Special to ModernJeeper by Chuck Brinkley of the Golden Shores Off Roaders, giving us a Jeeping tour of Sedona, AZ.
Sedona, Arizona-Where These ModernJeepers Caught Jeep Fever.
Sedona is an area of incredible natural beauty, full of historical, cultural and spiritual sites. It sits just about smack dab in the center of Arizona where Oak Creek Canyon dumps into northern part of the Verde Valley less than a 2-hour drive from the Phoenix metropolitan area and less than a hour from Flagstaff. Sedona is one of the most visited destinations in Arizona second only to the Grand Canyon.
Luxury accommodations, 5-star resorts, golf courses, fine dining, art galleries, energy vortexes, spiritual healers, world-class hiking and mountain biking can all be found in Sedona but, what many folks may not know about Sedona and the surrounding area is that the Jeeping is fantastic!
Right in town you will find the trailheads of several famous OHV trails such as Soldier Pass, Dry Creek Basin, Cliffhanger/Oak Creek Homestead, Schnebly Hill Road and the iconic Broken Arrow Trail. Just outside of town you can access many other trails like Diamondback Gulch/Greasy Spoon, Outlaw Trail, Redrock Powerline and House Mountain.
If you are visiting in your Jeep, stop in and chat with the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Barlow Jeep Rentals. They are always in the know on trail conditions and will be glad to hook you up with trail maps with detailed information.
Nena Barlow, the owner of the company and of Barlow Adventures, is an advocate for access to, and a steward of, our public lands and trails. An all-around great ambassador of our sport and way of life!
My wife Caron and I first visited Sedona on a road trip for our wedding anniversary and were enthralled with the beauty of the area. As off-road enthusiasts and outdoor people we were also intrigued by all of the Jeep tour companies and 4-wheel drive vehicles we saw around town.
(Chuck and his wife Caron with Jeeping smiles)
About Being There
Sedona is situated in the Coconino National Forrest’s Red Rock Ranger district. You can take the 89A northeast out of Prescott or come from Flagstaff in the north on the 17/89A. Town itself gets pretty busy during tourist season when the weather is nice; but it’s always worth a visit.
Parking and Park Passes
To park at most trailhead parking lots and along trails you will need to purchase a Red Rock Pass. The fees are, $5 per day, $15 per week or $20 annually. These fees are used to maintain the excellent facilities, trash removal, trail maintenance and public information.
A Red Rock Pass can be purchased at many places around town including, grocery stores, convenience stores, outfitters and many others. They also can be obtained at the Red Rock Ranger Station and many of the trailhead parking areas have self-serve kiosks.
Trails of Sedona
Broken Arrow Trail is on everybody’s list of must-do trails. This was the first trail we ever ran in a Jeep. The stunning views and challenging obstacles, especially for first-time Jeepers, make this one of our all time favorites!
At just a shade under 4 miles round trip it is great place to start the morning as later in the day it can get pretty busy with tour Jeeps. It is highly recommended that you make a stop at Submarine Rock to make the short walk (100yds) up to the top. You won’t be disappointed!
Up on Chicken Point you will also want to get out ant take in the view before heading back down. On the way down you will go around the famous Mushroom Rock and come to an area that has a few obstacles to play on before descending The Devil’s Staircase and back to the trail you came in on.
You may want to stop at the sink hole known as the Devil’s Dining Room about a half of a mile before you get back to the trailhead. If you were to watch the 1950 movie Broken Arrow featuring James Stewart, you just might see some of the same incredible scenery that is described here……
Another favorite, Schnebly Hill Road leads to the top of the Mogollon Rim (pronounced muggy-owen) and provides some outstanding views of the northern end of Verde Valley where Oak Creek Canyon meets Sedona. It had its beginnings as a cattle trail blazed by Jim Mund.
Many others worked to develop a short cut from Flagstaff to Oak Creek. The eventual namesake of the road, Carl Schnebly used it to haul produce grown in the valley to Flagstaff and lumber from the forest down to the valley.
When he petitioned the U.S. government for a post office the names he submitted were turned down for being too long, so he submitted his wife’s name, Sedona. And as they say, “the rest is history”.
The trail is not particularly difficult, but it is very rough and rocky and worth every bump. The top of the Rim at Schnebly Hill Vista is almost 6000’ in elevation and bit over 5 miles from the trailhead.
A little more than 5 miles beyond the Vista through the pine trees you will find Hwy.17. This can be used as an alternate way to enter Sedona from Interstate 17 if you are feeling adventurous.
Soldier Pass is another iconic Sedona Jeep trail. It gets its name from the troops of General George Crook who used this trail to come down off the Mogollon Rim to resupply their camp along Oak Creek. Along this short out and back trail, 3 miles total, there are a some fun ledges and a cool little section of shelf road.
You will want to see the living sink hole known as The Devil’s Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. The pools usually hold water, but we had never seen water flowing through them until our visit in May this year when we caught it during a rain/ sleet/ snowstorm. There is a pass required to access Soldier Pass 4×4 trail. You can get your free pass at https://www.fs.usda.gov you must apply between 3 to 90 days prior to your visit.
The Sacred Pools with a torrent of rain water (not usually seen this flowing).
The Dry Creek Basin Road (FR152) gives you a bit different look at the valley and is a very popular trail with hikers trekking to the Devil’s Bridge and tour Jeeps heading to the historic Van Deren Cabin. The trail ends about 5.5 miles out, at the trailhead for the Vultee Arch hiking trail which is a nice place to take a break in the shade.
There will be few hikers on the road after you pass the Devil’s Bridge trailhead at around a mile and a half in and most tour Jeeps don’t go further the Van Deren Cabin so, usually the rest of the road is light on traffic and considerably less rocky and smoother with several spots to pull off and check out the scenery.
The Secret Canyon trailhead is about halfway from the turn to the cabin and the end of the road. The short half mile side trip to Van Deren Cabin is a fun trail with quite often a water crossing and some cool ledges. When you return to the pavement you can make a right through the parking lot to the Dry Creek Vista a good spot for sunset watching.
Cliffhanger leads from Hwy 89a down to near Oak Creek where a hike of about half a mile will lead you to the remains of a stone Homestead foundation and a swimming hole on the creek. The trail features a steep section shelf road and some challenges along the way.
The Honaki and Palatki cultural sites (more here https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55368) are very good places to get a feel for the way the early inhabitants of the Verde Valley lived . The Outlaw OHV Trail starts right in the parking area for the Honaki site. Jeepers can visit the cliff dwellings before hitting the trail.
Honaki ruins, cliff dwellings of the Honaki Heritage Site
The entrance to the Palatki site sits just about halfway between the end of the Outlaw Trail and the trailhead of the Diamondback OHV Trail. Palatki features amazing panels of pictographs that date back thousands of years. This site requires an easy to get, free reservation by calling 928-282-3854 between 9:30am-3:00pm.
Outlaw, Diomanback Gulch, Ranch Loop and the Redrock Powerline all offer some challenges and unique views. They can also be linked together in different combinations by the network of forest roads to make a full day of Jeeping.
House Mountain is accessed from its south side near Cornville. Jeepers taking on this trail will be rewarded with a 360°veiw from the very center of the Verde Valley and will probably have the trail to themselves.
There are so many great Jeep trails, hiking trails, history and culture in the area that it would be hard to describe everything in one sitting so, we have given you a few highlights on some of our favorites in the hopes that you just might wish to hit the trails at one of our favorite Jeeping destinations.
Happy Jeeping and enjoy the pics.
Happy trails and keep on Jeepin’