7 great road trips for Arizona’s warm winter
The best things to do around Arizona during warm winter
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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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.