Loving the Valley means seeing it in your rearview mirror from time to time – especially when the mercury hits triple digits. So in the spirit of sweet summer relief, we present seven weekend road trips to cooler Arizona climes, featuring every place to eat, drink, shop, discover and play from Friday to Sunday.
Nowhere else is rust so captivating. Sedona’s oxidized iron-tinted red rocks have attracted daytrippers, enlightenment seekers, hikers, bikers (both kinds), and world travelers for years. You’ve probably been there more than once, and probably been let down a few times by overhyped attractions and amenities that paled next to the geological grandeur. So we’ve distilled the sans pareil of Sedona into an easy weekend getaway calibrated to everyone from outdoor adventurers to shopaholics.
Hike: Airport Loop Trail
After the drive to Sedona, you’ll be itching to stretch your legs and take in vermilion vistas. This 3.5-mile loop, which intersects Table Top Trail at roughly the halfway point, delivers a continuous dose of spice-colored scenery at sunset. (Bonus: The entire site is a vortex, so your exercise is worth double body-and-soul points, or something like that.) From the 89A, turn south onto Airport Road and park in the dirt lot on the left; the trailhead is about 100 yards southeast. (dreamsedona.com/airport-mesa.html, 928-203-2900)
Dinner: Elote Cafe
Mexican, local, organic, sustainable, award-winning, delectable…Elote Cafe (771 Hwy. 179, 928-203-0105, elotecafe.com) is requisite exquisite eating. Order the eponymous appetizer – fire-roasted corn smeared with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese – and the meltingly tender lamb adobo. A line frequently forms before the doors open at 5 p.m., but the wait passes quickly with a blood orange margarita on the patio.
Depending on your appetite for adrenaline, an array of outdoor adventure awaits. Center Focus Experiences (928-567-8580, thecenterfocus.com/rock-climbing.html) will get you face-to-cliff-face with the red rocks on an all-day rock climbing excursion suitable for novices. Up the vertical ante with Red Rock Helicopter Tours (two locations; 928-204-5939, sedonaairtours.com), which offers numerous flights, from 25 white-knuckle minutes at Secret Canyon ($129/person) to three hours zigzagging across Northern Arizona ($399). Free and no less beautiful, Devil’s Bridge trail is an easy 1.8-mile roundtrip ramble to a massive, natural sandstone arch – cross it if you dare. From the 89A in west Sedona, turn north onto Dry Creek Road. Go two miles to the fork and veer right; from there, the access road to the trailhead 1.3 miles away is for high-clearance vehicles only – trust us, a Hyundai Elantra will not make it.
Lunch: Oak Creek Brewery & Grill
Maybe Sedona’s water is the secret ingredient that lends Oak Creek Brewery’s award-winning ales their smooth flavor. Taste for yourself with a hop to Oak Creek Brewery & Grill in Tlaquepaque (336 Hwy. 179, 928-282-3300, oakcreekpub.com), where you can pair a spicy Nut Brown ale with upper-crust pub fare like pizza topped with gouda, fontina and brie.
More than a dozen vortexes, or swirling eddies of spiritual energy, are said to emanate from the earth around Sedona. Explore this metaphysical Disneyland with Sedona Vortex Tours (150 Hwy. 179, 800-943-3266, sedonaretreats.com). They’ll take you on a three-hour tour of two or three sites ($89/person) and teach you about medicine wheels, power points and ceremonial drumming.
Dinner: Dahl & Di Luca
Dahl & Di Luca’s (2321 Hwy. 89A, 928-282-5219, dahlanddiluca.com) darkly romantic decor, pitch-perfect cocktails and nightly jazz pianist are the ideal salve after a day on the rocks. The farm-to-table food – from fresh pasta to veal saltimbocca – is certified organic and certifiably the best Italian in town.
Stargazing with Evening Sky Tours
You may glimpse heavenly bodies from time to time in the city, but they’re dim entertainments indeed compared to the celestial spread in Sedona, where this summer you can get ringside seats to a Saturn sighting. At 9 p.m., professional astronomers with Evening Sky Tours (928-853-9778, eveningskytours.com) spend an hour and a half blowing your mind, astronomically speaking. Tickets cost $60 per adult, $35 per child older than 6.
You can’t throw a granola bar without hitting a bike trail in Sedona, so feel free to pedal it alone, or go guided with Sedona Bike & Bean (6020 Hwy. 179, 928-284-0210, bike-bean.com), where you can fuel up with a pre-jaunt java. They rent bikes starting at $25 for two hours and offer be-“spoke” tours, from a family-friendly spin to a straight-up insane thrill-ride for the hardcore enthusiast. For a more serene excursion, rise with the sun (literally) on a dawn float above Sedona with Red Rock Balloon Adventures ($195 per person; 105 Canyon Diablo Rd., 800-258-3754, redrockballoons.com) culminating with a picnic.
