Lockett Meadow And Schnebly Hill Road
Countless Arizona Sites Are On My 'Bucket List'
December 1, 2016
I'm an Arizona native, yet there are still countless sites in Arizona that are on my bucket list. My dad took me hunting and camping hundreds of times, and I've seen some gorgeous places – places that aren't on the typical tourist list of places to see.
For instance, on a deer hunt off Dugas Road, I was walking along a small wash when it turned a corner and opened up into a little canyon. There was small stream, maybe a spring, that flowed just a short way before going underground.
I'll Never Forget
A big owl was in a tree by the water. The black rocks, yellow grasses, green tree, brilliant blue sky, and that little bit of water all came together to make that spot one of the most memorable places I've ever been to. I don't even know what it's called, but I'll never forget how it looks.
Arizona is full of small beautiful places like that, but it also has many grand and amazing views like the red rocks of Sedona and the brilliant yellow aspens of Lockett Meadow. I'm telling you about these places now so that you can mark your calendar and make plans to see the meadow next fall.
The red rocks can be visited almost any time of year, but one of the best places to view them is from Schnebly Hill Road. This is a road that would be impassable in winter.
Schnebly Hill Road
My dad and I hunted off Schnebly Hill Road several times when I was young, but I had never seen the part that descends into Sedona until John and I decided to make the trip last month. We had just gone up to Flagstaff to see our granddaughter at NAU, and neither of us had ever done the entire Schnebly Hill Road drive.
The weather was iffy – light sprinkles and very overcast. We chose to drive west on the road – from I-17 to Sedona. I'm really glad we did, because we were headed into the views instead of having them in our rear view mirror.
Named After Carl Schnebly
The road is named after Carl Schnebly, who used it to transport goods to and from Flagstaff. He also petitioned for a post office, but the names he proposed were too long to fit on a cancellation stamp, so he named it Sedona after his wife.
This road is rough. If you start from I-17, the first few miles are simply very well maintained gravel and the road goes through pine forest. There are several cool places you might want to stop – some old water tanks, and an old dam that has been breached and now just backs up a meadow.
Pretty soon, though, you'll reach a point where you can begin to see some of the famous red rock formations around Sedona. This is where the road begins to roughen up, and before long you will be winding down a steep canyon. The views are absolutely incredible, which makes the drive worthwhile.
A 4WD Recommended
A 4WD is highly recommended, and don't even try it without, at the very least, a high-clearance vehicle. There are rocks and ruts and drop-offs that will tear off the bottom of a regular car. We took the road in a 4WD pickup truck, and most of the other vehicles we saw were quads and Jeeps. No cars.
If you don't have a 4WD vehicle, you can find Jeep tours out of Sedona online. We saw several of those, but they were all coming up out of Sedona and we were going down.
There are several places where you can pull off and take photos, and seriously, the views will blow you away. Photos don't do them justice – it will be a drive that you will never forget. It took us two hours (it's about 12 miles total, one way), and that's with stopping several times to take photos and enjoy the view.
I wouldn't try the road if it was snowing, and in fact there are several gates on the road that I'm sure they close in winter.
There are several trails that cross the road several times, and just judging by the terrain, I'd venture to say that those trails must be steep and strenuous. A Red Rock Pass (or America The Beautiful Interagency Pass, Golden Age or Golden Access) is required when leaving your vehicle unattended while you're on National Forest land around Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.
The Red Rock Pass is $5 and you can get them almost anywhere in Sedona. You can find out more about that online at the National Forest website. They also have a map that shows you where the pass is needed. Just Google "red rock pass". The road is just south of Munds Park on I-17.
We took the granddaughters to Lockett Meadow years ago, but that was in the summer. Even in summer, the meadow is a pretty place, with its little pond, forest, and a nice hiking trail.
The Fall Is Gorgeous
But in the fall! The trees of Lockett Meadow put on quite a show in the autumn – the bright yellow of the aspens against the dark green of the pines is stunning. We even saw a few orange and reddish trees, but for the most part, yellow is king. It is absolutely beautiful. We went in October specifically to see the fall colors and we weren't disappointed.
We took a lot of photos, did a little hiking, and had lunch standing up by the car near the little water hole. It was very busy. In fact, it was difficult to find a place to park so that we could hike the trail. The trail itself was also very busy, to the point of almost never having other people out of sight and hearing. Consequently, we didn't see any wildlife.
When we were here years ago, the trail was an old road. The new route does eventually meet up and follow the old road again, and the trail climbs steadily until you are in the Inner Basin – inside the old volcano. Pretty cool.
In The Summer
In summer there are wildflowers, birds, and not as many people, but those trees make it all worthwhile. The road up the mountain to Lockett Meadow is steep, narrow, and rough. I recommend a 4WD or at least a high clearance. There were a few cars on the road, and the large number of vehicles made the drive even harder – since it is so narrow, there are places where it is very difficult to pass another car coming the opposite way.
Off-road etiquette says that the vehicle facing downhill must back up and give way to the vehicle facing uphill, but not everyone knows this, and there were a lot of very scared drivers on that road the day we were there. So take your time and be kind, and don't even think about taking an RV or a trailer up there.
Campground First-Come, First-Served
There is a campground at Lockett Meadow with 17 single unit sites, fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilet. Bring your own drinking water. They don't take reservations, so first-come, first-served.
To get to Lockett Meadow, take Highway 89 northeast from Flagstaff for about 12.5 miles and turn left on Forest Road 552, right across from the Sunset Crater National Monument turnoff. Take this FR552 for about a mile, then follow the Locket Meadow sign. The road is closed late fall to early spring for snow.