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.
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.
As 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.