This Arizona Alternative To The Grand Canyon Is An Easy-To-Access Red Rock Paradise

Just 9 miles from the trendy city of Sedona lies the rose-tinted terrain of a local Arizona gem. Sandstone canyons, crumbling pillars, and indigenous desert flora create a captivating landscape that's a picturesque dupe to this state's iconic Grand Canyon. Nestled on the sandstone dunes of Arizona's central high desert, Red Rock State Park is home to 286 acres of striking, scenic rock formations. While the unparalleled beauty and fascinating terrain of Arizona's Grand Canyon is the most sought-after sight in this state, Red Rock State Park offers a breathtaking crowd-free alternative to the photographers and hikers that frequent the popular preserve.

Red Rock State Park is an underrated Arizona state park that is often ranked as one of the best state parks in the country. The stunning canvas of red-rubbed rocks shouldn't be confused with Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, located just outside the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. A mecca for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and off-roading excursions, Red Rock State Park puts the best of Arizona's most sacred wilderness sanctuary on display. Five miles of trails take you through juniper woodlands, the riparian corridor, and the fast-flowing Oak Creek. Day-trippers to this serene state park can also check out the artistic Tlaquepaque Art & Shopping Village, located right outside of Sedona. Whether you're planning to criss-cross Arizona's favorite state park on a week-long endeavor or just planning a visit for the day, Red Rock State Park combines the best of this state into one cohesive canvas.

Trail the desert dunes at Red Rock State Park

The trails that snake through Red Rock State Park consist of more than just pretty views and sprawling desert dunes — they're rich in Sedona's southwestern history that stretches back hundreds of years. The park consists of several scenic out-and-back and loop trails that traverse its stunning grounds.

Lime Kiln Trail is a 15-mile stretch of trail open to hikers and equestrians wanting to travelerblog the high desert on horseback, cowboy-style. The red, rocky plains surrounding this trail connect Red Rock State Park to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in the west. This out-and-back trail touches the edge of Verde Valley Botanical Area, a protected nature reserve dedicated to preserving the desert's endangered Arizona cliffrose. The historic Lime Kiln Trail was originally built as an old wagon route to transport goods and materials from Cottonwood to Sedona in the late 1890s to early 1900s.

The Apache Fire Trail is less than a mile in length, but chock-full of local history. Trailing past the rocky outcroppings and red flats, this trail leads to the iconic adobe hut owned by couple Helen and Jack Frye who occupied the property in the mid-1900s. Known today as the House of Apache Fire, its pueblo-style structure is a historical reminder of the Frye's laid-back southwestern lifestyle they created on this 700-acre plot of land. The state declared the home a protected site in the 1980s in an effort to preserve it as a historical monument. 

Traverse Red Rock State Park on wheels

Hiking isn't the only way to take in the breathtaking views that characterize Arizona's redrock landscape. Grab your car keys and take a detour along Red Rock Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 179, the first established All-American road in Arizona. The byway is often referred to as a "museum without walls." This mesmerizing voyage was named the most distracting drive in the United States (per Yahoo), given the endless views of stunning rock formations that parallel the two-way highway. The byway wraps around the interior of Red Rock State Park and intersects with Highway 89, making it one of the most scenic road trips in this desert state. The Village of Oak Creek is another roadside stop that's worth pulling over for an iced coffee from Firecreek Coffee. It's also a central hub for off-roading tours and wellness lodges. 

Short, sweet, and well-worth the extra miles, Red Rock Loop Road drifts past some of Arizona's most picturesque scenery, with panoramic views of Cathedral Rock, Lover's Knoll, and Secret Slick Rock. After you've gotten your steps in for the day, consider exploring these desert dunes inside a swanky pink jeep on an off-roading tour at Pink Adventure Tours. These guided tours traverse the terrain, passing iconic landmarks, like Mogollon Rim and the Broken Arrow Trail — a filming spot for Hollywood's 1950 film, "Broken Arrow."