Schnebly Hill Road & Vista


A jarring, car-abusing six miles or so from the civilization of downtown Sedona, Schnebly Hill Vista is a great place to sit at the edge of a cliff, and stare out at the wonders of Sedona.

Schnebly Hill Road turns off Rte. 179 just south of the “Y” intersection in downtown Sedona.  The road turns to dirt after about a mile.  Schnebly Hill Vista is roughly 6 miles from town.  Push forward a total of 13 miles, and you’ll hit Interstate 17 — this is the only road that runs directly east from Sedona to the Interstate.

At the top of the hill, you can see Schnebly Hill Vista.  This might not be the highest point (elevation-wise) on Schnebly Hill Road, but it certainly is the high point of the journey.

Schnebly Hill Vista looks down Casner Canyon towards Sedona.  Somewhere in the distance is Rte. 89A, just after it emerges from Oak Creek Canyon, before it crosses Midgely Bridge.

Schnebly Hill Vista is not a great place to be in the late afternoon, since the sun will be in your eyes–early morning would be much better.  But I had spent a very long time bumping my way up here at a snail’s pace, in a low-clearance 2wd rental car.  I was in no hurry to leave.

For a while, I considered continuing on to I-17, then down to Rte. 179 and back up to Sedona.  It would be a 40 mile detour, but probably faster.  The only problem was, I had no guarantee that the next few miles of Schnebly Hill Road would be any smoother than the previous six.  With sunset coming, I decided to return the way I came, knowing it would be well past dark before I was back on pavement.

Heading Back Down Schnebly Hill Road…

That’s Schnebly Hill Vista in the middle of the picture.  You can also see the road cut into the mountainside.

Hello, ADOT?  How about showing this road just a little love?

After less than a mile from the vista, Schnebly Hill Road leaves the view of Casner Canyon behind, and crosses into Bear Wallow Canyon for the trip downhill and back to Sedona.  Suddenly you have more red rocks to look at, including one prominent feature, right at the edge of the road:

The Merry-Go-Round

I didn’t even realize this was a named Sedona landmark, until after I returned home and looked it up.  The Merry-Go-Round provides a great perch for gazing out into Bear Wallow Canyon…

There are several piles or red rock, and I quickly found my way up to the top of the highest one, and staked my claim.  Sunset was still at least a half hour away, but I couldn’t think of a better place to watch the day end.

I also had a great view of the Cow Pies and Mitten Ridge, my hiking destinations earlier in the day.  The Cow Pies are on the far left, and if you follow the direction my left foot is pointing, you see Mitten Ridge.

As the sun set, the nearby hills lit up…

… and a few other people joined me on the Merry-Go-Round to watch.

Rays of sunlight flowed over the surrounding hills…

… until the sun finally disappeared.  About this time, all those other people packed up and pulled out.  I had a hunch that the best part of the show was yet to come, so I stayed put for just a few minutes more.

Boy, was I right!  A few minutes after sunset, the most colorful sky I’ve ever seen appeared over Sedona.  Blue, red, orange, yellow, pink and purple, it was all there.

The view through Mitten Ridge…

… and back towards the town.  Notice the stream of headlights on Rte. 89A.

Finally convinced that the best part had passed, I got back in the car, and crept ever-so-slowly down Schnebly Hill Road.

A Great Sedona Viewpoint

About 2/10 of a mile before the pavement finally began again, I stopped for one final time.  At this point, Schnebly Hill Road takes a dramatic turn, providing a wide spot in the road, and a great place to see all of Sedona at once.  Even if you venture no further up Schnebly Hill Road, you should at least come this far, especially at sunset or just after dark.

Looking back up Bear Wallow Canyon, I took this picture by moonlight, with a long (2 minute) exposure.

This would be my last day in Sedona — and what a great way to end it.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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