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  • Lisa Parsons

Wild Camping Above Sedona

View from the Top of Schnebly Hill Vista

Schnebly Hill Vista Wild Camp

We did some more research on how to get to Schnebly Hill Vista without having to drive the 6+ miles up from the end of the road outside Sedona Arizona over the rocky road and up the steep narrow switchbacks, which we may or may not be able to navigate.

We realized we could drive around on highway 17 that goes to Flagstaff and then turn off on the other end of Schnebly Hill road where it meets 17. So that was our plan as we headed out of town after our last ride in Sedona.

The bottom 2 photos on the right are the road down from Schnebly Vista.

The road was a dirt road through pine forest past signs that said wildlife forests. Then we passed a ranch road and a small dam, possibly for water catchment for the ranch. So far the road was pretty tame, typical well maintained forest service road. We started up hill, after the dam and found the road was covered with wet red mud. We know red mud from previous backroad excursions. The red mud acts like a slip and slide for any kind of tire. Even our new 4 x4 tires with lots of hearty tread. As the tires tread fill with red mud we started to slide across the terrain. Luckily it was a short section and then we hit the brown dirt and as the red mud peeled out of our tread we gripped the road again.

The taller pine forest transitioned to piñon pine and juniper forest and tawny winter grasses. The road began sloping downward towards Sedona. Just as the road turned sharply to the south the vista lay before us just like I thought it would. Below us was the red rocks surrounding Sedona and the valley as it opened up. Beyond Sedona we could see the distant towns of Cottonwood and Jerome. Below us on the ridgeline right in front of us was the steep continuation of Schnebly hill road as it snaked along the ridge then turning through a saddle into the next canyon over that we had explored the two days prior. Along the bottom of the canyon was Oak Creek and the highway 89a that went to Flagstaff too.

From above we could see the holiday traffic. A constant stream of cars in both directions. Up here was a different world with only the sound of the wind and a few bird calls. It reaffirmed that if we could get off the beaten path…or sometimes just out of downtown another world awaited where time was measured in tree rings and seasons not in tourist seasons and work schedules.

This was the first afternoon where it was warm enough to sit with the van door open. The dogs lay on their beds on the ground outside the van door. Here they were free to explore around the camp untethered.

Taz and Mica enjoying the warmer weather

As the sun started to lower I set up my tripod at the cliff edge for evening photos. As we sat enjoying the deepening of shadows and the transition of daylight to gold a young woman came running up. She had ran 7 miles from town and apparently wasn’t done yet. She continued away from town and we wondered if she ever returned before dark.

The sun set in golds and reds. Then the moon rose behind us awhile later. The wind picked up and tendrils spiraled into the neck of my fleece jacket. We wondered what tomorrow would bring as we slipped off to sleep. We awoke to the sunrise the next morning and weren’t disappointed.

The sun rose more brilliantly on the red cliffs and as the sun rose so did distant hot air balloons in the sky. Across the valley along the red rock cliff the moon set below a fan of moving clouds. The light changing with the sunrise and the passage of clouds dancing across the cliff faces. I’d had the vista for an sunset and sunrise.

We said our goodbye to Sedona knowing that we would return during another season to explore more of the amazing mt. bike and hiking trails surrounding the town. But for now we headed southeast towards Christmas in Santa Fe.

Schnebly Hill Road Vista information on

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