Is that Bahamas trip or Parisian sojourn still not in the cards?
Don’t despair – one of the world’s great road-tripping hot spots is literally under your feet. Escape to cool Colorado mountain towns, West Texan ranches, Utah glamping locales and more with this summer guide to the American Southwest.
By Jessica Dunham, Mirelle Inglefield, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier & Madison Rutherford
Original photography by Mirelle Inglefield, Kevin Kaminski, Phyllis Lane & Michael Woodall | Wardrobe styling by Mitch Phillips
Let’s Go Southwest
Solemn desert buttes. Breezy Ponderosa forests. The loosest slots on the Strip. All are integral to the tea of Southwestern experiences assembled over the next 20 pages. Before embarking, let’s do a deep steep.
¿Que es Southwest?
The strictest definition of the U.S. Southwest includes only the core states of Arizona and New Mexico. More liberal boundaries also include parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and even Kansas. We’re aiming somewhere in between.
Modern Arizonans might prefer the great Ed Mell, but O’Keeffe’s iconic impressions of the New Mexican desert are the most highly valued works by a female painter of any era.
At time of his death in 1988, the indefatigable dispenser of windswept Western romance had book sales surpassing 200,000,000. Zane Gray (Riders of the Purple Sage) gets the Arizona vote.
Thanks to Ford, the American view of the Old West was largely shaped by the 29 square miles of Monument Valley, where he shot The Searchers and other films. The Coen Bros. (Raising Arizona) also get a vote.
Yes, we know: They’re an L.A. band. But that famous Winslow lyric from “Take It Easy” cinches it. Honorable mentions: Rex Allen, Linda Ronstadt, Roger Clyne, Waylon Jennings, Duane Eddy.
Getting There: Van Conversions
During the pandemic, sprinter vans became de rigueur for safety-minded road-trippers of means. And if you’re touring the Southwest, with its vast stretches of highway and primitive campgrounds, they just make good horse sense. Check out one of the Valley’s growing number of van conversion outlets, including Tommy Camper Van in West Phoenix, the only van dealer in the Valley with its own general contractors license, in-house paint shop and roof-rack fabrication rig – meaning you can buy one of owner Mikey Rudman’s glorious mutant vehicles, or hand over your own van or truck for an upgrade. Prices start at $25,000. tommycampervans.com
Mix-and-Match Road Trips
Say you’ve driven all the way to West Texas for one of the guest ranch escapes we profile below. On the way home, wouldn’t it make sense to stop in New Mexico and grab a hot spring soak or check out a Route 66 curio? Sure it would. Mix-and-match them like Jelly Bellies.
Start with the glampy Utah trailer park, then use lonely Route 50 to get home via “America’s Switzerland.”
If you’ve never driven from California to Tucson via CA-86 to Interstate 8, you really damn well should. It takes you past the Salton Sea, which might be the oddest thing in the Southwest.
Yes, you could do the aforementioned hot spring on the way home… or visit New Mexico’s otherworldly Roswell, profiled in the February 2018 issue of PHOENIX. Because UFOs are trending, we’ve heard.
WEST TEXAS WINE COUNTRY
It’s not all cattle ranches and cotton fields in Texas. The Lone Star State is also home to more than 400 wineries. In an interesting parallel to Arizona’s wine regions, most wineries and tasting rooms are located in the lush Texas Hill Country in the central part of the state (our equivalent: Verde Valley), while most of the grapes – nearly 90 percent – are grown in the High Plains in and around Lubbock (counterpart to our major growing region in southeastern Arizona). The Texas Panhandle’s wine, dining and art scenes have come into their own in recent years, making this other wine country a win.
Where to Taste
Llano Estacado: Texas’ best-selling winery was established in 1976 and produces everything from Gewürztraminer to Port. 3426 E. F.M. 1585, Lubbock, 806-745-2258, llanowine.com
McPherson Cellars: Sip a robust Roussanne at this winery set in a converted 1930s Coca-Cola bottling plant. 1615 Texas Ave., Lubbock, 806-687-9463, mcphersoncellars.com
English Newsom Cellars: The vino is 100 percent estate-grown at this winery owned by two Texas wine power couples. 408 E. Woodrow Rd., Lubbock, 806-863-2704, englishnewsom.com
Where to Eat
Hill Barbecue: This food truck earned accolades from Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor. From $9/entrée; 1106 Fifth St., Lubbock, 806-632-3313, realtexasgrit.com
Dirk’s: Get your fix of Southern favorites, from fried chicken to maque choux. From $13/entrée; 1636 13th St., 806-368-3915, dirkslbk.com
The Nicolett: Fine dining through a West Texas lens – e.g. beef cheek “brisket” with black truffle. From $30/entrée; 511 Broadway St., Lubbock, 806-993-0144, nicolettrestaurant.com
Where to Stay
The brand-new Cotton Court Hotel is within walking distance of the bustling Depot District, the locus of Lubbock’s shops, restaurants, bars and nightlife. From $141/night; 1610 Broadway St., Lubbock, 806-758-5800, cottoncourthotel.com
Only in… Lubbock
George W. and Laura aren’t the only notable Bushes in these here parts. On a house lawn on the corner of 58th Street and Indiana Avenue in Lubbock lies Bush Face, a towering topiary shaped like a big, round face with holes for eyes and a mouth. Photos are welcome, just don’t disturb the homeowner. yelp.com/biz/bush-face-lubbock
More to Do!
Put on some Buddy Holly glasses.
Learn about Lubbock’s most famous native son at the Buddy Holly Center, a museum and performance venue. 1801 Crickets Ave., Lubbock, 806-775-3560, buddyhollycenter.org
Immerse yourself in art.
The Charles Adams Studio Project anchors the Lubbock Cultural District, a cluster of galleries, museums, studios and living spaces. Free; 602 Avenue J, Lubbock, 806-928-4529, casp-arts.org; lubbockculturaldistrict.org
Peep an architectural enigma.
