Let me guess, you’re here because you have booked a trip to Arizona, and you’re wondering about places to see near Grand Canyon. If you’re headed to Grand Canyon, here’s the best news… Arizona is by no means a one trick pony. It literally has so much to see that even I, a 13 year Northern Arizona Resident, have not yet exhausted all it’s natural treasures. If you have a trip planned to the big ditch, consider seeing some of these gems on the way. These are icons you can see on your way from Phoenix to Grand Canyon.
This town is tucked against a towering canyon of Red Rocks and boasts hundreds of mountain biking and hiking trails that are well worth stopping to see. We highly recommend doing a jeep ride up Schnebly Hill Road (pictured) which can be accomplished by taking a tour or rented a 4×4 vehicle. It is definitely a technical road, so beware if you take your own truck. Other awesome hikes in the area are Bell trail, West Fork, Devil’s bridge, and Sycamore canyon. Guidance Air is highly recommended for a helicopter tour of the area.
This area is well worth a 2 or 3 day stay in it’s own right. Situated at 7000 ft above sea level, it is far cooler than it’s desert sister cities and enjoys four beautiful seasons including snowy winters. Enjoy the quaint town and it’s awesome restaurants and hotels. Visit the museums and historical route 66 antique stores and galleries. The highlight? The San Francisco Peaks area which is home with Snowbowl Ski Resort and the Humphrey’s Peak hike. Mountain biking is incredible in and around the mountain and basin. Visit Walnut Canyon to see some incredible Native American ruins. This little town will be a highlight to your Arizona trip.
Sunset Crater / Wupatki
There are 3 routes from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. One is via Williams and is mostly highway. The second is the incredibly scenic route via highway 180 that weaves through Aspen forests and close to the Peaks, and the third is through the Navajo reservation via highway 89/64. The latter takes you through the painted desert and also right past Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument. This area boasts incredible natural and human history and is well worth stopping for.
Navajo Reservation / Painted Desert
If you take the route to Grand Canyon from Flagstaff via highway 89/64, you’ll get to see a chunk of what’s famously known as “the Painted Desert”. It is beautiful in an unearthly way with the rainbow shades that line the rocks. Visit the Cameron Rest Stop and Restaurant and experience “Navajo Tacos”, a traditional meal of meat, beans and vegetables served on Fry bread.
If you drive to Grand Canyon via highway 180, you’ll see an obscure parking lot to your left next to a small red cinder mountain. Although it appears unimpressive from the roadway, the 2 mile hike reveals a mini Bryce-Canyon-esque natural feature that will add variety to the drive and beauty tucked away from the average traveler who will tear past this gem without even noticing it there.