If you enjoyed the Hidden Gems and Secret Places of Southern Arizona but want to explore more of the state, then this is for you. We help uncover some of Northern Arizona’s most off-the-grid experiences that guarantee a unique and memorable trip.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Arizona.
1. Peach Springs
The town that inspired Pixar’s Radiator Springs, Peach Springs is a base camp for adventure in Northern Arizona. You’ll find this oasis on Route 66, just 50 miles northeast of Kingman. Whether you’re interested in spending the night beneath the earth’s surface (more on that below) or want to experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk, you can enjoy it all in this bustling but quaint capital of the Hualapai Nation.
Photo by Kerrick James
2. Corner of Route 66
Corner of Kinsley &, E 2nd St, Winslow, AZ 86047
If you’ve ever listened to the Eagles while driving with the window down, there’s a chance you’ve heard the famous lyrics of “Take it Easy.” In this anthemic tune Glenn Frey mentions the corner of Winslow, Arizona—an iconic intersection that is absolutely worth the trip. See it for yourself on Highway 40 out of Flagstaff. After driving past tumbleweeds for miles on Highway 40 out of Flagstaff, you’ll suddenly find yourself on the most celebrated corner in the Southwest. Complete with a cherry-red flatbed Ford, decorative mural, and blaring tunes, this is the perfect photo op for any true Frey fan.
3. Rock Art Ranch
928-386-5047 or 928-288-3260
While you’re in the vicinity of Winslow, find out if your rental car has four-wheel-drive. Journey down Rock Art Ranch Road where you’ll discover its namesake: Rock Art Ranch. This working cattle ranch is a true Northern Arizona hidden gem that out-of-towners seldom visit. Beforehand, ring up Brantley Baird, the owner and proprietor of the ranch who has lived on the ranch since 1948. For a modest sum of $35, Baird will take you on a personalized tour of his home. You’ll view well-preserved ancient petroglyphs, ancient ruins, and a small museum with American Indian and pioneer artifacts onsite.
4. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
1000 US-89A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036
Chances are that you’ve seen or heard of The Wave; a remarkable natural rock formation popularized in recent years on social media. But did you know there’s a lot more to see in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument? Nestled between Kaibab National Forest and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this 280,000-acre monument is stunning throughout. With endangered California condors overhead and sandy roads below your tires, this is one seriously special place that beckons to the modern day adventurer.
(Learn more about how to get a permit for the Wave here.)
5. Sash Dine Eco Retreat
Billed as a “5 Billion Star Hotel,” the Sash Dine Eco Retreat just outside of Page isn’t your average bed and breakfast. Forget four walls and a view—instead, this traditional Navajo Hogan has been beautifully hand-crafted with earth and logs. Located in the Navajo Nation on a working sheep ranch, visitors are surrounded by the raw beauty of Arizona as well as some of its most popular destinations, including: Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon. Due to the Pandemic, please check the open-to-visitors status of the Navajo Nation before going.
6. Arizona Hot Spring Trail
Arizona Hot Spring Trailhead, Willow Beach, AZ
Some of Arizona’s most secret places are only accessible by foot, and the 5-mile round trip Arizona Hot Spring Trail is a prime example. While far from secret, this remote hot spring is a quiet retreat thanks to its off-the-grid location. Walk along a rocky arroyo towards the Colorado River where, just before reaching the banks, you’ll encounter a nicely sized natural hot spring. For safety precautions and additional route finding information visit the NPS website.
Photo by Pinky
7. Grand Canyon Caverns (Page)
AZ-66, Peach Springs
Located in Peach Springs, Grand Canyon Caverns is a veritable treasure trove of fun for the whole family. Discovered in 1927, these caverns and have a unique history full of unlikely characters and events, including the remains of a paramylodon—a giant sloth that went extinct 12,000 years ago. Select from a number of tour options, including a ghost tour, before grabbing lunch 200 feet underground at the Cavern Grill. You may also inquire about sleeping in the “master suite” here—a particularly memorable experience after the ghost tour.
8. Dome Stargazing House
Arizona is home to 17 dark-sky communities, places and parks, and although Williams is not technically one of them, it still has significantly less light pollution than much of the lower 48. Take advantage of all those starry skies with a stay at the Dome Stargazing House. Romantic in nature, this tented dome has a clear top for the ultimate shooting star counting contest. Heated outdoor showers and heated sheets are available, as well as fire pits to keep you warm on those chilly summer nights.
9. Mystery Valley
Mystery Valley Road, Kayenta
For those visiting the cinematic rock formations of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, Mystery Valley is a fantastic addition. Located outside the small town of Kayenta in the Navajo Nation, this section of remote desert seems to resemble another planet. But look closely and you’ll find ancient indigenous ruins, petroglyphs, and a landscape teeming with life (including wild horses). This is a sacred area and requires a local guide to explore. Hire one at Monument Valley Visitor Center.
10. Homesteader Cabin
Journey back in time with a stay at the Homesteader Cabin in Fredonia, Arizona. Perfect for travelers journeying between Zion and the Grand Canyon, or simply for someone looking for a truly off-the-beaten-path retreat, this cabin tops our list of special stays. Located on a privately owned, 400-acre ranch, the historic cabin has been kitted out with modern creature comforts (including high-speed Wi-Fi, flush toilet, and shower) in recent years; and is perfect for those seeking solitude or a Wild West experience.
Photo by Mike Cavanaugh
11. Apache Death Cave
The Apache Death Cave, located on Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow, is equal parts fascinating and spooky. In 1878, more than 40 Apache Indians were massacred here after initiating a series of bloody skirmishes with a local Navajo band. The Apache evaded detection by hiding underground in a cavern large enough to conceal the warriors and their horses. Ultimately though, they were discovered by the Navajos and, long story short, never made it out. Today, brave visitors can descend into parts of the cave while making sure to use caution and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.
Photo by Julian Smith
12. Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In
For those with children in tow–or who simply don’t enjoy Northern Arizona’s more frightful hidden gems–Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In is the perfect place. This historic eatery and roadside attraction is located on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona. Built by hand out of scrap lumber in 1953 during the heyday of the Mother Road, the Snow Cap is brimming with oddities and a humorous menu including “cheeseburger with cheese,” and is truly an iconic pitstop and photo op.
13. Navajo Code Talkers Display
Burger King, Highway 160, Kayenta
While you might not expect a serving of history with your fast food, that’s exactly what the Burger King in Kayenta, Arizona has on the menu. Here, you’ll find a small museum that pays homage to the brave Navajo men who developed an unbreakable code during World War II. Using the unwritten and highly complex Navajo language, their code was an indecipherable means of communication for the United States Marines. The success and importance of their work has only recently been acknowledged publicly by the United States government. This display is an absolute must-see for travelers passing through this region of Northern Arizona.
14. North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park
Although Grand Canyon National Park is hardly an unknown destination, its North Rim is somewhat of a hidden gem. Don’t let its proximity to the South Rim fool you—although only about 10 miles away as the crow flies, the North Rim is a four to five hour drive from its southern counterpart. (In fact, it’s estimated that only 10 percent of the visitors to Grand Canyon National Park visit the North Rim.) Thanks to this remote quality and its higher elevation, the North Rim is the ideal destination for travelers looking for a quieter and cooler summer adventure with the same great views and access.