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RV Travel Guide to Northern Arizona

 

If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing a healing energy vortex, going mountain biking and camping amongst spectacular red rock formations, head to Coconino County in north-central Arizona. This stunning region is packed with unique sights and scenery, making it the perfect place for an RV adventure.

Here, you can hike through the desert or the forest, stopping to take a dip in a refreshing stream. You can ride your mountain bike along red rock trails, or cliff dive into deep, clear pools. You can finish the day at a top-rated restaurant, or cook out under the stars. From Sedona to Flagstaff, Coconino County has something for everyone… and it’s all easily accessible by RV. Below we’ve covered nearly everything you need to know about RVing in north-central Arizona.

About Sedona and Flagstaff

Set in the stunning high Sonoran Desert, Sedona is famous for its otherworldly red rock formations. From mountain biking to hiking, swimming to dining, Sedona truly has something to offer any adventurer. About 30 miles further north, Flagstaff lies at 7,000 feet, and nestles in the pines of Coconino National Forest. It’s a popular winter destination for skiers and snowboarders, and a year-round favorite of those who love hiking and the outdoors.

Where to Stop Along the Journey

Along the way to these beautiful destinations, you’ll discover plenty of interesting stops.

Coming from the North

Flagstaff is known as a jumping off point to Grand Canyon National Park. The Visitors Center at the South Rim is about 80 miles north of Flagstaff and well worth a visit. If you’re in the area spring through fall, take a (200 mile) detour and head to the North Rim in the wild Kaibab National Forest. Some roads on this route are closed in winter, so check before you go.

Coming from the East

About 200 miles east of Flagstaff is Gallup, New Mexico. Stop and explore the Red Rock Park, filled with ancient Anasazi sites and artifacts. Between Gallup and Flagstaff, don’t miss the Petrified Forest National Park. Set in the Painted Desert, you’ll learn about the indigenous peoples who have lived on this land for more than 13,000 years.

Coming from the South

Arizona’s largest city, Phoenix is about 116 miles south of Sedona. Spend a few days exploring this cultural and state capitol, which is packed with museums, galleries, professional sports teams, and world-class restaurants and shopping. Between Phoenix and Sedona, take a quick detour off the highway just past Camp Verde to explore Montezuma Castle Natural Monument. Here you’ll find an ancient 20-story “apartment” set into a limestone cliff, once home to the Sinagua people.

Once you’re in Sedona, it’s another 20 miles straight up the I-17 to Flagstaff. However, if you want to take a more scenic route, follow the 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. This gorgeous road winds all the way into Flagstaff. It takes a bit longer than the highway, but the scenery is worth it. Along the way, there’s dispersed camping in the serene forested areas along the road.

Coming from the West

Just a few miles west of Sedona, the towns of Clark and Cottonwood offer a pleasant respite from summer heat. Take a few hours to stroll the quaint main streets, and check out the region’s many local wineries. Another don’t miss: the town of Jerome. Set high on the side of Cleopatra Hill, Jerome was once a thriving mining town, and is now a bustling tourist attraction, known affectionately as a “ghost town.”

Sedona and Flagstaff: Activities for Everyone

If you love the great outdoors, Coconino Country will feel like heaven. The region is blessed with sunny, dry weather, making it a top destination for mountain bikers, hikers and anyone who appreciates a great view.

Mountain Biking

If biking is your thing, head to the red rocks of Sedona. Whether you’re new to the sport or it’s long been your passion, you’ll find trails to match your abilities and interests. Among the don’t miss trails in the area is Bell Rock. Perfect for beginners, this 3.5 mile track connects Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek.

Aerie and Cockscomb is a great trail for intermediate riders. It loops around Doe Mountain and crosses a river along the way. For a more challenging ride, head to Mescal Mountain. It’s a great trail for experienced riders who want to ride on slickrock. Templeton Trail is good for all skill levels, and offers 7 miles filled with stunning views of rock formations.

Keep in mind that temperatures from June through August may be too high to safely enjoy these trails. Mountain biking in Sedona is best in fall through spring.

Hiking

If you love a great hike (or a great walk), you’re in for a treat in Sedona and Flagstaff. For stunning views, head to the Cathedral Rock trail in Sedona. This 1.2 mile hike rewards you with views from the saddle between the two towers of one of the area’s most famous rock formations, right at the spot of a well-known energy vortex.

The 2-mile Devil’s Bridge trail also takes you to stunning rock formations, this time a natural sandstone arch. For an even easier walk, head up Oak Creek Canyon to West Fork. Here, you can follow Oak Creek through forests, cliffs and swimming holes for almost 8 miles.

