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A Review of Full-Time Vanlife in Sedona, AZ

This is a review of what it’s like living full-time vanlife in Sedona, Arizona. Van dwellers have different needs than your typical visitor, so I wanted to share the experience from our perspective.

Unlike your average passer-by, we “settled-down” into a normal lifestyle of working and commuting to a full-time job. This post covers our experience of the joys and also challenges of living full-time vanlife in Sedona.

The scenery in Sedona is simply unmatched. The colorful red rocks, green valleys and blue skies are simply stunning. It’s like a National Park that you can live in!

Sedona is an extremely popular place for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and loads of other outdoor recreation. There’s a big industry around off-roading, jeep/helicopter tours, and even hot air balloon rides.

Be sure to check out our post:

25 Fun Things To Do In Sedona, AZ

Sedona is famous for powerful natural “energy vortexes” that attract artists, yogis, and spiritually-minded folks. Going back to early Native American inhabitants, Sedona has held powerful spiritual and cultural importance to many people.

These “vortexes” are certain sites around Sedona that are famous for having strong energy. However, finding concrete evidence to back up these claims remains elusive.

For all those reasons and more, Sedona has tons of tourists. The busiest time of the year is spring and fall when the weather is the most comfortable for outdoor recreation. But there’s tourist activity pretty much year-round. The busy times are really crazy, this small town’s roads and businesses get pushed to their limits.

But we were there for January and February, which are probably the least busy months of the year. Here’s our take on vanlife in Sedona.

Why We Ended Up In Sedona

Layout of Sedona

So to give a little overview of the layout of Sedona. The three major parts of Sedona are Uptown Sedona, West Sedona, and Village of Oak Creek (VOC).

Generally, Uptown Sedona is the main tourist area, the cute little “downtown” area, if you will.  Complete with the higher-end restaurants, art galleries, and of course shops to buy cheesy screen printed t-shirts.

West Sedona is kind of the Sedona version an American strip mall with a regular assortment of corporate entities; Whole Foods, Starbucks, Safeway, Goodwill, Staples, etc.  (Though there are a decent amount of Mom & Pop shops and restaurants mixed in as well.). And then residential neighborhoods surround the main road.

Finally, the Village of Oak Creek (VOC) is a small unincorporated, mostly residential town just south of Sedona.  It has some shops, restaurants, and other businesses, but definitely less than West or Uptown Sedona.  It’s often able to escape the craziness of Sedona by being just far enough away.

And the last place we would go occasionally is Cottonwood.  It’s a “city” that’s about 30 minutes from Sedona. It’s a good place to reboot. (Just off the bottom left corner of the map above)

From Airport Mesa, looking over West Sedona


Sedona has lots of jobs to support its abundant tourism.  There’s a huge amount of hospitality/service jobs and also the jobs for the outdoor recreation industry; mountain biking, off-roading, hiking, climbing, Jeep tours, helicopter tours, etc. This makes it easy for new people to find employment, a big plus for vanlife in Sedona.

We ended up both working service industry jobs (barista and waiter) in the Village of Oak Creek.  And we are glad we didn’t have to deal with the traffic associated with the other parts of Sedona.  Though, all things being equal, you could probably make more money working in Uptown or West Sedona because of the higher volume of tourists.

If we were to do it again during the slow part of the year, we probably would aim for jobs in Uptown and just deal with the traffic. (We are huge wimps when it comes to traffic, anything over 10 minutes is a crisis!)


Sedona is pretty friendly towards vanlife.  We never had any issues during the day being parked around town at businesses or at the public parks, libraries, trailheads, etc.

There is a decent amount RV parks, campgrounds, and BLM lands that allow dispersed camping near Sedona.

The dispersed camping areas are getting a little out of hand. With the surge of people spending more time outdoors because of COVID. These shared spaces are getting abused. The level of trash, toilet paper, human feces, and whatever else selfish assholes decide to leave is becoming a real issue.

In addition, there is considerable damage to the land from overuse, people creating new campsites everywhere, and OHV users forging new roads. So the town is beginning to discuss plans to help save the area.

So preach to anyone and every one the importance of LEAVE NO TRACE. And better yet plan on picking up some trash that someone else left. It’s sad, but we responsible users have to pick up after the disgraceful people who think it’s fine to trash the land. Otherwise, this land may be closed to camping.

