Written by Tolik on 08 Apr, 2009
At an elevation of almost 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is among the highest cities in the U.S. Located along former wagon road to California, Flagstaff (called "Flag" by the locals) is surrounded by famous ponderosa forests and sits at the foot of Arizona's highest…Read More
At an elevation of almost 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is among the highest cities in the U.S. Located along former wagon road to California, Flagstaff (called "Flag" by the locals) is surrounded by famous ponderosa forests and sits at the foot of Arizona's highest mountain, 12,634-foot /3,851m Humphrey's Peak. An outdoor lovers’ paradise, Flagstaff offers activities from skiing down the San Francisco Peaks to gazing at the stars at the Lowell Observatory. This town used to promote itself as "The City of Seven Wonders" — a reference to the Grand Canyon and other nearby Northern Arizona attractions. Problem is that not one of the wonders was actually in Flagstaff. Nowadays, the official slogan is less grandiose: "They don't make towns like this anymore." Nevertheless, seven national parks and monuments are located with a 100-mile radius of Flagstaff, including Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, and Montezuma Castle. Some of the West’s most beautiful country surrounds Flagstaff, from the alpine forests of San Francisco Peaks to the rugged deserts of Colorado Plateau. Today’s Flagstaff is an amazing place, combining a modern sense of discovery (Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University) with a strong Western legacy echoing the days of railroad builders , lumbermen, and pioneer ranchers (Route 66 days, Riordan Mansion, Museum of Northern Arizona, and Pioneer Historical Museum). Visitors from all over the world are attracted to city’s clean mountain air, year-round recreation (Arizona Snowbowl, the Arboretum), scenic forest paths, lively entertainment scene, and 1890s charm. Do not miss Heritage Square, a brick plaza in downtown with architectural details that represent local history and geology, such as a wooden flagpole with a base made of Grand Canyon rocks. Free movies are projected at the square on Friday nights during the summer. The shops, galleries and restaurants around it provide a very pleasant environment for strolling, shopping or just sitting with a cup of coffee. First Friday of each month tourists and residents alike enjoy "Art Walk" as the galleries stay open late for visitors. City has a distinct four-season climate. The Monsoon season of July and August bring fantastic lightning and thunderstorms almost daily along with plenty of rain (we caught some during the Labor Day weekend). You'll experience the beautiful blooming of spring and the gorgeous changing of the leaves in the fall. This small city is the home of the U.S. Naval Observatory's Flagstaff Station, Northern Arizona University's Atmospheric Research Observatory, the National Undergraduate Research Observatory, and Arizona State University's Braeside Observatory. It is also a dark-sky refuge for hundreds of amateur astronomers; the world's first designated International Dark Sky City. In October and November they held the Celebration of the Night, a five-week series of dark skies events. The city's battle with light pollution is on going in order to preserve prime conditions for the work being conducted at Lowell Observatory. Smithsonian CultureFest came to town in 2006 to help celebrate the beauty and science of the night sky as one of the " true cultural treasures of Arizona". Close
One of the frequently told stories about the naming of Flagstaff refers to a large pine, stripped of its branches, that was used to hang a U.S. flag for a Fourth of July celebration more than a century ago. As the story goes, the pine…Read More
One of the frequently told stories about the naming of Flagstaff refers to a large pine, stripped of its branches, that was used to hang a U.S. flag for a Fourth of July celebration more than a century ago. As the story goes, the pine was so tall that people could see it from miles away. Flagstaff became a symbol, a landmark and, ultimately, a name. The inhabitants, sensing that the settlement would last after work crews finish up on the rail line and leave, named the town around 1881. Thomas F. McMillan, who set up his home in 1876 near a spring, is widely recognized as being the town's first permanent settler. The spring and its small settlement underwent several names beginning with Antelope Spring, then Flagstaff, and then Old Town. By the time the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (now the Santa Fe) came through in 1882 there were ten buildings in Old Town, but they soon moved closer to the new railroad depot. In no time at all, Old Town was almost deserted and when a post office was established near the new train depot, it assumed the name of Flagstaff. The railroad opened the area to the entire East. By 1886, Flagstaff was the biggest