- 6871 AZ-89A, Oak Creek Canyon, AZ 85336
- 9433775 N, 111.752916 W
Where is Slide Rock State Park?
Slide Rock US State Park sits in the northern central region of Arizona along Route 89A. Its home in Oak Creek Canyon is 21 miles south of Flagstaff and 7 miles north of Sedona, in Coconino County. A former artists’ colony, the Sedona area is also popular with tourists for the breathtaking beauty of its immense red rocks, that are interspersed among hills and cacti. You’ll have no trouble finding things to do outside the park here, but you probably won’t want to leave nature’s own waterpark at Slide Rock.
How Big is Slide Rock State Park?
As the property was originally owned by the Pendley family, who ran an apple farm, the park is a 43-acre former apple orchard that still grows apples. You can still visit the orchard area and an historic stone cabin on the grounds. Slide Rock State Park also contains three short trails, and its highest elevation is 4,930 feet. Descend from the highest parts all the way to the lowest part, the creek.
Slide Rock State Park Weather
The weather at Slide Rock is on average, much warmer than most of the country. Summer temperatures are at minimum in the 70s, and it is very common to have days over 100 degrees in July and August. Though the relatively low humidity helps many tolerate the extreme temperatures, this only goes so far. Arizona experiences such extreme heat, (over 120 degrees at times) that the airports have been shut down. So, be prepared for heat waves that may force a change of plans, and bring lots of water with you! Surprisingly, the high tops of the Slide Rock’s red bluffs are often iced with snow during winter, which averages 25 inches of the white stuff here. It frequently dips below 32 degrees in the coldest parts of winter, and the blue skies, red rocks, and white “frosting” make for a stunning photo. In March, when the rain subsides (February and March can see over 2 inches of rain each), the park blooms in bright flowers and new buds. Fall is warm and many consider it the best time to visit, although this park is open every day of the year except for Christmas.
When did Slide Rock Become a State Park?
Slide Rock became a state park on July 10, 1985. But it’s been a recreational and scenic area almost since it became the Pendley Homestead in 1912. It didn’t take the owners long to build some cabins on the property for tourists seeking recreation in the area. Hollywood recognized the unique beauty of Oak Creek Canyon early on, too. Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Donna Reed have all filmed here.
Things to do in Slide Rock State Park
Though the main draw of this state park is definitely the fun waterslide, there are other activities to pursue here as well, like hiking and fishing. Our State Park Visitors Guide outlines below this park’s best attractions.
The Natural Waterslide
The 80-foot-long waterslide that is formed by Oak Creek as it descends the canyon is between 2.5 and 4 feet wide and has a 7 percent decline. It is of course, extremely busy on the hottest days, with kids jumping in from the perches above and giggling uncontrollably all the way to the bottom.
Oak Creek Canyon
The canyon surrounding the creek is a great place to hike and take in nature, either on the trail to the creek or nearby. Even hikers with little experience can enjoy the walk with a pair of reasonably good shoes, and you may see some wildlife or a pretty vista to photograph.
Check out the Flora
While Slide Rock State Park is unique for its javelinas and uncommon bird species, check out the flora here as well. Don’t miss the junipers, Arizona sycamores, and blackberries. What other park features both an apple orchard and banana yuccas?
Swimming and Wading
If you don’t want to shoot down the slide rapidly, it is fine to wade or swim. There are many areas for this in the half-mile section of Oak Creek open to bathers.
Wildlife Video Cameras
Video cameras are strategically placed in the park to record the cool animals living in it. All animals here survive on their own, with the help of their camouflage and other natural means. If you don’t see the javelina, Coues white-tailed deer, grey fox, bobcats, or black bear when you’re at the park, watch the videos online. The park’s animals are never camera shy when filmed covertly.
The bird population at Slide Rock State Park is exceptionally diverse, with more than 140 species, from tanagers to sparrows, to finches, and orioles. You’ll do best with binoculars or a zoom lens, as many of these varieties keep high off the ground and steer clear of humans. Download and print the list of birds the park provides on their website, and check off the ones you see.
Javelinas are not quite pigs, but peccaries. As scary as this may sound, think of these four-legged creatures as a cross between a rodent and a pig. You can’t spot this desert animal in much of the United States. Take a picture of the boar-like, hooved critters and stump your friends, who likely won’t be able to identify the animal. Additionally, Coues white-tailed deer are easy to spot year-round at the park. Slide Rock is also home to black bear and a wide variety of birds.
Some of the best trout-fishing around takes place at this state park. Anglers should peruse the park website before their adventure to take advantage of the advice detailed there.
