weekend adventures

52 Weekend Adventures/2015

Written by Winter Holden Category: Travel Issue: February 2015
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One of the best things about living in Phoenix is the proximity to a plethora of climates and landscapes,from cool Alpine forests to warm, craggy lava tubes formed by ancient volcanoes. Whether you’re seeking wet and wild summer adventure on Lake Pleasant or a cozy B&B fireplace to snuggle up by in winter, we’ve unearthed a great escape for every weekend of the year. Bonus: Four fabulous out-of-state trips to satisfy your inner gypsy.

1 Hike the Entire State...Virtually
Grand Canyon
Few locals will ever trek the 817-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail, which runs from the Arizona-Mexico border up through the Grand Canyon and to Utah. That’s not to say it can’t be done: In 2014, Tucson hiker Sirena Dufault conquered it in two-and-a-half months, raising $17,000 for Arizona Trail Association along the way. A new map exhibit inside the courtyard of Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center gives guests the full trail experience, minus the muscle fatigue. “It’s like a virtual tour…” says National Geographic Visitor Center general manager Janet Rosener. “The display really captures the natural beauty that exists throughout the state, as well as the diversity of trail users who find adventure on the Arizona Trail.” In addition to the trail exhibit, the center has IMAX films, off-site tours and a café. 450 Arizona 64, Grand Canyon Village, 928-638-2203, explorethecanyon.com
Driving Time: 3 hours, 17 minutes (223 miles)
Fees: Exhibit is free; fees vary by activity
Kids: Take ‘em

Photos by David Venezia

2 Crush Some Wine
There’s something magical about being part of a food- or drink-making process, whether it’s helping to chop vegetables for a cozy stew or brewing a batch of beer in the garage. While none of the grapes harmed in AZ Hops & Vines’ annual Great Crush Festival actually make it into the vino, guests still get a taste of old-world winemaking by participating in the public grape-stomping event. On September 12, sample locally made wines while listening to live tunes (last year’s lineup included rock bands and jazz duo Notes From Neptune). The main event is the titular crush, where guests channel Lucille Ball in a messy grape grapple.

Photos by David Venezia

“Everyone in a white dress is allowed to cut to the front of the line,” says Shannon Zouzoulas, who co-owns the winery with sister Megan Haller. “My dress from last year is still stained!” Tip: An on-site petting zoo and newly built playground keep little ones busy while the adults imbibe. 3450 Arizona 82, 888-569-1642, azhopsandvines.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes (161 miles)
Fees: $20, includes 6 tasting tickets
Kids: Take ‘em or leave ‘em

3 Wilderness Off-Roading Tour
The Border
There’s good reason the 250-mile El Camino del Diablo trail through the Barry M. Goldwater mountain range is called the “Devil’s Highway.” Rough and rocky, with little water or services available on the way, the unpaved byway is a two-day journey best suited for avid off-roaders. The trail was first traversed by Spanish soldiers in the 16th century, and later used by immigrants seeking fortune during the height of the California gold rush. Temperatures here range from summer highs well over 100 degrees to near freezing on winter nights, making fall the ideal time to make the arduous trek. You’ll need a four wheeler to do it, plus plenty of water, food and supplies. The reward is an oft-deserted stretch suitable for putting pedal to metal. Permits are required to cross the Goldwater Air Force Range and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge; make a pit stop at the latter to peep pronghorn deer, lesser long-nosed bats and other wildlife fighting for survival on the arid 860,000 acre preserve. Tip: Save time by detouring through the Tinajas Altas Mountains, which connect the east and west sections of Devil’s Highway. Contact the Bureau of Land Management Yuma Field Office at 928-317-3200 for info. blm.gov
Driving Time: Allow 5-7 hours
Fees: None; permits required
Kids: Leave ‘em    

4 Flamenco Festival
Beautiful female dancers in swirling, ruffled red dresses are the icons of flamenco, though on Season 19 of Dancing with the Stars, former child star Alfonso Ribeiro and partner Cheryl Burke proved that the fiery Spanish dance is more than just pretty costumes. Traditionally it’s not just dancing, either. True Andalusian flamenco is made up of three parts: cante (vocals), baile (dance) and toque (guitar). Now in its seventh year, Tucson’s weeklong Flamenco Festival – held every September – celebrates each element with live performances, workshops, demos and a lot of Spanish wine to help would-be dancers limber up. 2015 date to be determined. 375 S. Stone Ave., 520-884-5253, tucsonflamencofestival.com
Driving Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes (114 miles)
Cost: TBD
Kids: Take ‘em

5 Bisbee Blues Fest
Late guitarist Albert Collins said “Simple music is the hardest music in the world to play, and blues is simple music.” Watch some of Arizona’s finest musicians navigate this paradox at Bisbee’s 11th annual Blues Festival, taking place in September 2015 at City Park in Old Bisbee. Radio station KBRP recently took over the festival, with last year’s lineup including our 2014 “Best Local Band” winner The Sugar Thieves and Zac Harmon, who played guitar alongside blues legends Z.Z. Hill and Dorothy Moore. The weekend-long blues session also features a rollicking after-party and additional performances at venues around town. bisbeebluesfoundation.com
Driving Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes (208 miles)
Cost: TBD
Kids: Leave ‘em

6 Rex Allen Days
Known as one of the last singing cowboys, Arizona native Rex Allen was literally the voice of Disney: He narrated, sang and acted in more than 40 of their Westerns, including The Legend of Lobo and Pancho. Though the focus of Willcox’s Rex Allen Days is more about ridin’ and ropin’ than playing gee-tar, saloon concerts and arena entertainment ensure Allen’s memory is preserved. The mainstay of the fest is a traditional rodeo, which is expected to draw more than 500 participants October 2-4. Other events include a kid-friendly fair at Keiler Park, Saturday morning parade, auto show and a men’s softball game that’s been a staple of Rex Allen Days for the past 29 years. 520-384-4410,
Driving Time: 2 hours, 48 minutes (195 miles)
Cost: Rodeo admission $12-15, kids under 6 free; other fees vary
Kids: Take ‘em

7 Nighttime Fun at Triangle L Ranch
Ever notice how vivid car headlights look when you’re driving along a winding country road at night? Bright lights seem even brighter in a rural setting, a fact not lost on Triangle L Ranch owner and artist Sharon Holnback. Lighted artwork displays are the showpiece of the historic five-acre ranch’s annual GLOW Festival, kicking off September 19. Each GLOW weekend is themed, beginning with an opening night costume ball featuring lighted art installations and circus-worthy entertainment (last year’s lighting wizard and black-lit bands received “glowing” reviews). The party continues September 26, October 17 and 24, paving the way for Halloween with fortune tellers and glow-in-the-dark body-painted revelers. 2805 N. Triangle L Ranch Rd., 520-623-6732, trianglelranch.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes (186 miles)
Cost: $15, $7.50 kids 13 and under, 3 and under free  
Kids: Take ‘em

