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My Destinations Chat


On the Road Again Arizona’s Back Roads, Byways, Scenic Roads and Highways

December 02, 2011

A fantasy comes to fruition once you’ve experienced a drive across the diverse state of Arizona. Ideal conditions for facing the open road are synonymous with the scenery and sunshine the Grand Canyon State offers. Be behind the wheel, when the sun shines down and the cool wind blows through your hair as you cruise past canyons, and red rock cliffs. Wind through ponderosa pines, and the epic desert landscape as a carefree dream comes true.


Experience adventure and all-American freedom along the largest existing stretch of the original Route 66. Expect kicks and lots of kitsch along these 170 Arizona miles while enjoying by motorcycle or with the top down in a convertible cruiser. Ready to hop on a Harley and face the open road starting in Flagstaff? Take one of Eagle Rider’s motorcycle rentals on a guided tour, or go it alone to experience the best riding in the southwest. A great base camp for outdoor adventures and Grand Canyon trips, Flagstaff is a great place for starting road trips or staying overnight. Trek to the Canyon for a day and if you are over-nighting try the Flagstaff Ale Trail, a walking tour of breweries. Taste-test the finest- hand crafted local beers beginning at Lumberyard Brewing Company or Flagstaff Brewing Company. Before leaving this scenic mountain town, remember to drive up Mars Hill Road towards Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered in 1930.


Continue the westward adventure with a trip back in time to Seligman, the birthplace of Route 66. Burma Shave signs guide the way to Seligman, where travelers are greeted by retro motels, and gift shops. Grab yourself a walking guide from Delgadillo's Route 66 Gift Shop and some grub from the Snow Cap Drive-In, a Route 66 landmark. Catch up with classic car cruisers in May for the Annual Route 66 Fun Run in Seligman.


Roll north on a twisting drive past tumbleweeds and cactus to the tiny Old West town of Oatman. Once booming, and full of gold miners waiting to strike it rich, the streets of Oatman are ruled by burros. Pet the friendly burros, descendents of those brought long ago by miners, but beware they will follow those that feed them! Watch one of six daily gun shootouts in the middle of Main Street, dotted with shops and restaurants, where the wild westerners don’t seem to realize I-40 passed by half a century ago.


Should your kicks on Route 66 lead you east from Flagstaff, be sure to make a pit stop in Winslow to “Take it Easy,” like the Eagles song. This isn’t hard to do on the corner or at the lovely La Posada Hotel and Gardens, designed by Mary Colter in the 1930s. This hotel is the only Harvey House still existing today. Find the property’s museum featuring celebrated painter Tina Mion’s works in addition to historical exhibits highlighting the Harvey Girls among others. Enjoy the thriving Cottonwood Groves, Rose and Potager gardens on property at La Posada and the fabulous Turquoise Room restaurant. This restaurant features the finest of food in the Four Corners reagion and a menu by James Beard nominated chef, John Sharpe. 


Connect with nature and venture north to Arizona's Kaibab Plateau North Rim Parkway designated as a National Scenic Byway. The picturesque route takes you to the North Rim of the Canyon from the small village town of Jacob Lake across "the mountain lying down," known as Kaibab to the Paiute Indians. Along the captivating 42-mile drive visitors travel through the largest contiguous stand of pine forest in the United States. Enjoy fir and aspen groves among the towering pine trees. During summer months, blue lupine blooms across the meadows along with a myriad of other wildflowers. Finish the drive at the Canyon's North Rim and overnight at the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim in the summer months or take a day to walk to famous Bright Angel Point and marvel at the vast majestic beauty of the canyon. .


No northern Arizona road trip could be complete without a scenic stint along State Route 89A. See vivid green and earthy red vistas as SR 89A crosses the Verde Valley into colorful, Sedona. Take one of numerous side trips to Red Rock State Park, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Rock or into Verde Valley Wine Country. Explore hidden canyons, trails and ancient ruins and discover the adventurous spirit of North Central Arizona. The road mazes through the Granite Dells rocks and meanders through a canyon formed by Hickey and Mingus Mountains. Continue the cruise into a high country conifer forest and zig zag through a thrilling climb up Cleopatra Hill. Stop in the historic copper mining town of Jerome built on the hillside.  Explore the streets of artsy shops, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and The Haunted Hamburger, known for its delicious burgers. Visit the Jerome Winery or Caduceus, a winery owned by the leading man of the band Tool. See spectacular views of the Verde River Valley and the Mogollon Rim on the descent to Clarkdale.

See southern Arizona’s visit “sky islands,” outcroppings of mountains that seem to suddenly appear from the ground. The Sky Island Scenic Byway reminds us anything is possible in Arizona. Ski down frosty slopes in the morning, and after a short scenic drive bask in 80 degree afternoon sunshine. Discover the Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, a downhill skiing oasis in the Santa Catalina two-and-a-half miles from the northern end of the byway, and about an hour’s drive from Tucson. Explore a variety of runs at elevations ranging from 8,200 to 9,157 feet. Finding your favorite place and keeping within your skill level is easy on this mountain with 21 runs. If you want a rush find the adrenaline-filled backcountry slopes bordering the Pusch Wilderness Area. Depending on snowfall, Mount Lemmon’s ski season can last from mid-December to April. For ideal skiing conditions, head up a day or two after a major snowstorm and carve your way through glorious sheets of powdery snow.


Leave the rest of the world behind as you head out through the conifer forests and high desert of the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway along Arizona’s eastern edge. This seldom- traveled byway is one of Arizona’s best kept secrets offering Mother Nature’s finest. These former Native American footpaths were also used as horse paths by Conquistadors, prospectors, and pioneers. Imagine the nomadic tribes of hunters, gatherers, trappers, outlaws, homesteaders, and lumberjacks as you admire the scenic beauty. The diversity of this landscape has just as much to offer in two hours as the long trek between Canada and Mexico! Enjoy nature’s splendor from the driver’s seat or hear the calls of the wild up close and personal while hiking over 1,000 miles of hiking trails, or exploring the 34 lakes of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. This National Forest is home to more than 400 species of animals including black bear, mountain lion, antelope, elk, deer, bighorn sheep and the Mexican Grey Wolf.


The many scenic drives easily convince cruisers to keep coming back to the Grand Canyon State. See the sun drenched Sonoran Desert. Get kicks and more on Route 66. Connect with Red Rock Country in Sedona. Wind through mountain roads lined with towering pines of the Kaibab forest. See the diversity from the driver’s seat and you’ll be waiting  to get on the road again and again in Arizona.


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