There are three short trails throughout the park, about a third of a mile long each. One is called the Nature Trail and is rated as easy. The other two are rated moderate, and one will take you down to Oak Creek. Thus, in summer, expect it to be a bit crowded. All three trails are great for a short, albeit hilly walk. Bring lots of water with you in the hot summer months. Though the trails are short, don’t underestimate the combination of heat and hills!
Be a Junior Ranger
Peruse the park’s website prior to your visit to find many resources available for children 6-12 years old who want to be a Slide Rock State Park Junior Ranger. What fun—from games and activities to badges, kids are sure to love this endeavor. Pick up the packet, along with a cute Junior Ranger button at the park.
When to go to Slide Rock State Park
Summer and fall are the most popular times to see Slide Rock because the weather is typically perfect. After all, it would be a shame to visit this state park and not be able to take advantage of the waterslide. In fact, some folks refuse to and can occasionally be spotted taking a quick trip down the slide, even in winter! That being said, winter and early spring are not as crowded, which is an advantage to photographers seeking to capture the park’s somewhat rare wildlife, on film. The red canyons are also pretty capped in snow on sunny winter days. Additionally, since trophy fish are caught in the more remote areas of the creek away from the slide, be sure to check the stocking schedule, as that may dictate the time you want to visit Slide Rock even more than the weather. The park is open all year round, but not on Christmas day.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Slide Rock
Slide Rock is not a large state park, has a grocery and gift store on the premises, and is in a popular area. So, it is unlikely you’ll be at a complete loss if you forget an item or two. However, having some things on hand will allow you to spend more of your time at Slide Rock actually sliding! List of Parks highlights a list of some items useful at this state park.
Swimsuit & Towel
The swimming area of the creek is a half mile long, and is considered one of the prettiest places to swim in the world. Don’t miss out just because you’re not a daredevil. Suit up and you can wade, swim (or slide, if you dare!)
For the waterslide, bring your own raft so you can enjoy the ride down. Tube-style rafts are most popular, for one or two “passengers”. Kids often enjoy the fun more when paired with a friend or sibling, for bravery.
The park is not so large that you are likely to get lost, and you should have adequate cell phone coverage at Slide Rock. However, the park’s website features an excellent map of the creek area and surroundings that might be useful to print ahead of time.
Water Shoes with Grip
Injuries do occur and just as you’ll see ambulances appear when you go skiing, you’ll see them here. There is much cannonballing and jumping from ledges, so it’s possible to bump your head. Moreover, algae render the creek’s rocky bottom slippery. It’s tremendous fun here but do exercise caution.
Opportunities abound to capture all sorts of wildlife at the park on film. You can photograph the high-fliers with your zoom lens, and you might not even need one to get a close-up of the park’s white-tailed Coues deer. It’s also possible to spot a black bear, and you’ll definitely need a zoom lens in this scenario. You don’ want to be any closer to a black bear than you must be.
Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Warm Weather Attire
Wear pale-colored, loose, and lightweight clothing May through September. Don’t forget the sunscreen and some kind of hat. A wide brim is best. There is extraordinary dry heat and bright sun at this state park.
Leeches, Nymphs, Fly
Anglers should consult the park’s website and study up on the variety of trout fish at Slide Rock, as this will determine the type of lure to use. Refer to the stocking schedule, and good luck catching some trophy trout!
Even though you’ll probably be immersed in it much of the day, bring water to combat the often excessive heat in this area. Even on short trails, you will drink more water than expected, due to the dry heat and high elevation.
First Aid Kit
Bring this only for minor scrapes, not unlikely to occur on the rocks. Don’t let it give you a false sense of security, however. Be cautious as safety issues on a much larger scale arise when people fall on the rocks, receive a gash from them, or hit their head. This much fun does come with some risk, but it can be minimized greatly with a little caution.
Where to stay in Slide Rock State Park
There are tons of places to stay in Sedona, 6-7 miles away. A former artists’ colony, it still resonates with this feel and is a big tourist attraction. Couples should try a bed and breakfast like “The Cozy Cactus,” while families might rent a house online. Or try a resort hotel like the “Arabella” and enjoy the pool and spa. Chain hotels like the Hyatt (at Pinon Pointe) or the Hampton Inn are other options in Sedona.
Food Nearby Slide Rock
There is food for purchase at the small grocery in the park. However, there are some fantastic places to eat outside the park in this popular tourist destination. Try the Oak Creek Brewery and Grill in Sedona—an eatery that will keep everyone happy. If that’s not your style, the main throughways are lined with different types of fare and lots of local gift shops as well. Take a short drive from the park to Sedona and you’re certain to pass a restaurant that appeals to your group.
Airports Near Slide Rock State Park
The commercial Flagstaff Airport is a small but solid airport, and only a 40-minute drive. Phoenix International is bigger, so it allows more variation in airlines, times, and number of flights. It is however, a 2-hour drive and can be more when traffic is heavy.