A visit to Sedona was an unexpected bonus after a road trip to the Grand Canyon in Winter.

As part of a three week trip to the US, we drove from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for a couple of nights (about a six hour drive). Rather than going back the same way, we decided to drive on to Phoenix via Sedona, to catch our flights from Phoenix airport.

Sedona is a small town in Arizona surrounded by spectacular rock formations where you can experience beautiful landscapes, Native American history and New Age spiritualism.

The drive from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix via Sedona takes around 4 hours 30 minutes, with Sedona at about the half-way point, however give yourself plenty of time. We found this drive a much more scenic route than between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. The highlight of the drive was the section between Flagstaff and Sedona – through Oak Creek Canyon.

Grand Canyon to Flagstaff

Leaving the Grand Canyon National Park, the first part of the trip was along State Hwy 64. After about 26 miles, at Valle, we turned left, off State Hwy 64, onto US Hwy 180 (W Fort Valley Ranch Road). This was a pretty drive with views of the San Francisco Peaks – sacred mountains to the Navajo and Hopi people. On this trip we didn’t stop at Flagstaff however if you do, there are a couple of places of interest – the Lowell Observatory and the Meteor Crater.

Oak Creek Canyon

Shortly after Flagstaff we took Arizona State Route 89A towards Sedona. The scenery between Flagstaff and Sedona is exceptional as you drive down into Oak Creek Canyon via a number of hairpin bends.  The road passes through the canyon all the way to Sedona. The massive sandstone formations are spectacular.

About 14 miles south of Flagstaff it is recommended to stop at Oak Creek Vista. If you are travelling this route in summer you may also want to visit Grasshopper Point swimming hole and Slide Rock for its natural water slide.

Just before you reach Sedona, stop at the Midgely Bridge where there is a small gravelled area for cars to pull in. It’s a good place to take photographs of the formations that make up Red Rock Country.


We stopped in Sedona for lunch and a stroll around. The town is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by huge red rock formations. The town itself is quite pretty but very touristy. It may be a good place to base yourself for a couple of days but the beauty of the area is in the surrounding countryside.

Be aware that some of the places listed below, charge admission. You may want to enquire about a Red Rock Pass and visit the Sedona Visitor Centre at 331 Forest Road, Sedona (telephone 1-800-288-7336) for more information about Sedona attractions.

Places of interest around Sedona include:

  • Oak Creek Canyon.
  • The many red-rock formations including Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Cathedral Rock, Twin Nuns, Mother and Child Rock, Airport Mesa.
  • Verde Canyon Railroad – travels through Verde Valley and Sycamore Canyon wilderness.
  • Jeep Tours into Red Rock Country.
  • Vortex tours of the Sedona area.
  • Boynton Canyon – see Coffee Pot Rock and Capitol Butte on the way.
  • Well preserved Sinagua cliff dwellings at Palatki Heritage Site.
  • Honanki Heritage Site for cliff dwellings and rock art.
  • Rock engravings at V Bar V Heritage Site.
  • Historical town of Prescott.
  • Fort Verde State Historic Park for its historic fort.
  • Chapel of the Holy Cross.
  • M Diamond Ranch for horseriding.
  • Montezuma Castle – five-storey, 20 room cliff dwelling of the Sinagua Indians over 600 years ago.

Sedona to Phoenix

We left Sedona on State Route 179 – known as the Red Rock Scenic Byway.

At the Village of Oak Creek there is a rock formation called Bell Rock, a famous Sedona landmark. New Age enthusiasts believe that it is one of the most important vortex sites in Sedona. A vortex is a swirling energy (like a funnel) emanating from the earth and it is believed there are four main vortex sites around Sedona – Bell Rock, Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock and Boynton Canyon.

State Route 179 meets Interstate 17 which takes us through more scenery of sandstone formations and Saguaro cactus. It looks like the wild west country we’ve seen in Hollywood Westerns.

If you have time, stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument to see cliff dwellings that were once home to the Sinagua people.

We pass signs to places called Bumble Bee, Big Bug Creek and Bloody Basin – mining towns that boomed in the 1800s and that were scenes of battles between local Indian tribes and white settlers or the US Cavalry but are now just ghost towns.

Give yourself plenty of time to see the Red Rock Country of Sedona – there is a lot to take in.

December 2009