Take one of Arizona’s most beautiful scenic drives through this canyon and be sure to take your hiking boots, fishing rod, swimsuit and camera along for the ride.
Oak Creek Canyon is a steep river gorge that carves a breathtaking chasm between Sedona and Flagstaff in northern Arizona. Experience the region known as the little cousin of the Grand Canyon on the Oak Tree Canyon Scenic Drive, a magnificent stretch of road that that brings you some of the best views in the canyon. Wind through forested passes, keeping watch for the hiking trailheads dotted along the roadside. Find a spot to drop a fishing line in the heart of the canyon, Oak Creek, or swim in the gorge’s clear waters.
You can begin your journey as an ascent from Sedona or a descent from Flagstaff. Either way will present stunning views and a breathtaking 4,500-foot (1370-meter) change in elevation throughout the 14-mile (22.5-kilometer) road. Between Sedona to the peak of Mogollon Rim, you’ll see the lush foliage of tall oak trees and evergreen pines against a backdrop of red rock and rugged cliffs.
If you begin at Mogollon Rim, you’ll see a panoramic view of what awaits you at Oak Creek Canyon Vista. Peruse roadside displays of Native American handicrafts made by local artists as you wind down the narrow bends. Stop by Midgely Bridge for an opportunity to photograph the unfolding panorama of sunset-hued rock, sandstone cliffs and green foliage.
Once you’ve navigated the switchback turns, you’ll reach a lazy stretch of road alongside Oak Creek. If it has been raining, you might see waterfalls plunging into the coursing offshoots of the creek, as well as clear pools reflecting the crimson rock. Plunge into the canyon’s swimming holes or drop a fishing line. There are plenty of picnic spots and outlooks to linger at along the way.
Oak Creek Canyon is a free highlight of northern Arizona and easily accessible by car on the adjoining state and interstate routes. It should take 2.5 hours for the drive. Each season brings a different view to the region. While the road is regularly snow ploughed in winter, take care during slippery road conditions.
Past Sedona, you’ll reach the fascinating geological formations of Red Rock Country and the stunning hiking trails around Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.