Sculptor Robert Bruno died before completing his Bruno Steel House, which he crafted largely by himself from 150 tons of blackened steel. A neighbor occasionally hosts tours of the interior, but anyone is free to view the exterior. 85 E. Canyonview Dr., Ransom Canyon
RANCH STAYS IN WEST TEXAS
We’re not talking dude ranches here, folks. Showcased on the Airbnb-like website Explore Ranches, these are living, breathing, productive livestock properties that happen to be open to the public. Some are hosted, all-inclusive stays, while others cleave closely to a vacation rental model. Either way, you’re merging the allure of glamping with the grit of ranching into one magical experiential alloy. We whittled down the list to our favorite West Texas three.
Closest town: Marathon
Perfect for: Big Bend explorers
Big Bend National Park lays claim to one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, yet it’s one of the least-visited national parks. That’s probably because it’s so damn remote. But if you’re itching to visit Big Bend, book a stay at Chalk Draw. Beyond its proximity to the park, the ranch maintains 46 petroglyph sites dating to more than 4,000 years ago. Added incentive: a resort-style swimming pool.
Closest town: Davis
Perfect for: Stargazers who long to go off-grid
Deep in the Davis Mountains lies the backcountry of Madera Canyon. How big is the property? From the main gate, it’s a 90-minute drive on primitive roads to the ranch itself. The
absence of civilization means that come nightfall, the sky lights up with the glitter of billions of stars. As a semi-hosted experience, a stay here includes breakfast delivered to your guest house each morning and a guided tour of the property, but still plenty of time to roam and explore on your own.
Closest town: Marfa
Perfect for: Art lovers
Cost: Call to request.
Artists, musicians and writers pilgrimage to Marfa to find inspiration. If that’s your jam – or if you just want to bear witness to the artistic process – a stay at Ranch 2810 has your name all over it. Located a mere 6 miles from Marfa, the sprawling ranch stretches across the Marfa Plains like a giant horse blanket, so no matter where you rest your gaze, you’ll lock in on expansive views of the Chihuahuan Desert. The home itself was designed by renowned architect Carlos Jiménez.
If You Go
Only in… West Texas
For a deep dive into West Texas, Explore Ranches will set you up with an expert tailored to your interests: e.g. an archaeologist for a guided hike, an astronomer for cosmo-watching or a local fly-fisher for angling.
GRAND VALLEY COLORADO
In Arizona, we know a thing or two about Southwest wines not being taken seriously. So we appreciate when a sister state finally receives the viticultural accolades it deserves. We’re talking about Grand Valley AVA, a lush oasis in western Colorado. In 2018, Wine Enthusiast named Grand Valley one of the world’s top 10 wine destinations. The Colorado River twists through the region, and high elevations, a dry climate and sunny days make the Grand Valley ripe for red blends.
Where to Taste
Carlson Vineyards: This family-owned operation has a tasting room in Grand Junction, but its vino is best enjoyed at the winery in Palisade. 461 35 Rd., Palisade, 970-464-5554, carlsonvineyards.com
Colterris: Come for the smooth Cabernets, stay for the vineyard views. 3907 N. River Rd., Palisade, 970-464-1150, colterris.com
Restoration Vineyards: It’s all about the whites, from crisp Semillon to bright Sauvignon Blanc. 3594 E. ½ Rd., Palisade, 970-985-0832, restorationvineyards.com
Where to Eat
626 On Rood: Seasonal plates and fine cuts of beef. From $30/entrée; 626 Rood Ave., Grand Junction, 970-257-7663, 626onrood.com
Bin 707 Foodbar: Scratch kitchen fare done exceptionally well. From $25/entrée; 225 N. Fifth St., Grand Junction, 970-243-4543, bin707.com
Dream Café: Classic breakfast served all day. From $10/entrée; 314 Main St., Grand Junction, 970-424-5353, dreamcafegj.com
Where to Stay
Definitely the remote Palisade River Ranch: 100 acres of land along the Colorado River shared between two vacation rentals. Each house sleeps six and offers patios and fire pits. From $195/night; 3627 Grand Valley Canal Rd., Palisade, 970-464-2102, palisaderiverranch.com
Only In… Grand Valley
It wouldn’t be Colorado without starting a leisurely day of wine-tasting with a healthy dose of high-adrenaline activity. So, it comes as no surprise that Grand Valley is home to Palisade Plunge (free; copmoba.org/power-the-plunge), one of the longest singletrack downhill mountain bike trails in the country. The trail starts at the Mesa Top Trailhead on Grand Mesa and descends 32 challenging miles to Palisade.
More to Do!
Hike Colorado National Monument.
Hike easy trails to rock grottos, pinyon-juniper woodlands or slickrock scrambles. nps.gov/colm
See wild horses.
Little Book Cliff’s Wild Horse Preserve encompasses 36,000 acres of craggy canyons that 150 wild mustangs call home. It’s one of only three ranges in the U.S. set aside to protect free roaming horses. Free; 8 miles north of Grand Junction, 970-244-3000, blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/herd-management/herd-management-areas/colorado/little-book
Ride cruiser bikes.
Embark on a two-wheeled wine tasting tour. The bicycles at Rapid Creek Cycles come in colors like apple red and mint green, and they’re yours to rent for 24 hours. From $37/day; 239 S. Main St., Palisade, 970-464-9266, rapidcreekcycles.com
How to Get There
— Jessica Dunham
OURAY, COLORADO: AMERICA’S SWITZERLAND
Snow-capped mountains. Cascading waterfalls that freeze into ice. A deep valley hugging a picturesque village. You need only to see an aerial photo of Ouray to understand why it’s called the “Switzerland of America.” (As for its political neutrality, we can’t say.) The city hunkers in a river valley ringed by the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 8,000 feet. A former 1870s gold and mining hub, Ouray sidestepped ghost town status to become a sanctuary for those hunting for out-of-the-box outdoor escapades, from canyoning in the summer to ice climbing in the winter.
