Red Rock Crossing, Sedona, Arizona


Right now, pull out your travel to-do list, and write “Red Rock Crossing” at the top.  Don’t come home until you’ve checked it off.  It’s just that important.  No two ways about it, you simply must spend at least one sunset or sunrise here.  Red Rock Crossing has everything that makes Sedona, Sedona, and if you miss it, you’ll regret it.

The turnoff for Red Rock Crossing is clearly marked on Arizona Rte. 89A.  Watch for Upper Red Rock Loop Road at the western edge of West Sedona’s commercial area.  Signs for Crescent Moon Ranch will lead you to the same place.  Parking is $8.  Daily Red Rock Passes are not accepted, but weekly and monthly Red Rock Passes are (same as Call O’The Canyon Parking Area).  If you don’t want to pay, I’ve heard that you can park for free at the end of Verde Valley School Road (off Rte. 179), but you’ll have to wade across Oak Creek to gain access to the park.

What could be more picturesque than the remnants of an old ranch, positioned directly below towering Cathedral Rock?  In a town where great photos are around every corner, this is still one of the best.

The old buildings and water wheel are what remains of Crescent Moon Ranch, a settlement that started here back in the late 1800’s.

There may be no better place to stay in Sedona, than the Crescent Moon Ranch Cabin, rented out nightly by the forest service.  It sleeps 10 people, so gather up nine of your friends and split the $200 per night fee–suddenly you’ve found a very affordable place to stay in the middle of one of Sedona’s most beautiful spots.  More info here.

Walk past the ranch, and the trail takes you through some trees, to the main attraction: Oak Creek.  At one of the first access points, you can get a fairly decent picture of the water tumbling down some rocks, with Cathedral Rock in the background.  There is one tree branch in the way, though.  If you don’t mind wading into the middle of Oak Creek, you could get a better shot.

Oak Creek splits into several parts in this area.  By walking across this springy, somewhat flimsy board, you can reach a small island in between two fingers of the creek.

Immediately, you get a strange feeling.  Maybe it’s because you’ve entered one of Sedona’s famed “vortex” areas.  Or maybe you’re just a little creeped out by the hundreds — and I mean hundreds — of cairns, piled in every conceivable place.  It looks like a prehistoric city filled with skyscrapers for extra-tiny people.

I was captivated by these stacks of rocks.  I took one picture…

… after another.  It’s not easy, they’re only about a foot tall, so I spent a lot of time lying on the ground.

Cross back over onto the main trail, and follow it a little further, and you come to a clearing, where a wide area of slickrock borders the creek.

It’s here that you find Red Rock Crossing’s second epitomic photo-op.  Also good, but it’s still probably not the picture you’ve seen in travel guides and magazines.  That spot is just a little further.

There it is, Cathedral Rock, with no trees in the way, and a perfect reflection in the still waters of Oak Creek.  There is just one place to stand, in order to get this shot, and photographers line up, patiently awaiting their turn.

To find this sweet spot, you’ll need to walk over another flimsy makeshift bridge, then get as close as you can to the edge of the island, sticking at least one tripod leg into the water.  Don’t waste too much time, though.  Someone else with an expensive camera and lens is no doubt waiting!

After taking the pictures that everyone else takes, I began looking for reflections in other spots.  I found a few, before continuing on up the trail.

You can follow alongside the river for another quarter mile or so (the water is always close, but not always accessible).  You’ll be passing underneath a beautiful canopy of trees, with occasional clearings.  Every available spot is filled with cairns…

… and more cairns…

… even cairns piled up in trees…

… and tiny cairns, just a few inches tall.

I stayed here until sunset, although there wasn’t a clear view to the west, and the sky didn’t do anything dramatic.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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