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As SR 89A gains in elevation, the oak trees and cottonwoods recede and tall pine trees take their place. Look for Slide Rock State Park at mile 6.7. Hoel’s Indian Shop, a little more than nine miles into your drive, will be on your left. The shop is located in the home of David and Carol Watters, and it’s a must-stop for anyone who loves Native American art. In 1945, Don and Nita Hoel moved to Oak Creek Canyon where they purchased a small group of tourist cabins. Don began purchasing jewelry, rugs, katsina dolls and baskets from the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni Native Americans who would come to the canyon to collect herbs. Don sold the goods out of a vault in the back of their home behind the grocery store. In the early 1970s, he and Nita built a new home up the road from the cabins and designed a specific room for Don Hoel’s Indian Shop. The shop remains in the same location today. David Watters is Don and Nita’s grandson. After you’ve had your fill of art, continue on your journey. Call O’ The Canyon, a recreation area and the beginning of the extremely popular West Fork Trail, is located on your left 10 miles up the canyon. If all this spectacular scenery has left you thirsty, pull to the left of the road at the 12-mile point where spring water at Sterling Spring flows from a pipe spout secured in a rock monument. Fill up your water bottles, and continue along SR 89A. When you cross Pumphouse Wash at mile 13, you’ll be driving up a series of sharp, steep switchbacks. If you’re in the right vehicle, this can be an especially fun section of road, but it’s also dangerous so please obey the speed limit. The scenic road ends a little more than 15 miles from the ‘Y at the Oak Creek Vista. Pull into the parking lot on your right, browse the Native American arts-and-crafts vendors, and enjoy several incredible lookouts that allow you to look down into Oak Creek Canyon. It’s a photo spot you won’t want to miss.
Distance from the ‘Y in Sedona (one way): 75 miles Attractions: views, dramatically different ecosystems, wildlife, historic mining town, oldest running saloon in Arizona
As anyone who has lived in Arizona for more than a few months can attest, some of the state’s most scenic roads aren’t paved. It’s hard for us to imagine living in Sedona and not owning a high-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicle; without one, you would miss the scenic, 25-mile dirt-road that winds its way from I-17 to the town of Crown King, population somewhere between 80 and 100.
From the ‘Y in Sedona, head south on State Route 179 and south on Interstate 17. About 50 miles into your journey, exit Bloody Basin Road/exit No. 259, and turn right toward Crown King and Cleator. Once you’re on the relatively compacted dirt road, desert chaparral, grazing cattle and boulder-studded hillsides surround you. When you come to the Antelope Creek Road junction, turn left. Shortly thereafter, you’ll enter the town of Cordes, established in 1883, with its population of 11. If you’re out on the weekend, we highly recommend stopping at the small antique store that also sells cold drinks and snacks. We once purchased a rare edition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from the shop. Depart Cordes and, when you come to a fork in the road 58 miles into your drive, turn right. As you climb in elevation, the scenery around you begins to change – saguaro cactuses begin cropping up and roadrunners scurry across the route. At the road’s junction with Yavapai 59, turn right and watch for the jagged outcroppings of black basalt. After driving for about 62 miles, you’ll enter the town of Cleator, which boasts one biker-friendly bar where we spied a local getting a haircut on the patio. The road climbs sharply as soon as it leaves Cleator. Be prepared to cross one-lane bridges, sandy spots and very narrow, steep sections of highway. You’ll drive through an area of forest that was burned during the 2008 Lane 2 fire that threatened to turn Crown King to ash. Just before you reach the tiny town, you’ll notice the cactuses have long since disappeared in your rearview mirror, and you are now in a cool forest of tall pine trees. Crown King, named after the defunct Crowned King Mine, sits at an elevation of 5,771 feet.