Are you finding the gas prices staggering and are you beginning to wonder what else you might do this summer rather than drive to the Midwest to see Aunt Julie and Uncle Bob? Consider staying in Payson and exploring the many sights we have in our own back yard.
Some of the more popular short trips from here would include the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times you have visited this site, you always find something new to enjoy. Recently we visited there and for the first time viewed the wonderful 35-minute film presented by IMAX showing a history and fantastic scenes of the canyon from many different perspectives. Don't miss it the next time you are there. Also, for the first time, I took a one-hour flight-seeing of the canyon by Grand Canyon Airlines, which gives you a front-row seat to this marvelous part of the world. I took at least 50 photos as we flew over the South and North Rims. This is really the best way to view the canyon. Grand Canyon Airlines fly the 12-passenger turbo prop fixed wing aircraft, which I prefer over the helicopters. For more information, call 1-866-2-FLY-GCA.
I also very much enjoy a drive to Williams and taking the Grand Canyon train to the South Rim enjoying the sights and lunch before boarding the train late in the afternoon for the return to Williams. You can either stay at the hotel in Williams or return to Payson the same day. For additional details, call 1-800-THE-TRAIN.
Another "stay-cation" option nearby is the Verde Canyon Railroad, which operates out of Clarkdale, between Cottonwood and Jerome in the Verde Valley. This train trip will take you through the wilderness area along the Verde River to Perkinsville and back. On board you will see rugged, high desert rock faces, crimson cliffs, perhaps some bald eagles and other flora and fauna. The passenger cars offer both coach and first class seating. There are also open flat cars available with bench seats from which to photograph and further enjoy the views from outdoors. The train usually operates from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 1-800-293-7245.
How about visiting Sedona? I never get tired of the fantastic beauty of this area with its multi-colored rock faced mountains. The hues of color change with the angle of the sun each day. The town is rather small, but there is much to do here: fine art, great restaurants, wonderful hotels and resorts if you want to overnight and good shopping.
Nearby is Oak Creek Canyon. Make sure to schedule a visit to its shores while in Sedona.
A one-day drive from Payson could include Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff via Highway 89 and then a return trip by way of Lake Mary and Mormon Lake. There is great scenery all the way, so be sure to bring a camera. Try to work lunch or dinner at the Mormon Lake Lodge into the trip. It's hard to find a more attractive hideaway in our area and the food is pretty good.
Another day trip could include Sedona and Jerome. Jerome is an old mining town turned artist haven in the hills about 45 minutes south of Sedona. There are lots of antique shops and galleries to visit in the historic heart of copper country and interesting places to dine.
The Petrified Forest is another fascinating place to visit. It consists of two large areas connected by a north-south corridor. The northern area is part of the multihued badlands of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation called the Painted Desert. The southern area includes very colorful concentrations of petrified wood. The children will particularly enjoy this. They can even purchase some carvings of the wood-stone.
On an outing to the Petrified Forest, also consider taking in the Meteor Crater. It is some 4,000 feet in diameter and 570 feet deep. It was created about 50,000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite about 54 yards across, which impacted the plain at a very high speed. There are good guides here, with interesting information everyone will enjoy.
Closer in I recommend a day trip to Pinetop/Lakeside. The trip to and from here is scenic, with good roads. You
will find interesting shops, restaurants and more.
Close to Payson you will find a wide assortment of activities and scenery. Fishing in the nearby lakes, camping and hiking are a wonderful way to get acquainted with the world at your doorstep. The Rim Country is home to the largest travertine bridge in the world, Tonto Natural Bridge; the state park is just up the road and an extraordinary place to explore.