Explore the Beauty and History of Verde Valley, Arizona

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Discover ancient ruins, a quirky mining town and towering red rocks in the Verde Valley and Sedona, Arizona.

When people living in Phoenix need to get away from it all, they head 100 miles north to the Verde Valley and Sedona. The lush Verde Valley is named for the Verde River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the state. Several scenic roads lead visitors to the valley’s wonders, which include sites preserving Native American history, old mining towns and red rock formations.

A view of Montezuma Castle National Monument in Verde Valley, ArizonaDana Foreman
Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

My friend Natalie Watson and I started our Verde Valley trip walking beneath the cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle National Monument. The site looks like an ancient apartment building. It was home to the Sinagua people between A.D. 1100 and 1425. Though visitors can’t climb up the ladders into the structure, all can imagine what living there must have been like. We then walked beside nearby Beaver Creek and relaxed in the peaceful, cool shade provided by a grove of sycamore trees.

By midday, we headed to the town of Jerome, which sits atop Cleopatra Hill. Jerome was once one of the richest copper mining camps in the world. Our visit to the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town was an adventure. We walked among old classic trucks, rusty mining tools and buildings. As the sun dipped lower in the turquoise-blue sky, we drove down Route 89A, a curvy two-lane road, to Sedona’s red rocks.

If you love history and hummingbirds, visit Bandelier National Monument.

A view of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, ArizonaDana Foreman
Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona

The Red Rocks of Sedona

Natalie and I spent the next day hiking trails through Sedona. At Red Rock Crossing, I took photos of the iconic Cathedral Rock and waited for the last rays of evening sun to hit the formation. The next day was full of thrills. We climbed aboard at the Pink Jeep Plaza to go off-roading on the Broken Arrow Tour. The Jeep climbed over rocks, making for a bumpy, magnificent experience. If you’re a hummingbird fan, don’t miss the Sedona Hummingbird Festival.

On our last day, Natalie and I had one thing left to do: visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built into the red rocks. It was a lovely and serene end to our high-desert adventure.

Next, check out spectacular photographs of America’s National Parks that will leave you awestruck.

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