Schnebly Hill Road is one of the best places for dispersed camping near Sedona.
Also known as Forest Road 131, it cuts through Coconino National Forest and offers dozens upon dozens of great dispersed campsites for RVs, trailers, vans, tents, and more.
Today, I’m going to share my personal experience with camping on Schnebly Hill Road – and why I think you should check it out next time you’re in the area!
Please always follow the Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.
Related Post: The Best Free Campsites Near Sedona
Schnebly Hill Road is located in Coconino National Forest.
It starts just west of I-17 off of Exit 320 just south of Munds Park. Although the road continues all the way into Sedona, it’s important to know that camping is only allowed for the first six miles west of I-17, until just before the Schnebly Hill Vista Observation Site.
Not only is camping not allowed closer to Sedona, but the six miles of road closest to Sedona (west of the observation site) is extremely rough – it’s a jeep road where high-clearance is required and 4WD is strongly recommended.
The vast majority of campers should arrive from the east via I-17 and not travel any farther than the vista overlook. RVs and trailers should stick to the first mile or two of road closest to I-17.
The first four or five miles are quite forested with plenty of shade. After this, the road opens up and the last several campsites are quite exposed before you reach the overlook. Despite the shade trees, solar charging is still possible in most of the forested campsites.
Related Post: The Best Free Dispersed Camping in Arizona
The western half of Schnebly Hill Road from the overlook to Sedona is a rough, rocky, and narrow jeep trail suitable only for vehicles with high-clearance and 4WD.
Important Info About Schnebly Hill Road
Google Maps and other map apps will usually give you directions for the shortest route by pointing you east out of Sedona onto Schnebly Hill Road.
Unless you have high-clearance, 4WD, and experience driving on jeep trails, you must instead take the long way around to Exit 320 on I-17 to access these Schnebly Hill Road campsites.
|Max Length Stay: 14 Days
|Reservations: First-Come, First-Served
|Season: Early Spring to Late Fall
|Elevation: About 6,500 Feet
|RVs: All Sizes for 1st Mile
|Cell Signal: 3 to 4 Bars of 4G, Spotty 5G for Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile
|Noise: Moderate, Mostly from OHV and Jeep Traffic
|Safety: Feels Very Safe, Lots of Other Campers
|Wildlife: Possible Black Bear & Rattlesnakes
|Best For: RVs & Trailers for 1st Mile, Tents & Vans Farther In, Large Groups, Overlanding & 4X4ing
|Not Good For: Quick Day Trips to Sedona
Schnebly Hill Road is part of Coconino National Forest.
Call the Red Rock Ranger District for more info: (928) 203-7500
Official Map: South Coconino National Forest MVUM
My Experience Dispersed Camping on Schnebly Hill Road
Schnebly Hill Road is roughly 12 miles long in total.
Camping is only allowed for the first six miles west of I-17. Access these campsites from Exit 320 off of I-17 rather than attempting the drive straight from Sedona.
The first mile or two west of I-17 is a well-graded and smooth dirt and gravel mix. The campsites along this first stretch are the flattest and most spacious you’ll find.
This initial one or two mile stretch is best for RVs and trailers. The biggest rigs should try to find a campsite as soon as possible after turning off I-17 but medium-sized trailers and RVs can continue in for a few miles to get away from the highway noise.
After mile two or three, the road narrows and gets somewhat rougher. Smaller RVs and trailers can probably continue a little farther, but this area really is best for tents, vans, and passenger vehicles.
At roughly mile five, things get significantly rougher. Not only should you expect more potholes and moderate washboarding, but the road here is also much rockier with many large rocks on the road. The “driveways” into campsites after mile four or five are also much rougher.
Although I’ve seen normal passenger vehicles, including Subarus and even sedans, make it past this point, I only recommend those with high-clearance drive all the way to the overlook. 4WD isn’t really necessary if the road isn’t wet.
Just before the overlook is a sign that restricts dispersed camping any farther past it. Right before this sign, on both the left and right sides of the road are several campsites with awesome red rock views.
However, these campsites are quite exposed with minimal shade from the summer sun or protection from rain or wind.
