Road Trips and Destinations

Camping Road Trip through Red Rock Country

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter November Outdoor Living Newsletter

Cathedral Rock Sedona at Sunset

In the heart of Arizona lies the Red Rock Country. Huge awe inspiring sandstone monuments with dramatic reds and oranges make it a popular travel destination that people come from all around the world to see. This natural wonder was formed several million years ago when the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau that created the Grand Canyon also forced water to carve and sculpt out these red rocks. The landscape of the Red Rock Country has incredible features that can't be seen anywhere else, such as Sedona's energy vortexes of psychic energy, Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa and Bell Rock. Red Rock Country also homes Oak Creek Canyon a breathtaking chasm that cuts 2,000 feet deep into the earth and runs 12 miles long. There is even the lush forest of ponderosas in the neighboring Coconino National Forest. This place has it all and is entirely bucket list worthy.

The main activities are sightseeing, hiking, and photography, but mountain biking, and horseback riding are also very popular.

When to Go

You can go year round. Summer months are hot, crowded and busy so try to avoid going then. We find it best to visit in the fall. It will cool down a little, it will be less crowded, and you'll get to see the cottonwoods turn yellow.

How to Get There

The closest commercial airport to the Red Rocks of Sedona is the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport - 25.3 miles away or 40 minutes.

The closest major international airport is the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport - About 120 miles or approximately 2 hours' drive.

Starting Oak Creek Canyon Drive from the North:
From Flagstaff: Take Interstate 17S from Flagstaff and exit at US Highway 89A (Exit 337).
From Phoenix: Take Interstate 17N, and exit at US Highway 89A (Exit 337).

How Long Should the Trip Be?

A trip to Red Rock Country can be made in one full day, but we recommend a two or three day trip in order to get the full experience of this very memorable area.

What to See and Do

One-Day Visit - Flagstaff to Sedona - 35 miles plus side trips.

  1. Your scenic adventure begins on Oak Creek Canyon Drive along the US 89A. Here you will see layers of red sandstone, tan limestone and purple siltstone in marvelous shapes. The road winds through the thick evergreen ponderosa pines of the Coconino National Forest, an incredible sight for all nature and outdoor lovers. The road goes up peaks and drops down to the canyon floor with switchbacks along the way, an incredible drive with magnificent views indeed. After 11 miles you'll reach Oak Creek Canyon Vista Point on your left, which will give you a taste of what is up ahead. From the pullout there is a short loop trail that leads to an overlook of the Mogollon Rim, a cliff that drops a thousand feet of spectacular colors; orange, pink, red, white. To top it off, you will be standing at a 6,400-foot vantage point. The sight of the canyon from here is breathtaking.
  2. From Oak Creek Canyon Vista Point follow the US89A as it descends to the canyon floor. A mile past Cave Springs Campground at the Call of the Canyons Day Use Area is the start of the West Fork Trail. This hike leads you through narrow canyons with red walls towering hundreds of feet over you. The 3 mile trail is an easy hike. Allow 2-3 hours.
  3. Continue 4 miles to Slide Rock State Park where there is a natural water slide. Yes, water from the creek shoots up and through smooth Coconino sandstone and people will be sliding over and over again into the frigid pool below. This is an excellent place for the kids and adults to have fun. You can picnic at one of the many tables in the park and there are BBQ pits available, too. Allow 1 hour minimum.
  4. Continue 7 miles through Sedona, turn left onto Rte. 179, follow it for almost a half mile and then turn left again onto Schnebly Hill Road. Although it is not recommended for RVs, it is truly a scenic six mile drive up a series of steep switchbacks through Bear Wallow Canyon to Schnebly Hill Vista Point. The first mile is paved and then it's dirt road until the vista point. The dirt road is fine for regular cars but a little rough so you'll be driving fairly slowly. From here you'll get a spectacular view of Red Rock Country. Take a good look at Munds Mountain to the South-East, Airport Mesa to the South-West, and Cockscomb just past that. Retrace your steps back to Rte. 179. Allow 1 hour.
  5. Take 179 south 3.5 miles to Back-O'Beyond Road on the right. Go 0.6 miles to the Cathedral Rock trailhead parking turnout on the left. Cathedral Rock Trail is less than 2 miles both ways, moderate difficulty, and will take about 1-2 hours. The views are surreal throughout the entire hike, but you get the best one from the top. In you are spending the night in the area there are many campgrounds and RV parks in and around Sedona to choose from.

Two-Day Visit - Flagstaff to Clarkdale - 55 miles plus side trips.

Day One

Complete stop points 1) to 5) as set out in the One-Day Visit above. Then check out Sedona for the evening. If you want a bit of r & r there are lots of great spas to choose from and a range of restaurant options. There are many campgrounds and RV parks in and around Sedona to stay at.

