5 Favorite Arizona Destinations

When it came to creating the perfect license-plate slogan, Arizona officials likely needed all of 20 seconds to agree on “Grand Canyon State”.

But, there is more—much more—to Arizona’s wonders than the Grand Canyon (but you won’t want to miss that, either). Here are some of our favorite places to stop throughout Arizona, destinations every visitor to Arizonan should visit—at least once.

Apache Trail

An historic road and a National Scenic Byway, the Apache Trail winds through, around, up, and down the Superstition Mountains. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An historic road and a National Scenic Byway, the Apache Trail winds through, around, up, and down the Superstition Mountains. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains was built to supply construction workers building Roosevelt Dam in the early 1900s. When Theodore Roosevelt drove there in 1911, he compared the region’s beauty to that of Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks. Saguaro-covered hills and deep canyons stretch for miles, broken by red-rock cliffs and hoodoos. The area is a favorite of sightseers, boaters, hikers, and anglers.

The Apache Trail, aka State Route 88, is not for the squeamish or those afraid of heights. It’s full of twists and turns, rising and falling with the hills and valleys. Part of the road is paved; the graded dirt stretch is suitable for most cars but not recommended for large RVs.

Monument Valley

You’ve seen it on TV and in theaters. You can’t look at the towering rock formations without thinking of John Wayne and cattle drives. But you know what’s even better than seeing Monument Valley on the big screen? No, not IMAX.

Two words: endless vista. The minute you see the Mitten formations, you understand why everything from Westerns to Roadrunner cartoons were shot (or drawn from) here.

Several companies offer guided tours, but if you don’t have the time or the money, the 17-mile drive is a great way to take in the park. Take your time, as well as advantage of the overlooks.

Hey look, it’s another spectacular view.

Visit Tombstone and you’ll step back into the rough and tough days of the Old West. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit Tombstone and you’ll step back into the rough and tough days of the Old West. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone

Imagine the 1880s frozen in time, where tough-looking men wearing dusters fit right in. The frontier facades are largely original, the souvenir T-shirts, mugs, and refrigerator magnets are not. Still, there is an Old West charm found nowhere else.

Visit the OK Corral and Historama to hear Vincent Price’s dramatic retelling of the shootout, then have a beer at a frontier bar.

See the Bird Cage Theater Museum, a former brothel that has been preserved—not restored. The tattered nature of the museum is as endearing as it is honest.

Don’t miss Boot Hill, a graveyard for those who were not too tough to die.

Prescott

The 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse, constructed of white granite and ringed by towering pines, is the centerpiece of Courthouse Plaza. Whiskey Row, makes up the square's western edge. © 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. Whiskey Row, makes up the square’s western edge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the U.S. held an America’s Best Hometown contest, Arizona’s entry would likely be Prescott. It has all the requisites: quaint downtown (Courthouse Square), area committed to adult beverages (Whiskey Row), and exuberant small-town celebrations (Christmas and July Fourth).

The town has charm as well as a more amenable summer climate, when temperatures can be 15-20 degrees cooler than in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix).

From 1881 to 1884, Prescott served as the territorial capitol. It was just enough time to build a governor’s mansion, now part of the Sharlot Hall Museum. See what constituted a governor’s home in those days.

Take an afternoon to explore the Granite Dells, where furrowed stone forms a series of undulating waves. Several trails weave through the formations.

Mount Lemmon

Sky Island Scenic Byway is the only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Mountains. One of the most scenic drives in southern Arizona, the byway provides access to a fascinating land of great vistas, natural rock sculptures, cool mountain forests and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts.

Because the road starts in the Lower Sonoran Desert and climbs to the high coniferous forests, it offers the biological equivalent of driving from Southern Arizona to the forests of Canada in a short stretch of 27 miles.

Sweeping panoramas and precariously perched rocks create a surreal and photogenic landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweeping panoramas and precariously perched rocks create a surreal and photogenic landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

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