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Broken Arrow Jeep Trail in Sedona, AZ

For about 60 years Pink Jeep Tours has been providing the most talked about off-road adventures in heart of the Southwest. As the legend goes, a local musician and part-time real estate agent, Don Pratt, used a Jeep to take friends and visitors to explore the areas over one-dozen subdivisions.

The trail at Broken Arrow Estates became an instant star and is the most popular trail in Sedona and Pink Jeeps are the only tour company permitted by the USFS to take riders on the Broken Arrow Jeep trail for a tour.

The Stairs

If you own a Jeep Rubicon or otherwise lifted off-road vehicle you can drive this trail yourself. How to get there. Beginning from the roundabout at the intersection of Hwy 179 and Hwy 89A you’ll head south on Hwy 179 for approximately 1.5 miles. Head due east by taking the 3rd turn in the roundabout for Morgan Rd. You’ll drive by about twenty homes before the road turns to dirt.

The namesake, Broken Arrow, was a movie made in 1950. The movie was based on the novel Blood Brother (1947) by Elliott Arnold. The film starred James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise. Much of the film was shot in Sedona subdivisions, Broken Arrow Trail area, Broken Arrow Estates and Doodlebug.  Many film historians have said that the movie was one of the first major Westerns since the mid-1940s to portray the Native Americans sympathetically.

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Visiting the Ruins at Palatki Heritage Site near Sedona

Palatki Heritage Site is one of our favorite Arizona Native American ruins. We hesitate to write a detailed description of what you’ll see because seeing it for the first time, without preconceived notions, is a treat in itself. Nevertheless, prepare to be amazed by beautiful Sinagua cliff dwellings and an abundance of pictographs from Native American people who once lived here. Be sure to bring your phone!

It is believed that Native American ancestors lived in the area from approximately 1150 to 1300 CE. Perhaps human history captured in rock art goes back even farther. Archeologists know little of the former inhabitants. They left the area without communicating with modern researchers where they went, or why. The ruins, rock art, evidence of crops, pottery shards, and some tools are primarily what remains of this area. Volunteers are on-site to answer questions and offer as much information as possible to visitors. Although most people have a desire to dissect and understand what they see, we feel it is far more interesting to simply take in this scenery and imagine a life spent long ago on the ledges of this beautiful land.

Palatki near Sedona

We hope you’ll find yourself at Palatki on a day when Charlie, a well-educated volunteer, is in residence. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Charlie has already been adopted by local Native American tribes for his dedication to the people who once lived here, and his desire to share a love of this land with Palatki visitors. Each time we’ve visited Palatki, we felt Charlie’s discussions of the Site greatly enhanced our appreciation of the people who once lived in and traveled this region.

palatki-sedona-2There are two areas to visit at Palatki Heritage Site. After parking and checking in at the visitor center, you are presented with a trail to the left, and one to the right. The rock art is reached by the trail to the left. The path takes a gentle climb upward to rock alcoves. Descending toward the visitor center, a sign will guide you across an open path toward the cliff dwellings. Be ready for a rocky stairway climb to the dwellings. A filled water bottle makes the climb more enjoyable on a hot day.

As with many places we visit in Arizona, getting to Palatki Heritage Site takes more time than the stay. Before setting out, call the Palatki visitor center for reservations at (928) 282-3854. Palatki volunteers suggest calling a day ahead, but we’ve always been able to stop by within a few hours of our call. You must have a current Red Rocks Pass, available at the Palatki visitor center, to visit this site.

The Site is open 7 days a week. Plan to visit Palatki earlier in the day, as it is open between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Also, in summer, the area can be quite hot in the afternoon.

Pets are not welcome. We also request you leave your guns, your candles, your sage smudges, and “new age” paraphernalia at home. This beautiful site has already been desecrated by too many who feel they need to leave their “mark”. Questions? palatki-sedona-3See: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/arch-site-etiquette.shtml

No matter whether you come in from Sedona or up from Cottonwood, plan on a bumpy drive on red dirt roads. Either road can generally be driven by most vehicles, but one with good clearance is preferred. The road is sometimes rutted from recent storms, and odd boulders have been known to find their way onto the track. Occasionally, the roads are impassable due to inclement weather.