Things to Do
Ouray Ice Park: This public park (free; 280 CO-361, 970-325-4288, ourayicepark.com) offers 100 human-made ice climbs in winter. In warmer months, navigate the 4,000-feet-long Ouray Via Ferrata adjacent to the park (free; 735 Main St., 970-946-2089, ourayviaferrata.org).
Canyoning: Those ice climbs in winter can be canyoneered in summer, too. The guides from Canyoning Colorado lead beginners and experienced climbers on half- and full-day waterfall rappelling trips. From $120/person; 970-318-6492, canyoningcolorado.com
Jeeping: Switzerland of America Jeeps lets you rent a Jeep, sign up for a private safari or go off-roading on a guided 4×4 tour. Expect wildlife sightings and lots of waterfalls. Costs vary; 970-325-4484, soajeep.com
Where to Eat
Artisan Bakery: The locals’ go-to spot for coffee and baked goods. From $5; 460 Main St., 970-325-4677
Bon Ton Restaurant: An elegant, Italian-inspired menu. From $26/entrée; 426 Main St., 970-325-4419, bontonrestaurant.com
Brickhouse 737: Warm, cozy eatery with comfort food. Think bisques and dips, pastas and steak frites. From $25/entrée; 737 Main St., 970-325-7236, brickhouse737.com
Where to Sleep
The Imogene Hotel + Rooftop Bar’s original structure housed a saloon and brothel; now you’ll find six distinctly appointed rooms and an extensive whiskey selection at the hotel bar. Even better: the showstopping views from the rooftop. From $375/night; 740 Main St., 970-325-8885, theimogene.com
Only In… Ouray
Avalanches are a thing in Ouray. Avalanche season ends by late spring, but severe storms can push cleanup well into summer, causing road or trail closures. Before your trek, check the city’s avalanche forecast. visitouray.com/avalanche-info
How to Get There
It’s a nine-hour drive from Phoenix to Ouray, or fly into Montrose Regional Airport (MJR, flymontrose.com) from Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX, skyharbor.com) via American Airlines (aa.com), Southwest (southwest.com) and United (united.com). It’s a 36-mile drive to Ouray from Montrose.
— Jessica Dunham
HOT SPRINGS TOUR OF NEW MEXICO
Pre-colonial Puebloans and Apaches first discovered New Mexico’s mineral-rich hot springs, using its soothing properties for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Hundreds of years later, modern-day visitors do the same. Whether you seek the springs’ healing powers or just a good soak, there are dozens of free places to take a dip.
Black Rock Hot Springs
Where: North of Taos
Canyon walls rise above the Rio Grande and bubbling clusters of hot springs form a roomy soaking pool. Water temperatures hover around 97 degrees. When the river is full, expect a deep tub – up to 4 feet. Good news: To reach Black Rock, you’re looking at a five-minute walk on a dirt path from the turnoff at Highway 522. Bad news: Black Rock is well known and can get crowded.
Manby Hot Springs
Where: Northwest of Taos
Among the ruins of an old stagecoach stop and along the banks of the Rio Grande are three thermal pools with temperatures at 99 degrees. In between soaks, take a refreshing dunk in the river. A warning to the shy: Manby is considered “clothing optional,” but most everyone strips to their birthday suits.
San Francisco Hot Springs
Where: North of Silver City
The pools within the Gila National Forest line the San Francisco River and top out at 120 degrees. The hour-long hike to the springs from the trailhead at Sundial Springs Road is challenging, and it’s recommended to bring a shovel in case the pools need to be dug out from mud runoff. Which is to say: This isn’t the most popular locale. But it’s beautiful and remote – perfect for those who appreciate privacy.
Spence Hot Springs
Where: West of Santa Fe
Locals love these soaking pools. Water temperatures hang out at an ideal 100 to 110 degrees and they’re easy to reach. Then there are the springs – a lovely collection of “upper” and “lower” pools tucked into a steep hillside with gracious views of the Jemez River.
Turkey Creek Hot Springs
Where: North of Gila
Not only is the road to Turkey Creek treacherous, but the 3-mile hike rates as difficult. However, once you’ve reached these remote springs, you’re in for a treat. Water bubbles out of the rocks along the creek, keeping the pools full… and hot! Temperatures can reach 165 degrees. The springs also seep into a spacious swimming hole, making for a relaxing and warmish float.
Only In… New Mexico
Among New Mexico’s 23 tribes and nations, Acoma Pueblo is considered the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States – the tribe has lived in the village for more than 2,000 years. On a visit, tour the cultural center ($25/person) and feast on Acoman fare (from $10/entrée). 800-747-0181, acomaskycity.org
How to Get There
For turn-by-turn directions to each of these hot springs – as well as info on the many other thermal pools throughout the state – check out New Mexico’s tourism website (newmexico.org).
— Jessica Dunham
ROUTE 50: THE LONELIEST ROAD
There aren’t many two-lane roads left in the country – not many that unspool from coast to coast, anyway. Route 50 is one such road. Starting in Sacramento and concluding in Ocean City, Maryland, the highway – romantically dubbed The Loneliest Road – runs unadulterated for 3,073 miles. Sure, you’ll hit stop signs and traffic lights, but never once does it moonlight as a freeway or toll road. Route 50 distinguishes itself from more famous road trips by possessing no single defining trait. It’s a road of many nicknames, personalities and offerings, from the breathtaking isolation of Nevada to the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.
“Loneliest” Three Ways
Even though Route 50 never crosses Arizona, it traverses our northern neighbors and winds through some spectacular sights.
