a girl standing on a rock in sedona

Merry Go Round Rock Sedona: Read This Before Visiting

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Sedona, located in central sunny Arizona, is the ultimate red rock paradise. With energy vortexes, plentiful hiking and off road trails, Sedona makes the perfect place for those seeking the healing powers of nature. One of the best viewpoints in Sedona is Merry Go Round Rock.

Both the trail and viewpoint offer breathtaking views of the surrounding red rocks and valleys. I’ve done all the main trails in Sedona, as well as a few hidden ones, and this one stands out as one of my favorites!

This trail is off the beaten path and still remains a bit of a hidden gem, so be careful to treat this place with care and respect. Follow the Leave no Trace Principles and leave this beautiful place better than you found it.

Finding the picturesque cave here is a little challenging but so rewarding. In this article I’ll share the location of Merry Go Round Rock, exactly how to get there, and helpful tips to know before embarking on this unforgettable journey.

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Accommodation – Booking.com to find the best deals on hotels.
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Tours/experiences – Viator or Get Your Guide are excellent sources for tours.

a girl standing on a rock in sedona
a girl standing on a rock in sedona

How To Get To Merry Go Round Rock In Sedona

The easiest way to get to the town of Sedona is to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, a 2 hour drive away. Flagstaff, 35 minutes North of Sedona also has a small regional airport but there aren’t many airlines that service here.

Merry Go Round Rock is located in Coconino National Forest off of Schnebly Hill Road, 5 minutes from downtown Sedona. You can access Schnebly Hill Rd off of Highway 179.

To get here you have 2 options: Do the 6.5 mile roundtrip hike via the Munds Wagon trail, or drive directly to Merry Go Round Rock via Schnebly Hill Road with a 4×4 high clearance vehicle.

For the best lighting, soak in the red rock views during golden hour and sunset!

However, I will warn that this is a very popular wedding spot. So don’t be surprised to see a wedding happening when you arrive- especially at sunset. When we there the only other people we saw was a couple that was checking out the spot because they were getting married there the next day!

Driving to Merry Go Round Rock

This is the easiest and most direct way, but only if you have a capable vehicle! You’ll need something with high clearance and 4WD since the road is rutted with potholes and large rocks.

If you don’t have your own 4×4 vehicle, you can rent one from Sedona Jeep Rentals or Red Rock Rubicon. These jeeps are pretty pricey, so if you do plan on renting one for a day keep driving Schnebly Hill Rd to experience more of what it has to offer!

Driving a 4×4 vehicle to the Merry Go Round Rock via Schnebly Hill Rd will take about 30 minutes depending on your driving speed and off roading experience.

You will take Schnebly Hill Rd for just 4.7 miles to reach the Merry Go Round Rock. You can park off of the road when you arrive and walk just 5-10 minutes to reach the viewpoint.

FYI: If you’re using a rental car that is not meant for off roading, like a Jeep, make sure to check your rental agreement. Most rental car agencies do not allow cars to be taken on dirt roads and doing so could void your insurance policy.

Driving Overview
  • Access the viewpoint via Schnebly Hill Road close to downtown Sedona
  • MUST have 4×4 high clearance car
  • The drive is 4.7 miles one way & should take about 30 minutes

Hiking to Merry Go Round Rock

If you don’t have a capable vehicle to drive the 4×4 road, you can do the 6.5 mile hike with 1,100 feet of elevation gain. The hike is dog friendly but they must be leashed.

You will park at the paved parking lot at the Munds Wagon trailhead. To park here you can show either an America the Beautiful National Parks pass or a Red Rocks Pass.

The hike is not too difficult or steep. It has great views of the rest of Sedona throughout the trail. Since a lot of the trail runs close to the 4×4 road, I’ve seen a few people complain about noise from the vehicles but I personally didn’t think it was bad.

The hike will take about 1-2 hours one way, depending on your hiking speed.

Hike Overview
  • 6.5 miles with 1,100 ft elevation gain, moderate
  • Park at the Munds Wagon trailhead, paved parking lot
  • Show your Red Rocks Pass or America the Beautiful Pass in your car
  • Should take 1-2 hours one way
view of the trail on the munds wagon trail in sedona
On the Munds Wagon trail
view of the red rocks in sedona during sunset
View of the sunset from the trail

How do you get to the cave at Merry Go Round Rock?

Okay so you’ve made it the top! So how do you find this picture perfect cave? (It is also referred to as an arch or window)

It’s a bit tricky to find, you do have to be looking out for it when you arrive to find it. It took us about 10-15 minutes to find it, so you do have to actively seek it out. The cave won’t jump out at you once you arrive.

