Veronica Samuels

Planning a weekend road trip from Flagstaff to Sedona? Read on, you have the guide right here!

There’s nothing quite like the freedom of packing up your car and setting off on an adventure, especially when that adventure takes you through the heart of rugged deserts, stunning sunset points and orange-red rocky mountains.

Buckle up and prepare for an adventure that takes you from the vibrant heart of Flagstaff to the mystical red rocks of Sedona.

Ah, the open road! Let me take you back to a sun-drenched afternoon when my trusty old Jeep and I embarked on this very route.


The distance between Flagstaff and Sedona is approximately 29 to 30 miles (about 47 km) if you’re travelling via the most direct route, the scenic AZ-89A South through Oak Creek Canyon.

The drive typically takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic and how often you pull over to take in the breathtaking vistas.


I recommend renting a car as this is the best way to get from Flagstaff to Sedona, which means you can also squeeze in a quick and short road trip.

Having your vehicle allows you to see everything this area offers also giving you the flexibility to stay as long as you like at each destination.

Scottsdale to Tombstone
Phoenix to Tucson

I like Discover Cars and believe me, as a frequent traveler regularly renting cars from them, I recommend them for easy and quick online booking.

Thanks to their long list of car rental companies, you can easily compare the car types and prices before picking. They also sometimes offer pick up as well.

Check prices and book your car here at Discover Cars.

If you don’t have a car, I highly recommend this tour from Flagstaff to Sedona, perfect for conveniently exploring Tombstone with expert guides.


Now, onto the main event: traveling from Flagstaff to Sedona. 

This route is a feast for the eyes, with every turn bringing a splendid view. 

Let’s dive into the routes, shall we?

ROUTE 1 – The Scenic Byway 89A

The first route, and arguably the most scenic, is the 89A. This winding road takes you through Oak Creek Canyon, a gorgeously lush, forested area that starkly contrasts the desert landscapes you might expect from Arizona.

It’s about a 29-mile journey that feels like you’ve been transported to a different world, hands-down the more beautiful of the two.

The drive is leisurely, with plenty of pull-offs to admire the views or even picnic. 

Watch out for the switchbacks; they’re not for the faint of heart!

ROUTE 2 – The Alternative Path

For those who might prefer a less winding path, there’s an alternative route that involves taking I-17 South to Hwy 179, leading you into Sedona. 

This route might not have the dramatic canyon views, but it offers its charms, including the iconic Bell Rock Vista. 

It’s a bit quicker, too, if you’re eager to get to Sedona and start exploring.

This is also the route I recommend during the winter, as some sections of 89A are closed due to snow in AZ.


Now, what’s a road trip without some memorable stops along the way? Here are my top picks for places to pause and enjoy the journey from Flagstaff to Sedona.


  • Location – Slide Rock State Park
  • Distance – 0.3 miles one way
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Elevation – 100 ft
  • Type – Out-and-back
  • Dog-Friendly – Yes
  • Kid-Friendly – Yes
  • Permit – No
  • Parking – Yes, $10 to $30 per vehicle

If you’re taking Route 1, you can’t miss Slide Rock State Park.

No list of Sedona swimming holes is complete without mentioning the crown jewel of Sedona swimming holes – Slide Rock.

This Sedona Pool, Slide Rock, located in Slide Rock State Park, is one of the best swimming holes in Arizona for a quick relaxing getaway you can add as a side trip.

Slide Rock is a series of beautiful short cascades cut into the sandstone at Slide Rock State Park.

It is only about 15 minutes away from Sedona, just six miles north of Oak Creek Canyon and is named for its waterslide-like rock formations that surround Oak Creek’s calm waters.

I still remember my first trip to Slide Rock. It was unplanned detour inspired by a local’s recommendation at a gas station. “You can’t miss the natural water slides,” he said, with a wink. He wasn’t wrong.

Sliding down those slick, algae-covered rocks was like being a kid again—except the water was colder than I expected, sending a shiver up my spine that I can still recall.

This stretches for about 80 feet and comprises many cascades of various sizes and shapes, ideal for sliding, as the name suggests.