8 Bicycle Tour of the White Mountains
Most mountain bikers aren’t going to make it to the big leagues with Red Bull athlete Anton Thelander or endurance racer Josh Tostado, who tackled the 20,000-foot uphill climb of Colorado’s Vapor Trail 125 with ease. Whether you’re keeping up with the pack or looking to start out with an easy cruise, Epic Rides’ annual bicycle tour has a trek designed for your speed. The event, taking place from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, features three single-track courses, from a short 9-mile stretch to a 50-mile ride for experienced bikers. Afterwards, riders can toast marshmallows over a communal campfire or wind down with concerts in Pinetop’s amphitheater – all that’s missing is a massage therapist to soothe their aching calves. 520-623-1584, epicrides.com
Driving Time: 3 hours, 28 minutes (188 miles)
Cost: $54.30-$97.74 (includes tax), plus $10 minimum donation and processing fees; 50% discount for children 18 and under (Kids Fun Ride is free)  
Kids: Take ‘em

9 A Beach for every Season: Nautical Beachfront Resort
Lake Havasu City
Billed as the only beachfront resort in Arizona, Lake Havasu City’s Nautical Beachfront Resort appears more likely to be in the Bahamas than in the middle of the desert. Painted in crisp white with sherbet-colored accents, the hotel boasts a grassy lawn leading down to a private dock where guests can moor their personal crafts. Accommodations run the gamut from standard 415-square-foot Bay Rooms with Wi-Fi access and flat-screen TV to spacious executive suites and the luxury two-bedroom Admiral Suite with private patio overlooking the water. Pets are welcome in select rooms, so bringing Spot isn’t a deal-breaker. Speaking of water, there’s no shortage here. A heated infinity pool invites guests to take a refreshing dip and enjoy poolside cocktails at the palapa even in chillier seasons, while resort amenities include private boat launch and access to an 18-hole, 62-par golf course designed by Robert “Red” Lawrence – complete with red-and-white striped lighthouse overlooking Lake Havasu. 1000 McCulloch Blvd. N., 928-855-2141, nauticalinn.com
Driving Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes (195 miles)
Fees: Room rates start at about $125 per night plus $19.95 resort fee; additional fees for reserved cove boat slips and golfing.
Kids: Take ‘em or Leave ‘em

Photo by courtney pedroza

10 Fall Foliage Tour
Come November, Phoenix is still painted in shades of green and brown. But locals craving iconic fall colors have myriad options within easy driving distance.  
Just east of Phoenix Metro in nearby Superior, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is awash with crimson and gold from late October through December. The park’s numerous pistachio trees are especially picture-worthy during the Foliage Festival in November. 37615 U.S. 60, Superior, 520-689-2723, azstateparks.com/Parks/BOTH

Sedona’s famed rocks maintain their rusty color year-round, yet throughout the fall season Oak Creek Canyon’s flora changes from green to sunset hues of ruby and orange. fs.usda.gov
There’s no shortage of fall color in Flagstaff – the town’s treescape looks like half a Crayola box from late summer until the leaves drop. About 13 miles north of Flag off Hwy. 89, Lockett Meadows (pictured) offers solitude and amazing views of the San Francisco Peaks; in fall, the stands of tall, spindly aspen trees burst into a sea of gold. Check out flagstaffarizona.org

Photo by Mark Lipczynski

11 A Beach for Every Season: Gateway Park
Google “nearest beach to Phoenix” and you get a handful of out-of-state results from San Diego to Rocky Point, Mexico. Yuma residents know this info isn’t technically true. While the city’s Gateway Park may not exactly mimic Southern California’s sandy shores, it sports a mini beach – complete with enough silky sand to build a proper castle – along the Colorado River. The park is open from sunrise to 11 p.m. and swimming is allowed, although visitors with tots in tow should keep a close eye. After a sunny day at the shore, wind down at one of Yuma River Tours’ dinner cruises, a three-hour excursion up the Colorado and through Ferguson and Martinez Lakes (928-783-4400, yumarivertours.com). Trips are narrated and include a hot buffet-style dinner catered by a local resort. Plus, there’s no chance of being marooned here, making this three-hour tour a safer bet than an open sea voyage.   
Driving Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes (186 miles)
Fees: No park fee
Kids: Take ‘em


12 Golf and Culture in Tubac
Die-hard golfers can be found on the green year-round, though Northerners are often forced to migrate south in winter to find a course that hasn’t frozen over. Enter Tubac, a 250-year-old former Spanish settlement turned artist colony, where the putting greens stay green and December temperatures average in the 70s. A USA Today Travel 10 Best, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa features three 9-hole courses in a bucolic setting (look for occasional steer roaming the 500-acre property), including the famous Rancho Nine featured in the Kevin Costner film Tin Cup. Grab a massage or turquoise sage body polish treatment before heading out for the annual La Fiesta del Tumacacori (tubacaz.com), a cross-cultural festival held in early December at Tumacacori National Historic Park. Though the event largely involves downing delicious ethnic foods and eyeing dancers in swirling, colorful skirts, Sunday’s Mariachi Mass takes a slightly more serious tone with a processional accompanied by traditional music. 65 Avenida De Otero, 520-398-2211,
Driving Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes (156 miles)
Fees: Greens fees average $40-$60 per player for hotel guests (1-4 players)
Kids: Leave ‘em

Photos by Jim David

13 Watch Future Olympians Catch Air in Flagstaff
With an average of 100 inches of annual snowfall, it’s no wonder Flagstaff is a haven for skiers and snowboarders. The slopes may have required a little man-made whiteout in the past few years, but that hasn’t stopped winter sports enthusiasts from flocking to Flag for events like the annual Dew Downtown Flagstaff, a 2-day snowboard and ski festival that takes place on historic San Francisco Street. Normally slated for February, the 2015 event was moved up to January 24-25 due to conflicts with Super Bowl XLIX and Valentine’s weekend.