Route 50 Through Nevada
Carson City Nugget: It ain’t classy, but this old-school casino serves up all the retro vibes and blinding neon lights you desire. Free; 507 N. Carson St., Carson City, 775-882-1626, ccnugget.com
Virginia City: This former mining town clings to the mountainside and caters to tourists in the best ways: mine tours, train rides, niche museums, cheeky shops. Free; 775-847-7500, visitvirginiacitynv.com
Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area: A dirt road angles off Route 50 and leads to a small park laden with sagebrush. Here, an easy, half-mile loop lets you see ancient petroglyphs up close. Free; 24 miles east of Austin, 775-635-4062, blm.gov
Lehman Caves: Descend beneath the earth on a ranger-led tour of stalagmites and stalactites millions of years old. Free; Great Basin National Park, Baker, 775-234-7331, nps.gov/grba
Route 50 Through Utah
Arches National Park: Picture Sedona on steroids – a red-rock wonderland of sandstone formations as far as the eye can see, tufts of juniper sprouting up, a cerulean sky above. A few don’t-miss sights include The Windows and the gravity-defying Balanced Rock. $30/vehicle; near Moab, 435-719-2299, nps.gov/arch
Canyonlands National Park: Outdoorsy types will love climbing and hiking this rugged wilderness. At Grand View Point in the park’s Island in the Sky District, take in the vista of Monument Basin and the Colorado River. $30/vehicle; 40 miles north of Arches National Park, 435-719-2313, nps.gov/cany
Route 50 Through Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: OK, yes. It’s a bunch of rocks. But these rocks are the oldest and hardest on the planet. And because the gorge is so steep, no human has ever set foot at the bottom. Scoot up to the canyon’s rim to see for yourself. $25/vehicle; 9800 CO-347, 970-641-2337, nps.gov/blca
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park: Another big canyon in Colorado, this 6-mile-long, 1,000-foot-deep maw is corporate-owned, for better or worse. The good? You can explore the gorge via amusement-style rides like an aerial tram, suspension bridge or gondola. $25/person; 4218 County Road 3A, 719-275-7507, royalgorgebridge.com
Pueblo: Route 50’s other nickname is “The Backbone of America” for its mirrored path along the Pony Express. Settled on the Arkansas River by a fur trapper, Pueblo benefited from Route 50’s passage through town. Today it’s a pleasant stop for boutique browsing and strolling the Riverwalk (free; puebloriverwalk.org).
Only In… Nevada
There’s nothing like the sublime solitude you’ll experience between Eureka, Nevada, and Ely, Nevada. No stoplights, no gas stations, no cell service, nary another soul. It’s here you’ll understand how Route 50 earned the Loneliest Road moniker.
How to Get There
If you have two weeks, fly to Sacramento International Airport (SMF, sacramento.aero), rent a car and launch yourself on a cross-country journey. With less time, fly into Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT, gjairport.com), then drive west, or fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO, renoairport.com) and drive east.
— Jessica Dunham
EXPERIENCE REMOTE LUXURY AT AMANGIRI
Imagine a perfect piece of desert. You know the kind: soulful and painterly, with towering sandstone buttes and epic, unspoiled flats that stretch to the horizon. A Louis L’Amour book cover, basically.
Now imagine a small pocket of this deliciously lonesome paradise tastefully developed by extraterrestrials, possibly with European accents. These are ecology-respecting aliens, mind you. Instead of demolishing a small mountain that sits on the building site under a picturesque bluff, they wrap a swimming pool around it. Instead of hauling away the surrounding granite, they magically refashion it into a colony of elegant block domiciles with cinematic sightlines and burbling, recessed fountains.
In the end: a luxury retreat seemingly birthed into existence by the Utah-Arizona desert itself.
Such are the fanciful notions conjured by Amangiri resort and spa, a singular hideaway near Lake Powell that has captivated well-heeled Southwestern travelers since the Aman resort group opened it on a 600-acre parcel of private land in 2009. Catering to coastal jetsetters, European billionaires and other rarefied clientele – see: clan, Kardashian – the resort successfully flew under the radar for most Arizonans through the first decade of its existence. But with the recent addition of nine luxury yurts (see: Amangiri Etiquette) that bring the total number of suites to 43, coupled with the spasm of intra-regional travel unleashed by the pandemic, Amangiri is a secret to Phoenicians no more.
It is, in fact, our ultimate YOLO getaway.
Amangiri Etiquette: 5 Tips
1. Don’t call it “glamping.”
Yes, Amangiri’s nine new 1,400-square-foot desert suites are colloquially called “tents,” but don’t use the g-word when describing them. “Some people might classify it as glamping,” our concierge says during the walk-through. “But does glamping usually give you heated granite floors and private plunge pools?” Point taken. Unveiled last fall, the climate-controlled yurts collectively form Camp Sarika, conceived as a more secluded, more high-end alternative to the resort’s unmistakably high-end standard suites ($3,900/night vs. $2,800/night). Set roughly a quarter-mile from the Amangiri superstructure, Sarika offers seamless access to the rugged beauty of this Grand Staircase wilderness, with spacious spectator patios sheltered by a remarkable 200-foot sandstone escarpment that looms over the whole settlement like a frozen orange tsunami. The illusion of rugged isolation is palpable – heated granite or no.
2. Instagram responsibly.
Yes, the Amangiri wraparound mountain pool is likely the most Instagrammable thing ever created by man. But shoot responsibly: You don’t want to catch a vacationing superstar DJ or semi-retired French actor in the shot. That would be rude.
3. Get the mushrooms.
Given the resort’s isolated location, all meals (minus alcohol) are included in the daily fee – and eating in the 70-seat dining room is a playground unto itself. Authored by chef Anthony Marazita – who presumably picked up a few tricks working at Kai during his Valley period – the menus favor Native American traditions, from the intensely flavorful 60-day corn that the kitchen turns into a faintly spicy chowder with petite cilantro and smoked chile; to the dibe yazhi trio of grilled lamb, elk and heirloom beans. Absolutely unmissable: a wood-fired skillet of seasonal mushrooms in white truffle essence. Pure, fungal heaven.
