Take a scenic detour off Interstate 17 by exiting onto AZ 89A, toward Sedona.
Oak Creek Canyon
This gorgeous gash in the landscape has a spectacular feature: you can drive through it! The forested canyon floor ranges from a mile wide at the top end to 2.5 miles at the mouth, and up to 2,000 feet deep from the creek to the tops of the highest sheer red cliffs. A wonderful road built in 1929, it runs the entire 13-mile length of the canyon.
West Fork Trail
As you make your way south, keep a sharp eye out on your right for the Call of the Canyon picnic area. The parking lot is the trailhead for the beautiful West Fork Trail, a 6-mile round-trip that requires about three hours and is considered one of the finest day hikes in Arizona.
Slide Rock State Park
Three-and-a-half miles later, you’ll come to Slide Rock, a popular creek-side swimming hole with a natural water slide. Depending on the season, per-car admission ranges from $10-$30.
BETWEEN SEDONA AND PRESCOTT
Red Rock Crossing
On AZ 89A, just beyond the southern edge of Sedona, you’ll see signs for Red Rock State Park. Make a left onto Red Rock Loop Road; just off that beautiful road, you’ll find Red Rock Crossing. The Crescent Moon Picnic Area is a green and tranquil spot with several nice walking trails and a swimming hole called Red Rock Crossing. Your kids will have a ball splashing in Oak Creek while you enjoy the picture-postcard view of Courthouse Rock in the background.
Stick with AZ 89A, south through the town of Clarkdale, where you can check out Tuzigoot National Monument, an interesting pueblo ruin atop a hill just above the town. The pueblo was built by the Sinagua people, who thrived in this arid region for nearly 10 centuries. Tuzigoot, built in AD 1125, was a communal home, occupied by a clan of peaceful Sinagua farmers for close to 300 years.
Beyond Clarkdale, AZ 89A climbs a series of switchbacks to Jerome. This mostly abandoned mining town is perched high on the side of Mingus Mountain. In the early 1900s, as many as 15,000 people lived and worked in Jerome, once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West.”