Photos by Jim David

Early Saturday, anyone can sign up to hit the course regardless of experience or age. Not a ski bunny? No worries. Dew Downtown includes off-slope musical entertainment, a dedicated tubing area popular with kiddos, and a beer garden.
928-213-2300, dewdowntownflagstaff.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes (145 miles)
Fees: Free for spectators, $15-$25 registration fee for participants, $50 VIP tickets
Kids: Take teens, leave little ones at home

14 Ice Fishing at A-1 Lake
The flick Grumpy Old Men showed ice fishing as the uninitiated imagine it to be: a bunch of old geezers huddled in a tiny shack, arguing over who cuts the hole in the ice or puts their pole in the water first. Thankfully, visitors are unlikely to witness such a scene at placid A-1 Lake. Named in honor of Apache leader Chief Alchesay, after his U.S. Cavalry number, the petite 24-acre waterway is chock full of rainbow and brook trout; when the lake freezes over, the harder-to-scout Apache trout become easier prey. There are no cozy ice fishing shacks here, so die-hard anglers will have to rough it with layered clothing and no shelter. A-1 Lake is managed by the White Mountain Apache reservation, so permits are required. Call the Game & Fish department at 928-338-4385 for current fees.
Driving Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes (145 miles)
Kids: Leave ‘em

15 Scenic Lakes Driving Tour
Flagstaff to Mormon Lake
Zoos are great for wildlife viewing, but even the ones with so-called “natural” habitats don’t offer the same experience as driving through native wetlands. Phoenicians traveling home from Flagstaff’s snow-dusted peaks can catch a glimpse of elk, osprey, pronghorn and other woodland critters along Lake Mary Road, where Upper and Lower Lake Mary provide perfect habitats for water-seeking wildlife. Turnouts here allow access into wooded areas, where binoculars can be handy to get the best view. Hungry travelers can fuel up at Mormon Lake Lodge (1991 Mormon Lake Rd., 928-354-2227, mormonlakelodge.com), a Western-themed steakhouse that’s been dishing up tasty mesquite-grilled meats since 1924.   
Driving Time: 35 minutes (26 miles) from Flag to Mormon Lake
Kids: Take ‘em

16 Winter Street Fair
Anyone who says small efforts never amount to anything should take heed of the humble origins of Tucson’s Fourth Avenue Street Fair. The tradition began back in 1970, after a few local merchants set out sidewalk tables of goods for sale. That subtle bid for new business has evolved into one of the city’s largest arts events, with 400-plus art and craft vendors lining the streets over the course of the 3-day affair, which is held twice annually, in spring and winter (typically March/April and December, respectively). Expect the unexpected, from banjo-pickin’ street musicians to colorful Mexican Día De Los Muertos skeletons and figurines crafted from machine bolts. Face painting, street entertainers and rock climbing walls help keep kids entertained. 520-624-5004, fourthavenue.org
Driving Time: 2 hours (114 miles)
Cost: Free
Kids: Bring ‘em

17 Water to Wine Kayak Trip
You can’t throw a grape without hitting a vineyard or winery in the Verde Valley. Hiking and water sports are also big in the area, even in the winter, so it’s no wonder some enterprising locals had the brilliant idea to combine wine with recreation. Verde Valley Adventure Center’s Water to Wine trip begins with an hour-long jaunt down the Verde River, a perennial stream that runs into Arizona’s Salt River, in a kayak. Not just any kayak, either – a lightweight and fun “Ducky” inflatable vessel. The waters are relatively calm, with just a few rough spots to navigate. The ride ends at Cottonwood’s Alcantara Vineyards, where guests enjoy vino in a tranquil farmhouse setting. 877-673-3661, sedonaadventuretours.com
Driving Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes (98 miles)
Cost: $77.25, plus $20 credit toward wine tasting
Kids: Leave ‘em

18 Photo Safari
Death Valley, CA
Like Arizona, California’s Death Valley National Park is a place of geographic diversity. Tucked below sea level, temperatures here vary as much as the landscape. While Death Valley still holds the world’s highest temperature record at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, nighttime temps drop into the 40s throughout the winter months, making it an ideal time to visit. Every December, professional photographers Guy Tal and Michael Gordon lead adventurous picture-takers on a Visionary Death Valley trek through the sand dunes, mountains and craters of Death Valley. The 5-day trek isn’t for newbies with a Nikon and a dream. Students will bypass photography essentials to learn more advanced composition and post-production techniques. Participants are also expected to be “comfortable working, hiking and driving off the beaten path.” Reservations at visionaryphotoworkshops.com     
Driving Time: 6 hours, 40 minutes (406 miles)
Fees: $1,495
Kids: Leave ‘em

19 Winter Staycation: Cibola Vista Resort and Lake Pleasant Cruise
In 1539, Spanish friar Marcos de Niza claimed he found one of the legendary cities of gold known as Cibola. Future explorations failed to find anything but a dilapidated ruin at the site. Peoria’s Cibola Vista Resort is guaranteed not to be a mirage. The hotel features accommodations ranging from standard efficiency rooms to larger suites. Take a dip in the heated outdoor pool or grab your sweetie and visit the on-site spa for a romantic and soothing couple’s massage. Nearby Lake Pleasant offers myriad boating opportunities including Lake Pleasant Cruises’ two-hour dinner excursions around the lake (lakepleasantcruises.com). Take in the glorious reds, oranges and gold hues painting the sky at sunset from the boat balcony – a breathtaking reminder why it’s so rewarding to live in the Valley. 27501 N. Lake Pleasant Pkwy., 623-889-6700, ascendcollection.com      
Rates: Standard rooms start at $109 per night; dinner cruise $50 (adults), $30 (children 12 and younger)
Kids: Leave ‘em

20 Ragnar Relay
Relay races are usually the stuff of junior high gym classes – seriously, when’s the last time you passed a baton? The nationwide Ragnar Races have revived the tradition, with a twist. The race runs 24/7, with participants sleeping on their off-time. Teams of six or 12 take turns sprinting 3-8 mile stretches, with only one team member on the road at a time. The remaining team members act as cheerleaders, driving alongside the runners in two team vans. Taking place February 20-21, the race spans 200 miles from Wickenburg to Mesa. ragnarrelay.com
Driving Time: 1 hour, 6 minutes (65 miles)
Fees: Starting at $120-$160 per runner
Kids: Take high-schoolers

Photos by Jim David

21 Frozen Fun in Flag
There’s no question one of the “cool” perks of living in Phoenix is being able to head outside in T-shirt and shorts (without shivering) throughout the winter months. On the other hand, snowman-building and skiing are pipe dreams. The solution? Head north to one of these three Flagstaff-area parks for snow-covered family fun. Visit flagstaff.az.gov.

One of Flag’s most popular public spaces, 215-acre Buffalo Park contains a network of trails including a relatively easy 2-mile loop ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Oldham Trail #1 offers a greater challenge, with steeper climbs taking hikers up Mt. Elden, an ancient volcano.   

Photos by Jim David

Skaters perform figure 8s at Jay L. Lively Ice Arena, where lessons and skate rental are offered year-round (pictured). The indoor rink also hosts hockey practices and adult skate nights.  