In Flagstaff, the 2.5-mile Fatman’s Loop offers stunning views of the Painted Desert and downtown Flagstaff. For a longer adventure, hike the 9-mile Kendrick Peak trail. At the summit, you’ll see all the way to the Grand Canyon.

Camping

Coconino County offers a plethora of places to camp, including boondocking opportunities. In Arizona, most dispersed camping areas allow you to stay for up to 14 days.

Around Sedona, find some of the best boondocking spots along Schnebly Hill Road. This dirt road stretches for miles above town, offering amazing views of rock formations and Oak Creek Canyon. Access it by turning onto Forest Road 153; high-clearance vehicles are recommended. Most people camp between miles 1 and 3, as the road gets much rougher after that point.

Pumphouse Wash offers about 100 free campsites, and is more accessible. This dispersed area lies up Oak Creek Canyon on Forest Road 237. Pumphouse Wash is a great choice in summer, thanks to trees that provide shade for campers.

In Flagstaff, Wing Mountain is a great home base for local adventures. It’s not too far from the amenities of town, and offers shade in the ponderosa pines. The Friedlein Prairie area offers 14 camping spots, tucked away in the trees.

Travel Tips

• Temperatures are quite hot in spring and summer, often in the 90s and above.
• The sun is intense and it’s easy to get dehydrated; bring extra drinking water, wear sunscreen and a protective hat.
• Flagstaff is at a high elevation and winters bring low temperatures well below freezing.
• You may encounter snow and ice in winter, so be prepared for winter driving conditions.

Map

Here’s how to get these top Sedona and Flagstaff attractions:

Mountain Biking

• Bell Rock: Courthouse Butte Sedona, 86336
• Aerie and Cockscomb: Boynton Pass Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
• Mescal Mountain: Long Canyon Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
• Templeton Trail: Red Rock Crossing Trail Sedona, AZ 86351

Hiking Trails

•Cathedral Rock Trail: 500 Back O Beyond Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
• Devil’s Bridge Trail: Dry Creek Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
• West Fork Trail: 10251 N State Rte 89A Sedona, AZ 86336
• Fatman’s Loop Trail, 5098 US-89 Flagstaff, AZ 86004
• Kendrick Peak Trail, Forest Service Road 190 Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Skiing/Snowboarding

•Snowbowl AZ: 9300 North Snowbowl Rd Flagstaff AZ 86001

Camping

•Wing Mountain: Forest Rds 222 and 171 Flagstaff
• Friedlein Prairie: Friedlein Prairie Rd, Flagstaff
• Pumphouse Wash: Forest Rd 237, between Sedona and Flagstaff
• Schebley Hill: Schebley Hill Rd Sedona

Hidden Gems

While there are plenty of amazing destinations in Coconino County, here are a few don’t-miss, one-of-a-kind attractions.

During the summer months, put on your water shoes and head to Slide Rock State Park. Here, Oak Creek pours through sandstone formations that create swimming holes and troughs, perfect for sliding in to the cool water. Be prepared to wait in line to get in, as the park limits the number of daily visitors during the busy summer months. Visit on a weekday for shorter lines.

For a less-crowded experience, head to Crescent Moon Ranch at Red Rock Crossing. It’s called a “picnic area,” but it’s really a huge park filled with walking trails, deep swimming holes, ancient cottonwood trees and stunning views of Cathedral Rock. Don’t miss Buddha Beach; this stretch of sandstone formations along the creek offers perfect swimming spots, marked by picturesque stone cairns.

While in Sedona, take time to gaze up at the stars. The town is one of just a few in the U.S. designated as “Dark Sky Community,” due to its lack of light pollution. While any cloudless night offers stellar views, the Beaverhead Flat Scenic Overlook is a great place to park and gaze.

At the south edge of town, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is worth a visit. Constructed in the 1950s, the chapel’s unique architecture is modeled on the Empire State Building, but somehow melds seamlessly into its desert surroundings.

If you’re in Flagstaff during the summer, hop on the Arizona Gondola to beat the heat at 11,500 feet. You can see all the way to the Grand Canyon from the top of the mountain at the Snowbowl ski area.

Flagstaff’s Lava River Cave is another unique attraction. This mile-long, subterranean cave stays at a cool 42 degrees year-round, making for a cool experience on a hot day. It offers an introduction to spelunking that’s appropriate for almost all fitness levels.

Start Your Adventure with La Mesa RV Today!

Sedona and Flagstaff offer adventures and attractions for all interests and abilities, any time of year. It’s a perfect place to explore in your motorhome, RV or travel trailer and La Mesa RV can turn your dreams into reality. Check out our wide selection of RVs today so you can get out there and explore!