Baby Bell Rock (left center) and Courthouse Butte (right center).
WOW - what an exceptionally scenic ride! If you’re in the Sedona area with a bicycle, this is a must do, at least from the start at the Red Rock Scenic Byway to Sedona, where there is a nice bike lane along the way. The 14 miles north of Sedona to Oak Creek Viewpoint is along Highway 89A which has no shoulder and has moderate to heavy traffic.
We recommend doing this ride Sunday morning at dawn.
We started the ride (it really doesn’t become a true “climb” until the last three miles) south of Sedona and Village of Oak Creek, because the red rock formations of the area are quite visible for the first 10 miles to Sedana. Thus, despite the first 10 mile segment averaging a nearly flat .9%, it is well worth beginning this one at the earlier start point.
Courthouse Butte on the right.
Photo taken at mile 5.7 between Village of Oak Creek and Sedona.
A Bit on Sedona’s Unique Geology:
Every year thousands of people travel to this otherworldly location to take in the sights of Sedona’s unique “red rocks”. These monolithic sandstone formations almost appear to glow in their signature vibrant reddish-orange as the sun rises and sets upon them each day. Sedona’s one-of-a-kind red-orange rocks are formed by a layer of sandstone called the Schnebly Hill Formation, which is found only in Sedona and the surrounding vicinity. Of course, this landscape didn’t come to be over night. It was formed during the Permian Period, and actually took about 320 million years to become what we see today. As sea levels rose and fell during this geological time period, layers of mud would be washed in, and as the sea levels would subsequently recede, winds would bring in layers of sand. Over years of this phenomenon happening again and again, these sedimentary layers were transformed into the hard rock there today. The specific red color comes from a layer of iron oxide caused by the weathering of the minerals in the area. As the iron oxide weathered, the rock turned it’s signature red color. More on Sedona’s geologic composition can be found here and here.
We rode this beautiful route two years ago and are creating this summary from memory. The climb begins just north of the intersection of Interstate 17 and Highway 179, 11 miles south of Sedona. As we travel through Village of Oak Creek and Sedona we are in sight of gorgeous red rock formations.
Aerial view south midway between Village of Oak Creek and Sedona.
We travel through a canyon following Oak Creek for many miles and have many extremely scenic Arizona-style red rock formations along the way.
We travel through a tight canyon from Sedona to the finish.
At mile 25 we begin a set of four exceptional switchbacks that give us a fantastic view back down Sterling Canyon.
Aerial view back towards Sedona from hairpins.
We finish our climb at Oak Creek Viewpoint.
Pictured are stalls where artisans are selling Native American crafts and jewelry.
Suffice it to say that this is a beautiful ride, albeit along a moderately busy highway, through classic Arizona surroundings and scenery.