North of Flagstaff, Kendrick Park features 54 miles of designated snowmobile trails. Dog sledding and snowshoeing are also allowed here, so be alert when driving in the dense pine forest between Kendrick Peak and the San Francisco Peaks.






Photos by David Wallace


22 Waterfall Exploration
Flowing water isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with an Arizona-centric vacation, but if splash seekers look long enough, they’ll find that the state’s many chasms and canyons are home to some awe-inspiring falls. Deep in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness, two sets of spectacular ancient ruins house glistening waterfalls that cascade over natural stone cliffs. Take the well-marked Cherry Creek Trail toward Devil’s Chasm to find two picturesque waterfalls best viewed after heavy rains.




Photos by David Wallace


The 10-mile hike to Pueblo Canyon is worth it for the scenery, which includes rare pictographs and three large cave dwellings carved into the cliff (pictured, right). It’s a tough road to get there – about 1,500 feet up steep and rocky cliffs. At the head of the trail, hikers pass behind a scenic waterfall plummeting over the mesa. See fs.usda.gov.

A 17.6-mile trail in Tonto National Forest near Payson, Horton Creek blissfully meanders through stands of tall pine, following a small spring that creates a small stepped waterfall (pictured, above) on rocky outcroppings found along the trail. Though it’s a fairly long hike, the trail isn’t strenuous – a trip here is one for the picture books, not the exercise journal. Visit fs.usda.gov.

Photos by Brenna Zumbro; Splendor in the Glass Studio

23 Artsy Open Houses
Sedona, Cottonwood and Cornville
Though they might seem magical to the scores of landscape painters and other artists drawn to Sedona, there’s more science than mysticism at work in the red rocks. Vortexes and other woo-woo aside, the iconic Schnebly Hill formation gets its color from deposits of hematite in the sandstone formations.

Photos by Brenna Zumbro;Earth and Fire Ceramic Design

Peep artwork inspired by the crimson cliffs and lush, woodsy scenery of surrounding Cottonwood and Cornville at the annual Sedona Open Studios, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 24-26. Visitors from around the globe attend the three-day self-guided tour, which offers a behind-the-scenes look inside the work spaces of local painters, potters, sculptors and mixed-media artists. More than 40 studios are expected to participate this year, including Earth and Fire Ceramic Design and glass artist Holly Stedman. A free map is provided to help guests find the best driving route between shops. 928-203-0375, sedonaartistscoalition.org/events
Driving Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes (116 miles)
Cost: Free
Kids: Take artsy teens, otherwise leave ‘em

24 Astronomy Camp
Ever wonder why there are so few stars in the Phoenix night sky? Thanks to light pollution, most astronomical phenomena can’t be viewed in major burgs; take a nighttime photo and you’ll spot the city’s bright orange halo of light, called “sky glow.” Tucson, on the other hand, has strict enough lighting laws that the city remains a hotspot for local stargazers. So it’s not surprising the University of Arizona Alumni Association’s travel program offers astronomy-focused science camps for serious students. This isn’t your typical summer camp. Directed by Dr. Don McCarthy, the multi-day programs immerse adults and teens in the life of an astronomer. Daytime workshops are followed by field trips to Kitt Peak and Mt. Graham to observe movement in the night sky. Adult camps are held in May; teen camps (ages 14-19) happen in June. 933 N. Cherry Ave., 520-621-5333, astronomycamp.org
Driving Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes (114 miles)
Fees: TBD
Kids: Teens only

25 Seven Cataracts Canyoneering Descent
Mt. Lemmon
Canyoneering is more than just an adventure sport. Besides the obvious physical exertion required to rappel down a steep embankment, canyon exploration can involve hiking, swimming in icy waters and problem solving – just ask Aron Ralston, the outdoorsman whose inspirational story was the basis of the flick 127 Hours. First timers needn’t worry, though. Explore Arizona Tours offers a 12-hour Seven Cataracts descent tour that caters to all skill levels with individualized instruction. Graded Level I/II by the Canyoneering Rating System, the course begins with a hike at Windy Point Vista, moving north down the canyon to the first rappel spot. All required equipment, plus shuttle service from Catalina Highway, is provided. All that students need to get started is comfortable, weatherproof clothing, a tour appointment and a can-do attitude. 888-354-6186, explorearizonatours.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 52 minutes (151 miles)
Cost: $300 per person
Kids: Leave ‘em

26 Spring Bird Watching
Sierra Vista/Various
Known as the “hummingbird capital of the world,” Sierra Vista is located along the migratory route from Canada to Mexico, a warm layover for human and avian alike. May 6-9, avid bird watchers and first-timers will gather at Cochise College’s Sierra Vista campus for the Southwest Wings Spring Festival, which took flight for the first time in 2014. More than just passive days spent huddled with a ration pack and a pair of binoculars, events focus on hiking into the field with knowledgeable birding guides. More than 35 side trips are offered, including day hikes to Garden Canyon and the San Pedro River and an overnight excursion to view owls deep in the Huachuca Mountains. 520-266-0149, swwings.org
Driving Time: 2 hours, 51 minutes (189 miles)
Cost: $45 and up (varies by event)
Kids: Take ‘em for educational purposes

27 Go on a Ghost Town Adventure
Cochise County
Adjacent to the Arizona-New Mexico border, Cochise County is home to all manner of ghost stories. Beyond the more notorious tales of spooky Bisbee hotels and shootouts in Tombstone, the countryside offers a host of real-life ghost towns that are more about history than hauntings. For example, Dragoon Springs was a stagecoach stop where the bodies of three men murdered by immigrant laborers are purportedly buried in a makeshift grave. Aging ruins and historical signs dot the landscape found in Cochise Leather Company’s Ghost Town Trails online map, making it a fun side trip for photo-hounds wishing to capture the spirit – or spirits! – of the Old West. Visit arizonaghosttowntrails.com  
Driving Time: 2 hours, 59 minutes to Pearce (197 miles)
Fees: None
Kids: Leave ‘em

28 A Beach for Every Season: Spring at Buckskin Mountain
From waterskiing to wakeboarding, the 18-mile Parker Strip connecting the Parker and Headgate dams offers plenty of recreational opportunity. If you’d rather keep your feet on terra firma, nearby Buckskin Mountain Park balances boating activities with a sandy shoreline fit for volleyball or sunbathing. The park also has restrooms and showers, a campground, a restaurant and an arcade, making it an ideal family-fun spot. There’s even free Wi-Fi in the main ramada, in case a work (or Facebook) emergency calls. Pets are allowed on the north beach, so bring Fido and a Frisbee along for old-fashioned beach bunny fun. 5476 Arizona 95, 928-667-3231, azstateparks.com/Parks/BUMO
Driving Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes (167 miles)
Fees: $10 per vehicle; $3 bicycle/walk-in. $30-$33 for camping
Kids: Take ‘em