For this reason I suggest leaving a bit earlier for the hike to allow extra time in order to find the cave.

I also recommend you take a screenshot of one of the photos of the cave below so you can orient to your surroundings when you arrive. This way you can try to get a feel of where the background of the cave should be.

You’ll find the cave to the left lower part of the Merry Go Round Rock trail. The cave is not on top of the rock itself like you may think. You have go down the cliffside a bit. You will find a small patch of pine trees to the left of the rock with a trail running through it- the cave is right through there!

If you’re coming in from the 4×4 road, you’ll have to walk back down the road a bit until you reach a bridge where you’ll find an access down to this part of the trail.

I also have a picture of a map below that shows Merry Go Round Rock with the Window Cave next to it for extra guidance.

To get into the small cave itself to take the incredible photo, you’ll have to scramble down the slick red rock a few feet. If you’re not comfortable with heights or exposure, this may not be for you.

Take care and make sure you always have at least three points of contact at all times. It’s also important to wear hiking shoes with good grip.

girl sitting on merry go round rock through a cave
girl standing on merry go round rock in sedona, arizona
As you can see, you’ll want to veer off the main trail to the left in order to reach that picture perfect cave.

Looking for more ideas on your next trip to Sedona? Find out how to get to the Keyhole Cave or other great caves around Sedona. Some of my other favorite trails are Cathedral Rock for sunrise and Red Rock Crossing or Bell Rock for sunset!

What is the elevation of Merry Go Round Rock?

Merry Go Round Rock sits at an elevation of about 5,450 feet above sea level.

If you do the hike here instead of driving the 4×4 road, you will be walking up about 1,100 feet from the trailhead.

Considering a Sedona winter visit? Here’s why you should go in January!

Stargazing At Merry Go Round Rock

This is really one of the best areas in Sedona to go stargazing! Sedona is an ‘International Dark Sky Community’ and they make active efforts to decrease light pollution.

For the best stargazing opportunities, you need a clear, cloud- free sky and a new moon. Dense clouds can obstruct your view of the stars and the light of a fuller moon will drown out the stars.

If you want to see the milky way, the best months are March- September.

This spot makes one of the best spots for stargazing since it is up in the mountains of Sedona and away from whatever little light shining from downtown.

But you will obviously have to be hiking or driving in the dark to see this spot at night, so be prepared with headlamps and flashlights. Also come with blankets and a hot thermos to warm yourself up on the chilly desert nights!

The Milky Way in Sedona from Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping area. September 2020.

Best places to stay in Sedona

The town of Sedona is pretty small, so you won’t be far from anything no matter where you stay. The town has two major sections: Uptown Sedona and West Sedona.

Uptown Sedona is where most of the restaurants, shops, and hotels are. West Sedona still has many restaurants and shops, but also more local neighborhoods, and is closer to many hiking trails.

However, it can get pretty pricey here. If you want to find the cheapest accommodations, head to the nearby towns of Oak Creek or Cottonwood. Oak Creek is about 15 minutes from Sedona, and Cottonwood is about 30 minutes away. There is also free dispersed camping off of Loy Butte Road about 20 minutes from downtown Sedona.

Located in West Sedona, the Sky Ranch Lodge is highly rated with spectacular views of the red rocks. It is a 9 minute drive from Sky Ranch to the Munds Wagon trailhead.

The hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as a bar and spa & wellness center onsite. They also have a free shuttle system that can take you into some parts of town. Pets are welcome here.

Orchards Inn is in Uptown Sedona and has amazing views from the rooms. There is also a balcony at the hotel with views of Snoopy Rock, Cathedral Rock, and more.

Many restaurants and shops are within walking distance. There are also pet friendly rooms available here. It is a 6 minute drive from Orchards Inn to the Munds Wagon trailhead.

This luxury resort is located in West Sedona and has a full service spa on site. There is also an outdoor pool, hot tub, and a restaurant onsite. Pets are allowed on request here.

The Wilde Resort is a 10 minute drive from the Munds Wagon Trailhead.

P.S. Sedona makes for one of the best stops on a Las Vegas to Monument Valley road trip or a Las Vegas to Grand Canyon road trip!

Conclusion: Merry Go Round Rock Sedona

In conclusion, this spot is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the beauty and wonder that is Sedona.

A bit off the beaten path, this viewpoint is a hidden gem in this popular red rock paradise.

No matter if you choose to hike the trail, or do the 4×4 drive- you are sure to have an amazing adventure! Plus- stargazing at this spot cannot be beat.

Be sure to add this trail to the top of your list for when you next travel to Sedona!

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