Read an Excerpt
Frommer's Arizona 2004
By Karl Samson Jane Aukshunas
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-3887-X
Chapter OneThe Best of Arizona
Planning a trip to a state as large and diverse as Arizona involves a lot of decision making (other than which golf clubs to take), so in this chapter we've tried to give you some direction. Below we've chosen what we feel is the very best the state has to offer-the places and experiences you won't want to miss. Although sights and activities listed here are written up in more detail elsewhere in this book, this chapter should help get you started planning your trip.
1 The Best Places to Commune with Cacti
Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix): There's no better place in the state to learn about the plants of Arizona's Sonoran Desert and the many other deserts of the world. Displays at this Phoenix botanical garden explain plant adaptations and how indigenous tribes once used many of this region's wild plants. See p. 115.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum (east of Phoenix): Located just outside the town of Superior, this was the nation's first botanical garden established in a desert environment. It's set in a small canyon framed by cliffs, with desert plantings from all over the world-a fascinating place for an educational stroll in the desert. See p. 154.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson): The name is misleading-this is actually more a zoo and botanical garden than a museum. Naturalistic settings house dozens ofspecies of desert animals, including a number of critters you wouldn't want to meet in the wild (rattlesnakes, tarantulas, scorpions, black widows, and Gila monsters). See p. 344.
Saguaro National Park (Tucson): Lying both east and west of Tucson, this park preserves "forests" of saguaro cacti and is the very essence of the desert as so many people imagine it. You can hike it, bike it, or drive it. See p. 348.
Tohono Chul Park (Tucson): Although this park is not all that large, it packs a lot of desert scenery into its modest space. Impressive plantings of cacti are the star attractions, but there are also good wildflower displays in the spring. See p. 356.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (west of Tucson): The organ pipe cactus is a smaller, multi-trunked relative of the giant saguaro and lives only along the Mexican border about 100 miles west of Tucson. This remote national monument has hiking trails, scenic drives, even a large natural spring. See p. 381.
2 The Best Active Vacations
Rafting the Grand Canyon: Whether you go for 3 days or 2 weeks, no other active vacation in the state comes even remotely close to matching the excitement of a raft trip through the Grand Canyon. Sure, the river is crowded with groups in the summer, but the grandeur of the canyon is more than enough to make up for it. See chapter 6.
Hiking into the Grand Canyon or Havasu Canyon: Not for the unfit or the faint of heart, a hike down into the Grand Canyon or Havasu Canyon is a journey through millions of years set in stone. This trip takes plenty of advance planning and requires some very strenuous hiking. With both a campground and a lodge at the bottom of each canyon, you can choose to make this trip with either a fully loaded backpack or just a light daypack. See chapter 6. Riding the Range at a Guest Ranch: Yes, there are still cowboys in Arizona. They ride ranges all over the state, and so can you if you book a stay at one of the many guest ranches (once known as dude ranches). You might even get to drive some cattle down the trail. After a long or short day in the saddle, you can soak in a hot tub, go for a swim, or play a game of tennis before chowing down. See chapters 5, 9, and 10. Staying at a Golf or Tennis Resort: If horseback riding and cowboy cookouts aren't your thing, how about as much golf or tennis as you can play? The Phoenix/Scottsdale area has the greatest concentration of resorts in the country, and Sedona and Tucson add many more options to the mix. There's something very satisfying about swinging a racquet or club with the state's spectacular scenery in the background, and the climate means you can do it practically year-round. See chapters 4, 5, and 9. Mountain Biking in Sedona: Forget Moab-too many other hard-core mountain bikers. Among the red rocks of Sedona, you can pedal through awesome scenery on some of the most memorable single-track trails in the Southwest. There's even plenty of slickrock for that Canyonlands experience. See p. 188.