4. Don’t look down.
Learn the term via ferrata. Invented by Italian mountaineers, it’s the Southwest’s hottest adventure-fitness trend – essentially rock climbing with training wheels, in which first-time mountaineers can scale large, sheer objects with the aid of hand-holds and safety lines. Amangiri has installed three via ferrata (“iron road”) systems of varying difficulty and psychological impact on its property, and it’s a cleansing exercise in concentration, to say the least. Ask for James when you select your guide. He’ll turn even the most vertiginous amateur into a mountain goat.
5. Bring the kids? You bet.
With its meditative vibe and reverent attention to detail, Amangiri does not obviously present itself as a family-friendly retreat. But it’s evolving, according to general manager Julien Surget. “We had a reckoning a few years back about adapting our programing to be a lot more family friendly, [such as] Native arts and crafts and paleontology… as well as adventures, like a kids-driven via ferrata park.” Each Sarika yurt also comes with a telescope to scrutinize the crisp nighttime skies – a winner for kids of all ages.
More than 12 miles of hiking trails crisscross Amangiri’s 600-acre parcel of desert, including a gentle amble to a natural amphitheater which rivals Keet Seel and Betatakin at Navajo National Monument in terms of sheer scale and spectacle. And, unlike those, you can actually go inside.
Only In… Amangiri
How do you know when you’ve entered Amangiri? Keep an eye peeled for one of the two dozen diplomat-gray BMW 7-series sedans the resort keeps on hand to ferry guests to and fro.
Arizona or Utah?
Technically, Amangiri is 2 miles over the border in Utah. But Page is the nearest town, and most of the staff lives in Arizona.
If You Go
Amangiri is a straight shot up US-89 from Flagstaff. Drive time from Phoenix: 4.5 hours. 1 Kayenta Rd., Canyon Point, 435-675-3999, aman.com
The staff-to-guest ratio at Aman properties – unheard of in the hospitality industry. The generous staffing is evident in tack-on experiences like the Sunset Trail toast, in which a small army of servers, sommeliers and valets set up Adirondack chairs and canapes – then disappear – while you sip bubbly and drink in the
— Craig Outhier
GRAND STAIRCASE GLAMPING AT YONDER ESCALANTE
Built on the remains of an old drive-in movie theater in rural Utah, the new Yonder Escalante trailer resort will feed your appetite both for high-comfort desert camping and midcentury American nostalgia. Here’s a highlight reel of the 20-acre property’s rustic, Instagrammable charms.
Buttes and hoodoos.
Part campground, part eco-resort, Yonder sits on breezy chaparral between Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, offering layered visual wonderment in all directions.
Hot tubs and cottonwoods.
First thing you see while driving into Yonder: a glassy pool and hot tub overlooking the cottonwood trees flanking the nearby Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.
Fire pits galore.
As the grounds pan toward the west, you’ll see contemporary built-in fire pits and covered seating areas, perfect for warding off the nighttime desert chill.
The first of two overnight options at Yonder. Outfitted with fluffy queen-sized beds and posh daybeds, the ADA-compliant cabins also include mini Frigidaires, complimentary tea and coffee and, perhaps most importantly on those hot summer nights, thermostats. $249/night
Follow the trail to the breezy, spa-like restrooms, featuring private, outdoor rainshowers – so you can clean up under the stars.
Overnight option No. 2. The gleaming, refurbished trailers come complete with midcentury modern furnishings and décor ($279/night). Alternately, there are hookups if you bring your own RV or fifth wheel ($69/night).
Head over to the on-site general store for critical provisions such as artisanal cheese plates, local beer selections, wine and other refreshments. Also order pre-packaged Yonder meal kits, which include your choice of protein (including plant-based options), two sides and a dessert. The kits come with all the spices, sauces and cooking and dining utensils needed to prepare them at your cabin’s private fire pit.
Cap off your evening at the drive-in movie theater, where guests vote for their favorites among a selection of classic Hollywood flicks. Climb into one of nine restored classic cars to enjoy the show.
3 Yonder Side Trips
1. Cruise down Scenic Byway 12 and drink in the majesty of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Park. The byway is studded with old-timey restaurants and souvenir shops. If you make it all the way to the summit at Boulder Mountain Pass (roughly 2.5 hours northeast of Yonder Escalante), park your car at the outlook and enjoy the epic views. Be sure to bring your camera. visitutah.com
2. Founded by Mormon settlers in the late 1870s, the historical town of Escalante boasts more than half of its original structures, fashioned from whatever the pioneers could get their hands on, including lumber, volcanic rocks, adobe and clay. Swing by the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center to pick up a free map (canyonconservancy.org/locations) and be sure to check out the People’s Exchange (100 N. Center St.), a brick Federal-style building that was once a co-op, and the log cabin at 100 E. Main St., which is thought to be the second home built in Escalante in 1890.
3. Lace up the hiking boots and venture into the “Shangri-La of dinosaurs” on the trails of Escalante National Monument and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. On Twenty Mile Wash Dinosaur Trackway, an easy 1.2-mile out-and-back, you can see one of the world’s longest dinosaur footprints, made by a sauropod over 77 million years ago. Eagle-eyed hikers have also reported sightings of dinosaur fossils embedded in the nearby rocks along with various marine life and shark teeth.
If you go
Yonder is located roughly 60 miles north of the Arizona border, accessible via US-89 north to UT-12 east. Drive time from Phoenix: 7.5 hours. 2020 West UT-12, Escalante, 435-826-4440, stayyonder.com
— Mirelle Inglefield
ROUTE 66: TO CALIFORNIA
For Greater Phoenicians wishing to cruise the mythic Route 66, Flagstaff is a natural starting point. From there, motorists can pivot in two directions: west to California, or east to New Mexico. Arizona’s western leg of the Mother Road is to die-hard Route 66 road-trippers what The Beatles’ White Album is to record collectors – a rare treasure. That’s because the longest unbroken stretch of Route 66 unfurls in pristine condition from Ash Fork to Topock before crossing into California and the Mojave Desert. Driving this desolate terrain gives you a peek at the hardscrabble life of sun-bleached days and scorching heat. You’ll find no tourist traps, just fascinating forgotten landmarks.
