover our shared heritage in the beautiful outdoors. These nearby places can also bolster Sedona’s sustainability, since they offer opportunities to Red Rock Country visitors to explore beyond our destination. We are building partnerships with public land managers and economic development organizations across Northern Arizona to share the benefits of the power of travel more broadly.

Just up the road is iconic Grand Canyon National Park. I am still surprised at how many Arizonans have yet to see the Grand Canyon; it might be a ‘locals’ phenomenon, like NYC residents who somehow never get around to tour the Empire State Building. If you’ve never seen the view from the South Rim or Havasu Falls, autumn is a beautiful time to go. Don’t forget to encourage friends and relatives who come here to escape cold or wet weather this winter to take the scenic drive from Sedona to the Canyon. We all have a role to play in encouraging broader visitation to build our regionalism!

But there is so much more.

In Flagstaff, you can hike Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater National Monument on the same trails. Walnut Canyon National Monument east of Flag is cool and beautiful, with unique curved canyons, microclimates and ancient cliff dwellings. Further east are the amazing formations of Petrified Forest National Park and easy access to the Painted Desert. The Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monuments within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation are further but undoubtedly belong on your list.

These are just a few of what I call the “I-40 public lands tour” – places accessible by way of the east-west interstate.

An easy drive south and east from Sedona is Montezuma National Monument, including Montezuma Well, and Agua Fria National monument, with hiking, birding and prehistoric sites. Further afield, Tonto National Monument contains iconic cliff dwellings and views of Roosevelt Lake.

My list is far from complete, though I enjoyed discussing our region at the annual IPW in Las Vegas last week. International travel companies and media gather at IPW to hear about US travel opportunities and plan for 2022 and beyond. IPW is all about organized group travel and conferences, the kind of sustainable tourism helping define a cleaner, less congested Sedona. Meetings and guided groups make fewer demands on our transportation infrastructure and environment yet are powerful economic contributors often coming mid-week and in shoulder seasons. Groups are also easy to reach with our message of shared responsibility for environmental stewardship.

Like me, I hope you enjoy National Public Lands Day. There are many ways to have fun as a responsible “local tourist.” Visit a national park for free. Take part in a volunteer work project locally or in our national parks. But, above all, relax and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors in our beautiful state at this glorious time of year.

-Candace Carr Strauss,