t The wraparound veranda of the iconic Weatherford Hotel in downtown Flagstaff
Nestled deep among the pine forests of Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff is a lively, easy-going town with a maze of old red-brick buildings that make up its compact downtown. Flagstaff’s first permanent settlers were sheep ranchers, who arrived in 1876. The railroad came in 1882, and the town quickly developed as a lumber center. Flagstaff is the home of Northern Arizona University and is a good base for visiting the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, just under two hours’ drive away. The surrounding mountains attract hikers in summer and skiers in winter.
Just ten minutes’ walk from end to end, Flagstaff’s historic downtown dates mainly from the end of the 19th century. Many buildings sport decorative stone and stucco friezes and are occupied by cafés, bars, and stores. There are several standout pieces of architecture, particularly the Babbitt Building and the 1926 train station that today houses the visitor center. Perhaps the most attractive is the Weatherford Hotel, which opened in 1900, and has a sunroom and a grand wraparound veranda. Atop a hill about a mile (2 km) northwest of the town center, the Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894, is named for its benefactor, Percival Lowell, a member of one of Boston’s wealthiest families. He financed the observatory to look for life on Mars and chose the town because of its high altitude and clear mountain air. The Lowell Observatory went on to establish an international reputation by documenting evidence of the expansion of the universe. One of its astronomers, Clyde Tombaugh, discovered Pluto in February 1930. The observatory con-tinues to build upon this legacy today. Visitors have access to the main rotunda, the exhibition halls, and the John Vickers McAllister Space Theater, which shows presentations on the night sky and current research at Lowell. Tours are available daily, and telescope viewings nightly.
Flagstaff’s lively café society owes much to the 22,000 or so students of Northern Arizona University (NAU), just southwest of downtown. NAU has green lawns, stately trees, and several historic buildings. There are two campus art galleries: the Beasley Gallery in the Fine Art Building, housing temporary exhibitions and student work, and the Old Main Art Museum and Gallery in the Old Main Building, which features the permanent Weiss collection, including works by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
Located alittle south of the university is the grandiose Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, which was built in the 1880s by brothers Michael and Timothy Riordan, wealthy lumber merchants. The 40-room log mansion has a rustic, timber-clad exterior and two wings (one for each brother) containing arts and crafts furniture.
A little north of downtown is Flagstaff’s Pioneer Museum, occupying an elegant stone building, which was originally a hospital in 1908. On display in the grounds are a 1929 steam locomotive and a Santa Fe Railroad caboose. Inside, a particular highlight is a selection of Grand Canyon photographs taken in the early 1900s by photographers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb.
The Museum of Northern Arizona, a little farther north of the Pioneer Museum, holds significant collections of Southwestern artifacts, as well as fine art and natural science exhibits. The Archaeology Gallery is a good introduction to the region’s history, while the Ethnology Gallery documents some 12,000 years of Native American culture on the Colorado Plateau. Exhibits on the plants and animals found in the region through the ages are displayed in the courtyard.
Just 7 miles (11 km) north of town, the Arizona Snowbowl offers downhill skiing. The San Francisco Peaks receive an average of 260 inches (660 cm) of snow every year, enough to supply the ski runs that pattern the lower slopes of the Agassiz Peak. In summer, there is a hiking trail up to the peak. For those less inclined to walk, the Arizona Scenic Chairlift offers great views of the scenery.
⌂ 1400 W Mars Hill Rd # 10am–10pm Mon–Sat, 10am–5pm Sun ∑ lowell.edu
⌂ 620 S Knoles Dr ∑ nau.edu
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⌂ 409 W Riordan Rd # May–Oct: 9:30am–5pm; Nov–Apr: 10:30am–5pm Thu–Mon ∑ azstateparks.com
⌂ 2340 N Fort Valley Rd # 9am–5pm Mon–Sat (Sep–May: 10am–4pm), 10am–4pm Sun ∑ arizonahistoricalsociety.org
⌂ 3101 N Fort Valley Rd # 10am–5pm Mon–Sat, noon–5pm Sun ∑ musnaz.org
⌂ Snowbowl Rd ∑ arizonasnowbowl.com
t The huge telescope inside the main rotunda of the Lowell Observatory
Flagstaff is situated within the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest.
