Call me biased, but I am confident I can convince anyone that Arizona is one of the most scenic states in the country. So, with spring just around the corner, I want to encourage you to lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and treat your senses to some of Arizona’s eye candy.
Less than two hours from Phoenix northwest of Payson on State Route 87 is Pine Creek Canyon, a tiny valley surrounded by pine trees and home to what is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park was carved by Mother Nature, stands 183 feet high, over a 400-foot tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. It is a spectacular and towering masterpiece of nature covered in moss, grass, trees and rocks with a natural spring waterfall falling down into the creek below. You can view the bridge from the top or hike down to the bottom but either way, it is a one-of-a kind setting you won’t find anywhere else in our desert state.
Another place that earns the “won’t find anywhere else” title is so eye-catching that even the most cell phone addicted might forget the need to check their e-mail or Instagram. Truth be told, in this particular piece of heaven, cell service is almost non-existent.
Just south of Alpine Arizona smack dab in the middle of nowhere is the glorious Hannagan Meadow, an emerald green oasis surrounded by the Apache National Forest. I can honestly say it is truly some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen.
In fact, we were all a bit speechless when we first laid eyes on the endless pine covered mountains that melted into the horizon. Another reason to keep your eyes off your screens is so you don’t miss a chance to see an elk, a mule deer, an antelope, a black bear or even a bald eagle. The fishing is great but so is the hiking and horseback riding and whether you are doing a lot or simply coming to unplug, you are guaranteed to feel like you are a million miles from home.
Arizona’s beauty is all over our state and another Arizona Highways Television favorite is the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson. The highest point is Mt. Lemmon and at 9,147 feet, it is home to the southernmost ski destination in the United States.
A trip from the desert base to the top of Mount Lemmon takes you from 2,000 to about 9,000 feet above sea level in 45 minutes. This is one of Tucson’s famous sky islands, which has its own weather patterns and is great for stargazing.
On the way up or down, be sure to make a stop in Summerhaven, a cute mountain hamlet great for lunch and a yummy piece of homemade fudge. The Catalina’s are a great place for hiking, horseback riding and catching a glimpse of a bighorn sheep that like to hang out high on the cliffs. On the eastern corner of the Catalinas is Sabino Canyon. Here you can take a walk on any of the trailheads or hop aboard a tram and enjoy a guided tour through Tucson’s flora and fauna.
A water lovers paradise awaits along Arizona’s “West Coast,” an area that sits along the mighty Colorado River. Just a short detour off State Route 95 to Lake Havasu City a magnificent boat tour awaits. The Bluewater Jet Boat Tour begins near London Bridge where you learn the history of the storied bridge and how it became an Arizona attraction.
As you sail the Topock Gorge you will experience sights that you cannot see any other way that on the water. Many people refer to Topock Gorge as a miniature Grand Canyon because of its colorful, steep craggy walls and diverse and abundant wildlife. Topock Gorge is a little over four miles long and is part of the designated Havasu National Wildlife Refuge and an outstanding place to boat, kayak, or canoe.
This rich and diverse riparian area is known to be home to hundreds of species of birds, big-horn sheep, and wild burros. Sandy beaches line the shores of the Gorge so if you just want to kayak in relax and enjoy the day, this area is a designated no wake zone, so no need to worry about water crashing into you or the shoreline.
All these special scenic getaways across the Grand Canyon state are four season adventures. You can ski above the Saguaros, or take a sky ride to the top, explore our dark skies, do some fly fishing, or just grab a book, a picnic basket and breath in that crisp mountain air. Beauty surrounds us, just go east, west, north or south on an Arizona highway.
Editor’s Note: Robin Sewell is host and executive producer at Arizona Highways Television.