Sun, Dec. 15

Schnebly Hill Road: What happened?

Schnebly Hill Road originated as a shortcut between the summer range for cattle near Flagstaff and the winter range in the Verde Valley. William Munds (of Munds Park fame) had homesteaded land both in the Verde Valley and above the Rim outside of Flagstaff.

The route to move his cattle from winter to summer grazing meant heading south, then east, and then north. Necessity being the mother of invention, Munds hacked a cattle trail up the east wall of Oak Creek Canyon which was 35 miles -- and 2 days -- shorter than the old route between the grazing ranges.

The cattle trail was fine for ranching, but as more settlers arrived in the Sedona area they were looking for a quicker way to get themselves and their wagons up to Flagstaff.

In 1896, John Loy was instrumental in the growth of a road from the Mund cattle trail. With volunteers, pick axes, shovels, and black powder, in five years they constructed the Verde Cut-Off Road.

In 1902 the Coconino County Board of Supervisors awarded a $600 contract to J.J. Thompson, a Civil War veteran on the Confederate side, to improve this road. The men worked 12 hour days at $1 per day (no minimum wage back then).

In six months time the new "Munds Road" was completed. Now, like the cattle, the settlers could get from Sedona to Flagstaff in only two days. Because T.C. Schnebly had built a home near the end of the road, which his wife, Sedona, had turned into an inn, Munds Road took on the name of Schnebly Hill Road. The total cost of this pioneer highway - $1800.00!

Sedonans used this as their primary route to Flagstaff until the dirt road through Oak Creek Canyon was completed in 1914. Schnebly Hill Road was never paved, but it was reengineered in 1930. People still used the road, especially when the movie companies included awesome shots of the Canyon from the road. Although travel on it was minimal, the road was maintained to some extent.

Then, in 1950, folks were outraged to find that the road was barricaded. Coconino County, in its infinite wisdom, denied owning it and would not maintain it.

The citizens refused to take that without a fight. Record review showed that all county legal requirements had been met, county funds ($1800.00) had been expended, and the county did, indeed, own it.

The road continued to be sparsely used, but was negotiable. However, the road is now in the hands of the Forest Service, and is a part of the Mund's Mountain Wilderness Area.

Today, you will take the life of your vehicle in hand if you try to drive from Sedona to Flagstaff on the road.

I can still remember that my husband and I drove the road in a low slung sports car-without any problem-as recently as 1994. Wow! Time does fly.

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