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Schnebly Hill Rd. Huckaby Trail – Arlene Hochman Waller /

The Verde Valley defies Arizona’s reputation as an arid state. Streams such as Oak Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, Fossil Creek and West Clear Creek tumble from the high country and connect with the Verde River. These riparian corridors are sheltered beneath a canopy of cottonwood, willow, walnut and sycamore trees—slender forests surrounded by rolling grasslands that break apart against craggy hills.

Sedona anchors the northeastern edge of the valley in a setting of almost unimaginable beauty. The sudden verticality of the town snatches your breath. Everywhere you look pinnacles of red rocks rise from the valley floor in cloud-spearing thrusts creating one of the most distinctive skylines in the Southwest. The slow knife of erosion has endowed each sandstone formation with its own personality. Names run the gamut from the reverent to the fanciful—Cathedral Rock to Snoopy Rock—and each monolith changes hourly with shifting, scandalous light.

The drama doesn’t end with the setting sun. Lack of light pollution combined with low humidity creates a lavish celestial marquee, a paradise for stargazers that the town carefully protects. In 2014, Sedona was designated as the world’s eighth International Dark Sky Community.