Sedona’s most notable architectural landmark is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, 780 Chapel Rd. (www.chapeloftheholycross.com; tel. 928/282-4069), a small church built right into the red rock on the south side of town. If you’re driving up from Phoenix, you can’t miss it—the chapel sits high above the road just off Ariz. 179. With its contemporary styling, it is one of the most architecturally important modern churches in the country. Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a devout Catholic painter, sculptor, and designer, had the inspiration for the chapel in 1932, but it wasn’t until 1957 that her dream was finally realized. The chapel’s design is dominated by a simple cross forming the wall that faces the street. The cross and the starkly beautiful chapel seem to grow directly from the rock, allowing the natural beauty of the red rock to speak for itself. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm; admission is free. The chapel is on a two-lane road with no outlet; be aware that the parking lots get crowded.
To learn a bit about local history, stop by the Sedona Heritage Museum, 735 Jordan Rd. (www.sedonamuseum.org; tel. 928/282-7038; daily 11am to 3pm; $7, $10 with audio), in Jordan Historical Park. Housed in a historic home, the museum is furnished with antiques and contains exhibits on the many movies that have been filmed in the area. The farm was once an apple orchard; there’s still apple-processing equipment in the barn.
The Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Rd. (www.sedonaartscenter.com; tel. 888/954-4442 or 928/282-3809), near the north end of Uptown Sedona on Ariz. 89A, has a gallery that specializes in works by local and regional artists.
Sunset at the Amitabha Stupa
There’s just something about Sedona that brings out people’s spirituality, and one of the latest spiritual attractions to find a home among the red rocks is the Amitabha Stupa Park (www.stupas.org; tel. 928/282-5195), a Tibetan Buddhist shrine erected in a residential neighborhood in west Sedona, up a short path that winds through juniper trees. Festooned with prayer flags, the 36-foot-tall stupa is often visited by devout Buddhists, who leave offerings at the base of the stupa; the public is welcome anytime from dawn to dusk. To find the stupa, drive north from Ariz. 89A on Andante Dr. and turn left on Pueblo Dr. Park outside the gate on the right.
Exploring Red-Rock Country
If you aren’t an active type, you can spend a perfectly contented weekend just sitting and gazing in awe at the rugged cliffs, needle-like pinnacles, and isolated buttes that rise from the green forest floor at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. Want to see more without breaking a sweat? Head out into the red rocks on a jeep tour or soar over them in a biplane. Want to go mano a mano with this wild landscape? Go for a hike, rent a mountain bike, or go horseback riding.
Along Ariz. 179 South of Town
Although Schnebly Hill Road, which climbs into the red rocks east of Sedona, is a rough dirt road, it’s a must for superb views. This road is best driven in a high-clearance vehicle (you can book a jeep tour if you prefer not to drive yourself). Head south of Sedona on Ariz. 179; just past the bridge over Oak Creek (at the Tlaquepaque shopping plaza), look for the turnoff on your left. The road starts out paved but soon turns to dirt. As it climbs to the top of the Mogollon Rim, each switchback and cliff-edged curve yields a new and more astonishing view. At the top, the panorama at Schnebly Hill overlook just begs to be savored over a long picnic.
A number of striking rock formations lie south of town. From the Chapel of the Holy Cross on Chapel Road, you can see Eagle Head Rock (from the front door of the chapel, look three-quarters of the way up the mountain to see the eagle’s head); the Twin Nuns (two pinnacles standing side by side); and Mother and Child Rock (to the left of the Twin Nuns). A little farther south on Ariz. 179, the aptly named Bell Rock rises up; there’s a roadside parking area at its foot, and trails lead up to the top. Adjacent to Bell Rock is Courthouse Butte, and to the west stands Cathedral Rock.
Near the junction of I-17 and Ariz. 179, you can visit one of the premier petroglyph sites in Arizona. The rock art at the V Bar V Heritage Site (www.redrockcountry.org; tel. 928/282-3854) covers a small cliff face and includes images of herons and turtles. To get here, take the dirt road that leads east for 2 2/3 miles from the junction of I-17 and Ariz. 179 to the Beaver Creek Campground. The entrance to the petroglyph site is just past the campground. From the parking area, it’s about a half-mile walk to the petroglyphs. The site is open Friday through Monday 9:30am to 3pm. To visit, you’ll need a Red Rock Pass or another valid pass.
West of Sedona
Heading west out of Sedona on Ariz. 89A, turn left on Airport Road to drive up onto Airport Mesa, which commands an unobstructed panorama of Sedona and the red rocks. About halfway up the mesa is a small parking area from which easy trails radiate; at the top of the mesa is a huge parking area and viewpoint park that attracts crowds of sunset gazers. The views from here are among the best in the region.
