52 Weekend Adventures -2012

Written by Laurie Davies Category: Travel Issue: February 2012

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1. Virgil’s Corner B & B

Beyond the pop-pop sound of actors’ pistols at the O.K. Corral and the mossy smells of The Birdcage Theater lies a place where Tombstone history meets modern amenities: Virgil’s Corner B&B, which sits on the property once owned and occupied by lawman Virgil Earp. After a fire destroyed the original home in 1998, property owner Diane More took Tombstone’s “too tough to die” motto to heart and constructed a comfortable four-bedroom B&B on the site that mixes period furniture and dinnerware with BluRay, high-definition TV and WiFi – just the gadgetry that would have made tracking down lawless Ike Clanton easier. The rebuild dwarfs Earp’s original 14-by-19-foot dwelling and includes a common area where guests can enjoy scrumptious, buffet-style breakfasts.
ELEVATION: 4,540 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Highway 80, which becomes Fremont Street approaching Tombstone. Continue to 97 E. Fremont St.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours (187 miles)
RATES: $150 per night
INFO: 520-548-1025, virgilscorner.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

2. Middlemarch Road
Dragoon Mountains

With 22 miles of rutted road riddled with rocky divots, Middlemarch Road can be killer – but so is the scenery. Yucca, creosote and cat claw acacia color the journey toward the rugged Dragoon Mountains. The scent of piñon pine and juniper, plus white-tailed deer or black-tailed jackrabbit cameos, make this jaunt worth the effort. Many US Cavalry soldiers trod Middlemarch Road in the late 1800s, en route from Fort Bowie to the San Pedro Valley – and Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise hid from said cavalry in the nearby mountains – so there are places to stop and hike into history. If you turn left onto FR 687 from the fork in Middlemarch Road about 10 miles in, travel 6.5 miles, turn right at FR 687K (the turnoff to Council Rocks trailhead) and take a 10-minute hike, you can visit the area where Cochise is believed to have surrendered in 1872.
ELEVATION: 5,900 feet at Middlemarch Pass
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Highway 80. Approaching Tombstone, look for a left turn onto Middlemarch Road.
DRIVING TIME: Four hours roundtrip (40 miles), including hike
LODGING: Katie’s Cozy Cabins in Tombstone, sparely decorated lodgings built in 2004 (cabinsintombstone.com)
INFO: www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/forest/recreation/scenic_drives/middlemarch.shtml
TRAVEL TIP: Dated maps show that FR 687 continues north to Dragoon. It does not. It dead-ends into a private ranch, so plan for an out-and-back drive.
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em.

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3. Devil’s Bridge

From the pothole-ridden road approaching the trailhead to the scrambling climb to the top, the devil’s in the details on Coconino Forest Trail No. 120, aka Devil’s Bridge. Rated “moderate” by Coconino National Forest rangers, this 2-mile roundtrip trek sports a few high-intensity features, including some tricky bouldering and a steep natural stone staircase that quickens your 400-foot ascent. Three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead, the trail divides, and hikers can veer left for a less strenuous route that ends under a 50-foot-high arch, or take the right-hand path for the aforementioned exertion. The payoff is a perch near – or a walk across, if you dare – Devil’s Bridge, the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area. Give the devil his due, and you’ll enjoy heavenly views of Boynton Canyon and an invigorating sense of accomplishment.
ELEVATION: 4,600 to 5,000 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Highway 260 into Cottonwood. Turn right on Highway 89A. Nearing the west side of Sedona, turn left on Dry Creek Road, Forest Road 152. At fork in road, veer right (leaving paved road) and continue 1.3 miles to Devil’s Bridge Trailhead and parking lot.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 5 minutes (120 miles)
FEES: A $5 Red Rock Pass must be displayed in your vehicle’s windshield. Visit redrockcountry.org/passes-and-permits.
LODGING: Enchantment Resort provides posh suites with a spa nearby
INFO: fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55292
KIDS: Leave ’em.

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Photos by Abraham Karam

4. Blessing of the Vineyards

Whether you’re unsold on Arizona’s status as a palate-pleasing wine region, or a true believer in the state’s velvety syrahs and crisp sauvignon blancs, a visit to the rolling grasslands near Elgin on April 28 for the Blessing of the Sonoita Vineyards Festival provides a scenic way to celebrate Sonoita’s wine country. Priests in colorful robes bless grapevines for a bountiful harvest, and previous years’ varietals – including Sonoita’s  fruity 2004 cab and oak-aged cuvee blanc – are poured aplenty. Tip: Savor the stunning setting and festivities and sample some wines, but save yourself for more tastings down the road at award-winning Callaghan Vineyards and Dos Cabezas Wineworks.
ELEVATION: 5,000 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson to the Highway 83 turnoff. Proceed south through Sonoita to Elgin Road. Turn left to Elgin. Sonoita Vineyards is located three miles south of Elgin at 290 Elgin-Canelo Road.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours (175 miles)
ADMISSION: $15 (includes wine tasting, souvenir glass, winery tours, and food and wine pairings)
LODGING: Western country lodge Sonoita Inn (sonoitainn.com)
INFO: 520-455-5893, sonoitavineyards.com/festivals.html
TRAVEL TIP: Trail ride packages from Arizona Horseback Experience are available with advance registration, 520-455-5696.
KIDS: Unless they’re 21, leave ’em.

5. Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures
Navajo Nation

Idling his Hummer on a 45-degree-angle rock face, tour guide Jay Truman lowers his shades and asks smugly, “Anybody want out?” Pitched five feet above the unforgiving desert floor, he grins and then goes all Shaun White, revving the Hummer’s 350-horsepower engine and whipping through a series of sandy “Hummer half-pipes.” Welcome to Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures, which delivers off-road adrenaline en route to canyon quietude on Navajo Nation land near Page. The pay dirt in this 2.5-hour private tour is Secret Canyon, a deep, narrow canyon formed by water rushing through the rocks and surrounded by 60-foot-high sandstone walls. The antidote to nearby Antelope Canyon’s truckloads of tourists, SCHA resists a get-’em-in, get-’em-out tour schedule. The result? You and no more than five other people enjoy a scenic slot canyon hike in peace.
ELEVATION: 4,300 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to I-40 east at Flagstaff. Take US 89 north 130 miles to Page and follow signs for US 89 Loop/N. Lake Powell Boulevard.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 30 minutes (279 miles)
FEES: $99 per person
LODGING: Lake Powell Resort provides modern rooms with the typical amenities (lakepowell.com/accommodations)
INFO: 928-645-2266, hummeradventures.net
TRAVEL TIP: Call shotgun. The front seat yields the least bumpy ride.
KIDS: Take ’em.

6. Gray Hawk Nature Center
Sierra Vista

Along with suturing injured rattlesnakes and repatriating black market reptiles to the wild, naturalist Sandy Anderson enjoys watching children arrive at Gray Hawk Nature Center saddled with snake phobia. Sadistic? Hardly. By the end of the day, the kids are petting Anderson’s scaly wards like puppy dogs. “We’ve got to stop looking at things through glass,” Anderson says of her hands-on philosophy. Located on the banks of the San Pedro River near Sierra Vista, the environmental education facility hosts guided programs and tours for families or small groups. With a “primitive, but professional” motto, Gray Hawk allows visitors to view a vast amount of wetland wildlife up close and in person, and take in sights like wild turkeys staring down a deer and her fawn.
ELEVATION: 4,000 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Highway 80 to Tombstone. Once there, take Toughnut Street west to Sumner; turn left. Sumner becomes Charleston Road. Cross over the San Pedro River and turn left onto Escapule Road. Continue 1.5 miles to Gray Hawk Lane and follow to the gate.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 19 minutes (197 miles)
FEES: Private visits can be scheduled for a $50 donation.
LODGING: Lazy Dog Ranch, a nature-cradled B&B located near the San Pedro River (lazydogranch.net)
INFO: grayhawknaturecenter.org
TRAVEL TIP: Walk-ins are not allowed. Make advance arrangements by calling 520-458-0542 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
KIDS: Take ’em.