Lunch: Wild Orchid
Painted fans adorn the walls, origami napkins deck the tables, and more than 60 Asian fusion dishes grace the Thai-focused menu with clean, fresh flavors that leave you light and satisfied. (2611 W. Hwy. 89A, 928-282-4422, thewildorchidrestaurant.com)
Shopping, Art and Antiques
Start your sumptuous shopping spree at Tlaquepaque (336 Hwy. 179, 928-282-4838, tlaq.com), a sycamore-shaded Spanish village-style plaza with vine-webbed walls, cobblestone paths and more than 40 art galleries and shops. Head north to uptown Sedona along the 89A between Jordan and Art Barn roads, where you’ll find a constellation of shops, galleries and cafés perfect for a Sunday meander. In the Sedona Center plaza, pick up an Original Red Dirt Shirt (as featured on Dirty Jobs) for the dudes in the family, or taste your way through Sedona Olive Oil Company (320 Hwy. 89A, 928-282-1887, sedonaoliveoil.com). Farther up the road, Sedona Arts Center (15 Art Barn Rd., 928-282-3865, sedonaartscenter.com) features fine arts and frequent artist demonstrations.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross (780 Chapel Rd., 928-282-4069, chapeloftheholycross.com) impresses pious believers and simple sightseers alike: The 250-foot-high rectangular Roman Catholic chapel looms over the mesa like a book sticking out from between the cushions in God’s couch. It’s open until 5 p.m. on Sundays, so hurry up and behold.
Where to Stay:
Sky Ranch Lodge
Sky Ranch Lodge (1105 Airport Rd., 928-282-6400, skyranchlodge.com) boasts the best view at the best price; for about $150 a night, you can nest on the 500-foot throne that is Airport Mesa. While not luxurious, the quaint property features frills like a garden bar, walking paths, a pool and a hot tub.
L’Auberge de Sedona
Surrender your inhibitions (and your credit card) to this sophisticated, sybaritic resort replete with private outdoor showers, creekside dining and alfresco couples massages. (301 L’Auberge Lane, 928-282-1661, lauberge.com)
A university town with a budding brewery scene and a longstanding outdoorsy ethos, Flagstaff is quirky, laid-back, and just the right size for exploring. The friendly locals are often transplanted urbanites with a yen for alpine activities and a strong sense of community. Join them at beaucoup boutiques and bars in the historic downtown area, then tap into your inner forest ranger in the surrounding mountains and national monuments.
Brewery Tour and Dinner
Fortunately for your beer-loving self, four Flagstaff microbreweries sit within a stumble of one another. The new brewer on the block, Mother Road Brewing Co. (7 S. Mikes Pike, 928-774-9139, motherroadbeer.com) features live music on Fridays and is a good starting point (last call’s at 7:45; no food). Beaver Street Brewery (11 S. Beaver St., 928-779-0079, beaverstreetbrewery.com) is a restaurant, brewery, billiards room and seasonal beer garden rolled into one, and is owned by the same couple who run Lumberyard Brewing Co. (5 S. San Francisco St., 928-779-2739, lumberyardbrewingcompany.com), where you can kick up your heels to country music on Friday nights. Finally, cross the train tracks to Flagstaff Brewing Co. (16 E. Route 66, 928-773-1442, flagbrew.com) to put the finishing touches on your buzz with a Sasquatch Stout on the patio.
Having hosted a series of astrological firsts – including the discovery of Pluto and evidence of the universe’s eternal expansion – Lowell Observatory (1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., 928-774-3358, lowell.edu) is in an orbit of its own. Via telescope, you can go from Jupiter to the moon every summer night until 10 p.m. ($11/adult, $4/child).
Sometimes the best places are hidden in plain sight. Such is the case with MartAnne’s (10 N. San Francisco St., 928-773-4701), a cash-only Mexican joint with consistently long lines, huge portions and a cult following. Fans swear by the green chilaquiles, and the egg-topped spicy pork posole is a chile lover’s dream.
Museum of Northern Arizona
Get an anthropological primer for your pueblo visit later in the afternoon by visiting the Museum of Northern Arizona (3101 N. Fort Valley Rd., 928-774-5213, musnaz.org), home to nine exhibits of artifacts from Native Americans of the Colorado Plateau. Browse the museum shop for authentic pottery, kachinas, and fetish carvings.
Lunch: Diablo Burger
Order a basket of Belgian-style fries and choose from ten burgers made with open-range beef as clean and local – and tasty – as it gets. Bring cash and an appetite, whether it’s for the Vitamin B with bacon, beet and bleu cheese, or the fried-egg-topped DB House. (120 N. Leroux St., 928-774-3274, diabloburger.com)
A Volcano and a Pueblo
Around 1100 A.D., a fusillade of volcanic eruptions ripped across the San Francisco Volcanic Field, pockmarking the terrain with a series of cinder cones. The most archetypical example is Sunset Crater, where Apollo 11 astronauts trained for the moon landing. Take U.S. 89 north 12 miles, turn right on the Sunset Crater Wupatki Loop Road and continue two miles to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument visitor center ($5 per adult, good for both monuments; www.nps.gov/sucr), then hike the one-mile Lava Flow Trail. Next, drive 19 miles farther up Loop Road to Wupatki National Monument (www.nps.gov/wupa). Thanks to Sunset’s fertile volcanic ash, this area became prime agricultural land for the people who populated Wupatki pueblo. Stroll to one – or all five – of the ruins and imagine what life was like at this ancient trade center.
Evening Concert at the Arboretum
On select Saturdays at 5:30, the Arboretum at Flagstaff (4001 S. Woody Mountain Rd., 928-774-1442, thearb.org) hosts live concerts against a botanical backdrop. While the air swells with the sounds of world music, the grounds bloom with dozens of gardens highlighting the area’s diverse microclimates.
