Updated: Aug 31
Explore the Red Rocks and allure of Sedona's canyon country. Deep into the mountains and overlooking Sedona and the Verde Valley region, the Sedona Backcountry Trail provides the perfect mix of recreation, relaxation and rejuvenation.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 250 miles, 4-7 days
Season: May - November. Coconino National Forest does close some trails such as Schnebly Hill after heavy rains. Check the Coconino NF Road Status page for road closures.
Avg Technical Rating: 2
Peak Technical Rating: 4
Typical Terrain: Graded dirt forest roads, and the occasional rocky jeep track.
Recommended Vehicle: 4x4 with all terrain tires.
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to handle the vast majority of this route, if you encounter an obstacle that is too difficult for passage, there are typically numerous go arounds that are suitable for Sprinters.
Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route details for more info.
Permits & Passes: If you plan to leave your vehicle unattended while recreating on Coconino National Forest forest land around Sedona or Oak Creek Canyon, you'll need to obtain a Red Rock Pass.
Red Rock country-- a place where new age and spiritual types, hikers, mountain bikers, off roaders, and backpackers flock to in search of recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation. And done correctly, there's really no reason you can achieve all three on your next trip to Sedona. But here's the thing, the streets and trails (whether they're hiking, mountain biking, or OHV) in the Red Rock district (the basin that surrounds Sedona) is typically packed with people on any given day, especially the weekends! That's why we opted to create a route that does its best to explore the surrounding mountains and backcountry, where you won't come across throngs of tourists in Pink Jeeps and 20 Jeep caravans taking on Broken Arrow Trail (it's still a rad and worthwhile trail).
We begin our adventure in the town of Sedona and make our way up Schnebly Hill. Schnebly Hill does see quite a bit of off road traffic (including Pink Jeeps), but the views on the way up are simply incredible. There are so many fantastic hikes around Sedona, it's hard to make a top 5 list just because so many are of such a high caliber. However, if you've brought your mountain bike along, Hangover Trail on the way up Schnebly Hill is one of the best (and more technical trails) trails in Sedona. Your first discovery point is at Merry Go Round Rock, a favorite stopping point for hikers and off roaders heading up the mountain. Once you reach the top of Schnebly Hill and head over to Schnebly Hill Overlook (DP 2), you'll get an idea of what lays ahead-- views, views, and more views of Sedona's stunning red rock bluffs, canyons, and mesas. And there's more good news, once you've made it up Schnebly Hill, there's a ton of dispersed camping in the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests (unlike the Coconino Red Rock district below where dispersed camping is prohibited).
From Schnebly Hill you'll drive along a series of dirt roads across Interstate 17 and around Munds Park before arriving back at the Interstate at Kachina Village. If you're not carrying extra fuel, we strongly recommend fueling up as the next opportunity for fuel and supplies is in Cottonwood, towards the end of the route. From Kachina Village the route begins to ascend and you'll top out at over 7,000 feet as you make your way to the edge of the canyon walls at East Pocket. The views from the East Pocket Lookout Tower (DP 4) and surrounding area are typical Sedona: surreal, stunning, epic, breathtaking-- choose your favorite adjective! As you make your way West, the route is littered with dozens of view points and camp sites, just keep in mind that many of these sites don't provide much shelter against wind. If you're looking to set out on two feet in search of incredible vistas, then you'll want to check out Secret Mountain Trail. With Sedona, Coconino's extensive trail networks, you can make this a quick 30 minute hike, or an all day adventure. For those seeking more technical trails, consider checking out Casner Mountain Trail (requires a permit from Coconino NF), which is a steep, rocky, and loose jeep track that descends down to the Red Rock district (Sedona basin). Once you've reached the viewpoint at Bunker Hill (DP 7), the route makes its way to the westside of Sedona Canyon Country. Sycamore Falls (DP 11), surrounded by stands of tall pines feels more Flagstaff than Sedona, but the quick hike definitely pays it shares of dividends. And just around the corner sits Sunflower Flat, a favorite local spot for viewing migratory birds. This leg of the route along the western reaches of Sedona wraps up the views from atop the mesas and canyons (Sycamore Point DP 13 and Lake Pocket DP 14). Departing from Lake Pocket, the route begins to gradually descend and trades in canyon country for the old west. You'll drive over the old trestles of the Perkinsville Bridge (DP 15) and further down the mountain through the old mining town of Jerome, which still has many relics and historic landmarks from times that have come and gone. Back in the Red Rock district, you can expect more vehicle traffic on the trails. This section of the route visits three well preserved aboriginal sties including the old pueblo ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument (DP 16), and the cliff dwellings at the Honanki (DP 18) and Palatki Heritage sites (DP 19). The Sinagua people, the ancestral relatives of the Hopi built these dwellings between the 10th and 12 centuries, nearly 1,000 years ago! Prior to reaching the two Sinagua heritage sites, another fantastic hike awaits. Robbers Roost is said to be the old hideout of bandits and bootleggers who used the cave to elude local lawman. It's said that local shamans (it's sometimes referred to as Shaman's Cave) are known to still use the caves for shamanistic rituals. The final leg of the route runs Dry Creek Road, a mildly technical and bumpy the out-and-back, that also happens to quite scenic. There's numerous side options to test the technical capabilities of your rig should you choose. Backtrack Dry Creek Road, where the route concludes in West Sedona. While this is the official terminus of the route, just around the corner sits the Seven Sacred Pools and Soldier Arch and Cave, which are on par with the recommended hikes and discovery points featured in this route and would be a great way to fill your itinerary if you've got daylight to burn.
For those seeking more rugged and technical trails, consider reserving a permit to run Casner Ridge Trail. This is a rocky, steep, and loose trail, which novices should avoid. Full sized trucks may not be advised either.
Dispersed camping in the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest is not permitted. However, dispersed camping is permitted along the route once you reach the top of Schnebly Hill and continuing to Jerome State Park. Our favorite spots tend to be near the various viewpoints on the mesa, like Edge of the World. Keep in mind, many of those spots aren't well sheltered and are susceptible to wind.