Off the beaten path Arizona with an Aussie
April 5, 2016 10:30 AM   Subscribe

What are your Arizona road trip can't miss spots, eats, attractions? Meeting up later this week with a friend from Oz for a weekish road trip - flying into PHX, then driving to: Holbrook (yes, we are sleeping in a wigwam), Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, back to PHX via Sedona, a couple days in Tucson and then back to PHX for departure. Not a lot of time in any one place sadly. Anything I shouldn't miss? Crazy difficult hikes are out, but gentle ones would be ok. Thanks for any amazing tips!
posted by OneSmartMonkey to Travel & Transportation around Arizona (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Montezuma's Well and Montezuma's Castle are both off the 17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix. The Castle charges admission, but the Well is just a short, relatively level hike around an absolutely beautiful sinkhole ecosystem. For a slightly more strenuous hike (but still very easy) you can walk down into the sinkhole itself, about 60-70 ft vertical that circles down so it's not too steep. Oak Creek Canyon (between Flagstaff and Sedona) is totally worth driving through too, in either direction.
posted by Alterscape at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Paolo Solari's utopian community Arcosanti is fun...even though there's an element of cultishness. Cosanti is in Paradise Valley so it's closer. Solari has died since I visited'd be interesting to see if it's changed. Slide Rock is a natural water slide near Sedona (check that they're open - they close sometimes). Jerome is a ghost mining town taken over by artists - it has some great ruines, nice galleries and great views.
posted by answergrape at 10:46 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend Montezuma's Castel and Well, and Paolo Solari either Cosanti or Arcosanti. Both are great.

One thing I've wanted to see since I was a kid was Tovrea Castle. We called it the Wedding Cake House and legend was that there property was full of gila monsters and rattlesnakes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2016

Sunset Crater (extinct volcano, not to be confused with Meteor Crater which is also neat but unless you're really interested to see it is really just a big hole in the ground), Wupatki and Wukoki Ruins are very close together and can be done in a couple hours.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2016

If you're going through Sedona, it's worth stopping off at the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2016

The Desert Botanical garden is beautiful and interesting, the Phoenix zoo is good if you like zoos (we do) and Sedona is amazing for scenery. Always carry water no matter where you go.
posted by mermayd at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is definitely worth a visit, and Sabino Canyon is a nice easy hike/walk. Cafe Poca Cosa downtown is our favorite place to eat in Tucson - you'll probably need a reservation.

San Xavier Del Bac is a popular destination south of town, though I'm ashamed to say I've never been even though I grew up in Tucson!

If you're into planes, try the Pima Air and Space Museum, where you can also tour the boneyard of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think Phoenix is sort of shruggo but if either of you are musically inclined the (expensive but worth it) Musical Instrument Museum is a sincerely good time. Likewise the Desert Botanical Garden often has interesting programming/features there and some nice walking-not-hiking things to look at outside. I would also find SOME way to drive down part of Route 66 in Arizona because it's neat and funky (I've done some of it) and it's really a uniquely weird American thing. Sounds like you're on top of that, but the website I linked to has other specifics in the area.
posted by jessamyn at 3:53 PM on April 5, 2016

Painted Desert's great at sunrise and set, kinda ok otherwise. I thought the ~$20 was fair for the Metor Crater, the visitor center was well done. Gotta recommend trying part of Old Route 66. NNW of Mexican Hat,UT 261 cuts across the Valley of the Gods, before climbing a wall in what's probably the scariest looking set of switchbacks in North America. If your suspension good enough for a dirt road VotG road will get you back to Mexican Hat with out going over the switchbacks. I usually skip Monument Valley for this.

Going out of Mesa up the Salt River Canyon to Roosevelt is a classic motorcycle ride, lots of twisties, gorgeous landscape. Tucson's best is the Desert Museum or the Air Museum. If you go to Bisbee, the rose tree growing in Tombstone is worth stopping for and south of Bisbee a little ways is a kinda overpriced motel made of cool old Airstreams.

Don't forget to take too much water with you wherever you go and have fun.

On preview, what bananacabana said.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2016

If you like to swim, Slide Rock State Park is between Sedona and Flagstaff.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:25 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Sabino Canyon - lots of great trails, with varying levels of length and difficulty; there should be water this time of year, too. Mount Lemmon also has some great hiking trails and would offer some different sights, with a big change in vegetation compared to the desert below. I like the Marshall Gulch trail.

Favorite places to eat in Tucson: I prefer Guadalajara Grill to most Mexican restaurants in town. Cafe Poca Cosa is good for fancy-ish Mexican food. El Charro is also classic, and supposedly invented the chimichanga.

Stop at Prep & Pastry for breakfast or brunch. I also enjoyed Nook the last time I was there.

If you're a space person, check out the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Skip the Biosphere.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:48 PM on April 5, 2016

First off, which route are you taking to Holbrook? If you're taking Hwy 60 via Globe & Show Low, visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (bring food and plenty of water, their concessions are minimal), stop at the Salt River Bridge (they offer half day rafting trips if you're so inclined), and enjoy the slow winding drive through the S.R. Canyon. If you're taking the route through Payson then up the hill to Heber-Overgaard, stop along the Mogollon Rim and enjoy the view. If you're heading north out of Payson, stop at the Tonto Natural Bridge (I'm not much for hiking, but I managed this pretty easily).

After Holbrook, consider a detour to Canyon de Chelly near Chinle. It's as beautiful as the Grand Canyon, but minus the crowds.

Between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, go to Antelope Canyon. There's no real hiking involved.

After you leave Sedona and before you head back to Phoenix, go to Jerome. It's an artsy ghost town with gorgeous views. Then cross over Mingus Mountain (more views!) to visit Prescott, where you can picnic or go kayaking near the Granite Dells at Watson Lake.

Have fun!
posted by kbar1 at 11:24 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're up for an adventure, drive south to the boarder from Tucson, park you car on the US side and walk into Nogales Mexico.

It's about a 2 hour drive from Tucson, and you can spend about 2 or 3 hours there, it's also an interesting drive, look for the trees and greenery growing over underground springs.

Nogales used to be sleazy, but when I last went (granted, 10 years ago) it was really nice and slightly arty. I got some neat tin-work there. Don't go to drink, or buy the vanilla, but it's fun to walk around.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 AM on April 6, 2016

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