Inspired by bicycle trips in Italy, owner Caleb Schiff returned home to bless Flagstaffers with Neapolitan-style pizza and fresh gelato (203 W. Phoenix Ave., 928-774-3242, pizzicletta.com). Habitués pledge their love for the amore oi mare, draped with prosciutto, arugula, mascarpone, pecorino, and lemon olive oil.
Begin a marvelously macabre evening with drinks at two haunted hotels. At the historic Weatherford Hotel (23 N. Leroux St., 928-779-1919, weatherfordhotel.com) – a spooky Victorian edifice allegedly populated by ghosts in the ballroom, basement, and storage closet – climb two flights of stairs to Charly’s Pub, and stand at the top with gin in hand to feel like you’re on the prow of the Titanic. Then walk one block east to the lounge of the neon-lit Hotel Monte Vista (100 N. San Francisco St., 928-779-6971, hotelmontevista.com) to share a cocktail with the hotel’s resident duo of dancing ghouls.
Self-guided Ghost Tour
Maybe it’s the Wild West past or remnants of fireside lumberjack tales, but ghost stories run rampant in Flagstaff. Print out a walking guide to local paranormal places (flagstaffarizona.org/discovering_haunted-tours.html) and poke around seven haunted buildings downtown.
Fuel up for a day of walking with a fairer-than-thou fair-trade cappuccino at crunchy-granola mainstay Macy’s (14 S. Beaver St., 928-774-2243, macyscoffee.net). Aside from granola, natch, the vegetarian breakfast menu includes biscuits and gravy, and waffles.
Arizona Snowbowl Skyride and Hike
Come summer, ski-centric Arizona Snowbowl encourages visitors to ascend the mountain rather than careen down it. Their Scenic Skyride (9300 N. Snowbowl Rd., 928-779-1951, arizonasnowbowl.com) is a half-hour climb to an 11,500-foot extinct volcano, where you can see for some 70 miles – that’s a Grand Canyon-caliber vantage. Five miles after starting your trip back to town, turn left onto FR 420 (Schultz Pass Road; gravel but completely fine for cars) and drive six miles to the parking lot for the Sunset Trail No. 23 trailhead (928-526-0866, www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recreation/recarea/?recid=55188&actid=24). It’s a four-mile hike one way with views of the San Francisco Peaks, volcanic fields, Sunset Crater and the Painted Desert. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, mule deer and black bear footprints.
Lunch: Criollo Latin Kitchen
With a salvaged wood bar, art-lined crimson walls and smooth music, Criollo Latin Kitchen (16 N. San Francisco St., 928-774-0541, criollolatinkitchen.com) puts a modern spin on traditional Latin American cuisine. The food is local and sustainable and the menu classic and creative, from the braised short rib empanada to the delightfully spiced paella criollo.
Walk around Downtown
Stop by the visitors center (1 E. Route 66, 800-379-0065, flagstaffarizona.org), housed in a former train station, to pick up info on downtown’s historic buildings, including the 1888 Renaissance Revival-style Babbitt Brothers Trading Company. Be sure to duck into downtown’s quirky shops, too. At the Old Town Shops (120 N. Leroux St., 928-774-3100, oldtownshops.net), you’ll find Basement Marketplace, a budget Urban Outfitters complete with barbecue joint and Aveda spa. Nearby Sundara (22 E. Route 66, 928-779-3292, sundara.biz) is a boutique for the upscale bohemian, selling clothes, original art and knickknacks.
Where to stay:
The Inn at 410
Romantic and graciously run, this B&B’s eight rooms ($165-$215) range in theme from “French country” to “Southwestern with a Jacuzzi.” For breakfast, dine on artichoke-potato frittata or baked apple custard French toast on the garden patio, and sip afternoon tea – with free brandy – in the gazebo. (410 Leroux St., 928-774-0088, inn410.com)
Historic and haunted, the Weatherford Hotel (23 N. Leroux St., 928-779-1919, weatherfordhotel.com) evokes the Flagstaff of years past. Its eleven rooms are decorated with turn-of-the-century flair, many without TV or phones, and range from $49 (with a shared bath) to $139 per night.
On June 2, Flagstaff Hullabaloo celebrates all things Flag with live music, a bike parade, costume contest and beer tasting.
“Average summer high temperatures in the 80s” is enough to make any Phoenician vamoose to Prescott, but the city’s slogan, “Everybody’s Hometown,” is the real draw. From bartenders to baristas, everyone’s willing to chat, even if they peg you as the city slicker you are. The historic downtown is charming – all elm trees and boutiques – and in the summer the square hosts a bevy of live, free entertainment. Beyond downtown, Prescott buzzes with outdoor activities, lending to the city’s healthy, mellow glow.
Whiskey Row Tour
Dive into Prescott with a ramble down Whiskey Row, a stretch of Montezuma Street that lies roughly between Gurley and Goodwin streets. This tract has survived a century of rabble-rousing cowboys and multiple fires to stand here today for your drinking pleasure. The Palace (120 S. Montezuma St., 928-541-1996, historicpalace.com) saloon and restaurant (our advice: stick to the drinks) opened in September 1877, has served the likes of Doc Holliday, and still features a ragtime pianist on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Built in a former brothel, Coyote Joe’s Bar & Grill (214 S. Montezuma, 928-778-9570, coyotejoes.net) boasts a patio, live music nightly, and a two-for-one happy hour. Check out the collection of bird specimens and the regular live music at biker-favored Bird Cage Saloon (148 S. Montezuma Rd., 928-771-1913, birdcagesaloon.com). And peer over your pint at Courthouse Plaza from the balcony patio in Jersey Lilly Saloon (116 S. Montezuma St., 928-541-7854, jerseylillysaloon.com).
