Petrified Forest National Park, as it appears today is no more than a barren, lifeless badland; however, these badlands are a living scientific laboratory which revels that millions of years ago this land flourished with large river systems, forests, prehistoric plants and animals. They are two entrances to the park; The Painted Desert visitor center is at the North entrance and the Rainbow Forest Museum and gift shop is at the South entrance. In between is a 28-mile paved scenic highway full of hills and winding curves, which displays one of the world’s largest petrified wood deposits. Along the highway are pullovers and short drives to areas with walking trails and overlooks which allow for one to get a close-up view. For a different look of the Painted Desert, one should drive North from Winslow on Highway 87 for fourteen miles to the Painted Desert Rim View. The difference in colors are past amazing and worth the trip.
What can we say about the Grand Canyon? We learned about the canyon in school, saw it on National Geography, watched movies that were made in and around the canyon, read books about it; however, none of these comes close to actually standing on the rim looking out over the canyon. Which part of the rim is one standing on, the canyon has miles upon miles of rim to stand upon, with each place giving a person something different to see?
The best way to see the canyon along the South entrance road is by the South rim walking trail, which runs from Hermit’s Rest to South Kaibab and covers just under thirteen miles, most of this trail is paved with only slight inclines and gives excellent views of the canyon. For the person that wishes to venture into the canyon, there are four trails from which to choose. Hermit’s Rest, Kolb Studio, South Kaibab, and Grandview Trail. All four are rated as extreme difficult, with the Grandview trail recommended for experienced desert hikers only.
Leaving the visitor center and traveling Desert View Drive (hwy 64) for the next 22 miles one will follow the canyon rim with pull overs for views of the canyon and four different side roads with lookout points. Between Moran Point and Lipan point, be sure to catch the Tusayan Museum and Ruins on the right side of the road.
Tuzigoot National Monument located in Clarkdale is the remnant of a Southern Sinagua village. The ruin sits on the summit of a long ridge rising 120 feet above the Verde Valley. They are two paved walking trails here for one’s enjoyment. The quarter mile loop trail takes one to the top of the crest where the ruins are located and the other trail is a half-mile one way and takes one along the top of the ridge overlooking the valley.
Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well located near Camp Verde and eleven miles apart are part of the Sinagua people which farmed in the Verde Valley. The visitor center for both locations is located at the Castle site and contains a gift shop and museum with information on both sites. The castle site has a quarter mile paved loop walking trail through a beautiful Sycamore grove along a spring feed creek. Along the trail one will see the ruins of a cliff dwelling and a five-story castle carved deep into the wall of the cliff 100 feet above the canyon floor. The well site has a quarter mile paved loop which takes one to the rim of the well, were 1.6 million gallons of water flow through two vents at the bottom every day. On one side of the rim sits the cliff dwellings of large pueblo ruins. The shaded forest along the trail near the swallet ruins is a constant discharge of 74-degree water which traveled through 150 feet of limestone from the well.
Highway 545 off of highway 89 is a 35-mile scenic loop drive that leads one through the Sunset Crater National Park on the South end and the Wupatki National Park on the North end. Along this drive one will travel through rolling hills in the Coconino National Forest to arid open valleys.
Sunset Crater National Park preserves two volcanoes and with the 6.5 miles of walking trails, one can see the remains of what happened hundreds of years ago when these volcanoes erupted. The A’a trail goes right through where jagged blocks of basaltic lava formed. copper mugs australia The Lenox Crater loop climbs up 200 feet in elevation through the forest to the crest of the crater where one can see views of the O Leary Peak and the San Francisco peaks. The Bonito trail leads to an overlook where a river of lava rocks got trapped between two volcanos. The Lava Flow loop travels around the base of Sunset Crater where extraordinary shapes and forms of lava can be seen and a view of a spatter cone, along the trail one can see where new vegetation emerges each year.
The Wukoki National Monument showcases six historic pueblos which can be viewed by the 2.4 miles of walking trails. The 800-hundred-year-old Wukoki Ruins is one of the most impressive masses and is visible from miles away and appears to look like an old castle towering high into the sky. Wupatki Pueblo sits right behind the visitor center and is the largest pueblo with 100 rooms. The half-mile loop takes one by the main formations with the ball court out front and to the blowhole, a fascinating geological feature. The Citadel Pueblo was built on top of a mesa and covered every available inch of space. From the top of the mesa, one can see across the valley for many miles to the mountain ranges. The Lomaki trail will lead one by two box canyon ruins and end at the Lomaki Ruins. These ruins overlook a pair of small canyons.
Walnut Canyon National Park has two walking trails which gives one an opportunity to look back into the past to see how these people adapted to the land. The one-mile Island Trail descends 185 feet into the 400-foot-deep canyon, where a loop trail winds around an island in the center of the canyon. Along the loop trail one can experience 25 cliff dwelling rooms carved into the sandstone bluff, with views of other dwelling dotted all along the cliff walls across the canyon. The.7-mile round trip canyon rim trail goes through mixed Juniper and Pinion forest where two canyon overlooks provides scenic views of the canyon below and cliff dwellings. Set back from the rim is a partially restored pit house and pueblo.
Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Byway on highway 89A is about a 28 mile stretch of road from South of Flagstaff to Sedona. The early stretch of the highway from Flagstaff is rolling hills through a Ponderosa Pine Forest where herds of Elk frequently cross the highway. The 14-mile stretch of road from the Mogollon Rim through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona, with its 4,500-foot change in elevation is a breathtaking stretch of beauty and has been rated as one of the top 5 scenic drives in America by Rand McNally.
At the Summit of the rim is Oak Creek Vista overlook, which allows for one to see parts of the road winding along the cliff walls, as well as the beauty of the canon with the towering cliffs on both sides. Initially one will snake their way down the canyon around switchbacks and hairpin curves that hug the canyon walls, with picture perfect colors of yellow and gold.