Located north of the greater Phoenix area, North Central Arizona is a sprawling area of four distinct seasons. Winter skiing is surrounded by an alpine vista. Year-round, there are hiking opportunities through the brilliant red rocks of Sedona or the sprawling pine forests of Payson.
But it’s not just the size of the place that impresses, it’s the variety. Each community has something unique to offer. Best to know a little bit about each:
Those who know Sedona know the area has something very special about it – a mystical energy, the famous New Age vortexes, canyons and a panorama of the unforgettable red rocks. Sedona has always attracted artists and spiritualists – but it’s also known for its golf courses, world-class spas, hiking trails and outdoor recreation.
At a mile high in elevation, Prescott’s four-season mountain setting makes it a magnet for outdoor adventurers. And there’s history here: the city also holds the distinction of having been Arizona’s first territorial capital with a town centre peppered with Victorian architecture.
In Payson there is a national forest to discover, rugged mountain panoramas, creeks and streams to fish and a spider web of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Once called the “Wickedest Town in the West,” Jerome has a lively history as a copper mining town. When the copper market collapsed, Jerome faced fading away as a ghost town, but artists, galleries and B&Bs have moved in to breathe life back into the historic community with the mile high views over the Verde Valley.
Far from the bustle of the big city, communities like Globe and Show Low and Sunrise mark Arizona’s High Country. Globe was named for a huge nugget of silver resembling a globe that was dug from the area.
Must See, Must Do
- Some of the best-preserved ruins in the Southwest are found at Montezuma Castle National Monument. The multi-level Sinagua cliff dwelling is built into vertical canyon walls and was accessible only by ladders.
- It’s a nail biter of a steep road in parts, but the 74-kilometre Apache Trail has been called one of America’s most scenic drives. The trail follows the old stagecoach route through the Superstition Mountains.
- The Red Rock Scenic Byway Road outside of Sedona is Arizona’s first All-American Road. The 12-kilometre road winds through tall pine forests and past the area’s trademark red sandstone rocks.
- Tackle the natural rock water slide into the swimming hole at Slide Rock State Park near Sedona.
Step Into History
Driving into the forests, mountains and canyons of North Central Arizona, the calendar seems to shed more than a hundred years. Frontiersmen, a Wild West past and a history of silver and copper mining have all left their marks on the architecture and lifestyle of the area.
- Fort Verde State Historic Park was once the barracks occupied by U.S. Army troops in the 1870s during the Central Arizona Indian Wars. The restored quarters are outfitted with authentic furnishings.
- Prescott’s history goes back to the days of the Wild West, when lawmen like Wyatt Earp cut their teeth here. The era is captured in the photos, maps and archives on display at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
- Once the territorial capital, Prescott has more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One of the more colourful parts of that history is the 100 block of South Montezuma Street, known as Whiskey Row, lined with the saloons where Arizona’s gunslingers drank and fought.
- The authentic Wild West is also found in Wickenburg. A downtown historical walking tour stops by the two-century-old mesquite Jail Tree, where unfortunate lawbreakers might find themselves chained.
- By any yardstick, North Central Arizona has preserved the ruins of prehistoric pueblo cultures: A steep hiking trail leads to the Tuzigoot National Monument ruins of a 110-room hilltop Sinagua pueblo; visitors can explore the old abandoned pueblo at Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park; the Tonto National Monument preserves the remains of a 19-room masonry cliff dwelling; and the Kinishba Ruins are one of the largest and most complete Mogollon ruins in the state.
- Visitors to Sedona looking for a break from shopping and hiking can check out the Sedona Heritage Museum’s displays on pioneers, cowboy history and movies that were filmed in Sedona.
- Sedona CVBWickenburg’s Desert Caballeros Western Museum displays one of the state’s finest collections of Western art.
- Once a wild mining town, Jerome was saved from oblivion and reinvented by artists as an enclave of studios, shops and galleries.
- Sedona is known as a hub for centres of energy known as vortexes. New Age devotees come to take workshops, hike and indulge in energy-inspired spa treatments.
AOT/Joanne WestIn an area defined by dramatic landscapes, the opportunities for playing out of doors are unlimited. The Mogollon Rim is a long, uplifted slice of the Earth’s crust, a wilderness area of pine forests, mountains and deserts. The mountains overlook the long Verde Valley, home to both the startling red rocks and a rich mining past. Chances to get in touch with nature abound.
- The massive, rounded granite boulders at Granite Dells can create a bit of a hiking maze. The area is a popular camping spot.
- Payson is a perfect home base for anyone looking to explore the area’s national forests – Sitgreaves, Tonto and Coconino – as well as natural wonders like Tonto Natural Bridge, a 122-metre-long travertine bridge, carved by the water of the creek.
- Birders love Dead Horse Ranch State Park – along the Verde River.
- Sedona’s jeep tours delve deep off the beaten path and into the area’s towering red rocks. Various outfitters are based in downtown Sedona, offering day trips of Sedona and the surrounding region.
- The popular trail at West Fork of Oak Creek is located just north of Sedona and is a favourite with birders and hikers. The area is at the upper margin of the Sonoran Desert and has good birding any time of the year.