Category: Arizona Travel (Page 1 of 4)

Cave Creek Hiking: Go John Trail

There is alot of variety to Cave Creek hiking, and Go John Trail is one well known trail in this area. It was previously showcased by Sweat Magazine as reader’s choice best hike.

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Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

General Information

Location: Cave Creek Regional Park
Run By: Maricopa County
Fee: $6 per car
General Difficulty: 2.5 (1 being easiest and 5 being hardest)
Round Trip Length: 5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Accumulated Gain: 1,260 feet (384 meters)
Crowd Levels: Moderate
Other activities: Camping, picnicking, visiting the nature center

Recommendation

Go John trail is a good place to visit if you are a local who hasn’t been, or a visitor looking to experience lots of Sonoran plant diversity. There are better trails for scenery and work outs. This trail is also fairly far from the city center.

Description

First Half

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Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

The Go John Trail starts at the parking lot at the very end of the road in the recreation area. It is a loop hike that you can start heading north or east. The first section of the trail (if you head north on the Maricopa Trail) rises up over a saddle in the mountains. It’s not a particularly steep incline, but it was sustained enough to get my heart rate up. This is the hardest part of the trail, in my opinion, and after you make the top of this rise, Go John will take you down into a valley where you will meander through fluffy, desert washes.

Before you descend onto the main length of the trail, however, I would suggest pausing to enjoy the view. The saddle is a great place to snap some pictures of the valleys to either side, one with the heart of Phoenix and one still wild. The rest of the trail is fairly low elevation, so there aren’t tons of other spots for pictures until  the end. That being said, the mountains in Spur Cross will  be at eye line for most of your trek, so the horizon-to-horizon beauty is there.

Second Half

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Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

Once you hike down into the washes, you will have some wonderful opportunities to see Sonoran desert biodiversity, with a multitude of plants growing in this relatively lush part of the Phoenix valley. Birds abound as well, and if you know where to look (and how to be both safe and respectful of the animals) there is also come good herping here.

The way back towards the trailhead goes require you to gain some elevation again, but it is much more gradual than the first half of the trail. The descent to the parking lot is really nice and gradual as well.

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Tempe Chai Tea at Cupz

Phoenix (Tempe) Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix-area coffee shops for anyone wondering where to eat in Phoenix. Today I am highlighting one of my favorite spots for Tempe chai tea, Cupz Coffee, which is was my favor coffee shop while I was working at ASU. The cafe is just a stone’s throw from campus, and has a great atmosphere for anyone who likes to get some work done at the coffee shop.

The Tea!

Tempe chai tea

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Seattle’s Best (Unconfirmed)

Flavor: I believe that Cupz serves Seattle’s Best chai, but I have not yet confirmed this. Either way, the chai tea that they serve is very sweet. I would actually say that I don’t get much of a spicy hint at all when I drink this tea, but for anyone that loves sugary drinks (like myself), it still has a good flavor. It is a great, milky drink for cold mornings and I find that it is also more rich than many of the other chais I have had. If you prefer sweet, rather than spicy, this is definitely a chai that you might enjoy. I love this tea, but I’m giving it a 2.5/5 just because it strays so far from the classic chai flavor.

chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

tempe chai tea

Location: 777 S College Ave # 101, Tempe, AZ 85281

WIFI: Free

Atmosphere: Cupz has a classic coffee shop atmosphere, and it is one of my favorite places to work. There’s lots of original art on the walls, and a nice couch corner for anyone looking for a comfy place to enjoy some drinks and food. The area near the cash register is also home to some really cute coffee humor that I always appreciate while waiting for my chai.

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Staff: A bunch of the staff at Cupz are ASU students, so stopping by here is a great way to support the community in more ways than one. They are also some very sweet people, which may not be quite as outgoing as Starbucks employees, but I always enjoy chatting with them. A few of the baristas here are also very good at their jobs, and I often get a cup of chai that is artfully put together.

Pros: Cupz is super close to campus and has a good atmosphere for working, with free wifi, lots of tables, and couches. They have plenty of breakfast food options , and a very nice selection of drinks besides chai. Their staff is genuine and its a generally a welcoming place that’s great for regulars.