29 Spring Bouquet: Top Spots for Wildflower Viewing
It doesn’t take much for a plant to qualify as a wildflower. Basically any non-cultivated, blooming plant – one that grows wild without human intervention – fits the bill. As commonplace as roadside daisies and blue-tinged meadows may be, Arizona’s native wildflowers yield some of the most photo-worthy blossoms around at these three floral hotspots.  
• The waxy yellow, purple and orange blooms of America’s largest cacti are a draw of Saguaro National Park near Tucson, where horse trails meander through low buffelgrass and sage. After winter’s wet season, the brilliant native plants rise up above smaller pincushion cacti and teddy bear cholla. nps.gov/sagu.   
• Located along Inner Basin Trail #29 about 13 miles outside of Flagstaff, Lockett Meadow offers the kind of Alpine view you can imagine Julie Andrews spinning in front of. In spring, the field is painted in hues of baby blue, yellow and lavender; look for bright sunflowers, daisies and clusters of silver lupine.  fs.fed.us.
• Protected as a national monument in 1906, Holbrook’s Petrified Forest would easily be named one of Arizona’s seven wonders. Though the park is known for its fossilized trees, which are actually minerals that replaced decaying plant materials, wildflowers bloom here in a rainbow of colors as varied and beautiful as the fossils themselves. 928-524-6228, nps.gov/pefo

30 Route 66 Fun Run  
Born in the 1920s and spanning the distance between Los Angeles and Chicago, Route 66 inspired songs and television shows, with cool retro motels and diners along the highway raking in bucks from tourists and celebrities passing through on their way to Hollywood. May 1-3, more than 800 classic car buffs from around the state are expected to turn out in high style for Kingman’s annual Route 66 Fun Run. The event’s name is a bit of a misnomer – there are no tape-on numbers or jersey shorts required for this 127-mile trek. Instead, drivers take a leisurely cruise through quaint towns such as Peach Springs and Valentine. The 3-day tour winds down with a non-timed jaunt to Oatman and Topock, where awards are given out for the slickest, most cherry rides. 866-427-RT66, gokingman.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 41 minutes (170 miles) to Seligman
Fees: $50 per car
Kids: Take ‘em

31 Wine Country Spring Festival
Located an hour’s drive from Tucson, Willcox is Arizona’s top wine-producing region, making nearly three quarters of the state’s vino. On May 16-17, grape lovers will gather in downtown’s Railroad Square for the Willcox Wine Festival, featuring more than a dozen participating local vineyards. The historic park setting is part of the event’s charm, with tons of leafy shade trees to keep the vino climate-controlled and trains passing by throughout the day. Visitors are invited to ask questions on everything from fermentation to choice vintages, while live music, theatrical events and a vendor’s market with locally grown produce and handicrafts guarantees everyone – even teetotalers and wee ones – stays entertained. Several Willcox tasting rooms offer open houses and free shows, including a display of local art at nearby Flying Leap Vineyards. Visit willcoxwines.com.  
Driving Time: 3 hours, 7 minutes (195 miles)
Cost: Free admission, $15 for 6 tasting tickets
Kids: Leave ‘em

Q&A with Kent Callaghan
Winemaker Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards never dreamed of running a vineyard. But when his parents decided to start a winery after he graduated college, Callaghan packed up and moved to Sonoita to help. “I enjoyed working outside, so it was a no-brainer,” he quips. Kent and his father, Harold, planted the first vines in 1990. A quarter-century later, Callaghan Vineyards holds multiple gold and silver Jefferson Cup medals, with several of its wines having been served at the White House.

What makes Southern Arizona wines unique?
The Sonoita AVA is one of the highest growing areas in AZ, roughly 5,000 feet in elevation. The soil and water are loaded with bicarbonates which tend to limit vine vigor and yield. The area is noted for producing reds that are tannic, age-worthy and complex.

What problems have you experienced with growing in the region, particularly during intense weather patterns?
Hard freezes in winter can cause dieback or even outright vine death, particularly when coupled with drought conditions that are not alleviated by winter irrigation. This was a hard lesson we learned years ago.

What’s on tap (or in the barrel) for 2015?
The standouts are Caitlin’s (Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc), Claire’s (Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon) and Padres (Graciano, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc). Our varietal 2013 Tannat will also be available in November of 2015.

If you could only drink one type of wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Only one? That is a death sentence. How about five? Grüner Veltliner, Chablis, a great old Bordeaux, old-school Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Barolo/Barbaresco.

Callaghan Vineyards
336 Elgin Rd., Elgin
520-455-5322, callaghanvineyards.com


Photo by Richard Maack

32 Northern AZ Bucket List
Spring is high season at famous, manmade Lake Powell, where you’ll find droves of slip-rocking spring breakers and wake-boarding families. But you don’t actually have to hit the water to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trip. This trio of nearby experiences beats any wakeboard.
• Horseshoe Bend: Viewed from a public access point off U.S. 89 south of Page, this hairpin curve in the Colorado River (pictured right) could be Arizona's signature vantage. horseshoebend.com
• Amangiri: Located just over the border in Canyon Point, Utah, this 600-acre resort sits comfortably at the foot of a desert mesa and boasts sweeping views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But its most distinctive feature might be the striking wrap-around swimming pool that clings to a massive rock escarpment like a shawl. It’s like a tiny piece of Powell. With drink service. Rates start at $1,400/night. 1 Kenyata Rd., Canyon Point, Utah, 435-675-3999, amanresorts.com
• The Wave: Ancient sandstone is rendered in liquid, undulating forms on the slopes of Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Notoriously hard to access (the BLM allows just 20 permits a day) and perilous to summer hikers, the Wave remains Arizona's ultimate bucket list excursion. thewave.info


33 High Country Hippie Fest
While Lumberjack territory is undoubtedly more “flannel” than “flower child,” Flagstaff waxes bohemian for its annual Hullabaloo Festival at Wheeler Park (June TBD). Four-time winner of an Arizona Daily Sun “Best of Flag” award, locals have really warmed to the quirky outdoor event. Stilt walkers and hula hoopers are among the expected festival entertainment, along with wacky costume contests, live bands and giant handcrafted puppets that make Punch and Judy look like dwarves. Of course, it wouldn’t be Flag without local microbrews and a bike parade, the latter a nod to the town’s outdoorsy vibe. 212 W. Aspen Ave., flaghullabaloo.com       
Driving Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (144 miles)
Cost: $5-$50
Kids: Bring ‘em

