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Kayaking near Cathedral Rock – Twildlife /

Surrounded by nearly two million acres of national forest land and buttressed by four wilderness areas, it’s only natural that life spills outdoors in the Verde Valley. Over 300 miles of trails provide almost instant access to backcountry. Hikers dip into shady woodlands, follow silver-tongued streams, and ramble into a labyrinth of red rock pinnacles and spires, rising like the bones of ancient castles. Sedona is a user-friendly version of the Grand Canyon—just as enticing for the eyes but easier on the knees.

It’s not only bipeds hurling themselves at splendid panoramas. Mountain bikers attack a network of trails—fast, swooping single-track, technical slickrock ledges and easy-to-intermediate forested routes. Amid such rugged expanse, off-road tours lead visitors into more distant drama. A steady stream of jeeps rumbles into the outback highlighting vortex sites, ancient cliff dwellings and lofty overlooks with a few boulder-climbing acrobatics along the way.

Kayakers paddle the Verde River all year round. Hang gliders launch from the broad back of Mingus Mountain, riding the thermals across the valley. And since this is cowboy country, horseback rides are offered at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood and Sedona’s M Diamond Ranch. Enjoy another throwback experience aboard Verde Canyon Railroad as it chugs along century-old tracks into a spectacular high-walled canyon where eagles nest. For a decidedly modern outing, Predator Zip Line sends you zooming above the habitats of Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Ride the zip line over lions and tigers and bears, oh wow!