Cons: The quality of the food can vary here, depend on who’s working, but I likely only noticed this due to the fact that I visited 1-2 times a week for 5 years. They also don’t have a bathroom in the shop, which can be a bit problematic if you plan on staying there for a long time.

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Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures for more information on Phoenix and Tempe coffee shops.

tempe chai tea

Phoenix Chai Tea at 32 Shea

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes).

The first coffee shop to be highlighted here is 32 Shea, a neighborhood favorite, with tasty chai, lots of food options, and a zen atmosphere.

The Tea!

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Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Maya Chai (Sweet version)

Flavor: Maya Chai is a Tucson company that has stolen the hearts of several of my chai tea-loving friends, and for good reason. They have two different varieties, sweet and spicy (Devi), and both strike a very nice balance between both of these flavors (as far as American tastes go, we love our sugar). For me, it is the afternote of this tea that is really special, and speaks to the artistry of its creators. While it maintains the sweet flavor that American chai has come to exemplify, the final notes of either Maya chai is reminiscent of more traditional, spicy teas. It is this perfect, subtle blend of spices that makes Maya so special, and for those of you that haven’t tried it (I have no idea how prevalent it is outside of Arizona), it is worth seeking out when you are looking for Phoenix chai tea.

The Locale

Location: 10626 N. 32nd St. 85028, Phoenix AZ

WIFI: Password Protected

Atmosphere: I love 32 Shea’s atmosphere. The building itself is quite small, and the inside has a warm feel with a wood-surfaced bar, and seating along some large windows. The patio outside, with its Buddha statue, vibrant greenery, and babbling fountain, is a very relaxing place. There are big shade trees along the fence that creates this little, private area, and umbrellas around the tables. It really feels like its own little world, although it is quite hot out here in the middle of summer.

Phoenix chai tea

Staff: The staff at 32 Shea are amazing. They are very welcoming, and don’t mind helping you navigate the menu. I have also gotten some really good recommendations for food from them. Overall, they are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the menu.

Pros: This coffee shop has a lovely building, and they are a special part of the community. Their menu will have something for you from breakfast to lunch and dinner. In particular, their dinner menu is pretty stellar. For those pasta lovers out there, I would suggest the lobster mac & cheese with some nutella cheesecake for dessert. They even serve cocktails later in the day. 32 Shea has great staff and they have one of the best chai tea brands out there.

Cons: So far, I have just found their lunch food to be ok. I am never blown away by how good it is, but it is never bad either. There is also limited space and it can be hot during the summer.

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Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Where to Hike in Southern Arizona: Coronado National Memorial and Tumacacori Mission

If you’re wondering about what to see and/or where to hike in Southern Arizona, I have two off-the-beaten-path destinations for you. These are Coronado National Memorial and Tumacacori National Historic Park. Taking a weekend Southern Arizona trip to see these will take you through Sierra Vista, and small town AZ. It will also introduce you to some beautiful Southern AZ trails and the unique history of the South West.

We have a weekend itinerary for you guys at the end of the post. If you need more ideas for what to see in Arizona, check out our Guide to Arizona.

Coronado National Memorial

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Grasses and rolling hills of southern Arizona (c) ABR 2017

This National Park Unit is just south of Sierra Vista, right on the border between the US and Mexico. It is home to the rolling hills and mountains of grasslands and forests that I love in southern Arizona. As the name suggests, this beautiful spot on the southern edge of the United States had been preserved due to its historic significance, particularly, the entry of the Coronado expedition into the US.

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Coronado and his men didn’t have a luxury of trails when they passed through (c) ABR 2017

If you remember the story, Coronado, his soldiers, employees, and slaves, were on an epic journey in search of the famed Seven Golden Cities. All they knew was that these treasure troves were across a desert to the north, and thus, they travel north! And more north… and more… north… all the way up from Mexico to what is now Kansas. Sadly, as you might guess (or know), they did not find any cities of gold, but they did start the movement of Spanish colonization up into the Southwest.

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An imposing but beautiful landscape (c) ABR 2017

It’s easy to imagine the awe and trepidation that the people in Coronado’s expedition would have as they worked their way up into unknown lands when visiting the national memorial. And the park does a great job of educating you on aspects of Spanish exploration that you likely didn’t know. For instance, they had people counting their steps every day, just so that they knew how far they had gone. (Any one hiring for a step counter these days?).

