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Red Rock Scenic Byway

Basics
Length:
7.5 miles (12 km)
Time:
Take 20 minutes to drive, but allow several hours to include all activities along the Byway.
Fees:
Certain stops along the byway require a $5.00 use pass to access.

Description

At the beautiful Coconino National Forest, take a break from the ordinary and enjoy rugged rolling hills and washes covered with scrub oak, juniper, pinon pine, cacti, and yucca. At Dry Beaver Creek Bridge, you'll have your first glimpse of the spectacular red monoliths ahead, such as Courthouse Butte and Lee Mountain. The roadway gently curves through the high desert country, a colorful mosaic of red soil and green junipers. As you travel further down the road, you may see various wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and quail on the ground, and flying high overhead are hawks and eagles. Two miles farther, hike up to where the elevation sign says 4,000 feet, and let your gaze sweep over the myriad of rock formations that make up the Byway.

Scanning the horizon from west to east, you will see Castle Rock, which has the same iron ore that colors red rocks on Mars, and mystical Bell Rock, a longtime spot known for "earth energy." Going further, you'll see the mammoth Courthouse Butte, a popular spot for off road mountain biking. This vista has a fascinating history -- a 300 million year old story. Ancient Native Americans lived and hunted here for thousands of years, and people today continue to believe this land is sacred. "We didn't inherit the earth; we are borrowing it from our children" is still the prevailing wisdom of this road and its surroundings.

Continuing north through the Village of Oak Creek, Castle Rock dominates the landscape on your left and Bell Rock on your right. With Wild Horse Mesa and House Mountain looming in the background, it's obvious how this area became a favorite site for filming westerns back in the 1940s and 50s. In just over a mile, the road re-enters the serenity of the Coconino National Forest, where the south end of the Bell Rock Vista Pathway is on the right. Bell Rock is a popular destination for mountain bikers and hikers alike.

The forest seems to hug the road, creating a sense of intimacy with nature, and the giant rock formations, often glowing in the sun, tower above both sides of the road. Near the end of this natural roller coaster, you'll climb a hill and see the north end of Bell Rock Vista Pathway, a wonderful place to stop and plan which trailhead you want to take. While hiking up the pathway, take out your camera to capture Cathedral Rock, one of the most photographed places in Arizona.

Points of Interest

Points of Interest Along The Way

Bell Rock Vista and Pathway Southern Trailhead (AZ)

Located just north of the Village, this is a traveler's first up-close-and-personal experience with the towering red rocks of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. This trailhead has extensive Red Rock Country information, with numerous trails and photographic opportunities. Bell Rock is a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers, and well known as a major vortex site for New Agers and others throughout the world.

Coconino National Forest (AZ)

The Coconino National Forest has 1.8 million acres which vary from semi-arid desert through ponderosa pine forests to alpine tundra.

Little Horse Trail and Bell Rock Pathway Northern Trailhead (AZ)

Situated atop a hill, this trailhead is an opportunity to gaze west at Cathedral Rock, one of the most photographed places in Arizona. Late in the day or early in the morning, this majestic view can be inspirational. Look east for an excellent view of the "Three Nuns," a series of red spires just above the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Many hiking trails branch off from here (like "Little Horse") and will take you through hidden washes, pools and breathtaking vistas.

National Forest/Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center (AZ)

This is a must stop for all your Red Rock Country information and Red Rock Passes for parking on the National Forest. Learn all the stories and history of this amazing area, like how the rocks and mesas were formed and named. Some of the original hiking trail names are forever gone; the old cowboys and ranchers who named many of the trails and landmarks were an earthy bunch and some of the names they used were too "salty" for the mapmakers, who re-named or "sanitized" them.

Old Bridge over Dry Beaver Creek (AZ)

This old stagecoach route was used by early pioneers and cattlemen. Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, Dry Beaver Creek may live up to its name or be a raging torrent. The riparian community along Dry Beaver Creek is especially abundant with wildlife.

Red Rock Crossing on Oak Creek (AZ)

Visit one of the most photographed sites in the country, as well as one of the most naturally beautiful settings in Sedona.

Sedona Area Wildlife and Vegetation (AZ)

There is a wide range of diversity due to the eight different eco-systems that co-exist from canyon to slope to creek side. Nearly all the vegetation is still used by local indigenous peoples; nothing can be collected or harvested here without a permit.

For the bird-watcher, there are over 180 types of local and migratory birds including heron, geese, hawks, peregrine falcons, owls, roadrunners, even the occasional bald eagle can be seen taking in the magnificent scenery. The riparian community along Dry Beaver Creek is especially abundant in wildlife.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross (AZ)

This famous Chapel is a feast for the eyes and can be seen to the east, as you near the end of Red Rock Scenic Road. Conceived and initially designed by an extraordinary woman, Marguerite Staude, the design of the Chapel was first inspired by her viewing the newly completed Empire State Building in New York City in 1932. The Chapel, seemingly built right into the surrounding red rocks, reflects the tranquility and spirituality this area inspires.

Directions

Going north on SR 179, turn east at Chapel Road, and just 1/2 mile past MP 310, you will see the Chapel soaring over the road. The parking lot will be on your left.

The Village of Oak Creek (AZ)

The Village lies cradled by the red rock formations, as well as Wild Horse Mesa and House Mountain. If the view seems familiar, note that this valley, known as Big Park, was the setting for many western movies. This quiet and small residential community was established by farming/ranch settlers in the late 1800s, and today is known for its dining, lodging, shopping, hiking, biking and golf.

View of the Red Rocks (AZ)

Along the byway are stunning views of Castle Rock, world-renowned Bell Rock, gigantic Courthouse Butte and towering Lee Mountain. The many-colored layers and outcroppings of rock have an incredible history and will entice you to learn about the area's geological roots.

Details

Length:
7.5 miles (12 km)
Time:
Take 20 minutes to drive, but allow several hours to include all activities along the Byway.
Main Roads:
AZ-179 S
Fees:
Certain stops along the byway require a $5.00 use pass to access.

Map + Directions

Customizable Directions


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