city on the main line between Albuquerque and the Pacific coast. The town developed other industries around rail: timber, sheep, cattle. Three brothers by the names of Michael, Tim, and Denis Riordan were some of the first to profit from the lumber when they formed the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company. Though Denis would soon move on to California, Michael and Tim would remain in the community making essential contributions to its development, including bringing electricity to Flagstaff and building nearby Lake Mary (eventually their home became the Riordan Mansion museum). By 1891, Flagstaff had grown to 1,500 and Coconino County was established, leading to regional headquarters for other governmental offices such as the U.S. Forest Service. Flagstaff soon became the second-largest county seat in the United States. Percival Lowell chose Flagstaff and its strong visibility to build his observatory in 1894. Town drew international attention in 1930 when the planet Pluto was discovered at the now-famed Lowell Observatory (a "must see" place in town). The Arizona Teachers College began in 1899, becoming Northern Arizona University in 1966. During the 1920s, Route 66 was built and passed through town, transforming Flagstaff into a popular tourist stop (Flagstaff celebrates Route 66 days in the beginning of September). Close
The San Francisco Peaks are a volcanic mountain range located in north central Arizona. In 1629, one hundred and forty seven years before San Francisco, California received its name, Spanish Friars founded a mission at a Hopi Indian village in honor of St. Francis. 17th…Read More
The San Francisco Peaks are a volcanic mountain range located in north central Arizona. In 1629, one hundred and forty seven years before San Francisco, California received its name, Spanish Friars founded a mission at a Hopi Indian village in honor of St. Francis. 17th century Franciscans gave the name San Francisco to the peaks to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of their order. Three of the summits ring this dormant volcano's now quiet inner caldera. The highest summit in the range, Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet /3,851 meters), is the highest point in the state of Arizona. The San Francisco Volcanic Field, which covers about 1,800 square miles, is part of northern Arizona’s spectacular landscape. San Francisco Peaks is the only stratovolcano in the volcanic field and was built by eruptions between about 1 and 0.4 million years ago. Stratovolcanoes have moderately steep slopes and normally rise to a central peak and are built up by countless eruptions over hundreds of thousands of years. Since the eruption, much of the San Francisco Peaks has been removed to create the "Inner Basin" (another popular hiking trail runs here). There are two competing theories about the process: the missing material may have been removed quickly and explosively by an eruption, or it may have been removed slowly by a combination of large landslides, water erosion, and glacial scouring. After visiting the Snowbowl resort area we came down to US 180 (the highway which leads to the Grand Canyon). From here we took a loop around the peaks. This drive took us all the way around Arizona's highest mountain, winding through a land of pine forests and aspen groves, open prairies and rustic homesteads. We enjoyed this trip in September but anytime is a good time to enjoy this drive, although a ranger said the roads are closed through much of the winter. Autumn started to turn the mountain to gold, filling forest roads and trails with visitors come to enjoy the colorful display. From US 180 we turned right to forest road FR 418. Many parts of the road covered with gravel; drive slowly. We met several groups of visitors traveling on safari jeeps (dust in the air for miles). There are a number of places along this route where you can stop to take a hike, or enjoy a picnic lunch. In two places we saw vacationers set up a primitive camp (Potato Tank and Reese Tank homesteads area). Shortly after Reese Tank a scenic overview offers scenic view of the Sunset Crater volcanic area. The winding rocky road brings you down to US 89 (12 miles to Flagstaff). Allow 2 -3 hours to enjoy the trip. It is possible to drive around the peaks counter clockwise (e.g. from US89 to US 180). In this case you can add to the itinerary a visit to the Lava River Cave. This mile-long lava tube cave was formed roughly 700,000 years ago by molten rock that erupted from a volcanic vent in nearby Hart Prairie. From US 180 turn left (west) on FR 245 (at milepost 230). Continue 3 miles to FR171 and turn south 1 mile to where FR 171B turns left a short distance to Lava River Cave. The cave entrance is 300 yards east of the end of the road. Look for a large circle of rocks that mark the cave entrance; study the cave map before entering. The entrance is actually a hole in the ground and the floor just inside is covered with large, slippery boulders. This cave has a year round temperature of 34 degrees. You will need to dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate lighting in order to make the most of your visit (conditions throughout the cave are cold and dark). A Coleman lantern is a good idea. Approx 0.5 miles in there is a fork. Take the left fork -- the ceiling of the right fork drops down to about a yard off the floor. Towards the end of the tunnel, there are several areas where the ceiling gets kind of low -- just keep going. Check with Flagstaff Tourist Information Office if the road FR171 is open (may be closed due to rains). Close
