Whether tent camping or a cabin stay is your style, Madera Canyon is a Southeastern Arizona gem many locals have yet to explore. Thirty miles south of Tucson, wildlife abounds — deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes and black bear make their homes in Mount Wrightson’s forested peaks, seasonal streams, outcrops and crevasses.
Madera Canyon traverses four life zones, so from the desert floor to the highest peaks, a wide variety of plants and trees help construct the stunning landscape and serve as residence for more than 250 species of feathered friends — a mountain paradise for birders.
Handicap-accessible trails, walking paths and various level hiking trails give access to the top of 9,453-foot Mount Wrightson.
Spring Falls — one of Madera Canyon’s many wonders. Photo Credit Doug
Erythrina flabelliformis, also known as Southwestern Coral Bean. Photo Credit Doug Moore
Lava River Cave
You’ll need a flashlight and a warm jacket to explore this “tube cave” formed after a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Photo credit Erica Odello
Flagstaff is one of the most “chill” summer getaways for Valley residents. Visit the Lowell Observatory, the historic Riordan Mansion, great restaurants and pine and aspen-covered mountains. And just 30 minutes from the town center find a lava tube, or to be more precise, a lava river cave that opens in the forest surface, taking thrill seekers and the curious three-quarters of a mile underground.
It is as awesome as it sounds — ease down through a hole in the ground and, with flashlight in hand, make your way over some slick boulders and enter the longest cave of its kind in Arizona. There is one way in and one way out of the darkness, where the average year-round temperature is 40 degrees.
Historians say homesteaders in the early 1900s would collect large quantities of ice from the cave, using it for refrigeration. The lava river cave most likely formed after a brief volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Flow ripples are evident on most of the floor in the last two-thirds of the cave, giving the appearance of a frozen river. It sounds like a nice place to be when the Valley hits 110.
It’s a cool lesson in Arizona history, geology, biology and cave climates — so bring a warm jacket.
It’s a day trip. It’s a weekend getaway. It’s an overnight jaunt. It’s Jerome — Arizona’s most haunted habitat. The Mile High Town, at 5,200 feet at the top of Cleopatra Hill, grew from a settlement of tents serving a copper mining camp to Arizona’s fourth largest city in 1899.
Ninety miles from Phoenix, between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Jerome is no longer a mining town, but an amalgam of artists, artisans, writers, musicians and ghosts — rumors of hauntings have survived the decades. Buildings, some creaky, leaning and definitely old, are precariously perched on the steep hillside (photographers dig Jerome). But there is no need to be afraid; Jerome’s citizens are devoted caretakers and hosts, offering quaint inns, restaurants and shops.
Something old, something … older. A structure at Goldking Mine appears frozen in time. The spooky silhouettes of long-quiet machinery and haunting mannequins placed throughout the property evoke an eerie sense of the past. Photo credit Erica Odello
Built in 1926, the Jerome Grand Hotel structure was originally a hospital. These days guests book rooms at the hotel hoping for a paranormal experience. Photo credit Erica Odello
Enjoy Patagonia’s laid back vibe in the comfortable and charming adobe Duquesne House.
With great lodging, great pizza, great landscape and a half-hour drive to Arizona wine country, Patagonia, the heart of Arizona’s Mountain Empire, holds close a 500-year history of Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers, miners and Jesuit priests. A picturesque drive off Interstate 10, just south of Tucson, will wind through rolling hills, grazing cattle and windmills. After a spell in Arizona’s nearby wine country, a hike in the hills, a visit to surrounding ghost towns or to watch bats feeding at sunset, you can make a historic adobe inn your home for the night.
Duquesne House was constructed on Patagonia’s original main street in 1898. It’s an intimate setting with three suites (and one guest room), each with their own entrance, sitting room and access to the back patio and hummingbird gardens. Peace and harmony are easy to come by at Duquesne House, but there is plenty of small-town revelry to enjoy on the weekends in Patagonia.
Forget about “Standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona,” or at least don’t spend too much time there. The true attraction in this historic town, about an hour east of Flagstaff, is the last of the great railway hotels — La Posada — a stunning tribute to the nation’s, and Arizona’s, railway history. It sits like an architectural touchstone in the high, windblown landscape of northern Arizona.
Built in 1929 and designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (of Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch fame), Colter also pioneered the designs down to the minute details: china, furniture and landscape. Her architectural vision for the property was to mimic the spaciousness and grandiosity of a wealthy landowner’s hacienda.
Join the likes of Jane Russell, Albert Einstein, Clark Gable and Shirley Temple, perusing the open porticos, wide wood vigas, hammered tin, expansive lounging areas, writing tables and comfy nooks for relaxing with a good book. La Posada is also home to an impressive and eclectic art collection.
Leave your troubles behind and relax poolside at the classic and elegant Arizona Inn.
