One of the many great things about Phoenix, Arizona is the warm winter weather. There is also so much to see in the surrounding areas that we asked the world’s most road tripped man, Mike Shubic of Mike’s Road Trip, to share some of his favorite lesser-known day trips from Phoenix.
As someone who has spent most of his life living off and on in the Phoenix area, I have seen it grown into an incredible international city. As a matter of fact, Phoenix will soon eclipse Philadelphia and become the 5th largest city in the United States.
From breathtaking urban mountains, stunning sunsets, abundance of arts, culture and sporting activities, to some of the best Mexican food in the country, Phoenix is a fantastic place to call home, as well as visit.
The state of Arizona is incredibly diverse in every sense of the word, and while Phoenix enjoys a lot of warm sunny weather in the winter months, much of the northern part of the state spends its winters under a blanket of snow. So, if you’re visiting Phoenix and want to avoid the white stuff, here are five great snow-free winter day trips to consider near Phoenix.
Superior is a small town about 70 miles east of Phoenix. It was founded in 1902 as a copper-mining town and is about 1,500 feet higher in elevation. After decades of decay, Superior is just now emerging from beneath the shiny shadow of copper. The historic downtown is slowly being restored and the town now has a number of amenities to attract visitors, from the soon-to-open Magma Hotel, to restaurants, mine tours, sightseeing and more.
The primary attraction near town is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, which is a botanical oasis in the desert. The 320-acre conservatory is home to 3,200 different desert plants—from local Sonoran Desert vegetation, to exotic species such as the Canary date palms and Australian eucalyptus. There are 230 bird species and 72 terrestrial animals, making it one of the most biodiverse places in the state. Superior and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum are just one of many interesting day trips from Phoenix.
About 2.5 hours north of Phoenix is another old mining town, but this one has been a thriving artists’ community for decades now. As a matter of fact, Jerome has been a model for other mining towns that have struggled to re-define themselves. This small hilltop community has grown into a prosperous tourist town, attracting a rock star that opened a wine bar, to many hip and eclectic shops and art galleries. Jerome has a host of boutique inns, historical sites and some pretty stupendous views perched atop its hillside vantage point.
If you go to Jerome, don’t miss visiting:
- The Jerome State Historic Park, which houses the sprawling Douglas Mansion built in 1916. This Mine Museum is where you will learn about the town’s history.
- Just down the street a bit is the Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town, a great place to see many classic cars and equipment of the day.
- Below Jerome is the Tuzigoot National Monument and its hilltop pueblo, which is one of the area’s top attractions.
Camp Verde, Arizona
Located about 90 miles north of Phoenix, on the banks of the Verde River, Camp Verde is a cute little town worth a stop. Right in town is Fort Verde, the best-preserved Indian war-era fort in all of Arizona. It’s not the flashiest State Park, nor the most well-known, but it is fascinating with its museum and original buildings intact.
The Montezuma Castle National Monument is the most popular attraction in Camp Verde. This unbelievable structure is built into the side of a mountain and houses the dwellings of the Sinagua people. The Sinagua were part of the early inhabitants of the Southwest, along with the Hohokam and other indigenous nations. The dwellings are painstakingly preserved, and you will have the chance to see the culture and civilization of these people up close.
About 28 miles before you get to Camp Verde there is another stop worth making, it’s called Arcosanti, which is an urban laboratory experiment located in the middle of the high desert just northeast of Cordes Junction off of I-17. This unique facility was the brainchild of the famed architect, Paolo Soleri, the last remaining disciple to study under Frank Lloyd Wright.
Apache Junction, Arizona
Located just 40 miles east of Phoenix lies Apache Junction, which is home to the beginning of the Apache Trail, a magnificent road trip along one of the most historic routes in America. The Apache Trail, named after the native Apaches, which traverses the Superstition Mountains, was originally built to service the dam construction that formed a series of lakes from the Salt River to serve the water needs of the ever-expanding desert metropolis of Phoenix. This road travels through the Tonto National Forest, showcasing magnificent views of igneous rocks, deep blue lakes and dense cacti forests stretching as far as the eye can see. As you drive farther you will come across Canyon Lake, where there are marinas and mines along the way. The road then turns to dirt as this stretch of unpaved road leads through the heart of Apache country and back to modern day civilization.
Things you should not miss in the area include:
- A visit to the Goldfield Ghost Town, which will take you back to the Ol’ West.
- A ride on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake is a great way to see the canyons and wildlife of this oasis in the desert.
- Hiking enthusiasts will love the Lost Dutchman State Park; the Siphon Draw trail leads hikers right up into the heart of the Superstition Mountains.
- The less adventurous hikers will enjoy a humorous hike up Silly Mountain.
Saguaro Lake/Salt River Recreation Area
Saguaro Lake, with its signature Saguaro Cactus for which it was named and 22 miles of shoreline, is a sanctuary for adventure seekers. The lake was formed when the Stewart Mountain Dam was constructed, trapping the water of the Salt River and creating ideal conditions for fishing, camping, kayaking, jet skiing, and sailing. The lake has all the trappings of an exotic getaway with the Saguaro del Norte Recreation site providing boat rentals, restaurants, restrooms, and boat ramps. Whether you want to cool off in its waters, fish from a boat or enjoy some adrenaline-pumping moments on a jet ski; Saguaro Lake will not disappoint.
Just past the lake, drivers can follow the snaking road as it hugs the shores of the Salt River, which makes another terrific day trip from Phoenix.
If you have any questions about any of these short day trips from Phoenix, please leave a comment below.
Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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