Due to the deposition of algae on the rocks, Slide Rock forms a nature waterslide, allowing fun for adults and kids.

best swimming holes in Arizona
Sedona creek

Since there are many swimming pools with different depths, it is the best option if you travel with kids or prefer to wade in shallow waters.

You can also enjoy swimming at the many holes along Oak Creek surrounding Slide Rock for about half a mile.

To reach Slide Rock, you have to only do the easy walk for about 0.3 miles from the trail.

You will start the hike at the historic apple-packing barn in Slide Rock State Park, home to hundreds of apples in the orchards along the creek, another attraction worth stopping by.

You will pass through old cabins and historical buildings before descending steps leading to the banks of Oak Creek, crossing a small bridge. 

There are a few shady spots along this stretch of the creek, perfect for picnics or camping during the day, but these get filled quickly during spring and summer.

However, there’s still room to spread out and relax on red rock benches and many places to enjoy the water beside the creek.


Slide Rock State Park can be easily reached in 15 minutes by taking highway 89A out of Sedona for about 7 miles, and you’ll see the sign for Slide Rock.

Parking: Slide Rock State Park has a much larger parking lot worth accommodating about 100 vehicles, but it is occupied fully, usually during busy days.

There is a fee of $10-$30 per vehicle of up to 4 people. Alternatively, check for spaces along State Route 89A if you want to avoid parking here.


Located at the top of Oak Creek Canyon, just before you start the descent into the canyon on Route 89A, Oak Creek Vista is one of the best viewpoints to admire the stunning landscapes of Sedona. 

Oak Creek Vista midway point between Sedona and Flagstaff is another stop worth making for the stunning views.

From this vantage point, you can see the winding road you’re about to embark on, surrounded by lush greenery and towering canyon walls. 

It’s the perfect spot for those Instagram-worthy shots, so have your camera ready.

creeks in Sedona
places to swim in Sedona

There’s also a small gift shop and several Native American vendors selling jewellery, pottery, and other handmade crafts. 

It’s a great spot to stretch your legs, enjoy the views, and maybe pick up a unique souvenir.

For a quick hike and a dip in the creek, stop at Oak Creek Natural Area, located near the famous West Fork Oak Creek trailhead known for its cliffs, stream & canyons.

Recommended – 6 Best Sedona Hot Springs To Rejuvenate

The crystal clear waters of Oak Creek also provide an ideal spot for cliff-jumping.

As you travel further down the road, you may see deer, elk, coyotes, quail, hawks and eagles. 


Taking the alternative route? Make sure to stop at Bell Rock. It’s not just a rock; it’s an experience.

Bell Rock is one of Sedona’s most iconic landmarks and is easily accessible from the alternative route via Hwy 179.

Sedona has long been regarded as a place both sacred and powerful, and people come from around the world to meditate and experience the mysterious cosmic forces within the area.

These vortexes, or powerful energy fields, are used for healing, meditation, accessing psychic abilities, and spiritual and self-exploration.

The energy here is said to be powerful, and the hiking trails offer views that will make your heart soar.

This massive rock formation is not only a sight to behold. Still, it is also one of Sedona’s famed vortex sites, places thought to be swirling centres of energy conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration.

Due to its more accessible trail and gorgeous formations, the Bell Rock Loop Trail is a popular spot among locals and visitors.

Although it is a short trail, the uphill climbing will make it a 30-minute journey to get to the base section of Bell Rock from the parking area.

A vast viewing platform offers splendid views of the sunrise in Sedona. 

For more adventure, you can climb further to reach the upper portions of the rock. 

Also, check out Courthouse Butte in the early morning sunlight.


Midgley Bridge, surrounded by spectacular views of forested mountains, is one of the popular stops for day use, hiking and admiring panoramas.

It is home to many swimming holes near Sedona, perfect for summer getaways with your kids.

The steel arch bridge has a picnic area, restrooms, parking, and many trailheads.


If you are looking for a beautiful creek near Sedona, head on the West Fork Trail, one of the most popular hikes in Sedona, an easy trail ideal for beginners and people with kids.