Tucson isn’t just for Wildcats — it’s a quick getaway for Phoenicians who can appreciate a town that’s cooler by day and downright enjoyable on summer nights — especially by the pool. While trendy boutique hotels have been springing up in American cities and suburbs the past 15 years, Arizona Inn, since 1930, remains the granddame of comely, elegant and classic examples of the state’s finest lodging.
Since its inception, the Arizona Inn has been owned and operated by the founder, Isabella Greenway, or her descendants. Guest rooms are woven throughout the property’s 14 acres amongst gardens, gazebos and flowered paths. The pool is the sort rarely found anymore — peaceful. No splash pads, no drop slides, no lazy rivers, no inner tubes; just chaise lounges, umbrellas and someone to bring a cocktail.
The dining room is stately, a model for Western style. But if you are tempted to venture away from the property for dinner or entertainment, The Old Pueblo puts history, culture and great Mexican food at your fingertips.
Southern Arizona’s Santa Catalina mountain range. More than 200 species of birds make their homes on Mount Lemmon along with bears, mountain lions, bobcats and deer.
More than 125 years ago, botanist Sarah Lemmon trekked the Santa Catalina mountain range by mule and foot, with the help of Native American guides. The mountain bearing her name is some 30 miles from Tucson and 30 degrees cooler, studded with statuesque Aspen and giant Ponderosa Pines. At 8,500 feet in the Santa Catalina mountain range, outdoors is where it’s at —a haven for spotting wildlife, with fur or feathers. Bears, bobcats, mountain lions and deer call Mount Lemmon home, and so do more than 200 species of birds. Feathered finds include golden eagles, olive and hermit warblers and the gregarious pygmy nuthatch. Tent camping sites are plentiful, and cabins are available. In winter, providing there’s ample snow, Mount Lemmon hosts skiers, and in summertime, the ski lift will take visitors on a half-hour climb to the 9,100-foot summit.
The Airfloat, circa 1957, was considered the apex of travel trailers in its day. Photo Credit The Shady Dell
What began as an Old West mining town in the late 1800s, 90 miles southeast of Tucson, is now a thriving artists’ community with quirky shops, fine bakeries, great restaurants and one of the funkiest, vintage venues in all of Arizona — The Shady Dell.
While Bisbee is steeped in history, The Shady Dell doubles back on that history. It’s a living, mid-century modern museum featuring lovingly restored vintage aluminum travel trailers. Top to bottom the 1950s trailers are awash in replica upholstery and window coverings, blonde wood cabinetry and beautifully crafted wood ceilings.
Dot’s, an authentic 1950s diner on property, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but all the trailers are equipped with working kitchens, complete with era-appropriate glasses, dishes and serving pieces. The travel structures make a loose circle around the property (a haven for campers and travelers since 1927), providing a central gathering place with a gazebo and grills.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of yachting, here’s your chance: A pristine 1947 Chris Craft Yacht is docked at The Shady Dell. The pleasure boat sleeps two and sports a fully equipped galley.
After Oak Creek Canyon, Sycamore Canyon is the second largest in Arizona’s red rock country, spanning parts of Coconino and Yavapai counties. At 20 miles long and a maximum width of 7 miles, hiking this beauty will take your breath away. It’s far less traveled than Oak Creek Canyon, and the journey, although harrowing at times, depending upon water flow and errant cows, is well worth the time and exhaustion. Deer, mountain lions and black bear inhabit the protected 56,000-acre Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.
Forget about cabins and developed campgrounds; in fact no overnight camping is permitted. What you use in the canyon must be carried in, and out. Depending upon the access trail chosen, trekkers may find springs, swim holes, tricky rock ledges to navigate, small caves in the canyon walls and fallen trees, all to bask in the shade of cottonwoods and mesquite or on warmed outcrops of basalt, sandstone and limestone.
The Parsons Springs trail (about eight miles round-trip) is the most popular access point, about 25 miles north of Cottonwood.
Fossil Creek is a designated National Wild and Scenic River.
South of the Mogollon Rim at the base of a steep canyon lies Fossil Springs Wilderness Area, sustaining a diverse and lush ecosystem with more than 30 species of trees. This locale may offer the most picturesque and abundant natural springs in the state.
Thirty miles southeast of Camp Verde, the hike to Fossil Springs is a vigorous eight miles round trip. From the trail one can take in wildlife, study fossils, explore the waters of travertine pools and swim in the millions of gallons of cool water that gush from the springs every hour.
Still visible along the trail is the wood flume, built in 1916 and used to supply water from the springs to the Irving and Childs Power Plants to turn their power-generating turbines. President Barack Obama signed legislation in 2009 designating Fossil Creek as a Wild and Scenic River after an arduous campaign by the Arizona Nature Conservancy.
It isn’t that challenging to stay cool during Valley summers — just stay inside or in the water. But if you are dulled by resort interiors, bored with lazy rivers, had it with mall crowds or your golf game has gone south, our 10 Cool Getaways are mind-bendingly beautiful and offer a taste of fresh air. Go, be cool.