Bird-Watching in Southeastern Arizona: As avid bird-watchers, we know that this isn't the most active of sports, but a birder can get in a bit of walking when it's necessary (like, maybe to get to the nesting tree of an elegant trogon). The southeast corner of the state is one of the best birding regions in the entire country. See chapter 10.
3 The Best Day Hikes & Nature Walks
Camelback Mountain (Phoenix): For many Phoenicians, the trail to the top of Camelback Mountain is a ritual, a Phoenix institution. Sure, there are those who make this a casual but strenuous hike, but many more turn it into a serious workout by jogging to the top and back down. We prefer a more leisurely approach so we can enjoy the views. See p. 82.
Picacho Peak State Park (south of Casa Grande): The hike up this central Arizona landmark is short but strenuous, and from the top there are superb views out over the desert. The best time of year to make the hike is in spring, when the peak comes alive with wildflowers. Picacho Peak is between Casa Grande and Tucson just off I-10. See p. 155. The West Fork of Oak Creek Trail (outside Sedona): The West Fork of Oak Creek is a tiny stream that meanders for miles in a narrow steep-walled canyon. This is classic canyon country, and the hardest part of a hike here is having to turn back without seeing what's around the next bend up ahead. See p. 185.
The South Kaibab Trail (Grand Canyon South Rim): Forget the popular Bright Angel Trail, which, near its start, is a human highway. The South Kaibab Trail offers better views to day hikers and is the preferred downhill route for anyone heading to Phantom Ranch for the night. This is a strenuous hike even if you go only a mile or so down the trail. Remember, the trip back is all uphill. See p. 231.
The White House Ruins Trail (Canyon de Chelly National Monument): There's only one Canyon de Chelly hike that the general public can do without a Navajo guide, and that's the 2 1/2-mile trail to White House Ruins, a small Anasazi pueblo site. The trail leads from the canyon rim across bare sandstone, through a tunnel, and down to the floor of the canyon. See p. 274. Betatakin (Navajo National Monument): Betatakin is one of the most impressive cliff dwellings in the Southwest, and while most people just marvel at it from a distance, it's possible to take a ranger-led 5-mile hike to the ruins. After hiking through the remote Tsegi Canyon, you'll likely have a better understanding of the ancient Anasazi people who once lived here. See p. 278.
Antelope Canyon (Page): More a slow walk of reverence than a hike, this trail lets you see the amazing beauty that can be created when water and rock battle each other in the Southwest. The trail leads through a picture-perfect sandstone slot canyon, which in places is only a few feet wide. See p. 284. The Seven Falls Trail (Tucson): There is something irresistible about waterfalls in the desert, and on this trail you get more than enough falls to satisfy any craving to cool off on a hot desert day. This trail is in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in northeast Tucson. See p. 365.
The Heart of Rocks Trail (Cochise County): While the big national parks and monuments in northern Arizona get all the publicity, Chiricahua National Monument, down in the southeast corner of the state, quietly lays claim to some of the most spectacular scenery in Arizona. On this trail, you'll hike through a wonderland of rocks. See p. 412.
4 The Best Scenic Drives
The Apache Trail (east of Phoenix): Much of this winding road, which passes just north of the Superstition Mountains, is unpaved and follows a rugged route once ridden by Apaches. This is some of the most remote country you'll find in the Phoenix area, with far-reaching desert vistas and lots to see and do along the way. See p. 152.
Oak Creek Canyon (Sedona): Slicing down from the pine country outside Flagstaff to the red rocks of Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon is a cool oasis. From the scenic overlook at the top of the canyon to the swimming holes and hiking trails at the bottom, this canyon road provides a rapid change in climate and landscape. See p. 184.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Chinle): This fascinating complex of canyons on the Navajo Indian Reservation has only limited public access because it is still home to numerous Navajo families. However, there are roads that parallel the north and south rims of the canyon providing lots of scenic overlooks. See p. 272.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (north of Kayenta): This valley of sandstone buttes and mesas is one of the most photographed spots in America and is familiar to people all over the world from the countless movies, TV shows, and commercials that have been shot here. A 17-mile dirt road winds through the park, giving visitors close-up views of such landmarks as Elephant Butte, the Mittens, and Totem Pole. See p. 278. Mount Lemmon (Tucson): Sure, the views of Tucson from the city's northern foothills are great, but the vistas from Mount Lemmon are even better. This mountain rises up from the desert like an island rising from the sea. Along the way, the road up the mountain climbs from cactus country to cool pine forests. Although a forest fire on Mount Lemmon in June 2003 left much of the mountain blackened, the views of the desert remain. See p. 355.
