Geographical Location and Features
The Red Rocks of Sedona are located in Arizona's Coconino National Forest, a few minutes from the town of Sedona and a fifteen mile drive from Flagstaff. They are part of Red Rock Secret-Wilderness Mountains, a reserve of 47,194 acres acres of land managed by the Forest Service.
The Red Rocks' monolithic structures have been shaped over hundreds of millions of years from soil and water erosion, creating pinnacles, arches, buttes, cliffs and deep, narrow canyons. The rock's warm, bright colors come from the accumulation of iron oxide, as iron in the erosive waters washed through porous sandstone.
The Red Rocks of Sedona are flanked by the cliffs of the Mongollon Rim, a 2,000-foot escarpment of the Coloradeau Plateau to the North. To the East, deep canyons plunge 1,500 feet from mesas of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, draining into Oak Creek and the Verde River. Ponderosa pine forests blanket the high mountains, receding into arid lowland desert. The valley teems with a variety of vegetation and wildlife. While the region has experienced the stresses of traffic and tourism, its rough terrain--which is not conducive to development--provides a natural defense of the land's wilderness and ecology.
The Red Rocks' abandoned cliff dwellings and rock art offer us a glimpse of its previous inhabitants. Around 100 A.D., the Sinaguans, a subculture of the Anasazi, farmed, hunted and gathered food in Oak Creek Canyon and Verde Valley. Following their disappearance--the reason for which is debated to this day--groups now known as the Yavapai and Apache Indians settled in the area. Pioneers settled in Oak Creek Canyon in 1877, drawing in a community of farmers and artists. Since then, Sedona has also drawn many spiritual healers, as well as New Age believers who come to experience its energy vortexes, or cosmic energy fields. Sedona has seen drastic development over the years and currently experiences a seasonal population flux as tourists, seasonal residents and retirees come to experience its distinct culture and stunning landscapes.
Among the Red Rocks' many features, Airport Mesa offers a panoramic view of Sedona and the Red Rocks, and Boynton Canyon cradles the ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings. Hiking is the most popular mode of exploration in the area, and the region has also become a prime spot for mountain biking. (To reduce erosion and noise pollution, the use of motorized vehicles and other equipment is generally prohibited). Horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, swimming, and rock climbing are all popular activities. If inspired to effortlessly ascend, one can observe Red Rock terrain from a hot-air balloon. Due to Sedona's crowds of tourists, it can be difficult to find solitude among the more frequented sites, so ventures off the beaten path are recommended.