34 Beginners Rock Climbing Course
Rock climbing is a bit like joining a secret society: there’s private lingo, standard attire and a whiff of elitism. The good news? Almost anyone can join this club, and you don’t have to free-hang like Tom Cruise’s character in Mission: Impossible to do it. With a third of the daylong course spent on the ground learning knot tying, belaying and communication techniques, Arizona Climbing and Adventure School’s beginner rock climbing course is a great way for noobs to get (literally) off the ground. No need to have Schwarzeneggerian arm strength, but there are some basic physical requirements. “We encourage participants to be in average physical condition,” director Mark Brontsema says. “But with any outdoor adventure-based activity, the better shape you are in, the better the experience you will have.” Courses are held year-round, with summertime climbers venturing near the cool pines of Prescott. 480-363-2390, climbingschool.com   
Driving Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (99 miles)
Fees: $145 per person
Kids: Leave ‘em

Rock Climbing 101
According to Arizona Climbing and Adventure School director Mark Brontsema, anyone in reasonably good shape can get started with outdoor rock climbing: all it takes is an interest in the outdoors, and maybe some hiking experience, to get prepped. Brontsema offers these five tips for first-timers and those making the shift from rock gyms to the real thing:

Learn in the field. “Firsthand knowledge is best,” Brontsema says. “Books and videos can’t really take you to the next level. You have to go out and actually practice it.” If you’re the kind of Type A personality who prefers to read up beforehand, start with How to Rock Climb! by John Long.

Get balanced. Try practicing yoga or doing squats before taking a class. You don’t need a ton of upper body strength; the basics are more about balance and leg strength.

Don’t buy the priciest gear – at least, not until you know you love climbing. For those not keen on rental equipment, Brontsema recommends a 10mm dynamic climbing rope (60 meters long), harness, helmet, climbing pack and multi-purpose rock climbing shoes.

Team up. If heading out on your own, make sure you have a reliable partner, one who won’t push past your skill level. “Of course having the skills necessary for the routes you want to climb is critical,” Brontsema notes.

Find your spot. Part of having an enjoyable climb is discovering which locations offer challenge while not overtaxing yourself. Granite Dells near Prescott and Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon area offer a variety of climbing surfaces.

35 Fly Over the Water
Lake Pleasant
Jetpacks aren’t the stuff of science fiction and comic books anymore: a personal-sized V4 jetpack with 30-minute flight time was named one of TIME’s Top 50 Inventions of 2010. Until that technology hits the consumer market, the next best way to soar like The Rocketeer is with a Flyboard – a floating stand propelled by water nozzles attached to the hands and feet. Think Iron Man, minus the flame jets and fancy ARC reactor. According to the folks at Pleasant Harbor Boat Rentals, using the board is easier than you’d expect. After a short instruction period, renters are turned loose on the water, an instructor following behind on a jet ski or other personal watercraft and controlling the rig. Family members can stay on the shore to snap pics to remember, or tag along in their own personal watercraft rental. 928-501-5101, boats4rent.com
Driving Time: 44 minutes (41 miles)
Cost: $60-$200
Kids: Bring ‘em

36 Music and Wine Festival
The owners of Arizona’s vineyards and wineries tend to be a tight bunch, banding together to promote local vino and squelch the notion that you can’t make good wine in the desert. Enter Page Springs Cellars’ Tilted Earth Festival, a celebration of Verde Valley’s top grape growers. Held at Riverfront Park in Cottonwood, the festival – which debuted in 2014 – brings wine aficionados together for a full sensory blowout. Look for winemaking demos and live entertainment from local bands, plus Q&A sessions with growers. Last year’s event hosted 16 wineries, seven live bands and a handful of food trucks; the 2015 event is expected to draw similar participants, with winemaker dinners offered at select local vineyards. Held in June. Riverfront Park is located at N 10th St., 928-639-3004, pagespringscellars.com  
Driving Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes (104 miles)
Fees: $45
Kids: Leave ‘em

37 Mile High Brew Festival
Denver may be the original Mile High city, but the sleepy town of Prescott is hot on its heels at 5,368 feet above sea level. Prescott shares an additional commonality with the Colorado capital – an affinity for microbrews. Imbibe under the cool shade of the Bradshaw mountains at the annual Mile High Brew Fest in August. The frothy event focuses on regionally made beers from such funky homegrown breweries as Flagstaff’s Mother Road and Peoria’s new Freak’N Brewing. Local favorites include Prescott Brewing Company, the latter of which nabbed Ranking Arizona’s #1 Microbrewery award in 2010. See milehighbrewfest.com.
Driving Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes (99 miles)
Kids: Leave ‘em

Photo by Brenna Zumbro

38 Big Toy Playground
Maybe it’s the grunt-inducing hard labor, or just the mental association of clumsy cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone, but there’s something inherently troglodyte – and satisfying – about operating a 40,000-pound loader. In August 2013, longtime construction veterans Sharon and Larry Fox opened a unique theme “playground” where guests can get behind the wheel of the type of massive metal behemoths Larry used to demo for John Deere. Ages 14 and older are welcome and no special licenses are required. Drivers get brief instructions and a tour of the controls, after which they’re set free to live out their childhood dreams in a big-kid sandbox. 671 S. Garland Prairie Rd., 928-637-8808, bigtoyplayground.com
Driving Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (172 miles)
Fees: $199-$269 for a 90-minute session
Kids: Bring ‘em


Photo by brenna zumbro

39 Red Rockin’
While summer temperatures average in the high 90s at Oak Creek, a little heat won’t stop Phoenicians from enjoying all that Sedona has to offer.
• An elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet makes Sedona’s Hangover Trail a popular spot for mountain biking and scenic viewing. Once strictly a social trail, Hangover is now signed and mapped. Check
mtbproject.com for biking info.
• Sedona’s festival season slows down come June; the upside is that summertime events are less crowded. Those with Southern roots appreciate the down-home twang of the bluesy acts taking the stage at the Sedona Bluegrass Festival, held June 3-6 at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. 928-204-2415, sedonabluegrassfestival.org
• Artsy types can explore Sedona’s visual arts scene every First Friday from 5-8 p.m. The Sedona Trolley provides free transport between galleries, making for an easy trip, and light snacks are offered at many participating galleries. sedonagalleryassociation.com
Driving Time: 1 hours, 51 minutes (110 miles)