EXPERIENCE Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona
Car license plates, hubcaps, and photos of local landscapes line the walls of this archetypal diner, a neighborhood favorite for breakfast. The impressive lunch menu includes giant burgers and fresh trout.
⌂ 7 E Aspen Ave § (928) 774-3492
Black Bart’s Steakhouse
A family-owned hangout named after a notorious 1870s stagecoach robber, Black Bart’s serves high-quality corn-fed steaks and fresh seafood. A musical revue of Disney and Broadway songs is performed by the staff every evening.
⌂ 2760 E Butler Ave ¢ Lunch ∑ blackbartssteakhouse.com
Covering more than 56 sq miles (145 sq km) of sun-scorched wilderness to the north of the city of Flagstaff, the Wupatki National Monument incorporates about 2,700 historic sites once inhabited by the Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi people.
The area was first settled after the eruption of Sunset Crater in 1064. The Sinagua people, a pre-Columbian culture, and their Ancestral Puebloan cousins realized that the volcanic ash had made the soil more fertile and consequently favorable for farming. The power of the volcanic eruption may also have appealed to their spirituality. They left the region in the early 13th century, but no one really knows why. The largest site here is the Wupatki Pueblo consisting of red sandstone structures built in the 12th century around a natural rock outcrop amid miles of prairie overlooking the desert. Once a four-story pueblo complex of 100 rooms, housing more than 100 Sinagua, it was a meeting place where different cultures traded goods. A trail explores the remains of the buildings, including a kiva. The most unusual structure is a Central American-style ballcourt. It is believed that the Sinagua may have used this to play at dropping a ball through a stone ring without using hands or feet.
t Visitors resting by a stream in Slide Rock State Park, near Oak Creek Canyon
Just south of Flagstaff, Highway 89A weaves a charming route, which makes for a very pleasant drive through Oak Creek Canyon on the way to the town of Sedona. In the canyon, dense woods shadow the road, and the steep cliffs are colored in bands of red and yellow sandstone, pale limestone, and black basalt.
This is a popular summer vacation area crisscrossed by many day-hiking trails, including the East Pocket Trail, a steep wooded climb to the canyon rim. At nearby Slide Rock State Park, containing an apple farm and one of the USA’s top swimming holes, visitors can enjoy sliding over the red rocks that form a natural water chute – a great way to cool off.
Saddle up for a ride among the saguaros and experience Arizona like a cowboy. Ranches throughout the state offer trail rides for all ages and levels. You can even stay at a ranch. Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson offers lessons, trail rides, barbecues, and other activities. At rustic ranches like Sprucedale Guest Ranch in the White Mountains you can join an authentic horse or cattle drive.
t Hiking through the ashy landscape of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
In 1064, a volcanic eruption formed the 400-ft- (122-m-) deep Sunset Crater, leaving a cinder cone overlooking the surrounding lava field. The one-mile (1.6-km) self-guided Lava Trail offers a stroll around the ashy landscape with its lava tubes, bubbles, and vents.
Located about 10 miles (16 km) east of Flagstaff, off Interstate Highway 40, Walnut Canyon houses an intriguing collection of cliff dwellings. These were inhabited by the Sinagua, in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Sinagua were attracted to the canyon by its fertile soil and plentiful water from nearby Walnut Creek.
Today, visitors can tour 25 cliff dwellings huddled underneath the natural overhangs of the canyon’s eroded sandstone and limestone walls. The Sinagua left the canyon abruptly early in the 13th century, possibly as a result of war, drought, or disease. Sinagua artifacts are on display in the Walnut Canyon Visitor Center.
This distinctive little town was named in 1851 for Bill Williams (1787–1849), a legendary mountain man and trapper who lived for a time with the Osage tribe in Missouri. The town grew up around the railroad that arrived in the 1880s, and when this was followed by a spur track to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in 1901, Williams became established as a tourist center. By the late 1920s, it was also a popular rest stop on Route 66.
Today, the town retains its frontier atmosphere, complete with Stetson-wearing locals. Here you can step back in time to the heyday of Route 66. Visitors can explore more than six blocks of historic buildings, many containing interesting shops and art galleries. Most hotels and diners are arranged around a loop that follows Route 66 on one side and its replacement, Interstate Highway 40, on the other. Traditional diners evoke the 1950s and are filled with Route 66 memorabilia, including original soda fountains, posters, and car license plates.
