Oak Creek Canyon--Encinoso Picnic Area

Tips for Birding

Here, AZ-89A provides access to a unique section of the Mogollon Rim. The vegetation in this cold-air drainage resembles that found on the San Francisco Peaks, but Oak Creek technically runs below the Mogollon Rim. This geography provides for an amazing diversity of bird species, from higher elevation species like Band-tailed Pigeons and Grace’s Warblers, to lower elevation species like Common Black-Hawk and Black-chinned Sparrow, with a few specialties of its own – Magnificent Hummingbird, Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart, Winter Wren, and American Dipper can all be found here. All that and spectacular scenery on top of it! 

About this Location

Few places offer a more scenic setting for a picnic than Oak Creek Canyon. Home of a bubbling brook that flows through a lush green oasis framed by towering red rock cliffs and buttes, this canyonscape is known around the world for its unmatched beauty.

Encinoso is an easily accessible picnic area that will enable you to enjoy a snack or a banquet surrounded by this magnificent scenery. There are hiking trails and the shimmering clear water pools of Oak Creek nearby. If you’ve an appetite for beauty, here’s a place to indulge it. Wander a couple miles up the steep North Wilson Mountain Trail to the first bench for rewarding views over Sedona.

About Oak Creek Canyon

See all hotspots at Oak Creek Canyon

Get your camera ready for this one, and don’t forget your swimsuit, hiking shoes, and fishing pole. Just south of Flagstaff, AZ-89A descends a breathtaking series of switchbacks into a scenic, smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon. Known for colorful rocks and unique formations, Oak Creek Canyon is famous the world around for its spectacular scenery.

Before you drive into the canyon you’ll want to stop at Oak Creek Canyon Vista. Here you can get a bird’s eye view of what awaits you down the road and, at the same time, shop for Native American jewelry and other craft items from the local Native American artists who set up displays along the pathways.

Once you’ve snaked your way down the switchbacks, US-89A winds a lazy course down the length of Oak Creek Canyon. It’s actually possible to enjoy the scenery here without leaving your car, but most people choose to get to know these crimson cliffs and crystal pools on a more personal basis. For that purpose, there are plenty of overlooks, picnic areas, swimming holes, and hiking trails all along the drive. At Midgely Bridge, there’s a vista point with an especially unforgettable backdrop where you’ll want to stop and use that wide-angle lens.

As you leave Oak Creek Canyon and continue past Sedona through Red Rock Country, an observer with a sharp eye will recognize familiar shapes among the natural sculptures that form the horizon. Keep an eye out for Steam Boat Rock, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, and more.

You can continue down this scenic route to I-17 and then back to Flagstaff, or you may want to turn around and do it all over again. Another way to complete the loop is to return to I-17 via Schnebly Hill Road rather than AZ-179. The vistas along this rocky but rewarding forest backroad are as good, if not better than any along the rest of the drive.

Attractions: Picnicking, Waterplay, Hiking, Fishing, Wildlife Watching, Photography

Road Condition: All roads are paved and plowed but can become slippery after a winter storm.

Driving Time: 2.5 hours or all day.

Notable Trails

The US Forest Service website has a description and map of the Wilson Mountain Trail in Oak Creek Canyon. 

Content from Official Website, Oak Creek Canyon webpage, and Northern Arizona Audubon Society