By Annette McGivney | Photograph by John Burcham
Decades before Sedona became famous for New Age vortexes and five-star spas, the scenic Red Rock Country along Oak Creek was known for its orchards and pastureland. And one of the lushest spots was a 160-acre spread, just southwest of town, called Crescent Moon Ranch. During much of the 20th century, Crescent Moon’s cattle grazed at the foot of Cathedral Rock, and its hundreds of fruit trees grew along the banks of Oak Creek, next to what later became known as Red Rock Crossing.
First settled in 1880 by cattleman John Lee, the homestead changed hands multiple times. Andrew and Jane Baldwin bought Crescent Moon in 1936, built a new ranch house on the property in 1938 and ran a thriving produce operation. Although the Baldwins won county fair prizes for their famously large peaches, by the 1970s, tourism had replaced agriculture as Sedona’s cash crop, and the ranch was once again put up for sale.
In 1980, the U.S. Forest Service purchased the property to keep it from being commercially developed. Today, Crescent Moon’s historic ranch house has been preserved for the public to enjoy. After restoring the 1938 Baldwin home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Forest Service opened it for rental through its Rooms With a View program. But Crescent Moon Ranch is not a rustic cabin. It’s a sprawling ranch house that sleeps up to 10 people and includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a wood-paneled great room, a large main kitchen and a second kitchen that once was used for canning. Lee’s original homestead barn, also on the National Register, stands a few hundred yards from the main house.
“The Forest Service has gone to great lengths to maintain the history of the place,” says Justin Loxley, volunteer coordinator for the Coconino National Forest’s Red Rock Ranger District and manager of Crescent Moon. “Even the small things in the house are preserved, including the original window locks and doorknobs.”
Volunteers restored and maintain the ranch house and surrounding buildings. The pine floors were refinished, the original windows re-glazed and the kitchen cabinets refurbished. As a result, stepping into the Crescent Moon house immediately takes you back 50 years. But time especially stands still on the large screened porch, where the gurgling waters of Oak Creek and singing crickets serenade you at night — and a worn picnic table provides the perfect place for a game of cards.
The best spot at Crescent Moon, however, isn’t in the house. It’s on the sprawling flagstone patio perched above the creek. While others crowd the Forest Ser-vice day-use area nearby, you can sit in solitude, sip your coffee and watch the rising sun kiss the red spires of Cathedral Rock.
And the price for this million-dollar view? “Our goal with renting out Crescent Moon is to offer it at a rate that still keeps it affordable to the general public,” Loxley says. For $200 per night — far less than the going rate for a five-star room in Sedona — the entire house is yours. And access to the Cathedral Rock vortex, if you feel so inspired, is free.
For more information about Crescent Moon Ranch, call 877-444-6777 (reservations) or 928-203-2900 (general questions), or visit www.recreation.gov.