The Red Rocks
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
It’s called Red Rock Country for a reason. The mammoth buttes surround Sedona, towering over the desert and attracting visitors from around the world. You won’t need to search for the rocky, prehistoric formations—you’ll see them everywhere: from the highway, through your hotel-room window, on the patio at a small restaurant, and even while you’re getting a Watsu massage in an outdoor pool.
Their monolithic size, craggy spires, and deep-rust color create an otherworldly landscape, especially when contrasted against the brilliant blue sky and forest-green pine trees and scrub that burrow into the terrain. Most of the formations are named after shapes their silhouettes resemble—though you should expect a little creative license.
It doesn’t take much effort to get an up-close view of these formations. Simply pull off one of the highways and you’ll find a parking spot and a trail ready to hike, bike, horseback ride, or four-wheel drive.
Village of Oak Creek
If you’re driving north from Phoenix on Highway 179, the first major butte you’ll recognize is Bell Rock, the easiest formation to match to its namesake silhouette. Behind the Liberty Bell–shaped butte, you can spot the stout Courthouse Butte.
On the opposite side of the highway to the west, you’ll discover the enormous Castle Rock, as well as the more modest Cathedral Rock, a multi-spired, photogenic formation. Pull off Highway 179 and drive up Chapel Road to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, where you can get a clear view of three small formations: the beaked Eagle Head Rock, the double spires of Twin Nuns, and the charming Mother and Child Rock.
To see the low-lying Submarine Rock, head east on Morgan Drive. You’ll need to hike in on your own to climb the formation or take a Jeep tour.
Once you drive into town, you can see Thumb Butte and the Bench. Kids will get a kick out of Snoopy Rock from the perspective of Uptown Sedona, where they’ll recognize the famous beagle asleep on his back. If you continue north on Highway 89A, you’ll locate Steamboat Rock towering west of the road.
Travel back down Highway 89A to West Sedona and turn south on Airport Road, where you’ll be treated to one of Sedona’s best panoramic views on Airport Mesa. You can make out most of the major formations as well as find easy hiking trails and one of Sedona’s best-known vortexes.
Continuing west on Highway 89A, look north and you’ll see the telltale spout of Coffeepot Rock before spotting the spire of Chimney Rock and the domed Capitol Butte.
Parks and Recreation Areas
Crescent Moon Recreation Area (928/282-4119, www.fs.fed.us/r3/Coconino, $7 per vehicle) is a popular picnic spot, thanks to the cool waters of Oak Creek and postcard views of Cathedral and Castle Rocks. Hiking trails meander from the creek and through the trees to Cathedral Rock.
Oak Creek flows to the 286-acre Red Rock State Park (928/282-6907, http://azstateparks.com/parks/rero, $6 per vehicle) on the western edge of town. The former Smoke Trail Ranch was opened to the public as a state park in 1991 and now serves as a protected riparian habitat for native wildlife and plants. Both parks can be accessed via Red Rock Loop Road.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition