A one-night weekend getaway to Prescott, Arizona included short trail hikes around two area lakes, shopping at Courthouse Square, and a fantastic Sunday brunch.
When we only have a one-night trip and arrive in Prescott Saturday morning, we start the day with the locals, at the Prescott Farmer’s Market. Since we left the Valley about 8 a.m., we arrived in time to stroll around the market. It’s been quite a long time since we visited the Prescott Farmer’s Market, so the winter/spring location at 930 Division Street seemed smaller and compact. The summertime market location is at the much roomier Yavapai College parking lot. Still, we were able to find many farmers and crafts people on hand selling a variety of produce, handmade goods and ready to eat foods. We opted for some whole cacao chocolates for nibbling on later.
After working up an appetite at the Farmer’s Market, it was time for lunch. One of our favorite Prescott lunch spots is Bill’s Grill. Excellent sandwiches, tacos, burgers plus a solid selection of craft brews await the hungry Prescott visitor. We arrived a bit early so we waited on the chairs in front of the restaurant.
While we sat, we realized how far apart the worlds are between Prescott and the Phoenix metro area. We’re so used to the suburban sprawl of the big city; people rely on cars, buses, light rail, etc., while people in Prescott tend to walk and ride bicycles. Maybe it’s the climate: being 10-15 degrees cooler makes a difference? Maybe the close proximity to shops, grocers, workspaces? People in Prescott seem friendlier, more hospitable and neighborly as well. At least it seems that way. Maybe it’s for tourism. Small town America? My daydreaming was interrupted when I heard the unlocking of the Bill’s Grill doors and we went in to enjoy our lunch.
After lunch we strolled around the square, window shopping mostly; there’s often a few newer shops we’ve never visited and we’d like to explore. We love to spend time in the Bashford Courts stores and the Firehouse Coffee Company.
Making our way around Courthouse Square, we’re usually aware of any weekend events taking place and this particular weekend in late April, the Whiskey Off-Road Bike Race was in full swing. But with each event, even a bike race or marathon, comes the vendors lining the streets with their canopies and tents, this time selling bike apparel, accessories, of course, food. Plus there’s live music, a beer garden and a petting zoo. Yes, a petting zoo, too.
Time to check in to our lodging. On this particular night we were able to uncover a great deal on an upgraded suite with fireplace and Jacuzzi tub at the Forest Villas Resort not too far from downtown. About 2 p.m., we find many hotels are able to check us in, so we can unload our baggage, freshen up, change clothes and head out again for an afternoon. They were able to do that this time too.
It’s been many years we’ve stopped by Watson Lake. Seeing a lot of great photographs on Instagram lately whetted our appetite for Watson Lake, so we made the decision to swing by the park. and Watson Lake didn’t disappoint. The late Saturday afternoon panorama provided a backdrop for senior prom goers and large family picnickers having their pictures taken. A short stroll around the lake trail provided us with a few good photo ops and after enjoying the views, it was time for dinner.
Our original plans for dining out fell through, so we ended up at a strip mall sushi place called Fujiyama Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar. We saw several people standing outside the door, and immediately assumed, “this place must be good.” The inside was packed as well. We ordered several fairly basic rolls and were well satisfied.
Back at the room, we noticed the moon coming up over the mountains. Time to spend some time on the balcony, and enjoy a glass of wine and a few pieces of the Communal Uprising Chocolate from the Farmer’s Market for dessert. Although our room loomed over the busy highway, the view of the moon over the Bradshaw Mountains more than compensated for any traffic distraction.
Early Sunday morning a walk around Lynx Lake was on the agenda. But we took advantage of our hotel room’s amenities and decided to sleep in and take our time. Coffee and continental breakfast is free in the hotel lobby so we made use of that as well. Then we loaded up and drove literally just across the highway to Lynx Lake Recreation Area for a wonderful stroll around the lake. This is a popular place with local runners and dog walkers too, completing their daily workout. Quite a few folks fishing were spotted, as well as some unusual water birds.
But the icing on the weekend was a great lunch at the Lynx Lake Cafe. Everything we’ve eaten in our past two visits here has been delicious, whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. But the best things about the cafe have to be the sweeping views of the lake, watching hummingbirds eat their lunch outside your window and overhearing families excitedly discussing their camping, hiking and fishing experiences from their weekend. In order to prepare for the coming work week, sometimes one needs a little attitude adjustment and you can get that in Prescott.
One suggestion for a December weekend getaway: Take a drive to Prescott. We enjoy the quaint antique shops, craft breweries, locally owned restaurants, interesting holiday events just to name a few of the attractions.
The second weekend of December we traveled up on a Saturday morning. After checking in at the Forest Villas, we shopped for unique Christmas gifts along Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott. Looking for something different for gift exchanges? You’ll find a great selection in the Bashford Court shops, gift shops, antique stores in downtown Prescott.
Our favorite lunch stop is Bill’s Grill. You’ll find the juiciest burgers, and best fries, soups, sandwiches there! Everything is good. We explored more businesses and worked up a thirst for some craft brew. Since we hadn’t yet tried Coppertop Alehouse, we decided to sample their beers.
Back at Forest Villas, we relaxed in the lobby, which we found to be not only inviting, but welcoming with the late afternoon sun streaming in, beautiful fireplace hearth, its holiday decorations and coffee and tea bar.
We met our friends from nearby Prescott Valley for dinner. They suggested Lynx Lake Cafe for German food. At first I thought Lynx Lake’s facilities were no more than a bait store and marina, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food, service and atmosphere. It was the perfect end to the day – an excellent dinner watching the sunset over Lynx Lake in a country lodge type dining room setting.
The next morning before leaving, we stopped by the Prescott Resort to see the gingerbread village. This is a fun activity to cap off the weekend and get into the Christmas holiday mood. The Prescott Resort is always beautifully decorated for the season.
Fall in Arizona means desert dwellers and out-of-state visitors swarming to the north and east parts of the state to the mountains to see aspen, oak and maple leaves changing color. They often overlook a visit to the Verde Valley for the cottonwoods, willows and sycamores. Along the Verde River, Oak Creek and Sycamore Creek they’ll find a wide array of spectacular scenery and fall color changes. One Sunday in early October, we opted to make a way to Sycamore Creek Canyon to hike the Parsons Springs Trail. Although it was a bit early for the most dramatic colors below the Mogollon Rim, we were still able to spot a few splashes of yellow, splashed against a canvas of azure blue.
Parsons Springs Trail is a beautiful 7-mile out and back walk along the creek, crossing about six times and before reaching Parsons Springs. Unfortunately, due to some tire issues on the way into Cottonwood, we had to cut short our hike on this particular outing.
Sycamore Creek serves as swimming hole for some brave, hot souls during the summer. On this particular fall day, water flows were slow. The creek appeared stagnant, buggy and muddy in spots. No wading or swimming this time!
We loved the 360-degree views of the canyon at the trailhead. The parking lot has plenty of space for a tailgate picnic after hiking. The trail was quiet; we only encountered a few hikers on the way in, a few more coming back. A few had overnight packs, indicating they likely had set up camp in the wilderness area north of Parson Springs.
A clear, sunny and relatively cool day in Sycamore Canyon reminds one of a creekside landscape in an eastern or midwestern state: Shady with lush, thick growth along the path. But you only need to look up to the red rock walls and your thoughts will be transported back to Arizona. Watch out for poison ivy; we spotted several patches.
The trail is relatively level, with only a slight incline heading back to the parking lot. Molly was getting hot and tired toward the end of the afternoon, and after a couple of hours, we had our appetite worked up for a bite to eat at one of our favorite cafes in Old Town Cottonwood.
It was too bad to see our shiny, new Subaru Forester so dusty, but that’s why we bought it, to award it with a little dirt and dust while exploring Arizona and western states. We didn’t need to use the 4WD for this trip, but it was nice to know we had it, plus we easily cleared any high spots on the road.
Late September through November is prime time for fall foliage excursions around Arizona. Get out and explore!
Not that kind of gas! Gasoline. Fuel for your Ford or Fiat. Over the past few months, we’ve noticed that some of the best taquerias are those located immediately adjacent to gas stations. Combine your fuel stop with a food stop. Location, location, location!
Las Palapas Taco Grill
One such restaurant is Las Palapas Taco Grill in Yuma, Ariz. Our trips to San Diego recently have been more frequent and we have made it a point to stop in Yuma for gas. (It’s also a few cents per gallon less here than in California.) Next to the Chevron off of Interstate 8, on Fortuna Road is Las Palapas. It’s a counter service eatery and each meal is made to order. Expect a little bit of a wait during busy times, but we’ve always been very satisfied with the quality of the food and quick service.
We’ve been a patron of Las Palapas probably four or five times and all the tacos we’ve eaten have been delicious: Ensenada fish tacos, Baja shrimp tacos, pastor and carne asada steak tacos. There’s no scrimping on the fillings. The fish tacos are among my favorites. Although the menu says it’s Alaskan pollock, the fish tastes so fresh and is perfectly breaded and fried; it actually melts in your mouth! You’d think you’re sitting next to the Sea of Cortez eating a fisherman’s catch of the day. The salsa bar provides a variety of tasty hot and mild choices for both topping and dipping. Tortilla chips are crispy and fresh.
Don’t be discouraged by a few negative comments on some restaurant review sites. To us, Las Palapas Taco Grill never disappoints. We look forward to our next taco lunch!
El Salsas Taco Shop
Another taqueria we have recently discovered, is on the route from Phoenix to Las Vegas in Kingman. Just as Yuma is sort of our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and San Diego; Kingman is our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Immediately adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 40 and State Route 93 is El Salsas Taco Shop. If you can’t find it on the map, just look for the Chevron gas station. It’s next door.
We’ve been to El Salsas only once, but judging by some of the other patrons’ reviews, it’s among the best you’ll find for a quick and convenient taco lunch on your next trip through Kingman. The entrance is unassuming; you’ll find it tucked neatly next door to the Chevron’s convenience mart.
The time we stopped, I ordered the fish (my favorite) and Chuck opted for the carne. Our tacos were fresh and very tasty, and like Las Palapas, they also feature a well-stocked salsa buffet. Tasty tortillas and plenty of fresh meat (or fish), and veggie fillings made these tacos memorable. We’ll have to return or another meal here soon. Who’s ready for a trip to Vegas or northwest Arizona?
Next time you’re driving through Yuma or Kingman, Arizona, take a travel tip from me: Get gas and eat tacos!
Okay, maybe we weren’t ‘lost’ in the purest sense, more like disoriented. But in the Superstition Wilderness, there’s a fine line between being disoriented and lost. It all boils down to the quantities of confidence, water supply and daylight.
Always download the map to a GPS or phone. Don’t depend on cell phone service, as it’s usually spotty. Carry a paper map as a back up, as well as plenty of water, emergency provisions, first aid kit.
“We just came down this path the last time we were here a few years ago, right?”
“No, I think we came down from a different trailhead, but we’re still coming out in the same place… at least I think. It all leads to about the same place.”
“Yeah, I don’t remember this at all.”
“Doesn’t this trail go past Hackberry Springs… where we saw the mules last time?”
“I think so.”
“Wait, I think we’ve gone too far down First Water Creek! Aren’t we supposed to cut back up the hill toward Garden Valley?
“It all looks so different now, after just a couple of years.”
“It’s been more like six years… Yep, it’s way overgrown now. All the rain and snow melt.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to get turned around like we did that time when we started down into Boulder Canyon and thought we were headed to Hackberry. That would’ve been a long day of hiking.”
“Okay, this looks all too familiar now.”
“Yep. This is Garden Valley. I can see Weaver’s Needle.”
“Now we’re back at the intersection of Black Mesa and Second Water Trails. So, the First Water Trailhead should be up past that rise.”
“Should be. We have to cross First Water Creek again.”
“Hey, look! More poppies! Boy, I bet Lost Dutchman (state park) has a bunch in bloom right now!”
What was supposed to be a five-mile loop turned into a 7.5-mile loop. When we arrived at the main First Water parking lot, it was full so we were forced to turn back and park at the staging area. We began our Hackberry Springs/Garden Valley Loop from there, heading down toward First Water creek, unknowingly passing by the old windmill and corral area, and wallking along the creek on the west bank, heading north, and ultimately missing the turn heading east. When we realized our error, we reversed course, crossed over the creek and come up around the bluff at Hackberry, gradually along the ridge to Garden Valley. Not having gone this clockwise direction before, most of the territory appeared unfamiliar.
We recommend starting at First Water, completing the loop counterclockwise, with the only precaution to not overlook the turn to Garden Valley. Rock cairns usually mark the spot, but not always! After the sign to Black Mesa, look for a trail veering left. After crossing the “valley,” the terrain changes. Keep to your right (easterly), and the trail will lead you along a canyon ridge with sweeping views. After 1.7 miles, you’ll arrive at a sort of rocky roundabout, you may be tempted to take a trail to the left, but stay to the right, Once you’ve descended into the thickly-grown springs area, you’ll have the bluff on your left. Continue along the creek; watch closely and you may see a dripping pipe protruding from the rocks. You’ve made it to Hackberry Springs! Continue along the creek toward the windmill and corral and walk up the old road to the staging area parking lot/trailhead or the main First Water Trailhead and parking lot.
