Have you ever been to Sedona, Arizona? If you haven’t, you really need to go.
Nestled in the Red Rock Country of Arizona with Oak Creek running through the middle of it, Sedona, Arizona is something you wouldn’t want to miss on your visit to Arizona. Sometimes called the Little Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon and the red rock formations are really spectacular.
Sedona is named after Sedona Miller Schnebly (1877 – 1950), the wife of the city’s first postmaster. She was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness. There is also a Schnebly Road in Sedona.
The famous red rocks of Sedona are formed by a layer of rock known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. It is a thin layer of red to orange colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity. The sandstone was deposited during the Permian Period.
Many of Hollywood’s classic westerns were filmed in or near Sedona. The red rock buttes and desert landscape provided unmistakable settings for these films; most notably “Broken Arrow” (1950) starring James Stewart. An elaborate chase scene in the comedy “Midnight Run” starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin was filmed on the trails surrounding Sedona. There was also an Elvis Presley movie (“Stay Away, Joe”) filmed there.
At approximately 4,500 feet in elevation, the summers are not too hot and the winters are mild. Make no mistake though, Sedona does get snow. If you can get there after it has snowed, do so. The red of the rocks is intensified and the contrast with the dark green of the many different types of junipers and the white of the snow is astounding.
During Monsoon (about the middle of July through the middle of September), the red of the sandstone formations is so intense from the rain as to not be believable. Add to that the numerous temporary waterfalls coming off the tops of the sandstone formations and you’ve got a real treat.
The most spectacular way to enter Sedona is from the 179 off of the I-17 north. You pass through Oak Creek Village and get your first tantalizing view of the red rocks. Bell Rock (shaped like a bell and open to hiking) looms over the village of Oak Creek and acts as a welcome to the rest of the splendor.
You can also get to Sedona by way of Cottonwood via the 89A (“A” stands for “alternate,” the main 89 heads north out of Prescott and goes all the way to the I-40). While I do not think this is as spectacular a way of getting to Sedona, it does show off Coffee Pot and Courthouse Rocks very well. Also, when coming in from the west this way, if you keep your eyes on the right hand side of the road, you will see signs for the Sedona airport. It is on the top of a mesa with absolutely great views of the city and the rock formations. It offers telescopic viewers, but you don’t really need them. It’s breathtaking without them. I can highly recommend driving up to the airport.
While you are still on the 179 and just south of downtown, you will find Tlaquepaque. It is basically a shopping center, but is based on an old style Mexican village. The layout is meandering. There are hidden alcoves, a central fountain and plenty of great art to feast your eyes upon. In case your stomach wants something to feast upon, there are also a number of restaurants.
Where the 89A turns and heads north is where downtown Sedona begins. It’s a bit touristy for my taste, and Bernd and I do not always spend a lot of time there, but the galleries (seems like there are hundreds of them) can be a lot of fun. The shops range from total kitsch to serious. You can buy T-shirts and ball caps died with red rock. You can find fine sterling silver and turquoise jewelry made by Native Americans. There are rugs and pottery and Kachina and you name it, right down to scorpions embedded in resin.
If you love to eat (and who doesn’t?), there is every manner of restaurant to chose from. Be sure to check out the little “mom and pop” places tucked out of the way behind some of the shops that line the 89A. You can get simple sandwiches, mouth watering barbeque, pizza to die for, and everything in between.
Bernd and I like to get off the beaten track (well as much as you can do that in Sedona) and take hikes. To park anywhere other than in the city, you will need a Red Rock Pass. These can be purchased ahead of time online at http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/passes/index.shtml. Or you can get one at the Ranger Station or many of the shops in downtown. Areas where hiking and parking is allowed are well marked and easy to find.
If you have plenty of time, consider taking one of the Jeep tours into the “wilds” of the red rocks. Some offer trips to vortices, said to be concentrations of earth energy. Others will show you many of the places that movies were filmed. Regardless, the scenery is awesome. But be prepared to be covered in red dust at the end of it. Bernd and I took one such tour and when we were done, I remarked that I thought I now knew why Native Americans were once referred to as “redskins.” It wasn’t because they were constantly sunburned.
If you are really adventurous, visit the Ranger Station to get directions to some of the Native American ruins in the vicinity. For many of these you will need a high clearance vehicle. Although, we did this once in a regular passenger car and it survived the experience. You can get up close and personal with petroglyphs and pictographs and remnants of dwellings. It’s too cool for words.
The 89A heads north out of downtown Sedona and goes all the way to Flagstaff. It runs along Oak Creek and the drive is about as scenic as it gets. Autumn is an especially fine time to take this drive as all the aspen trees have turned glorious colors. But it’s beautiful any time of the year. There are a couple places along the drive to pull out and look back and take it all in. One of the larger rest areas will usually have several Native Americans selling their hand made jewelry. Prices are reasonable and the quality is high.
Also, a few miles north of Sedona along the 89A you will find Slide Rock State Park. It is just what it says, and in the summer it is a real treat. The rocks have been worn smooth by eons of water running over them and if you’ve brought your swimsuit (or even if you haven’t), it is great fun to walk up to the top, wade in and slide to the bottom. If you are not quite that adventurous, wading in the many pools at the bottom of the slides feels great to tired feet.
There are many places to stay the night in Sedona. They range from simple motels to very fancy resorts. If you can arrange to stay for a couple of days you will not regret it; sunset in Sedona should not be missed and it can take a few days to see it all. Then you might even have time for a helicopter tour. Wouldn’t that be fun!?
If you have some spot you particularly enjoy, please let me know. I might just get there some day.