Dinner: Iron Springs Café
It looks like a bright-red, old train depot because it is. Iron Springs Café (1501 Iron Springs Rd., 928-443-8848, ironspringscafe.com) may have kitschy magnets stuck to its air ducts, but the Cajun and Southwestern fare is serious business. Sit in an old rail-car booth or on the string-lit patio and order something with the word “N’awlins” in it.
Breakfast: Lone Spur Cafe
After a night out drinking, nothing hits the spot like hefty portions of breakfast food ladled with country gravy. The Lone Spur Cafe (106 W. Gurley St., 928-445-8202, thelonespur.com) sports antler chandeliers and serves a mean Cowboy Benedict breakfast. It’s only so often you get to eat a plate of ham and eggs while sitting beneath a bearskin.
Sharlot Hall Museum
Relive Prescott’s heyday as Arizona’s territorial capital at Sharlot Hall Museum (415 W. Gurley St., 928-445-3122, sharlot.org), an open-air campus of historical buildings and gardens. The big-ticket historical draw is the Governor’s Mansion, but don’t miss Fort Misery, the oldest log cabin in Arizona; the Territorial Rose Garden; and plays and concerts at the Blue Rose Theatre. If you’re there on the second Saturday of most months (not June, though), try the living history workshops, when you can learn how to make Victorian accessories.
Lunch: Raven Cafe
Cozy, artsy and grooving with indie rock, Raven Cafe (142 N. Cortez St., 928-717-0009, ravencafe.com) offers more than 100 beers on tap and in bottle. Head to the upstairs patio, garnished with an herb garden, and dine on local and organic fare while overlooking an expansive mountain vista.
Art and Antiques
Prescott is prime hunting territory for quality antiques, or a good gander-spot for just poking around galleries and museums. This summer, Western art trove Phippen Museum (4701 Hwy. 89 North, 928-778-1385, phippenartmuseum.org) is spotlighting Arizona’s pioneering female artists and bronco riders. Countless antique shops and galleries – peddling everything from Wild West tchotchkes to Dia de los Muertos sculptures – flank Downtown’s Montezuma and Cortez streets. Visit Arizona Territory Antiques (211 W. Aubrey St., 928-445-4656) for small treasures like Tiffany glass, Ogg’s Hogan (111 N. Cortez St., 928-443-9856) for Native American jewelry, and Keystone Antiques (127 N. Cortez St., 928-445-1757) for top-notch collectibles in a multi-dealer mall.
Dinner: Prescott Brewing Company
Consistently ranked among the best microbreweries in the state, Prescott Brewing Company (130 W. Gurley St., 928-771-2795, prescottbrewingcompany.com) has a mellow vibe and an impressive trove of booze-themed memorabilia. The taproom typically offers eight different styles, but zero in on the Achocolypse, a chocolate stout with tones of cinnamon, cocoa and maple syrup. It’s quintessential Prescott.
Elks Opera House
Open since 1905, the Elks Opera House (117 E. Gurley St., 928-777-1367, elksoperahouse.com) has hosted everything from silent films to modern musicians. The House seats more than 500 people and offers intermittent entertainment, so check their box office for showtimes; on Saturday, June 23, they’re hosting the 3 International Tenors.
From April to October, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce conducts free walking tours of the historic downtown area at 10:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings (tours depart from the Chamber building, 117 W. Goodwin St.). If you’d rather venture on your own through the residential neighborhoods’ Victorian-style gingerbread homes, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stroll up the San Francisco-style Nob Hill on Union Street, which runs east from Courtyard Square for three blocks.
Lunch: Wild Iris Coffeehouse
Wild Iris (124 S. Granite St., 928-778-5155, www.wildiriscoffee.com) proves that comfy spots proliferate in Prescott. It’s perfect for a light lunch – say, sandwiches, soups or homemade crackers with cheese. Speed walk here to snatch up the best-selling “sugar diddies,” mini pastries filled with vanilla cream.
Watson Lake Action
Though Prescott’s known as a historic hub, it’s also a superior springboard for active pursuits, thanks to nearby Granite Dells and Watson Lake. From downtown, drive east on Gurley Street for 1.2 miles, turn north onto Highway 89 for 3.5 miles, then, at the traffic circle, take the first right into Watson Lake park. Prescott Outdoors (928-925-1410, prescottoutdoors.com) provides the exclusive boat-rental business for the area and is conveniently located at the boat ramp of the lake. Who knew drop-of-a-hat kayaking could be so easy? Rubicon Outdoors (800-903-6987, rubiconoutdoors.com) offers guided half- or full-day rock climbing around the lake, or for something free, the four-mile Peavine Trail hike starts just south of the lake’s parking lot.
Where to stay: Hassayampa Inn
Charmingly historic without a hint of aging’s unpleasant side effects, the Inn (122 E. Gurley St., 800-322-1927, hassayampainn.com) commands a choice location, and even the cheapest rooms are handsome. The lobby brims with comfy couches and bumps with jazz music, while the patio makes for a lovely mid-afternoon respite. Both spots shine with friendly and gracious staff.
