El Portal

Sedona, Arizona

By Loren Worthington

If you’re drawn to the stark beauty of the desert, with

sparkling streams flowing through commanding rock

formations, go to Sedona, and stay at El Portal!

The current is usually

flowing at a rate that

allows you to ford the

creek, and from there

you’ll find yourself

immersed in Sedona

at its best.

020 | August/September 2008 Sedona photos by Loren Worthington. Photos of the author by Karla Ponce.

Property photos courtesy El Portal.


you think of Arizona

you typically

picture the

Grand Canyon in the northern part of the state or

Phoenix and Tucson down in the desert. Both areas

are beautiful and well worth visiting, but in between

there is a place that offers visitors the best of both

worlds—Sedona—and a charming and accessible inn

known as El Portal.

First, getting there: A two-hour drive north of Phoenix,

Sedona is in a region commonly described as the

high desert, which means it’s similar in appearance to

what you’ll find around the Grand Canyon. There are

two types of people who’ll typically visit Sedona. The

first are Arizonans, which my wife and I are pleased

to number ourselves among. We’ve been to the Grand

Canyon, but we’ve found Sedona to be equally beautiful

and with far more to experience and enjoy. The

second type of person belongs to what could be described

as “the metaphysical crowd,” who believe that

Sedona has a vortex or something that improves their

inner being. Vortex or no, Sedona is unique and a really

great place to explore.

The town of Sedona is notably accessible, considering

the rugged surrounding terrain. The downtown

area is riddled with art galleries, metaphysical stores,

eateries, and small “touristy” shops. On both sides

August/September 2008 | 021

All of the spacious rooms found at El Portal are designed and

decorated to provide an individual experience. The whirlpool

bath in Room 12, at top, allows guests to soak while enjoying

a fragrant desert breeze. Room 5, above, features a fireplace

and private patio. El Portal’s entry, opposite page, is bathed in

warm lights as the sky darkens at dusk.

of the main road you can find long gradual ramps that

make it easy to traverse.

Sedona has a fun little trolley that is a good way to

start off experiencing both the town and the surrounding

cliffs. Unfortunately, the only accessible trolleys are

enclosed and more along the lines of a bus. In good

weather you’ll wish you could board open trolleys and

take in the fresh air, but the ones they have are both free

and accessible, so you really can’t complain too much.

Unique Surroundings

While there are many places to stay in Sedona, from

the moment you roll into El Portal you’ll know that

you’re not at a chain hotel or grandma’s B&B. This

unique place is an award-winning property consisting

of 12 completely unique rooms surrounding a very relaxing

courtyard. The inn is constructed of thick adobe

walls and huge wooden beams, and everywhere you

look there’s something custom-made to fit the space

just right. When you stay at El Portal you know you’re

in a very luxurious place, but at the same time the design

and features, and especially the service, make you

feel comfortable and welcome. The atmosphere makes

you want to put your feet up—or your prosthesis, as the

case may be—and really relax.

Even though it’s such a small place, El Portal has

made a point of creating an accessible room. Known as

the Adobe Room, it is located on the ground floor, and

it’s also pet-friendly. The bed is queen-size, with gorgeous

hand-carved wooden posts and rustic wroughtiron

accents. As beautiful as it is, my only reservation

is that it’s a bit too high for some to make easy transfers,

reminding me of my wish that upscale properties

would include a three- or four-inch platform that could

be pulled from beneath the bed. That way you could roll

onto the platform to make your transfer, and then tuck

it back under the bed when it’s not in use. That’s a pretty

small qualm, however, and certainly not enough to

alter my positive impression of this wonderful place.

The room has a cozy fireplace and French doors

that open to a nice little side yard, which is perfect for

pooches. What makes the Adobe Room so great in

terms of accessibility, however, is the bathroom. The

counter is the right height, and the walk-in closet offers

good access. But it’s the roll-in shower that I really

found to be impressive—it’s a five-star stall for sure!