Directions from the Coconino National Forest website:

From Sedona: Take Hwy. 89A through West Sedona and continue past the last traffic light for five miles. Just past mile marker 365, turn right onto Forest Road 525. Go north for 5 miles and when F.R. 525 bears left, continue straight ahead onto Forest Road 795 for two miles. This road will lead directly to the Palatki parking lot.

palatki-sedona-4An alternative way to access Palatki it to travel through west Sedona on Hwy. 89A, turn right onto Dry Creek Rd. There are signs at every intersection that will direct you towards Palatki. At the end of Dry Creek Rd, turn left onto Boynton Pass Road (FR 152C). At the next stop sign, turn left again. In a couple of miles, the pavement will end and you should continue on the rough gravel road for three miles until you reach another T intersection where you should turn right. It is 2 miles to Palatki from this intersection. These roads are generally passable to passenger cars when dry, but it is not regularly maintained by the County and has some rough and rocky stretches.

From Cottonwood: Take 89A north from Cottonwood. About 1/2 mile north of mile marker 364, turn left onto a dirt road (Forest Road 525 to Forest Road 795; passable for passenger cars when dry), and drive 7 miles to Palatki Heritage Site and the parking lot.

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Woods Canyon Trail in VOC

Woods Canyon Trail is frequently left out of books about hiking the Sedona area. And, the trail head is barely marked at the south end parking lot of Red Rock District Coconino National Forest center off State Route 179. Too bad!

This is a scenic (short ups and downs terrain) hike of about 5 miles. The trail is rated as “moderately difficult” but we believe this may have more to do with its sunny (hot in summer) exposure, than elevation gain.

Woods Canyon entrance gate

We were stopped by so many photo opportunities on this walk that we never experienced any hiking difficulty.

Woods Canyon trail signThere’s a rusty metal sign with cut-out letters reading “WOODS CANYON” posted at the trailhead on the south side of the parking lot. The trail dips down to a grassy stream, crosses it, and heads for a metal gate. Signage there reminds hikers to carry water and be prepared for difficult trails that lead off Woods Trail. For the first two miles, this trail follows an old, wide Jeep trail, making for easy going as it heads toward Dry Beaver Creek.

Continuing on Woods Trail, just past the sign for Horse Mesa trail, hikers go through a fence-gate and are within the beautiful environs of the narrow canyon and Dry Beaver Creek. Various colors of red rock cliffs, a multitude of vegetation, and a rocky path above the creek make for an interesting hike.

Woods Canyon trail ascentIn Spring, this walk provides a delightful mix of bird song and wildflower color as the trail meanders through Woods Canyon. There are many side routes to Dry Beaver Creek where hikers can visit the creek as it tumbles through boulders.

As mentioned above, this is a sunny trail, so be prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and dress in layers. We’d suggest making this an early morning hike, even in spring, to catch the beauty of the area during the cooler part of the day.

To reach the trailhead, park in the south end of the Red Rock Ranger District center. You might also enjoy stopping in at the Forest Service center there. Besides providing restrooms, there are interesting and informative displays about the geology of the Sedona area.

Dry Beaver Creek in Woods Canyon

Red Rock Ranger District
8375 State Route 179
Sedona, Arizona (Just south of the Village of Oak Creek)

Woods Canyon Trail map

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Bearizona Wildlife Park

When we created our northern Arizona site, we set out to include only non-commercial adventures. But, we’ve discovered a place that we feel emphasizes education rather than commercialization, and is much too wonderful to ignore. In a world of asphalt and plastic, Bearizona is a happy escape— into reality.

