The last time I was in Sedona I came screeching into town, my brake pads shot because a rock had gotten lodged in there during a jaunt through the Navajo Reservation. Although a wanna-be-retired mechanic (“I tried to close my shop but people kept knocking on my door asking me about tires”) in Teec Nos Pos assured me it would work itself out, things were not well in the driving department.  

“Did they check the aura of your car?” My brother quipped when I called him with the news. “Did they light incense and read your palms while they installed recently blessed brake pads?”

That would be a no. Big O Tires fixed my car in the normal fashion – slowly and expensively. My mom and I were left to our own (carless) devices for nearly five hours in Sedona. After waiting an hour for the city bus to take us into town, we wandered around the main street and wished that we were people who liked tourist traps better. As soon as the car was fixed we hightailed it to Slide Rock State Park – a place so gorgeous I needed to return with a camera.

So here I am. This aptly named State Park is a family’s dream daycation. Oak Creek has so graciously carved out several areas in the river that make perfect waterslides. The best spots provide pools to slide into (while screaming, of course) before the river sends you down the next slide.

The fun is endless. Parents claim a spot among the red rocks for beach chairs, coolers, and towels while their children breathlessly race up and down the river, water sliding to their hearts content while never having to wait in the lines that pervade commercial water parks.

And it’s not just kids. Teenagers are here on group dates, the daring among them jumping off huge rocks into (hopefully) deep water below. My 50+ mom even went through some slides, after getting encouraging tips from six year olds on how to “make it even faster!” She first applied their suggestions in reverse, but was soon zooming down with the best of them. On my return trip I witnessed one of my mom’s generational peers also take a turn on the slide, much to the amusement of his family.

Slide Rock State Park is located on highway 89A, seven miles north of Sedona and 23 miles south of Flagstaff. Summer hours are from 8am to 7pm. The fee is $20 per vehicle (1-4 adults) during the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day) and $10 for the rest of the year. Get there early because the parking lot fills up by 10:00 on summer weekdays. I’d be there right at 8:00 on weekends. If the lot is full, continue driving north on highway 89A. About a quarter of a mile up you can pull off the side of the road and take a little trail along the highway to the park. There’s a steep climb down right after the pullout, or you can take the trail all the way across the bridge for an easily trek down to the river. This path bypasses the State Park fee station, so proceed as you see morally fit.

If you stay the night in Sedona, I’d recommend the cabins or inns along 89A, north of Sedona. They are quieter, provide river access, and have a homier feel then the commercial hotels in the city center. Tune back in on Wednesday for a review of a couple places, but here’s a teaser: