Exploring Sedona’s Beautiful Red Rock Country
by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
Exploring Sedona’s beautiful red rock country beyond the pavement is a time-honored tradition. Guided jeep tours are a highly popular means of exploring rugged canyons, visiting remote Indian ruins, and taking in great scenery. You can also rent a jeep, or go off in your own four-wheel drive vehicle. Just remember that it takes a skilled and experienced driver to handle a challenging off-road route.
The Schnebly Hill Road is one of the most well-known and scenic routes in the Sedona area. A former cow trail, the road became the main route from Sedona to Flagstaff before being replaced by the Oak Creek Canyon Road (US-89A) in 1914. The road is named after pioneer, Carl Schnebly, who settled near Oak Creek in 1900, building a home and general store. He became the area’s first postmaster naming the postal station, Sedona, after his wife. This name was of course then used for the town.
This rocky dirt road climbs Bear Wallow Canyon, then twists and turns up the hill. There are some drop-offs but the recommended uphill lane is always on the inside. After six miles you reach the spectacular Schnebly Hill Vista, about 1,800 feet higher than Sedona. The view features the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, Steamboat Rock, Sedona town, and Mingus Mountain to the west. The route continues climbing, eventually reaching ponderosa pine forests. Four miles from the vista point, the road passes a meadow area at an old ranch called Foxboro. The road then ends at Interstate-17 in three more miles. You may then return to Sedona by the main highways.
The Coconino National Forest charges $5.00 for a Daily Red Rock Pass (they also have weekly and annual passes). These passes are valid for use as a parking permit to recreate in Red Rock Country including access to Red Rock Country Heritage Sites. This includes Schnebly Hill Road. The money is used to help manage the area. Passes may be purchased at four visitor centers located in Oak Creek and Sedona.
Any America the Beautiful Interagency Pass, Golden Age, and Golden Access are also accepted and honored in lieu of the Red Rock Pass for Forest recreation in Red Rock Country. America the Beautiful passes can be obtained at the Coconino National Forest offices or at hundreds of locations throughout the country.
Most drivers in a high clearance two-wheel drive vehicle can negotiate the Schnebly Hill Road if they take it slow. A family sedan is not suitable as the road becomes very rocky in places. The road is impassable when wet.