Coronado hiking

(c) ABR 2017

If you aren’t interested in the history, no fear, Coronado National Memorial has plenty of Southern Arizona hiking and a very cool little cave that you can explore. One of the trails goes up to the highpoint of the Huachuca Mountains (Miller Peak), another will take you down to a memorial on the border, and you have an option to hike the length of the park, and through the low grasslands too.

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A passage through Coronado Cave (c) ABR 2017

For the cave, all you need to explore is a good pair of shoes, a trusty headlamp (plus a back up light source), and some caution (it’s a bit of a steep climb in if you aren’t used to hiking). It won’t be fascinating to the cavers among you, but for the rest of us, it’s a great place to organically explore the subterranean world.

Entrance Fee: Free
Suggested Trails: Coronado Cave Trail, Coronado Peak Trail, Yaqui Ridge Trail
Hours from Phoenix: ~3.5 hours
Visitor Center Address:
4101 W Montezuma Canyon Rd, Hereford, AZ 85615

Tumacacori National Historic Park

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The mission (c) ABR 2017

A few hours from Sierra Vista, to the west, is the Tumacacori Mission where you can learn about Arizona’s mission past, and hike the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. This Southern Arizona hike commemorates another Spanish exploration party and is a great area to see some desert riparian, or river, ecosystems.

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The river along the Juan Bautista de Anza trail (c) ABR 2017

After Coronado led the way up north from modern-day Mexico, it wasn’t long until other Europeans began exploring Arizona. One of these early colonists was Father Kino, a Jesuit priest, who established the Tumacacori mission in 1691 with the help of the local Tohono O’odham people, who built the sanctum that still remains to this day.

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The interior of the mission (c) ABR 2017

Missions are a mainstay of southwestern US history, and they are inextricably tied to the subjugation of native peoples like those of the O’odham. At face value, they were a way for Spain to hold the northern frontier, and for Jesuits and Catholics to convert Native American people to European religions. However, many missions were also places where native peoples were forced to work, hunted down when they tried to leave, and it was also a system used to dismantle indigenous cultures.

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We should not forget what happened here (c) ABR 2017

As with many tragedies, places of contemplation, about the wrongs of the past, are key to understanding the kinds of futures that we want to live in. For me, Tumacacori is one such place.

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We all love a good door (c) ABR 2017

The mission is beautiful, although the NPS modus operandi of maintenance not reconstruction is apparent here. You can see the brick-work under the stucco. But there is still faded paint in the nave, and the inspiration of European cathedrals is obvious in the design and architecture. When I went, there was a flowered cross where the priest would have preached, looking out on beautiful wooden doors. There were flowers in the old graveyard too.

visit tumacacori

(c) ABR 2017

It’s a peaceful place now, the perfect spot to remember, and continue the journey that the Spanish made up through United States. If you want to know about the history of the US, this is definitely a place that you should visit, because the story of the missions is not one that we should forget.

Entrance Fee: Free
Suggested Trails: Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail
Hours from Phoenix: ~2.5 hours
Visitor Center Address:
1891 I-19 Frontage Rd, Tumacacori, AZ 85640

History and nature are inextricably linked, and if you hike in southern Arizona, you won’t be disappointed in the stories that you create and discover.

Suggested Weekend Itinerary

Friday Night: Drive to Sierra Vista (~3 hours)
I highly recommend getting dinner at La Casita Mexican ; the food is great and their mango/chili margarita is delicious.

Saturday: Explore Coronado National Memorial.
Drive towards Tumacacori (~2 hrs from Coronado), and consider staying in one of the smaller towns in between, like Patagonia.

Sunday: Explore Tumacacori.
Drive back to Phoenix (~2.5 hrs), and consider stopping at Tubac on the way home for lunch and art.

hiking southern arizona

Disclaimer

Please visit the park visitor centers to ask questions and learn more about safety and the difficulty of the trails. Rangers will help you find the perfect path for you!

Nightborn Travel covers some off-the-beaten path locations, sometimes focuses on solo travel, and often includes outdoor exploration such as hiking. So, please be aware of the following (adapted from HikeArizona.com): Hiking, traveling and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends. It is your responsibility to travel and explore responsibly and take care of your own safety.