From Flag, go west on I-40 to Ash Fork. Here, pick up the original alignment of Route 66, following it to the California border. Join I-40 at the border, driving until you see signs for the National Trails Highway.
Stop 1: Seligman, AZ
Order ice cream and enjoy G-rated jokes at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In (301 W. Route 66, 928-422-3291). The beloved tourist spot is owned by Angel Delgadillo, whose efforts helped create the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and earned him the title of “Guardian Angel of Route 66.”
Stop 2: Hackberry, AZ
Railroads, a silver mine and Route 66 once made Hackberry a happening place. But after I-40 bypassed it, Hackberry faded to a shadowy ghost town – with the exception of the Hackberry General Store (free; 11255 E. Route 66, 928-769-2605). Still thriving today, the store is the spot to stock up on Route 66 souvenirs.
Stop 3: Old Trails Arch Bridge
When it was built in the early 1900s, this 800-foot arch over the Colorado River was considered an engineering marvel – the lightest and longest of its kind. It was also featured in the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath.
Stop 3: Old Trails Arch Bridge
When it was built in the early 1900s, this 800-foot arch over the Colorado River was considered an engineering marvel – the lightest and longest of its kind. It was also featured in the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath.
Stop 4: Needles, CA
Not only was Needles a hub for the Santa Fe Railway, it was also a haven for Depression-era transplants and people fleeing the Dust Bowl. Comic-strip artist Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame lived here, too. See a mural homage to Schulz on the exterior wall of the local Chevron (2321 Needles Hwy.), then visit the crown jewel of Harvey Houses, El Garces (950 Front St., nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/el_garces_needles.html).
Stop 5: Amboy
The midcentury architecture of Roy’s Motel and Café (free; 87520 National Trails Hwy., 760-733-1066, visitamboy.com) and its famously photographed neon sign bring visitors from all over to this middle-of-nowhere motel.
Stop 6: Lake Dolores Waterpark
North of Newberry Springs rests the skeleton of an abandoned 1950s waterpark. See cracked slides plunging into graffiti-covered pools; an empty concrete riverbed, once the vessel for a lazy river; and peeling billboards advertising the cool appeals of the park.
Only in… California
Don’t pass up the opportunity to see the volcanic cinder cones and lava beds at Mojave National Preserve (free; 90942 Kelso Cima Road, 760-252-6100, nps.gov/moja).
ROUTE 66: TO NEW MEXICO
Endless horizons and monsoon skies mark the eastern stretch of Route 66 through Arizona. For nostalgia buffs, the gratification is less instant than Route 66 west to California, since little of the road’s original alignment is intact on this side of Flagstaff. But once you cross over into New Mexico, the Mother Road pleasures start piling up, starting in Gallup, where Route 66 connected motorists to the historical Santa Fe Trail.
From Flag, go east on I-40 to Albuquerque, take I-25 north to Santa Fe and continue on I-25 east to U.S. 84. Head south on U.S. 84 to reconnect with I-40. Continue east on I-40 to Tucumcari.
Stop 1: Winslow
Winslow is known for its name-check in the lyrics of The Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.” Standin’ On the Corner Park (free; Kinsley and Second Ave., standinonthecorner.com) leans into this with song-inspired statues and murals. Even if you don’t overnight at La Posada Hotel & Gardens (from $129/night; 303 E. Second St., 928-289-4366, laposada.org), architect Mary Colter’s 1929 masterpiece, at least stroll the grounds to admire her Spanish Colonial design.
Stop 2: Gallup Cultural Center
Enveloped by Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni, Gallup is considered one of the most important American Indian trading centers in the world. The region’s native history and heritage is on display at the Gallup Cultural Center. Free; 201 E. Route 66, 505-863-4131, southwestindian.com
Stop 3: Santa Fe
There’s a lot of quirk along Route 66 – an aspect that Mother Road travelers appreciate – yet Santa Fe brings sophistication to the trip. You could spend a week exploring the city’s art and architecture, but if you do nothing else, eat: chiles, tamales, mole, elote. Try Zacatlán Restaurant (from $36/entrée; 317 Aztec St., 505-780-5174, zacatlanrestaurant.com) or Tomasita’s (from $12/entrée; 500 S. Guadalupe St., 505-983-5721, tomasitas.com).
Stop 4: Tucumcari
During Route 66’s heyday, Tucumcari boasted 2,000 hotel rooms with a billboard campaign that beseeched road-weary travelers to “Tucumcari Tonite!” Three motels are still open for business in all of their vintage glory: the 1940s-era Blue Swallow Motel (from $85/night; 815 E. Route 66, 575-461-9849, blueswallowmotel.com), the 1950s-era Motel Safari (from $70/night; 722 E. Route 66, 575-461-1048, themotelsafari.com) and the 1960s-era Historic Route 66 Motel (from $50/night; 1620 E. Route 66, 575-461-1212, rte66motel.com).
Only In…New Mexico
In New Mexico, there’s one important culinary question: “Red or green?” As in, red chiles or green chiles. Taste-test at La Cita (from $8/entrée; 820 S. First St., 575-461-7866) in Tucumcari.
— Jessica Dunha
Arizona’s second city, though notable for its top-notch Sonoran-style cuisine, is firstly famous for its natural beauty – including its abundance of the Southwest’s quintessential lifeform, the saguaro. Flanked by Saguaro National Park on its eastern and western limits, the Old Pueblo is uniquely connected to the stately, treelike cacti, which grow in vast forests that visitors can enjoy via hike or drive. Build a Tucson weekender around these noble sentinels of the desert – along with a taqueria or two.
East Tucson Escape
Late spring is the ideal time to visit Saguaro National Park’s Rincon Mountain District (3693 S. Old Spanish Trl., 520-733-5153, nps.gov), as temperatures are typically not too high and the desert flora begins to bloom. The eastern side of the park features nearly 130 hiking trails across more than 67,000 acres, two picnic areas and six backcountry camping sites. The 8-mile Loop Drive leads to several of the park’s trailheads, scenic vistas and pullouts.
