Arizona is a very diverse state, climate and region wise. Most of us when we think Arizona, we think heat, desert, dry air. What we do not think is snow, cold, blizzards. My family and I visited Arizona in February and we encountered all these phenomenal conditions. Let me start by explaining how we do extended vacations. Occasionally we decide to go to an area that we probably will not return to for a second visit. Therefore, we will extend the trip for a longer period and we will stay a few days in each region to try to absorb as much of the culture and life as possible.
The Desert Region: We flew into Phoenix at a decent hour so we decided to drive to Tucson and start our trip in the southwestern part of Arizona in the desert region. There are many flat valleys bordered by mountains.
Two things that surprised me: 1. It is very beige! Sure, there is sage green cactus popping up all over. Some even have colorful flowers on them, but it’s a mostly beige landscape. 2. There are also a lot of cattle tucked into the valleys. Because the weather is hot, hotter, and hottest depending on the time of year and there are a lot of snakes in this area I was surprised to see farms and cattle.
Two things that delighted me: 1. The hiking in this area is not to be missed! The trails are well marked yet quiet. You might not see anyone all day, or you could run into several artists sitting amid the cacti painting the landscape. 2. It’s a very historical area and has a some of the most beautiful churches and missions I have ever seen!
The Mountain Region: Is not beige! Here color explodes from the rocks and the skies burst into flaming reds and oranges. There are Ponderosa pines and wildflowers that climb up the mountains that once upon a time were filled with gold, silver, and copper. You can get a feel for what mining life was like in the town of Jerome. No longer a mining town it now houses artists, writers, boutiques, wine bars, and some impressive dining spots. Many of the old buildings from the mining days still stand proud, and steep, and high atop of Cleopatra Hill. This town is literally etched into the side of a mountain and when you are standing on Main street looking down you can get some fluttering’s in your tummy!
The Plateau Region: Flagstaff and The Grand Canyon are in this area. The region gets rain and snow, lots of snow sometimes. Enough to have you stuck in your hotel room for a day or two. We rolled into the Grand Canyon State Park mid-morning amid blizzard warnings and rangers telling us to be sure to leave the park before nightfall to avoid being stranded. We walk up to the north rim and the skies let loose and the snow began to fall. It was cloudy, visibility was limited, and I wouldn’t change one thing about this visit. Listening to the snow fall into the echoing valleys of the Grand Canyon is beyond awesome. It’s almost spiritual.
Do Not Miss:
1.) Hiking in Sedona! Climbing up the dramatic red rocks, over vortex that will make your skin tingle, to some of the most photographed areas in the world.
2.) Hopi Reservation! Be sure to take a WALPI walking tour through the village of Walpi, a living village where homes have been passed down through matrilineal clan lineage for centuries.
3.) The Apache Trail! This could be the most beautiful trail in all of America! The Apache Lake will take your breath away. Stop at the Roosevelt Dam. Walk inside the two-story ruin of Tonto National Monument, a well-preserved Sinagua Indian cliff dwelling.
4.) Mission San Xavier del Bac! A historic Spanish Catholic mission located on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. This church is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Its elaborate bulk amidst the poverty around it might have you scratching your head, but it is well worth the trip.
5.) Tumacácori National Historical Park. The history of the mission and the hardships it endured is both fascinating and sad. The ruins are very well preserved and really gives you a sense of what life was like on the mission.
The variety of regions, climate, history, and spectacular views in Arizona is remarkable. Try to see as much of it as you can! – Ella
If you are interested, you can view my itinerary.