Prescott Log Cabin Bed & Breakfast
An intimate refuge tucked into the Granite Dells, this log-hewn lodge offers just four guest rooms bedecked with amenities like fireplaces, claw-foot tubs and skylights. (3155 N. Hwy. 89, 888-778-0442, prescottlogcabin.com)
June is prime time for Prescott events. Check out Antiques on the Square on Sunday, June 3; performing arts and culture festival Tsunami on the Square on Saturday, June 16; Prescott Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, June 23; and the 125th annual World’s Oldest Rodeo June 28-July 4, including the Prescott Frontier Days Parade on Saturday, June 30.
COTTONWOOD & JEROME
Thanks to the Verde Valley’s blossoming wine scene, Cottonwood has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Its Wild West-style Old Town, once bypassed by daytrippers beelining to Jerome, has become a legitimate destination, with Main Street storefronts opening up to tasting rooms, cafes, and gourmet shops. In 2011, the town got serious traveler cred when it landed a chic boutique hotel. Meanwhile, the erstwhile copper mining boomtown of Jerome, just 15 minutes away, remains thrillingly artsy, quirky and haunted.
With two wineries in the region (Caduceus Cellars and Arizona Stronghold), Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan is an exemplar of the Verde Valley’s newfound coolness. The winery Keenan co-owns with Eric Glomski, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards (1023 N. Main St., 928-639-2789, azstronghold.com), has a fire-red, rocker-hip tasting room that belies the quality of the nuanced wines. The tasting room for New Zealand filmmaker Sam Pillsbury’s Willcox-based Pillsbury Wine Company (1012 N. Main St., 928-639-0646, pillsburywine.com), is traditional yet cheeky – Pillsbury nicknamed his petite sirah/mourvedre/syrah blend “the Diva” since its acronym is PMS. The Wine Cellar (1029 N. Main St., 928-649-0444, facebook.com/winecellaroldtown) sells seven wines from Dionysian Cellars (California grapes/Arizona wine) and feels appropriately Grecian and classical. Tastings at each usually include five wines for less than $10 per person, and all are open until 8 or 9 p.m. on weekends, so feel free to linger.
Dinner: Rendezvous in Old Town
RIOT (777 N. Main St., Cottonwood, 928-634-3777, riotcottonwood.com), as it’s known locally, is an auto shop-turned-lounge and the premier nightlife spot in Old Town, thanks to its 20 beers on tap and 21 wines, live music and late closing time. Fusion favorites include the Empanadas Italianas, filled with prosciutto, cappicola and queso asadero and topped with house-made chimichurri sauce.
Breakfast: Old Town Red Rooster Cafe
Red Rooster Cafe’s (901 N. Main St., Cottonwood, 928-649-8100, oldtownredroostercafe.com) simple menu consists of mostly organic, updated riffs on comfort food (think poblano cheese sauce on everything), and the decor is warm and inviting with a touch of country chic. Grab a newspaper menu and sit at the window-front bar for a perfect morning.
Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders’ (1014 N. Main St., 928-634-9900, vvoliveoil.com) dozens of artisanal olive oils and balsamic vinegars invite experimentation; taste the chipotle chile olive oil mixed with tangerine balsamic for a flavor profile sure to stun the tongue. Bonne Lait (926 N. Main St., 928-634-5535, bonnelait.com) is an artisanal and imported cheese and chocolate shop with a vintage feel and an owner whose passion for fromage is endless and contagious. Pick up incredible edibles at both, then head to Orion Bread Co. (1028 N. Main St., 928-649-1557, orionbread.com) to compile a gourmet snack.
Jerome State Historic Park and Galleries
Soak up Jerome’s boomtown-turned-arts-town vibe starting with a visit to Jerome State Historic Park (928-634-5381, azstateparks.com/Parks/JERO/index.html), where you can tour a mansion-turned-museum and stand on the glass ceiling of an old mining shaft taller than the Empire State Building for a vertiginous thrill. Next, head down Jerome’s main street and pop into RAKU gallery (250 Hull Ave., 928-639-0239, rakugallery.com) to browse a stunning selection of hand-blown glass, namely the Gustav Klimt-esque Mad Art Glass. The ruins of a market next door house the affiliated La Victoria Glass Studio, where artist Tracy Weisel gives frequent glassblowing demos.
Lunch: 15.Quince Grill & Cantina
With its skeleton-chef logo and bright blue walls painted with skulls, 15.Quince (363 Main St., 928-634-7087, visitjeromeaz.com) brings a vibrant addition to Jerome. Owner/Chef Vladimir Costa spices up his New Mexican menu with six chile varieties that infuse everything from an elk burger to the “Juanito Cash” burrito.
Jerome Area Wineries
Downtown Jerome is home to yet another passel of primo vino-tasting rooms – between here and Cottonwood, the responsible imbibing never stops. Jerome Winery (403 Clark St., 928-639-9067, jeromewinery.com) and its sister label, Bitter Creek Winery (240 Hull Ave., 928-634-7033, bittercreekwinery.com) are kitschy and casual. Caduceus Cellars (158 Main St., 928-639-9463, caduceus.org) serves Maynard James Keenan’s Merkin Vineyards wines in a historic setting with brick walls, a pressed tin ceiling and window-side couches. About 30 minutes away – but well worth a detour for its award-winning wines and creekside setting complete with tree-shaded picnic tables, occasional live music and massages – is Page Springs Vineyards & Cellars (1500 N. Page Springs Rd., Cornville, 928-639-3004, pagespringscellars.com).
