Sedona lies at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon in a narrow riparian trough, surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. Two roads, Arizona Highway 89A and Arizona Highway 179, form twin arteries that flow through the technicolor landscape. Where they intersect is known as the “Y.” Familiarize yourself with this junction because almost all directions use the “Y” as guidepost. Most residents live in West Sedona or the Village of Oak Creek, but no neighborhood has a monopoly on any single element of what makes Sedona special. A spider web of hiking trails extends outward everywhere, even from Uptown. Art galleries and day spas can be found deep in the recesses of Oak Creek Canyon, and, of course, delicious views are the norm.
Highway 179 Corridor
Connecting the Village of Oak Creek with Uptown, this stretch includes such notable landmarks as the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Cathedral Rock and Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. A network of interconnected trails emanate through the area, popular with both hikers and bikers. Gallery Row, a concentrated collection of art galleries and shops, hug the highway just south of Uptown. Arizona Highway 179 has been declared a Red Rock Scenic Byway, and dishes up dramatic and far-reaching views. Take advantage of the pull-outs to enjoy the sights.
Village of Oak Creek
Located at the southernmost end of Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek nestles in the open expanse of Big Park. The Village provides visitors driving from Phoenix their first glimpse of red rock country. And a stunning one it is. Bell Rock dominates the skyline, flanked by Courthouse Rock and Castle Rock. Originally a bedroom community, the Village offers first-class lodging, restaurants, shops, hiking trails and the only 18-hole golf course open to the public in Sedona. Road construction, completed in 2008, added sidewalks and bike paths so the business district feels more connected.
A more “real town” feel permeates West Sedona. Here you find grocery and hardware stores, along with Harkins Cinema, Sedona’s six-screen theater, all interspersed with restaurants, shops, lodging and residences. Airport Mesa rises above West Sedona. While only small aircraft can use the facility, scenic plane and helicopter tours shuttle in and out. Also, high atop this mesa is regarded as the best place in town to view a sunset.
As is often the case in resort towns, many of the people who work in Sedona actually live in the neighboring communities across the Verde Valley. An area rich in scenic beauty and history, it also makes for some excellent side trips from Sedona. Visitors will discover the likes of Fort Verde State Park, Out of Africa Wildlife Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, approximately a 30-minute drive from Sedona. Cottonwood and Clarkdale are about the same distance from Sedona, where visitors will find Verde Canyon Railroad and Tuzigoot National Monument. Jerome clings to the mountains above Cottonwood and Clarkdale, a former mining town turned picturesque artist colony.
Oak Creek Canyon
Feisty Oak Creek carved out this narrow, high-walled chasm that gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation on the way to Flagstaff. The 27-mile road, consistently rated as one of the most scenic drives in America, curves past coral-hued cliffs before climbing through a dense forest. Along the way, drivers will find plenty of stopping points. Indian Gardens, a historic country market, carries everything needed for a woodland picnic. Slide Rock State Park is a world-famous swimming hole, but there are plenty of other less-crowded swimming and fishing spots in the canyon. Leaving the creek behind, the road switchbacks sharply up to the rim. Pull out at Oak Creek Canyon Vista upon reaching the top, and you’ll find spectacular views stretching across the midsection of the state. This is also where Native American vendors sell art, jewelry and crafts in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
Compact and walkable, Uptown serves as the central hub of Sedona. Weirdly eroded sandstone formations crowd in so close, it feels like you can lean out a restaurant window and touch them. Snoopy Rock is the most famous Uptown landmark, looking very much like the cartoon beagle lying on his back. Uptown is Sedona in miniature, with lodging, restaurants, galleries, souvenir shops and metaphysical outlets all packed tightly together. Most jeep tours load and depart from Uptown. The main Visitor Center is here. Beware of the many “visitor information” kiosks scattered through town that are actually timeshare sales offices. For a look at local art, visit Sedona Arts Center.