If you're looking to travel locally in the Southwest, consider Red Rock State Park in Arizona. Having spent several days in Flagstaff, AZ, during 2011, we dedicated a day to exploring that wonderful state park. We hiked and enjoyed the scenery and marked the park as one to which we'd love to come back. Here's a quick visitors guide that we've put together, based on our experiences and current research that we did just now, in 2020.
Where Is Red Rock State Park?
Red Rock State Park is located in north-central Arizona in the town of Sedona. The largest city near Red Rock State Park is Flagstaff, which is about an hour’s drive north.
FYI: There’s a similarly named Red Rock Canyon State Park in California. Please check out this post if you’re looking for info on this Golden State park.
How To Get To Red Rock State Park?
Flagstaff Pulliam (IATA: FLG) is the closest airport to Red Rock State Park. If you fly into FLG, then you’ll have to travel south on either AZ-89A or I-17 to reach the Sedona area. Typically, this ride takes about one hour without traffic.
Anyone driving to Red Rock State Park could enter this address into their GPS: 4050 Red Rock Loop Road Sedona, AZ 86336
How Far Is Red Rock State Park From Sedona?
Red Rock State Park is technically in the city of Sedona, so most people who visit this park stay in the city’s downtown. From central Sedona to Red Rock State Park’s entrance, it’s only about 20-minute drive south.
How Far Is Red Rock State Park From Phoenix?
People who are visiting Red Rock State Park from out-of-state will most likely touch-down in Arizona’s busiest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (IATA: PHX). Thankfully, it usually takes about 2 hours to drive from central Phoenix to Sedona.
The easiest way to drive from PHX to Red Rock State Park is to follow I-17 N until you reach Exit 287. From here, take AZ-260 W and turn onto AZ-98 A N/E.
By the way, if you’re planning on spending an extended vacation in the Grand Canyon State, you must check out TripMemos’s “AZ Bucket List” post.
What Is There To Do In Red Rock State Park?
Measuring over 280 acres, Red Rock State Park certainly has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels. Whether you’re into biking, hiking, or wildlife viewing, there are plenty of ways to take in the impressive sandstone scenery in this park.
Below, we’ll go over a few of the popular things to do when visiting Red Rock State Park.
Coyotes, Deer, And Javelina…Oh My!— Wildlife Viewing In Red Rock
As a protected natural preserve, Red Rock State Park is home to many magnificent wild creatures. No matter what trail you walk on, have your camera ready to snap some incredible nature pictures.
The most commonly reported sightings year-round include coyotes, Mule deer, and javelina (aka “skunk pigs”). It’s also not uncommon to see a few cute otters playing in Oak Creek, especially near the Kingfisher Bridge.
Birdwatchers will be happy to know that Red Rock State Park regularly offers guided tours with local bird experts. Usually, these tours take place early on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but be sure to double-check with park authorities for specific times.
While we’re on the subject of wildlife viewing, it’s worth mentioning that snakes, tarantulas, and lizards are relatively common in the summer season. There are also a few cougars in Red Rock State Park, but they rarely appear on hiking trails.
What Trails Are Open To Biking & Horseback Riding?
Visitors who love bicycling or horseback riding should know that Red Rock State Park only allows these activities on select trails. The most popular route is known as the Lime Kiln Trail, which measures about 15 miles between Red Rock State Park and Dead Horse Ranch Park. You shouldn’t have an issue finding this trail’s starting point by the park’s entrance.
Many of the other bike & equestrian-friendly trails begin at the park’s eastern gate. For instance, many bicyclists enjoy riding around the park on the roughly 6-mile Cathedral Bike Loop. Another path worth looking into on the park’s east gate is the 5.9-mile Turkey Creek Trail.
If you have more questions about where to bike or horseback ride in Red Rock State Park, please click this link.
Hiking In Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park has a well-connected network of trails, making it easy for tourists to plan their ideal hiking intensity and duration. Whatever path you choose, please remember to stay hydrated and wear plenty of sunscreen.
For a detailed look at the hiking options in Red Rock State Park, be sure to download this official map. Below, we’ll list a few exceptional Red Rock trails well-suited for hikers of different skill levels. When we were there we hiked the Kisva trail. The trail was lovely, relatively flat, and crossed a couple of streams and was perfect for kids aged 7 and 9. There was plenty of shade too, which made hiking in June nice and comfortable.
If you're looking for more challenging trails, the park has those as well. Here are two of the more popular ones -
Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail is one of Red Rock State Park’s most popular and challenging trails. Although it only measures a total length of about 1 mile, it has many incredibly steep sections. Yes, the views from the top of this famed sandstone are spectacular but please only attempt this hike with great caution.
To reach the Cathedral Rock Trailhead, travel up AZ-179 N and take a left onto Back O’ Beyond Road. There are two parking lots for this trail, but they tend to fill up early in the day.
