We spent two weeks based at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in beautiful Cottonwood, AZ, and visited so many amazing things that this post may be the longest we ever create. By the way, Old Town Cottonwood and Dead Horse Ranch are worth visits for the wines and hiking, respectively. (We also did a horseback ride adventure during our stay at Dead Horse Ranch (no irony intended.)
Please bear with us as we share some of the best memories through words and pictures!
Let’s start with our visit to the Grand Canyon, which began with a wonderful stop in Seligman, AZ, along Route 66. We were there SuperBowl Sunday, but that did not stop the many tourists (including us!) soaking up all the Americana in town.
We spent the night at the wonderfully quirky Stagecoach Motel, which has quite a few themed rooms, including the Marine Room, Marilyn Monroe Room, Bunkhouse, and Spy vs Spy Room; we, of course, chose the Norwegian room.
Route 66 (also referred to as The Mother Road and Main Street America), one of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, went from Chicago to Los Angeles, and has a long and colorful history; we will be revisiting parts of it in several other states along our journey.
The next morning, we got up early and drove to Williams, AZ, the “gateway to the Grand Canyon,” and home to the Grand Canyon Railway. We treated ourselves to an upper dome car ride from Williams to the national park. Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway has been taking people on a fabled journey into the heart of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s a fun journey filled with music, information, and excitement.
Once we made it to the park, we spent two days exploring the South Rim, spending the night in a cabin at the Bright Angel Lodge.
The Grand Canyon is simply a must-visit. No words or pictures can do this amazing canyon justice. If you have the time and physical abilities, try to walk the entire South Rim Trail, including visiting Pipe Creek Vista, Mather Point, Yavapai Point and Geology Museum, and the Trail of Time (almost completely deserted) on the east side, as well as the Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio, and others along the east side of the Rim Trail. You could spend money on a tour bus tour, but we found the free shuttle buses sufficient and extremely easy to manage our trip. (We will be doing the North Rim later in our journey.) And yes, we did take the railroad back to Williams, and we think the vistas heading toward Williams more inspiring than those going to the Grand Canyon. Once back in town, we did enjoy strolling through Williams and soaking up more of the Route 66 nostalgia.
Of course, you cannot visit this area without also visiting Sedona and the amazing red rock area of Arizona. Sedona’s red rock buttes and cliffs are quite amazing. Cathedral Rock is most worthy of attempting to hike, but be prepared for a goat trail that can be a bit frightening to attempt. For something a bit easier to manage, consider Bell Rock or Courthouse Butte Trails. No matter what you do or where you stop, you will not be disappointed with the vistas.
The actual town of Sedona is a bit overcrowded and overwhelming, but there are some wonderful restaurants, shops, and new-age establishments. Just south of town, make sure you visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona, Arizona, and run by the Diocese of Phoenix. Whether religious or not, you will certainly feel something while visiting. God’s grace is something not to be ignored.
While in the Sedona area, do not skip Red Rock State Park, a 286-acre nature preserve, which is west of the city; we almost did. We enjoyed perhaps the best trail walk of the trip so far on a hike at Red Rock. While the park’s main mission is protecting the riparian habitat along Oak Creek, the history of the park is a fascinating part of Americana, including the house on the hill, House of Apache Fires, built for a wealthy couple, but never fully used by them before they divorced. Definitely plan to spend some time on one or more of their trails: The Eagle’s Nest Loop & the Apache Fire Loop are joined together by the Coyote Ridge Trail. Eagle’s Nest is the highest point in the park. These three major loops are connected along the riparian corridor by the Kisva Trail, which also leads up to the short loop of the Yavapai Ridge Trail. The Javelina Trail takes you into the pinyon/juniper woodlands and back to the other loops.
Yes, we also spent time wine-tasting in Cottonwood and Jerome, and the Verde Valley Wine Trail — but that is the next blog post!
We ended our time in this area with a trip to Prescott, which has a gorgeous town square and is quite quaint. On the drive from Jerome to Prescott, consider a stop at the Mingus Mountain Recreation Area in the Prescott National Forest.
Once we left the forest, if you know us, you know we did not spend much time in town. Instead, we biked our first rail-trail of the trip, the Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail, which takes you around Lake Watson and through the amazing Granite Dells, before ending out in the countryside. The trail follows the former Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railway corridor that fed into Prescott, once the territorial capital of Arizona, and famous for its copper mining. Start at the main trailhead at the southern end of the trail at the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve (just off Prescott Lakes Parkway).
We ended our trip to the area with a hike around Goldwater Lake, found just south of Prescott along Senator Highway, and full of beautiful Ponderosa Pines!