At specific points around the world, the earth churns with tangible, tingly energy at sites known as vortices, visited by those seeking connection, healing, or a good story to tell. This special series in your road map to six such hotspots in the Western United States—and what to do once you get there.
Homelands Of: Hohokam, Hopi, Sinaguan, Western Apache, Yavapai–Apache
Even in the dead of winter, Sedona is a place where you can build heat, sweating out whatever no longer serves you. The landscape’s characteristic rocky faces burn fiery red year round, with thick and twisty junipers sprouting from the dirt around them. Popular among mountain bikers, hikers, and soul-seekers, the area has four defined vortices at Airplane Mesa, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Boynton Canyon—the latter being home to Kachina Woman, a hoodoo (or rock spire infused with spirit) linked to Indigenous creation stories and regarded as the Crow Mother, the great guiding spirit.
But among Sedona’s New Age sect, the mother of vortices is psychic Page Bryant, who defined the different energies found in Sedona as two dominant forms: upflow (formerly called masculine), which incites elation, lightness, and an energetic, on-top-of-the-world high; and inflow (formerly feminine), an intake that prompts deep self-inquiry and can stir agitation, causing the gravel of your life to loosen up and pour out. Upflow vortices are often on higher ground with wide vantage points, while inflow are more snug and cradling, like a canyon.
Tens of thousands of years ago, Sedona was ocean dunes, a place where the sea moved in and out and where energy was generated. Today, the sandstone is rich with quartz (a powerful conduit and high-vibration stone that we use in technology to move energy) and iron oxide. Geologically, it’s been rusting for eons, hence the deep reds of the earth.
In Sedona, it’s said, you can find whatever it is you’re looking for—but why not see what the land holds in store for you instead?
Arguably the most powerful of the area’s vortices and the only one with both up- and inflow energies, Boynton Canyon fills up as the day goes on. Not far from its namesake trailhead, a sign marked Vista points off to the right—follow that for a few minutes to Kachina Woman, and, if it feels right, climb the rocks below her feet to stand between her and the sun as it rises, asking for the blessing of each. (Next to her, you’ll find a bell-shaped bulb of red rock that many folks gather around and photograph. Bryant divined this as the vortex.) Continue on the six-mile, out-and-back hike through the canyon (there’s a brief but manageable scramble) to sit on its wall and meditate, tapping into the upflow energy found here or simply enjoying the touch of sunlight on your skin.
Blended into the canyon you’ll find lauded wellness getaway Mii Amo, which breaks ground on a major renovation in January. Here is the place to splurge on world-class healers, who practice energy-calibrating arts such as Reiki attunement and Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage. The healings incite gentle but powerful releases, clearing toxins and preparing you to accept what ancient knowledge the land has to offer.
Take time to venture to Red Rocks State Park with celebrated yoga instructor Johanna Maheshvari Mosca, founder of Sedona Spirit Yoga & Vortex Journeys. Mosca tailors her three-hour spiritual excursions to include everything from hatha to guided meditation and yoga nidra, all with the famed towering sandstone butte Cathedral Rock in full view.
Replenish your own energy stores in town at Elote Cafe (reservations required), where the Southwestern cuisine is flavored by chef-owner Jeff Smedstad’s 20 years traveling the backroads of Mexico’s Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz, and, of course, his Arizona home. At ChocolaTree Organic Eatery, where the smell of warm chai permeates an enormous patio that plays host to spiritual discussions, live music, and kirtan chanting, the entire menu emphasizes keeping prana (life force energy) intact and abundant.
Built into Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort has private trailhead access to prime hikes, and bookings include entry to the new Trail House adventure center. Here, mountain-biking expert and Apache guide George Miraval oversees two-wheeled and cultural excursions and is generous with his knowledge of the land and its medicinal plants, history, and lore.