Bearizona cubs playing

Over half the population of Bearizona Wildlife Park consists of rehabilitated or rescued animals.  However, don’t pity these inhabitants.  They live in roomy enclosures, with wooded and/or grassy areas. There are plenty of opportunities for you to view them as they spend their time being “wild”.

Bearizona Wildlife Park has three sections:

  • 2-mile drive, taken in your car, where you’ll view adult bears, bison and more
  • Fort Bearizona, where you’ll walk to visit lynx, baby bears and smaller wildlife
  • High Country Raptor Show, an educational presentation held 3 times daily featuring birds of prey

Bearizona bear relaxing on fallen log

It would be difficult to come away from Bearizona without having gained a renewed appreciation for the natural world that so many among us often ignore or avoid. As members of the American Association of Zookeepers and Zoological Association of America, Bearizona lives up to its mission of wildlife conservation and preservation.

From the friendly staff who constantly stopped us to ask if we had questions, to the relaxed, comfortable inhabitants of the park, we were impressed with every aspect of Bearizona. We recommend a stop in Williams Arizona (exit 165) to visit this new, clean and modern zoological facility.

Petting goat at Bearizona in WIlliams AZ

For those of us who need to make contact directly with animals, there’s a tidy “mini barnyard’ where sweet goats ask to be patted.

Silly bear cubs playing at Bearizona park

Don’t think for a minute that Bearizona is all seriousness!  Side-splitting animal antics are everywhere. www.bearizona.com

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Parry’s Century Plant (Agave Parryi) in Sedona

One of our favorite sights in the high desert country surrounding Sedona is the abundance of wildflowers and blooming plants found everywhere in springtime.

From the gorgeous to the bizarre, we never seem to tire of going in search of them.

One of our favorite high mountain plants is the Agave Parryi, commonly known as a Century Plant or Parry’s Agave.

century plant and red rocks

century plant 2“Century” is not an accurate description of their lifespan. In actuality, plants grow for 25 to 40 years before creating their single flower stalk. During late spring and early summer we are treated to this odd sight.

The succulent has a long history of importance to Native Americans. Archaeological research suggests that “orchards” of agave were grown and harvested for pit roasting.

The sweet, nutrient-rich hearts of the plant were a staple among early inhabitants of the area. As well, the plant was a source of many of their beverages, soap, fiber and medicines.

century plant stalkLooking similar to an artichoke, gray-green Century Plants grow wild among boulders.

Mature plants produce a stalk that looks much like asparagus. This stalk can grow as much as one foot per day.

As the sturdy stalk reaches a height from 8’ to 18’, “branches” emerge that hold saucer-like clusters of orange-red flower buds.

Like flames, 3” yellow flowers explode skyward as they open from the red buds on green stems.

century plant close-up

century plant 5Parry’s Agave can easily be viewed along Highway 89A, from Mingus Mountain, to Flagstaff. Unfortunately, the plants’ preference for rocky slopes makes it sometimes difficult to photograph them, especially when driving the curvy roads of Mingus Mountain or in Oak Creek Canyon. One off-road opportunity to see the plants close-up is in the Schnebly Hill parking lot where the asphalt turns to rock on Schnebly Rd., about a mile from Tlaquepaque. Red rock passes are available here. A short walk from the parking lot usually provides many up-close views of flowering Century Plants in mid-June.

The Parry’s Agave plant sacrifices itself to grow its magnificent, thick stalk and flowers. Before blooming is complete, the plant begins to die.

century plant 6

century plant 7

The remains of once-magnificent Century Plants litter the red rock landscape.

century plant 8

For each Century Plant that gives up its life to produce a single, tall chandelier of flowers, young plants that have sprouted from its base, continue on. One spring, they too, will bloom with the same wild abandon of their parent plant.

For those who drive a high-clearance vehicle, such as Jeeps, Schnebly Hill trails are a great place to see and photograph Agave Parryi. Also, the hill climb leading toward Perkinsville, that takes off at the fire station in Jerome is another place where the Century Plants are abundant.

pink jeep sedona

Additionally, many of the local Jeep tour companies drive visitors up Schnebly Hill and along other roads where Century Plants are found.

