The beautiful state of Arizona is the Sonoran Desert, Sedona red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests, and ponderosa pine-covered mountains, that is a major gateway to the Grand Canyon. The beauty and natural formations are a great discovering journey.
The journey begins on US 60 near the gorgeous Superstition Spring Mountains. This mountain range is the most photographed and painted landmark behind the Grand Canyon in Arizona. These mountains east of Phoenix brings gorgeous sunrises and great light for sunsets. These mountains look different during the day as the lights play on the mountains. Many mountains in Arizona are volcanic. These mountains are near Weavers Needle, a tall eroded volcanic remnant.
A large part of the superstition is from Jacob Waltz. He claimed on his deathbed to have discovered a mother lode of gold there. Apaches believe that the hole leading down into the lower world, or hell, is located in the Superstition Mountains. Another superstition tied to the mountains is that the winds blowing from the hole that is believed to cause of severe dust storms in the Phoenix metropolitan region. There are many stories of strange sounds and disappearance connected to the mountains. Many Apaches believe that the hole leading down into the lower world, or hell, is in the Superstition Mountains.
There is so much to see and do here! You can:
Explore the Lost Dutchman Museum
Apache Trail Tours
Goldfield Ghost Town
Usery Mountain Regional Park
When exploring remember that this is a congressionally designated strict “leave no trace. This wilderness zone prohibits you from disturbing, leaving, or taking anything from the preserved areas.
Heading north out of Phoenix you climb 3000 feet in elevation. You take exit 293 follow the signs to Lake Montezuma Well National Monument (there is also Montezuma's castle you can visit in the nearby area). This is a free stop with an easy to follow a trail, there are 100 steps down into the well. This trail will take you through how the Southern Sinagua, cliff dwellers, figured how to use spring water to irrigate their crops. The water is about 55 feet deep and 74 degrees Fahrenheit with 1.5 million gallons daily. The rim leads to large pueblo ruins and an ancient pit house.
Leaving the national monument use forest road via Forest Service Rd 618. This will take you to V-Bar-V Heritage Site. Here you will see life by the stream over thousands of years. There is a $5 parking fee, no pets, and no public water at this place. You will follow a trail walking past a chimney in remnants and fences from old homesteads along the creek. The walk is easy and beautiful. This trail will take you to the best-preserved and largest petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. This rock art is beautiful and tells a different story each day. You can follow the planting of the crops by Southern Sinagua to the harvest by the way the light hits the wall at a specific time each day. There is a carved rock in the wall that follows the mountain range of San Francisco Peaks. Save your pass for your ventures in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. You can see where the pass is good click here.
Head east on N Forest Ranger Rd toward Forest Service Rd 618 to get to Sedona. The famous area rises above the desert land and brings beautiful hues of red color against the brown desert and green ponderosa pines. This prime community brings art, beautiful nature, vortex, and exceptional food and wine. The vortex is a swirling center of energy believed to help with healing and meditation. The best art shop in the southwest (we believe) is Tlaquepaque (pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh). This place of great art from the southwest and modern artists. There are beautiful places to catch a bit to eat or drink. There are often great gallery showings.
Sedona does host a yearly film festival and wine festival (featuring Arizona wines our favorite is Alcantara Vineyards close to Sedona). There is a wide diversity of food and fantastic. A great restaurant is the Mesa Grill at the Sedona Airport. The view on top of the hill is fantastic. Watching planes come and go is an added bonus. Enjoyed the shrimp ceviche as it was midday.
There is so much to do in Sedona:
Leaving Sedona take 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. Highway 89 is the top tourist road trip. This road takes you from Mexico to Canada while passing through some of the most scenic areas of the west. You can visit seven National Parks, fourteen National Monuments and three Heritage Areas.
Oak Creek Canyon provides a great stop if you have time to take a dip in slide rock. This gorge provides beautiful views of sheer rock, changes in the landscape from the beauty of the red rocks to the Ponderosa pines. This journey will have you climb the final 2500 feet into Flagstaff AZ.
Flagstaff the last big city in Northern Arizona. This town is home to Northern Arizona University, connection to the Grand Canyon, and the San Francisco Peaks, Arizona’s tallest mountain Humphreys Peak. This town is where we stayed the night. A visit with my grandchild, Ellie, she provided an exception breakfast of pancakes and eggs. She is a foodie at 2. Cooking and washing dishes she loves to be in the kitchen.
We enjoyed visiting with family and exploring this beautiful town. The downtown area includes some great food and shops with exquisite Native American art and jewelry. It is a gathering place for tourist and locals alike. There is a monthly art walk with the many galleries and movie night in the Square. Dogs are welcomed in most areas of the town.
Our final evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal and drinks at Dara Thai with family and dear friends. The food was exceptional. The menu provided a vast variety for everyone including a nephew who is particular. The spring rolls are fresh and have a great dip with some heat. The seafood with fresh ginger was warm and light. The cocktails were unique. They do have a full-service bar. It was a perfect evening together hearing about plans for traveling and journeys.
We hit 89 early in the morning and stopped by Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This is a loop you can take off highway 89. There is a $20 fee to complete the loop. You can stop and see the Sunset Crater area just off the road. This volcano erupted over 1000 years. This eruption created the crater and volcanic fields you can see today but destroyed homes, families, and farms of the native people who lived in there. They relocated to Wupatki, a national monument on the full loop.
The drive from the national monument is one that journeys through Native American land. It is one of change and beauty. You can see the San Francisco Peaks disappear and the land become a painted desert. We can recommend Cameron Trading Post. This is a great place to get Navajo rugs, Hopi pottery, Hopi kachinas and silver and turquoise jewelry, Apache baskets and Plains beadwork to our Native American Art. The meal was fantastically cooked from scratch meal. Enjoyed a homemade garden burger on Indian Fry Bread with fabulous fries.
The journey through Arizona ends in the beautiful town of Page AZ. Page is a great area to stage your next journey. It is connected to the following areas:
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Road stands with handcrafted Native American art
This was a great place to meet with a high school friend and his beautiful wife. We enjoyed breakfast at Ranch House Grille. It was a very local place. Many entering the grill knew other patrons and shared stories of their families and community. It was a wonderful meal. Large portions, good café coffee, and great hash browns.
This journey on the 89 through Arizona was a great journey of beauty, nature, family, and friends. The road trip was one of reflection and dedication to understanding the diversity in Arizona. What is your favorite Arizona site to see?
[Submitted by Tammy Forchion]