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures: Calibration Post for Starbucks (Tazo)

chai tea phoenix starbucks

An Introduction to the Series and Example: Starbucks

I LOVE chai tea, and while I was in Europe this summer, I really started to enjoy trying different cafes and their take on this delicious sugar/caffeine boost. When I came home, I decided to start exploring all the different options that my home town has to offer, and I wanted to build a guide for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me.

To get us started, I want to make a calibration post (forgive the scientist in me!) using a standard coffee shop that we all know (and love?), Starbucks. This post will cue you into my chai tea tastes, so that you know how your own preferences for flavor compare, and walk you through how these little guides will work.

The Tea!

chai tea phoenix starbucks

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Tazo Tea

Flavor: On a scale of sweet to spicy, Tazo’s take on chai tea makes an effort to balance traditional flavors with American preferences for sugar, but it is definitely leaning on the sugary side. Based on past conversations with people, I would even go so far as to say that those of you who really love traditional chai probably dislike Tazo’s version (or consider it to be in its own category altogether, like… Taco Bell is to Mexican food). Since I am a sugar lover myself, I find Starbuck’s chai tea to be a good comfort chai when I am on the go and I want to know just want I am getting into. I would describe it as being light and sugary with a slight hint of spice, but mostly sweet and milky.

The Locale

chai tea phoenix starbucks

Location: EVERYWHERE

WIFI: Free

Atmosphere: Starbucks is pretty standard, and has what I would consider to be the corporate distillation of coffee shop decor. With plenty of dark colors, most Starbuck’s have a professional feel, but most of their character comes from all the marketing that is carefully arranged in all directions. It’s actually not my favorite place to work, since it is just insanely busy in the morning, but once again, it’s a great place to go when you are still getting the lay of the land and need somewhere familiar and safe to charge up on caffeine.

Staff: The staff at Starbucks are like the rest of the chain in my opinion, professional and pleasant. Their product is pretty reliable, their baristas know their stuff, and you are almost always guaranteed a warm smile, if nothing overly friendly (perfect for us introverts out there).

Pros: If you need chai tea and are lost in a strange city, there’s likely to be a Starbucks within walking distance in all directions. You know what you will get in terms of taste and the coffee shop feel. Starbucks is also known to treat its staff well which earns it a plus from me, even if it is a giant corporation.

Cons: Starbucks won’t offer you a unique expression of the local coffee shop scene or local culture, and it often competes with smaller cafes.

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Brown’s Peak: Summiting the Phoenix Skyline

(c) ABR 2016

Four Peaks is a mountain that you can see from Phoenix, you might be able to glimpse it from the plane on the way into Sky Harbor, and if you keep your eyes out for local beers, you will also notice that there is an Arizona brewery named after these peaks. If you aren’t familiar, on a clear day, look out to the east of the city and just search for a mountain with… well, you guessed, four peaks.

(c) ABR 2016

As you might imagine, besides making for a characteristic skyline, Four Peaks also has its share of hiking trails, and one of the most popular is Brown’s Peak. If you have access to a four-wheel drive vehicle, and are an EXPERIENCED and CAREFUL hiker, this might be a great day adventure for you (remember, your safety traveling and in nature are your responsibility).

Why am I being so cautious about this hike? Let me tell you!

While the journey up Brown’s Peak is rife with lovely views, and a day’s worth of adventures, it is not easy to access and the end of the trail at the summit is dangerous.

The nice part of the road (c) ABR 2016

About 45 min out of Phoenix on the 87 you will turn right onto 4 Peaks Rd, which is dirt. It is nice enough (most of the time) to get down it with just a vehicle that has high clearance, but it is definitely not a road I would chance my car on. It also takes a few hours to make it to the trailhead from the highway, and this is why summiting Brown’s Peak is a day-trip despite being so close to the city.

(c) ABR 2016

From the trailhead, you will follow a pretty tame trail through the Tonto Forest up to a saddle where you will be able to see Brown’s, as well as Roosevelt Lake and Phoenix on either side. If you are not an experienced scrambler or climber, this is where I would suggest that you turn around.