If you’re searching for a less intense (but no less scenic) hike, then you should look into Red Rock State Park’s Eagle’s Nest Trail. Measuring about 1.5 miles, this moderately difficult trail is wide enough to accommodate families and has excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
There are a few ways to reach Eagle’s Nest from the Miller Visitor Center, but Black Hawk Crossing is an accessible route.
When’s The Best Time To Visit Red Rock State Park?
Tourism to Red Rock State Park usually peaks in the spring thanks to the beautiful wildflowers. Spring also boasts some of the best weather with daytime temps between 60° F – 80° F and low chances of precipitation. If you’re planning to visit during this time of year, then you should book your hotel room well in advance.
The second most popular time to visit Red Rock State Park is in the autumn. Like spring, temps usually average around 70° F, making this an ideal season for outdoor activities. There is, however, a higher risk of rainfall during the fall months.
Indeed, Arizona’s official monsoon season lasts between June and September. You should read through this safety information put together by the state’s DOT if you visit these months.
Also, if you plan to visit Red Rock State Park in the summer, you must prepare for intense heat conditions. Although Sedona doesn’t get as hot as cities in southern Arizona, daytime highs still average around 90° F.
Lastly, winter is the least popular time to visit Red Rock State Park. Although monsoon season is over, the lower daytime temps (30° F – 60° F) tend to turn off tourists. On the positive side, it’s easy to find affordable airfare and hotel rooms during this season.
What Time Does Red Rock State Park Open?
No matter what time of year you visit, Red Rock State Park should be open between 8 AM – 5 PM. There are, however, extended hours to accommodate the summer crowds.
From the beginning of June to the Sunday before Labor Day, you could visit Red Rock State Park between 8 AM – 6:30 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Just keep in mind, you cannot enter this park less than 30 minutes before the official closing.
Compared with the park as a whole, the Miller Visitor Center has slightly reduced hours. From June till the Sunday before Labor Day, you could enter the visitor center between 9 AM – 6 PM. Between Labor Day and the first weekend in May, however, the Miller Visitor Center is only opened between 9 AM – 4:30 PM.
Interestingly, Red Rock State Park is open on all holidays except Christmas Day. There are, however, reduced hours on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve (8 AM – 2 PM).
How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Red Rock State Park?
Anyone over 14 years old will have to pay $7 to enter Red Rock State Park. Children between the ages of 7 – 13 will need to pay $4 each, but younger kids are free.
How Much Time Do You Need At Red Rock State Park?
If you just want to experience the highlights of Red Rock State Park, most tourists recommend scheduling about 2 – 3 hours. Since tourism has become a significant industry in Sedona, however, you could easily spend a few days exploring the city’s many museums, shops, and restaurants.
Can You Bring Dogs To Red Rock State Park?
Dogs are not allowed anywhere in Red Rock State Park. Since the park is technically a nature preserve, environmentalists don’t want pets disturbing the natural ecosystem.
Is Cathedral Rock A Vortex?
In geology, a “vortex” refers to a special zone on the earth’s surface that gives off a lot of electromagnetic energy. So, it’s no surprise many people seek out these spots to get some “good vibrations!”
In Sedona, there are four vortices, the most famous of which is Cathedral Rock. If you stand in just the right spot, you might pick up some “mystical energy” from this famed vortex.
The most popular way to experience this vortex is to walk on the moderate Templeton Trail up to the Red Rock Crossing. Although this isn’t as powerful as climbing the Saddle Trail, it’s far easier for novice hikers.
Where To Stay Near Red Rock State Park
Thanks to its prime location near Red Rock State Park, Sedona has built itself into quite the resort town in recent years. There are dozens of hotels for all price-points dotted around this gorgeous city. Here are three of the highest-reviewed hotels to keep in mind if you’re researching Red Rock lodgings.
Sky Ranch Lodge
Just north of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the two-star Sky Ranch Lodge is an ideal hotel for families or couples looking for a reasonably priced room. A few special features at Sky Ranch Lodge include an outdoor swimming pool, a hot tub, and free parking.
GreenTree Inn Sedona
About six miles north of Red Rock State Park, GardenTree Inn Sedona is conveniently located near tons of restaurants on State Route 89A. Standout features at this hotel include free parking, an outdoor pool, and a daily breakfast buffet.
Arabella Hotel Sedona
Tourists who don’t mind paying a bit extra for a 3-star experience might be interested in Arabell Hotel Sedona’s offerings. Conveniently located just north of the Church of Red Rocks, this beautiful hotel offers guests two swimming pools, a dog-friendly park, and an exclusive “bike spa” where you could clean, repair, and pump your bicycle.
As always, if you know the park, or if you have any questions about it - just leave me a comment!