An outdoor lovers’ paradise, Flagstaff offers activities year around. They also love to turn a weekend into a colorful event. Almost every summer weekend offers something special. During our visit to Flagstaff in the beginning of September we participated in two major events. First one…Read More
An outdoor lovers’ paradise, Flagstaff offers activities year around. They also love to turn a weekend into a colorful event. Almost every summer weekend offers something special. During our visit to Flagstaff in the beginning of September we participated in two major events. First one was the Labor Day Weekend Festival. Flagstaff Art in the Park was our favorite (three days in a row, Sat through Mon). During the event Wheeler Park was filled with vendors selling all kinds of crafts, arts, activities for kids, and food; live music was pretty good. The Coconino County Fair took place at the fairgrounds in Fort Tuthill Park. Highlights of the fair included exhibits, livestock, entertainment, a demolition derby, and carnival. On Monday Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra presented its annual free Labor Day concert with long title "Car Tunes" – Classical meets Classic, A Sentimental Musical Journey along "America’s Mother Road" (at Pine Mountain Amphitheater in Fort Tuthill Park). Next weekend city celebrated Route 66 Days (in 07 it was September 7 - 9). Actually this event started on Friday evening with "Cars" featured at Heritage Square. Next day hundreds of classic cars rolled through town. These restored vehicles brought much color and noise to the downtown area. Wheeler Park and downtown filled again with vendors selling all kinds of arts, clothing, food and other goodies. Those less car-inclined could have a nostalgic time listening to live music from a number of good bands and singers (Heritage Square was our favorite place to watch it). All events are within a block or two of the car show.But Flagstaff starts its festivities long before September. We were told that summer events in Flagstaff center around the rodeo and ethnic cuisine. Fans of the rodeo enjoy the Arizona High School Rodeo finals, which take place the first weekend of every June at the Coconino county Fair Grounds. High school students compete in such events as barrel racing, bareback riding, saddle bronco riding, bull riding, team roping, calf roping, and goat tying. The annual Chili Cook-off held during that same weekend features live music and contests for both adults and children. Renaissance in the Pines, featuring a Renaissance-themed marketplace, brings stage shows, street entertainment and living history demonstrations that include blacksmithing and weaving. Heritage Square in Historic downtown Flagstaff stages this two-day free festival with music of all descriptions, drumming and dance from local bandsOn the second Saturday in June, the Great Fiesta Del Barrio & Fajita Cook-off celebrates the customs and culture of the local Hispanic community. The third weekend in June brings the Pine Country Pro Rodeo, which draws contenders to the Coconino County Fairgrounds. The Arizona Highland Celtic Festival offers music, Irish dancing, and whiskey tasting. The Festival of Native American Arts, held during July and August, includes an exhibit, outdoor market, dances, workshops and demonstrations celebrating the arts, crafts, culture, and traditions of Native Americans throughout the Southwest. Centered around the 4th of July, are the Coconino County Horse Races, June 30th through July 24nd, at Fort Tuthill Downs at the County Fairgrounds.August's Flagstaff Summerfest Festival in the Pines tops off the summer season with the finest in arts and crafts, food, and entertainment.Flagstaff Festival of Science (September 21 – 30) offers ten-day family event with open houses, lectures, presentations, hikes and excursions. The Flagstaff Festival of Science, a 10-day event held annually at the end of September, promotes science awareness through hands-on exhibits, interactive displays, field trips, and world-class scientist participants.Flagstaff kicks off the winter season as children young and old delight in the Playthings of the Past exhibit, which runs from November through January and features dolls, trains, cars, and castles from the 1880s through the 1960s. During December, Riordan Mansion offers holiday tours of its festively decorated turn-of-the-century rooms. February's Flagstaff Winterfest features nearly 100 events: sled dog races, skiing competitions, and other snow events, llama play days, sleigh rides, concerts, cultural events, and historic walking tours are all on schedule. The Arizona Special Olympics is a competition for mentally and physically challenged athletes that is held during the last weekend in February. Close
