Since Theodore and Sedona Schnebly settled there in 1902, Sedona (named for Mrs. Schnebly) has inspired more than one newcomer to linger. The town itself is pleasant enough, with a busy arts community, nearly flawless weather, and a handsome downtown of restaurants, hotels and shops. But what truly puts Sedona on the map is its stunningly beautiful landscape. In this grand geological garden, brightly banded mesas, buttes, and spires flank the town on all sides, thrusting to heights of more than 2,000 feet from the valley floor. If you stand and watch for a while, you’ll see a fresh array of colors almost hourly, as one mountain recedes into violet shadow and the next takes on a vivid orange glow.
Some take the spell of Sedona quite literally, believing that “vortices” of natural psychic energy occur here. Bell Rock, for example, is said to attract UFOs, while Cathedral Rock, in West Sedona, purportedly radiates a sense of well-being to all who approach within 500 yards. Whether you believe all this or not, it hardly matters; the vortices double as excellent picnic spots, as do Capital Butte, Chimney Rock, and Shrine of the Red Rocks, which looks out from the summit of Table Top Mountain.
South of town, Sedona’s best-known man-made structure, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, is hard to miss. Both sculpture and house of worship, the chapel — a wedge of concrete with a 90-foot cross bisecting its face — seems to emerge from the red rocks and point straight to heaven.
5. Schnebly Hill Road
A popular scenic route, Schnebly Hill Road winds for six miles up a series of steep switchbacks through Bear Wallow Canyon to the summit at Schnebly Hill Vista, where spectacular views take in the Verde Valley, Sedona, and the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. To begin the climb, drive a half-mile south from Sedona on Rte. 179 and turn east onto Schnebly Hill Road. Though the road is less steep than the descent into Oak Creek Canyon, only the first mile is paved; where the road turns to graded dirt, it’s five more miles to the turnaround at Schnebly Hill Vista. Perched on the edge of a high precipice, the overlook takes in a sweeping view of Red Rock Country from Steamboat Rock to Mingus Mountain, which rim the Verde Valley to the west.
6. Red Rock State Park
Returning to Rte. 89A, head south for another three miles to Lower Red Rock Loop Road. Turn east again, and follow the signs to Red Rock State Park.
Straddling a 1 1/2-mile section of Oak Creek, this 286-acre park — the region’s newest — keeps a “hands-off” philosophy toward its natural surroundings. The wild creekside habitat, where sycamores and cottonwoods grow in tangled profusion and shrubs of poison ivy rise eight feet tall, is left in its natural state without man’s help or management. More than 150 species of birds have been catalogued (check at the visitor center for the latest sightings), and the many trails that wander through the property offer fine bird-watching. Try Smoke Trail, a half-mile loop beginning at the visitor center, or Eagle’s Nest Trail, a scrambling mile-long hike to an overlook above the creek.