If you have been taking the newsletter for a while, you have probably figured out by my extra curricular activities of bungee jumping, parasailing, skydiving and motorized hang gliding that I have an adventurous side. So with that in mind, you probably won't be surprised by the ride that I took last week. For the last 25 years I have been going up North to Flagstaff on I-17 and have seen an exit for Schnebly Hill Rd. Even though I had at one time or another taken every other exit off of I-17, this one remained somewhat of a mystery road for me. Not sure why! The name Schnebly really doesn't have an alluring appeal. It doesn't conjure up any great visions of grandeur. The exit off of the interstate doesn't offer any special visual significance. I really hadn't ever heard any stories about the road other than it was a dirt road through the forest. But yet, for some reason, this road has been tantalizing to me for a long time. It must have been the "Schnebly Vortex" in Sedona that was reeling me in.
To really absorb the history of this road, I did some research and found that Schnebly Hill Rd. was built in 1902 following an old cattle trail blazed by Jim Mund. The Coconino Board of Supervisors awarded a $600 contract to improve the road. Laborers worked 12 hours per day at a rate of $1 per day to carve a better passage through the mountain. The new route reduced the travel time from Sedona to Flagstaff from four days to two. Carl Schnebly, who arrived at Oak Creek in 1900, first used the road to transport lumber from Flagstaff to build a two-story, 11-room home, now the site of the world-renowned Los Abrigados resort.
Once his home was completed, Schnebly then used the road to transport wagonloads of produce north to Flagstaff and supplies south to his small general store. He also petitioned for a post office, which he proposed to call either "Oak Creek Crossing" or "Schnebly Station," those names rejected because they were too long to fit on a cancellation stamp. So Schnebly named the new postal site after his wife, Sedona, who became the namesake for the town. I had never heard that! Travelers coming down off the mountain on their way to the Verde Valley would often stop at the Schnebly home, which Sedona converted into an inn. Before long, people associated the road with the Schnebly family, and the route soon became known as Schnebly Hill Rd.
Now that the history had been viewed and feeling more intimate with this route, I watched the weather reports for the week and set aside last Wednesday as the day to finally experience the road that had been calling me for the last 25 years. To really make a day of it I decided to do Schnebly Hill Rd. that would drop me into Sedona, take 89A up through Oak Creek Canyon to see the leaves changing, through Flagstaff an up to Snowbowl in the San Francisco Peaks to see the golden Aspens. Becoming pretty excited about my prospective ride, Tuesday night I gassed up the Road Glide, input my 330 mile route in the GPS, packed some layers of clothes and was headed North by 7:30am Wednesday morning.
First stop was Rock Springs for a quick breakfast before the next 76 miles on I-17 and a climb of 4500 feet to reach Schnebly Hill Rd. at exit 320. Once I reached the exit and went West under the Interstate to reach the start of my 12 mile sans asphalt adventure ride to Sedona, I was greeted with this sign. Hmmm...I was neither a truck nor an off-road vehicle. I quickly looked at the sign, decided it was more a suggestion than a rule, and kept on going. As you have probably figured out by now, after over 100 years, this is still a dirt road and probably closely resembles the cow path of the late 1800's. The first 4 miles of the trek takes you through tall pines and a marshy meadow on a hard packed red dirt road before dropping into high desert and your first view of the Red Rocks of Sedona. Another mile down the road through a switchback you will see the Valley of Sedona in the distance from Schnebly Hill Vista where you can stop for some great photo opportunities.
From here you will slowly work your way down and around the mountain by zig zagging through a series of switchbacks while meandering through a plethora of brilliant red rocks that will awaken your senses and have you awaiting the next turn that will uncover yet another incredible view of this beautiful landscape. There is a place that you can stop to take a short hike over the top of a red rock for another view of the valley below. You will then work your way slowly down through the canyon where you will finally see asphalt again before a couple mile ride that will drop you out on Hwy. 179 at Tlaquepaque.
Schnebly Hill Rd. is 12 miles long from I-17 to Hwy. 179 of which about 10 miles is hard packed dirt, gravel and large embedded rock. The last 2 miles to 179 is asphalt. It is very rough and you will not want to travel at any more than 10-20 mph due to the narrow road and changing conditions. One thing nice about having the GPS is that I always knew how much farther I had to go on this road. I only passed one car, but there was an endless string of Pink Jeeps and Hummers coming out of Sedona filled with tourists. I always wondered where these Jeeps were going. Now I know. At one stop a Lady tourist even asked if she could take my picture on the bike. I don't know if she liked the bike or wanted to show her friends back home that some idiot was out there ON one.
I will stress that this is a rough road. It will take you about an hour and a half to make the trip including a couple of stops. Take your time, it is beautiful! If you are a beginner rider I wouldn't recommend doing this ride. However, if you are an experienced rider, you shouldn't have any problems at all, your bike should not be damaged from the road (mine wasn't, at 15mph not much can happen) and you will thoroughly enjoy this 12 miles of landscape bliss where you will see parts of Sedona and views of Red Rocks that you cannot see from any other vantage point. I have supplied plenty of pictures of the road so that you can make your own decision based upon what you see.
This little 12 miles of road is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable rides I have taken in this State. It is off the beaten path and a little rough, but the payoff of the excitement and beauty makes it all worthwhile. It was well worth the 25 year wait to experience this road. I give the Schnebly Hill Rd. ride a resounding 5 out of 5 spokes. I recommend only doing this road from the direction of I-17 to Sedona. It is much easier to ride it downhill.
In downtown Sedona I stopped at the new Sedona Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson for a T-Shirt. If you haven't been here yet, they have some great new shirts with Sedona, AZ on them. The shop is on the second floor of the Sinauga Plaza building at 320 N. Hwy. 89A, the far North end of Main St. next to the Best Western. Look for the HD Flags flying on the second floor. Stop by and say hi! It is a really nice new store.
Next on my agenda was the 25 mile ride up 89A through Oak Creek Canyon where I stopped at Junipine Resort for lunch and then on to Flagstaff. Right now is the perfect time to ride through the Canyon to see the changing colors of the leaves in this area and grab a photo op near the creek. This is always a great ride. From Flagstaff I decided to go on up to Snowbowl to see the golden leaves on the Aspens. They are beautiful right now. It is a 6 mile ride to the Ski Lodge and you will start seeing the Aspens at about 8,000 feet. If you are in the area it is worth the trip.
I have posted 150 great photos from this 330 mile ride. There should still be plenty of time this year to make this trip. Just check the weather before you go.
Click Here for the Photos.
Click Here for the Video.
Click Here for the Map.
If you would like a handy GPS like I use. Click Here for details and to order.
Directions From I-17 and Loop 101 in Phoenix:
Take I-17 North 105 Miles to Exit 320 Schnebly Hill Rd.
Go West on Schnebly Hill Rd. 12 Miles to Sedona.
To Return to Phoenix:
Scenic Route - Take Hwy. 89A North out of Sedona 25 Miles to I-17
Take I-17 South 116 Miles to Loop 101.
Fastest Route - Take Hwy. 179 South 15 Miles to I-17
Take I-17 South 85 Miles to Loop 101