Scenic USA - Arizona
Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive
|Photos by Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly Photography
It's about a 45 minute drive from the Flagstaff area to one of Arizona's most famous resort cities, a desert setting well known for its glowing red-rock scenery. For some of Arizona's first time visitors, the drive to Sedona from I-40 may come as a big surprise. Route 89A, the highway through Oak Creek Canyon, always earns a top spot on the list of Arizona's scenic drives.
Oak Creek Canyon is a stark contrast from the desert beauty of Sedona's red-rock landscape. Following 89A, a 2000 foot deep canyon slices through the Coconino National Forest. Here, the mountainsides are covered in an evergreen blanket of ponderosa pine. A scattering of gambel oak, aspen, and Utah juniper are intermixed in this high elevation forest. An overlook, called the Oak Creek Canyon Vista, gives sightseers a great preview of the canyon as Route 89A drops down from Flagstaff. Over its 14 mile length, the highway descends 4500 feet, and twists its way through a series of switchbacks, while hugging the edges of canyon cliffs. Once in Sedona the forest thins and its famous red-rock landmarks are quite evident.
After seeing miles of this immense pine forest, canyon travelers may begin to wonder where are the oaks of Oak Creek Canyon? Some of the best Oak Creek Canyon views are reserved for those willing to do a little exploration on foot. Canyon visitors soon discover that the missing deciduous trees are located in moist areas along creeks and streams. One of the most popular trails, West Fork Oak Creek #108, is a pleasant hike along the Oak Creek streambed.
This view looks down onto Oak Creek, a section of the Slide Rock State Park. This stop at the park is another great way to extend your visit in Oak Creek Canyon. It's a winter day in this photo, and a solitary visitor has come to experience the beauty and tranquility of this recreation area. During Arizona's hot summer months, the natural water slide is the place for fun, and a popular oasis for cooling off.
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