Slip, Sliding Away: Slide Rock State Park stands test of time as Arizona’s most-loved water park

Oak Creek provides a refreshing burst of water carrying swimmers like a runaway train into refreshing pools of water under spectacular views at SlideRock State Park. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Oak Creek provides a refreshing burst of water carrying swimmers like a runaway train into refreshing pools of water under spectacular views at SlideRock State Park. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

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A young swimmer takes a running leap into the water of Oak Creek at Slide Rock State Park. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

OAK CREEK CANYON -- If Fred Flintstone built a water park, it would be Slide Rock State Park.

Children and adults funnel down chutes of carved red rock wearing smiles as big the Arizona sun.

Oak Creek provides the refreshing burst of water carrying swimmers like a runaway train into refreshing pools of water under spectacular views.

Towering cliff faces of red rocks and sandstone on the canyon walls watch down on humans sliding down the natural drain spouts.

What may be Arizona’s most popular natural water park, Slide Rock State Park in Sedona is visited by more than 2,000 people each day in the summer seeking to beat the heat.

Bathers draped in oversized t-shirts and swimwear flock to make the pilgrimage from the parking lot carrying bags of towels, shoes, food and suntan lotion each day. They walk past the historic Pendley family homestead and down a set of concrete stairs to the famous swimming area.

Arizona State Park Service employees carefully monitor the park and its guests.

The sweet spot of the park is about 100 yards up from the entrance.

It’s the longest waterslide and dumps into a large pool of water. There are several smaller chutes between numerous pools of water as the river flows downstream. In between are more pools of water like small swimming pools.

The texture of the red rocks are like the bottom of a back-yard swimming pool, slippery but extremely comfortable on the feet.

Janet Hofman recommends that visitors to the water park wear some sort of water shoes when they visit.

Hofman is the Slide Rock State Park assistant manager. Slide Rock State Park is run by Arizona State Parks, which acquired Slide Rock with the historic Pendley Homestead from the Pendley family in the early 1980s.

Even though Slide Rock is one of the smallest of the 35 state parks, it is at the top in terms of visitors and revenue. Last May, the park at over 200,000 visitors and is up 13 percent over May 2017 according to Hofman.

“It’s kind of a two-in-one park,” she explained. There is the natural waterslide and there is the historic homestead where people can come and look at the old buildings and learn about the history of the family that farmed the area. People also come for the fall colors and the historic apple orchard on the property.

Generally the weekends are busier than weekdays, Hofman said. The park is open all year long.

The parking lot was recently expanded but it can fill up early, especially in the summer, she said.

Hofman suggests that people get there as early as possible to the 8 a.m. opening if they want to avoid waiting in the line to get in the parking lot.

“On a Saturday or Sunday, you want to be here by eight o’clock,” she said. On a weekday she suggested people get to the park by 10 or 11 to avoid waiting in line to get in the parking lot.

Swimmers should bring a towels, “whatever you want to swim in,” sunscreen, plenty of water (there are drinking fountains and market for snacks), snack food, but no glass containers, no grills, no smoking and no pets.

Chairs, floats, umbrellas are all allowed, but not necessary.

Water shoes do help, Hofman explained, but the red rocks are very slippery. Injuries range from scraped knees to factures to head injuries. Many of the injuries involve cliff jumping, which is legal, but caution is advised, she pointed out.

If You Go ...

• What: Slide Rock State Park

• Where: Arizona 89, 7 miles north of Sedona or 20 miles south of Flagstaff.

• When: Open every day except Christmas Day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• How Much: $20 per car (1-4 adults) Monday-Thursday, $30 Friday-Sunday May 25 to Labor Day; $20 per car, March 1-May24; $10 per car, October-February; $3 per individual or bicycle

• Contact: 282-3034 and azstateparks.com/contact-us/

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