40 Cool Off at 9,000 Feet
At about 450 acres of surface area, Big Lake may not be Arizona’s largest body of water – but it is one of the most well-stocked. Fishermen flock to its calm waters for the variety of trout offered here, though most catches are relatively small save for the occasional Big Fish tale. Picturesque views and the cool climate credited to the area’s 9,000-foot elevation make for a comfortable trip. Don’t have a boat? An on-site tackle shop supplies 4-5 person motorboats and kayaks for cruising the placid waters starting at $25 an hour. Landlubbers can stay on shore and trek to two nearby trails: the steep but popular Big Lake Lookout Trail, which includes a circa-1933 lookout tower for spotting forest fires, and the overlapping 8-mile Indian Springs Loop (off FR 249E) with its well-worn railroad paths and bubbling spring. Stay overnight at one of Big Lake Recreation Area’s five campgrounds, or try the E-Z tent rental system through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. 928-521-1387, biglakeaz.com
Driving time: 5 hours, 19 minutes (251 miles)
Fees: $50 for tent rental
Kids: Take ‘em

41 Scenic Drive: Black Hills Back Country Byway
Constructed by prison inmates in the early 1900s, the Black Hills Byway (formerly Safford-Clifton Road) originally served to connect miners and ranchers living on opposite sides of the Black Hills. Today the 21-mile stretch is like a time capsule of southeastern Arizona history. It remains unpaved, with scrubby underbrush and prickly pears dotting the hilly landscape. Cattle and other livestock graze alongside wild deer, and man-made structures like storage tanks and abandoned mines tell the story of the region’s early settlers. The Peloncillo Mountains also offer plenty of side trips for adventurous types, including hikes through volcanic cinder pits and an exhibit on the Morenci copper mine. Mountain bikers and off-roaders will appreciate the challenge offered by Wire Mesa Road, an arduous side track that ends with a mountain cliff overlooking the Gila River. Tip: A high-clearance vehicle shorter than 20 feet is strongly recommended for traversing the Black Hills Byway, so leave the Mini Cooper or RV at home. Visit blm.gov for info.
Driving Time: Allow 1-2 hours
Fees: None
Kids: Fun for adventurous teens, otherwise leave ‘em

Seasonal B&B’s
42 Cochise Stronghold
A visit to Cochise Stronghold is a literal breath of fresh air. Nestled in 64,000 acres of forest in the Dragoon Mountains, the site is secluded and tranquil enough to inspire spiritual exploration, nature walks or romantic nighttime stargazing in the outdoor hot tub. Three unique accommodations are available: suite with private bath and kitchenette, two-bedroom private casita, or the aptly named Woodlands Yurt – a Mongolian tent 30 feet in diameter, with four beds and a propane heater. Tip: Migrating sandhill cranes in the area number in the thousands during January and February’s peak season. 2126 Windancer Tr., 520-826-4141, cochisestrongholdretreat.com
Rates: Starting at $109 per night with no breakfast; $149 double occupancy with breakfast

43 The Bear’s Den
With 35 years of local travel industry experience between them, owners Bubba and Deb-b know what’s going on around town. Rooms at The Bear’s Den are forest rustic, with Lumberjack-approved log beds and adorable bear statues. There aren’t any real grizzlies here – except maybe some guests in the early a.m. – but Bubba and Deb are happy to suggest nearby hiking sites and Lake Powell boating opportunities for those who want to experience nature up close and personal. 864 Driftwood Ave., 928-614-8239, thebearsdenbnb.com  
Rates: $99-$129 per night


44 Alpine Inn
One might expect fresh mountain air and pine forested hills from a place called Alpine – and that’s exactly what guests find at Burke and Ann Masterson’s high country homestead, believed to be the state's highest-elevation B&B at 9,000 feet. The main building harkens back to the 1900s with grand oak staircases, antique furnishings and a stove-warmed parlor perfect for cozying up on cooler nights. The Inn’s three suites are homey and warm, with minimal country kitsch and recently remodeled private bathrooms. The property’s nooks and crannies are also worth exploring, from an original barn to the fruit cellar and small outbuildings constructed from upcycled Bush Fort wood. Cruise to nearby Luna Lake and Big Lake for paddleboat and canoe rentals, followed by home-cooked breakfasts of pancakes, French toast or the house special eggs Benny with egg, veggies and chipotle cream cheese atop biscuits and gravy. 42631 Hwy. 191, 520-678-5043, alpineinnaz.com
Rates: $90-$110 per night


Photos by Brenna Zumbro; Grand Living B&B in Williams

45 Grand Living
On-site cooking classes and private Jacuzzi tubs are among the perks found at Bill and Gloria Job’s log home overlooking Bill Williams Mountain. At an elevation of 6,770 feet, the climate here is cool and comfortable in fall months, with colorful fall foliage dotting the landscape. Mediterranean quiche, berry waffles and other morning treats give guests the energy to explore nearby Kaibab National Forest or the Painted Desert. 701 Quarter Horse Rd, 928-635-4171, grandlivingbnb.com
Rates: Starting at $170 per night

Photos by Brenna Zumbro; a Grand Living suite

46 Secret Hike and Strawberry Fest
Coconino National Forest
There’s no shortage of challenging hikes in and around metro Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff. But few offer the solitude and remoteness of West Clear Creek Wilderness, a 12,000-acre enclave of Coconino National Forest located about an hour south of Flagstaff. Here, Willow and Clover Creeks join together in a secluded canyon to form the larger West Clear Creek. The inner canyon trek is rough – expect to wade through dozens of creek-fed pools and dodge prickly bushes – while smaller, meandering rim trails take the challenge meter down to “manageable.” Later, return on Highway 87 for fresh berries and live music at the 25th Annual Strawberry Festival in Pine-Strawberry. The relaxed, rural vibe of the family-friendly festival is the perfect way to come down from a cool mountain high. fs.usda.gov, strawberryfestivalaz.com
Driving Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (98 miles)
Fees: None
Kids: Leave ‘em

47 Explore an Underground Lake
Batman perfected his gadgets in the cool comfort of an underground cave. While Tucson’s Cave of the Bells doesn’t come with billionaire-worthy alarm systems, it’s almost as well-protected from the summer heat. Visitors have to check out keys from the local Forest Supervisor’s office, and explore with an experienced group at least twice before tackling the cave alone. To get to the entrance, spelunkers must traverse a bumpy dirt road with several deep washes; four-wheel-drive is required. The cave trek starts with a large cathedral room, with an adjacent tunnel leading down 80 meters to an underground lake. Unlike most water-chilled cave systems, the lake at Cave of the Bells is a welcoming 76 degrees. Be forewarned: the claustrophobic tunnels connecting the major cavern rooms are rock-to-nose tight. 520-388-8300, fs.usda.gov
Driving Time: 127 miles (2 hours, 20 minutes)
Fees: $100 refundable deposit
Kids: Leave small ones at home

