Arizona is one of the most diverse states in the US, having different elevations and microclimates all within world-famous national parks, booming metropolitan cities and historic towns. In North Central Arizona, stunning landscapes of pine trees and red rocks, as well as historic pioneer towns, define the region. Whether it’s the year-round warmth, the adventurous outdoor options, the luxurious shopping and wellness opportunities, or simply the history that comes with this great state, the red landscape is always revealing new experiences.
What is the best way to traverse and explore the rebels and reds of North Central Arizona? Keep these destinations in mind for your sunshine getaway, as each embraces the state’s surroundings and infamous Wild West history in its own way.
As you make your way north from the Phoenix airport, make a stop in Camp Verde to visit the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Let’s get this straight; it’s a wildlife park, not a zoo. More specifically, it’s a 100-acre preserve where exotic animals from all over the world roam. Just 30 minutes south of Sedona, you’ll experience Africa in the heart of Arizona. There are incredible shows like Tiger Splash, Predator Feed, and Wonders of Wildlife that bring nature up-close for a look at what these incredible animals can really do. Guests can also enjoy safari tours, hands-on interaction, and the Predator Zip Line, as well as a food court and gift shop.
Just an hour away from Camp Verde is Prescott, a city located within the Ponderosa Pines of Prescott National Park. The charming city has more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the national park has more than 643 kilometers of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, making it a lovely combination of history and nature. You’ll definitely want to spend a few days here to explore the true West and various outdoor adventures, like these:
Phippen Western Museum – A must for country western or Americana fans, the Phippen Museum’s permanent exhibits include a unique Western heritage gallery and the Arizona Rancher & Cowboy Hall of Fame. The artifacts and memorabilia of the permanent collection, as well as their rotating exhibits, help bring to life the importance of the timeworn items that were essential to life in the West.
The Smoki Museum – Focused on American Indian arts and culture, The Smoki Museum is dedicated to honoring the indigenous cultures of the Southwest. The exhibits feature everything from pottery to jewelry and adornments, as well as an in-depth educational experience for visitors.
Sharlot Hall Museum – An educational and cultural center, Sharlot Hall Museum is made up of seven historic buildings and has compelling exhibits and beautiful gardens which serve as settings for public festivals. It’s a place to come to understand and appreciate the many historical, social, and natural aspects that the Central Highlands of Arizona offer.
Peavine Trail – This trail (about 17 km round trip) follows the route of the old Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railway and leads through rivers to the Granite Dells, above Watson Lake.
Thumb Butte Hike – The permanent granite landmark, visible from downtown, is a short 3 km round trip, with nearly 183 meters in elevation gain. Once up there, expect panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside.
Goldwater Lake – Great for kayak or canoe enthusiasts, this day-use park also has a volleyball net, horseshoe pit, picnic tables, two short trails (North Shore and Bannon Creek), and lots of space for social gatherings.
Courthouse Plaza – The Yavapai Courthouse is at the center of the plaza and surrounding it are boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and shops, making it one of the main attractions – and a can’t miss spot – of the city. Relax, unwind, and wander after a day packed full of adventure.
About two hours further north are the majestic red rock formations and the widely talked about energies of Sedona, a city offering everything from transcendent outdoors to fine dining and world-class art galleries. Sedona is also a haven for those seeking personal enrichment and wellness in some of the state’s top spas. The city truly is like no other, and can’t be denied its title of “The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.” There are many different paths you can take to not only tour the area but also enrich your mind and body. Start you exploration with these destinations within a destination that amplify the Sedona experience.
Adventures Out West – Offering a truly unique way to see Sedona, Adventures Out West has various year-round Segway tours. First timers can enjoy the Jordan Road Tour, a short one-hour loop that includes the neighborhood streets of Uptown, Jordan Road, and the Sedona Heritage Park. The Uptown and Tlaquepaque Tour offers the Jordan Road Tour as well as a visit to the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. The most popular tour, the Chapel of the Holy Cross Adventure, is a 2 to 2.5 hour tour of Sedona’s top spots.
Oakcreek Country Club – Open to the public, Oakcreek Country Club is home to the Sedona Open each June and has courses for all levels of golfers. The course has five sets of tees and plays from 4,041 meters to 6,240 meters. The stunning surroundings make for a truly epic golf experience.
Sedona Arts Center – The oldest nonprofit organization in the state of Arizona, the Sedona Arts Center has been a refuge for artists since the early 1960s. Today, it’s an educational institution that is dedicated to nurturing the creative process through arts education and artistic development. The Center’s Fine Art Gallery showcases the largest selection of local art in Sedona.
View from above – There are several options and opportunities to see Sedona from above. Check out the various hot air balloon or helicopter companies for more details on packages and tours.
Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive – The second-most visited canyon in Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon’s 24 km scenic drive takes visitors past endless vistas and rock formations that include Kaibab limestone, Toroweap sandstone, and Coconino sandstone – the same as in the Grand Canyon.
Vortex sites – Thought to be centers of energy that are conducive to spiritual healing, meditation, and self-exploration, even if you are not part of this movement, the sites are some of the most gorgeous spots around town.
Where To Stay
With several hotel options throughout North Central Arizona, BEST WESTERN® International is a trusted brand, offering one of a kind properties like the Prescottonian – an Arizona landmark that offers “down home hospitality” in an unbeatable location. Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas is an award-winning hotel located in the heart of Sedona with 183 meters of private Oak Creek frontage and gorgeous red rock views. Or try the Inn of Sedona, another award-winning property with promenade terraces offering views of the red rocks as well as panoramic views from their hilltop location.
This is just a glimpse of what you’ll find in North Central’s wild canyons and valleys. Discover more charming frontier towns and stunning natural beauty within the region