Northern Arizona Scenic Drives Guide
Flagstaff to Munds ParkDrive through this picture-postcard country to visit some of Arizona's century old lakes, and end your day in the pretty community of Munds Park. Scattered campgrounds and picnic areas can be found along the sides of both Lower and Upper Lake Mary, which are named for a Flagstaff pioneer's daughter. Both Lower and Upper Lake Mary hold low water levels, but Mormon Lake, a little farther south, holds the least amount, even during a wet year. Mormon Lake can sometimes be seen filled with a blanket of yellow daises instead of water. The winding excursion through this back road is passable with an ordinary car, but can be bouncy in places.
Tour GuideRoute: Begin just south of Flagstaff on Lake Mary Road off Interstate 17 at Exit 339. The road also is known as Forest Highway 3. Continue southeastward on the road, past Lower and Upper Lake Mary, for 28 miles, to West Side Mormon Lake Road, also known as Forest Road 90. Turn left for a southward drive around Mormon Lake. Leaving the southern end of Mormon Lake, backtrack northward on FR 90 to Forest Road 240 and turn left (west). Continue for 2 miles on FR 240 to Forest Road 132A and bear left toward Munds Park. (Going right takes to atop Mormon Mountain.) Continue on FR 240 for a mile and the start of a long, rough descent. At the bottom, go right at the fork. Less than a mile later, at a T-junction, a sign will read Munds Park.Turn left and follow the road for 5 miles into Munds Park and Interstate 17.
North Rim of the Grand CanyonIf you're wondering where Mother Nature spends most of her time, this is it. The Canyon, the fall weather, the quiet… there's nothing quite like the North Rim and its 44-mile parkway. The scenic drive starts on State Route 67 at Jacob Lake and continues for 30 miles to the entrance of Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim – the rim itself is 14 miles farther south. Named for Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon pioneer known as the "buckskin apostle," Jacob Lake is the home of the oldest existing ranger station in the U.S. It's worth a look. From Jacob Lake, the road heads south for a few miles through a gorgeous stand of ponderosa pines and quaking aspens. Moving on, the plateau gradually rises to a point where the Douglas and white firs take over. These dense, mixed-conifer forests are an ideal place to spot wildlife. Be on the lookout for mule deer, wild turkeys, Kaibab squirrels, and maybe even a California condor. Continuing south, the forest changes once again near Crane Lake. Here, Engelmann spruce and subalpine firs rule the roost. Perhaps even more enjoyable, though, are the large grassy meadows. If you haven't taken any photos up to this point, get your camera ready – this is where the deer and the antelope play. Eventually, you'll cross into the national park, which features dozens of hikes, picnic areas, the Grand Canyon Lodge and, of course, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. No wonder Mother Nature spends so much time here.
Editor's note: Visitor facilities on the North Rim are open mid-May through mid-October, however, the North Rim remains open for day use through December 1, or until snows close the road.
Tour GuideRoute: From Flagstaff, take Highway 89 north for 110 miles to State Route 89A (about 25 miles south of Page). Go west on State 89A for 55 miles to Jacob Lake. The scenic drive starts on State Route 67 at Jacob Lake and continues for 30 miles to the entrance of Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim.
Additional Information: www.nps.gov/archive/grca/grandcanyon/north-rim/index.htm
Williams to Rain Tank WashThe road heading north from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers an obvious destination for most travelers, but adventurers, who want to examine another feature of the region's history, can take a side trip off the beaten track. A few miles south of Tusayan, sits Rain Tank Wash, where ancient pictographs decorate the limestone overhangs along the dry arroyo. A drive through the gentle, rolling terrain of the Kaibab National Forest's Tusayan District offers wonder opportunities for wildlife viewing. Along the back roads, it's easy to spot deer and elk, as well as a variety of birds and smaller mammals. In fact, the people that created the pictographs of Rain Tank Wash illustrated the much of the area's wildlife. Viewing this ancient rock art requires a short quarter-mile to a half-mile hike, but it's well worth the trip.
Tour GuideRoute: From Williams, drive north on State Route 64 approximately 50 miles to Forest Road 347. Turn left (west) onto FR 347 and drive 6 miles to Forest Road 306. If you cross the Grand Canyon Railway tracks, you've gone about .25 miles too far. Turn right (north) onto FR 306 and continue 1.25 miles to Forest Road 2615. Turn left (west) onto FR 2615 and drive 5 miles until the road is blocked by large rock piles. (WARNING: This road becomes treacherous during and following rain.) Park here and hike a quarter-mile to a half-mile to the limestone overhangs on the left. Faint footpaths lead to the hunting shelter/pictograph area. Look closely to find the pictographs, they are not marked by any signage.
North Rim to Horse Spring PointNo matter which road you take, you can't beat the views at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and this route takes in some of Mother Nature's best work. Beginning at the North Rim service station near the campground's entrance, State Route 67 heads north to Forest Road 22, also called West Side Road, that runs along the west side of the Kaibab Plateau. The landscape is cloaked with a rich green carpet of pine and fir trees, intermittently interrupted with groves of white-trunked aspens. You'll be tempted to turn down many different roads that branch off FR22 and lead to canyons, springs and hiking trails, but drive for approximately 20 miles to Forest Service Road 447, which drops 1,000 feet in elevation in the first 4 miles as it winds into Pine Hollow. The vegetation changes to shady oak trees and stately ponderosa pines. Continuing from there to Horse Spring Point, the roads wind down through pinon pines, junipers, high-desert scrub and tall grasses. The views include Mount Trumbull to the southwest, the Sawmill Mountains to the north, and the Vermilion Cliffs.
Route: Begin on State Route 67 at the North Rim and drive north approximately 8 miles to Forest Road 22, also called West Side Road, and turn left (northwest). Drive on FR 22 for 20 miles to Forest Road 447 and turn left (west), driving approximately 5 miles to Forest Road 427 and turn right (north). Drive 3 miles to Forest Road 236 and turn left (west) and follow for approximately 10 miles to Horse Spring Point, where the road ends. Retrace the route back to State 67 and turn right to return to the North Rim.