“The only thing I REALLY want to do when we go to Sedona, Carrie said, “is to take the train to the Grand Canyon.”
While taking the train from Sedona to the Grand Canyon has a romantic appeal, my husband convinced his son’s girlfriend she would enjoy driving better.
Little Colorado River Gorge
First of all, you would miss seeing the Little Colorado River Gorge. Sure enough, a Navajo Parks and Recreation clerk collected $5 per car from her toll booth set in the middle of nowhere. None of us had ever heard of this seldom discussed tourist site of Little Colorado River Gorge.
The picture deceives the eye. It seems that you could touch the other side. It looks like rugged, barren countryside that had been fenced to keep the cattle from straying out of the area.
Nothing was further from the truth.
Perfect Weather in September in Arizona
We enjoyed breaking up the two-hour car trip from Sedona to the Grand Canyon and stretching our legs.
The weather was perfect, sunny in the mid-70s, as we left the car to view the spectacle you could not see from AZ Highway 64. Coming from the hazy Central Valley in California, we enjoyed these fake-looking skies. Even without a filter on my phone, they looked dazzling, don’t you think?
Unlike the Grand Canyon, this gorge looked like a fissure in the rock. No big deal, right? But wait, look down.
Next Exit 3,200 Feet Down
You might want to climb down 3,200 feet to the bottom of the canyon, but we chose not to do so. Probably wisely so. We went as far as the guard rails. The river looked muddy in September which might have meant that they had a flash flood before we came.
Commonly the river is tinged blue or turquoise fed by springs and groundwater. Not everyone who ever saw it loved it. The first Americans to visit and tell about it, would not have made the best tour guide salespeople.
“It is a lo[a]thesome little stream, so filthy and muddy that it fairly stinks. It is only 30 to 50 [yards] wide now and in many places a man can cross it on the rocks without going on to his knees … [The Little Colorado was] as disgusting a stream as there is on the continent … half of its volume and 2/3 of its weight is mud and silt. … It seemed like the first gates of hell.”
—George Bradley and Jack Sumner, August 1869
The Mormons who struggled to cross the shallow river in 1876 in wagons discovered quicksand as well as water. Do you think some of their journals might have had some ungodly words describing that journey?
Nature did not paint the rocks a deep luscious burnt red as the Sedona rocks or even the salmon and copper patina of the Grand Canyon. Yet you could admire the time it took the little river that could to carve down to where it flows today.
As proud as Vince was to have found this stop that the train tour for $206 per person would have missed, we did not stay long.
Vince might be holding on a little tight to my shoulder, don’t you think? At least he wasn’t pulling me toward the edge! However, this was our last stand in front of this view. Like Carrie, we wanted to see the Grand Canyon, not the Little Colorado River Gorge.
For more fun walks around the world check out these two blogs.
Mystery describes the Sinagua Indians. They lived in the Sedona area for hundreds of years, then in 1420, one hundred years before the white man arrived, they left.
Five thousand of them, gone without a trace.
Some scholars thought they migrated then intermingled with the Hopi Indian.
Nonetheless, they left a rich heritage for you to enjoy when you visit Sedona.
The Most Popular Pink Jeep Tour
You can’t help notice the shiny pink jeeps all over Sedona and the surrounding area.
The company is brilliant. they took one of the men’s favorite sports, bouncing around in the backcountry, and painted it pink. Then they market all the attire and everything else Pink Jeep.
Women love it. Men love that women love it.
This slightly bumpy tour to the Sinagua ruins is a favorite of the Pink Jeep Tour company. It’s an easy drive through West Sedona on AZ Highway 89A, then a short trip on a public unpaved road into the protected ruins.
At the end of the road, we entered a fenced in area, and our tour guide, Chip Roberge, led six of us on an easy path back to the Sinaguan homes dug into the cliff.
A Quick Pit Stop then Off to the Path
“I used to be a banker,” Chip Roberge told us as we started up the path to the Ancient Sinagua ruins just outside of West Sedona, “but I started doing Pink Jeep tours years ago and I’d never go back.”
Lesson One – Trees
About an hour before sunset on a warm September evening, our party of six entered the ruins through a half-mile long, lightly forested, rocky footpath.
“This wasn’t the land flowing with milk and honey. There is no river near. In the desert, you can spot the water where you see a clump of trees. In fact, this area here would have been bare when the Sinagua Indians lived here. They would have used them all.”
Normally found in only the highest areas of Sedona, this interesting specimen, an Alligator Juniper definitely reminded you of an old alligator. Don’t get too close!