Written by MilwVon on 16 Jan, 2007
If you enjoy touring the US National Parks and Monuments, this is a wonderful home base for a vacation! With our US National Parks Pass in hand, we were able to take in seven different sites. Right outside of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater…Read More
If you enjoy touring the US National Parks and Monuments, this is a wonderful home base for a vacation! With our US National Parks Pass in hand, we were able to take in seven different sites. Right outside of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater Monument, which is adjacent to the Wupatki National Monument. The loop road divides the lava flows of Sunset Crater Volcano, which makes for a great opportunity to get out and hike. As you exit Sunset Crater through the beautiful high desert, you will enter the plains that were home to many Native Americans. The loop road that connects these two National Monument areas allows vehicles to venture out to several pueblo homes of the natives of this area some 700 years ago.Walnut Canyon is also located in the immediate Flagstaff area and is home to the Sinagua Ruins National Monument. What is most amazing here is the way these people built their homes right in the cliff walls on either side of the Walnut Creek. The walking tour requires an ability to climb rather steep stairs returning from the circular walkway. As you walk along the area that is maintained by the US Park Service, you will also be able to see the ruins of cliff dwellings on the opposite side of the canyon that are still in their natural state.A bit further out is Montezuma Castle National Monument, approximately 45 minutes from Flagstaff heading towards Phoenix. Here visitors can see the single cliff house that has five stories and over 20 rooms. Believed to house nearly 50 of the Sinagua Indians, this dwelling is high above the flood plain below. Binoculars are recommended to be able to see up into Montezuma Castle, but if you don’t have them, no worry. There are drawings and artists’ renditions of what it is believed to have been like back in the 1400s.Heading in the opposite direction of Phoenix towards New Mexico, we would strongly encourage folks to give the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks a full day visit...but be sure to plan for a truly long day, as it will take you about 2 hours to get there from Flagstaff. These two special parks are also connected by a loop road, making it a pleasant trip through without backtracking. I would suggest packing a picnic lunch and plenty of water, since there really isn’t much out in this desert area of Arizona. There is a restaurant at the Painted Forest Visitors Center, although during our visit, it was closed for renovation so we had to settle for high-priced sodas and snacks at the gas station just outside of the park entrance.Of course, you cannot talk about or visit Flagstaff without including the Grand Canyon—the granddaddy of all of the US National Parks!! Visitors can make the 90-minute drive in their personal vehicle or take one of many tours available from the Flagstaff area. For us, we did the American Dream Tours trip (see separate review). If you choose to do the drive yourself, be sure to allow plenty of time for traffic. Many say that you can wait up to an hour or two to get into the park, especially during the peak summer months. Additionally, this is one of the more expensive parks at a pricey $25 per car, which includes all passengers.For visitors who plan on visiting all of these great treasures of the US National Park System, you may want to consider investing in one of the US National Parks Passes. In 2007 the pass program has changed and the price has gone up, so ask questions at the location of your visit. Close
Written by Taylor252 on 01 Sep, 2003
If you're in the Verde Valley (about 45 miles south of Flagstaff) and it gets too hot, you can always drive up the mountain to visit Jerome AZ State Historic Park. (Jerome will be 10-15 degrees cooler because of the elevation.) You can see the…Read More
If you're in the Verde Valley (about 45 miles south of Flagstaff) and it gets too hot, you can always drive up the mountain to visit Jerome AZ State Historic Park. (Jerome will be 10-15 degrees cooler because of the elevation.) You can see the city if you know where to look because it sits high up on one of the mountains that form the south side of the canyon. To find your way to Jerome, take I-17 south out of Flagstaff and get off at State Hwy 89A. Follow to the cut off for Jerome which will be on your left. The signs are pretty clear taking you into the park on Douglas Road.