So pack out everything you bring (and then some).

Human waste should ideally be packed out in cassette toilets, composting toilets, etc. But if that’s not possible then follow LNT principles. At least 200ft from any campsite, trail, or water, dig a hole AT LEAST 8 inches deep and pack out TP.

FR 525 has the more beautiful campsite views, but Beaverhead Flat Road was a lot closer to our jobs in VOC. Beaverhead Flat Road doesn’t have the famous red rock views, but it’s still nicely tucked below some hills and mesas.

Best Views from FR 525
A drone shot of a vanlife campsite in sedona
Campsite on Beaverhead Flat Rd

Both places have a little bit of Verizon cell service.  So with our WeBoost cell signal booster, we were able to get decent cell service at most campsites. We have since upgraded to the Starlink Roam, so now we can get internet anywhere in Sedona.

The dirt roads are mostly in good shape, but some spots are pretty rough. We would just take it slow to avoid shaking our house apart.

And just be warned that these two spots get really muddy after rain. And the mud is like really sticky clay that got plastered to our tires, and covered the bottom half of our van. It made it really hard to drive these dirt-roads after rain, because our RWD van would slide sideways uncontrollably.

If you like to keep your van clean, then avoid these roads if it’s muddy. We had to get regular car washes to keep it under control.

And if primitive dispersed camping isn’t your thing, there are lots of campgrounds and RV parks in the area.


Access to supplies is very important to us because we live in our campervan off-grid without any hookups.  So our main needs are water, food, gasoline, propane, laundry, and solar.

Food & Water

Shopping in Uptown Sedona or Village of Oak Creek can be rather expensive.  We did most of our food shopping in West Sedona and Cottonwood. And to fill our water jugs we would use the dispenser at Whole Foods, or fill up at work.


Despite Sedona being an upscale touristy town, the gas prices are surprisingly normal.  We didn’t find any difference in prices between the different parts of Sedona or even Cottonwood.  Plus, we were just in California, so all gas felt like it was 50% off.


For propane, we would drive 30 minutes to Walmart in Cottonwood.  We use the little green camping propane tanks and they have a good price on 4-packs.


Both Sedona and Cottonwood have plenty of options for laundromats.


It’s Arizona. We never had a problem!


Our go-to for WiFi is public libraries because there is no pressure to spend any money.  The main library in West Sedona is really nice, and a good place to use WiFi. The VOC library is tiny, but still a fine place to use WiFi for a couple of hours.

But Emily was working at a coffee shop (Firecreek Coffee), so I would spend a lot of time there working.  They have the best coffee in Sedona (other people’s claims, not just ours). Plus they have really delicious loose-leaf tea, matcha, and sandwiches.  It definitely worth a stop if you’re visiting Sedona!


This was actually the most challenging part of vanlife in Sedona.  There are usually a few campgrounds in the spring/summer/fall that have pay showers.  But they aren’t open in the winter.

So we explored a few different gym memberships for shower access.  But we found that the gym memberships in Sedona were too pricey.

We ended up joining the Cottonwood Rec Center for $50/month for a couple, with no commitment ($30 for singles).  But another good, affordable option would have been the Planet Fitness (also in Cottonwood).

You can also rely on portable showers to use at your campsites.


We decided it was worth it to get a P.O. Box so that we could reliably get mail.  And it was also helpful when applying to jobs, because most jobs require a physical mailing address.  The smallest and cheapest USPS PO box is $26 for 3 months, and both of us can share it.  And if we got any packages that were too big, the Post Office would just leave a slip in our box and hold it behind the counter.  (Read more about How To Get Mail On The Road)


Finding places to accept our recycling is sometimes a big challenge for vanlife.  Luckily Sedona has several great options for recycling.  There is a recycling center in West Sedona that will accept nearly all kinds of recyclable materials. 

And then there were two other sorted recycling dumpsters we found, one in a free parking lot Uptown Sedona, and the other in VOC behind Clark’s Market.

What We Love About Vanlife In Sedona!

