Great Places to Visit in Northern Arizona

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Joe Boison, Sonmore’s Operations and Administrative Manager, recently embarked on a trip to Northern Arizona. Here he reflects on some of the magical experiences that the region has to offer and even shares a couple of financial lessons learned along the way!

Arizona, the 48th state in the union, is known as the Grand Canyon state, as the Grand Canyon is the state’s main natural attraction. However, apart from the Grand Canyon, there are several other exciting sites to visit, especially in the northern part of the state.

The following list of recommendations is based on personal experience or information received from experienced travelers. It’s also worth noting that, due to high summer temperatures, the ideal time to visit is in the fall or spring.

Getting Started

Here are some of the best ways to gather information about potential places to visit:

  • A town’s online website – usually in the format of “visitXYZ.com” where XYZ refers to the name of the town. For example: www.visitsedona.com
    Many towns will send a free paper copy of their visitor guides upon request (expect a couple of weeks to arrive)
  • Things to do section of travel websites such as Viator
  • Travel vlogs/videos on websites such as YouTube

Sightseeing Tours:

One of the most scenic tours to do is in the Sedona area. The most well-known is the iconic Pink Jeep tour. However, there are other tour operators like AZ Safari and Scenic Sedona tours.

There are two main types of tours:

  • Paved – in either covered or uncovered vehicles on regular roads with stops at specific scenic spots such as Cathedral Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross, etc.
  • Unpaved – off-road tracks for some outdoor experience such as the scenic canyons in and around Sedona

Other Types of Tours

Other tours include helicopter rides from Sedona, operating out of the Sedona Airport, and balloon tours, which are a great option for those wanting a bit more adventure. The sunrise tours are particularly spectacular.

The Camp Verde Railroad in Clarkdale offers railway rides, which go through the scenic landscape of Northern AZ. These 4-hour, 20-mile journeys take guests through over a hundred years of history in comfortable seating arrangements. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, they also offer specially-themed rides

Route 66

Northern Arizona has some of the iconic Route 66 roads, with Williams being a historic Route 66 memorabilia town to visit.

Western/Cowboy

Northern Arizona is cattle ranching territory with a long history of cowboys. A surprise fact to some is that many of the early cowboy movies were shot on site in the Sedona area and some movie set structures remain to this day.

Two main cowboy-related attractions in northern Arizona include the Sedona Heritage Museum and the Blazin M Ranch site/dinner.

The Sedona Heritage Museum features relics of the indoor and outdoor lives of Arizona cowboys and homesteaders. One interesting aspect of the museum is the history of how the town of Sedona got its name—after Sedona Schnebly (https://sedonamuseum.org/historyofsedona/). Another feature of the museum is the spectacular views of some of Sedona’s most iconic red stone mountains.

The Blazin M Ranch in Cottonwood is a replica frontier town that offers evenings of western activities, entertainment, and even a cowboy-themed chuckwagon dinner and musical show. The site recently added “Be Wild”, a brand-new family fun park.

Landmarks and Landscapes

Northern AZ has some of the most spectacular parks and monuments worth visiting. One of the most unique is the Petrified Forest National Park, which consists of prehistoric petrified logs in their natural state, as well as amazing “painted desert” natural landscapes in a 26-mile drive through the park. To fully experience this park, plan to spend at least half a day, as there is much to do.

There are two main entrances and exits to the park, each with a visitor’s center and gift shop:

  • South Entrance (Painted Desert) – has a bigger gift shop
  • North Entrance (Rainbow Forest) – closer to the rainbow forest museum and a petrified logs trail

To get the full experience, be sure to stop at the Blue Mesa outlook and take the trail down into the canyon to get a closer look at the painted desert landscape and petrified logs in their natural state. To get a close-up look at the petrified logs, be sure to stop at the Crystal Forest outlook or at the trail behind the Painted Desert (south entrance) to the park.

Note: The Petrified Forest National Park is pet friendly!

Two other great landmarks in Northern Arizona include the Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Both are located in Page within about 10 minutes of each other and offer guided tours by experienced and knowledgeable local guides. Antelope Canyon is owned by the Navajo Nation and is referred to as the heart of Arizona and soul of the Navajo Nation.

Native American Life

Northern AZ has some special monuments that provide insight into early Native American life. Two of these are the Wupatki Ruins National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument, both near Flagstaff. As the name implies, Wupatki Ruins is home to the ruins of early Native American dwellings and other structures. Walnut Canyon National Monument is home to ruins of mountain dwellings of early Native Americans. Both show the resourcefulness and hardiness of the early dwellers of our beloved state.

Space Exploration

The higher altitude of northern AZ makes it a great location for space and aerospace research. Two sites that exemplify this are Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff and the Meteor Crater & Barringer Space Museum in Winslow. Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered and one can explore the universe through tours and look at the night sky through powerful telescopes. Meteor Crater is regarded as the best-preserved meteorite impact site on the planet, as well as the site where Apollo astronauts did part of their training for their historic space explorations.

Wildlife

Northern AZ has some unique sites for experiencing different animals. One of these is Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams. Bearizona is a drive-through experience to observe wolves, bears, bison, mountain goats and other animals.

Another site is the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, which is a popular destination to experience an African safari adventure right here in AZ! An additional feature is the Zippin Safari with thrilling rides along zip lines.

Financial Insights

Visiting several of the aforementioned sites provided a very refreshing opportunity to appreciate some of the amazing nature in our beloved state of Arizona, as well as to reflect on life in general.
In reflecting on the experience, two main finance-related insights came to mind:

  • Financial Expansion: If someone was to visit Arizona and only visit the Grand Canyon, that person would be missing out on all of the other wonderful attractions the state has to offer. Similarly, there is no one focal point of a person’s financial picture. Although many consider having a retirement account such as an IRA or Roth IRA to be the most important piece of their financial puzzle, there are other areas that one can and should focus on as well, such as tax optimization, college saving, etc.
  • Long-term Focus: Just like in nature—whether it be the petrification of wooden logs or the sustainability and survival of native tribes—there are varying finance-related processes that require determined focus on the long-term. For instance, native tribes knew and adjusted to periods of plenty (summer) by gathering and storing away for the leaner periods (winter) when food and resources were scarcer. Likewise, in our good times we can invest more into our financial accounts in preparation for leaner periods such as times of high inflation.

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