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Crescent Moon Picnic Area

Although you won’t need your Jeep to drive to Crescent Moon Picnic Area, this is a scenic park to visit when you’re looking for an easy walk along Oak Creek near Sedona. And if you’ve been out jeeping in the nearby northern Lime Kiln Trail area, this is a great end-of-the-day stop. Be aware that you’ll be required to pay a visitor’s fee unless you’ve purchased a USFS Big Three Pass for the year.

The day-use park provides restrooms, covered picnic areas, grassy lawns, local farming history and easy walking trails along Oak Creek.

Crescent Moon Barn

No matter what time of day you visit this area, be sure to bring your camera. Perhaps you’ve seen a locally famous photo of Cathedral Rock with reflecting water in the foreground. If you’ve wondered where you might find this location, you’ll discover that the photo was taken in Crescent Moon Picnic Area, out toward the end of the trail. As the sun recedes in the west, the red rocks here become exceptionally picturesque.

Blossoms at Crescent Moon ParkCrescent Moon Picnic Area is a relaxing stop. Wildlife watching is readily available to anyone who walks quietly or slows long enough to take in the majestic scenery that surrounds this beautiful red rock area.

The park is located west of Sedona via Upper Red Rock Loop Road, off 89A. At approximately 1 ½ miles begin following signs leading to “Red Rock Crossing”.

There are times when this area becomes overly crowded, but it is a beautiful place to visit during all times of the year.

For more information, including instruction for booking this area for your wedding, visit: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/crescentmoon-picnic.shtml

Crescent Moon Picnic Area

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Parsons Trail Hike in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is the oldest wilderness area in Arizona. Parsons Trail is located at the lower end of the 56,000 acre wilderness area, reached by traveling north from Cottonwood, AZ.

The beautiful canyon was once home to Native Americans, and later, western cowboys. The former homes of both inhabitants can still be found in the canyon. Please be respectful toward the historical importance of ruins and cabins when you come upon either.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/sycamore-canyon-wild.shtml

Sycamore Canyon Overlook

Today the area is primarily visited by hikers and horseback riders. There are many trails within the 21-mile-long by 7-mile-wide canyon that can be reached from all four sides. The trail leading to Parsons Spring, also a summer swimming hole, is the most popular of all.

To get to the trailhead, one must drive an11-mile rutted road along the Verde River. This is best traveled via a high-clearance vehicle. We left our “good car” in the garage and drove the Jeep on this rugged stretch of mostly unimproved road.

Sycamore Canyon waterwayParsons Trail begins by descending a quarter-mile, rocky path to Sycamore Creek. The “gate” at the top of the trail and accompanying signage, provides laughs for everyone. Do be mindful that later you’ll have to make your way back up this slope to your vehicle, so save some drinking water for the end of the trek.

Once you’ve arrived at the creek below, the rest of Parsons Trail is relatively easy-going. This is one of the most beautiful and surprising hikes we’ve made in the northern Arizona area. Turtles, friendly fish, butterflies and birds amazed us as we hiked the trail. It is an unexpected abundance of lush, green vegetation and golden, dry desert that meet just above Sycamore Creek. Parsons Trail meanders through both. This area has a reputation for being spectacular in all four seasons. We experienced Parsons Trail in early April when wildflowers and even morel mushrooms were abundant.

On our visit, snowmelt caused the Sycamore Creek to be high. Unless you’re ready to hop boulders during wet seasons, a shorter walk to the headwaters of Summers Spring may be more appealing. The spring is notable in that it rises out of the ground by the side of the trail.

To reach Parsons Trailhead drive AZ 89A from Sedona to Cottonwood. Follow 89A to Tuzigoot (National Monument) Road. Immediately after crossing the Verde River, turn left/north. The paved road is Sycamore Canyon Road or FS 131. Signage is minimal here. The road will become increasing rutted and dusty gravel as you drive north along the Verde River. Pass the slag dumps and crusty farms to climb, finally, toward red rocks and, at about 11 miles, parking for Parsons Trailhead.

