Site Seeing Around Flagstaff Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park, as it appears today is no more than a barren, lifeless badland; however, these badlands are a living scientific laboratory which revels that millions of years ago this land flourished with large river systems, forests, prehistoric plants and animals. They are two entrances to the park; The Painted Desert visitor center is at the North entrance and the Rainbow Forest Museum and gift shop is at the South entrance. In between is a 28-mile paved scenic highway full of hills and winding curves, which displays one of the world’s largest petrified wood deposits. Along the highway are pullovers and short drives to areas with walking trails and overlooks which allow for one to get a close-up view. For a different look of the Painted Desert, one should drive North from Winslow on Highway 87 for fourteen miles to the Painted Desert Rim View. The difference in colors are past amazing and worth the trip.

What can we say about the Grand Canyon? We learned about the canyon in school, saw it on National Geography, watched movies that were made in and around the canyon, read books about it; however, none of these comes close to actually standing on the rim looking out over the canyon. Which part of the rim is one standing on, the canyon has miles upon miles of rim to stand upon, with each place giving a person something different to see?

The best way to see the canyon along the South entrance road is by the South rim walking trail, which runs from Hermit’s Rest to South Kaibab and covers just under thirteen miles, most of this trail is paved with only slight inclines and gives excellent views of the canyon. For the person that wishes to venture into the canyon, there are four trails from which to choose. Hermit’s Rest, Kolb Studio, South Kaibab, and Grandview Trail. All four are rated as extreme difficult, with the Grandview trail recommended for experienced desert hikers only.

Leaving the visitor center and traveling Desert View Drive (hwy 64) for the next 22 miles one will follow the canyon rim with pull overs for views of the canyon and four different side roads with lookout points. Between Moran Point and Lipan point, be sure to catch the Tusayan Museum and Ruins on the right side of the road.

Tuzigoot National Monument located in Clarkdale is the remnant of a Southern Sinagua village. The ruin sits on the summit of a long ridge rising 120 feet above the Verde Valley. They are two paved walking trails here for one’s enjoyment. The quarter mile loop trail takes one to the top of the crest where the ruins are located and the other trail is a half-mile one way and takes one along the top of the ridge overlooking the valley.

Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well located near Camp Verde and eleven miles apart are part of the Sinagua people which farmed in the Verde Valley. The visitor center for both locations is located at the Castle site and contains a gift shop and museum with information on both sites. The castle site has a quarter mile paved loop walking trail through a beautiful Sycamore grove along a spring feed creek. Along the trail one will see the ruins of a cliff dwelling and a five-story castle carved deep into the wall of the cliff 100 feet above the canyon floor. The well site has a quarter mile paved loop which takes one to the rim of the well, were 1.6 million gallons of water flow through two vents at the bottom every day. On one side of the rim sits the cliff dwellings of large pueblo ruins. The shaded forest along the trail near the swallet ruins is a constant discharge of 74-degree water which traveled through 150 feet of limestone from the well.

Highway 545 off of highway 89 is a 35-mile scenic loop drive that leads one through the Sunset Crater National Park on the South end and the Wupatki National Park on the North end. Along this drive one will travel through rolling hills in the Coconino National Forest to arid open valleys.

Sunset Crater National Park preserves two volcanoes and with the 6.5 miles of walking trails, one can see the remains of what happened hundreds of years ago when these volcanoes erupted. The A’a trail goes right through where jagged blocks of basaltic lava formed. The Lenox Crater loop climbs up 200 feet in elevation through the forest to the crest of the crater where one can see views of the O Leary Peak and the San Francisco peaks. The Bonito trail leads to an overlook where a river of lava rocks got trapped between two volcanos. The Lava Flow loop travels around the base of Sunset Crater where extraordinary shapes and forms of lava can be seen and a view of a spatter cone, along the trail one can see where new vegetation emerges each year.

The Wukoki National Monument showcases six historic pueblos which can be viewed by the 2.4 miles of walking trails. The 800-hundred-year-old Wukoki Ruins is one of the most impressive masses and is visible from miles away and appears to look like an old castle towering high into the sky. Wupatki Pueblo sits right behind the visitor center and is the largest pueblo with 100 rooms. The half-mile loop takes one by the main formations with the ball court out front and to the blowhole, a fascinating geological feature. The Citadel Pueblo was built on top of a mesa and covered every available inch of space. From the top of the mesa, one can see across the valley for many miles to the mountain ranges. The Lomaki trail will lead one by two box canyon ruins and end at the Lomaki Ruins. These ruins overlook a pair of small canyons.