No worries, it was just a branch, but be careful. You might see a rattlesnake.
Lesson Two – Fruits
Chip pointed out several plants along the way. We passed a withering vine. The poisonous effects of the prickly melon fruit on the Sacred Datura could kill a human. If you were lucky it could put you into a four-day hallucinogenic spell. I saw one of these in the Woodlake Botanical Gardens and dug it out.
Another prickly fruit, the prickly pear, you can pay about $10 for a permit to pick them. Since I’m not fond of pears, I passed. Beware, they will stain your mouth red. To pick them, stick a finger in the center indentation and wiggle it off the cactus. It seems like a lot of work to peel and eat each prickly bite.
Lesson Three Buildings
It didn’t take us long to meander the half mile up to the ruins once we stopped taking pictures of the plants along the way.
In spite of the relative luxuriant of the meadow today, I thought of being exiled here. I wondered if maybe these were the outcasts from the more robust societies along the river banks. Nonetheless, their homes showed creative similarities to Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle.Chip said they used lumber to prop open the rows of windows. It looks like rocks to me.
With the scarcity of water, creating this much mud mortar must have been difficult. They used urine instead of fresh water. Since the last Sinaguans left in the 1400s, you can assume that it worked well. Scholars think that the Hopi Indians might have used these homes. It was unclear to me whether the tribes ever lived together, however.
Here you can see the windows more closely.
Lesson Four – Art
As you look up, high on the side of the hill you could see several markings on the different buildings. This distinctive seal marked their home much like a family crest identified families in Europe.
These pictographs displayed horses and people, but Chip suggested that horses had not come to the area at the time of these paintings. Can you see the ghost on the right side of the next picture? Some people could not spot it at first. Apparently, it is fluorescent and can be seen under a different light.
Lesson Five – The Rock Formations
Rock formations near the Sedona Ancient Ruins include Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock and Lizard Head Rock.
Here’s the secret.
None of them are mountains. You can’t go to the Sedona Mountains because, according to our guide, they are not mountains, they are sedimentary rocks. Just rocks.
I’d like some of these rocks in my backyard, wouldn’t you?
Almost Sunset on Chimney Rocks.
In the next picture, you see Thunder Mountain (not a mountain) looming to the left of the pink jeep.
The driver took some sunset pictures using our cameras. Even though we were in the jeep with no windows to hold us back from the views, we couldn’t see as well from the right side.
The tour hour had expired but the views were so spectacular that the driver slowed down to allow us to take more pictures. (I’m sure he tells everyone that but we felt special nonetheless.) He did drive fast the rest of the way back.
If you are unable to walk for a mile or stand for 45 minutes to an hour there are three National Parks nearby Sedon you might enjoy more.
It’s not easy to squeeze in 10,000 steps after spending hours getting to your destination?
Here’s one way we solved our sitting dilemma in Sedona.
It might easiest be to get up in the morning and walk in the neighborhood before starting the day. Try a walk down to the nearest shopping center. Grab your cup of coffee and continue back to your hotel.
Added to a one or two-mile walk at the start of the day, you will get in your anticipated steps even if you sit a bit along the way.
The data is everywhere. The Mayo Clinic states that walking 10,000 steps a day helps you:
Maintain a healthy weight
Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
You may have a Fitbit, but if you don’t, you can buy a simple pedometer. If I remember, I stick my iPhone in my pocket. When I’m photographing and forgot to put my phone back into my pocket, there goes my step count. But I get a good idea of how far I’m going each day.
If you don’t have a device to measure your steps, measure time. Most people can walk one mile in at least twenty minutes. At that rate, one hour will earn you three miles, and you’re three-fifths to your goal. The remaining 40 minutes is easy just walking around from chore to chore.
But the point is to start moving.
Head Out of the Bell Rock Inn Parking Lot
If you’re looking for a great vacation spot where getting in your 10,000 steps is a pleasure, you can’t find a better place than Sedona, AZ. This walk measured about 7,400 steps. I ended the day with nearly 12,000 steps.
Sedona has two main highways, 179 and 89A and a million roundabouts. This trip we stayed at Bell Rock Inn Diamond Resort on Highway 179 across from one of the most beautiful rock legends in Sedona.
“In 2006, The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration awarded State Route 179 its highest designation within the National Scenic Byways Program: the All American Road designation. … It is a tourist attraction onto itself.” The Premier Gateway
For views, Bell Rock Inn ranks a 5 even though it’s probably the smallest of the four resorts we’ve stayed in Sedona. The neighborhood walk ranks about 5 as well.