Looking down at the saddle (c) ABR 2016

The trail takes a fairly straight path up from the saddle, and it doesn’t take long for the dirt path to turn into a steep crack in the stone of the mountain, which is layered with loose rock. So, in climbing up you will need to cling to the rock, while minding the stones under your feet and those that might be flying down the mountain at you, if there are hikers ahead. At the top, you will be rewarded with 360 degrees of amazing Sonoran desert beauty and a quiet, but likely windy spot on top of a fairly challenging peak.

Cliffs and flying rocks are par for the course on the way up to the summit. (c) ABR 2016

Please exercise extreme caution climbing down (as you did up), and avoid disturbing the rocks as much as possible. Climbing Brown’s Peak is not advised in the winter, as snow and ice will make the steep trail even more dangerous than it already is.

View from the summit (c) ABR 2016

See HikeArizona’s description for further detail: https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=18

Backyard Discoveries: Travel Tips for a Jaunt in Jerome, AZ

Greetings, travelers! Knowing our love for ghost towns, it was just a matter of time before we made it to one of Arizona’s most popular historic mining towns, Jerome.

Even though mining in Jerome ended in 1953 (after 77 years!), the town is still a thriving tourist destination and artistic community with plenty of fun things to do and see.

Traveling Tips

The drive: The charming hillside spot is only about a two hour drive up north from Phoenix. There are spots to fuel up and stop along the way, but because the I-17 reduces to two lanes as you head toward Flagstaff (and unfortunately, as you head back) traffic can get kind of hairy, with REALLY long delays depending on what’s happening (holidays, ski/snowboarding season, etc.), so I would recommend filling up to a full tank of gas before you go.

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When to visit: Because it’s hopping tourist destination, Jerome stays pretty busy year-round. It helps that even during the hot summer months, it’s a few degrees cooler being farther up north. I know that we always stress getting somewhere in the early a.m., but it’s really true if you want to avoid the crowds and have the run of the town for yourself! Holidays are often the busiest, as well, but I think we lucked out because we got to Jerome just a bit after 10 a.m. – by the time we left around 2 p.m., the place was poppin’.

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If you like to hike: We recommend Dead Horse Ranch, a state park just 20 minutes away from Jerome. Don’t let the name throw you off, it’s a pleasant and expansive state park with a lot to offer. There are sites for campers, lagoons for fishing, areas for picnicking, and even a small river with a river walk. There are also, of course, hiking trails – I think we ended up hiking about 3 miles along their Lime Kiln trail. I would say this trail is easy to moderate, depending on your hiking experience – nothing too steep and no climbing required. Just always make sure that you a) have enough water (it doesn’t hurt to bring snacks for energy, either), b) know what trail you’re on and stay on it and c) know your limits.

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What to see: This is really traveler’s choice! We basically just walked around the town with no set agenda, but other travelers recommend the Douglas Mansion or Gold King Mine. Just remember that this is a hillside town, so you will be doing a LOT of walking upwards (and then blessedly, downwards).

Notable places we found on our stroll –

Jerome Grand Hotel

It wouldn’t be a ghost town without the ghosts. The Jerome Grand Hotel has a history of haunts – it was originally a hospital during the town’s mining days.

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Also fascinating, the hotel still has steam-powered heating and an OTIS elevator from 1926.

Holy Family Catholic Church

This church has been standing for more than 100 years. Visitors are welcome, and though it’s no longer an active parish, they do hold mass every third Saturday of the month.

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La Victoria Studio

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Even if you’re visiting and the studio isn’t open, it’s still housed in a very cool structure.

From what we could tell and from what I’d heard from a family member, this is a pottery and glassblowing studio. Open hours seem… flexible. If you do manage to catch them when they’re open to the public, apparently they do pottery and glassblowing demos.

Getting your grub on: We ate at the Haunted Hamburger, and no, the burgers aren’t haunted, but the building supposedly is. Also, their outside patio offers a great view of the town below. There are plenty of other food stops to choose from, but they fill up FAST once they open (another reason to get there earlier rather than later).

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Anyone who knows us would not be surprised that Rickeldoris Candy and Popcorn Company was our very first stop in Jerome. It’s just as much of a treat for the eyes with a colorful selection of candies in jars, bins, boxes and an old-fashioned feel.