I personally prefer camping a mile or two back in the woods and driving to the viewpoint for sunrise or sunset rather than camping in these exposed campsites.
Not only is it much cooler and more protected at the campsites back in the woods, but they’re also much larger and more level with room for several vehicles to camp together.
Despite the proximity to Sedona (and great views looking down onto the town), Schnebly Hill Road isn’t the best place to camp for actually visiting Sedona on day trips since you have to take I-17 the long way around.
That said, Flagstaff is just a half hour north of Schnebly Hill Road and Munds Park is just a few minutes away to stock up on supplies.
Related Post: Dispersed Camping in National Forests 101
Fire restrictions are common here, especially early summer through mid fall. Please follow all current fire restrictions.
Pros and Cons of Dispersed Camping Here
After a handful of visits myself, here are my personal pros and cons of dispersed camping along Schnebly Hill Road.
What I Like:
- Overlook – If at all possible, you just have to drive, ride, or walk to the Schnebly Hill Overlook to take in some of the best red rock views in all of Sedona.
- Lots of Campsites – There are dozens upon dozens, possibly even hundreds, of campsites along Schnebly Hill Road and its many spur roads.
- Close to Flagstaff – Flagstaff is just twenty minutes to forty-five minutes away, depending on where you set up camp.
- Somewhat Cooler – Although it doesn’t stay as cool as the Mogollon Rim near Payson or near Flagstaff, the campsites here (especially those in the forest) stay significantly cooler than those near Sedona and much of surrounding Arizona.
- RV Friendly – This is the perfect place for boondocking in RVs and trailers of all sizes, especially if you stick to the first mile of road after turning off I-17.
What I Don’t Like:
- OHV Traffic – Expect lots of daytime OHV and jeep traffic up and down Schnebly Hill Road, especially on summer weekends. Both noise and dust are issues.
- Can Be Busy – As one of the best spots for boondocking near Sedona, the first few miles of Schnebly Hill Road get very busy during the peak season. Luckily, the crowds thin out somewhat the father in towards the lookout you drive.
- Lots of Trash – Like many of the most popular dispersed camping areas, left-behind trash (as well as improperly disposed of human waste) is a major problem here. Please pack out all of your trash, including human waste!
Black bears are sometimes seen near Sedona. Please follow bear safety best practices and properly store your food (ideally in a hard-sided vehicle).
How to Get to Schnebly Hill Road
You can’t miss Schnebly Hill Road.
Unless you have high-clearance and 4WD (and, probably, even then), it’s best to arrive via Interstate 17.
Take Exit 320 and head west onto Schnebly Hill Road (Forest Road 153). There’s almost no possible way to get lost here and the forest roads are well marked.
Drive straight past the turn-off for the Arizona Department of Transportation maintenance yard and you’ll start to see large, level campsites perfect for RVs and trailers almost immediately.
The paved road turns to well-packed and regularly-maintained dirt and gravel here. As I’ve mentioned several times already, RVs and trailers should look for a campsite along the first mile or two of road while normal passenger vehicles can continue farther down.
The vista point is approximately six miles farther down the road. Dispersed camping is allowed until just before the overlook.
The pin on the map above is roughly where the road exits the thick forest and descends slightly towards the lookout point. The campsites west of this pin have the best views but are smaller and much more exposed with rougher access.
Other Free Campsites Nearby
Dispersed camping is also available along Forest Road 226 east of I-17.
Instead of turning west when you take Exit 320, turn east. You’ll see campsites almost immediately, but my favorites are about a mile in. These are suitable for small to medium RVs and trailers as well as passenger vehicles.
However, these are far from the only places for dispersed camping in the area. Coconino National Forest is a treasure trove of free campsites, so do a little research and exploration of your own and you’re sure to find something really special.
Want More Info?
For the most current information possible, call Coconino National Forest’s Red Rock Ranger District: (928) 203-7500
If you still have questions about dispersed camping on Schnebly Hill Road (or anywhere near Sedona and Flagstaff), please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Related Post: The Best Free Campsites Near Flagstaff