We decided to take a Jeep tour up Schnebly Hill Road (one of the most scenic drives) as it is generally too rugged for a regular passenger vehicle. Undoubtedly, this route offered some of the most gorgeous, breathtaking scenery in Sedona. And the steep, narrow, winding road was definitely too rough to attempt with our Altima. However, we found the jeep tour to be an incredibly uncomfortable experience. First of all, there were six of us crammed into the jeep like sardines. We were literally on top of one another with no room to move whatsoever...so that made for a looooong two hours. Heaven forbid one of the passengers is very large or has strong body odor. Second of all, the tour guide talked incessantly for the entire tour, mostly one cheesy pun after another. This probably would have been fun if we were children - but this made it impossible for us to enjoy the tranquility of the remote location. Worst of all was that the jeep only stopped one time to let us out to take photos. The scenery was so spectacular throughout the tour and it was PAINFUL not to be able to take photos. We were half tempted to jump out of the jeep and walk the rest of the way. We swore that if we ever came here again, it would be more than worth it to rent our own jeep and explore the area at our own pace. So my recommendation is, unless you are planning to do some major off-road driving, rent your own Jeep.
Why not rent a 4WD vehicle? Its not like the drive in a 4WD is any less appealling than with a 2WD. However, a 4WD gives you the option of truly exploring the area, while a 2WD forces you to shell out $60/per person to a jeep tour company to take you off of the beaten path.
While in Sedona, the drive up Shnebly Hill Rd is a beautiful drive, in which the scenery completely changes 3 times in the 11 miles from I-79 to I-17. You go from Red Rock, to White Rock, to Natural Forest!
Yes, you might see some foolish people driving 2WD on Schnebly Hill Rd (I call them idiots), and for the most part if you are REEEAALLY careful, you might come out with no damage on a low-clearance, and maybe you would forgive yourself if you dented your own car, but if you have a 2WD rental car, you are just asking for an insurance claim! We rented a Jeep Wrangler ourselves, and after a little snow 2 days earlier, it was rather muddy at the end of the drive. I can almost guarantee that anything less than our Jeep would have been bogged down. That said, with the Jeep, it was great fun to blast through the mud (the Jeep was covered with it afterward, and that is how it should be!).
Think about it this way, you might pay up to $150 extra per week for the Jeep, but if you have to pay for a Jeep tour it'll set you back $60 per person, per couple hour tour! Do it yourself, drive a couple of the Jeep tour routes, and save $$! Its not like the roads are closed to the public.
So to summarize.........of course get a 4WD.....why would you not want to?
Unique Suggestions: The Jeep Tours are probably a better way to get little informational tid-bits about the area. In that regard, there are some advantages to having a guide. The other advantage is that everyone in your group is a passenger, and so no one needs to pay more attention to the road than the scenery. However, with your own vehicle, you are free to stop whenever you want, for as long as you want!
I totally agree with the other local who wrote about the Jeep Tours being a tourist trap. They are over priced and in my opinion, uncomfortable. You can rent your own Jeep and drive the same trails yourself. You can fit up to 5 people in your rental Jeep, so compared to the "per person" charges of the tours, you'll find renting to be much cheaper. Barlow Jeep Rentals will thoroughly prepare you with maps and trail information, so you can feel confident. No prior 4x4 driving experience is necessary because the Jeeps are brand new and quite easy to drive. The Jeep will do all the work for you. You can stop when you want, bring a picnic, linger at some of the spectacular overlooks all while riding in comfort.
Unique Suggestions: If you must take a tour, wait until the last minute to book it. They charge you a 50% cancellation fee and there are no refunds for weather. So you may be stuck going out in the rain.
Fun Alternatives: Barlow Jeep Rentals in west Sedona...www.barlowjeeprentals.com