No trip to Arizona would be complete without a trip to the majestic and incredibly beautiful Grand Canyon. The canyon’s South Rim is the most crowded side of the canyon especially in summer. If you want to go when the crowd’s are the thinnest, the best time is November through February however, that is also when you are most likely to encounter snow with icy roads and the possibility of fog or rain and poor visibility across the canyon. The South Rim is approximately 7,000 feet in altitude so if you have any kind of difficulty such as respiratory or heart problems, walking around in this area can be difficult. There is a large visitor center at Canyon View where you can get maps and information about the various viewing points. Grand Canyon Village also has shops, restaurants, lodging and good views of the canyon. There are easily accessible stores and restaurants in the park as well as lodging and camping. Lodging and camping spots can fill up as much as a year in advance so if you plan on trying to stay within the park, be sure to book your spot well ahead of the time you intend to go there. Parking at the various lookout points can be difficult, especially in summer so be sure to park your rig and take the free shuttle all around the south rim.
The seaside town of Monterey has a long, and colorful history dating back to 1542 when Spanish explorer, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was the first explorer to see the bay which he named “La Bahia de los Pinos or Bay of Pines. In 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino renamed the beautiful bay, “Monte Rey Bay” in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain. It was here that the Royal Presidio and Mission, San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey, were founded in the late 1700’s. Museums in Monterey, such as the Pacific House document the historic side of the city as is the Presidio of Monterey Museum, Colton Hall, another of Monterey’s historic and colorful buildings.
The first place you might want to explore in this interesting town is the wonderful, Fisherman’s wharf. Just before the pier entrance, you can stand for hours enjoying the antics of the harbor seals, sea otters and pelicans in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. On the wharf you can enjoy fresh, scrumptious seafood, laugh at the creative acts of local street performers, gaze out into the beautiful bay or pick up souvenirs from the many pier side shops and vendors.
From the wharf, head over to Cannery Row to step back in time to the location of the old sardine canning industry made famous by John Steinbeck in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Today, while the old canning factories are gone, the area is still alive with restaurants, shops and hotels and fun things to do for both young and old. Wander a little further up the street and you will come to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with its wonderful collection of marine life and informational exhibits. Learn about the marine life of the bay and enjoy the antics of the sea creatures such as penguins, flamingos and every sort of exotic fish from reef dwellers to graceful jelly fish.
Just south of Monterey is the town of Carmel, California, home to the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and Resort. This area is also home to the famous 17 mile drive which, known as one of the most scenic drives in the world, runs from the town of Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach. Exploring this beautiful area can easily take up a whole day and provide breathtaking views and photo opportunities.
The climate in Monterey is temperate and mild all year long. Sea fog and rain can be present in some seasons of the year and nights can be chilly requiring a light jacket. The average summer temperature is 59.5 degrees with the average yearly rainfall of 18.33 inches per year. Monterey is a beautiful coastal town which attracts many visitors from around the world at all times of the year.
If you enjoy exploring caves, then a stop by the Grand Canyon Caverns, located near Seligman, Arizona off of Historic Route 66 might be just the adventure that you have been seeking. This dry cave, formed over 345 million years ago, was discovered in 1927 by Walter Peck who thought he had found a cavern filled with gold, silver and diamonds. Unfortunately for poor Walter, no minerals or diamonds existed in the extensive cavern depths so the fortune that he had imagined never materialized. To get to the cavern, visitors are led down 210 feet via elevator to the ample cave rooms below. Although there are concrete walkways and ample handrails, much of the tour takes visitors on steep upward and downward climbs so this tour is definitely not for those who cannot maneuver up and down stairs and steep ramps.
Within the first, large cavern room, a small, overnight lodging unit has been installed for those who can shell out upwards of $750 per night to spend the night 210 feet below the surface for a unique, adventure below ground. The Cavern Suite accommodates 1-6 occupants and requires advanced reservations.
While on the tour, you will see the remains of a mummified bobcat that had the misfortune to fall into the cave as well as a full size replica of a Sloth that also had the misfortune of slipping to it’s death within the cave interior centuries ago. You will also see supplies of Civil Defense rations which were placed in the cavern in the 1960’s so that the facility could be used as a national Fallout, Bomb shelter for 2,000 people if the need has arisen. Tour employees say that the supplies, although old, would still be edible today given the low humidity and highly purified, clean air found at the cavern depths.
The Caverns are located 22 miles west of Seligman on old Highway 66 at mile marker 115. Many other touring opportunities such as jeep tours, horseback riding and river rafting can also be arranged from the Caverns and Inns located here. A restaurant is located in the Inn for visitors as well as a gift shop.
