In the high plains and elevation of Arizona, the changing of the seasons is always a wonder to experience. It’s often hard for visitors to imagine how different things can be one season to the next.
Grand Canyon Railway
This round trip departs from Williams around 65 miles south of the Grand Canyon. At first, it’s hard to marry the dense pine forests that surround the train with the desert colors of the landscape that waits. Eyes peeled for elk, coyotes, condors, and bald eagles, you’ll reach the popular South Rim a little over two hours later. If you choose to return the same day, you’ll have about four hours to marvel at its beauty; it’s understandably tempting to spend at least a night to more fully appreciate this wondrous natural phenomenon.
Canyon de Chelly National Park
A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor. The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800-foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls.
Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. Oak Creek Canyon is a breathtaking stretch of beauty on a winding road that climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona to the top of the Mogollon Rim. The scenic drive can ascend the canyon from Sedona or descend from Flagstaff. Either route is equally breathtaking as you slowly descend or ascend through picturesque forests.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and seasonal faces of Arizona. Encompassing 323 acres, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Featured are plants from the world’s deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panorama vistas, natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, and specialty gardens.
The Catalina Highway, also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway, climbs Mount Lemmon, the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains. You won’t get all the way to the 9,100-foot summit on this drive, but don’t be surprised if the temperature at the end is 30 degrees lower than when you started your drive. And enjoy the cooler weather. Even in September, you might need a sweater.
Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level amongst ponderosa pine, Prescott’s perfect weather provides an average temperature of 70 degrees with four beautiful and distinct seasons. Once the territorial capital, Prescott is rich with history embodied in its famous Whiskey Row and abundant historical landmarks. Enjoy breathtaking landscapes complete with mountains, lakes, streams, and meadows filled with wildlife.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve with stunning scenery. The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. Trails wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock.
Some of the best scenery in central Arizona can be seen along the Apache Trail. A route for the adventurous traveler, the trail is partly paved with a section of the route graded dirt. Along a loop drive of 80 miles, you will find spectacular scenery to rival any in the state. The unpaved section of the trail provides magnificent views of the mountains with forests of saguaro and several deep blue lakes along the way.
To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.
—Aldo Leopold, 1937