Walnut Canyon National Park has two walking trails which gives one an opportunity to look back into the past to see how these people adapted to the land. The one-mile Island Trail descends 185 feet into the 400-foot-deep canyon, where a loop trail winds around an island in the center of the canyon. Along the loop trail one can experience 25 cliff dwelling rooms carved into the sandstone bluff, with views of other dwelling dotted all along the cliff walls across the canyon. The.7-mile round trip canyon rim trail goes through mixed Juniper and Pinion forest where two canyon overlooks provides scenic views of the canyon below and cliff dwellings. Set back from the rim is a partially restored pit house and pueblo.

Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Byway on highway 89A is about a 28 mile stretch of road from South of Flagstaff to Sedona. The early stretch of the highway from Flagstaff is rolling hills through a Ponderosa Pine Forest where herds of Elk frequently cross the highway. The 14-mile stretch of road from the Mogollon Rim through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona, with its 4,500-foot change in elevation is a breathtaking stretch of beauty and has been rated as one of the top 5 scenic drives in America by Rand McNally.

At the Summit of the rim is Oak Creek Vista overlook, which allows for one to see parts of the road winding along the cliff walls, as well as the beauty of the canon with the towering cliffs on both sides. Initially one will snake their way down the canyon around switchbacks and hairpin curves that hug the canyon walls, with picture perfect colors of yellow and gold.

As one descends the steep winding road turns into a gentle decline along Oak Creek Canyon which opens to the foliage of oaks interspersed with evergreen pines. Due to the crystal-clear Oak Creek which flows throughout the year allows for lush greenery throughout the spring and summer. Throughout the canyon floor the creek and highway run parallel to each other with the creek being at the same level to a hundred feet lower.

A few miles into the canyon, one will notice the cliff walls changing from yellow and gold to red-faced rocks and cliffs, with the cliffs hugging the road on one side and the forest on the other side. All through the canyon, one will see the width going from very narrow to hundreds of feet wide where the canyon floor below the highway is dotted with cottages, lodging, and small campgrounds.

Red Rock Scenic loop just South of Sedona is a short 10 miles; however, it can be time consuming. Entering from the lower portion one will see the valley on one side and hills of Ponderosa Pines on the other side. After about three miles going around a curve the red-faced cliffs appear. For the next seven miles one will travel a hairpin and twisting highway across the side of a cliff with excellent views of Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Bell Rock. If time permits, stop at Crescent Moon picnic area for a swim in crystal clear Oak Creek and Red Rock State Park.

Oatman is a little town off the beaten pass, but well worth the time and effort to see. Entering Oatman from the East, take historic route 66 off of I-40 just West of Kingman. For the first twelve miles the road is through flat arid land with several old homesteads along the way. The road itself is pretty neat with all the little humps in it, like a small child’s roller coaster. At Cool Spring Station, a historic building, now a museum and gift shop with antique Mobile gas pumps out front, is worth spending a few minutes at. At this point the road starts the climb through the Black Mountains along one of America’s dangerous roads.

Over the next ten-miles the narrow two-lane highway menders along the cliff walls with hairpin curves and switchbacks with very limited amount of guard rails to protect one from driving off the road and plunging down the cliff. Unfortunately, if one looks close enough, there are cars sitting on the cliff walls that took the plunge. At an elevation of 3,550 feet passing across Sitgreaves Pass the road starts the decent to Oatman, a former mining town, now a living ghost town, where the elevation is 2,710 feet.

Pulling into town, one will see why so many people come here, take away the modern vehicles parked along the store fronts, and one will feel as if they went back 100 years in time. Most of the store fronts appear early 19th century right down to the wooden walk ways along both sides of the streets, just like the old western days. The historic buildings along main street that once was the home to saloons, banks, and hotels are now museums, giftshops, and restaurants. With main street being the only street in town, visitors and wild donkeys wander freely along the highway, slowing vehicles passing through to a crawl. When noon approaches, be prepared to witness a re-enactment of a bank robbery ending in a gunfight between two costumed gunfighters, Billy the Kid would have been no match for these two gunslingers.

The Jerome State Historical Park has been an eye-catching site since 1916 when the home was originally built by James Douglas on a hill just above his Little Daisy Mine. The home is now a museum devoted to the town of Jerome and the Douglas family. The museum displays minerals, mining equipment, and artifacts from the copper mining boom around the town of Jerome. To get here, one will travel historic route 89A up the side of a cliff along a narrow steep winding road to the town of Jerome established in 1876, with spectacular views of Verde valley. At Jerome’s peak 15,000 people lived here, now just over 400 people reside in this historic town. Today art galleries and small wineries dot the downtown area.

Red Rock State Park, just South of Sedona located along the Red Rock scenic loop is a 286-acre nature preserve with stunning scenery of the red-rock formations. The five-miles of family-oriented hiking trails is a network of interconnecting loops to vistas of red rock or the lush greenery of Oak Creek, with the Eagle’s Nest loop being the highest with an elevation gain of 300-feet. The parks wildlife consists of mule deer, javelina, coyotes, bobcats and many species of birds.