Dry Creek Scenic Road
Looking northeast on the Dry Creek Scenic Road
Dry Creek Scenic Road is a 6.5-mile section of State Highway 89A across the Verde Valley between Sedona and Cottonwood. The route is famous for its superb views into northern Arizona's "Red Rock Country."
This part of Arizona has been almost continually occupied by humans for the last 1400 years. Back in those early days, the Sinagua people lived in the area, building pithouses to live in and farming the fertile soils around the water sources. Between 900 and 1,000 years ago, the Sinagua started building the big stone pueblos and cliff dwellings we see left behind today (the ruins at Tuzigoot and at Montezuma Castle). When Route 89A was being expanded to four lanes, the road crews unearthed a small village of pithouses in Spring Creek Canyon. Work stopped while archaeologists swarmed all over the site and gathered what artifacts and info they could. Then work resumed and the ancient village at Spring Creek is now part of the highway's base layer of gravel.
Dry Creek Scenic Road travels through an area along the southern edge of the Mogollon Rim, just below the fault uplift of the Colorado Plateau. Since that uplift happened, about 65 million years ago, the edge of the plateau has been eroded into by wind and water until today, in some places, there's 1,000 feet and more of vertical red sandstone wall sticking up: history from 250 million years ago on display. The countryside is made up of a fantastical collection of red, yellow, pink, tan and buff-colored rock formations. The tops of the formations tend to be covered in pines and junipers, the canyon bottoms are either riparian corridors or typical Sonoran Desert scrub. In between is exposed multi-colored rock.
Dry Creek Scenic Road crosses the Red Rock Country section of Coconino National Forest. Because the area has been heavily impacted by human use, the National Forest Service charges a $5 per vehicle day-use fee for use of everything inside the boundaries of Red Rock Country except use of the road itself. You can also park for 15 minutes and take photos before the day-use fees kick in. If you want to hang around longer, go to the Chamber of Commerce in either Sedona or Cottonwood and ask. They have sliding rate passes for longer visits.
The view from Airport Mesa