48 A Beach for Every Season: Lyman Lake State Park
St. Johns
In Arizona, sandy beaches are as elusive as the Jackalope. One notable exception is Lyman Lake in St. Johns, which boasts a secluded swath of silt off the main boating paths that’s worth sticking your bare tootsies in. Located between a market and the scenic petroglyph trail, the beach is small but tidy, with a panoramic view of the 1,500-acre lake. There’s no lifeguard on duty, so keep an eye on little ones. Visitors can wash up after taking a dip at the nearby campsite or on-site cabins available for an affordable $55 a night. On-site activities include fishing (permit required for ages 10 and older), bird watching, picnicking and hiking, with three self-guided trails ranging from a jaunty quarter-mile path to the more challenging 2-mile Buffalo Trail, named for a bison herd that used to roam the site. The lake also welcomes jet skis and boats with no size restrictions, making it an ideal place for families with big-boy toys in tow. 11 miles south of St. Johns on Hwy. 191, 928-337-4441, azstateparks.com.
Driving Time: 4 hours (236 miles)
Fees: $7 day use fee; additional fees for campground
Kids: Bring ‘em



Photo by Tim Hauf

49 SUMMER: Channel Islands, CA
California’s Channel Islands are home to some of the country’s most unique fauna and flora, including spotted skunks and a yellow perennial poppy. Five of the islands make up Channel Islands National Park, a protected habitat popular for snorkeling and kayaking.
Stay: Limited camping is available on each of the park’s five islands. For a less primitive option, head to Channel Island Shores resort on the mainland, located in nearby Oxnard just a block from the beach. Winter rates start around $89 per night. 1311 Mandalay Beach Rd., 877-477-7368, channelislandshores.org
Play: The Channel Island waters are a marine sanctuary and home to humpbacks, dolphins and a variety of colorful tropical fish. More than two dozen whales and dolphins have been identified here, many of which can be spotted from the decks of Island Packers’ tour boats. Whale-watching cruises start at $36 per adult; $26 for children 3-12 (under 3 free).  
Eat: Locals say that Fisherman’s Catch in Oxnard serves some of the best clam chowder around. The digs aren’t fancy, but considering the owners have their own fishing boats, you know everything here is fresh. 1185 S. Victoria Ave., 805-985-6200, fishermenscatch.com

Photo by Gene Tewksbury

50 FALL: Colorado Rockies
Home to one of the nation’s largest mountain peaks – 14,440-foot-tall Mt. Elbert – Colorado’s Rocky Mountains offer gorgeous mountain vistas and acres of protected forest land that explodes into fall color.
Stay: Opened in 1963, Allen and Judy Cox’s Nordic Inn was Mt. Crested Butte’s first hotel. Room options include a mountain suite with full kitchen and dining room and a second-floor loft with steam shower and espresso machine. 14 Treasury Rd., 970-349-5542, nordicinncb.com
Play: Professional photographer Gene Tewksbury offers private photo tours of the Rocky Mountains, including a fall color tour of the awe-inspiring Aspens as their leaves burst into bright yellows and reds (bigsunphototours.com). Throughout September, the towns of Gunnison and Crested Butte host farmers’ markets and harvest festivals (gunnisoncrestedbutte.com).  
Eat: We admit the Arizona-centric name had us hankering to try Flagstaff House in Boulder, but the restaurant’s mention in Forbes’ Travel Guide makes it a must-try. Dishes are upscale and classic – think Nantucket bay scallops with butternut squash purée and steak tartare with mizuna and fried capers. But the real star here is the spectacular mountainside view. 1138 Flagstaff Rd., 303-442-4640, flagstaffhouse.com

Photo courtesy Utah Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

51 WINTER: Utah Valley/Provo, UT
Utah’s third-largest city, Provo balances the artistic with the outdoorsy. “Y” Mountain near Brigham Young University is a popular site for climbing and day hikes, while in-town amenities include trendy restaurant Station 22 – known for its chicken and waffles – and a First Friday art walk.
Stay: Originally founded by Robert Redford in 1969, Sundance Mountain is a posh ski resort located 13 miles north of Provo. Mountainside homes are available if you can afford the splurge, with suites decorated to look like magazine-worthy country lodges sporting gas fireplaces and jetted tubs. 8841 N. Alpine Loop Rd., 800-892-1600, sundanceresort.com  
Play: Park City’s Sundance Film Festival is one of the country’s largest indie film events, drawing 50,000 annual visitors. A juried selection of shorts, feature films and documentaries is presented during the weeklong event held in mid-January to early February. Many visitors attend to get an early peek at future Oscar contenders. Competition here is stiff; for example, only 60 short films were chosen from the more than 8,000 submitted to Sundance Institute for the 2015 awards. Visit sundance.org.  
Eat: The farm-to-table concept is taken literally at downtown Provo’s Communal restaurant, headed by Heirloom Restaurant Group and former Sundance Resort sous chef John Newman. Locally farmed produce is at the center of every meal, and guests share large farm tables for a communal bonding experience. Look for tasty openers including housemade sausage with German spaetzle or smoked trout pot pie, with trendy mains from short ribs to pork confit. 102 N. University Ave., 801-373-8000, communalrestaurant.com

Photo courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department

52 SPRING: Abiquiu, NM
An hour north of Santa Fe, the sleepy town of Abiquiu is best known for two things: late artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s one-time residence, and breathtaking red rock vistas spotted in the flick Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. The pristine buttes are excellent for hiking, with Abiquiu Lake a prime fishing spot.
Stay: Abiquiu Inn’s 25 casitas are graced with traditional New Mexican elements, from beam ceilings and turquoise walls to kiva fireplaces and hacienda furnishings. The largest casitas include kitchenettes or dining and living areas, plus views of the lush courtyard and cottonwood trees. Winter rates start at $99.95 per night. 21120 U.S. 84, 505-685-4378, abiquiuinn.com
Play: The former home of late artist Georgia O’ Keeffe, Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center has all the amenities of a Southwestern lodge plus a few options you won’t find at your standard hotel. The property includes two ongoing archaeological digs and a museum of Anthropology with displays of 10,000-year-old Paleo-Indian artifacts. Tours of the local landscapes that inspired O’Keeffe’s paintings are offered March-December and workshops on everything from rope climbing to spirituality and silversmithing run year-round. 1708 U.S. 84, 505-685-4333, ghostranch.org
Eat: Café Abiquiu serves hearty breakfast options such as vanilla brioche French toast and huevos rancheros that’ll provide energy for a long day of learning and exploration. New Mexican entrées like fried trout with tamale cakes and green chile burgers complement the restaurant’s premier wine program. 21120 U.S. 84, 505-685-4378, abiquiuinn.com/cafe-abiquiu