Spread around Oak Creek and its magnificent canyon, Red Rock Country is one of the most popular tourists’ sites in the United States. Home of the some of the most photographed natural formations, like Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, and featured in numerous movies, Red Rock Country is bound to leave you amazed and in awe. Numerous buttes and mesas dot the area. Part of the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Country offers incredibly divers scenery, ranging from ponderosa pine forests to red desert rock formation that gave it its name. Around one third of Red Rock Country is Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness, a designated wilderness area, one of ten in Coconino National Forest. Ideal for nature viewing, it allows visitors to see and photograph plants and animals inhabiting this amazing country.
The centerpiece of Red Rock Country is Oak Creek Canyon, the second most popular tourist attraction in Arizona (only Great Canyon attracts more visitors per year). There's good reason for this, Oak Creek Canyon is an amazing natural wonder offering many recreational activities.
Red Rock Country is under the care of Red Rock Ranger District, based at Sedona. Once nicknamed “Arizona's Little Hollywood”, Sedona was very popular among filmmakers in golden era of western movies, when it was frequented by such starts as John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford and even Elvis Presley. Today, Sedona is a vibrant city offering all urban amenities in the midst of scenic wilderness that surrounds it, and is home to several annual cultural events. The city offers accommodations in more than 80 hotels and inns. There are several art galleries with unique art pieces, ranging from Native American art to modern ones. All these combine with mild climate to make Sedona a very popular tourist destination.
Breathtaking natural sites are abundant in the area. Red Rock Country can offer you almost any outdoor activity there is, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, camping, fishing, swimming, sightseeing, nature viewing, picnicking and more. Numerous trails, ranging from easy to very demanding, fill the area offering amazing hiking and bicycling (link to page) experiences. From lush green surroundings in Oak Creek Canyon to deep red of the desert rock, everywhere you look there’s a magnificent backdrop, so you better have your camera and fitness tracker ready. Most trailheads offer parking, but some are restricted in size so plan accordingly.
Camping is very popular in Red Rock Country. Spending a night in untouched Arizona wilderness is one of the most memorable experiences one can get from visiting the area. If spending a night under a tent isn’t your idea of fun, there are several cabin rental sites available. If you are just passing through and don’t have time for camping, there are several designated picnic areas where you can spend a pleasant afternoon, enjoying the view and a short walk. Picnic areas are conveniently located near the most popular sightseeing features.
Fishing, although restricted, is also possible in Red Rock Country. Oak Creek is especially known for its trout, but there are several other streams that offer nice fishing. Wildlife viewing is another popular activity, allowing visitors to see and photograph plants and animals.
Many people that visit Red Rock Country claim that they have encountered spiritual energy on several locations throughout the area. These spots are called vortexes and are supposedly sources of great life energy emanating from the ground. Time spent around vortex will help one feel rejuvenated and as one with nature. Believe it or not, but there’s certainly something magical about Red Rock Country.
The area has been inhabited since 11,500 BC by Paleo-Indian nomadic culture, which adopted more sedentary life style around 8,000 BC entering Archaic stage, proven by numerous projectile weapon points and petroglyphs and pictographs found on several sites.
Plenty of evidence suggests that from 600 A.D. to 1400 A.D. Red Rock country was home to the Southern Sinagua culture (coined from Spanish words sin meaning "without" and agua meaning "water"), represented by Anasazi and Hohokam tribes.
With the help of elaborate irrigation systems with more than 500 miles of main canals, the tribes managed to cultivate maize and squash in one of the driest areas in the United States, on such scale that they supported the largest population of the period in the Southwest.
The above mentioned cultures left us several heritage sites like Montezuma Castle National Monument and Montezuma Well, Palatki and Honanki Archaeological Sites, and the V-Bar-V Petroglyph Site, allowing us insight into early Pueblo culture.
Around 1400 AD, without apparent reason, almost entire Sinagua population left the area. This mass exodus still represents a historic mystery, although several explanations have been offered. One of them suggests that newly arrived tribes of Yavapai people were to blame, which were first encountered by the Spanish expedition looking for Indian gold mines.
The first white man settlement in the area was established in 1876. The settlement grew steadily and in 1902 one of the residents, one Theodore Schnelbly, successfully petitioned for the new postal station. Once approved, he named it Sedona, after his wife. Shortly after, in 1908, Coconia National Forest was established, securing the preservation of various natural and historic sites.
There are four visitor centers serving as gateways to Red Rock Country: Red Rock Visitor Center on Highway 179, 6 miles North of I-17 intersection, Sedona Chamber of Commerce in Uptown Sedona, Oak Creek Vista located on 89A North at the Oak Creek Vista Overlook and Oak Creek Visitor Center at Indian Gardens in Oak Creek Canyon. The recently renovated Oak Creek Visitor Center, located in beautiful Indian Gardens, offers fishing licenses and supplies if you didn’t bring your own. This center is closed during the winter.
All centers offer amenities like restrooms and recreation information, Arizona Natural History Association maps and guidebooks and Federal Pass information and sales All vehicles parked on National Forest property must display valid Red Rock Pass or equivalent Federal Interagency pass. Red Rock Pass can be obtained in visitor centers and most of the trailheads and in Sedona Chamber of Commerce as well. You can find out more details about the prices at USDA.
A small overview of the most popular hiking and mountain biking trails, leading through amazing landscape and landmarks of Sedona’s red rock region.