EXPERIENCE Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona
Twisters Soda Fountain & The Route 66 Place
With a black-and-white checkerboard floor and vinyl chairs, Twisters has a 1950s vibe. On the menu are burgers, chili dogs, and banana splits.
⌂ 417 E Route 66, Williams ¢ Sun ∑ route66place.com
Goldies Route 66 Diner
Sip coffee at the counter with the regulars or choose a booth and enjoy classic diner fare such as burgers, fries, and tuna melts.
⌂ 425 E Route 66, Williams § (928) 635-4466
California businessman Robert McCulloch founded Lake Havasu City in 1964. The resort city he built on the Colorado River was popular with the landlocked citizens of Arizona. However, his real brainwave came four years later, when he bought London Bridge and transported it from England to Lake Havasu. Some mocked McCulloch, suggesting that he had thought he was buying London’s Gothic Tower Bridge, not this much more ordinary one. There was more hilarity when it appeared that there was nothing in Havasu City for the bridge to span. Undaunted, McCulloch simply created the waterway he needed. Today this is one of Arizona’s most popular areas for outdoor recreation.
Dating from the 1100s, the pueblo remains that make up Montezuma Castle occupy an idyllic location, built into the limestone cliffs high above Beaver Creek, a couple of miles to the east of Interstate Highway 17. Once home to the Sinagua people, this cliff dwelling originally contained 20 rooms spread over five floors. Montezuma Castle was declared a National Monument in 1906 to preserve its excellent condition. The visitor center has a display on Sinaguan life and is found at the start of an easy trail along Beaver Creek, with views of the ruins.
The National Monument also incorporates Montezuma Well, situated about 11 miles (18 km) to the northeast. This natural sinkhole, 50 ft (15 m) deep and 470 ft (143 m) in diameter, had great religious significance for the Native Americans, with several tribes believing it was the site of the Creation. Over 1,000 US gallons (3,785 liters) of water flow through the sinkhole every minute, an inexhaustible supply that has long been used to irrigate the surrounding land. A narrow trail leads around the rim before twisting its way down to the water’s edge.
Three viewpoints and transportation on the hop-on-hop-off shuttle service are included in the basic entry pass to Grand Canyon West. There is an additional fee for the Skywalk.
Approached from the east along Highway 89A, Jerome is easy to spot in the distance, its tangle of old brick buildings perched high above the valley, clinging to the steep slopes of Cleopatra Hill. Silver mining began here in the 1870s, but the boom times really started in 1912, when the first big vein was discovered, and continued as the price of copper exploded during World War I. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 brought things to a halt, although the mines limped along until 1953. To make matters worse, underground dynamiting had made the area unstable, and the town began to slide downhill at a rate of 4 inches (10 cm) a year. By the early 1960s, Jerome had become virtually a ghost town. However, its fortunes were revived by an influx of artists and artisans. Today Jerome is often busy with day trippers who come to see the late 19th- and early-20th-century brick buildings that make up the town’s historic center, and enjoy its art galleries, coffee-houses, and restaurants.
t The Grand Canyon Skywalk, suspended over the Colorado River at Grand Canyon West
The Grand Canyon Skywalk – a dramatic 70-ft (21-m) glass walkway cantilevered beyond the rim and 4,000 ft (1,220 m) above the floor of the Grand Canyon – is managed by the Hualapai tribe. Located near their modest resort, the Hualapai Ranch, the Skywalk and Grand Canyon West are situated much closer to Las Vegas than to the famous South Rim of the canyon, which is nearly 250 miles (402 km) away by road. All-inclusive package tours can be booked from Las Vegas – most visitors fly – and on site. Tours include demonstrations of cowboy skills, horseback riding, helicopter flights, and pontoon boat rides on the Colorado River, in addition to the Skywalk itself. An Indian Village features re-created dwellings of the Hualapai and three other Arizona tribes. Native American cultural performances and presenta-tions are put on daily in the village’s amphitheater.
A shuttle bus operates within the Grand Canyon West area, as no private vehicles are permitted.
EXPERIENCE Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona
Jerome Artists Co-op
⌂ 502 Main St ∑ jeromecoop.com
A great place to see a wide range of works.
