Sometimes trip ideas come to you in the blink of an eye. One minute you are sitting at your computer wishing you were outside and an hour later you’re in a car driving through a stunning red rock canyon.
Nothing says summer like blowing off responsibilities and heading outdoors for some fun in the sun. I was hard at work yesterday when my daughter asked if we could go to swimming. Like Tom Sawyer ditching piano lessons to go to go for a dip with Huck, I decided that a morning of swimming holes and natural water slides in Sedona, Arizona would be just the ticket for both of us – and luckily we didn’t have an Aunt Polly to answer to after visiting this week’s #WhereToGoWednesday destination.
Sedona, about two hours north of Phoenix and 45 minutes south of Flagstaff, is justifiably famous for the magnificent red buttes that ring the town. The year-round mild climate and surreal, cosmically-imbued formations attract travelers to Sedona like the healing magnets found in the town’s many New Age stores. Less well known are the waters that run through the area which have played their part in carving the majestic slabs. Oak Creek, slicing its way south from the Colorado Plateau near Flagstaff, has sculpted many world-class swimming holes in this spectacular natural setting. Here are some of our favorites:
Slide Rock State Park
Named by Life Magazine as one of America’s ten most beautiful swimming holes, Slide Rock is the gold (or should I say “red”?) standard for fun in the creek. Located on an old farmstead and apple orchard along the creek, the park offers natural water slides, picnic areas, and cliff jumping. Extremely popular in the summer, the park’s parking lot limits how many people are allowed in the water. As soon as it fills up, no more visitors are let in until somebody leaves. My daughter and I hustle down the canyon and make it just in time, as the lot closed three cars after us. Whew.
We walk through the orchard to get down to the water’s edge. Stunning red rocks, worn smooth by the flow of water, have created natural water slides. Although the air is warm, the water is bracing, making for a refreshing contrast. We start on the lower, tamer set of slides and then work our way up to the larger and faster shoots. S is now old enough to also enjoy hurling herself off the 20-foot ledges down into the water – something that I love to do but that scares me when she does it.
If the parking lot at Slide Rock was full, our next option would’ve been Grasshopper Point. This swimming hole is not as well known as Slide Rock, but also offers deep emerald pools in an area shaded by sycamores against the red cliffs. The most popular point is the main pool just down from the parking lot where cliffs of various sizes make for natural jumping platforms. The beauty of Grasshopper Point is that those who seek privacy can find it — you just keep rock-hopping downstream until you find a secluded spot.
Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon Picnic Site
After visiting Slide Rock or Grasshopper Point you might not believe the scenery can get any better, but it does. Red Rock Crossing, located at the foot of Cathedral Rock, is one of the most stunning spots in Sedona–which is saying a lot! The waters of Oak Creek are shallower here, providing a perfect place to lie back in the water and take in the mind-altering views. If you don’t feel the power of Sedona’s famous vortex energy here, then you aren’t going to feel it anywhere.
We stay at Slide Rock for a couple of hours. Whenever we get too chilled by the water, we drag ourselves out and lie like lizards on the sun-warmed stones. Looking up at the orange cliffs, dotted with deep green pines against a brilliant blue sky, I know that playing hooky is exactly the right call. If you want to find your own Tom Sawyer-esque getaway, hop on TripTuner and see what the sliders suggest. Just #tuneit!