Where to Eat
In 2016, UNESCO designated Tucson as a distinguished City of Gastronomy due to its rich agricultural history, ongoing culinary traditions and distinctive restaurants. To get a true taste of the region, visit the iconic El Charro Café (311 N. Court Ave., 520-622-1922, elcharrocafe.com), which celebrates its 99th birthday this year. It also has bragging rights as the country’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.
Where to Stay
Nestled in a mesquite bosque with sweeping views of the surrounding desert and mountains, The Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch (1451 N. Smokey Springs Rd., 520-870-8778, thecasitas.com) is a secluded sanctuary just 4 miles from Saguaro National Park’s eastern entrance. Each of the five casitas include a private patio perfect for enjoying the Sonoran sunset. Highlights also include a “spool” (read: large hot tub) and professional putting green.
West Tucson Escape
Opened 30 years after its eastern counterpart, Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District (2700 N. Kinney Rd., 520-733-5158) has fewer hiking trails and no camping options, but boasts a higher saguaro density and lower elevation for easy access. It’s also closer to downtown and the west side’s welter of restaurants and hotels.
Where to Eat
Mosey over to Baby Beluga Seafood & Oyster Bar (3057 S. Kinney Rd., 520-578-4276, babybelugaseafoodandoysterbar.com) for all matter of marine cuisine. Highlights include the Beluga Bowl, a briny medley of Mediterranean mussels and savory clams.
Where to Sleep
If you truly want to become one with the saguaros, book a stay at Joshua Tree House Tucson (12051 W. Fort Lowell Rd., thejoshuatreehouse.com/tucson), a five-suite inn bordering the west side of Saguaro National Park. Designed by husband-and-wife team Sara and Rich Combs, each suite name-checks a specific desert plant such as Ocotillo, Saguaro or Yucca; and features a fireplace, private patio and king bed. JTH is accessible only by a dusty dirt road (surrounded by saguaros, naturally).
Part motor lodge, part retro art hub, the McCoy celebrates all that is Tucson. The walls are adorned with paintings by Arizona artists, guests are greeted with a complimentary glass of local beer or wine and the hotel recently launched a community support program in which it transforms one of its guestrooms into a rent-free, rotating retailer for burgeoning Tucson businesses. During your stay, set aside some time to stroll around the property and snap some pics of the murals – you might even get lucky and have one in your room. 720 W. Silverlake Rd., 844-782-9622, hotelmccoy.com
Only In… Tucson
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2021 N. Kinney Rd., 520-883-1380, desertmuseum.org) is less of a museum and more of a zoo/aquarium/botanical garden/nature sanctuary located on 98 acres of stunning Sonoran Desert landscape. It boasts one of the world’s most comprehensive regional mineral collections and features more than 200 different animal species.
How to Get There
It’s less than a two-hour trek to Tucson on the I-10 East and less than one hour via American Airlines (aa.com) from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX, skyharbor.com) to Tucson International Airport (TUS, flytucson.com).
— Madison Rutherford
CATCHING UP WITH LAS VEGAS
Like a bejeweled, bleary-eyed doorman, Las Vegas is emerging from its pandemic slumber. Casinos on the Strip are winking back to life, and pasties are twirling as furiously as ever. It’s all great news for Valley fun-seekers, and for us PHOENIX staffers, who sampled a whirlwind of new restaurants, resorts and experiences in early 2020 before COVID-19 scuttled a planned cover story. Here, at long last, is our download of the latest and greatest in Vegas – for your summer sinning pleasure.
A Tale of Two Hotels
One is mellow, one isn’t.
NoMad Las Vegas
If the omnipresent din of the city of sin leaves your ears buzzing and your head aching, we have the perfect hideaway for you. Head to the top four floors of the Park MGM and seek refuge in NoMad Las Vegas ($95/night). The new hotel has a moody loft feel – fitting, since it was designed by interiors maven Jacques Garcia to feel residential. Classic film posters and portraits of musicians line velvety walls. Everything is darker and quieter here – a blissful reprieve for introverts from the mania of Vegas. When you do feel like returning to the bustle, head to the urban park- and garden-inspired Park MGM for restaurants, shops and the Strip’s first fully smoke-free casino resort. 3772 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-730-7000, thenomadhotel.com/las-vegas
Circa Resort & Casino
Standing tall in the spot once occupied by burlesque club Glitter Gulch, the beaming new Circa Resort & Casino (starts at $161/night). is the first casino to open in downtown Las Vegas since 1980. Though it took command of the Fremont Street skyline in October 2020, the casino pays homage to classic Vegas, from its Art-Deco-inspired design to the restored high-kicking neon cowgirl, Vegas Vickie, who greets you at the cocktail bar of the same name. Stop in for a refreshing seasonal cocktail from its vintage Rat Pack-inspired menu. Almost as awe-inspiring as the building itself are the three-story screens at the sportsbook. Head outside to cool off in one of six pools at Stadium Swim, a Rehab-style day club with 40-foot screen displays. 8 Fremont St., 702-247-2258, circalasvegas.com
David Chang in Two Acts
Once described by Epicurious as having a “bad-boy attitude,” in part for the anti-vegetarian stance he shared with friend and late chef Anthony Bourdain, Michelin-starred chef David Chang certainly can’t be faulted for his work ethic. His worldwide network of critically acclaimed New Asian restaurants now includes two in Las Vegas. Overlooking the Strip, the dining room at Momofuku Las Vegas at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (3708 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-698-7000, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com) flaunts an art trove of graffiti-style paintings by David Choe, photography by Liam Wong and a knitted lighting feature by KwangHo Lee that collectively “celebrates Las Vegas’s vibrant spirit,” according to Choe. Start with the Chang-perfected crispy pork belly buns, then leap into five-spice roasted duck and steamed branzino. Continue your Chang tour at Majordomo Meat & Fish at The Venetian Resort (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-414-1000, venetian.com), which boasts a massive 250-seat dining room, a secret, soundproof karaoke room and a focus on smoked meats, seafood and raw bar. You must try Chang’s signature Bing Bread – a puffy flatbread with caviar, egg and crunchy potato chips, designed to be smashed up and dunked in chickpea hozon, eggplant ganoush and other dips. And, yes, there are a few vegetarian things on the menu, too.
