Driving Arizona

By: Elena Acoba

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March 2, 2015

Explore the state's quaint communities through regional road trips.

About the author

Elena Acoba

Elena Acoba

Since moving to Tucson in 1988, freelance writer Elena Acoba has enjoyed traveling to the four corners of Arizona. Her favorites spots in her adopted state: the natural wonders and the rich historical sights.

Adventure awaits at many small towns and cities throughout Arizona. The best way to see several at one time is through activity-packed loop tours – most of which are drivable in one day. See what Arizona offers away from its metropolitan centers.

The Old West

Start your southeast Arizona tour in Tombstone, famous for the O.K. Corral shoot-out. Feel the Old West vibe around historic Allen Street, where you can find lodging at Marie’s Engaging Bed & Breakfast in an adobe Victorian, Virgil’s Corner Bed & Breakfast on property formerly owned by Virgil Earp – brother of Wyatt Earp – or T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile & Hotel with simple cowboy rooms.

Go deep into an inactive copper mine in Bisbee, a 19th-century boomtown, then stroll the artsy shopping district. Sierra Vista is home to the active United States Army’s Fort Huachuca, where visitors can see grounds and displays from its 138-year history. On the return drive through the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, stop at the Fairbank ghost town, where some buildings from the 1881 railroad stop still stand.

Gateways to Adventure

Southern Arizona’s Tubac is renown for its village of artist and artisan studios and galleries. It’s also home to Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, site of the oldest Colonial Spanish fort in Arizona. Stay in the village at Tubac Country Inn or the Poston House Inn. Or relax at the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa.

Across the border of Nogales, Arizona, sits Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, with shopping and entertainment. Learn this U.S. border town’s old Mexico history on a self-guided walking tour. The tiny burg of Patagonia, with its shops and restaurants, is a good launching spot to nearby ghost towns – including Harshaw, Mowry and Washington Camp – or The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. Sonoita is in Arizona wine country, where vineyards and tasting rooms offer the latest of the region’s vintages.

Grand (Canyon) Visit

A quiet alternative to staying in the bustling Grand Canyon National Park area is to lodge in Williams, 59 miles to the south. Drive through Bearizona Wildlife Park or explore Kaibab National Forest. After your adventures, explore the luxurious Grand Canyon Railway Hotel or the intimate Historic Grand Canyon Hotel. 

In Williams, you can leave your vehicle and board the Grand Canyon Railway to the canyon’s South Rim, where you can spend hours in the national park’s village or take shuttles to scenic points. 

If you prefer to drive to the natural wonder, be sure to swing by Cameron 30 minutes east of the South Rim entrance. Here you can shop for Hopi, Navajo, Apache and Pima artwork in the Cameron Trading Post. Return to Williams through Flagstaff to cruise along historic Route 66. Then ride the scenic chairlift at Arizona Snowbowl for a breathtaking panoramic view of the San Francisco Peaks.

Picturesque Stops

Rustic Apple Creek Cottages in Prescott can be your jump-off point for a relaxing stay in North Central Arizona. Stroll Whiskey Row’s quaint streets lined with restaurants, bars and shops.

Take the Arizona Highway 89/Interstate 17 loop to visit the small towns of Jerome, for a mix of mining history and fine art; Cottonwood, for tastings along the Verde Valley Wine Trail; Sedona, and its magnificent red rocks and spiritual sites; and Camp Verde, home of Out of Africa wild animal park, Hohokam archaeological sites and the Fort Verde State Historic Park. 

On another day, head south to Wickenburg for a day of horseback riding, golfing, hiking or walking along the downtown history trail.

High Country

Relax in crisp mountain air along Arizona’s eastern edge. Try to score a tepee-shaped unit at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. Stroll the historic downtown and get selfies with dinosaurs. See real plant and animal fossils at Petrified Forest National Park.

Tour the communities of the White Mountains along roads lined with Ponderosa Pines. Snowflake boasts 45 1880s homes on the National Register of Historic Homes. Show Low is the hub for outdoor recreation – start here to get to hiking trails, fishing lakes and scenic drives. Travel along volcanic fields in Springerville and stop at Casa Malpais Archaeological Park and Museum to see Indian ruins.

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