From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the north, the land south of Flagstaff rises into Red Rock Country. These sandstone monoliths form a vivid backdrop that leads into the desert wilderness into Sedona and down into Prescott. The most fascinating part of these rocks is that the multi-hued formations change hourly with the light. It’s quite a fascinating and relatively short, trip through central Arizona.
How long? This isn’t a very long itinerary, road trip drive-wise. Around 80 miles or about an hour and a half.
Time of Year? The area isn’t too far from the Grand Canyon, but the weather is nicer year-round. Nicer, but hotter. The further south you go, the more you go into the Arizona desert.
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Red Rocks Canyon Itinerary
Start from Flagstaff, Arizona
Oak Creek Canyon is considered one of the most spectacular stretches of road in Arizona. A few miles south of Flagstaff on State Route 89A, the Oak Creek Vista Point has a short trail that leads to a breathtaking overlook. After your visit, take the winding road that heads about 4,500 feet downhill towards Sedona.
About a mile south of this stop is West Fork Trail that leads into a canyon where red walls tower overhead next to maple trees. If you decide to take the hike, bring waterproof boots as you may have to wade through an ankle-deep stream.
Slide Rock State Park is seven miles north of Sedona and has a myriad of recreational choices. You can fish in the clear waters, picnic under the shade of the trees, or simply hike and marvel at the red rocks that loom overhead. A natural water slide is formed by the slippery bed of the Oak Creek, called Slide Rock. If you need a quick cool off this summer, Slide Rock is 80 feet long and up to 4 feet wide. It makes quite a ride!
With a busy arts district, great shopping downtown, and a stunning landscape, Sedona is a must see. Bright mesas, butte, and spires surround the town and change color hourly as one mountain fades into shadow and the next becomes a vibrate orange glow. Nearby Capital Butte, Chimney Rock, and Shrine of the Red Rock make excellent photo-taking stops.
While driving down State Route 89A, head down to Lower Red Rock Loop Road and then follow the signs to Red Rock State Park. This 286-acre nature preserve also straddles a 1 ½-mile section of Oak Creek. Multiple trails meander through the park. Try Smoke Trail that starts a half-mile loop from the visitor’s center. For a more challenging trail, try Eagle’s Nest Trail.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a 300-acre along the Verde River. Here you’ll find leisurely hiking trails that meander along the river and into the surrounding desert.
Tuzigoot National Monument is a hilltop village that preserves a pueblo ruin that belonged to earlier Native American settlements around A.D. 1200. The pueblo is fascinating in that it was built without exterior doors and was entered by ladders through rooftop hatches.
The Holy Family Catholic Church was built in 1891 and into the mountainside in the small town of Jerome. View the valley and the classic example of a 19th-century alter. Jerome State Historic State Park, 100 Douglas Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331, is another good place to stop. You can view the Douglas Mansion in the once-prominent mining region.
On your way down to Prescott, you’ll see Mingus Mountain as the highway descends into Prescot Valley. Prescott is the former territorial capital. Sharlott Hall Museum is an educational and cultural center that features the historical heritage of the region and operates as a historical site. The museum also includes the First Territorial Capitol and Governor’s Mansion as part of their exhibits. The town is also nestled in the forests of the Bradshaw Mountains, so there are plenty of trails for exploring the country. The Granite Dells and the Watson Lake Park are nearby attractions for outdoor adventures.
If you have more time and feel like continuing your tour, Phoenix is two hours south of Prescott. Sedona is also one hour north. Have fun!
My favorite time of year to see the Grand Canyon? The fall. View photos of the Grand Canyon in October.
Have some extra time? I recommend driving north to take the Grand Canyon Loop.
When booking your trip to the Grand Canyon (or other Arizona destinations), compare the best rates on TripAdvisor.