This trail, mainly on an easy, shaded path, leads you to the pretty Oak creek, Plus, you will cross its water every half mile or less, making it constantly refreshing and cool. 

Depending on how far you want, you can continue along the river or camp for the day, enjoy a picnic, swim and float in the creek.


One of the top attractions worth visiting in Sedona in December is the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

The chapel itself is a work of art, with a massive cross that dominates the structure and large windows that frame the surrounding landscape.

Sedona in January

This Roman Catholic chapel was built from 1954 to 1956 in the red rock buttes of Sedona, Arizona, within the Coconino National Forest.

It is known for its brilliant architecture and engineering accomplishments in constructing the buttes, with windows framing buttes and rock outcroppings.


Located on the banks of beautiful Oak Creek, Tlaquepaque is a year-round top attraction in the city, but it is known for its signature event during Christmas in Sedona.

Tlaquepaque is a delight for the senses, with cobblestone pathways, magnificent sycamore trees, and many galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.

This 50+ years old tradition is anticipated by locals and tourists alike as Tlaquepaque transforms into an even more enchanting winter wonderland.

Christmas lights in Arizona

The Tlaquepaque arts and shopping district has been the central attraction during Christmas in Sedona as the area comes alive with over 6000 luminaries. 

These luminaries are icons for holidays in the Southwest, traditional paper-bag lanterns with candles set in sand. 

Check out the arts and crafts village with shops where you can taste hot chocolates and Christmas cookies and shop for antiques.

The festivities begin after Thanksgiving, as the village basks in thousands of lights and kicks off the season with a Tree Lighting on Dec. 6. 

Once the tree lights up, the festivities will begin with a visit from Santa, live music and other entertainment.

Sedona in December

The Tlaquepaque Arts & Craft Village is one of Sedona’s most well-loved areas for its many boutiques and shops selling regional and hand-crafted goods. 

Listen to choirs, and get your kids to meet Santa after the parade.

Opening hours – 11 AM to 7 PM


  • Driving Distance – 7.5 miles
  • Roads –  AZ-179 S
  • Duration – 1 to 2 hours, depending on diversions
  • Total time – 5 to 6 hours for activities and attractions
  • Permit – Red Rock Pass is needed

One of the best Sedona scenic drives loved by families and outdoor lovers is the Red Rock Scenic Byway in the beautiful Coconino National Forest.

Spanning 1.8 million acres, it is one of the largest among the six forest areas with diverse landscapes, ranging from semi-arid desert through Ponderosa pine forests to alpine tundra.

Also known as State Route 179 in Sedona, this 7.5-mile road begins at Interstate 17 and ends at State Route 89A in Sedona.

Sedona scenic drives

This scenic drive in Sedona takes you through stunning rugged rolling hills and washes covered with scrub oak, juniper, pinon pine, cacti, and yucca.

It takes you through many stunning views of the magnificent landmarks in Arizona, including Cathedral Rock and many mountains.

For covering the most attractions, this route starts near Flagstaff along Interstate 17, taking the exit on the left to get on 89 A to go south towards Sedona and further down to other landmarks.


While driving offers the freedom to explore at your own pace, there are other ways to travel between Flagstaff and Sedona if you’re not up for the drive. 

For the more adventurous, guided tours can provide insights into the area’s history, geology, and folklore, making the journey as enriching as the destination.

Here are the day tours I recommend that cover various aspects of Sedona.

✅Sedona Red Rock Explorer from Flagstaff🤩 -Explore the mystical ‘energies’ of the city of Sedona during this sightseeing day trip from Flagstaff. 

Pass through the scenic Oak Creek Canyon before spending a few hours learning about the town’s supposed ‘vortex’ sites. 

You’ll have the afternoon to explore the numerous art galleries and lunch options at your own pace. 

Read more about Sedona Red Rock Explorer from Flagstaff to book here.

✅Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour of Sedona🤩 – If you want to see the highlights of Sedona without the annoyance of traveling in a group tour, this Sedona Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour from Flagstaff is a great solution. 

Follow the directions of this tour in your own vehicle and stop at the suggested stops for as long or as little as you’d like. 

