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  • The Schnebly Hill Road

    Schnebly Hill Road is one of the great scenic drives around Sedona, Arizona. Caution- Schnebly Hill Road is not paved and the surface varies from very muddy to dry dirty/sand to very bumpy hard rocks. A high clearance vesicle is essential and a 4x4 is strongly recommended. Also if you intend to drive the entire road as I suggest from I-17 into Sedona be sure the road is open! There are times of the year and weather/fire conditions that cause the road to be frequently closed.

    You can read some of the reviews on Trip Advisor. As of this writing there are 110 Excellent (5-Star) reviews and 3 Terrible (1-star) reviews. As a morbid curiosity I had to read why these people rated it so low. They all had the same reason- complaining what terrible condition the road was in, that it wasn't fir for their cars... I feel bad for them since indeed that is one of the things that make this road a blast!



    To start the trip take I-17 to exit 320 which is Schnebly Hill Road. The road will run in a West-South-West direction toward Sedona. You will have roughly 12 miles of unpaved road ahead of you- and aside from some issues with mud near the start the worst conditions are likely the possibly sharp rocks and narrow roads towards the end,



    When you get off the exit follow the sign toward Sedona. At the start of the road you are in a forest, you have little reason to believe the red rocks of Sedona are anywhere close.



    After some fairly well maintained dirt roads you may run into some issues with mud if there has been recent rain.



    There is plenty of room to pull over and enjoy the view.



    Personally however having had the fortune to grow up spending time in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York the pine trees were not going to be the highlight of my trip- Indeed I drove past most of them far quicker than anyone taking time to enjoy themselves should.

    For me the highlights lay ahead- I was taking this road to see the red rocks and after not all that long a time it is exactly what you will begin to see.



    First the tall fine trees start to get shorter, than the pine trees start to fade- some other tree starts to dominate the landscape. If you look low to the ground you even start to see some cacti,


    In the distance you finally start to see the mountains of Sedona. If it's your first time you might stop here to take a picture, unsure if the view will get any better. Trust me however, it does.



    At this point as the trees turn to shrubs, you get your first idea of the ride ahead. I call this "The decent into Sedona" although I'm unsure what the actual net altitude change is, if any. I call it this because the closest thing I can describe it to is the feeling when sitting in the window seat of a plane coming in for a landing on a cloudy day, you know your home city is down there but you are stuck by the abruptness of how quickly it goes from all white to crystal clear.



    Enjoy this flat, smooth road while you can- the hard part is yet come.



    When you can take a look toward the North. The mountain you see is Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona. Flagstaff is 10 miles closer but not in view. At over 12,000 feet you can expect snow cover even in the summer.



    A little further down the road and red finally dominates the scenery. A little further than halfway you'll reach Schnebly Hill Vista. This is where you'll want to enjoy yourself and take pictures. After this the road may get narrow at unexpected times and it will be hard to judge when you can safely stop.



    If you are lucky enough to get to Sedona in the autumn, and you time it just right, you will be treated to another beautiful display of colors as the leaves change on the trees along Oak Creek. Along this road you can get a small taste of what you will find later when you get to Oak Creek.



    Take time to look up, and be sure you take the signs about falling rocks seriously. Do not waste time in falling rock zones!



    By now your speed has slowed. If not because you are looking at the scenery than simply because the rocky road now demands your obedience.

    I'm not even going to post some of the more spectacular photos, best you see them for yourself first. What I will say is this. Although you will be drawn to looking to your right out over the valley and the incredible views Sedona is famous for, from time to time scan the woody terrain to your left.



    You never know what you are going to see!
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    • The Schnebly Hill Road
      Red Rock Admin
      Schnebly Hill Road is one of the great scenic drives around Sedona, Arizona. Caution- Schnebly Hill Road is not paved and the surface varies from very muddy to dry dirty/sand to very bumpy hard rocks. A high clearance vesicle is essential and a 4x4 is strongly recommended. Also if you intend to drive the entire road as I suggest from I-17 into Sedona be sure the road is open! There are times of the year and weather/fire conditions that cause the road to be frequently closed.

      You can...
      03-31-2014, 05:41 PM
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