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Use caution at 2.1 miles as you navigate the first switchback. The road continues to be rough, requiring a slow pace and careful tire placement for a smooth ride. The trail switchbacks again at 2.7 miles as it continues to climb. Another series of tight turns awaits at 3.1 miles as the trail begins to head north. Off to the left at 3.6 miles is “Merry-go-round” Rock, a frequent stopping point for Jeep tours. The view is good, but will be better up ahead.
At this point, you’ll notice the looming edge of the Mogollon Rim straight ahead. Continuing on the trail, it keeps climbing. After 4.3 miles, the trail makes a large swooping right turn as it continues to skirt up the edge of the rim. You’ll notice an un-comforting amount of rock slides on either section of the road at this point. At 5.0 miles, the trail makes a hard left as it climbs the final portion of the trail before the highpoint. At 5.3 miles, you’ll reach Schnebly Hill Vista which is a must-see. The view is quite rewarding and makes for a great breaking point. Get some pictures, check out the trail you were just on, and enjoy the moment. When you’re done, continue east along the trail.
Leaving Schnebly Hill Vista, the trail becomes smoother and gentler. The road snakes its way in an easterly direction as you continue to climb into the forest. At around 7.4 miles you’ll reach the high point of the trail, right around 6,500’ – over 2,000 feet above Sedona! The trail continues northeast, remaining fairly uneventful other than a scenic meadow at 8.7 miles. There are a few nice camping spots along the next couple miles of trail. The trail ends at a cattle guard and gate at 10.9 miles. Continue on the paved road to I-17. Take a right to get on I-17 back to Phoenix or take a left to get to Flagstaff.
Summary/Trail Ratings: Overall, this scenic and fun trail is just under 11 miles one way to complete. Allow for about an hour to drive it at a decent pace. You’ll definitely want to stop multiple times for photo-ops and breaks. The trail certainly isn’t difficult but isn’t suitable for passenger cars either. High-clearance vehicles are required and must be street-legal. We’ve rated the trail a ‘3’ out of 10 because much of the trail is rocky and rutted below Schnebly Hill Vista. This trail makes a great shortcut between I-17 and Sedona but is closed in the winter time.
Offering arguably one of the best views of Sedona, Schnebly Hill Road climbs over 2,000 feet from Sedona into the ponderosa pine forests near I-17. This trail is closed in the winter but doesn’t require a Red Rock Pass, be sure to not miss this one!
Page last updated: 9/30/2015
Status: Open / closed winters
Trail Type: Through trail
Length: 11 miles one-way
Approx. time: 1-2 hours
Current Info: Coconino N.F./Red Rock R.D. (928) 203-2900
Elevation: 4472' - 6507'
Nearest City: Sedona
No Red Rock Pass required.
How to get there: From downtown Sedona (Highway 89A & Highway 179) head south from the roundabout. Continue 0.3 miles south along Highway 179. From the next roundabout, continue northeast onto Schnebly Hill Road. Follow this for 0.9 miles to the parking area/end of the pavement. If you’re coming from I-17, take exit #320. Continue east along Schnebly Hill Road and follow the directions in reverse.
The trail: the rough dirt road leaves the parking area along Schnebly Hill Road and heads east. The trail immediately begins to start twisting and turning as it crosses several dry washes. The trail is also very rocky and rutted (as of May 2015) and had several potholes along the trail. After 1.3 miles, the trail follows alongside a wash and begins its long climb. You’ll quickly find yourself away from the city on this trail, but be sure to keep an eye out for Jeep tours, who use the lower half of this road frequently.
Best Time: Spring-Fall