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7. Fiesta de Garibaldi

Anyone who’s visited Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City knows it’s the mecca of mariachi. But you needn’t cross the border for an earful of authentic guitarrón, vihuela and trumpets. Tucson’s annual Fiesta de Garibaldi features a traditional re-creation of the sights and sounds of Garibaldi Plaza, sans the side-street crime and public drunkenness that’s tarnished the lively square’s reputation in recent years. The Tucson fiesta takes place in April and features live mariachi music, folklorico acts from all over the Southwest, colorful costumes, Mexican food and craft vendors from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
ELEVATION: 2,410 feet
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour 45 minutes (115 miles)
FEES: $8 per person; children 10 and younger free
LODGING: Luxurious, 14-acre resort Arizona Inn (arizonainn.com)
INFO: Call 520-838-3908 for festival date and directions.
KIDS: Take ’em.

8. Country Thunder

Every year Country Thunder rolls into Florence like a sonic haboob, bringing with it marquee country performers who croon, sweat and roar out their top hits on the festival’s dusty outdoor stage. Hot daytime temps and crisp night air under a star-studded sky bathe Country Thunder faithful in Arizona ambiance as they flock annually to this four-day country music love-in and campout. This April 12-15, performers will include Sawyer Brown, Neal McCoy, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Big & Rich, and Alan Jackson.
ELEVATION: 1,500 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take US 60 east to Florence Junction. Turn south onto Highway 79 and proceed about 14 miles to East Price Road. Follow Country Thunder signs (and traffic).
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 15 minutes (66 miles)
FEES: Four-day passes cost $140 through March 5; $160 at the gate. Children 12 and younger get in free with paying adult.
LODGING: Campsite costs range from $89 to $159 for four days.
INFO: 866-802-6418, arizona.countrythunder.com
TRAVEL TIP: Campsite access requires the purchase of a four-day wristband.
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em.

9. Photo Workshop

If using your point-and-shoot camera means pointing the lens at your subject and muttering “shoot” when viewing the subpar results, Ron Chilston can come to your emotional rescue. Chilston, owner of Jerome Photos, pities the poor tourists who haven’t a clue about composition, aperture and shutter speed, so he offers a three-hour digital photo workshop. For a jaunt around Jerome, sign up for the morning session; the afternoon session features a field trip to Gold King Mine. Switchback streets, early-century architecture and Neo-Beatnik art offer plenty to keep you focused. Sheesh, the entire town is a National Historic Landmark (that is, until it slides down Cleopatra Hill; a single mining blast in the 1930s supposedly caused the city jail to plummet one block downhill – intact and photo-ready.)
ELEVATION: 5,080 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to exit 287; turn left onto Highway 260 to Cottonwood. Turn left on Main Street/Highway 89A-Alt and continue on 89A-Alt into Jerome. Turn right onto Hull Avenue to 240 Hull Ave.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours (111 miles)
RATES: $99 per workshop
LODGING: Surgeon’s House, former home of Jerome Chief Surgeon Arthur Carlson (surgeonshouse.com); historic brick lodge The Connor Hotel (connorhotel.com)
INFO: jeromephotos.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

10. Shop Tubac
Tubac’s come a long way since it was established as a Spanish colonial garrison in 1752. Once the site of battles between Apaches, Sonoran Mexican settlers and the Confederate army, Tubac is now billed as the place “where art and history meet.” It’s also a dang fine shopping destination. Whether you’re looking for an unusual birdhouse or a unique broach, the town’s myriad art studios and shops fit the bill. Tumacookery (a play on nearby Tumacácori National Historic Park) plies high-end kitchen supplies and gourmet goods like  cactus jellies and hot sauces. The Artist’s Daughter peddles cowboy boot birdhouses and Western signs for fictional saloons and saddle makers. And classy Más y Más features más glass, clay, wood, sculptures, jewelry and leather handbags than you can shake a stick at.
ELEVATION: 3,200 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Tucson. Merge right onto I-19 (exit 260) and continue south for 42 miles to Tubac.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes (158 miles)
LODGING: Tubac Country Inn, featuring five rooms decorated in a Southwestern theme (tubaccountryinn.com)
INFO: tubacaz.com
TRAVEL TIP: A particularly lively time to go is during the Spring ArtWalk, scheduled for March 17-18.
KIDS: Leave ’em.

11. Rose Tree

Tombstone is known for gunslingers, saloons and ladies of ill repute, but a different kind of shady lady appears each spring, tucked behind the Rose Tree Museum and Books on Toughnut Street. Planted in 1886, the world’s largest rose tree – a White Lady Banks Rose – blossoms every April, spilling a million-plus snowy-white blooms over the massive trellis that supports her branches. Visitors can stroll under the fragrant, 9,000-square-foot covering or climb a platform to see the stunning clouds of blooms from above.
ELEVATION: 4,540 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Highway 80, which becomes Fremont Street approaching Tombstone. Turn onto Fourth Street. The Rose Tree Museum is at Fourth and Toughnut Streets.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours (188 miles)
FEES: $5 per person; 14 and younger free
LODGING: Marie’s Engaging Bed & Breakfast, a four-room Victorian adobe house built in 1906 (mariesbandb.com)
INFO: 520-457-3326
KIDS: Leave ’em.

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12. Downtown Walking Tour

Once the national leader in cattle production, Willcox has also produced celebrity treasures like Tanya Tucker and Rex Allen, and a stroll around town is a mosey into history. Whether you need a wrench or a wedding dress, you’ll find life’s necessities at the 1880s Willcox Commercial, Arizona’s oldest store in its original location. Apache war chief Geronimo bought sugar here, but – skeptical that the white proprietors would underfill 10-pound sacks of sugar – he insisted upon buying 1-pound bags because he knew what a pound felt like in his hands. Bounce along Railroad Avenue to the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum, where the Western film and music star’s first guitar – a mail-order model from Sears – is on display along with his garish giddyups, like his “Gumby Suit,” a green suit studded with sequined butterflies. End at the 1905 Palace Saloon, which used to be a meat market of a different kind: a butcher shop.
ELEVATION: 4,167 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 to Willcox. At exit 336, merge onto S. Haskell Avenue. Turn right onto E. Maley Street/Highway 186. Turn left onto N. Railroad Avenue.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours (196 miles)
LODGING: Holiday Inn Express Willcox (hiexpress.com)
INFO: willcoxchamber.com
KIDS: Take ’em.