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We followed the delicious smell of kettle corn. I bought too much taffy, but I regret nothing.

Certainly, there’s plenty more to explore, but hopefully this will be a good starter guide for you.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

With much affection,
The Nightborn Travel Team

 

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Backyard Discoveries: S.O.S. (or Seeking Out Superior)

What I meant to do: Drive out to Superior (about an hour and 20-minute drive out of Phoenix, southeasterly toward Globe) to spend at their annual Prickly Pear Festival. Spend a couple hours sampling jellies, candies, ice creams and more until my body is 90% prickly pear.

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Superior, Ariz.- come for the annual Prickly Pear Festival, stay for their small-town, old-school charm.

What really happened: Buy some prickly pear jellies and taffy and spend the rest of FOUR hours running around the town starry-eyed and snap-happy because, oh my god, the buildings, y’all.

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I don’t know if this was built as a market or when it stopped being one. Looks like most recently it was an antique shop, but now it’s empty. Either way, I love it.

It’s not my fault that the houses, the shops, the walls, etc. in the town of Superior have so much CHARACTER.

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Some excellent art to be found on the walls along Main St.

Lemme give you a little background on Superior. This little engine that could started as a mining town in about the mid-1870s thanks to the Silver King and Silver Queen mines. Although it was one of the richest silver mines in AZ, the Silver King shut down in the 1880s due to a decline in silver prices coupled with high costs in operation. However, the Silver Queen mine kept chugging along because of hella copper production. If you can believe it, copper mining in Superior didn’t end until 1995 – that’s 120 years, folks, give or take a few.

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Hotel Magma’s been out of commission for a while (it first opened around 1912), but restoration efforts were taking place last year with plans to re-open soon. Keep hope alive!

Even though mining has died out (though Resolution Copper has plans to start it up again in nearby Oak Flat), the town is still alive and kicking. I’ve curated a list of things to do and see below:

Notable Attractions

For people who enjoy history (especially mining history):

Magma Mine Copper Smelter

This is a huge smelting stack you can see from the road as you’re driving into town. It was operational from about 1914 to 1981.

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Smelter no smelting! (Because you’re full of dangerous chemicals – whoops.)

A resident told me that there was a good chance that the smelter would have to come down because it had become unsafe over the years and that the repairs were too extensive for the town or Resolution Copper to consider. So, visit Superior soon, because I’m not sure how long this stack will be around. The only caveat is that the road is 100% blocked to the smelter, so you’ll have to admire from afar or check in with Resolution Copper (they have an office on Main St.) to see if they give tours that allow you to get a little bit closer (not too close, because there may be arsenic and other fun mining chemicals in the stack??).

Bob Jones Museum

This is the small house-turned-museum of former early AZ governor, Bob Jones. Admission is free (though donations are accepted and encouraged) and it’s chock full of historical town artifacts and town residents who are more than happy to talk history and give you recommendations of places to visit, both historical and current.

Various Buildings Throughout the Town

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I’m preeeetty sure this bar is still open.

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But this high school is not. One of the Bob Jones museum docents said that this building was about 100 years old and no longer in use.

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This little church was tucked into a neighborhood amongst three houses. I probably wouldn’t have even seen it if I hadn’t take a wrong turn.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and set aside time to just walk and drive around town. There are some great buildings along main street, but others are hidden gems throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. Just remember to treat the areas with respect – because it’s a small town a lot what seems like public property blends with residential and public streets will suddenly turn into private drives. No trespassing means no trespassing, don’t be that guy.

For people who like plants (and other neat nature-y things):

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Established in 1923, the arboretum is about three miles just outside of Superior. It boasts more than 6000 plant species from every continent, and also refuge for 150 kinds of birds and 40 other wildlife species. I didn’t get chance to visit this time, but I have plans to drive back out and wander around there in the near future (once we’re past 100-degree temps).

Miscellany:

Shops

There were a few different little shops along Main St. – a couple antique shops, an art gallery, the Save Money Market (if you need to stock up on snacks, water, etc. this is a good place to go, plus it still has that 50s market feel) and others.