Sycamore Creek

Sycamore Canyon Map

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Schnebly Hill Road in a Jeep – Sedona AZ

Early Sedona Arizona history is centered around this 13 mile long Jeep road. Until a century ago this was the route to Flagstaff. T.C. Schnebly, husband of Sedona (our city’s namesake via T.C.) Schnebly, is credited with getting this cow trail turned into a passable supply route. The trail, that once took days, can now be driven in one hour. We suggest you take an additional 2 or 3 hours to enjoy the scenery.

If you take this scenic road, a Jeep (or vehicle with good clearance) is really the only way to travel. A paved road begins your tour at Oak Creek, on State Route 179, in Sedona. After a mile, the pavement literally drops off onto a rutted, graveled road, built atop jagged shelf rock.

View from Schnebly Hill

You’ll pass several pull outs and marked hiking trails along the creek. One popular destination is The Cow Pies, a large group of rounded red rocks that are fun to walk on and located about 3½ miles into the trip.

Soon you’ll be making a twisty climb up through Bear Wallow Canyon. At an open gate, you’ll have risen 1,800 feet and will have arrived at Schnebly Hill Vista. At this 6000’ elevation and halfway point (6 ½ miles), you’ll want to stop to take advantage of the overlook. Enjoy views reaching as far west as Mingus Mountain. West Sedona’s airport hangar, most recognizable in the distance, is a perfect landmark to guide you as you take in the tiny civilization below.

Jeep on Schnebly Hill RdAs you continue to climb, Schnebly Hill Road becomes less rutted as it snakes its way uphill. In mid-June, stately Century Plant flowers will greet you along side the road. Arriving at the top of the ridge, you’ll find yourself in open pine forests and grassy meadows. This section of the drive continues for about 7 miles to intersect with I-17.

Once you’ve arrived at the freeway you can join it to travel north to Flagstaff or south to Phoenix. If you wish to return to Sedona, you may head south on I-17 to State Route 179 and follow the highway through Village of Oak Creek into Sedona, or drive north on I-17 to the 89A exit and return to Sedona via scenic Oak Creek Canyon.

Schnebly Hill Road is located in a wilderness area. Be sure to gas up your rental Jeep in Sedona before setting out, and take plenty of drinking water. Bring your camera, too. You might want an additional layer of clothing if you plan to spend time outside at higher elevations. Flag sits at 7000’ and is noticeably cooler than Sedona. Including a picnic lunch, to enjoy at one of your many stops will help you extend your visit to this beautiful area.

Near the top of Schnebly Hill Road

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Honanki Heritage Site: Pink Jeeps Tour or Self-Guided Visit

The Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi, lived in this area from approximately 1100 to 1300 CE and are believed to be responsible for the ancient architecture of Honanki Heritage Site. It is now part of the Coconino National Forest. Located about 10 miles outside Sedona Arizona, and 4 1/2 miles beyond Palatki Heritage Site, this is an interesting stop for anyone who enjoys visiting ruins of the people who inhabited this land long ago. You can easily combine the trip with Palatki Heritage Site, or make this a one-destination visit. Please note that Pink Jeeps offers the tour to Honanki only and does not stop at Palatki.

Honanki Ruins near Sedona

Presently, the site itself is maintained by Pink Jeeps, but try to ignore their commercial parking lot presence.  On the day we drove in, their greeter, located just off the parking lot, was as personable as any Forest Service volunteer we’ve met. While drinking water is not generally available here, she offered it to us from her storage container. She also seemed very knowledgeable of the area and was eager to answer our questions about Honanki. They do not maintain a visitor’s center.

