7 great road trips for Ari­zona’s warm win­ter

The best things to do around Ari­zona dur­ing warm win­ter

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Roger Nay­lor

Take ad­van­tage of mild weather to ex­plore more of Ari­zona, near and far. Here are seven of the best things to do around the state this win­ter.

Run among the red rocks

Since one of your New Year’s res­o­lu­tions likely had some­thing to do with ex­er­cis­ing more, here’s your chance to keep that prom­ise and en­joy some spec­tac­u­lar scenery at the same time.

En­ter the Se­dona Marathon, con­sid­ered one of the most beau­ti­ful road races in the coun­try. It’s ready, set, run on Feb. 3 for this an­nual event.

En­joy a work­out, breathe clean cool air (don’t for­get you’re at 4,500 feet el­e­va­tion) and sa­vor the won­der­land of rocks and for­ma­tions that make Se­dona such an amaz­ing place to visit. Not quite up to a full 26.2 miles? No prob­lem. Try the half-marathon, 10K or 5K runs. There’s even a sep­a­rate 10K and 5K for kids 12 and younger.

Reg­is­tra­tion fees range from $50 for the 5K up to $85 for the full marathon, if you sign up early. Add an ex­tra 10 bucks if you regis­ter on site. Bet­ter start train­ing now. As they say around town, “If the hills don’t take your breath away, the scenery will.”

De­tails: 928-380-0633, www.se­dona­ma­rathon.com.

Climb to cliff dwellings

Tonto Na­tional Mon­u­ment show­cases two beau­ti­fully pre­served Sal­ado cliff dwellings. Built in nat­u­ral caves on the low flanks of the Su­per­sti­tion Moun­tains and over­look­ing Roo­sevelt Lake, the struc­tures date back more than 700 years.

The Sal­ado peo­ple farmed the Salt River Val­ley and sup­ple­mented their diet by hunt­ing and gath­er­ing plants. They were known for their artis­tic flair, pro­duc­ing ex­quis­ite poly­chrome pot­tery and in­tri­cately wo­ven tex­tiles. Ar­ti­facts found at the site are on dis­play in the vis­i­tor cen­ter.

The Lower Cliff Dwelling is open year round and can be reached by a steep paved path, a 1-mile round trip. Some of the 20 rooms can be en­tered. The larger Up­per Cliff Dwelling is ac­ces­si­ble only by guided tours, which are of­fered Fri­days through Mon­days from Novem­ber through April. Reser­va­tions are re­quired and can be made by call­ing the mon­u­ment. Tours leave at 10 a.m. and are 3 miles round trip with sev­eral rocky, un­even steps. Tours last 3 to 4 hours. En­trance fee is $5 per adult, chil­dren 15 and un­der are free. De­tails: 928-467-2241, www.nps.gov/tont.

Ogle a vil­lage full of art

Head south and be part of Ari­zona’s long­est-run­ning art festival, now in its 59th year.

The town of Tubac has long been known as an artist haven, so that en­ergy is al­ready wo­ven into the com­mu­nity. It just in­ten­si­fies dur­ing the Tubac Festival of the Arts, when hun­dreds of vis­it­ing artists from all over the coun­try roll into town.

Roam the shady streets of this his­toric vil­lage en­joy­ing work in all sorts of medi­ums. Horse-drawn trol­leys, rov­ing mu­si­cians and a food court fea­tur­ing mul­ti­ple cuisines add fla­vor to the event, which takes place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Feb. 7-11. Tubac is 45 min­utes south of Tuc­son on In­ter­state 19.

De­tails: 520-398-2704, www.tubac az.com.

Re­visit the fron­tier

When Ari­zona was still a wild and woolly ter­ri­tory, the frag­ile peace was held to­gether by a hand­ful of army posts scat­tered from desert to moun­tains. Fort Verde was one of the most cru­cial of these. It served as the pri­mary base for Gen. Ge­orge Crook’s U.S. Army sol­diers and scouts in the 1870s and 1880s.

To­day, Fort Verde State His­toric Park is the best-pre­served ex­am­ple of an In­dian Wars-pe­riod fort in Ari­zona. Orig­i­nal build­ings still stand. Each has been con­verted to a mu­seum-qual­ity ex­hibit, fur­nished in the style of the times and stocked with orig­i­nal ar­ti­facts and mem­o­ra­bilia. One notable piece on dis­play is a bu­gle found on the Lit­tle Bighorn bat­tle­field in 1878 that later was owned by a colonel sta­tioned at the fort.