If you still haven’t sated your inner wino, head to Grapes Restaurant & Bar (111 Main St., Jerome, 928-639-8477, grapesjerome.com). Next to each item on the Italio-centric menu (think shrimp and pesto pizza or a giant baked, stuffed mushroom) you’ll find a “bin number” that corresponds to a specific wine selection, making pairing easy for those already a few glasses in.
Breakfast: Crema Cafe
Crema Cafe (917 N. Main St., Cottonwood, 928-649-5785, cremacafe89a.com) is a pint-size space with big heart and a simple, locally-sourced menu. It’s early, but follow your breakfast burrito with their artisanal gelato and sorbet; the butter salt caramel gelato is almost always on the menu, and for good reason.
Hike: Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Less than a five-minute drive from old town Cottonwood is Dead Horse Ranch State Park (675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd., 928-634-5283, azstateparks.com/Parks/DEHO; $7 per car), which makes up for in scenery what it lacks in spiffy nomenclature. Drive north on Main Street and turn right onto 10th Street (not at Fifth Street, deceitful Google). The River Day Use Area is laced with trails that trace the Verde River, from the wheelchair-friendly Canopy Trail to the Verde River Greenway, a two-mile path that weaves through prime nesting habitat.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Montezuma’s Castle may be more architecturally stunning, but you can actually wander through the ruins at Tuzigoot (928-634-5564, nps.gov/tuzi), an awe-inspiring, 110-room Sinaguan pueblo overlooking the Verde River and Tavasci Marsh. From Dead Horse, head back to Cottonwood, then go north and west on winding Main Street 2.5 miles and look for a large sign indicating the turnoff for Tuzigoot Road; entrance costs $5 for adults.
Lunch: Flatiron Café
Snuggled into the end slice of a building, luminous Flatiron Café (416 Main St., Jerome, 928-634-2733, flatironcafejerome.com) is redolent of cabin and coffee. If the few tables are full, take your salmon quesadilla or vegan black bean wrap across the street to the white-picket patio.
Where to Stay: The Tavern Hotel
The new Tavern Hotel (904 N. Main St., Cottonwood, 928-639-6669, thetavernhotel.com) may be the chicest building in Old Town Cottonwood. The front desk is at the Tavern Grille next door, and the complimentary cocktail upon arrival makes check-in that much smoother. Rooms cost $150 or $170 per night and include a free breakfast at Crema Café or Red Rooster Café.
Though it’s a varied, 200-mile-long escarpment slashing across central Arizona, the Mogollon Rim is best typified by the area just north of Payson. The world’s largest ponderosa pine forest blankets hills that ripple below shifting cloud shadows; lakes and rivers lace the woodlands; and recreation abounds, from fishing to horseback riding to mountain lion hunting (it’s legal!).
Hike: Red Rock Trail
This three-mile roundtrip trail makes an ideal abbreviated afternoon amble. You’ll start in dense forest that gradually opens up to views of the Rim; when the trail splits, go right, hiking uphill until you connect with 50-mile Highline Trail. From Payson, drive about 14 miles north on the AZ 87 and turn right onto Control Road (Forest Road 64); a signed trailhead is on the left, about 2 miles in.
Dinner: Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe
Genial Italian-American gourmand Gerardo Moceri turns out wood-oven-fired pizzas and pastas graced with house-made mozzarella and herbs from his garden. (512 N. Beeline Highway, Payson, 928-468-6500, gerardosbistro.com)
Breakfast: Beeline Cafe
Set your standards-meter to “diner” mode, and you’ll be perfectly happy with the inexpensive, filling fare dished up at this friendly mom-and-pop Payson mainstay (815 S. Beeline Hwy., 928-474-9960).
Horseback Riding or Hiking
Get into the Zane Grey spirit by seeing the Rim atop a trusty steed that will lead you to stunning vistas, a meadow and a waterfall. For $30 per person per hour, Kohl’s Ranch Stables (288 W. Kohl Rd., 928-478-0030) leads one- to three-hour horseback rides from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., leaving on the hour. If four legs are two too many for your minimalist sensibilities, head to Horton Creek for an easy, seven-mile roundtrip waterside walk. Just past Kohl’s Ranch, turn left toward the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery; one mile up this road on the west side is parking for the trail, which begins across the road in the campground.
Drive: Rim Road
This popular cruise traces the Mogollon Rim for 51 miles, offering a smorgasbord of Rim scenery, from sylvan views (some still recovering from the Dude Fire) to wildlife cameos to a smattering of trout-filled lakes (see Dinner, below) including Knoll Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, and Willow Springs Lake. From Kohl’s Ranch, drive east on AZ 260 about 14 miles, then turn north onto Forest Road 300, or Rim Road. Follow the road northwest to AZ 87. Largely unpaved but painless, the drive takes about three hours, depending on your penchant for photo-ops and stop-offs. (Mogollon Rim Ranger District, 928-477-2255, www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=54886)
Gerardo’s aside, the best meal you’re likely to have in this part of Rim Country is at the end of your fishing pole. But that’s part of the great outdoor experience. The fish phobic should stock up on meats and veg in Payson and take advantage of the on-site grills at Woods Canyon Lake campsite or Kohl’s Ranch.