As for dining, there is no shortage of places to eat

around Sedona, but for breakfast El Portal is exactly

where you’ll want to be. They serve an elaborate breakfast

that is absolutely delicious, and when the weather

permits it is served in the courtyard. Everything is

fresh, hot, and very tasty.

Within rolling distance of El Portal is the Tlaquepaque

Arts & Crafts Village and the Los Abrigados

Resort & Spa. Tlaquepaque is interesting even if shopping

isn’t your bag. The plaza consists of Spanishstyle

buildings and open courtyards, and often there

are musicians performing around some of the dining

022 | August/September 2008

establishments. Los Abrigados is a

fine resort, which also has accessible

rooms, but the best part may

be its restaurant, Joey’s, which offers

very good Italian cuisine. If

you’re roaming the grounds, wander

toward the tennis court, where

you’ll find excellent access to Oak


Rocking Out

In Sedona, it’s all about the rocks.

The colossal sandstone formations

come in all shapes and sizes. Rocks

aren’t exactly exotic, but what sets

these apart are the vibrant colors.

The limestone spheres all seem

to be a different shade of red, and

early and late in the day the shadows

give the cliffs real depth and

contrast. Add a colorful Arizona

sunset, and a creek working its way

though some shady old trees, and

you’ve got a great place to relax and


Everywhere you will see Jeeps

and Hummers for rent or hire, and

these guided tours are the best way

August/September 2008 | 023

Clockwise from top left: The central courtyard is a great place

to relax and meet your fellow guests; Room 7 features massive

exposed juniper beams in the ceiling above the bed; the author takes

advantage of broad, smooth paths at a nearby state park; the daily

breakfast buffet at El Portal is both attractive and enticing.

024 | August/September 2008

to get you into the back county. No

one has come up with an accessible

tour yet, so you may need some assistance

climbing in, but this is truly

the best way to experience Sedona’s

beautiful rock formations.

There are two state parks nearby,

and Slide Rock State Park is the

most popular place to enjoy Oak

Creek. Unfortunately, it is also the

least accessible. The park gets its

name from the natural slide that the

water’s force has carved out of the

rock basin. With temperatures in the

nineties, the cold mountain water is

a great escape for locals and tourists

alike. The park is in a narrow canyon,

and there’s a short accessible

path that offers a nice view of the

water. Red Rock State Park is definitely

the best place to roll around

and explore. The terrain is much

more open, and a considerable investment

has been made in making

the park accessible. Red Rock easily

offers a half day’s worth of exploring

on both paved and dirt paths.

Unfortunately, neither park makes

it easy for wheelers to get right

down to the water, so if you need

to get your toes wet—and you are

tenacious, and have some friends

around to help—check out the little-known

Crescent Moon Picnic

Grounds. It isn’t particularly easy to

find, and you won’t find any signs

jumping out at you, but most maps

show its location. The park consists

of two concrete pathways that offer

some very flat wheelchair access,

and while they’re a little narrow in

places, there’s plenty of room on the

shoulder for walkers to use as you

pass them in your wheelchair.

Continuing down this path will

bring you to the park’s main parking

area, where you’ll find a huge

grassy area the size of a soccer field

with what may be the very best view

of Cathedral Rock there is. It’s truly

a picture-postcard view. The concrete

path follows the perimeter of

the field, and on the far side you can

hear the creek in the distance, with

Sedona Sites

El Portal Inn

Los Abrigados Resort & Spa

Sedona Tourism Bureau

Sedona Trolley

Arizona Tourist Guide

Grand Canyon National Park

a dirt path heading down toward the

water. It’s not easy, but with some

assistance you can get to the water’s

edge. The current is usually flowing

at a rate that allows you to ford the

creek to reach the flat rocks on the

far side, and from there you’ll find

yourself immersed in Sedona at its


August/September 2008 | 025

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