5 The Best Golf Courses
The Boulders South Course (Carefree, near Phoenix; 480/ 488-9009): If you've ever seen a photo of someone teeing off beside a massive balancing rock and longed to play that same hole, then you've dreamed about playing the Boulders South Course. Jay Morrish's desert-style design plays around and through the jumble of massive boulders for which the resort is named. See p. 130. The Gold Course at Wigwam Golf and Country Club (Litchfield Park, near Phoenix; 623/ 935-3811): If you're a traditionalist who eschews those cactus- and rattlesnake-filled desert target courses, you'll want to be sure to reserve a tee time on the Wigwam Resort's Gold Course. This 7,100-yard resort course has long been an Arizona legend. See p. 130. Gold Canyon Golf Resort (Apache Junction, near Phoenix; 800/827-5281): Located east of Phoenix, Gold Canyon offers superb golf at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. The second, third, and fourth holes on the Dinosaur Mountain Course are truly memorable. They play across the foot of Dinosaur Mountain and are rated among the top holes in the state. See p. 130.
Troon North Golf Club (Scottsdale; 888/TROON-US): Designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, this semiprivate desert-style course is named for the famous Scottish links that overlook the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde-but that's where the similarities end. Troon North has two 18-hole courses, but the original, known as the Monument Course, is still the favorite. See p. 131. The Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale (Scottsdale; 888/400-4001): If you've always dreamed of playing where the pros play, then you may want to schedule a visit to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which is affiliated with the TPC. Book a tee time on the resort's Stadium Course and you can play on the course that hosts the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open. See p. 131.
Sedona Golf Resort (Sedona; 928/284-9355): It's easy to think that all of Arizona's best courses are in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, but it just isn't so. Up in the red-rock country, at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, lies the Sedona Golf Resort, a traditional course that's among the best in the state. See p. 189.
Lake Powell National Golf Course (Page; 928/645-2023): With fairways that wrap around the base of the red-sandstone bluff atop which sits the town of Page, this is one of the most scenic golf courses in the state. Walls of eroded sandstone come right down to the greens, and alongside one fairway. See p. 287.
Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club (Tucson; & 520/577-4015): Two Tom Fazio-designed courses, the Canyon Course and the Mountain Course, are shared by two of the city's finest resorts. Both desert-style courses play through some of the most stunning scenery anywhere in the state. If we had to choose between the two, we'd go for the Canyon Course. See p. 364.
Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa (Tucson; 520/ 575-7540): With its wide expanses of grass, this traditional course, site of the PGA Tour's Tucson Open, is both challenging and forgiving. The 18th hole of the Orange and Gold courses is considered one of the toughest finishing holes on the tour. See p. 364.
Emerald Canyon Golf Course (Parker; 928/667-3366): Canyons, cliffs, and ravines are the hazards you'll be avoiding on this very interesting municipal course way out on the banks of the Colorado River. While it may not be the best in the state, it plays through some astounding scenery and is a good value. See p. 434.
6 The Best Bird-Watching Spots
Madera Canyon: The mountain canyons of southern Arizona attract an amazing variety of bird life, from species common in the lowland deserts to those that prefer thick forest settings. Madera is a good place to experience this variety. See p. 363.
Excerpted from Frommer's Arizona 2004 by Karl Samson Jane Aukshunas Excerpted by permission.
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