/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on March 19, 2010 at 8:52 am
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Driving Arizona’s Red Rock Country to Sedona

Arizona is no place for people who think small. Driving north on I17 heading towards Sedona highlights big, wide-open country where you’ll pass changing terrain from the saguaros of Phoenix to the higher elevation foliage of green trees, soaring multi-color spires, deep canyons, and a record of time that stretches back millions of years. Toss your hiking boots into the trunk, fill up your water bottles, and be prepared to take that dirt road detour. Here are a few highlights of the area that keep me coming back for more.

There’s nothing like the views that await you as you first roll into Sedona when driving down Lower Red Rock Loop Road with Bell Rock ahead of you.  Bell Rock is a 3½ mile trail linking the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona. Along this pathway you’ll enjoy fantastic views of Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and other landmarks.

Along Route 89A, the main artery of Sedona, look for the rock shaped like a coffeepot and turn in at the Coffee Pot Restaurant (map), “home of the famous 101 omelettes.” Choose from sausage (No. 24), salsa (No. 52) and green chili and cheese (No. 49).  (Happy-face pancakes are available, if eggs aren’t your favorite.)

Kid friendly Javelina Cantina (map) kids’ meals offer quesadilla and a fruit cocktail, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. For grown-ups you have your choice of grilled yellowfin tuna with tomatillo salsa, charbroiled salmon topped with red-pepper-and-corn salsa, and prickly pear margaritas.

Even though it’s filled with tourists, Tlaquepaque Village is always on my list as an artists’ haven with boutiques filled with contemporary Southwestern art or sculpture, clothing and restaurants. You feel as if you are in a small Mexican town with the lovely courtyards, fountains and flowers that are overflowing into the open spaces.

For a backcountry romp, consider a tour with Pink Jeep Tours.  Located in the main section of town, Pink Jeep has been providing off-road tours since 1960.  I’ve taken many of their tours; learning interesting factoids from their knowledgeable guides while in awe of the scenery that the Red Rock country is famous for.

From town, I recommend driving up to Oak Creek where your kids will love to hook ‘em and cook ‘em at the Rainbow Trout Farm (map) . For a $1 fee you’ll receive a bamboo pole, a bucket, a net, and bait, and a chance to get your catch from two stocked ponds.  No charge for simple catch-and-release; you pay for every fish you reel in.

For an amazing ride, slip and slide down natural water chutes, float in rock pools, and glide through the cool of Slide Rock State Park (map). If swimming is not your thing, you can walk along the rock formations and find the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic.  The park also offers picnic tables in the entrance area under juniper trees.

To experience a quaint country store, visit Indian Gardens Trading Post (map) in Oak Creek Canyon. The deli stocks unusual foods ranging from killer-bee honey butter to prickly pear cactus. The quaint patio out back is a secret garden filled with all types of roses that make me want to plant my own garden.

Before leaving Sedona indulge in an amazing hike of Cathedral Rock.  One of the most photographed locales in the U.S., Cathedral Rock is 1.5 miles and can be challenging if you choose to make the vertical climb up the main part of the rock.

No matter what you choose to do, I’m sure that you will love the charm of Sedona and the storybook backdrop that wherever you roam you won’t be able to take your eyes off of.

Photo credit:  personal collection.

Related places:
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    2050 U.S. 89 Alt
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  2. B
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