Weekend Trip: Coconino National Forest

Weekend Trip: Coconino National Forest

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As we watch summer temperatures climb in Phoenix, it is a great time to plan a getaway to more temperate climes. Luckily, the diverse landscape of Arizona offers beautiful escapes to beat the heat, most within a short drive from central Phoenix.

On a weekend, why not head out to Coconino National Forest? This National Park stretches out around Flagstaff, including pine forests and the gorgeous red rock desert of Sedona and Prescott. A vast and diverse terrain, with some of Arizona’s biggest arts and crafts scenes, there’s always something new to explore in the Coconino National Forest.

Lava River Cave

Lava River Cave feels like the opposite of Phoenix summer. This mile-long underground cave was formed when a volcanic vent erupted and the sides of the lava flow cooled and solidified, even as molten lava continued to flow and empty through the tube. Visitors to the cave should prepare for total darkness and cool temperatures. The cave retains a temperature in the 40°F range throughout the year and ice and slippery surfaces may be present even when it is summer above ground. Hikers should dress warmly and bring 2-3 portable light sources to help guide them through the cave tunnel.

The preparation is well worth it to experience this intriguing place. The beauty, mystery and geology of the lava cave are a fantastic and refreshing summer adventure. As you hike the cave trail, you’ll see formations in the rock where molten lava hardened from liquid into stone creating surreal patterns and formations.

Red Rock Pass

Exploring the gorgeous scenic red rock area around Sedona is best done with a Red Rock Pass in hand. The Red Rock Pass grants you access to numerous natural and historic features of the Verde Valley landscape and supports the maintenance of these areas. Numerous heritage sites, like the Palatki Cliff Dwelling Site and the V Bar V Petroglyph Site are open to the public with a Red Rock Pass.

Getting a Red Rock Pass is easy, and a great addition to any weekend based in Sedona. For food, lodging and culture, a weekend in Sedona is as memorable as its gorgeous setting amidst the Red Rock area of the Coconino National Forest.

Oak Creek Canyon

For those who want to escape to Canyon Country without battling the summer crowds at the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon offers exceptional beauty without the throng of people. Several scenic drive routes can be used to access the Oak Creek Canyon Area and its gorgeous vistas and wilderness habitat.

Tucked between Sedona and Flagstaff, the Oak Creek Canyon is an area of exceptional richness and beauty. The Canyon area provides copious access to fishing, camping and birdwatching sites making it a great place for weekend nature lovers to come and unwind.

Elden Pueblo

Not far outside Flagstaff, the Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site holds the remains of a Sinagua village that was established nearly 1,000 years ago. Visitors to Elden Pueblo can learn about the trade routes the location connected and its role in Arizona’s history. Check with the Elden Pueblo schedule to coordinate your visit with a public archaeology day where you can get further involved with the work happening on site.

Sedona, Prescott, and Flagstaff

If camping isn’t your thing, make one of the scenic cities within and surrounding the Coconino National Forest your home base for your trip. Sedona’s wonderful Red Rock setting makes it a perfect location for exploring the southern side of the forest with a wellness-centered New Age vibe to the town itself.

Flagstaff to the north is the central hub of the National Forest and greets visitors with a warm welcome. Flagstaff is known for its outdoorsy vibe, with a strong arts scene as well. The historic town of Prescott on the western edge of the Coconino area boasts a lively nightlife as well as multiple museums documenting the history and heritage of the area.

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