Lots to do in Northern Arizona this spring and summer

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FLAGSTAFF and WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The weather is warming up in Northern Arizona and traffic is gradually picking up at privately owned campgrounds throughout the area.

“We’re expecting another busy year,” said Jo Ann Mickelson, co-executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which hosts GoCampingInArizona.com, the statewide travel planning website.

While the Grand Canyon is the primary tourist draw in Northern Arizona, along with the Grand Canyon Railway, which offers daily round-trip excursions from Williams to the South Rim, there are a variety of other state and national parks, historical sites, museums, cultural events and even an astronomical observatory that capture the attention of out-of-state tourists as well as Arizona residents.

“You can’t see everything there is to see in a weekend or even a week,” Mickelson said. “So many people end up making return trips to the area.”
But as the desert gradually heats up, more and more Arizona residents will be joining out-of-state tourists in their explorations of the northern part of the state.

Here’s a sampling of things to see and do in Northern Arizona, along with neighboring campgrounds that can be used as base camps:

Flagstaff Area Attractions

— Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff: A national historic landmark, this is one of the oldest observatories in the United States. Research conducted at this observatory had led to several important discoveries, including the realization that the universe is expanding; the discovery of the planet Pluto in 1930; the co-discovery of the rings of Uranus in 1977; the discovery of periodic variations in the brightness of Halley’s Comet; and the first detection of water in the atmosphere of an extra-solar planet. The observatory has nighttime sessions scheduled throughout the summer where visitors can meet an astronomer, ask questions and see real-time video images of planets, stars, galaxies and other celestial objects. Daytime tours are also available as well as opportunities to view the sun with special equipment. www.lowell.edu

— Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff: This museum’s award-winning, permanent anthropology exhibit documents 12,000 years of Native American tribal life on the Colorado Plateau. The Hopi, Navajo and Zuni are among the tribes featured. The museum also has annual two-day festivals that feature the music, dance and artwork of Native American tribes. These include Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture, May 25-26; the Hope Festival of Arts and Culture, July 6-7; and the Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture, Aug. 3-4. The museum will also have a Mexican themed Celebraciones de la Gente Oct. 26-27 with fine arts and crafts, Day of the Dead inspired crafts for the kids, as well as folkloric and Aztec dancing. https://musnaz.org.

— Petrified Forest National Park: While best known for its petrified wood, the park also has a significant collection of pre-Colombian Indian petroglyphs, which feature numerous human and animal forms. The park also has a 600-to 700-year-old Anasazi pueblo village containing over 100 rooms and kivas. Fossils have also been discovered in the park, which date back nearly 200 million years. https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm

— Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff: Timothy and Michael Riordan developed the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company and used the railroad to market their lumber. Their family’s 13,000-square foot mansion, built in 1904 in the Arts and Crafts style, is now a museum. The house is fully furnished with original Riordan family furnishings, including Harvey Ellis furniture and the family’s original dishes. Historical lectures are also regularly scheduled. https://azstateparks.com/riordan-mansion/about-the-mansion/riordan-mansion

— Sunset Crater at Volcano National Monument: This park, located roughly 30 minutes from Flagstaff, features a crater created by the eruption of a volcano. Park attractions also include astronomy presentations courtesy of park staff and volunteers. Summer night sky events are also scheduled during the summer months and include constellation tours and telescope viewing. http://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm

— Walnut Canyon National Monument: This monument, located just 12 miles east of Flagstaff, has some of the best preserved Native American cliff dwellings in Arizona. It’s very highly rated by travelers on TripAdvisor.com, many of whom also offer words of caution about the trail. “The walk there is a bit scary, but definitely worth it,” writes one traveler. “Incredible vistas,” writes another, while another says it’s one of their favorite national monuments and a place they visit again and again. http://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm

— Wupatki National Monument: This park’s attractions include an ancient 100-room Native American “pueblo” with a community room and ball court. Archaeologists believe the settlement was occupied between 1120 and 1200. http://www.nps.gov/wupa/index.htm

 

— Meteor Crater: This is the considered to be the best preserved meteorite impact site in the world. The crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and 550 feet deep. The park is about 30 minutes east of Flagstaff. www.meteorcrater.com

— Montezuma’s Castle National Monument: This park, situated about 54 miles south of Flagstaff, was designated as one of America’s first national monuments by President Theodore Roosevelt on Dec. 8, 1906. The “castle” is a multi-level, Native American cliff dwelling with 45 to 50 rooms. It is considered to be one of the best preserved cliff dwellings. http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm