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13. ATV Adventure

Hunting for a mind-altering vortex or shopping for ceramic eagles is all well and good, but to experience the raw, rugged beauty of Sedona, take to the outback on a 30-mile ATV tour with Arizona ATV Adventures. After a practice run on a dirt track dubbed the “kiddie corral,” you’ll be tearing across 1860s cattle trails and kicking up dust on Coconino National Forest roads. The ATVs are stable and fairly foolproof, unless you somehow manage to channel Clark Griswold and careen into a ravine. (Fun fact: the National Lampoon’s Vacation scene where an asleep-at-the-wheel Griswold bottoms out the Family Truckster – with dead Aunt Edna strapped on the roof – was filmed nearby.) Maneuvering over rocks and through prickly pear thickets will rev up your engine, while a stop at Anderson Butte affords views across the Verde Valley to the majestic Mogollon Rim.
ELEVATION: 4,326 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Highway 260 into Cottonwood. Turn right on Highway 89A and proceed about 17 miles into Sedona to 1185 W. Highway 89A.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours (117 miles)
FEES: $130 per single-rider ATV; $142 per double-rider ATV
LODGING: The charming, rural European-vibed Lantern Light Inn, (lanternlightinn.com); the romantic-amenity-rich Boots & Saddles B&B, with in-room fireplaces and hot tubs (oldwestbb.com)
INFO: 800-242-6335, arizonaatvadventures.com
TRAVEL TIP: Wear long pants and close-toed shoes. Arizona ATV provides helmets, gloves, goggles and bandanas.
KIDS: Take ’em. Kids 50 pounds or 5 years and older can ride; 15-year-olds with a learner’s permit can drive.




14. Rim Lake Vista Trail
Mogollon Rim

Trail No. 622 along the Mogollon Rim is basically a long and winding photo op. Part of the trail is paved (read: stroller- and wheelchair-friendly), and nearly all of it skirts the edge of the rim, offering views that ripple over forest-blanketed hills and stretch as far as Four Peaks, some 120 miles away. The name Rim Lake Vista Trail hints at both the seven nearby Rim lakes and the sweeping views from acrophilia-testing rock outcroppings. Mother Nature even planned for picnickers, smoothing out boulders large enough in some places for families to sit while eating lunch and drinking in the landscape. The four-mile out-and-back trail is easy, but cut yourself slack if you’re sucking wind. It’s a sneaky-high 7,500 feet.
ELEVATION: 7,500 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north to Payson. Go east (right) on Highway 260 to Forest Road 300 (Rim Road). The trailhead is between mile markers 39 and 40.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes (130 miles)
LODGING: The spacious and modern Mogollon Resort Cabins, Overgaard (azresortcabins.com)
INFO: 928-535-7300, fs.usda.gov/asnf
TRAVEL TIP: The Mogollon Rim is the second most lightning-struck area in the world. Get off the rim if a monsoon strikes.
KIDS: Take ’em, but beware: There are no guard rails.

15. Iron Springs Road
Near Prescott

This drive from the Prescott National Forest through Skull Valley and Kirkland swells with scenery worthy of a classic John Wayne Western. It starts with a counterclockwise spin down Iron Springs Road – a rugged byway that twists, turns and tilts into the cool pines of Prescott National Forest, then plummets 2,200 feet through Skull Valley into Kirkland’s low-desert floor. In Skull Valley – so-named because of bleached bones leftover from Indian battles – you’ll find a surprising stretch of cottonwoods and a quaint general store. Driving onward, with the Weaver Mountains before you, make it a point to stop at the 1863 Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse before looping back up through mountain curves into Prescott on Highway 89.
ELEVATION: 6,170 to 3,930 feet
DIRECTIONS: From Highway 89 in Prescott, take N. Montezuma Street and follow curve left into Whipple Street. This becomes Iron Springs Road. Continue through Skull Valley and Kirkland to Kirkland Junction. Return to Prescott on Highway 89.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 30 minutes (52 miles round trip)
LODGING: The comfy and groovy Motor Lodge, a historic motel decked out in honey hues and lavender-lilac schemes (themotorlodge.com)
KIDS: Leave ’em.

16. Pull a Hat Trick

From skin tone to jaw bone, customers are sized up as soon as they enter Óptimo Hatworks. Head hatter S. Grant Sergot assesses your posture and poise to pick your perfect topper, whether you fancy a Marlboro Man-style Stetson or Indiana Jones’ rumpled fedora. Everything is old-school here, including a 1911 “conformer.” When pushed tightly onto your head, tiny pins create an outline of your noggin. This hurts. After an afternoon of sizing, you’ll begin the weeks-long art of blocking, cutting and curling your hat. Sergot steams it and rubs it, but “You have to love it into shape,” he says.
ELEVATION:  5,350 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson to the Highway 80 east exit toward Tombstone/Douglas. Travel 50 miles, then exit on ramp to “Old Bisbee” and turn right. Proceed to 47 Main St.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 26 minutes (209 miles)
PRICES: Straw hats start at $120. Fur/felt hats range from $400 to $900.
LODGING: The quaint Copper City Inn (coppercityinn.com)
INFO:  888-FINE-HAT, optimohatworks.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

17. Fool Hollow Lake
Show Low

Fool Hollow Lake covers what was once land farmed by Thomas Jefferson Adair, who moved there in 1885. Locals apparently joked that only a fool would try to farm the place. Failing as farm land, Fool Hollow was filled with water in 1957 to create a 150-acre lake. Today, anglers and birders find better fortune on its forested shores. Fed by Show Low Creek, Fool Hollow Lake hosts large- and smallmouth bass, black crappie, sunfish, walleye, crayfish, carp, channel catfish, northern pike and (in spring and summer) rainbow trout. Fishing piers provide ideal perches for birders hoping to spot great blue herons or long-billed dowitchers. A 1.5-mile walking trail runs along the south and west sides of the lake.
ELEVATION: 6,260 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north to Payson. Turn right (east) on Highway 260. Proceed about 85 miles. Nearing Show Low, turn left onto Old Linden Road and follow signs to Fool Hollow.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 20 minutes (178 miles)
FEES: The park entrance fee is $7; campsites cost $17, or $30 for campsites with electric RV hookups.
LODGING: Reserve a campsite by calling 520-586-2283 or visit azstateparks.com/Parks/FOHO/index.html
KIDS: Take ’em.

18. Parasailing
Lake Havasu

Why stick to being on the water at Lake Havasu when you can fly 600 feet above it? Awaken your dormant daredevil – and get an aerial eyeful of London Bridge – with Lake Havasu Parasail. They’ll strap you into a harness attached to a balloon-like parasail, tether you to a speed boat, and let you soar solo or seated next to a friend. It’s like flying a kite, except you’re the kite. A wench and reel (think giant fishing rod) controls your takeoff and landing from a platform on the boat, so even the inexperienced can fly high with ease. 
ELEVATION: 575 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 west to Quartzsite. Exit north on Highway 95 and continue to Lake Havasu City’s English Village. Lake Havasu Parasail is located under the London Bridge. (Park nearby; English Village is open to foot traffic only.)
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 25 minutes (200 miles)
FEES: $55 per person.
LODGING: Havasu Springs Resort, where everything’s lake-side except the 9-hole golf course (havasusprings.com)
INFO: 928-302-0683, lakehavasuparasail.com
KIDS:  Take ’em (must be at least 50 pounds to parasail).

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Photos by Lauren Jordan

19. Under the stars
Colorado River

When you’re ready to see more starry sky than city skyline, bunk on the banks of the Colorado River. There are inestimable billions of stars, and with a view unadulterated by artificial lights, it might seem like you can see darn near all of ’em. After a week of hiking, climbing and white-knuckling your raft as you careen through the Colorado’s turbulent waters, you’ll marvel at the discovery of new muscle groups, too. Arizona River Runners, a leading tour outfitter, navigates the rapids and cooks your meals on their six-to-10-day excursions, which are packed with activities including shooting the rapids, exploring ancient canyon markings and hiking into Deer Creek Falls, where sodium bicarbonate-laced water creates turquoise pools below cascading waterfalls. You set up your own camp, help load the rafts, and revel in discovering sites so secluded and serene that fatigue is forgotten.           
ELEVATION: 4,000 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Flagstaff; merge onto I-40 east. Take Highway 89 north toward Page. At Bitter Springs, exit left onto Highway 89A. Continue 14 miles and follow well-marked signs to Lee’s Ferry Road.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours 30 minutes to Lee’s Ferry launch site (273 miles)
RATES: Six-day trips start at $1,295 per person.
INFO: raftarizona.com
KIDS: Take ’em (must be 8 or older).