Breakfast: Randall House
Head west to breakfast at Randall House (3821 N. Hwy. 87, Pine, 928-476-4077, therandallhouse.com), which resembles grandma’s house in the best way: It’s set in an 1881 home; everything is made from scratch and thus is “slow food” in the truest sense; and when they’re feeling daring, they spike the pie with Jack Daniels.
Dedicated to the late 19th century Mormon pioneers who founded Pine, the Pine-Strawberry Museum (3886 N. Hwy. 87, Pine, 928-746-3547, pinestrawhs.org; open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays) is a former Mormon Church that houses artifacts including pottery, fossils and kachina dolls carved from cottonwood root. To the northwest, the teeny, wooden Strawberry Schoolhouse (Fossil Creek Road, 1.5 miles west of Highway 87, pinestrawhs.org/schoolhouse; open 12-4 p.m. on Sundays) was built by local families in 1884, making it the oldest standing schoolhouse in the state.
Ranch at Fossil Creek
Llamas and goats roam the Ranch (10379 W. Fossil Creek Rd., Strawberry, 928-476-5178, ranchatfossilcreek.com), and a creamery produces goat’s milk fudge, cheese and soap. Everyone’s welcome to walk around, and guided tours with a tasting cost $5. They also host hikes with (not on, unfortunately) llamas, plus camping in a yurt.
Tonto Natural Bridge
The largest natural travertine bridge in the world, Tonto towers 193 feet and was discovered by a prospector who hid underneath it while fleeing Apaches and later claimed squatting rights. From Strawberry, head east on Fossil Creek Road, then south on AZ 87 for seven miles and turn right onto Nf-583 to the parking lot for Tonto Natural Bridge (928-476-4202, azstateparks.com/parks/TONA).
Western author Zane Grey’s original cabin burned down in the Dude Fire, but the Zane Grey Cabin (700 Green Valley Pkwy., 928-474-3483, rimcountrymuseums.com) is a lovingly replicated testament to the man who put the Mogollon Rim on the literary map. Before you zip home, stop by the Payson Candle Factory (620 N. Beeline Hwy., 928-474-2152) to see novelty candles being crafted in stainless steel tanks and to purchase a few – perfect for late-night Western novel reading. Note: Both are open until 4 p.m.
Where to stay:
Kohl’s Ranch Lodge
An old set of cabins nestled near Tonto Creek, Kohl’s Ranch Lodge (202 S. Kohl’s Ranch Rd., 928-478-4211, kohlsranch.com) combines woodsy kitsch and recreation, with on-site basketball, bocce ball and tennis courts, a pool and hot tub, and bike rentals, as well as nearby hiking, fishing, golfing and boating. Rooms start at $200, or you can go all Thoreau with a cabin starting at $360.
Camping at Woods Canyon Lake
The Aspen campground (877-444-6777) sits only a half-mile away from the lake and has more than 100 campsites. Spillway (928-537-8888) campground has 26 close-knit sites available by reservation only. Right next to the lake is a country store and rowboat rentals, where you can get your fixin’s for the area’s most popular pastime: trout fishing.
Cabins on Strawberry Hill
The Cabins on Strawberry Hill (5306 N. Hwy. 87, 928-476-4252, azcabins.com) encompass 14 different one- and two-bedroom cabins starting at $160, all of which have A-frame vaulted ceilings, kitchenettes and a private grill and picnic table. Strum a guitar at the fire pit or catch rainbow trout at the nearby creek.
June 1-3, the Payson Arizona Mountain High Games corrals adventure sports, ATV trail rides, and a huge outdoor expo. From August 16-19, the Payson Rodeo hosts the August Doin’s 127th annual rodeo on the grounds just south of town.
This kid-friendly itinerary from Winslow to Show Low serves up an amazing variety of scenery and prehistory in a small slice of the state. You’ll take in a 50,000-year-old crater, ancient petroglyphs and Triassic trees on a dusty desert plain and finish in a wildlife-rich wetland in the White Mountains.
Standin’ on the Corner Park
After the Eagles namedropped Winslow in their hit song “Take it Easy,” the city built this park (Kinsley Avenue and Second Street, standinonthecorner.com), with a two-story mural and bronze statue of a guitar player surrounded by shops peddling Route 66 curios.
Dinner: Turquoise Room in La Posada
Explore La Posada Hotel’s gardens and modern art in its Tina Mion museum before dining at The Turquoise Room, where the eye-popping Mexican palette, elegant wood furniture and swank martini lounge complement the palate-popping Southwestern fare from 2011 James Beard Award nominee Chef John Sharpe.
Twenty miles west of Winslow is the planet’s best-preserved meteorite crater (I-40 exit 233, 928-289-5898, meteorcrater.com). Nearly one mile across and 550 feet deep, it formed 50,000 years ago when a 150-foot rock plowed into the ground at 26,000 mph.
Rock Art Ranch
Make an appointment ahead of time with cattle rancher Brantley Baird, and he’ll escort you to a section of Chevelon Canyon on his property where the walls are etched with thousands of Anasazi petroglyphs (southeast of Winslow, 928-288-3260).