Campgrounds:

— Flagstaff KOA in Flagstaff: This campground complements its RV and tent sites with partially furnished tipis as well as an assortment of cabins ranging from rustic units with no kitchens or bathrooms to fully furnished deluxe cabins with full kitchens and bathrooms with showers. Amenities include barrel train rides, a jumping pillow, a playground, banana bike rentals and educational nature walks, as well as the Pine Tree Cafe, which serves breakfast from Memorial Day weekend through October. https://koa.com/campgrounds/flagstaff/

— J & H RV Park in Flagstaff: This senior, non-smoking park features 50 full hookup RV sites, shower and laundry facilities, a mini store and gift shop, an outdoor fireplace and horseshoe pits. https://flagstaffrvparks.com/

— Meteor Crater RV Park in Winslow: This park features 71 sites, including three tent sites, a fuel station and convenience store, hot showers, a recreation room and a dump station. https://www.meteorcrater.com/rvpark.html

— Munds Park RV Resort in Munds Park: This 370-site park, 14 miles south of Flagstaff, is largely comprised of privately owned park model RVs, which the park also offers for sale. However, RV sites are available for overnight use. The campground is adjacent to the Coconino National Forest and is close to hiking, mountain biking and ATV trails. http://www.mundsparkrv.com

Williams Area Attractions

— Bearizona: This is a wild animal park that gives visitors a chance to drive through a 2-mile route with opportunities to see black bears, arctic wolves, gray wolves, bison, big horn sheep and mountain goats. The park also has a petting zoo and a bird of prey show. www.bearizona.com

— Deer Farm and Petting Zoo in Williams: This is a kid-friendly petting zoo with a variety of animals, including, deer, goats and pigs. www.deerfarm.com

— Grand Canyon Railway: Visitors to the Grand Canyon have the option of taking a scenic train ride from Williams. Trains depart daily at 9:30 a.m. and arrive at the South Rim at 11:45 a.m. The train begins the return trip at 3:30 p.m., arrive back at Williams at 5:45 p.m. During peak summer travel periods, a second train departs Williams at 10:30 a.m. and returns to Williams later in the day. The Grand Canyon Railway offers six different classes of train service. An entertaining Western-style holdup also takes place during the ride. https://thetrain.com

— Keyhole Sink Petroglyphs: These petroglyphs are accessible via a short trail that takes visitors through a ponderosa pine forest to a scenic box canyon where the petroglyphs are located. The trailhead is about a 20 minute drive from Williams. For more information and driving instructions, please visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/kaibab/recarea/?recid=11678

Campgrounds

— Circle Pines KOA in Williams: This campground complements its RV and tent sites with furnished cabins as well as “critter proof” tipis, which include a mini fridge, heat, and gas grill. Amenities include a playground, an indoor pool and spa, bike rentals and a 1,350-foot long go cart track with one-seat and two-seat go carts. The campground is also the home of the Bear Trax Cafe, which serves breaks and dinner. https://koa.com/campgrounds/williams/.

— Grand Canyon Railway RV Park: This park features RV sites with 50 amp electrical service as well as high definition digital TV and WiFi. RV park guests also have access to the indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The common area of the RV park also has a group gathering area with gas grills and a fire pit. https://www.thetrain.com/lodging/rv-park/

— Grand Canyon / Williams KOA in Williams: This campground has RV and tent sites as well as glamping tents with partial kitchens that sleep five to six, depending on the model. The park also has a variety of cabins, ranging from rustic cabins with no kitchen or bathroom to fully furnished deluxe cabins with full size kitchens and bathrooms with showers. Amenities include a recreation room with pool tables, bike rentals, games and kids activities and a gourmet coffee bar. The park’s Cowboy Cafe serves breakfast from Memorial Day through Labor Day. https://koa.com/campgrounds/grand-canyon/

All of the campgrounds are affiliated with the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which hosts a travel planning website at www.GoCampingInArizona.com and publishes the Arizona RV and Camping Guide, which won the State Directory of the Year Award from the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC). The 32-page color guide features more than 90 campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the Grand Canyon State. Consumers can request the guide by emailing arizonaarvc@aol.com.

SOURCE: Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is a Wisconsin native currently living in Illinois with her husband, Eric, and two dogs, Maggie and Grace. She enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking and, of course, camping in cabins and park models.

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