20. Topock Gorge
Between Topock/Lake Havasu City

From bighorn sheep and bald eagles to foxes and feral hogs, a veritable animal kingdom surrounds Topock Gorge. This narrow channel between Topock and Lake Havasu City ribbons through the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge area, and offers fishing (potential catches include striped bass and bluegill) and even bullfrogging (take them by gig, spear, bow and arrow, or hook and line). A lesser-explored stretch of the Colorado River, Topock Gorge is rich with ancient petroglyphs and towering rock formations like Devil’s Elbow – named by steamboat river captains who had trouble navigating the swift waters. This scenic, 20-mile sweep is doable in a day.
ELEVATION: 495 to 575 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 west to Quartzsite. Exit north on Highway 95 and continue through Lake Havasu City to I-40. Proceed west on I-40 into Topock. Get off at exit 1, just before the river. Make a right and follow the road for about .25 mile to rental outfits.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 45 minutes (232 miles)
FEES: Rates vary depending on watercraft.
LODGING: The massive Rio del Sol Inn, located on historic Route 66 in Needles, California (riodelsolinn.com)
INFO: Firewater Beach and Marine (topockrentals.com) rents jet skis, sport boats and pontoons (waterskiing is prohibited); Wildlife Adventures (mojavedesert.net/wildlifeadventures/adventures.html) rents kayaks and canoes.
KIDS: Take ’em.

21. Architecture Tour

Now immersed in artsy funkiness, Bisbee’s buildings tell the story of a mining town where subterranean riches gave birth to myriad architectural marvels. Start at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, a Gothic Revival cathedral with exquisite Victorian-style stained glass windows fashioned in 1916 by renowned artist Emil Frei. Proceed to the Art Deco 1930 Cochise County Courthouse, where Faye Dunaway reportedly insisted on limo transportation to the filming of a scene for the 1971 Western movie Doc – even though her trailer was parked 50 yards away. Next, it’s off to the 1913 Romanesque Bisbee High School, a four-story building where each floor is a ground floor. (Because the school’s built into a steep hill, each floor has a ground-level entrance.) End your tour overnighting at the 1902 Copper Queen Hotel. Book early to stay in the Julia Lowell room, said to be haunted by the spirit of a jilted prostitute.
ELEVATION: 5,350 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson to the Highway 80 east exit toward Tombstone/Douglas. Travel 50 miles, then exit on ramp to “Old Bisbee” and turn right.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 26 minutes (209 miles)
LODGING: Copper Queen Hotel (copperqueen.com)
INFO: Visit the Bisbee Visitor Center (#2 Copper Queen Plaza) or call ahead at 520-432-3554 for a Bisbee map.
TRAVEL TIP: Lavender Jeep Tours stop at the above-mentioned sites as well as many more. Call 520-432-5369.
KIDS: Take ’em.

22. Sidewinders Saloon

Beckoning from its bustling locale in tiny Pine, just below the
Mogollon Rim, Sidewinders Saloon is a fun place to people-watch as long as you’re not intimidated by leather-clad bikers and a few steely glances. Kick back, have a cold one and listen to live rock and blues on weekends. Whether it’s in the breading or the grease, this roadside joint slings some of the best fried food on the planet.
ELEVATION: 5,400 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north through Payson into Pine. Sidewinders is at Highway 87 and Hardscrabble Road.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 55 minutes (105 miles)
LODGING: The Cabins on Strawberry Hill (azcabins.com)
INFO: sidewinderssaloon.com
KIDS:  Leave ’em.

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23. Rainbow Trout Farm

Ditch Sedona’s tourist honeypots and lure your lunch at Rainbow Trout Farm, a scenic stop-off north of town on Highway 89A. This haven near Oak Creek brims with hundreds of rainbow trout and is perfect for amateur anglers, including kids. The farm provides poles, nets and a bucket – they’ll even clean your fish for you to cook on their grills. Bring side dishes and accoutrements, or you can buy a grill kit (lemon, butter, salt and pepper, plate, fork, napkin and foil) for $1 on-site. Caught trout cost $8 to $12 depending on length. Bragging rights about your fresh, flavorful catch are free.  
ELEVATION: 4,800 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Highway 260 into Cottonwood. Turn right on Highway 89A and proceed about 21 miles to 3500 N. Highway 89A (near mile marker 377).
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours (117 miles)
FEES: $1 per fisher plus $8 to $12 per fish.
LODGING: Nearby campgrounds along Oak Creek off Highway 89A include Pine Flat, Bootlegger and Cave Springs. Make reservations by calling 877-444-6777.
INFO: 928-282-5799, sedonarainbowtroutfarm.com
TRAVEL TIP: This is not a catch and release facility. You hook it, you cook it.
KIDS: Take ’em.

24. Horseshoe Bend

Tamed by Glen Canyon Dam, the once-raging waters of the Colorado River look downright lazy from the Horseshoe Bend overlook. Free from the sediment swirled up by Grand Canyon rapids, the emerald water ribbons around a towering sandstone spire in mesmerizing, horseshoe-shaped symmetry. But Horseshoe Bend isn’t the easiest photo op in the West. Getting there requires 15 minutes on a calf-busting sandy trail that yields to an easy-to-moderate gravel path. Then you’ll need a wide angle lens and the guts to stand near a precariously sheer 1,000-foot drop unprotected by railings.
ELEVATION: 4,200 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to I-40 east at Flagstaff. Take US 89 north 125 miles. About six miles before Page, look for a small, brown Horseshoe Bend overlook sign. Parking is free.
DRIVING TIME:4 hours, 25 minutes (271 miles)
LODGING: The simple-but-centrally-located Page Boy Motel (thepageboymotel.com)
TRAVEL TIP: Take a flashlight for dawn or dusk visits. There are no trail lights.
KIDS: Leave ’em. (Overlooks are rocky and unfenced.)

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Photos by Brian Goddard

25. Explore Lake Mead
Arizona/Nevada border

The long blue arm of Lake Mead reaches out from the Grand Canyon and twists past hundreds of finger-like miles of shoreline to Hoover Dam. And the largest reservoir in the United States provides plenty of activities for aquaphiles. Temple Bar Marina is the launching point in Arizona for speed boat, deck cruiser and wave runner rentals, and offers 20-mile unobstructed water-ski runs in Temple Basin. With campsites and motel-style lodging, Temple Bar caters to no-frills fishermen and water recreationists. To lap up more luxury, drive across the Nevada state line to the Callville Bay Resort & Marina, where Forever Resorts rents houseboats with satellite large-screen TVs, fully equipped kitchens and large sun decks with slides gliding into the water. Anglers eager to haul in one of Mead’s legendary 50-pound striped bass can even drop a line off the back of the boat.
ELEVATION: 1,100 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 60 to Wickenburg, then Highway 93 north to I-40. Take Highway 93/I-40 through Kingman; resume heading north on Highway 93 about 52 miles to Temple Bar Road; turn right. To get to Callville Bay, continue on Highway 93 into Nevada. Ten miles past the state line, turn right on Lakeshore Road. Follow signs to Callville Bay.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 45 minutes (262 miles) to Temple Bar Marina; 5 hours, 8 minutes (283 miles) to Callville Bay
FEES: Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance fee is $10. Boat rental fees vary by location and watercraft.
INFO: nationalparkreservations.com/lakemead.php
KIDS: Take ’em.