Jerome is an old mining town that, along with its rich copper deposits, apparently has ghosts! We didn't see any, but we were assured by the publicity that they are there. In 1876 three prospectors staked a claim on this mountain and then sold out to some investors who in 1883 formed the Verde Valley Copper Co. Eugene Jerome was their principle money man who lent the town its name. (In an ironic, cross-the-Atlantic twist, his cousin Jenny Jerome married Randolph Churchill who then became the parents of Winston Churchill!) A few years went by rather unsuccessfully until William A. Clark entered the picture. He purchased the struggling mine, bullied through a narrow gauge railroad to get the ore to market (that is now the Verde Valley Wilderness Train), and made the mine successful. In 1912 James S. Douglas purchased the rights to additional land on the mountain and that was the beginning of the Little Daisy Mine, the 2nd successful operation in Jerome. Now the town began to grow and the trappings of civilization such as churches and brick homes were added. The growth continued to a peak in 1929 and then the general decline of the economy negatively impacted Jerome. In 1935 Phelps Dodge took over all the mining operations in Jerome but eventually gave up trying to make it profitable and in 1953 the mines were closed. The mine at its peak was the largest copper mine in the world.
The Douglas mansion now houses the visitor center and museum. They have great displays of Arizona tectonics, geology (AZ has one of the widest variety of precious and semi-precious stones in the U.S.) and mining operations. They also talk at length about the mining profession, its dangers (for the miners) and rewards (for the owners)! A 12 minute movie traces the history of Jerome which still boasts about 200 residents and talks about the ghosts of miners killed in accidents at the mine. Outside there is a great display of ore carts, horse drawn carriages and an old mining tower that's off to the right. If you turn towards the Verde Valley, there are beautiful views and a picnic area for those so inclined. We purchased some beautiful rock specimens in the gift shop and then took a picture of our friend beneath the Jerome city limit sign. You see, his name is Jerome also! The park is open 8-5 daily; entrance fee is $5 for adults over 17 and for further information call 928-634-5381 or go to the website: www.pr.state.az.us.
Written by reef2020 on 29 Apr, 2001
When I was a little boy, back in 1972, I remember being very excited when Mom and Dad told me we were going to see the Petrified Forest, a place where the trees had turned to stone. I, like many visitors to this gem of…Read More
When I was a little boy, back in 1972, I remember being very excited when Mom and Dad told me we were going to see the Petrified Forest, a place where the trees had turned to stone. I, like many visitors to this gem of a park in Eastern Arizona, fully expected to see the stone trees standing up, and I guess I was a bit disappointed when I realized that they had all fallen down, and the landscape was more "desert-ish" than "forest-y." I'd be lying if I said I wasn't similarly disappointed in the colors of the Painted Desert. My seven-year-old brain thought "well, if you're going to paint it, you could at least use brighter colors!" Subsequent visits as an adult, though, gave me a real appreciation for the wonders of this area.
The park has two entrances. At the north end is the Painted Desert, an area that should not be viewed in the middle of the day when it appears flat and colorless. Get here early in the morning, or catch the sun setting over the hills. There are several great overlooks, each providing its own special view.
Continuing south, you'll pass over Interstate 40 through a narrow little slice of protected land. Watch for pronghorn antelope and other wildlife through the wash of the Puerco River. The Santa Fe Railroad crosses the park in this area, and just past the railroad tracks are the Puerco Ruins. The Mogollon people farmed this area 800 years ago. This is a great place to look for rock art: petroglyphs whose meaning is known only to their creators. Newspaper Rock is about a mile further south along this road, and provides another outstanding set of petroglyphs.
