Many have called the red rock country of Sedona the most beautiful scenery in Arizona. But the drive up State Route 89A, which winds for 24 miles through scenic Oak Creek Canyon, is just as memorable, which is why Frommer’s has listed it among the 5 Most Scenic Drives In Arizona.
Oak Creek Canyon is a gorge created over eons by the waters of Oak Creek, a tributary of the Verde River. People who live here think of the canyon as a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. The canyon ranges from 800 – 2,000 feet deep, and its steep walls are covered with pine trees and spectacular rock formations.
Recreational opportunities abound in Oak Creek Canyon, from bird watching to swimming, hiking, and fishing for trout, bass, and catfish. Slide Rock State Park is home to a natural water slide that is popular with swimmers and water lovers.
The best way to experience Oak Creek Canyon is to start at the north end, leaving Interstate 17 at Exit 337 (Fort Tuthill), just south of Flagstaff. Route 89A descends down a breathtaking series of switchbacks into Oak Creek Canyon, with frequent pullouts where you can stop to admire the view and take photographs.
This is not a route for large RVs! The road is narrow, and there are several 15 and 20 mile per hour hairpin curves. If you travel in anything over a mid-size Class C motorhome, you’d be better off to park your rig somewhere and drive your tow car. I have seen larger RVs in the canyon, but it’s not a route I’d want to have driven in my Winnebago!
There’s a reason for those speed limit signs. It’s a long way down!
Once you have wound your way down the switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon the highway follows the length of Oak Creek Canyon, passing picnic areas, hiking trails, and vista points. Plan enough time in your trip to stop and do some exploring along the way.
Oak Creek Canyon is located within the Coconino National Forest and portions of the canyon have been designated federal wilderness areas as part of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. The Forest Service operates several campgrounds in the canyon, but they fill up fast, so if you plan to spend the night, get there early.
When you leave the canyon and come into Sedona, you have even more delightful sightseeing opportunities to enjoy with the entire Verde Valley laid out before you.
A trip down Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful any time of the year, and I think once you’ve experienced the wonders of the canyon you, too, will consider it a favorite drive, and return again and again.
So far over 70 people have entered our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of John and Kathy Huggins’ So, You Want to be an RVer?: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle. This is the guide to RVing that every wannabe, newbie, and veteran RVer should have on their bookshelf. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey