Arizona, United States

Activities to Do

Go on a Scenic Drive

A scenic drive is a great way to appreciate the park's diversity, especially if you are visiting the area for the first time. Start with the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive, which runs north-south on SR 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. From Sedona, you’ll pass through a red-walled canyon, then navigate a series of steep switchbacks to Oak Creek Canyon Vista. Pull into the parking lot for jaw-dropping views of Coconino National Forest below.

Another not-to-miss drive is the Volcanoes and Ruins Loop Scenic Drive, which begins 12 miles north of Flagstaff on US 89. Watch for the Sunset Crater-Wupatki turnoff (Forest Road 545), and turn right into Sunset Crater National Monument. The road loops through the volcanic field where American astronauts once trained for the lunar landing, and continues to adjoining Wupatki National Monument; here, you’ll see the remains of Sinagua pueblos.

Explore the Park Via an Off Highway Vehicle

Off-roading lets you discover even more of Coconino National Forest. The area is crisscrossed with single-track and double-track roads for OHVs (off highway vehicles), ATVs, 4x4s, and dirt bikes. In the Flagstaff area, Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle Area has volcanic terrain to explore, while Sedona has 11 OHV routes through red rocks. If you don’t have an OHV, several companies conduct 4x4 tours of the forest, especially around Sedona.

Take to the Trails

Some of the state’s best hiking trails can be found in Coconino National Forest. In Sedona, the national forest website lists more than 90 trails, including Devil’s Bridge, Courthouse Butte Loop, Boynton Canyon Trail, and West Fork Trail. Flagstaff and the Mogollon Rim region have an impressive list of hikes, too. One favorite is Humphreys Trail No. 151, which leads to the highest point in Arizona.

Those who would rather pedal their way through the forest won’t be disappointed; many of Coconino National Forest’s hiking trails also accommodate mountain bikes.

Spend the Day on or by the Water

Anglers can fish at Oak Creek, the Verde River, West Clear Creek Wilderness, Ashurst Lake, Lake Mary, the C.C. Cragin (Blue Ridge) Reservoir, and other rivers and streams. Trout are common, but you can also hook catfish, pike, and similar fish. Rather spend the day on the water? You can launch a boat at Upper Lake Mary and C.C. Cragin Reservoir, or paddle through Marshall Lake.

Visit Lava River Cave

The Lava River Cave is an under-the-radar destination that takes you back in time 70,000 years, when a volcanic vent created a mile-long lava tube. You can hike inside, but bring several flashlights and wear warm clothes: The cave is a constant 42 degrees Fahrenheit, even in the summer.

Help Excavate an Archaeology Site

Elden Pueblo is an ancient Sinagua village like Wupatki, but located on the eastern edge of Flagstaff, just off Highway 89. You can tour the ruins on your own and help with its excavation on Public Archaeology Days. Check the forest’s Facebook page for announcements of the next opportunity to help dig.

Go Skiing

If you love winter sports, Arizona’s premier ski area is located in the Coconino National Forest. The Snowbowl, located northwest of Flagstaff, gets an average of 260 inches of snow annually and has downhill skiing and snowboarding. The area is also popular with Phoenicians who come to sled after a heavy snowfall. 

Places to Visit

Cathedral Rock Trail

At the end of the violent climb, a breathtaking view of the Sedona plain and the surrounding Red Rocks awaits you. Warning: it can be extremely windy here!

Boynton Subway Cave

The Subway Cave in Boynton Canyon is a very popular attraction.

You can take very nice photos and films here.

The ascent and descent in the fissure is a bit tricky. There is an easier climb to the left of the crevice and to the right of the cliff top Indian dwelling. However, to get into the Subway Cave afterwards, you have to walk around the ledge and be free from giddiness.

The Devil's Bridge

Get to know this 3.9-mile out-and-back trail near Sedona, Arizona. Generally considered a moderately challenging route. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are September through June. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Courthouse Rock

This bell-shaped rock got its name in the 1800's and has since been a must-see for all traveling through the Sedona area. It appears rounded from a distance, but closer views allow one to see the defined, steep walls of each of its "steps."

White Snake Rock

The sandstone rock encompassing most of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is layered in chronological order with the oldest sediments closest to the canyon floors and the youngest sediments sitting at the tops of the canyons walls, pinnacles, and hoodoos. The white seen here is very recently placed sediments; one can tell the comparative age of different rock layers by assuming the older layers are darker in color.