Geology overwhelms most areas of the park, but the next section of road is especially beautiful. The Haystacks, The TeePees and Blue Mesa are all very appropriately named. Again, low-angle light (early morning or late-afternoon) offers the best viewing of these areas. You'll also begin to notice a smattering of rocks across the desert that look strangely like firewood......
Theodore Roosevelt set aside the Petrified Forest in 1906; it was the second national monument. It wasn't until 1962 that Congress formally recognized, through the redesignation of the area as a National Park, the incredible diversity of this area: the scenery, the wildlife, the ruins.
The park's namesake trees are best seen at the overlooks and trails along the road in the southern part of the park. They have wonderfully desciptive names: The Crystal Forest, Rainbow Forest and Long Logs. The trees left exposed here lived 225 million years ago. Their soft tissues were not devoured by animals, and with the perfect combination of temperature, moisture, burial, proximity to a variety of minerals, and other factors all contibuted to a replacement of the wood with stone. Most of the stone is quartz, and depending on the minerals present, the stone takes on a rainbow of colors from purples and blues, through yellows and greens, to oranges and reds. The real beauty of the Petrified Forest is in the details. Take time to get "up close and personal" with a log or slab. It is easy to get lost (figuratively, not literally!) examining all the minute details.
After taking such a close look, you, like millions before you, may be tempted to stick a little piece of wood in your pocket as a souvenir. DON'T DO IT! This is a national park - set aside for all people to learn from and enjoy. Your tiny transgression may not amount to much, but taken collectively with the thousands of others, this area is disappearing. Look, take pictures, but leave the rock behind. Sadly, because of so much theft, the area closes relatively early, making sunset viewing tough. Check with a ranger at one of the visitor centers for recommendations as to how you can best enjoy the area.
During our weeklong vacation in Flagstaff, we found a couple of local restaurants through www. restaurant.com. If you haven't used them for dining gift certificates, you should do yourself a favor and reduce your dining expenses while on vacation or even around your hometown community.Jotini's…Read More
During our weeklong vacation in Flagstaff, we found a couple of local restaurants through www. restaurant.com. If you haven't used them for dining gift certificates, you should do yourself a favor and reduce your dining expenses while on vacation or even around your hometown community.Jotini's on the Green2380 N. Oakmont Dr.Flagstaff(928) 527-7998Jotini's is located at the golf club overlooking the San Francisco Peaks and the golf course. The large fireplace and beautiful view were very nice. In addition to the full-service dining room, there is also a small sports bar with TVs throughout.We dined at Jotini's twice because of their close proximity to the Fairfield Resort in Flagstaff. The first time we were there our steaks were a bit overcooked. They were very accommodating, fixing it and giving us a certificate for a free dessert on a return trip. A few nights later we did return, only to have our medium-well prime rib served essentially uncooked and ice cold in the middle with ice crystals in the rare meat. We didn't even stay for the free dessert given to us earlier in the week.The Fairfield staff highly recommends this place, including them in their featured restaurants list with a 10% discount. Our view was that Jotini's was highly overrated and that we would not return in the future.Gypsy's Hideaway1926 N. 4th St., Suite 8BFlagstaff(928) 526-4333 This is a real diamond in the rough, off the beaten path. We also found this restaurant through restaurant.com, but unlike Jotini's, we LOVED it!! As you approach the entrance, you will feel like you are walking into a neighborhood blues bar. You pretty much are, but don't let that frighten you away. Our meals were truly gourmet and very reasonably priced (entrees under $20). David enjoyed a broiled fish dish with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. I, on the other hand, had the thick pork chops with the same side dishes. Completed with a wonderful fresh mixed greens salad and sourdough bread, our meal was outstanding!!The entire staff made their way by our table and asked how things were. Because of their local neighborhood customer base, EVERYone knew we were from out of town and made us feel most welcomed. If you don't know this place is there, you will easily miss it as it is tucked behind a small strip shopping center. Close
Written by MilwVon on 29 Mar, 2005
If you are planning a trip to northern Arizona, you've certainly heard of Sedona and the surrounding red-rock areas. We only had time to drive through Sedona en route to Phoenix on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We found the landscape to be breathtaking.…Read More
If you are planning a trip to northern Arizona, you've certainly heard of Sedona and the surrounding red-rock areas. We only had time to drive through Sedona en route to Phoenix on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We found the landscape to be breathtaking. Slide Rock State Park is on the north end of town and was jammed and essentially inaccessible. (We were there Easter weekend.)
