The Arizona desert is a sight to see. Towering red rock formations cut into the blue skies making for the perfect backdrop. And, let’s face it, not a bad Instagram picture to get your friends jealous either! 

For many, one area that stands out from the rest is Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is known for its red rocks and funky laid back atmosphere. It’s the home to a lot of artists and new age enthusiasts that attract people from all over the world. 

One of the best ways to take in all the beauty the area surrounding Sedona has to offer is by traveling via the Red Rock Scenic Byway. It’s also known as Arizona Highway 179. This stretch of road runs less than 20 miles. But, it’s been called “a destination unto itself” by the US Department of Transportation. 

In this post, we’re going to highlight what you can expect to see as you drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway. 

Coconino National Forest

The first thing that might pop out to you is that Arizona Highway 179 has an awful lot of green for a desert. That’s one of the reasons why this part of Arizona is so lovely, it’s surrounded by the Coconino National Forest

Take a detour off the scenic byway to explore the National Forest directly.

Village of Oak Creek

Traveling North on Highway 179 you’ll come to the Village of Oak Creek. Look around. And you’ll see why this area, known as the Big Park Valley was often used for the backdrop of Western moves. 

From Oak Creek, you can hike a 3.6 mile trail to Bell Rock. It’s a relatively easy hike and well worth it for the views!

Courthouse Butte

Courthouse Butte is another very famous rock formation. You can access it via the Bell Rock trail North or South. This is a very popular loop trail that runs about four miles long. But, it’s easy to see why so many people love it. Being able to wander among these red rocks is truly something special!


Of course, no visit to the area is complete without a stop in Sedona. You can explore the town itself first, there are are a number of fun boutique shops and restaurants to pop in for an afternoon snack. 

If you want to go a little deeper into the desert, Sedona is a hub for many local red rocks tours via Jeep, ATV, and even Segway. Plus, plenty of sightseeing tours too.  

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ

The Chapel of the Holy Cross has to be one of the most unique churches in the entire world. This Catholic church was built into the red rock formations and sits high above Sedona. It was opened in 1956 after 18 months of digging and building.

You can visit the church and check out some really incredible views.  

Getting There

driving on the sedona, Arizona highway

To join up on the Red Rock Scenic Byway from Phoenix, head north on Route 17. The trip is just about 90 minutes. From Flagstaff, head south on the same Route 17, you’ll be there in just under an hour. And if you’re making the drive from Las Vegas, it’s about four and a half hours.