Craggy mountain tops. Vast red canyons. Curious sandstone spires. The landscape of northern Arizona is a wonderland to behold. Woven into the ancient earth are critical desert ecosystems that sustain the region’s unique flora and fauna. This is also Mecca for outdoor adventure. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, white water rafting, fishing and golf are popular year round. The natural beauty and rhythm of life dates back thousands of years when Pueblo, Anasazi and other indigenous people populated the land. Many lived in communities carved out of towering cliffs. Now protected archeological and historic sites, these cliff dwellings offer visitors a chance to peer into the past and learn what life was like for these early inhabitants. Today, the cities and towns of northern Arizona offer a bounty of attractions – from peering through a telescope at the Lowell Observatory to hiking down an ancient meteor crater. Ready for your next adventure? Hop on the road and head to one of these top destinations.
If you’re expecting sand dunes and saguaro, you’re in for a surprise. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is surrounded by a mountain forest of Ponderosa Pines. Rising majestically in the background, the rugged San Francisco Peaks offer year-round recreation. Historic downtown Flagstaff is a delightful mix of celebrated landmarks and modern amenities. Here you’ll discover a wealth of galleries, unique shops and eateries. If you’re looking for something even more awe-inspiring, venture to Mars Hill, the public education arm of the Lowell Observatory.
Inside you can peak at the heavens through the Clark Telescope, the observatory’s original refracting telescope. Another popular attraction is The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Winding through themed gardens, ponds, wetlands and nature trails, the 200-acre arboretum is beautifully designed to showcase the diversity of landscape on the Colorado Plateau. Equally dramatic – but in a completely different way – is Meteor Crater, the impact site of a large meteor that struck the earth roughly 50,000 years ago. Located just a few miles east of Flagstaff, the mile-wide crater and the Meteor Crater Visitor Center offer a rare glimpse into earth’s cosmic past. On the way back to Flagstaff, stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument where you can see the remains of ancient pueblos built into curved canyon walls. When you’re ready to relax and unwind, pull into to the Flagstaff KOA – your base camp in Flagstaff. Other good campgrounds are in the area. Road Adventures will make all of the arrangements, ensuring you have a dreamy sleep under the brilliant desert sky.
Named a “Top 10 True Western Town” by True West Magazine, Prescott wears its Old West reputation with pride. The city lays claim to the World’s Oldest Rodeo held each year during the Frontier Days. Surrounded by the Prescott National Forest, Prescott was originally a mining community. The town’s rough-and-tumble past comes alive at Whiskey Row, once home to more than 40 saloons. Today, the city maintains its heritage with more than 500 buildings on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The area around Prescott offers abundant recreational opportunities. Just four miles from town center, Watson Lake at Watson Park is perfect for fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. The lakeshore is punctuated by large granite boulders, known as the Granite Dells, a popular place for rock climbers. Campsites are available in nearby Watson Lake Campground. Another must-see destination on this Road Adventure is the town of Sedona. To get there, take AZ Hwy 179 through Oak Creek Canyon, named one of America’s top 10 scenic drives by Rand McNally. Cradled by deep red mountains that look surreal beneath the brilliant blue sky, the landscape around Sedona is jaw dropping. Native Americans believe the area is a spiritual vortex, drawing earth’s electromagnetic energy and creating place of healing. Certainly the incredible vistas are inspiration for the community of artists who live here. A tour through the town’s many galleries showcases incredible and diverse works of art. Those wanting to explore the fine artistry of Mother Nature may enjoy a guided Jeep excursion over the area’s red buttes and plateaus. Be aware – the rugged terrain makes this a ride on the wild side.
MONTEZUMA CASTLE NATIONAL MONUMENT
For thousands of years, indigenous tribes lived in cliff dwellings built in the canyons and cliffs of the desert southwest. One of the best preserved pueblo dwellings in North America is Montezuma Castle. Carved into towering limestone cliffs, this was home to the Sinaqua people for more than 400 years. When first discovered, the site featured a 20 room cliff dwelling. Later excavations uncovered another ruin – this one with nearly 50 rooms. Visitors to Montezuma Castle can explore the surrounding oasis and learn about daily life and culture of these early inhabitants.
Are you ready for an adventure?