Old and New Las Vegas:
For a nostalgic nightcap, belly up to the bar at the oldest freestanding watering hole in Sin City. Originally opened in 1945 as Virginia’s Café, it was rebranded in 1952 as Atomic Liquors (917 Fremont St., 702-982-3000, atomic.vegas), so named for the nearby nuclear testing site. It boasts the first package liquor license in Las Vegas and still sports its original neon signage. Back in the day, the bar welcomed a slew of working-class regulars, but it also had big-name fans like Clint Eastwood and Barbra Streisand. Today, the historical haunt is known for its creative cocktails containing ingredients such as peppercorn, Thai chile and rhubarb, a rotating beer menu and the enduring sentiment that a celebrity looking to avoid the scrutiny of the Strip might walk through the door.
3 Residencies to Catch in 2021
Morrissey at Caesars Palace
The former Smiths frontman and rock’s reigning prince of tuneful mopery will play five shows starting in late August for his Viva Moz Vegas mini-residency.
Barry Manilow at Westgate
Long a Vegas institution, the well-coiffed crooner was among the first artists to commit to a summer residency, with six shows in June and six more in September.
Usher at Caesars Palace
R&B hitmaker Usher (“You Make Me Wanna…”) has eight shows slated in July, along with a series of December gigs leading to New Year’s Eve.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Poised on the edge of California’s Colorado Desert – itself a subdivision of our Sonoran Desert – this palm-lined resort town was once a haven for Old Hollywood stars and socialites such as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, who built vacation bungalows in its eastern neighborhoods. The city is renowned for its stalwart preservation of such midcentury homes and hotels, lending it an irreplicable vintage vibe. Located near the Mojave Desert, the city also serves as a jumping off point for iconic destinations such as Joshua Tree National Park, the Cabazon Dinosaurs and Salvation Mountain. However, we reckon spending the afternoon at your hotel pool – with the idyll of the San Jacinto Mountains and a plethora of palm trees as the backdrop – will also satisfy your wanderlust.
3 Things to Do in Palm Springs
1. Midcentury Architecture Tour
Post-World War II, the city became a winter-home hot spot for wealthy Angelenos. Dwellings in Palm Springs are marked by large windows to seamlessly blur indoor and outdoor spaces, and charming breeze blocks to temper hot summer temps. Revel in all the retro glory with a midcentury drive-by tour courtesy of Palm Springs Mod Squad (1800 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-469-9265 psmodsquad.com). Guides provide juicy gossip on the architects, their structures and the original celebrity owners. Alternately, pick up a midcentury map at the Palm Springs Visitors Center (2901 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 800-347-7746 visitpalmsprings.com) for a self-guided architecture tour. Must-sees include the Twin Palms housing tract, the Racquet Club Estates steel houses, Kaptur Court single family homes and Little Tuscany, where you’ll find Elvis Presley’s one-time desert getaway.
2. Rent a Bike
Discover the Desert Modernism of Palm Springs on two wheels with BIKE Palm Springs (194 S. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-832-8912, bikepsrentals.com) which offers half-day, full-day and weekly rates. Choose from a colorful cruiser, premium mountain bike or electric Rad Power Bike.
3. Shop Local
Palm Springs is home to a handful of distinctive, desert-inspired boutiques and vintage shops, which showcase the work of local artisans and curators. Pop into Thick as Thieves (183 S. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-832-8350, shopthieves.com) for handmade home décor, clothing and other one-of-a-kind finds. For a singular souvenir from your Palm Springs sojourn, stop by Mojave Flea Trading Post (383 N. Indian Canyon Dr., mojaveflea.com), an eclectic “department store” featuring wares from California makers and merchants.
The Staycation Principle
Similar to Phoenix, spring is the high season in Palm Springs. Summer is bargain season,
during which nightly hotel rates dip by 50 percent or more.
Dining at Tac/Quila (415 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-417-4471, tacquila.com) is like having a meal at your abuelita’s, if your abuelita is a swanky socialite with a penchant for tequila. The food at this modern Mexican eatery is authentic with a trendy, elevated twist (think sides of green rice and beer-battered avocados), the environs are sleek, and the drinks are strong. Seafood is the specialty at Antigua Kitchen + Bar (105 S. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-656-7875 antiguapalmsprings.com), where you’ll find fabulous calamari, shrimp scampi and lobster ravioli. With ample outdoor seating on Palm Canyon Drive (the municipality’s main drag), it’s also the place for people-watching.
Hang your hat at Palm Mountain Resort & Spa (155 S. Belardo Rd., 760-325-1301, palmmountainresort.com) for sweeping views and pleasant scents – the property is freckled with fragrant lemon trees, bougainvillea and jasmine plants and is nestled at the base of the picturesque San Jacinto mountain range. Though it is steps away from Palm Springs’ buzzy downtown, it has a tranquil atmosphere, intimate spa, relaxing pool area and cozy guestrooms with big balconies fit for basking in the California sun. Summer rates as low as $76/night.
Only In… Palm Springs
Spend some time hotel hopping in the tight cluster of kitschy lodges on Palm Canyon Drive. Have lunch at King’s Hideaway at Ace Hotel & Swim Club (701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-325-9900, acehotel.com/palmsprings), marvel at the colorful buildings and hip décor at The Saguaro (1800 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-323-171, thesaguaro.com/palm-springs) or enjoy a tiki tipple at The Reef at Caliente Tropics Resort (411 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-1391, calientetropics.com).