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26. Kayak Watson Lake

Get a heart-pumping workout and eye-popping views on Watson Lake by paddling past the Granite Dells’ lumpy, rippled rock formations in a kayak or canoe. Massive domes and boulders of exposed bedrock cast reflections on this mile-high lake, whose glassy waters are texturized only by the bow of your boat. Take a capsize-proof camera and plenty of sunscreen. On-site canoe and kayak rentals are available through Prescott Outdoors. Once you’re paddled out, picnic ramadas, horseshoe pits and playground equipment are a family-friendly way to cap the day. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but boats must be in by 5 p.m.
ELEVATION: 5,400 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to exit 262. Merge onto Highway 69 North toward Prescott. Continue 31 miles to Prescott Lakes Parkway; turn right. Turn right on Highway 89N/Watson Lake Road. Park is one mile up on the right.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 55 minutes (99 miles)
FEES: $2 parking fee. Tandem kayak or canoe, $20 first hour and $15 per additional hour. Solo kayak, $15 first hour and $10 per additional hour.
LODGING: Overnight camping is available at Watson Lake in summer months only.
INFO: cityofprescott.net/services/parks/parks; prescottoutdoors.com
KIDS: Take ’em.


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27. Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company

Jimmy Pionke is frank about his ’furters. “These are the best between here and Chicago,” he crows, with the cred of someone who hawked wieners in that dog-eat-dog city for years. “Vienna Beef uses only the best parts of the cow – no lips or ears,” he says. The bluntness of that culinary appraisal ceases to nauseate the moment Pionke places a magnificent hot dog onto the counter of his bustling roadside joint, Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company. Bulging through a poppy seed bun is an all-beef frank lathered with mustard and piled high with onions, tomato wedges, dill pickles, peppers, neon green relish and cheese. It may be a decadent and jaw-unhinging mouthful, but at least all four food groups are represented.
ELEVATION: 5,350 feet
DIRECTIONS:Take I-10 east through Tucson to Highway 80 east. Proceed 52 miles past Old Bisbee and the Lavender Pit mine. At the roundabout, take Highway 92 southwest for 2.5 miles to Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company (across from Safeway).
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 30 minutes (233 miles)
LODGING: Retro hipster haven Shady Dell, an Airstream trailer park decked out in vintage decor (theshadydell.com).
KIDS: Take ’em.

28. Aravaipa Canyon

Rugged terrain awaits those who enter Aravaipa Canyon, a get-wet-or-get-out trek through unspoiled desert. The West trailhead begins with a prickly pear-studded descent to Aravaipa Creek. Head left at the creek and follow a footpath until the creek jogs left in front of you. Look for a rock cairn on the other side and cross the creek. This will be your first of many opportunities to ford 12- to 18-inch-deep water as you wind your way toward foreboding cliffs bearing names like Hell’s Half Acre Canyon. This hike can be an ankle buster, but the perennial, spring-fed creek yields a lush riparian environment relatively unmarred by human foot traffic.
ELEVATION: 2,300 feet at trailhead
DIRECTIONS: Take US 60 west to Superior. At Highway 177, turn right and continue to Winkelman. At end of Highway 177, turn right on Highway 77. Proceed 11 miles; turn left on Aravaipa Road. Continue 12 miles on mostly unpaved road to trailhead.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 10 minutes (112 miles)
FEES: $5 per person permit must be obtained in advance at blm.gov/az. Only 30 permits are issued daily at the west entrance and only 20 at the more remote east entrance.
LODGING: Primitive camping for backpackers is allowed.
INFO: blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/aravaipa.html
TRAVEL TIP: Permits for fall weekends sell out 13 weeks in advance (book in August to see November’s cottonwood colors). New permits are released each Saturday at 8 a.m.
KIDS: Take ’em.

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29. Helicopter Tour
Grand Canyon

Climb into a whirly bird for a bracing aerial trip through the state’s crème de la crème of scenic getaways: the Grand Canyon. Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters begins its Grand Celebration tour with a flyby of Hoover Dam, a 6.6 million-ton arch gravity dam that single-handedly kept 21,000 workers out of the poor house during its construction in the Depression-ravaged 1930s. From the air, you’ll follow a queue of dormant volcanoes that cut through harsh desert terrain and mark an original Mormon covered-wagon trail. Of course, the raison d’être for this tour is the dramatic rise of dappled canyon walls looming ever closer to the wraparound glass in the EcoStar EC130 aircraft. Flying past shale rock walls 4,000 feet above the Colorado River, this helicopter tour offers more canyon eye candy per nanosecond than any other scenic vista or overlook. Put this on your bucket list.
ELEVATION: 2,510 feet at take-off. 5,000 foot altitude climb during flight.
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 60 west to Wickenburg, then Highway 93 to I-40. Take Highway 93/I-40 through Kingman; resume north on Highway 93 past state line into the town of Boulder City, Nevada. Take the second right onto Adams Boulevard. Turn left onto Veterans Memorial Drive, then right in one mile on Paul C. Fisher Way. Continue one mile to Airport Road. Papillon Grand Canyon tours depart from Boulder City Municipal Airport.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 40 minutes (263 miles)
RATES: Prices start at $284 for adults/$264 for children for the Grand Celebration Tour.
LODGING: The rustic rooms at Hualapai Mountain Resort near Kingman
INFO: papillon.com
KIDS: Take ’em.

30. Archaeological Tour
Various Indian ruins

Did you know the Sinagua cribbed their Montezuma’s Castle cliff dwelling architecture from the Pueblos? And that “classic Southwestern” tribes like the Navajo and Apache are really Athabaskan? These are just two historical tidbits to be gleaned from Michael Rose, an ASU anthropology graduate who helps his father, Les Rose, run Arizona Frontiers. This Gilbert-based company offers historical and archaeological tours at sites ranging from the Hohokam ruins at Casa Grande National Monument and Pueblo Grande to the Grand Canyon. Trips can be arranged for groups as small as two.
FEES: Prices range from $65 to $160 for adults and $35 to $75 for children 12 and younger. Free pick-up and drop-off.
INFO: arizonafrontiers.com
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em.

31. Walpi
Hopi Reservation

People have lived in the old Hopi town of Walpi since 900 A.D., making it one of the oldest continually inhabited villages in the country. Walpi is perched atop First Mesa, one of three mesas along Highway 264 through the Hopi Reservation. Residents have no electricity and must walk to nearby Sichomovi for water. The drive up soars hundreds of feet, affording views of seemingly infinite isolation. Once there, a Hopi-guided walking tour allows for a glimpse of ancient indigenous life. Artists sell handcrafted kachina dolls and pottery in a low-pressure environment. There are no Sunday tours.
ELEVATION: 5,810 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Flagstaff. Turn right onto I-40 east and go 62 miles to Highway 87. Proceed north 60 miles to Second Mesa; turn right onto Highway 264. At mile marker 392, turn left to drive to the Ponsi Hall Visitors Center at Sichomovi.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 50 minutes (293 miles)
FEES: Walking tours cost $13 and can be arranged by calling the Ponsi Hall Visitors Center at 928-737-2670.
LODGING: The Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites in Tuba City (experiencehopi.com)
INFO: experiencehopi.com/walpi.html
TRAVEL TIP: No photography or cell phone coverage.
KIDS: Take ’em.

