This Western State Has An Underrated, Scenic Road Loaded With The Most Colorful Mountain Views

Arizona has scenic drives for days, but some — like Sedona's Dry Creek Road — remain relatively under the radar. This is good news for those who prefer to take in the stunning red rock views the region is known for without headaches from traffic jams and exhaust fumes. The road packs a mind-boggling array of sights into its short 7 miles, passing iconic spots such as Thunder Mountain, Chimney Rock, Lizard Head Rock, Brins Mesa, and Doe Mesa. These bizarrely shaped sandstone rock formations dazzle in a striking range of hues, from pinks and corals to scarlet and burnt orange. Given the splendor of the surroundings, the Arizona Department of Transportation designated the road a scenic byway in 1992.

Dry Creek Road is easily accessible from the west end of Sedona, right off Highway 89A,another reason not to miss this spectacular drive if you're visiting red rock country. Transform the short drive into a day trip by stopping along the way to hike and explore. But first, grab breakfast at the iconic Coffee Pot Restaurant, the "Home of 101 Omelettes." The restaurant is on Highway 89A about a mile east of the Dry Creek Road turnoff and a few miles south of a massive rock that resembles a coffee pot.

Hiking near Dry Creek Road

From Highway 89A, head north on Dry Creek Road. You're now entering red rock paradise. Note the striking contrast between the multicolored rocks, the evergreen trees, and the blue sky. Involve your other senses in the experience by opening your vehicle's windows and breathing in the fresh air. That faint sweet scent on the breeze is likely creosote, one of the most aromatic plants in Arizona's deserts. 

For a moderately challenging hike to a spectacular sandstone arch, veer off Dry Creek Road onto FR 152 and drive 1.3 miles to reach the Devil's Bridge Trail. Note that you need a high-clearance vehicle to navigate FR 152, which is a rough, unpaved road. Alternatively, you can leave your low-clearance vehicle at the Dry Creek Vista parking lot, which is around 1 mile from the Devil's Bridge trailhead. From the trailhead, amble through a series of washes and then gradually climb 400 feet to reach the bridge, where you'll find a few trails that offer different vantage points of this geological marvel. Photograph the bridge from various angles, and then stick around for a while to contemplate the magnificent scenery. You can also walk across the top of the bridge if you're feeling daring and sure-footed. 

Cliff dwellings and more

Another fascinating place that's just off Dry Creek Road is the Palatki Heritage Site, where you can see ruins, rock art, and pictographs of the Sinagua and other Native People of the Verde Valley. The impressive cliffside dwellings at the site were the largest in the area between 1150–1350 A.D. Note that the site closes when temperatures are above 100 degrees and in other bad-weather conditions, and advance reservations are required through the U.S. Forest Service for all tours. 

For a supremely civilized ending to your desert adventure, take Dry Creek Road to Boynton Pass Road, which extends 4 miles to the one-of-a-kind Enchantment Resort, which was designed to blend aesthetically with the desert environment. Stop at the remarkable property to stretch your legs and for more spectacular red rock vistas. If you're hungry, enjoy a superb meal at the resort's Che Ah Chi restaurant. And if time and your budget allow for it, get overnight red rock viewing privileges by booking yourself a room. The resort also has a world-class spa, Mii Amo, which was voted the #1 Domestic Destination Spa in 2019.