Just outside the door of our suite the sidewalk that lines the highway spans about 4 feet wide and runs for miles. So this morning I headed up the road. I walked past Famous Pizza. At 7:30 no one but the crow wanted pizza. He did not pose as I approached him to take a portrait shot.
Along the way were two more hotels, a Holiday Express and one other as well as a strip mall. I watched early morning tourists pose next to the mural which spans the restaurant. It was about 70 degrees at 7:30 this morning, perfect for a walk.
As you head north on Highway 179 back towards Sedona, you can see Castle Rock to the left and Bell Rock near the middle. Low maintenance plants and red rocks line the sidewalks adding interest.
Even though the traffic can be heavy, especially in the spring, the sidewalk provides a beautiful safe place to walk. I took this picture of the Jack’s Canyon sign for our friend Jack, who did not know he had a Canyon named after him.
Highway 179 has scenic turnouts at the rocks so that you can park and walk. Like our son did, you can take a trail almost to the peak of Bell Rock without having to rock climb.
Along the way, you meet a few passersby. Most of them are doing what you are exercising, not chatting. Headed away from Sedona, the view is not as spectacular, but there’s more shade. I stayed on the shady side going both directions.
I passed at least four strip malls like this one during the 1.5 or 2-mile morning walk. This is the Village of Oak Creek. We ate at Cucina Rustica, a beautiful Italian restaurant behind the white arch on our last night. More sitting and eating, so I was glad for the morning walks.
In the spring there might be two miles of traffic caught up on the 6-mile strip from Highway 17 to Sedona. You may be able to see yourself in this link to the live webcam.
Another walking option is to golf and weave your way around among the beautiful shade trees. The beautifully maintained Country Club golf course is open to the public, one block from Bell Rock Inn.
The gardeners don’t appreciate the public walking on the path during golfing hours but you may walk undetected and undisturbed early in the morning and after 5:00 at night.
These wildflowers with their bulbs and tiny flowers borrowed my camera/pedometer for a few seconds. These look like Penstemon, Golden beards. Any flower experts out there to back me up?
These juicy cacti fruits, prickly pears, bloomed ubiquitously in September. You can pay $10 to harvest them. Our Pink Jeep tour guide suggested that nobody would notice if you just picked one. You needed to pick with great care, though. The fruit has to be peeled, and it will stain you bright red.
Heading back to the resort you can see Bell Rock on the left and Courthouse Butte on the right. Courthouse Butte has also been known as Cathedral Rock, which makes it confusing to visitors who hear both names used interchangeably.
These formations are all sedimentary rocks, sandstones, limestones, and shales. Guides don’t recommend them for rock climbing as they are very soft.
Some believe that Bell Rock is a spiritual place with special energy called a vortex. Everyone I’ve known to hike up there, including me, has come back from the hike at a level five – tired to level ten – exhausted and not a number one level – energetic, though.
You can see that even the small rock formations provide a lot of shade. Building this highway caused some controversy as it tore up some of the beautiful rock formations.
Walking away from the resort seemed like the path would end at any time. Each time I thought I would walk to the end and turn around, the road curved around some vegetation, and disappeared from sight. So like a woman hypnotized, I kept walking and walking. Finally, I accepted that the sidewalk might not go all the way to heaven, but it could easily go on for many miles.
I hope you enjoyed Scenic AZ Highway 179. It reminds me of the Arizona Highways magazines my grandfather loved in the 1950s and 1960s. There I was, living his dream, walking along one of the most beautiful Arizona Highways.
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It looks like snow but it’s 76 degrees, sunny with only a light spring breeze. The weather in Sedona on Easter weekend is about as beautiful as it gets anywhere in the world.
But we humans need some complaint, so for that, we turn to the cottonwood trees. As we admired the wind statues, one merchant launched her campaign against the trees complaining that they are maliciously firing thousands of sticky flakes into their store.
Once landed, the cottonwood snow sits quietly in bushes, spider webs and on the stems of the cacti like fuzzy socks.
Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of cacti, but they are showing off this weekend for Easter. Statues guard Los Abrigados Resort where we stay in Sedona. Basket Lady Elder adorns herself for spring as well.
Next door to the resort is a bed and breakfast call the Portal. Even the roof sports wild purple flowers and is draped with hanging planters along the edge. Rose bushes brighten the corner of this award-winning vacation spot.
Los Abrigados furbished itself elegantly for the spring holiday. Happy Easter, my friends. 🙂