Most travel writers will inform readers about all the highlights, most iconic things to do and see in a particular part of Arizona. Sedona Arizona is a prime example. Guidebooks and information centers are plentiful, offering the most popular (and most populated) sights. They steer people to such sights as Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock, Slide Rock and Bell Rock… all those rocks! But so many excellent activities and sights are not given enough due in other websites. Here are a few:
Many folks travel to nearby wineries for tasting. Most will sample the vintages at Page Springs Vineyards and Oak Creek Vineyards. We suggest also including a stop and spending a bit more time at Javelina Leap. Step behind the winery’s original main tasting room into the new “Arizona Room” and you’ll find a larger gathering spot for trying out the best vintages from Javelina Leap. There’s even a airy patio for nibbling and noshing when the weather’s right. We not only sampled wines, but some excellent appetizers — tapas — to cleanse our palate.
Before you spend an afternoon instagramming rock cairns at Red Rock Crossing, which by the way will now cost you $10 to park, visit Red Rock State Park. for a short stroll along Oak Creek or a moderate climb to Eagle’s Nest. It’s amazing what you may see along the way.
Many Sedona/Cottonwood visitors may have Montezuma’s Castle on their itinerary, but Montezuma’s Well — maybe not so much. Stop at Montezuma Well and follow the trail to the end. You’ll see the native inhabitants’ cliff dwellings and natural springs which feed the well. Roaming rangers and docents will provide the history of the well and its original water users.
We recently made a weekend getaway to Old Town Cottonwood and found there’s lot to do and see in this quaint, historic section of the central Arizona town.
We started out the morning with a short hike along the Jail Trail in Old Town Cottonwood. At the trail head, we noticed beautiful morning glory vines weaving along the fence at the Wild Rose Tea House.
Views along the trail include these giant pampas grass clusters on the banks of the Verde River.
Pampas grass plumes bent to the morning breezes, resembling billowing ostrich feathers.
Fungus took over residence in a downed cottonwood trunk.
We lingered for a while at the edge of the Verde River, near the Tuzigoot Road bridge.
The far end of the Jail Trail connects to the entrance of Dead Horse State Park. (Tip: Walk-in entrance fee is only $3.)
After walking along the river, we stopped for a bit of brunch at the Red Rooster Cafe.
There’s nothing better than a frothy latte on a chilly morning in Old Town Cottonwood.
Even if you’re not enthusiastic about antiques, you’ll find enjoyment browsing Larry’s Antiques & Things.
While shopping for unusual antiques, we not only found a “alien receiving” sign, but we found an alien to go with it… 🙂
Finally, we topped off the day with wine tasting at one of several tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood including the Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room on Main Street.
Thinking about a road trip? Now is the perfect time to visit Cottonwood:
March 29 is the Verde River Runoff.
The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is April 24-27.
A blues festival, guitar concert and local history program are among the events dot at the Old Town Center for the Arts.
Check the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce calendar for more events.
Enjoy your Arizona Getaway!
Ready for a winter hike? Take a look at AZGetawayTravel’s hiking list.
See you on Arizona’s hiking trails!
Are you a gadget junkie? Anyone with smartphones or tablets knows how addicting they can be. At Sunglow Ranch, in the Chiricahua Mountains south of Willcox, Ariz., guests now can opt for the new Digital Detox package. They will have the chance to put away — or leave at home — those frustrating electronic devices that seem to distract us from the more important things in life.
Relaxing in the swimming pool from March to October, unwinding in the hydrospa and strolling along the nature trails at Sunglow Ranch will “put your life back in balance” according to owners, Brooks and Susan Bradbury. You see, there’s no telephone or television in the suites.
The three-night Digital Detox Package includes lodging, all meals, house wine, two private, two-hour guided horseback trail rides, and a one-hour massage. The cost is: $1,500 for two-room casita or $1,250 for one-room casita (plus tax and ranch fee, for one or two guests, double occupancy. Based on advance reservation & availability. Excludes holidays & blackout periods.)
And Sunglow Ranch has added a new suite to its collection: The Blue Heron Suite, a 530 sq. ft. king bed room with views of the spectacular Chiricahuas and the nearby pond, stopover location for the occasional blue heron. The suite’s private porch is the ideal spot to enjoy morning coffee or a glass of wine. Like all of the Sunglow Ranch rooms, the Blue Heron Suite includes coffeemaker, microwave, refrigerator, hairdryer and comfy waffle robes — for that porch time.
Of course, WiFi is available for those who are not detoxing digitally or others who can no longer withstand the peace and quiet of Sunglow Ranch and all its surrounding natural beauty — and absolutely find it necessary to check the latest Twitter trends.
For other packages and information including spectacular photos of Sunglow Ranch, please visit its website.