32. Cochise County Wines

The 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building’s vault safeguards a different kind of cache these days – wine. Home to Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards’ tasting room, the elegant building also houses the Trust Gallery, so patrons can view local art while sipping Rhone-style wine. Across the street is the plush, non-pretentious Carlson Creek Vineyard tasting room, which feels more like a cottage than a bar and pours rich chardonnays and spicy syrahs.
ELEVATION: 4,167 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 to Willcox. At exit 336, merge onto S. Haskell Avenue. Turn right onto E. Maley Street/Highway 186. Turn left at N. Railroad Avenue. Keeling-Schaefer tasting room is at 154 N. Railroad Ave. Carlson Creek is across Railroad Park.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours (196 miles)
LODGING: Sunglow Ranch (sunglowranch.com)
INFO: keelingschaefervineyards.com; carlsoncreek.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

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Photos by Jill Richards

33. Quasi-Cochise County Wines

Just when you had your car pointed to Willcox, your Cochise wine-tasting trip comes with a corkscrewy conundrum. Pillsbury Wine Company (producer of 100 percent local, limited edition wines) and Arizona Stronghold (the maker of Arizona’s official Centennial wine) grow their grapes in the fertile terroir of Cochise County. But their winemaking operations and tasting rooms are 300 miles northwest in Yavapai County. This over-the-river-and-through-the-woods harvesting, transporting, stomping and wine-making approach creates a bit of duplicity, but one stroll through quaint Old Town Cottonwood and you won’t care that you drove to Yavapai County to taste more Cochise County wine – especially after sipping Arizona Stronghold’s racy rose Dayden or Pillsbury’s WildChild Red. Fees vary.
ELEVATION: 3,320 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Highway 260; go northwest to Cottonwood. Turn left onto Main Street; continue to Old Town.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 45 minutes (104 miles)
LODGING: Chic boutique The Tavern Hotel (thetavernhotel.com)
INFO: pillsburywine.com/tasting_room.html; azstronghold.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

34. Greens Peak Loop
White Mountains

This fun fall drive reveals a panorama of golden aspen ahead and clouds of dust behind. You’ll begin the 20-mile loop on Forest Road 117, a maintained gravel road off Highway 260 in the White Mountains. Look for elk, Merriam’s turkey and an occasional black bear in the grassland. Four miles in, take FR 61 to the fire lookout on top of Greens Peak. From here, there’s a commanding view of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the nation, from such a height that 12-foot-tall pines look like push pins. As you backtrack on FR 117, turn left onto FR 117A, where thick aspen stands shimmer gold in the sunset, and Carnero Lake can yield rainbow trout for dinner.
ELEVATION: 9,000 to 10,135 feet
DIRECTIONS: On Highway 260 from Show Low, continue east through the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Just past mile marker 380, look for a small brown Forest Service sign marking FR 117. Turn left. Follow to FR 61 to the top of Greens Peak. Backtrack to FR 117, turning left on FR 117A. Detour at Carnero Lake for fishing or continue on FR 117A to FR 118. Turn right (south) and loop back to Highway 260.
DRIVING TIME: 1 to 3 hours, depending on stops (20 miles)
LODGING: Hidden Meadow Ranch (see No. 40) is one-half mile north of the 117A/118 intersection. In nearby Greer, the Amberian Peaks Lodge (peaksaz.com) offers a close-up look at fire damage across the Little Colorado River Valley.
TRAVEL TIP: Early October yields best fall color.
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em.

35. The Gardens at Mile High Ranch

Relaxing vibes are always in bloom at The Gardens at Mile High Ranch, a seven-unit B & B surrounded by three terraced acres of natural foliage. Honeysuckle and evergreens encircle the adobe-style buildings; goldfish swim beneath lily pads in the pond. It’s a tranquil, lush hideaway – just the kind of refuge owners and sisters Maggie and Anna Kohanek wanted for their Alzheimer’s-stricken mother when they opened the Gardens 10 years ago. Their mom passed away in 2003, but the sisters’ labor of love continues to grow, with a full B&B featuring a menu of massage, spa and body detox treatments.
ELEVATION: 5,350 feet
DIRECTIONS: From Highway 80 after the Mule Pass Tunnel, take the Tombstone Canyon/West Boulevard exit. At stop sign,
continue right one block to 901 Tombstone Canyon.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 25 minutes (207 miles)
RATES: $70 to $100 weekdays; $80 to $110 weekends and
INFO: gardensatmilehighranch.com
TRAVEL TIP: The property is pet-friendly.
KIDS: Leave ’em.

36. Scenic Skyride

Mother Nature often sends mixed messages, and fall in Flagstaff finds the old girl at her most schizophrenic. A ride on Snowbowl’s Scenic Skyride on a well-timed October weekend sends you soaring among aspens in their autumnal glory below wintery, snow-capped Humphreys Peak, creating a surreal sense of seasonal personality disorder. The Skyride runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday through mid- to late-October. Allow for 25 minutes each direction and dress for blustery weather at 11,000 feet, where ranger presentations enliven the area’s history, geology, flora and fauna. Last year, first snowfall was Oct. 5 and fall colors really popped by Oct. 10.
ELEVATION: 9,200 feet (base elevation)
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Flagstaff, where it becomes
S. Milton Road. Follow Milton Road/Highway 89A signs to the turnoff for U.S. Highway 180 W/North Fort Valley Road. Continue 6 miles to FR 516, Snowbowl Road.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes (152 miles)
FEES: Tickets range from $8 to $12. Kids 7 and younger ride free.
LODGING: Ski Lift Lodge and Cabins, providing direct access to biking, hiking and skiing (arizonasnowbowl.com/lodging).
INFO: arizonasnowbowl.com
KIDS: Take ’em.

37. The Rock Saloon and Grill

Tucked into Texas Canyon off I-10 between Tucson and Willcox, Triangle T Historic Ranch gives off a century-old sense of isolation. (During World War II, the Japanese ambassador to Hawaii was covertly moved from Pearl Harbor and held as a POW here.) The ranch watering hole, The Rock Saloon and Grill, is built around an enormous boulder, and boasts swinging saloon doors and a patio overlooking ridged rock formations. For a new Turkey Day tradition, try the Thanksgiving dinner and 1800s-style casino costume gala.
ELEVATION: 4,800 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson and Benson to exit 318, Dragoon Road, and drive .25 mile to the Triangle T.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 45 minutes (179 miles)
LODGING: Triangle T is a guest ranch with 1920s casitas.
INFO: 520-586-7533, azretreatcenter.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

38. Territorial Trick-or-Treat

Yuma Territorial Prison housed hardened criminals from 1876 to 1909, served as a stand-in for Yuma Union High School from 1910 to 1914 and sheltered the Great Depression’s homeless. Now, the big house serves up big fun each Halloween for candy-toting kids skipping from cell to cell, where locals dress in costume, decorate their “host” cells and hand out treats. This city museum and state park also offers a fascinating glimpse into territorial life.
ELEVATION: 120 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 west to Highway 85 south. In Gila Bend, turn west on I-8 to Yuma. Take the Giss Parkway exit; turn left onto E. Eighth Street/Giss Parkway. Take the first right onto Prison Hill Road to Yuma Territorial Prison.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 15 minutes (185 miles)
FEES: $1 admission for trick-or-treating; general admission at other times costs $5 for adults, $2 for kids ages 7-13.
LODGING: Hilton Garden Inn Yuma/Pivot Point (yumapivotpoint.hgi.com) is walking distance from the prison.
INFO: visityuma.com/territorial_prison.html
KIDS: Take ’em.