Eats

There are multiple places to eat around town, most of them on Main St. and very easy to find. The Philly Cheesesteak I got at De Marco’s Italian had homemade bread and it was GREAT.

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If going to the the World’s Smallest Museum is on your bucket list, you know where to go.

Fuel/When Nature Calls

There’s also Circle K gas station and rest stop right as you drive into Superior, so you’re good for bathroom breaks and fuel.

Believe me, I could go on, in the words of that one farmer guy from Babe, “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.” Join us next time for another Arizona find!

Explore more,
Katie

superior redux

 

 

Utah: Mighty 5 Roadtrip

Starting Point: Phoenix, AZ

You can, of course, adjust this itinerary to fit other starting points.

Day 1: Driving to Utah and Seeing Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges NM (c) ABR 2017

    It is about a 6-7 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ; if you are leaving from there and want to explore Natural Bridges in one day, please be sure to leave early in the morning. Be well rested, and have a driving partner to help you make it up. Some of the roads on the way to Natural Bridges can be a little difficult (winding dirt roads along cliffs).

Natural Bridges NM has a very nice visitor center and a loop drive for those of you looking for a relaxing view into the canyon. For the hikers among you, my travel partner and I hiked down to each of the major bridges and then back out, but there is a trail that runs the whole length of the canyon if you have the time and energy for that.

Bear Ears National Monument is fairly close to Natural Bridges, so if you want to explore there as well, you may consider camping nearby and adding a day onto your itinerary. We were unable to visit Bear Ears on our own trip.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Canyonlands Motor Inn in Monticello, Utah)

Humble accommodations, but with friendly staff and comfortable rooms.

 

Day 2: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands NP (c) ABR 2017

There are several entrances to Canyonlands NP, but due to bad weather, we skipped the southern one. Again, for those of you looking to get some more hiking in, you may consider spending an extra night in Monticello to explore the area near the southern entrance.

Following our schedule, however, day two involves a drive up to Moab (about 1.5 hours) and then to the northern entrance. Again, there is a great visitor center and a very nice drive in this part of Canyonlands. Some of the shorter hikes that we stacked here were Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock, Aztec Butte, Grand View Point Overlook, and Mesa Arch. All of these were short, although Upheaval Dome has a longer trail that requires more expertise. See park materials for details on the trails and what fits your needs best.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Lazy Lizard Hostel, Moab, Utah

Private rooms available, great atmosphere for mountain bikers.

 

Day 3: Arches National Park

A double arch at Arches NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is a short 15-minute drive from the southern end of Moab to the entrance of Arches National Park, but depending on the time of year, you may want to plan on getting there early as Arches is quite popular and gets very busy.

There are tons of amazing views and formations that you can see from the car in this National Park, so be sure to plan time for all the sights even if you don’t think you will hike. If you are up to hiking, I would highly suggest that you do the Delicate Arch hike, as this will take you to some great views of the arch that is on all of the Utah license plates. Of course, there are plenty of other trails throughout the park that also are worth visiting. Devil’s Garden and the Windows Section are a couple others that we did and enjoyed, but I would have liked to have planned ahead and gotten a permit for the Fiery Furnace as well.

It is about a 2.5 hour drive to Bricknell, Utah and the road gains some altitude so check the weather for sure in the winter, and be sure that you have the energy to drive safely to your next destination.

Budget Stay Suggestions:

Aquarius Inn, Bicknell, Utah

Not my favorite in terms of atmosphere, but the room was comfortable enough.

 

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park

Awesome mountains in Capitol Reef NP (c) ABR 2017

It is only about 30 minutes from Bricknell to Capitol Reef, and this is one of the quieter parks, so you don’t need to be in quite as much of a rush to get out as I would suggest for Arches, Bryce, and Zion. There are no major attractions in this park, and the drive is mostly on a highway or a very small road and dirt road extensions. Be sure to check out the petroglyphs here and definitely do stop to see all the huge rock formations along the highway.

In terms of hiking here, I really enjoyed the walk to Hickman Bridge; the trail up to here has some good views of Capitol Dome as well as the other surrounding mountains. My favorite hike, however, was the walk through Capitol Gorge. I would have also liked to have walked through Grand Wash, but we ran out of time.

