When people think of the Southwest, they most often envision Arizona. Indeed, the heritage of all of the Southwest, from West Texas through New Mexico and Arizona, is rich, the combination of the lands and peoples who have lived on them. Aboriginal people from Mexico, (as well as those who have mixed that culture with the influences of the Spaniards,) Hopi, Navajo, Apache and other native American tribes, the animals of the region, the desert and mountain terrains, and even the newcomer cowboys, these have all contributed to what we think of when we say “Southwest.” No one place represents that any better though, than northern Arizona.
The Grand Canyon is a major attraction in Northern Arizona. One of the seven true Wonders of the World, it embodies the vastness, as well as the richness of color of the stony Southwest. The view from Cape Royal, to name just one amongst many from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, is quintessential Southwest. The entire Kiabab Plateau shares in that beauty.
Navajo Mountain (properly called Naat’tsis’aan by the native people,) is yet another facet of the magnificence that is Northern Arizona. The sandstone formations are exquisite, the heritage of the place equally vivid. No visit would be complete without seeing sandstone formation called the Corkscrew in Antelope Canyon.
There’s another side to northern Arizona that some have missed – the alpine areas. From Flagstaff to Sedona, and the White Mountains, northern Arizona breaks her fast from water and grows out dense, beautiful forest lands. The vistas from Oak Creek Canyon, for example, rival any found on the side of the mountains near Aspen, Colorado (though few will ever know of it.) Slide Rock State Park, a part of Oak Creek Canyon, provides a natural water slide that delights young visitors every year. Perhaps it’s a good thing that a relative few ever venture out and discover the wonders of this area.
Though there are literally no amenities, if you’re able to add Tse Nikani and the Flat Mesa Rock scenic Route (Highway 191, south of Highway 160) you’ll be treated to overwhelmingly unusual land and rock formations, including places which are sacred to the Navajo people. Be sure to have enough fuel and bring plenty of water and perhaps a lunch with you, but make a point of taking this impressive byway in while you explore northern Arizona.
A Must Visit route in your northern Arizona experience is called Diné Tah (meaning “Among the People”). There you’ll find Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation, and as surreal a landscape as Arizona has to offer. There, beginning near where I-40 crosses the Arizona/New Mexico border, you’ll find a wealth of history and heritage, as well as everything from stark rock formations to lush forests. Those who see these wonders firsthand will understand why the native people were willing to fight and die for this land. The Lukachukai Mountains alone are reason enough to pay a visit, but the rest of the story, the battles with the Spaniards that spanned two centuries, long before the United States became a part of the picture, and far before that, with the Anasazi ruins from ten THOUSAND years ago… all of this and more wait to be seen and found in northern Arizona.
Arizona has always been much more than the abandoned movie studios of Tucson and the golf courses of Prescott. Do yourself a favor and discover the rest of Arizona, the far greater portion so few ever see. You’ll be thrilled and amazed by this, one of the greatest secrets in the United States, lying in the shadows of one of the seven Wonders of the World.