We traveled up into a housing development on the south side of town. There, among the $250,000 homes, was a small pack of javelinas (essentially wild pigs - see photo below). They were rooting through trash cans in the neighborhood, looking for food no doubt.
We wish we had had more time to really look around the area. We did see a tour company (Pink Jeep Tours) that offered desert tours.
If you enjoy shopping, there appeared to be plenty of opportunities to flex your VISA card. We stopped into the Sedona Photo Express to buy film. They were very helpful and sincerely nice.
Many of the brochures and websites we researched before heading to Flagstaff suggested different tours. We followed one of them on our second day in the area and it was a good way to get an overview of some of the things we wanted to…Read More
Many of the brochures and websites we researched before heading to Flagstaff suggested different tours. We followed one of them on our second day in the area and it was a good way to get an overview of some of the things we wanted to see. So, here is a suggestion for a 1-day car tours. Total miles=170. Total time=all day. Season: Year round as long as there's no snow or ice.
You begin in Flagstaff picking up Hwy 89A. 89A is a designated U.S. Scenic Byway and it is very deserving of the title. You drive for a bit and then the tight cornered switchbacks begin. A very serious recommendation for this portion of the trip is no snow and ice! You descend from over 7000 feet to something like 3800 ft. pretty quickly. The switchbacks are at the closed end of Oak Creek Canyon and as you descend, you begin to see towering canyon walls on either side. When you get to the bottom, Oak Creek runs along side the road and there are forests of conifers on both sides. A short distance along the bottom of the valley brought us to a roadside shop of card tables set up by Native Americans. They were selling handcrafted silver, turquoise, onyx, and amethyst jewelry. We stopped and after a 20 minute selection process, purchased a signed Navajo-crafted silver and amethyst necklace. My salespersons told me they set up here often, so for a great purchase, watch for their stands. They will be on the right side of the road several miles after the switchbacks stop.
As you continue on 89A, it will take you into the Red Rock area and eventually into Sedona. You will not be able to keep from stopping to take pictures! The iron rich Red Rock Mts. are beautiful. Then of course, there is Sedona, land of crafters, artists, new age healers and apparently several spiritual vortexes. We did a bit a shopping, took a lot of pictures and were on our way again.
As you continue south on 89A you will enter the Verde Valley and eventually come upon Tuzigoot National Monument. This is the ruins of a Sinagua Indian village built from 1125 A.D.-1400 A.D. It is one of the best preserved sites for this pre-colonial Native American group.
Moving a bit further south on 89A brings you to the cutoff to visit Jerome, AZ, an old mining ghost town. It's high up on the mountain so it will be roughly 10 degrees cooler in Jerome than the floor of the Verde Valley. When at the Douglas House which serves as the visitors center, be sure and take a picture of the Verde Valley and beyond from the cliff edge.
From Jerome, you head back north on 89A to Hwy 279, go east to I-17 and go north on the interstate. Get off at the sign for Montezuma's Castle. This National Monument got its inappropriate name from early explorers who came upon the magnificent cliff dwelling high rise and figured it must have been made by Montezuma of Mexican fame. It was not. It is also a Sinagua site and dates between 1100 and 1400 A.D.
After visiting this cliff dwelling go back to I-17. You can stop at the Indian Casino right at the entrance to the interstate or continue north back to Flagstaff. It will be about a 40 minute drive back to the only RCI resort in Flagstaff, Fairfield Flagstaff. It's a great day and a great trip.