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39. Apple Annie’s Produce & Pumpkins

Dozens of derrieres in the air signal peak season at Apple Annie’s Produce & Pumpkins, a u-pick farm lined with 70 acres of vegetables and a corn maze. Succulent, fresh-picked apples made her famous, but Apple Annie’s also boasts a variety of vegetables usually available to harvest in August and September, including bell peppers, black-eyed peas, okra, squash, sweet corn, green beans and eggplant. If you visit closer to October, you’ll also find pumpkins aplenty. For dyed-in-the-wool city folk, a trip to Apple Annie’s will get a little mud on your shoes and vitamin-rich veggies on your plate.
ELEVATION: 4,300 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson to Willcox. Take exit 340 and turn left on Fort Grant Road. Travel 11.5 miles to the Apple Annie’s Produce & Pumpkins sign. Turn left on Williams Road and then left again into the farm at 6405 Williams Road.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 10 minutes (208 miles)
FEES: Picked produce ranges from $0.99 to $1.29 per pound. A trip through the 2012 Arizona Centennial-themed corn maze costs $7 for adults and $5 for kids.
LODGING: Holiday Inn Express Willcox (hiexpress.com)
INFO: 520-384-2084, appleannies.com
TRAVEL TIP: Take a large cooler to transport your produce.
KIDS: Take ’em.


40. Hidden Meadow Ranch

Untouched by last year’s devastating Wallow Fire, Hidden Meadow Ranch sits on 150 acres of forested equestrian trails, fishing holes and  luxury lodging. A departure from spartan dude ranch bungalows and family-style meals, Hidden Meadow carves its own unique niche: the dude resort. Upon check-in, a guide on horseback leads guests to a chic two-story cabin prepped with soft lighting, smooth jazz and a ready-to-light fire. In the Ranch House, guests are served three squares, such as mushroom-stuffed trout and elk tenderloin, complemented by an extensive wine list. Anticipating guests’ every need (after a recent 4-inch overnight snowfall, every car’s windshield was scraped by 7 a.m.), this ranch keeps it real with roping, riding, target practice, fishing and sleigh rides.
ELEVATION: 8,500 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north to Payson; turn east on Highway 260 through Show Low and past Sunrise ski area. Near mile marker 385, turn left onto County Road 1325/Forest Road 118 and proceed 6.5 miles to the ranch.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours, 30 minutes (230 miles)
RATES: Double occupancy cabin rates range from $275 to $525 per day, depending on the meal and activities package selected.
INFO: hiddenmeadow.com
TRAVEL TIP: It’s a loftier world at 8,500 feet. Pack lip balm, thermal underwear and ibuprofen.
KIDS: Take ’em.

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41. Hieroglyphic Trail 101
Superstition Mountains

Not everyone can log 600 miles on their odometer every weekend, so here’s a close-to-home quickie: Hieroglyphic Trail No. 101. On the Gold Canyon fringe of the Superstition Mountains, this 2-mile roundtrip trail takes hikers quickly up a 500-foot ascent along switchbacks sprinkled with succulent Sonoran desert vegetation. At the trail intersection, take the clearly marked Hieroglyphic Trail to the left. The hike is fairly easy until the end, when a bit of boulder scrambling and a climb across to the Indian hieroglyphs for photo ops is strenuous. Pools of water sometimes invite a bit of play, and plenty of boulders offer a pleasant setting for lunch.
ELEVATION: 1,800 to 2,600 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take US 60 east five miles east of Apache Junction to Kings Ranch Road. Proceed nearly 3 miles to Baseline Road and veer right. Turn left on Mohican Road. Follow signs to Lost Gold Mine Trail parking lot.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 15 minutes (49 miles) from central Phoenix
INFO: fs.usda.gov/main/tonto/home
TRAVEL TIP: Do not go during winter rains.
KIDS: Take ’em.

42. Wickenburg to Wikieup
Western Arizona

Disarming you with a Gunsmoke motif, the drive from Wickenburg to Wikieup puts a little wild into the West. Creosote-covered hills punctuated with saguaro, paddle cactus and yucca ease you in, but by mile marker 177 you’ll see why you’re on Joshua Forest Scenic Road. Joshua Trees won’t win any botanical beauty pageants, but their sheer numbers create a distinct backdrop of bayonet-shaped branches and puffy panacles not found elsewhere in Arizona. At forest’s edge, you’ll begin climbing through ear-popping elevation changes that reveal a panorama of topographical treats. In Wikieup, stop at roadside shack Eat At Joe’s Barbecue, which serves up succulent strips of mouthwatering brisket.
ELEVATION: 2,070 to 2,500 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take US 60 west into Wickenburg. At the roundabout, take the second right and follow US 93 north to Wikieup.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes round-trip from Wickenburg (not including stops)
LODGING: Rancho de los Caballeros, a 20,000-acre wrangling paradise in Wickenburg (ranchodeloscaballeros.com)
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em

43. Sunrise Park Resort
White Mountains

With a 16,000-skier-per-hour uphill lift capacity and 1,800-foot vertical elevation, Sunrise Park Resort pleases both bunny hill babies and black diamond daredevils drawn to the powdery white stuff in Arizona’s White Mountains. Owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Sunrise offers 65 ski runs, sleigh rides, tubing, cross-country trails, a children’s “ski-wee” area, and a separate snowboard area with a half-pipe and implanted wood and metal rails. The tallest of the ski park’s three mountains is Apache Peak at 11,100 feet. Lifts operate daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Maximize your trip with night skiing on Feb. 18 and 25.
ELEVATION: 9,200 to 11,100 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north. In Payson, turn right on Highway 260 through Show Low and McNary to Highway 273. Sunrise Park Lodge is four miles south on Highway 273; Sunrise Park Resort ski area is three miles past the lodge.
DRIVING TIME: 4 hours (218 miles)
FEES: Call for current lift ticket pricing.
LODGING: The large and amply windowed Sunrise Park Lodge (sunriseskipark.com/lodgewindow.shtml)
INFO: 800-772-7669, sunriseskipark.com
KIDS: Take ’em.

44. Payson Candle Factory

Carving, tucking, twisting, shaving and generally having her way with 200-degree wax, Carol Reed has been helping Payson Candle Factory customers lighten up for 33 years. Specializing in hand-dipped carved candles, Reed also dabbles in Southwestern novelty candles such as Kokopelli, saguaro and howling coyotes, and sells name brands such as Yankee and Bridgewater. Time-permitting, she’ll do a candle dipping and carving demo in the shop. Serious-time-permitting (that’s code for Monday through Friday after the holidays), she’ll let kids carve candles. Payson Candle Factory is open “seven days a wick.”
ELEVATION: 4,982 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) north to Payson. The Candle Factory is at 620 N. Beeline Highway.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 35 minutes (90 miles)
LODGING: Bright, creekside Verde River Rock House (verderiverrockhouse.com)
INFO: 928-474-2152
KIDS: Take ’em.

45. Desert Museum

A trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is an über-kid-friendly affair, filled with fuzzy animals and native plants in a surreal Tucson mountain setting. Plan to spend all day at this trifecta of zoo, botanical garden and natural history museum. Check out the arthropod exhibit, where you can stare down a giant hairy scorpion or a blue death-feigning beetle, and don’t miss the carrot-chewing, Zen-pose-striking, kissing antics of the museum’s playful prairie dogs. Winter hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
ELEVATION: 2,840 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Tucson; exit right (west) on Speedway Boulevard. Continue 12 miles to Kinney Road. Turn right and proceed 2.5 miles to museum.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 55 minutes (111 miles)
FEES: Winter rates: $14.50 for adults; $4.50 for children 6 to 12.
LODGING: White Stallion Ranch (whitestallion.com)
INFO: desertmuseum.org
TRAVEL TIP: Bring good walking shoes.
KIDS: Take ’em.

