101 Things to do in Northern Arizona
91. Step back in time on Rt 66*
Route 66, commonly referred to as “The Mother Road,” is the iconic road which ran for over 2000 miles from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Pier marks the official end of the road and there is a really unique photo opp there on the boardwalk. Rt 66 was extremely popular with road trippers and tourists for over 2 decades, up until the new I-40 highway replaced much of the road.
Arizona, known as “the place that saved Rt 66,” is home to the longest continuous stretch of the famous road, a 158 mile piece of living history between the towns of Ahsfork and the Topock. There are many interesting stretches of this nostalgic road all throughout the northern portion of the state, the most notable found in Williams, Seligman, Flagstaff, and Kingman. Williams was the last Rt 66 town to be bypassed by the new interstate and is filled with all sorts of nostalgic restaurants, memorabilia shops, neon signs, and quirky decor. It is like stepping back into the 50’s.
Seligman is known as the birthplace of Rt 66 as the preservation movement began here. Flagstaff is home to a number of Rt 66 attractions and an hour or so east of the city is the Petrified National Forest, which is the only national park to be crossed by Rt 66. Flagstaff hosts a Route 66 Days Festival each year with lots of festive events on the lineup including a classic car show.
About 85% of the 2400 mile long iconic road is still driveable. And one thing’s for sure – Arizona is one of the best remaining options for “Getting Your Kicks on Route 66.”
92. Hike the Fat man’s loop
Fat Man’s Loop in Flagstaff is a nice hiking choice for those limited on time as it is located right in town. It’s super easy to get to, short, and yet still very scenic. This trail happens to be one of the local’s favorites due to the gorgeous scenery and lack of big crowds. Diverse plant life that can be seen along the way includes everything from ponderosa pine and white fir to yucca plants typically found only at lower elevations. Wildlife sightings are pretty minimal, however, you will probably see lots of Albert’s squirrels and possibly a grey fox.
There are lots of interesting rock formations as well as great views of the city and surrounding high desert countryside. Interestingly, you will find out why this trail is called fat man’s loop when you attempt to squeeze your way through 2 big rock boulders! If you are up for a real challenge, you can connect to Elden Lookout Trail which affords really big views, at the cost of an extra 2 miles and a 2000 foot elevation gain.
93. Watch a gorgeous sunset over the mountains*
Watching a beautiful desert sunset is one of the most relaxing things to do in Flagstaff. A picturesque drive up Snowbowl Road leads you to a little overlook area with prime views of the area’s mountain ranges. After a winter snowstorm is the most fascinating time to visit as the mountains looks so peaceful and gorgeous when covered with fresh snow. Buffalo Park is another nice place to watch a sunset over the Peaks and Mt. Elden. Another prime sunset viewing area in Northern Arizona is the Airport Mesa overlook in Sedona mentioned earlier.
94. Enjoy the area’s only 4 diamond casino
The Twin Arrows casino, just 30 minutes outside of Flagstaff, is the regions only AAA 4 diamond casino resort. Unfortunately, the casino just got rid of their poker room, however, you will still find all the usual table games plus a large bingo hall. Dining options include a nice little affordable buffet which offers both American and Native American style food offerings. There is also a wonderful fine dining establishment called the Zenith Steakhouse, which is definitely one of the better choices in the area for a fine dining experience.
As the only downside, the entire casino is very smoky and installing a few air purifiers would be a wise investment!
95. Browse through ancient pictographs
Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve is a hidden gem of land, recently acquired in 2012, which allows visitors to take a look at hundreds of petroglyphs from the Northern Singua who inhabited the region from 1000 to 1200 AD. There are a number of short trails here, all through the pretty ponderosa forest, where you can get in a refreshing easy workout (hiking or biking) while taking in a little history at the same time. If you are at all interested in Native American culture, you will definitely want to plan for a stop at Picture Canyon, which was dedicated a National Historic Site in 2008.
96. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of Sedona via the Airport Mesa Loop
One of Sedona’s most popular sunset viewing areas is also one of the best hikes, not to mention an energy vortex site. Luckily, the trail does not get nearly as crowded as the sunset viewing area. This trail is easy yet long (plan on about 3 hours) and also quite scary at times due to the super steep drop offs. Strangely, it’s still popular with mountain bikers who must have absolutely no fear of heights! The most amazing red rock views surround you in every direction along with lots of healthy green prickly pear cacti and many other unique forms of desert plant life.
97. Step inside the smallest church on Rt 66
In Winslow, you will find “The Church of the Mother Road,” which is not only the smallest church on Rt 66, but also one of the smallest in the US. If you are into oddball attractions, this one can be combined with Standin’ On the Corner Park, also in Winslow. And while you are here, you might as well continue on another hour or so to the fascinatingly strange Petrified National Forest.
98. Take a scenic drive along the Mongollon Rim
The Mongollon Rim is a unique geologic feature which expands about 200 miles from Yavapai County Arizona to the New Mexico border. It forms the southern end of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. The escarpment was formed as a result of erosion and faulting. The 54 mile Rim Road Scenic drive is very scenic with gorgeous views of the ponderosa pine forests and dramatic limestone and sandstone cliffs. Besides sightseeing and scenic overlooks along the way, there are numerous places for hiking, fishing, and boating. The drive is also very popular in fall with leaf peepers as this area sees beautiful golden and red hues this time of year.
99. See the world’s largest petrified wood
“The world’s largest petrified tree” is found at the Geronimo Trading Post near Holrook Arizona. You will go right past this rest area on your way to the Petrified National Forest. It’s quite hard to miss as there are dozens of billboards along the way. The tree reportedly weights 80 tons! This attraction is free to view and there is also a gift shop on-site where you will find all sorts of unique souvenirs. If anything, it’s a nice little rest stop to get up and stretch for a bit.
100. Sign up for the Sedona Marathon
The Sedona Marathon is one of the most scenic and challenging courses in the country. The course is very difficult with a 2000 foot elevation gain, however, is also the most picturesque course with towering red rock views in every direction. If you are not up for such a challenge (understandably), you can opt for the half marathon, 10k, or 5k. However, be aware that thee courses are also extremely challenging with major elevation gains.
While the Sedona Marathon is not the place to set a PR, it is a great choice for anyone looking to run a scenic race in one of the most beautiful places in the country. There are lots of great resorts, restaurants, and hiking trails in the area, so make a weekend out of it.
101. Take in a bird eye’s view of Sedona via the Doe Mountain Trail*
The short, moderately challenging trek up Doe Mountain is well worth the effort for the outstanding 360 degree views atop the mesa. There is a 400 foot elevation gain, although there are gradual switchback to the top, so it feels a bit easier than it looks from a distance. For some reason, this hike is not nearly as popular as it should be.
The views here remind me of those found at Zion National Park, which in my opinion is one of the most gorgeous places out West. Few hikes offer such out-of-this-world scenery in return for less than half a mile climb (the hike to the summit is just 0.7 miles, although you can explore the top of the mesa via a mile self guided tour).