It is about a 2.5-3 hour drive into Panguitch near Bryce Canyon, so again, be safe and give yourself time to make it over there.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Quality Inn Bryce Canyon, Panguitch, Utah

Pretty unique for a Quality Inn, with an old west character.

 

Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon (c) ABR 2017

It is a nice 25 minute drive from Panguitch to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. Again, this is a busier park, so be sure to plan to get there early, and take a look at park andbus schedules if it is the high season.

For those non-hikers among you, you will fall in love with Bryce Canyon from all the lookouts. While I think that anyone who is able should hike into the canyon a bit, there are some great views from the road. For those of you looking to hike but with limited time, be SURE to hike the Queen Garden, because you will be right among the hoodoos and it is unforgettable. Tower Bridge is another option for a shorter hike and has some very unique vistas. For those faster hikers or people with more time, there is a long rim trail, as well as a variety of backpacking trails in the canyon that can make for a long day hike.

It is about 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon to Cedar City.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Motel 6 Cedar City, Cedar City, Utah

Pretty nice, but no microwaves in the rooms!

 

Day 6: Zion National Park

Zion NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is about an hour from Cedar City to Zion on a good day, but you should know that Zion is EXTREMELY busy, so much so, that in the high season you have to take a bus into the park. Please plan ahead for congestion depending on when you go, and if you want to hike, get an early start.

There is a good reason for this park being popular, it is beautiful, and I think that anyone could spend a several days there, let alone one, with or without hiking. Of course, the hike that every knows is Angel’s Landing, and I really loved hiking this trail, but it is absolutely not for everyone. First off, it is a very steep climb to the saddle, and then the hike out to the landing as cliffs on both sides and is very narrow. This is dangerous for anyone with a fear of heights or unsteady feet. Furthermore, do not hike this when there is snow and/or ice on the trail. Emerald Pools is a shorter, much easier alternative, and there are tons of other trails for anyone that Angel’s Landing isn’t a good fit for.

When you drive out of Zion, towards Page (2.5 hours), the park extends down the highway for a time, offering some more great views, but this stretch of the freeway will have lots of slow drivers that see fit to take pictures while they drive. Please don’t be one of these; if you want to take pictures on the way out, be sure to pull over. There is also a long, cool tunnel on the way out, but again, follow signs and do not stop in the tunnel for pictures.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Knights Inn, Page, AZ

 

Day 7: Back to Phoenix

5-6 hours!

 

Disclaimer:

Nightborn Travel covers some off-the-beaten path locations, sometimes focuses on solo travel, and often includes outdoor exploration such as hiking. So, please be aware of the following (adapted from HikeArizona.com): Hiking, traveling and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends. It is your responsibility to travel and explore responsibly and take care of your own safety.

Backyard Discoveries: The Shrine on Chihuahua Hill

If you’re up for a little bit of hike in Bisbee, AZ, the jaunt up Youngblood and Chihuahua Hill is an excellent way to get the heart pumping and to see life in this former mining town in a different way.

Like we mentioned in our handy itinerary, you can take OK Street up to the base of Youngblood Hill and take time to check out all the local homes (trust me, you’ll want to – they have a lot of character). If you start your journey earlier in the morning (maybe around 7 a.m.), you’ll benefit from pleasant temperatures and having the town (and trail)practically all to yourself before the sleepy town becomes a bustling tourist stop.

Blue Jesus (I’ve called him this because he is both literally painted blue and because of his sorrowful expression) is the marker of your trail up Youngblood, but also a good wake-up call for groggy hikers because from a distance you can’t tell if it’s a statue or a person waiting at the trail.

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A couple important notes before you ascend:

  • Beyond Blue Jesus is private property, so be polite and don’t go exploring a local’s front yard.
  • The path up to the hills is steep, narrow and slippery. If you’re not a strong hiker or don’t have appropriate shoes, it’s best to come back another time. There is also a bit of incline when getting to the top of both hills, so stay hydrated and listen to your body to stop when needed.

If you do make it up Chihuahua Hill, you are rewarded with a great view of the town below and are privy to a shrine that’s maintained by its residents. You can see some of our photos from the site below, but it’s really worth a visit in person. There’s a sense of peace, joy and love you get when you look at these colorful tributes.

Pay your respects and please move around with care.

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