Day Two

  1. From Sedona take Rte. 179 south for 3 miles to Chapel Rd. Turn left and follow the road to the end when you'll arrive at Chapel of the Holy Cross. This chapel is located among dramatic rock formations and offers spectacular views. Allow 30 minutes minimum.
  2. Next head South on Rte. 179 for less than a mile to the North parking lot for the base of Bell Rock. Follow the Bell Rock Pathway until you reach the 5 mile Courthouse Loop Trail. Follow it either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Along this trail you'll enjoy fantastic views of Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Spaceship Rock. When you reach Bell Rock Trail follow it approximately 0.75 miles as it ascends the northern face of Bell Rock. The views from the top are spectacular. Allow 3 hours minimum.
  3. Continue South on Rte. 179 to 2.8 miles past the junction of I-17 to V-Bar-V Heritage Site. This is the largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley, as well as being one of the best-preserved. Take a guided tour to learn the meaning behind the rock art.
  4. If you're staying in the area and want to be away from town in a quiet more rustic campground, we recommend, the nearby and pretty Coconino National Forest Beaver Creek Campground. Otherwise return to Sedona. There are many campgrounds and RV parks in and around Sedona to stay at.

Three-Day Visit - Flagstaff to Jerome - 60 miles plus side trips

Follow the itinerary for the first two days as set out in the Two-Day Visit.

Day Three

  1. Drive west out of Sedona for approximately 23 miles along US89A until you reach Tuzigoot National Monument. On top of a desert hilltop you'll find the remains of an ancient pueblo that belonged to the Sinagua people that lived in the area for 300 years. It was built between 1125 and 1400 AD using stone and clay along the spine of a natural outcrop in the Verde Valley. At peak, around 1300 AD, it contained 110 rooms and housed as many as 250 Sinaguas. There are few exterior doors and people entered the two story pueblo by ladder through hatches in the roof suggesting they needed protection perhaps from nearby warring tribes. Allow 1 hour minimum.
    There are several campgrounds and RV parks near Tuzigoot National Monument to spend the night at if you're staying in the area.
  2. Head back towards US89A for half a mile and turn right to head north just before you cross the Verde River, on FR 131, aka. Sycamore Canyon Rd. It's about 11 miles to trailhead. After the first couple of miles it becomes a dirt round and is not recommended for RVs. However, it's fine to drive in a regular family car. Parsons Trail is a moderate 3.7 mile trail into Sycamore Canyon, following Sycamore Creek. Sycamore Canyon is of comparable size and beauty as Oak Creek Canyon with many colorful rock formations. The trail leads to a large pool called Parson Springs where a stream springs to the surface. Allow 4 hours minimum.
  3. Retrace your steps to US89A, turn right and continue 7 miles onto Jerome. The old copper mining town had a fascinating and sordid history. Around 1900 it had so many saloons, gambling dens and brothels it was called the "wickedest town in America". Mining ceased in 1953 and Jerome has been restored to a beautiful but steep Victorian town located on Cleopatra Hill. Check out Jerome State Historic Park that has displays on local mining history and methods. Allow 1 hour minimum.

Entrance Fees

A Daily Red Rock Pass ($5) or Weekly ($15) can be purchased at any of the visitor centers at the State Parks. These passes allow you to park at any of the designated pullouts to take a hike or have a picnic. A permit is not needed if you only wish to temporarily pullover for pictures. The pass is not for entry at the state parks which have their own fees. Slide Rock State Park costs $15-$20 fee per car depending on the season.

Health Tips

Bring plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and a hat. The temperature can be extreme and sometimes you will have little to no shade, so you can sunburn and dehydrate more easily.

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Canyon walls and river on West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona AZ
* The wow factor of West Fork Trail
Families swimming and playing in Sliding Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ
Bring your bathers for Sliding Rock State Park
View of Red Rock Country from Schnebly Hill
Awe inspiring view of Red Rock Country from Schnebly Hill
Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona, built into red rock
Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into red rock
Bell Rock, Sedona AZ
Vortex of Bell Rock is said to attract UFOs!
Petroglyphs at V-Bar-V Heritage Site
Rock art was typically used to mark the seasons and for religious reasons
Sinagua Pueblo at Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
** Pueblo at Tuzigoot National Monument
Lake with canyon wall behind on Parsons Trail, Sycamore Canyon, AZ
Stunningly beautiful Parsons Trail
Mine Train Jerome State Historic Park, AZ
Mine train, Jerome State Historic Park
* Photo courtesy of National Forest Service
** Photo courtesy of National Park Service

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