Plus, along with a complete itinerary built out for you, you’ll also get excellent commentary. 

Travel through Sedona’s red-rock area at your own pace with this audio tour. See Sedona highlights and hidden gems, like vortexes and viewpoints. 

Hear stories to enhance your trip, as well as step-by-step directions. Check out more here to book.


Here are some of my recommendations for top tours that you should join while in Sedona for a fabulous experience!

Sedona Stargazing Tour(5/5 400+ reviews🤩) Led by professional astronomers, the tour includes an introduction to the solar system using a high-powered laser pointer.

Use specialized telescopes to see close-up views of planets, galaxies, star clusters, and nebula. Read more here.

Sedona Helicopter Tour: Wild West Tour(5/5 200+ reviews🤩) Experience the magical red rock landscape of Sedona from the air during this helicopter tour of the greater Sedona area.

Along the way, take in spectacular desert views of canyons, rivers and the windswept rock formations. Check out more here.

Sedona Vortex Tour by Jeep(5/5 1000+ reviews🤩) – With more than a thousand reviews, this is the best jeep tour that covers the best of Sedona Vortexes. Check out more here.

Sedona Outback Trail Jeep Adventure – A top-rated 2-hour tour; check out more details here.

Private Gambler Trail: Rugged 4×4 Hummer Tour in Sedona – Recommended if you are looking for a private tour. Check details here.

You can also rent a Polaris RZR 4-Seat for an entire day – I highly recommend this if you are in a group or a family. Saves money and time. Find more details here

Take this helicopter tour🤩 to admire the stunning landscapes of Arizona from above as you fly over Sedona’s famous red rock formations, including cliff dwellings, mesas and buttes.



A Sunset Chateau – This bed and breakfast features an outdoor pool and hot tub, A fully equipped kitchenette and stunning mountain views from select rooms. 

Hiking is possible in the nearby area. A Sunset Chateau is highly loved by families and couples. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

Junipine Resort – Offering apartments with a full kitchen and a living room with a fireplace, this resort boasts rustic elegance.

Close to the creek and many attractions, it is one of the best places to indulge. 

Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

Enchantment Resort – If you want a luxurious experience, check out Enchantment Resort, known for its spectacular vistas of Boynton Canyon. 

Enjoy luxurious delicacies and outdoor activities, besides enjoying the comforts of suites and villas with private balconies. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

what to do in Sedona in November

Adobe Village Villa with Private Patio – Sunset Villa – Boasting air-conditioned accommodation with a patio, Adobe Village Villa with Private Patio – Sunset villa offers access to a balcony and free private parking.

It is one of my favorite recommendations for its rich exteriors and comfortable villas. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

Sky Ranch Lodge – Sky Ranch Lodge provides spacious accommodation with a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden and a bar. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

El Portal Sedona Hotel – El Portal Sedona Hotel is 20 20-minute drive from Red Rock State Park.

You can also enjoy a spa bath, which is also featured in some rooms. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.

Matterhorn Inn – Matterhorn Inn provides excellent accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool and free WiFi throughout the property.

The 4-star hotel has mountain views. Check here for the latest prices and deals.

If you are looking for a B&B, I recommend Whispering Creek Bed & Breakfastwhich features accommodation with free WiFi, barbecue facilities, a shared lounge and free private parking.

They have excellent reviews and great prices. Click here for more details. 

Sedona in November weather


Hilton Vacation Club Sedona Summit  Situated in the Sedona Plateau and offering stunning views of the Arizona desert, Hilton Vacation Club Sedona Summit features studios and one and 2-bedroom suites.

Check out rooms and the latest prices here.


So, whether you’re cruising down the 89A, taking the alternative route, or letting someone else drive, the journey from Flagstaff to Sedona is more than just a trip.

It’s an adventure through the heart of Arizona, filled with natural wonders, cultural treasures, and moments.

From the exhilarating natural water slides at Slide Rock State Park to the peaceful reflection at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, there’s something for everyone from Flagstaff to Sedona.

So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an adventure that you’ll remember for a long time.


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