46. The Burly Bear

Spruce up your holiday decor with a stop in Pinetop at The Burly Bear. Call ahead to see when owner Trent Penrod will be firing up his chainsaw to carve, cut, slice and sand wooden bears, raccoons, mountain lions and other assorted wildlife. Guys can geek out over sawdust and the roar of power tools, while gals can enjoy perusing Christmas accents, aspen log furniture, bedding and wall sconces. An impressive 40-plus-point faux antler chandelier greets customers at this comfy roadside log cabin shop; those are for sale, too, at a fraction of the price of real antlers.
ELEVATION: 7,200 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 87 north to Payson; turn east on Highway 260 and drive 87 miles to Show Low. Follow signs for Highway 260 (not Highway 60) and continue 8 miles to Pinetop-Lakeside. The Burly Bear is on the left.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 30 minutes (188 miles)
LODGING: Moonridge Lodge’s basic cabins (moonridgelodge.com); Whispering Pines Resort’s deluxe rentals (whisperingpinesaz.com).
INFO: 928-367-2327, theburlybear.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

47. Fox Tucson Theatre

Get a sense of Southwestern Art Deco elegance at the Fox Theatre, a sprawling movie revival house that screens classics and features stage performances from the likes of folk singer Arlo Guthrie, the Cab Calloway Orchestra and the Moscow Ballet. Unveiled in 1930, this cinematic bijou lent a touch of old-time extravagance to Tucson until 1974, when competition from drive-ins and other theaters pushed the Fox out of business and rendered her a lifeless husk. Following a massive restoration, the Fox reopened in 2006. December is a great time to catch screenings of holiday classics like The Polar Express and It’s a Wonderful Life. Perched on plush balcony seats, you’ll be glad what’s old is new again.
ELEVATION: 2,410 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Tucson. Exit east at the Congress Street/Broadway Boulevard exit. Veer right on Broadway Boulevard. Turn left on Scott Avenue. Turn left again on W. Congress. The Fox is at 17 W. Congress St. (a one-way westbound street).
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 45 minutes (114 miles)
PRICE: Movie tickets range from $5 to $7. Call box office for live performance pricing.
LODGING: The historic Hotel Congress (hotelcongress.com) is walking distance from The Fox.
INFO: foxtucsontheatre.org
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em, depending on the show.

48. Elks Opera House

Eight years to the day before Arizona became a state, Prescott businessmen set their sights on building an opera house, and boy, did they build a beauty. Elks Opera House represents an architectural transition from Victorian commercial designs to New Classical styles and originally boasted 900 seats. Now owned by the city, the Elks (which opened in 1905) again exudes grandeur – from restored box seats and an ornate light-ring chandelier to “Bill,” the copper-crafted elk perched atop the opera house after a 40-year engagement at the local Elks Lodge. The Manhattan Dolls, a 1940s swing-style vocal trio, will perform February 12. Maybe they’ll work up a Centennial “Happy Birthday” number.
ELEVATION: 5,400 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to exit 262 for Highway 69 North toward Prescott. Take the Gurley Street ramp and continue to 117 E. Gurley St.
DRIVING TIME: 1 hour, 45 minutes (99 miles)
ADMISSION: Manhattan Dolls tickets range from $22 to $30.
LODGING: The 1927 Hassayampa Inn sometimes offers package deals with the Elks Opera House (hassayampainn.com).
INFO: 928-777-1367, elksoperahouse.com
KIDS: Leave ’em.

49. Christmas Village

There’s a blizzard in Yuma – sort of. This year, the city will truck enough snow into historic Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park to blanket a sledding hill as part of its Centennial Christmas Village. Additionally, a village of walk-in playhouses offers pint-sized activities for kids, including faux bank robber photos in the Foothills Bank. Stroll along the grounds of the Quartermaster Depot, which once supplied five states with half a year’s worth of Army clothing, food and ammunition. Five 19th century buildings stand as a testimony to the time when steamboats roared along this once-burgeoning stretch of the Colorado River. Visit the website for 2012 dates.
ELEVATION: 120 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 west to Highway 85 south. In Gila Bend, turn west on I-8 to Yuma and into California. Take exit 172; turn left on Winterhaven Avenue, entering Arizona. Make a U-turn at W. First Street into the park.
DRIVING TIME: 3 hours, 15 minutes (186 miles)
FEES: Punch passes for six rides down the sledding hill cost $5; Weeklong Christmas Village passes cost $5.
LODGING: Hilton Garden Inn Yuma/Pivot Point (yumapivotpoint.hgi.com) is walking distance from the depot.
INFO: azstateparks.com/Parks/YUQU/index.html
KIDS: Take ’em.

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50. Grand Canyon Railway

On September 17, 1901, a $3.95 fare took tourists where only grit and daring could have taken them before – the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. That day, the Grand Canyon Railway began chugging along 65 miles of track to one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. Today, tourists can choose from one-day train-only packages with a six-hour layover at the Canyon and a variety of stay-and-play options.
ELEVATION: 6,766 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Flagstaff; merge onto I-40 west to Williams. Take the Grand Canyon exit, turn left and go to 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 40 minutes (175 miles)
FEES: Single-day train-only fare begins at $75.
LODGING: Maswik Lodge (Grand Canyon) or Grand Canyon Railway Hotel (Williams). Visit thetrain.com for rates and packages.
INFO: thetrain.com; rods-steakhouse.com
KIDS: Take ’em. (Children younger than 16 are not permitted in the Observation Dome or Luxury Parlor Class.)

51. Wisdom’s Café

Commanding a cult following, the Frutas Burritas at Wisdom’s Café was born from a serendipitous mishap: A tortilla smeared with jam fell into hot cooking oil and – voilà! – the café’s now-popular fruit-filled burro rolled with cinnamon sugar was born. Wisdom’s serves up Mexican cuisine and mango margaritas in a setting backdropped by the Tumacacori Mountains to the west and the Santa Ritas to the east. Walk off the gooey goodness by visiting the nearby Mission San José de Tumacácori, a structure that dates to the 1820s.
ELEVATION: 3,200 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east to Tucson; merge onto I-19 south toward Nogales. At exit 29, turn left onto Tumacacori Interchange Road. Turn left again; Wisdom’s is at 1931 E. Frontage Road.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes (162 miles)
PRICE: Entrées range from $6.25 to $16.95. Park entrance fee is $3 per person 16 years and older.
LODGING: The sage-and-sunset kissed Amado Territory Inn (amadoterritoryinn.com); the shady floral environs at Tubac Secret Garden Inn (tubacsecretgarden.com).
INFO: wisdomscafe.com; nps.gov/tuma
TRAVEL TIP: Wisdom’s Café is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.
KIDS: Take ’em.

52. Holiday Walking Tour

If boxing other shoppers for limited-sale items on Black Friday isn’t your cup of consumerism, trade mall mayhem for a scenic drive to the relaxing artists’ hamlet of Patagonia. Held annually from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Patagonia Holiday Walking Tour features painters, potters, weavers, toy makers, gourd crafters, watercolorists and quilters plying everything from gemstone jewelry to cowboy leather. It’s a big art walk, and an easy way to support Arizona artisans while shopping for the hard-to-satisfy people on your holiday shopping list.
ELEVATION: 4,044 feet
DIRECTIONS: Take I-10 east through Tucson to the Sonoita/Patagonia exit on Highway 83. Go south 24 miles to the crossroads of Highways 83 and 82. To reach Patagonia, turn west on Highway 82. Continue 12 miles to downtown Patagonia.
DRIVING TIME: 2 hours, 50 minutes (175 miles)
FEES: Free
LODGING: The Duquesne House Bed & Breakfast, a historic adobe inn (theduquesnehouse.com).
KIDS: Take ’em or leave ’em.