Vis­i­tors who study the decor will gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of life on the fron­tier for these sol­diers, the hard­ships they faced and the com­forts they sought. A glimpse at the crude sur­gi­cal in­stru­ments dis­played in the doc­tor’s quar­ters will make ev­ery­one grate­ful for ad­vance­ments in med­i­cal technology.

The park is at 125 Hol­la­mon St., Camp Verde. Ad­mis­sion is $7, $4 for ages 7-13. De­tails: 928-567-3275, azs­tate parks.com/fort-verde.

Get a close-up look at the stars

Pat­ter­son Ob­ser­va­tory and the Huachuca As­tron­omy Club in Sierra Vista host pub­lic view­ings of the night sky, weather per­mit­ting. The view­ings take place most months on the Thurs­day near­est to the first quar­ter moon. That would be Jan. 18, Feb. 22 and March 22 this win­ter.

View the heavens through the 20inch Pat­ter­son Tele­scope and other in­stru­ments. South­east­ern Ari­zona is known for its clear, dark skies. Pos­si­ble sight­ings in­clude craters of the cres­cent moon, Uranus, Nep­tune, dou­ble stars, star clus­ters, plan­e­tary neb­ula and dis­tant gal­ax­ies.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free, although do­na­tions will go to­ward op­er­at­ing ex­penses for the fa­cil­ity, which is owned by Univer­sity South Foun­da­tion. The ob­ser­va­tory is at 1140 N. Colombo Drive, Sierra Vista. De­tails: www.ha­cas­tron­omy.org.

See the White Dove of the Desert

Fa­ther Euse­bio Fran­cisco Kino ar­rived in these parts in 1687 on the fron­tier of New Spain. He be­gan work­ing among In­di­ans the Spa­niards called Pi­mas. In their lan­guage, they were O’odham, or “the peo­ple.” Kino trav­eled from Up­per Sonora, Mex­ico, to south­ern Ari­zona, a re­gion he dubbed Pime­ria Alta, es­tab­lish­ing mis­sions and in­tro­duc­ing the na­tives to cat­tle and wheat.

The Mis­sion San Xavier del Bac was es­tab­lished in 1692. The first church was razed dur­ing an Apache raid in 1770. To­day’s mis­sion was built be­tween 1783 and 1797, the old­est Euro­pean struc­ture in Ari­zona, and is known for its el­e­gant Span­ish colonial ar­chi­tec­ture and col­or­ful art adorn­ing the in­te­rior.

Shim­mer­ing in the Ari­zona sun 10 miles south of Tuc­son on the To­hono O’odham Reser­va­tion, the “White Dove of the Desert” re­mains an ac­tive parish. There are a mu­seum and gift shop on the premises and free guided tours are avail­able Mon­day through Satur­day. Vol­un­teer do­cents trained in the his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture and cul­ture of the mis­sion lead the 45-minute tours.

De­tails: 520-294-2624, www.sanxa vier­mis­sion.org.

Float or hike along the Colorado River

Im­pe­rial Na­tional Wildlife Refuge near Yuma shel­ters 30 miles of the Colorado River, in­clud­ing the last un­chan­neled sec­tion be­fore the river en­ters Mex­ico. Ca­noeists, kayak­ers and an­glers can launch at Meers Point and float along a re­mote and peace­ful stretch of water.

The Painted Desert Trail makes a 1.3mile loop through lav­ishly frac­tured ter­rain, weav­ing among col­or­ful mounds that look like pet­ri­fied sand dunes. The walk­ing is easy with only a short climb to the ridge­line with fine views of a mo­saic of desert pat­terns and the wet knife of the river carv­ing a ver­dant slice in the dis­tance.

Formed in 1941, the Im­pe­rial Na­tional Wildlife Refuge pro­tects cru­cial wet­lands. The refuge of­fers guided hikes and bird­ing tours in win­ter months. There’s a stargaz­ing event at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26. All out­ings are free, just like ad­mis­sion to the refuge, but re­quire reser­va­tions since space is lim­ited.

De­tails: 928-783-3371, www.fws.gov/refuge/im­pe­rial.

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Refuge shel­ters

30 miles of the Colorado, in­clud­ing the last un­chan­nel­ized sec­tion be­fore the river en­ters Mex­ico. Ca­noeists, kayak­ers and an­glers can launch at Meers Point and float along a re­mote and peace­ful stretch of water.


Painted Desert Trail in the Im­pe­rial Na­tional Wildlife Refuge.


Roo­sevelt Lake seen from Tonto Na­tional Mon­u­ment.

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