Kokopelli Rock ArtIf you choose to take in Honanki Heritage Site via a Pink Jeeps Tour from Sedona your visit will include transportation to, and a guided walk of, the ruins. By driving yourself, the walk will be self-guided. Unless this is your first visit to Native Americans ruins, a tour seems unnecessary here.  The walk is easy– a 3/4 mile loop that requires only a few steps of vertical rise to the ruins and rock art. The path, that begins at the parking lot, goes through a wooded area before reaching the red rock walls where the ruins are located.  Although, much like that seen at nearby Palatki, it is just as amazing to see this striking architecture and artwork.

This is a beautiful area. Please respect it by taking nothing but pictures and leaving no more than your footprints.  While these may look like ruins today, they are what remains of a once thriving community. We may not know much of the people who inhabited these ruins, but the archeological clues they left behind when they abandoned the area 700 years ago suggests they were a rich and thriving culture.

A Red Rock Pass is required for entry.  No pets are allowed beyond the parking lot.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/honanki-ruins.shtml

Reaching Honanki Heritage Site via Sedona:
Drive Hwy. 89A through west Sedona, continuing 5 miles beyond the last traffic light. After passing mile marker 365, turn right onto  FR525 and follow the road for about 5 1/2 miles (bypassing the Palatki entrance of FR795) . The road will become more rough as you continue. After traveling over the cattleguard at the trail head to Loy Canyon, stay left past private property signs and continue on into the parking lot of Honanki. We suggest you call ahead to determine that the road is passable during winter months and in summer monsoon season. The Forest Service suggests these telephone numbers:   Red Rock Ranger District at (928) 282-4119 Palatki Heritage Site at (928) 282-3854.

Looking up at Honanki Ruins

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Orofino Wash and Scenic Hassayampa River

Prescott National Forest Sign

On a warm late-fall day we drove our Jeep south from downtown Prescott, via AZ-Hwy 89, to the Hassayampa River.  Our plan was to explore the Hassayampa River and Orofino Wash area during the dry season.

This is a loop trip that leaves the highway below Kirkland Junction and rejoins it just above Wilholt.  The total drive from downtown Prescott is approximately 52 miles long.

Hassayampa River Jeep Trail

After a 22 mile drive down 89, we turned left onto Waggoner Road.  This dirt road oddly turns into pavement after a short distance.  The rolling-hills scenery is beautiful in the area.

FR72 from Waggoner RdNear Milepost 6 we turned left off Waggoner and onto . The route is marked only with the typically slim, brown Forest Service marker located a few yards down the dirt road.  Here, we made our way through more rolling hills on a fairly rough 4-wheel drive track toward the Hassayampa River bottom.

FR72 takes a sharp grade up, and then steep downward route through a boulder-strewn hillside, into the dry Hassayampa River bottom. This is a rough road and not particularly 2-wheel drive friendly. (“difficulty rating” is #2) Down in the wash, the road becomes smooth and would be easy to negotiate in any vehicle with good clearance.

The approximately 9.5 mile drive through the Hassayapa River bottom, and on into Orofino Wash, is beautiful.  Despite the lateness of the season, on that day the foliage was still green. We’d read that this is a one-hour drive, but we took more than two hours to stop several times and explore the area.  We waved to picnickers along the way.

This is also a birdwatchers paradise. We spotted several Roadrunners, many coveys of Quail, Hawks, and countless songbirds along the drive. Footprints in the sandy bottom suggest many more critters call this area home. Range cattle were foraging near the road as we made our way toward AZ-Hwy 89, just east of Wilhoit.

Once we’d rejoined AZ-Hwy 89, our only slowdown came just below Prescott, when we had to stop to let four Javelina cross the highway.

Hassayampa River Windmill

We also suggest that a smoother driving route might be to join FR72 at our exit above Wilhoit, enjoy the River and Wash, but turn around at the Orofino Wash Well and head back out at Wilhoit.  Unless, of course, you’re driving a Jeep! Here’s a tip. We rented an SUV for our adventure from www.suvrental.co.