This Road Trip Takes You Through Arizona’s Best Small Secrets
Ready to explore Arizona? You can find a wide range of things to do all around the state but if you’re hoping for a chance to hit the road to find some wonderful hidden gems, then you’re in luck! Today, we’re checking out some great little places that are hiding in plain view in northern Arizona and we know you’re going to love checking them out!
Please note, Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park is temporarily closed.
For this road trip, you can expect to spend 7 or so hours driving approximately 321 miles so, depending on your car, you may only need one tank of gas! There are a total of nine stops, so be sure to book a hotel and pack an overnight bag, snacks, and water. This is going to be one fun-filled weekend!
1. Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, Flagstaff
The first stop on our road trip is a hidden gem that few people outside of Flagstaff know about: Picture Canyon. This is a lovely riparian area where you can find a waterfall, hiking trails, wildlife, and petroglyphs.
The preserve is free to access and is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
2. Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park
From Picture Canyon, head north on Highway 89 for about one hour to the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park. The Little Colorado River Gorge features limestone cliffs that were formed about 250 million years ago. Pay a small donation fee to access the park and get ready for some spectacular views!
3. Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks, Tuba City
Hoping to see some evidence of Arizona’s incredibly ancient past? Drive 30 minutes north of the Little Colorado River Gorge to the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks. Here, you’ll find 200 million-year-old dinosaur tracks strewn across the sandstone, most of which come from small dinosaurs. You can expect to spend approximately 30 minutes here, especially if you opt for a guided tour. Tour guides will request a donation fee but otherwise, the area is free to access.
Now is the time you’ll probably also want to grab some lunch. Dig into your snack bag, grab a plate at a nearby food stand, or order a meal at the Hogan Family Restaurant further in town. For more information about this amazing historic site, check out our previous article
4. Coal Mine Canyon
Coal Mine Canyon is a 25-minute drive from Tuba City via State Route 264 and is one stunning spot. The canyon is not visible from the road, so keep close tabs on the route via GPS. This will take you to an undeveloped overlook where you can admire the view and take photos from the canyon’s rim. There is no entrance fee to stop at the overlook, but you'll want to book a guided tour if you want to venture to the canyon floor. Check out our previous article about
Coal Mine Canyon
for more info.
5. The Hopi Cultural Center, Second Mesa
The last stop for day one is at the Hopi Cultural Center where you may also want to book a room and eat dinner if you’re planning to take your time on this trip. The cultural center is a 45-minute drive from Coal Mine Canyon and features a small museum and an on-site restaurant.
6. Grand Falls, Leupp
In the fall and spring seasons after heavy snow or rainfall, you’ll want to make sure to stop by Grand Falls in Leupp! The water flowing through looks a bit like chocolate milk and is much more massive than any landscape photo suggests. Access to the falls is free and a permit is
required to visit. However, do keep in mind that the roads can be rough, so a high clearance vehicle is advised. For more info, check out our previous feature article
If the falls aren’t flowing, you drove right through Second Mesa,
it’s a weekend, plan to stop at the little roadside flea market across the street from the Shell station. Here, you’ll find food stands to eat fry bread, mutton stew, tamales, snow cones, or even boba tea.
7. Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site, Flagstaff
Back in Flagstaff, you'll find Elden Pueblo, an ancient dwelling few people know even exists. Here, you can embark on a self-guided tour of the dwelling’s remains that date back to 1070 AD. Expect to spend up to one hour walking the area and learning more about the Sinagua people who once called this place home.
8. Lava River Cave
Just 45 minutes west of Elden Pueblo is Lava River Cave, a 700,000-year-old lava tube hiding near Hart Prairie. The tube stays a chilly 35-45 degrees throughout the year, so be sure to bring a jacket and a couple of flashlights when you visit! The tube is just under one-mile long, so be prepared for a short hike that is quite rocky. With that in mind, expect to spend approximately two hours here.
9. Chapel of the Holy Dove
Our final hidden gem is the Chapel of the Holy Dove, located just a 20-minute drive north of Lava River Cave. The tiny chapel is free to visit and the secluded location makes for a nice, quiet place to meditate, reflect on your travels, or just walk through. The interdenominational chapel is free to access.
For a details route map to carry you along this awesome journey, click
How many of these places have you had the chance to visit before? Are there any other hidden gems you absolutely love? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us, either in the comments section below or on our
If you want to explore other areas of the state through road trips, be sure to read
6 Unforgettable Road Trips To Take In Arizona Before You Die. Each of these road trips will take you on one fantastic journey after another through some beautiful areas of the state!
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.