If you love to see wildlife, a great place to visit is Bearizona, a drive-through wildlife park located on I-40 just 25 miles west of Flagstaff, Arizona in Williams, Arizona. See burros, bison, big horn and dall sheep and wild bear roaming the 158 acre park all from the comfort of your own vehicle. The 3.5 mile driving tour includes a circular drive through the bear exhibit with black and brown bears roam freely through the forest wilderness. At the end of the driving tour, you can park your car and walk through the young animal exhibit. Currently on display are 2 young bear cubs, 3 wolf pups and 2 bobcat cubs in the walk-through exhibit. The park is open during day-light hours, 7 days per week. The park opened on May 23, 2010 and allowed local residents a free tour of the drive-through park. Cost for entrance into the park during the 2010 season is $5.00 for children between the ages of 4-12, and $11.00 for adults. Children under the age of 4 are free. This cost is half price during the opening year but will increase for 2011. This wonderful park is definitely worth a visit!
A great fun activity for the whole family is a visit to Old Tucson Movie Studio and the Desert Sonoran Museum just west of the city of Tucson, Arizona. While it is not cheap with an adult ticket costing $16.95 with $10.95 for children 4-11, it is a fun place worth visiting while in the area. The park opens Thursday through Mondays from 10:00 A.M. and closes around dusk. Be sure to check their website for exact closing times as it varies by month. You can learn about movie making and see photos and costumes from famous westerns, see a live gunfight in the streets of old Tucson, and even watch live performances of the Can, Can with Miss Kitty and the girls in the Grand Palace Saloon. Shows vary in length from 10 to 30 minutes and are presented at various times during the day. In addition to the shows, there are shops, restaurants and several attractions such as driving antique cars, riding the old fashioned carousel or touring the Haunted Mine House of Horrors. You can take a ride on the small railroad, on an old stagecoach or visit the stables. To get to Old Tucson, take the Speedway exit from I-10 and drive through the mountains to 201 S. Kinney Road.
Nestled in the ponderosa pines of northern Arizona, the city of Flagstaff is a great base for seeing the sights of northern Arizona. Perched at 7,000 feet at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff enjoys cool summers and great winter weather for skiing and sledding. Flagstaff was a convenient stopping point along the famous Route 66 cross-country highway. In fact, you will still see many shops selling Route 66 memorabilia and signs bearing the old highway’s designation. The 12,634 foot peak of Mount Humphrey towers above the skyline and serves as an important local landmark both for Native Americans and Flagstaff residents. Flagstaff is home to Northern Arizona University and is an important rail center from cargo moving back and forth across the country. You will constantly hear the tooting of trains as they pass through the area as they make their way through town.
In the Coconino Forest, you can find all types of outdoor activities from horseback riding to hiking, to fishing to biking, to boating. Flagstaff is a great “home base” for your RV as you tour the various national monuments and landmarks. The Grand Canyon is approximately 90 minutes to the north, the Petrified Forest lies to the east, Sedona to the south, with any number of great Native American landmarks such as Wupatki National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano, Meteor Crater and Montezuma’s Castle all within an easy day’s drive. Stop off at the old historic train station which now serves as a visitor center. Take the Verde Canyon Railroad or the Grand Canyon Railway from nearby Williams to the South rim of the Grand Canyon.
In the city of Flagstaff, itself, there are also many interesting things to see and do. In winter, when the snow packs in, there is skiing from the Snow Bowl ski lodge. In summer, you can take a trip up the mountain on the ski lift to hike around at the top and see the meadows covered in wildflowers. The view is fantastic and the air is clear and crisp. If you enjoy winter sports, consider tubing down the mountain at the Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area.
Another interesting thing to see and do is to visit the Lowell Observatory founded by Percival Lowell in 1894. This working observatory features information about current sky observation, movies on astronomy and information on the history of the observatory. A 200 acre Arboretum, featuring 2,500 species of plants native to the Arizona high country is also an excellent place to visit. The arboretum does close from November 1st to March 31st so this is a summer activity only. You can also walk around in downtown Flagstaff where there may be a fair or celebration taking place in the town square. Want to learn more about Native American culture? Visit the Museum of Northern Arizona 1 mile west of town. Taste a bit of Flagstaff’s past at the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. Here you can tour the 40 room mansion build in 1904 by two of Flagstaff’s lumber baron brothers. Learn about Military history at the Fort Tuthill Military Museum just outside of the city. Both the city and the area has a lot to offer so plan to spend some time in this beautiful, woody area.
Red Rock passes for the Schnebly Hill Road can be obtained on AZ 179. The road is closed in the Winter and Summer fire season, it depends on conditions. Questions: contact the Coconino Forest ranger. I recommend 4X4 drive for this road
A wonderful place to visit in an RV is the great state of New Mexico. Although New Mexico is one of the more sparsely populated western states, it is rich in history both from the Native American tribes of Navajo, Pueblos and Ute to name a few. In addition to the areas rich tribal history it is also has extensive influences from its Spanish and Mexican roots as well. The town of Santa Fe was established in 1608 with the town of Albuquerque founded in 1706. The state has benefited from the military bases and military research labs including White Sands Missile Range, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. New Mexico was known as the home of the first operational railroad known as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The state is rich in great spots to visit so coming to New Mexico in an RV can be a fun and rewarding experience.