Arizona is filled with an extraordinary landscape, magnificent desert, giant canyons, huge buttresses and wide open spaces. They’re all worth visiting, even if the drive is far! The Saguaro National Park a two and a half hour drive and we strongly urge you to visit; the beauty is unparalleled. The park is named for the large saguaro cactus which is native to the desert environment and there are several photographic opportunities. Take good walking shoes, a sunhat and plenty of water. Head to the visitors center where you can pick up a map with information on all the hiking trails. The Saguaro cactus is synonymous with the American West and are also the biggest cactus in the USA. If you don’t want to walk there are also roads and loops for scenic views.
If the sun is shining and you feel like getting outdoors, cooling down and enjoying the water, as well as having some amazing scenery, head to Saguaro Lake. The drive is just under an hour from Phoenix and the lake is a beautiful oasis in the middle of a searing hot desert. Saguaro Lake is a man made body of water leading off from the Stewart Mountain Dam, is surrounded by mountains and the Tonto Forest, with over a22 miles of beachy shoreline. Take your swimming costumes, sunhat and sunblock, snack and refreshments, picnic blankets, balls and books and go and spend the day. You can laze on the banks of the lake and dip in and out when you’re hot, or if you prefer action – hire a boat or a kayak, go skiing or sailing. There’s also the Lovely Lakeshore Restaurant for when you’ve built up a great appetite.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. It is known as ‘The White Dove of the Desert’ and we can understand why. It is a place of such beauty, an oasis of a different kind, in the desert. The Mission of San Xavier del Bac is a Catholic parish, built in 1797, serving the spiritual needs of the local community. The mission was originally part of New Spain and then part of Mexico before it became part of the United States in 1854. The Spanish style architecture is stunning, with exquisite murals and statues inside. You can really step back in time when you wander around the Church. The surrounding area and desert are beautiful too and there will be many photo opportunities of giant cactus too!
The church is open daily from 7 am to 5 pm.
Come to Kartchner Caverns and be awed by these astonishing and huge caves, with over 2.4 miles of passageways and limestone formations. If you learned all about stalagmites and stalactites, now is the time to see them! It’s a long drive from Phoenix but definitely worth doing a day trip. The park is located 9 miles south of the town of Benson and west of the north-flowing San Pedro River. On arrival make your way to the discovery center where you can book a guided tour. Take the tour (one and a half hours) and marvel as water still drips from the roof to the ground, making these living growing caves. Marvel at the delicate formations, the ‘big room’, the throne and the bats! There are picnic grounds in the park as well as fabulous hiking trails leading to an amphitheater. Go home after a visit to the gift shop where you can buy a few souvenirs and also get refreshments.
Jerome is America’s most vertical city and its largest ghost town. Jerome used to be a thriving mining community with a population of 15,000. People from all over Arizona came to work here. After the great depression, the demand for copper dropped and people scattered far and wide. Only 100 people were left in Jerome. Today, the city is a vibrant tourist community that also serves as a monument to Arizona history. You can explore historic buildings from the old mining days, have a drink in a saloon, pop in at a copper museum and of course, eat and shop too! Jerome has a winery where you can do a wine tasting or two. The surrounding area is gorgeous with rocky outcrops where the colors change as the lights change. A worthwhile visit which you can combine with Sedona or Flagstaff too.