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North Central Arizona
In Payson, Just Go with the Flow
Nestled amidst towering Ponderosa pines, Payson is full of delightful forests and creeks to explore. Pine Creek, located in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, flows under a pretty incredible sight—Tonto Natural Bridge, the world’s largest travertine bridge. Take it all in from the top, then hike down into the lush creek surroundings to see the bridge in all its wonder.
Twenty-two miles to the east of Payson lies the town of Christopher Creek, named for the creek that runs through it. Stay in the lodges at Christopher Creek or along nearby Tonto Creek and enjoy pine-scented hikes through this beautiful area.
North Central Arizona
Rev Up Some Adventure in Sedona
Sedona’s trails are suited for every style of adventure, from bikes to boots to Jeeps. Regardless of your mode of transportation, Sedona’s backcountry – especially the 286-acre Red Rock State Park – welcomes you with jaw-dropping scenery, natural beauty and rotating exhibits. For a more refreshing view, hit the popular West Fork trail or check out Slide Rock State Park and take a moment to dip your toes in the cool waters of Oak Creek. At night, turn your sights to the stars with a stargazing tour of Sedona’s clear, sparkling skies.
Explore Every Elevation in Canyon Country
The Grand Canyon is, quite simply, pretty grand. And if you think the views from the top are incredible, just wait until you see it from the ground up on the Canyon floor. The most popular route from top to bottom is the South Rim’s Bright Angel Trail, which you can trek by foot or by mule down to Phantom Ranch. Here, a rustic lodge and cabins invite you to spend the night surrounded by canyon walls carved over millions of years by raging waters. For something a little different, try a half-day whitewater rafting excursion down the famed Colorado River.
If you’re not ready to make the trek down, you can take in spectacular views along the rim itself. Take the free shuttle or bike the historic Hermit Road on the South Rim, which is closed to vehicle traffic in the summer and features several scenic viewpoints. Or jump in the saddle and see the East Rim Trail from the back of a mule. If you prefer to experience the Canyon Rim Trail on your own two legs, be sure to pack snacks and plenty of water.
Experience a Change of Scenery Near Tucson
Southern Arizona has everything you’d expect in a desert state—and a few things you might not. For starters, Saguaro National Park, which borders Tucson on both the west and the east sides of the city, is the best place to see the majestic cactus the Southwest is most known for. Over at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a scenic drive, wilderness hike, a van tour with a park ranger or a night of camping will give you ample time to explore this thriving community of animals and plants that’s classified as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Let your expectations take a turn up Mt. Lemmon where scenic byways, hiking trails and year-round ski lift transport you from low desert to cool pine forests.
Discover the Rare, the Remarkable and the Relics of History
We bet you’ve never seen the likes of the striking stone columns (hoodoos), spires and balanced rising from the ground at Chiricahua National Monument in Willcox. Drive through or hike the 17 miles of day-use trails—just watch out for those afternoon monsoons that roll through almost daily. Along your way, be sure to stop at the historic Faraway Ranch, home of the Erickson Family —the region’s earliest European settlers. Down the road in Bowie, take a hike through history at Fort Bowie National Historic Site and relive the early struggles in our nation’s pursuit of discovery. And over near Sierra Vista, you won’t want to pass up a trek through Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Home to over 150 species of birds and countless animals unique to the area, including the rarely seen white-eared hummingbird and ridge-nosed rattlesnake, Ramsey is a special place indeed.
Stay Cool in the Forests of Flagstaff
Surrounded by the San Francisco Peaks, you can’t go wrong in Flagstaff’s great outdoors. A little north of town, bring your camping gear to Lockett Meadow and stay amidst the brilliant green aspens, firs and pines with incredible views of the peaks. Hike the 3.9-mile Inner Basin Trail right into the extinct caldera of this ancient volcanic area. Or, head to Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument or Tuzigoot National Monument to explore the ruins of cliff dwellings and pueblos belonging to peoples who lived here nearly 1,000 years ago.
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