Pura Vida Gallery
⌂ 501 School St ∑ puravidagalleryjerome.com
Glass, fabrics, and ceramics, from over 120 artists.
Jerome Art Center
⌂ 885 Hampshire Ave ∑ jeromeartcenter.com
Art studios and galleries occupy four buildings in the former High School.
⌂ 250 Hull Ave § (928) 639-0239
Rotating displays from about 200 artists using a range of media.
⌂ 208 Main St ∑ fireflyjerome.com
Art inspired by nature is the theme here.
Set on a slender limestone ridge, the Tuzigoot National Monument ruins offer splendid views of the Verde River Valley. The pueblo was built by the Sinagua people between the 12th and 15th centuries and, at its peak, had a population of around 300. It was later abandoned in the early 15th century, when it is believed the Sinagua migrated north to join the Ancestral Puebloans.
Tuzigoot was partly rebuilt by a local and federally funded program in the 1930s. This emphasized one of the most unusual features of pueblo building, the lack of doorways. The normal pueblo room was entered by ladder through a small hatchway in the roof. Sinaguan artifacts and art are on display at the visitor center.
t The distinctive structures of Arcosanti, balancing architecture and ecology
Italian architect Paolo Soleri (1919–2013) established this educational housing project in 1970 to test his concept of “arcology.” Combining architecture and ecology, it aims to reduce urban sprawl and human impact on the environment while improving quality of life. Residents live in structures that combine work and leisure space. You can see the striking architecture and learn about the ethos behind it on a guided tour. Tours, workshops, and overnight stays are also available.
US-60 offers a scenic drive from Show Low to Globe along winding roads above Salt River Canyon.
Rising over 11,000 ft (3,353 m) high, the White Mountains of east-central Arizona are often overlooked by visitors. For Arizonans, this region of cool ponderosa pines, lakes, and reservoirs is a popular escape from the summer heat, and a top area for outdoor activities. Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area offers fishing, camping, and swimming.
The White Mountain Trail System, with loop trails of varying lengths, takes hikers, horse riders, and mountain bikers through beautiful stretches of forest. It begins near the village of Pinetop-Lakeside, a tourism hub. Snowflake and Show Low, both on the trail route, also have restaurants and accommodations. Sunrise Park Resort is a winter playground for skiers and snowboarders.
From Pinetop-Lakeside, head east on SR 260 past lakes, forests, and meadows beneath the slopes of Mount Baldy (11,409 ft/3,477 m), the state’s second-highest peak. Watch for pronghorn, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and wolves.
# 5am–10pm daily ∑ azstateparks.com
n 102-C W White Mountain Blvd, Lakeside ∑ pinetoplakesidechamber.com
t A visitor taking in the vast scale of the Meteor Crater from the rim
The Barringer Meteor Crater, a meteorite impact crater, was formed nearly 50,000 years ago. The crater is 550 ft (167 m) deep and 2.4 miles (4 km) in circumference, and so closely resembles a moon crater that NASA astronauts trained here in the 1960s. Guided rim tours are available, and the visitor center tells the story of the crater through exhibits and a film.
This national park is one of Arizona’s most unusual attractions. Millions of years ago rivers swept trees downstream into a vast swamp that once covered this area. Groundwater transported silica dioxide into downed timber, eventually turning it into the quartz stone logs seen today, with colored crystals preserving the trees’ shape and structure. Running the length of the forest is the Painted Desert, an area of colored bands of sand and rock changing from blues to reds as light catches mineral deposits.
From the Painted Desert Visitor Center, a road travels the length of the park. There are nine overlooks on the route, including Kachina Point, where the Painted Desert Wilderness trailhead is located. The Rainbow Forest Museum is by the south end of the road.
§ (928) 524-6228 # Times vary, call ahead ¢ Dec 25
EXPERIENCE Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona
Hon Dah Resort-Casino & Conference Center
Owned by the White Mountain Apache tribe, this resort has a heated pool, restaurant, spa, and live entertainment.
⌂ 777 Hwy 260, Pinetop ∑ hon-dah.com
La Posada Hotel
This former railroad hotel resembling a Spanish hacienda was a retreat for stars like Bob Hope and John Wayne .
⌂ 303 E Route 66, Winslow ∑ laposada.org