In north-central Arizona, stunning landscapes of pine trees, red rocks and historic pioneer towns define the region. Whether it's the year-round warmth, the adventurous outdoor options, the local 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 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.
Heading north from Phoenix, and just 30 minutes south of Sedona, 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 roam and where you can experience Africa in the heart of Arizona. Get up-close to these amazing animals during incredible shows like Tiger Splash, Predator Feed and Wonders of Wildlife and see what they 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 from Camp Verde is Prescott, a city located within the Ponderosa Pines of Prescott National Forest. 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 400 miles (640 km) 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.
Here are just a few places to consider visiting:
Phippen 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 Wild 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 comprised of seven historic buildings and has compelling exhibits and beautiful gardens that 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 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 2-mile (3 km) round trip, with nearly 600 feet (183 m) 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.
There are many different paths you can take to tour the area and enrich your mind and body. With so many experiences waiting to be had, you'll want to spend a few days here exploring. Start your exploration with these destinations to amplify the Sedona experience.
Sedona Arts Center: The Sedona Arts Center has been a refuge for artists since the early 1960s. Today, it's an educational institution 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: Oak Creek Canyon's 15-mile (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.
Small town Arizona
About halfway between Prescott and Sedona, you'll pass right through the community of Cottonwood in the Verde Valley. Cottonwood acts as a fantastic base camp where you lace up your hiking boots and explore the outdoors. On the banks of the Verde River, you can camp, swim, fish and hike at Dead Horse Ranch State Park just outside of town. Just a short hike from there, discover American Indian history among ancient hilltop pueblos at Tuzigoot National Monument. If you want to rest your feet, hop aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad and sit in one of the open-air cars as you chug around red-rock formations. And don't miss out on the local wines in the six tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood.
An hour and a half drive from Phoenix, the towns of Globe-Miami open the door to the great outdoors and welcoming historic districts. Globe and Miami act as a gateway to Roosevelt Lake, the San Carlos Apache tribal lands and the Pinal Mountains, where there's no shortage of outdoor activities—from fishing and hunting to hiking and mountain biking. Globe's quaint downtown encompasses old-time charm with a historic courthouse, county jail and stately churches. Peek into the culture of the San Carlos Apache during the American Indian arts and crafts festival Apache Jii in October or a walk through the Old Dominion park located on the site of a historic copper mine.
This is just a glimpse of what you'll find in north-central Arizona's wild canyons and valleys. Discover more charming frontier towns and stunning natural beauty within the region.