Located 8 miles west of the “Y,” Boynton Canyon, a narrow red-rock box canyon, is one of the most beautiful spots in the Sedona area. Today it’s the site of the deluxe Enchantment Resort, but hundreds of years before there were luxury suites here, there were Sinagua cliff dwellings. Several of these cliff dwellings can still be spotted high on the canyon walls. The Boynton Canyon Trail leads 3 miles into this canyon from a trail head parking area just outside the gates of Enchantment. Drive west of Sedona on Ariz. 89A, turn south on Dry Creek Rd., and follow the signs to Enchantment for about 7 miles, taking a left at the first T intersection (onto Boynton Pass Rd.) and a right at the second T (Boynton Canyon Rd.). On the way to Boynton Canyon, look north from Ariz. 89A to see Coffee Pot Rock, also known as Rooster Rock, rising 1,800 feet. Three pinnacles, known as the Three Golden Chiefs by the Yavapai tribe, stand beside Coffee Pot Rock. As you drive up Dry Creek Rd., on your right you’ll see Capitol Butte, which resembles the U.S. Capitol.
West of Boynton Canyon, you can visit a well-preserved set of Sinagua cliff dwellings at Palatki Heritage Site (www.fs.usda.gov; tel. 928/282-3854). These small ruins, tucked under the red cliffs, are the best place in the area to get a feel for the ancient Native American cultures that once lived in this region. Among the ruins, you’ll see numerous pictographs (paintings) created by these long-ago residents. To visit Palatki, you’ll need a Red Rock Pass (see “The High Cost of Red-Rock Views” box). The ruins are open daily 9:30am to 3pm; call in advance to make a reservation, as there are limited parking spaces. You can get here by driving west from Sedona on Ariz. 89A to F.R. 525, a gravel road leading north to F.R. 795, which dead-ends at the ruins. You can also reach the site from Boynton Canyon; continue west on scenic Boynton Pass Rd. (F.R. 152C), which eventually becomes a sometimes rough dirt road, and at the T intersection, go right onto F.R. 525, then veer right onto F.R. 795. Note: These dirt roads become impassable to regular cars when they’re wet, so don’t try coming out here if the roads are at all muddy.
A bit west of the turnoff for Boynton Canyon on Ariz. 89A, Upper Red Rock Loop Rd. leads to Crescent Moon Picnic Area, a national forest recreation area that has become a must-see for Sedona visitors. Its popularity stems from a beautiful photograph of Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock in the background—an image reproduced countless times on postcards and in Sedona promotional literature. Hiking trails lead up to Cathedral Rock. Admission is $9 per vehicle. Continue on Red Rock Loop Rd. another couple of miles to reach Red Rock State Park, 4050 Red Rock Loop Rd. (www.azstateparks.com; tel. 928/282-6907), which flanks Oak Creek. The views here take in many of the rocks listed above, and you have the bonus of being right on the creek (though swimming and wading are prohibited). Park admission is $10 per car. The park offers guided walks and interpretive programs.
The High Cost of Red-Rock Views
A quick perusal of any Sedona real-estate magazine will convince you that property values around these parts are as high as the Mogollon Rim. However, red-rock real estate is also expensive for those who want only a glimpse of the rocks. With the land around Sedona split up into several types of National Forest Service day-use sites, state parks, and national monuments, visitors find themselves pulling out their wallets just about every time they turn around to look at another rock. Here’s the lowdown on what it’s going to cost you to do the red rocks right.
A Red Rock Pass will allow you to visit Palatki Ruins and the V Bar V petroglyph site and park at any national forest trail-head parking areas. The cost is $5 for a 1-day pass, $15 for a 7-day pass, and $20 for a 12-month pass. Passes are good for everyone in your vehicle.
Be aware that these passes are not valid at Grasshopper Point, Call of the Canyon, Crescent Moon Picnic Area, Red Rock State Park, or Slide Rock State Park, which charge from $8 to $20 admission per vehicle.
If two or more of you are traveling together and you plan on visiting the Grand Canyon and three or four other national parks or monuments, consider getting an America the Beautiful Pass ($80). Good for a year, it will get you into any national park or national monument in the country. If you’re 62 or older, get an America the Beautiful Senior Pass ($80), which is good for the rest of your life. Persons with disabilities can get a free lifetime America the Beautiful Access Pass. Any of these three passes can be used in lieu of a Red Rock Pass.
For more information on the Red Rock passes, visit www.redrockcountry.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.