13 November 2018 by Heather Harris
Wexas USA specialist Heather Harris offers her expert advice on heading off the beaten track in Arizona.
You’ll know Arizona for its movie stars – that endless desert scenery, the iconic bluffs of Monument Valley and, yes, the world’s largest canyon. But, these silver-screen backdrops aren’t just reserved for John Wayne; it all makes for some truly arresting driving scenery. What’s more, those who look a little closer are rewarded with everything from desert retreats to millennia-old American-Indian villages. This is your introduction to the complete Arizona.
Monument Valley, Arizona
And, most introductions are made in Phoenix. Not only is it served by direct flights from London, but, as the state capital, it’s Arizona’s cultural powerhouse. Having begun life in the 1860s as a humble farming town, today it’s America’s fifth largest city. Here, award-winning restaurants, operas, museums and all-American sports play out to the stunning desert backdrop of the Salt River Valley.
Then, on the city’s eastern border lies Scottsdale. As a gateway to the cacti icons and giant skies of the Sonoran Desert, it’s one of the Southwest’s leading retreats. And, since visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright set up shop here in 1911, its wild-west old town has been joined by everything from hip hotels and art galleries to spa getaways and top-class golf courses. Just remember to find time to hike and bike among the surrounding red-rock buttes of Camelback Mountain and Papago Park.
You’ll also want to leave the urbanity behind, driving out through horizonless deserts and kissing Route 66. You’ll soon find yourself among remote Native-American settlements, with Chinle my pick for its soaring sandstone spires and prehistoric rock art. Then, in between the show-stopping Grand Canyon (which celebrates its national-park centenary in 2019) and the icons of Monument Valley, there’s pretty Lake Powell. Here, archaeological sites are set among dramatic red-rock stands and flooded gorges.
It’s all knitted together by truly scenic drives. My recommended route is a 14-day road trip, taking in all the destinations I’ve mentioned in this article.
Lake Powell, Arizona