4 Destinations Beyond the Grand Canyon

The world knows Arizona as the Grand Canyon State.

Spider Rock, the unofficial symbol of Canyon de Chelly, is a sandstone obelisk that rises more than 800 feet from the canyon floor.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spider Rock, the unofficial symbol of Canyon de Chelly, is a sandstone obelisk that rises more than 800 feet from the canyon floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But there’s far more to the natural beauty of Northern Arizona than just one landmark. This region has many spots that people outside the state may never hear about. Following are four of my favorite overlooked Northern Arizona travel destinations.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sheer sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo.

The campground, located in a shallow valley less than ¼-mile from the visitor center, was a wonderful surprise. The campground is large with approximately 100 spacious campsites, plus a large group camping area. We had no difficulty is finding a suitable site for our 40-foot motorhome.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park preserves one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites.

After entering Petrified National Park from the south we hiked the Giant Logs trail located behind Rainbow Forest Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After entering Petrified National Park from the south we hiked the Giant Logs trail located behind Rainbow Forest Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is composed of two sections: the north section is a colorful badlands called the Painted Desert, and the southern section contains most of the petrified wood.

The park consists of a 28-mile road that offers numerous overlooks and winds through the mesas and wilderness. Visitors can also choose to hike a variety of trails ranging from easy to difficult.

Petrified Forest National Park stretches north and south between I-40 and U.S. Highway 180. There are two entrances into the park. Your direction of travel dictates which entrance is best to use.

Westbound I-40 travelers should take Exit 311, drive the 28 miles through the park and connect with Highway 180 at the south end. Travel 19 miles on Highway 180 North to return to I-40 via Holbrook.

Eastbound I-40 travelers should take Exit 285 into Holbrook then travel 19 miles on U.S. Highway 180 South to the park’s south entrance. Drive the 28 miles north through the park to return to I-40.

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona 

Sedona is an Arizona destination not to be missed—a must-see wonders. Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Prescott

Nestled in a stunning mountain bowl and surrounded by one of the largest ponderosa pine forests in the West, this beautiful town is steeped in history with an authentic taste of western heritage.

The 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse, constructed of white granite and ringed by towering pines, is the centerpiece of Courthouse Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse, constructed of white granite and ringed by towering pines, is the centerpiece of Courthouse Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Banners proclaim Prescott as “Everyone’s Home Town.” You won’t find high rises, but the downtown businesses clustered around the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse and its plaza are thriving.

On one side of the Court House Plaza is Whiskey Row. It’s more sedate now than it was prior to 1900 when the whiskey flowed and the faro tables were jammed 24 hours a day in its forty or so saloons. The former territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott boasts 525 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

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