Road Trips to the small towns of Patagonia, Williams, Bisbee, Jerome and Prescott lead to big adventures.
Nestled in a narrow valley in Southern Arizona, the tree-lined hamlet of Patagonia (pictured below) is an arts community, a haven for birders and a hotspot for butterflies—the most charming triple threat imaginable.
Start by hiking the gentle trails at Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, managed by The Nature Conservancy. More than 300 bird species migrate, nest and live amid this rare cottonwood-willow riparian forest.
Fuel up at Velvet Elvis where wood-fired pizzas are built using a savory whole-wheat crust as a platform, sturdy but light and perfectly charred. Choose from an array of specialty pies—or create your own.
When you're ready to rest, The Duquesne House is a former boarding house beautifully transformed. Rooms are decorated with colorful Mexican furniture and hand-stitched quilts, and guests can enjoy a private patio in flower-filled gardens alive with hummingbirds and butterflies.
Tucked away in the Northern Arizona pines on the edge of Williams, Bearizona is a drive-thru wildlife park with a diverse mix of critters. Burros, bison, bighorn sheep, Alaskan tundra wolves and bears all roam freely in spacious habitats. (Of course, the bears are partitioned off from their snack-like neighbors.) Go at your own pace and finish at Fort Bearizona, a walk-thru section populated by park babies.
When Red Raven opened as a culinary oasis in downtown Williams it reshaped the dining scene for the mountain town. They offer casual fine dining, artfully prepared in a stylish setting. Don't forget to take advantage of the impressive wine list.
Unwind at Sheridan House Inn, a luxurious getaway on two acres abutting beautiful forest. Eight rooms feature nature-themed touches and plenty of pampering details. Before you check out, try their delicious breakfast, which can be enjoyed in the dining room, outside on the deck or in your room.
Dig into Bisbee's storied past with the Queen Mine Tour. Outfitted in hard hats and slickers, visitors are led 1,500 feet deep into the tunnels for an up-close look at mining techniques, conditions and dangers. You'll emerge with a whole new appreciation of your job.
Screaming Banshee Pizza repurposed an old gas station and now turns out wood-fired pies with an exotic array of toppings. They also know their way around pastas, calzones, salads and more.
Tuck into the Letson Loft Hotel, which seamlessly blends luxury and history in the heart of Old Bisbee. Lovely rooms feature original adobe, brick, copper and wood details. Their 300-thread-count cotton sheets and flat-screen TVs are more recent additions.
Sitting three miles outside Jerome in North Central Arizona, Gold King Mine and Ghost Town harbors a sprawling array of rusted machinery that teeters between ruin and redemption. Trucks, cars and nearly every other manner of conveyance line the pathways. Photographers and gearheads will have to be dragged to the exit.
Perched high on the hill, the Haunted Hamburger offers a side of views with its juicy burgers. Vistas roll across the Verde Valley to the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff and beyond. The menu features chicken, fish, ribs and salads, but come on—you're sitting in a place called the Haunted Hamburger.
As Jerome reinvented itself from mining ghost town to artist haven, the Connor Hotel, built in 1898, did likewise. Today, decor combines comfortable Victorian with modern amenities and artistic flourishes. The Connor offers a dozen beautifully restored rooms and even a few moaning ghosts.
An hour and a half north of Phoenix, Watson Lake sparkles amid Prescott's Granite Dells, an exotic collection of massive boulders that rise directly from the water and adorn the shoreline. Watson Lake Park is a good starting point for exploration of this North Central Arizona city. The park includes picnic tables, horseshoe pits, playground equipment and hiking trails.
If you're hungry for more than a picnic, Lonesome Valley Brewing specializes in scratch-made pub fare that includes nachos, skewers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and more. And you can wash it down with a nice selection of craft beers brewed on the premises.
Hotel Vendome is located downtown, but far enough from Whiskey Row to assure a restful night. Guests enjoy old-fashioned hospitality in an intimate setting that's a cross between bed & breakfast and boutique hotel. Built in 1917, this two-story landmark even has a resident ghost and ghost cat.
About the Author
Roger Naylor is a travel writer who hates to travel. At least anywhere beyond his beloved Arizona. He specializes in lonely hiking trails, twisting back roads, diners with fresh burgers sizzling on the grill, small towns, ghost towns and pie. He has contributed to Arizona Highways, USA Today and Route 66 Magazine, and he is the author of Boots & Burgers: An Arizona Handbook for Hungry Hikers and Arizona Kicks on Route 66. He lives in Cottonwood, Arizona, and can be reached through his website, rogernaylor.com.