Lunch: Joe & Aggie’s
Hole-in-the-wall Joe & Aggie’s Café (120 W. Hopi Dr., Holbrook, 866-486-0021, joeandaggiescafe.com) is a third-generation Route 66 diner that’s been serving travelers since 1943 and helped inspire Pixar’s nostalgic family flick Cars (check out their memorabilia).
Petrified Forest National Park
The Triassic stone trees in this lunarscape date back more than 200 million years. From Holbrook, drive 25 miles northeast on I-40 to the Painted Desert Visitor Center (nps.gov/pefo); ask about daily activities on tap, from cultural demos to ranger talks about dinosaur-era fossils. Drive five miles south into the park to Puerco Pueblo, where a 3 p.m. ranger walk reveals the history of the site.
Hike: Blue Mesa Trail
Drive a few miles south from Puerco Pueblo and turn left to find this mile-long loop, which descends from the mesa into hills of bluish clay reminiscent of a watercolor. Next, drive south through the park, stopping at the south visitor center to view more petrified logs, until you hit Highway 180, which will take you on to Pinetop.
Breakfast: Darbi’s Cafe
Homespun and perennially packed, Darbi’s (235 E. White Mountain Boulevard, Pinetop, 928-367-6556) dishes brekkie faves like eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, and a pancake sandwich.
Big Springs Environmental Study Area
This 40-acre patchwork of ponderosa forest and riparian meadows is rife with wildlife. Stroll the easy trail, scanning for mountain chickadees, green-winged teals, elk, and mule deer. From Darbi’s, drive northwest on Highway 260; turn left at Woodland Road and go .6 miles. (928-368-2100, wmonline.com/attract/bigsprgs.htm)
Fool Hollow Lake
Fool Hollow Lake is a haven for anglers bent on bass or rainbow trout, and birders seeking great blue herons and long-billed dowitchers. Take AZ 260 northwest into Show Low, then travel west on AZ 260/U.S. 60/Deuce of Clubs. Turn right onto Old Linden Road, then right on 16th Avenue and look for the Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area sign (azstateparks.com/Parks/FOHO/index.html).
Where to stay:
Night One: La Posada Hotel
This 1920s hacienda-style hotel (303 E. Second St., Winslow, 928-289-4366, laposada.org) has hosted a who’s who of presidents and Hollywood VIPs. Modestly priced rooms sport handmade pine beds, handwoven Zapotec rugs, and cast-iron tubs.
Night Two: Nine Pines Motel
A log-cabin-style, pet-friendly and all-around-amiable motel, Nine Pines (2089 E. White Mountain Blvd., Pinetop, 928-367-2999, ninepinesmotel.com) is centrally located and reasonably priced.
GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM
Far from the madding crowd and the rising mercury at the South Rim lies the cool, serene, ponderosa-fringed North Rim. Yes, it’s a seven-hour drive from Phoenix. But savor the attractions on the way and you won’t be too fatigued to be stunned into submission by this natural treasure’s breathtaking magnificence.
The Long Haul
From the Bitter Springs 89/89A junction, take the 89A north to Navajo Bridge (mile marker 538) – actually a 1929 bridge and a 1995 bridge – spanning the Colorado River. Park at the Interpretive Center and walk on the bridge, or bungee jump off it with Bungee Expeditions ($175; see bungee-expeditions.com for dates). Just over the bridge, turn right onto Lee’s Ferry Road and drive seven miles to Lee’s Ferry, established by Mormon polygamist John D. Lee in 1870 when he was exiled for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Lunch: Cliff Dwellers Lodge
A few miles up the road from the bridge sits a pit stop of surprising quality (Mile Post 541.5 Hwy. 89A, 928-355-2261, cliffdwellerslodge.com). The rock facade and retro vibe complement the classic roadside menu, with its fair share of barbecue.
Pit Stop: Jacob Lake Inn
About an hour past Cliff Dwellers, stop at Jacob Lake Inn (Hwy. 89A and AZ-67, 928-643-7232, jacoblake.com) for homemade sweets like lemon-zucchini cookies and heavenly sweet rolls.
Grand Canyon Lodge
Highway 67 leads on to cliffside Grand Canyon Lodge (877-386-4383, grandcanyonlodgenorth.com). Book early to snag a rim-view cabin starting at $172. Order a sundowner, lounge on the patio and watch the sun set over the Canyon. Follow it up with dinner at the lodge, a Campfire Program lecture at the amphitheater, or a ranger-led stargazing tour (check nps.gov/grca for a schedule of tours).
Go guided… or on your own
Rangers lead an array of activities, from nature walks at the Tusayan ruins to California condor talks at the Grand Canyon Lodge; check nps.gov/grca for a schedule. The Lodge also partners with Canyon Trail Rides (435-679-8665, canyonrides.com) to offer mule rides lasting from one hour along the Rim to a half-day descent into the Canyon ($40-$80). If you prefer to strike out on your own, Transept Trail connects the lodge with the North Rim Campground on a 1.5-mile path along the Canyon’s edge and through pine, oak and aspen stands. Bright Angel Point Trail also starts at the lodge and leads a half-mile to Bright Angel Point, where you’ll be treated to expansive views of the Canyon and Roaring Springs below.
From June 16-23, amateur astronomers from Saguaro Astronomy Club host their annual Grand Canyon Star Party, setting up telescopes at the North Rim and inviting the public to view star clusters, galaxies and maybe even supernovas (saguaroastro.org/content/2012GrandCanyonStarPartyNorthRim.htm).