Hopefully you have read (and enjoyed) my review of our Pink Jeep Broken Arrow tour in Sedona. It was a highlight of our eight day vacation in Northern Arizona. If you don’t have the time or inclination to tour Sedona by jeep, you can still get out and enjoy the sights that make this area of the country so unique.
The drive over from Flagstaff is about an hour, give or take. As you head out of Flagstaff on Hwy. 89A you will enter the Coconino National Forest and soon reach the Oak Creek Canyon overlook where you can get out and stretch your legs with a walk to the lookout point at the end of the paved sidewalk. If you arrive in the area in the morning, you will find that the sun is in an absolutely terrible place for photos. We ended up coming back later in the day, mid to late afternoon, for our photos. The canyon below is beautiful as you look out across the switchback two lane highway below you.
I should also mention that this lookout area is part of the Arizona State Parks system. They have a partnership with local Native American vendors, permitting them to sell their arts and crafts along the sidewalk near the visitors’ center. Their silver and turquoise jewelry, pottery and woven goods are really beautiful and from what I could tell, prices were very reasonable.
As you continue your drive from Oak Creek Canyon, you will twist and wind along the Oak Creek which includes a lot of campgrounds and small lodges. The views are outstanding; tranquil and peaceful. I can see someone coming here to commune with nature to escape the rush of city life. Just before reaching Sedona is Slide Rock State Park, a year round opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Most however, come here to enjoy swimming and "shooting the slippery rock chute" during the warmer months. There are picnic areas and a gift shop with snacks along with bathrooms, etc. More information may be found on their web site: http://www.azparks.gov/Parks/SLRO/index.html.
From Slide Rock State Park you will fast be approaching Sedona. Before you arrive at the city’s welcome sign, you will see the world famous red rock formations. They are spectacular and when we came upon them, they somewhat took me by surprise. Entering the uptown area of Sedona is somewhat of a letdown other than the fact that you can see the gorgeous red rock formations all around you. Town itself, for me, has a bit of a feel of a typical tourist trap . . . but that is me. For those who love little quaint shops and restaurants, you will love this place.
Driving on through town on Hwy. 89A you will approach a couple of round-abouts. The first will take you on out Hwy. 179 which will eventually take you by some famous formations including Bell Rock and Cathedral Tower. The second round-about will take you take you out of town on Hwy. 89A towards Airport Road and eventually out to Cottonwood, AZ and beyond.
I mention Airport Road specifically because this is where we stayed (Sky Ranch Lodge) but perhaps more importantly; this is the location of a vortex. Vortexes are believed to be energy centers and the source of what many believe is the spiritual draw to Sedona. While we didn’t go to this particular vortex, we did enjoy our hike at Bell Rock where the presence of the vortex was very evident in the trees. You see, with the spiraling winds, the trunks and limbs of the junipers are twisted and contorted to make some very strange mutations. Admittedly, I didn’t seem to feel the vibe, it was interesting to see how the vortex affects the growth of plant life in the area.
Airport Road is also one of the best lookout areas at sunset. With the sun drawing down to your left, the lighting on the red rock formations on your right is fantastic. The parking lot at the lookout was jammed about 20 minutes before the predicted time of sunset. Fortunately, we were able to scout a perfect viewing point on the Sky Ranch Lodge property where we took a lot of photos.
If you plan a trip to or even through Sedona, I hope you will enjoy your drive and take some time to get out and explore. There are a number of hiking trails of varying degrees of challenge. Even an asthmatic like me could get out and enjoy it, but be sure to be aware of your personal limitations. The air is a bit thinner than you may be accustomed to and if the air is chilly that too could affect your breathing capacity. Here is a link to a really good map of the area highlighting the red rock formations and hiking trails in the area: http://www.redrockcountry.org/maps/big-map.shtml.