Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon is known throughout the world for its unparalleled scenery. By far one of Sedona’s most popular scenic areas, this 28-mile stretch of Scenic Highway up State Route 89A north of Sedona to Flagstaff was named one of the Top 10 Most Scenic Drives in America by Rand McNally. Its often referred to as “The Little Grand Canyon” because of its dramatic jutting red rock cliffs and mountains where you’ll see layers of rock mapping millions of years of geological history.
The scenery looks like it was designed for a postcard picture with red rock mountains staring down on the lush creek side, swimming and fishing holes, hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic grounds, quaint restaurants and more. With over 49 fishable miles of creek side, fishers can cast a line into the well-stocked creek and pull out fresh rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and catfish. Dozens and dozens of hiking trails meander throughout Oak Creek Canyon up famous rock formations, down to spectacular creek side settings, alongside dramatic canyon walls and up to the top of the rim where you’ll find the most fantastic views.
Oak Creek Canyon is also home to another popular attraction, Slide Rock State Park, where a 30-foot natural red rock waterslide, swimming holes, and red rock cliffs meld together to create one of the world’s best and only natural water parks. Millions flock here each year just to say they’ve experienced it! We recommend arriving early at the park since it fills to capacity most days.
FACT: The depth of the canyon ranges from 800-2,000 feet. However, due to the faulting that played a major role in the formation of Oak Creek Canyon, the west rim of the canyon is 700 feet higher than the east rim. The average elevation of the west rim is 7,200 feet while the east rim elevation is 6,500 feet. How did this happen? The 30-mile Oak Creek Fault and Oak Creek itself were responsible for carving the canyon into what it is today. Geologic evidence estimates the original formation of Oak Creek Canyon occurred eight to ten million years ago. The ancestral Oak Creek Canyon was then filled in by gravel deposits and a series of lava flows. Then the Oak Creek Fault became active again literally splitting the canyon further into itself and that’s how the west rim of the became about 700 feet higher than the east rim.
At the beginning of “the Canyon,” as we locals call it, you’ll cross Midgely Bridge where you’ll more than likely want to stop for a photo-op. The bridge spans a wide red rock canyon divided by the effervescent Oak Creek. Here, you’ll find views above and below in every direction. Several hiking trails begin here, heading straight down to Oak Creek or straight up to Wilson Mountain.
Further up the road is Grasshopper Point where the most thrill-seeking cliff-divers jump feet first into a deep pool of Oak Creek off high cliffs despite Forest Service warnings on the danger of this sport. The area is also lovely for a picnic, hiking or fishing most anytime of year. Picnic tables and restrooms are available. Entry fee is $8 per vehicle or $1 per walk-in visitor.
About a half a mile further, on the right, is the Rainbow Trout Farm where you can reel in your own lunch or dinner and cook it fresh on site.
The scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon winds its way up several switchbacks to a spectacular scenic vista where you can view the entire canyon from above. Native American artisans sell their crafts, jewelry and other wares from this location so it is well worth the drive. Continuing further about another 10 miles, you will reach Flagstaff at an elevation of 7,000 feet (2,135 m). Flagstaff is home to the famous Route 66, Snowbowl Ski Area, historic Downtown Flagstaff where you'll find an eclectic mix of great shops and restaurants, the Lowell Observatory, the Arboretum, the San Francisco Peaks, and the Museum of Northern Arizona. Flagstaff is also on the way to several other Northern Arizona destinations like Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon of course, Lake Powell and Monument Valley.
Oak Creek Canyon Campgrounds (links to external websites)
Cave Springs Campground
Pine Flat Campground
Oak Creek Canyon Picnic Areas (links to external websites)
Banjo Bill, Halfway and Encinoso
Slide Rock State Park
Call o’ the Canyon (West Fork Trailhead)