Because this trip is so action packed, let us first give you a quick background on this type of trip. This trip is dubbed “expedition” for primarily one reason; the fact that it takes you on a huge tour of part of northern Arizona. Our description of what we did can be changed to suit your own needs or desires. For example, on this trip, we did not go to the Grand Canyon, even though it is a part of northern Arizona, however, you may consider adding it to your itinerary. We did this trip in two days and it was extremely action packed. Consider taking more time if you want to go at a slower pace. In addition, we stayed at Fernow Cabin, a remote cabin 25 miles south of Flagstaff. This affected out drive time slightly however, you may also consider staying at one of the 3 cabins in Flagstaff, or you could be “less exciting” and stay at a hotel.
Okay, so enough talking; now we’ll get on to what exactly out huge expedition entailed. Our first stop of day 1 was at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, Arizona. This is about 105 miles from the west valley and took approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. Montezuma Castle National Monument showcases the cliff dwelling of the Sinagua Indians that lived there over 1,000 years ago. It also has a museum that talks about local, early inhabitants of the area. Wet Beaver Creek runs right by Montezuma Castle, providing a very scenic location.
Our next stop of the trip was to Tuzigoot National Monument. Tuzigoot sits about 45 minutes away (23 miles). To get there, you can head back towards the I-17 and then take State Highway 260 to main street and then to Tuzigoot Road. The way is marked well and is definitely worth the stop. Tuzigoot are the ruins of the ancient Sinagua who lived there in 1125 to 1400. The ruins are perched on top of a hill and offer a commanding view of the surrounding Verde Valley. For information on hours and fees click here; or for a history on Tuzigoot, click here.
After paying a visit to Tuzigoot, we then headed for Jerome, just to the south. By getting back to Main Street and then taking Highway 89A south, you’ll be in Jerome in just under 20 minutes. Our first stop in Jerome was at the Douglas Mansion State Historic Park. The state park is located on Douglas Rd. and can be easily found by following the signs. The state park features an excellent collection of artifacts, pictures, and lots of information on Jerome. We highly recommend this to anyone passing through Jerome. Right next to the Jerome State Historic Park is the Audrey Headframe Park. Here, you are able to stand over the 1900 foot (yep, you read that right) vertical shaft of the Little Daisy Mine. Also here is the oldest standing wooden headframe in Arizona. For a little rush of adrenalin, or to just claim the bold fact that you stood over said mine shaft, be sure to stop here. Our third and final stop in Jerome was at Gold King Mine & Ghost Town just 2 miles away on Jerome-Perkinsville Rd. The Gold King Mine features a large collection of what some would call junk. It has a lot of old mining equipment, cars, and buildings. It also claims to have the oldest sawmill in Arizona! This is another unique place we recommend you visit when you’re in Jerome. To read more about the history of Jerome, click here. For more information on the state park, click here.
After a somewhat already busy day, we headed north for Sedona. Sedona can be reached by taking Highway 89A north. It’s only about 30 miles and will take about 45 minutes and you will have some great views on the way. In Sedona we had a late lunch and afterwards, headed north through Oak Creek Canyon toward Flagstaff. This drive is extremely scenic and is rated one of the top ten drives in the U.S.; which is why we took it. Slide Rock State park is a nice place to stop if the weather’s right and you have time. We stopped here shortly to take in the beauty of Oak Creek Canyon as well as snap some pictures. However, it was too chilly to risk getting in the water. The scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon is another 30 miles and will take just over 40 minutes.
It was getting to be about 5 o’clock when we arrived in Flagstaff, and because we were staying in a remote cabin about an hour south of Flagstaff, we decided to call it quits for the day and headed out for Fernow Cabin. Fernow sits about 25 miles south of Flagstaff along a very scenic, dirt road. It is well worth the little bit of extra time should you choose to stay here. You really get a feeling of roughing it, yet having enjoyable time there. This is just one of the many cabins available to rent near Flagstaff through the Rooms with a View Program.
After a fun stay at Fernow (campfire and all) we awoke early the next morning and set out for Flagstaff to begin a second action packed day. We got in Flagstaff relatively early, about 8 or 9, and had breakfast. After this we headed towards Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, the first stop of the day. Sunset Crater is 40 minutes from Flagstaff. You can access it by taking U.S. 66 to Highway 89 north. Turn right at the sign (Loop Rd./ Fire Rd. 545). Sunset Crater is a dormant volcano that erupted in about 1064, part of a series of volcanic activity in the Flagstaff area. There is an interpretive trail that takes you near the base of the volcano and through the lava flow. After this fun stop, we continued on loop road to Wupatki National Monument (comes with the entrance fees at Sunset Crater and vice versa). Wupatki sits about 40 minutes from Sunset Crater and the entire loop trail is about 35 miles long. Wupatki has numerous ruins as well as a visitor’s center. Wukoki, Wupatki, the Citadel and Lomaki are all places to stop and explore. They are marked and are scattered around the National Monument. These two stops were very interesting and took us far back into history.
After checking out all that Wupatki had to offer, we headed south again to Flagstaff. We made a quick stop for lunch because it was getting to be that time, and then continued east on I-40. After about two hours of drive time (78 miles) from Wupatki, we pulled into Meteor Crater. Meteor Crater is the first proven and best preserved impact crater on Earth! It is truly impressive. Standing at the rim of the crater, it’s hard to imagine the driving force that displaces such a large amount of rocks. If you’re in the area, this is one stop you definitely should make. In addition to the rim tour, there is a museum, movie-showing, and gift shop. Find out more about the crater by visiting http://www.meteorcrater.com/.
Once we had looked around Meteor Crater, we continued on our journeyed eastward, reaching Winslow, Arizona. There we made a stop at the famous corner portrayed by the Eagles’ song, Take it Easy. We continued south to Pine via Arizona 87 and after another two hours (96 miles from Meteor Crater), reached Strawberry Schoolhouse in Strawberry, Arizona. This schoolhouse is the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona and it too is worth the stop. To save time, we took the 260 along the Mogollon Rim and back into Camp Verde, where we simply followed the I-17 and Loop 101 to navigate back home. After 2 ½ hours, we finally arrived back at home.
This trip sure was a great one. We explored so many new things and discovered more things to explore in the future. We had a wildly successful experience with the Room With a View Program and overall had a blast! The pace of our trip was certainly aggressive and you may consider slowing it down a bit, taking more time to explore certain things, even building your own “Northern Arizona Expedition”.
*For other ideas in Northern Arizona, see round two of this trip, “Northern Arizona Expedition (Part 2)” on our Day trips page!*
638 Miles Total | 14 hours 34 minutes of driving | 6 National Monuments/State Parks