Hiking Trails

We absolutely love all the hiking trails that are everywhere surrounding the town.  It meant that even with only a couple hours of free time we could hike to some beautiful destinations.  That was especially nice because our work schedules didn’t line up perfectly. And even despite the crowds, hiking just a couple miles was usually enough to find some solitude in nature.

Check out our post: 15 Best Breathtaking Hike In Sedona, AZ

Day Trips

And beyond Sedona, there are lots of amazing places close enough for a day trip. So on our weekends we were able to venture outside Sedona for more cool adventures. Just to name a few: Fossil Creek, Grand Canyon NP, Petrified Forest NP, Flagstaff, and Jerome.

Photography Scenery

The scenery is amazing for photography.  I feel like my photography skills developed a lot, even in our short time in Sedona.  There’s so much beautiful color and light to photograph in Sedona. This was, of course, great content for the blog.

We always feel our most fulfilled in life when we have good access to nature.  So our happiness was very high living in Sedona! Even a bad day at work could be quickly washed away by the beauty of our surroundings.

Affordable Food and Drink

Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of expensive restaurants out of our price range. But there’s also a respectable amount of affordable bars and restaurants.  We don’t go out a lot, but it’s nice to be able to get a couple of beers or a nice meal without breaking the bank.

Happy People

Sedona’s visitors and inhabitants are generally in a good mood with a youthful pep in their step. Maybe it’s the energy vortex, or maybe it’s just people enjoying the beautiful scenery and an active lifestyle.

Beautiful Weather

Beautiful weather! We only experienced a few cloudy or rainy days. The weather was usually cool and comfortable for hiking. And even in January and February we had a few days sunbathing at the park.

Don’t miss some of our most popular things to do in Sedona.

What We Don’t Love About Sedona

Aging Population

There is not a very big community of young people.  The population tends to be older, and the cost of housing is probably going to keep it that way. No offense to the older folks, of course.


The tourism is a bit of a double-edged sword.  It’s the reason that we were able to find jobs so easily.  But with it, comes noise, traffic, and overcrowded trails. Many of the famous locations that are close to town are also close to all the noise and commotion that comes with it.

Between the road noise, helicopter tours, and off-road vehicles, sometimes it’s hard to find some peace and quiet.  Even in January and February, the trails are crowded. So we are afraid to see how bad it is in Spring and Fall.

No Music Concert Scene

We like to go to concerts, and Sedona doesn’t really have any venues to support a regular schedule of higher profile concerts.

No Affordable Showers in Winter

Driving to Cottonwood for showers is a bit of a pain.  We would really have appreciated a more affordable way to shower in Sedona somewhere. But maybe we missed a hidden gem somewhere.

What We Are Not Sure About

Traffic and Crowds

Since we only experienced Sedona in January and February, we can’t say for sure what the traffic and crowds are like in the Spring and Fall.  We’ve been told horror stories from some locals about their worst experiences.  And there’s only a single road that connects the 3 main parts of Sedona, so sometimes you have no choice but to face the traffic.

Elusive Vortex Energy

We visited most of the alleged vortex sites, but can’t claim to have felt any special energy.  Maybe we needed to take our shoes off and let our bare feet really connect with the earth. But anytime I tried to focus inward and achieve some deeper meditative state, the man-made noises would ruin my focus.

But what I can say is that Sedona’s beauty definitely does have restorative effects for my mood and appreciation of life.  Perhaps it’s just that simple…. and people are just mistaking the restorative effects of time spent in nature for some kind of supernatural energy.

But whatever the “energy” is, I can assure you that time spent enjoying Sedona’s beauty is time well spent.

Conclusion: Vanlife in Sedona

Sedona is a fantastic place for Vanlifers. The options for BLM dispersed camping close to town are a huge plus. The town’s outdoorsy and artsy vibe tends to be quite accepting of alternative lifestyles. And most people we met were very supportive and genuinely interested in our story.

The main negatives about vanlife in Sedona are related to the crowds and traffic.  But most amazing places are going to be accompanied by crowds.  And the winter cold and summer heat can make van dwelling a little bit uncomfortable. 

Sedona is a hiker and photographer’s paradise.  We have experienced many beautiful hiking trails in the western US, but the sheer volume of amazing trails in Sedona is on another level.

Until next time Sedona. We will miss you.

Photo By: Annie May Corum

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