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navajo-national-monument

Things to Do in Arizona: Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument is very close to my heart as my wife is both Navajo and Yavapai. Her grandfather resides in Tuba City, a short 60 miles southwest of the monument, and every year we take our Labor Day trip up north, staying at Navajo National Monument. If you enjoy camping in Arizona either by tent or RV, Navajo National Monument offers one of the best outdoor experiences blending both solitude and beauty of Arizona.

Navajo National Monument has several unguided hikes along short paths that yield breath-taking views that take you back in time to when the prehistoric Puebloan Ancestors built villages within the natural sandstone canyons. These villages date back to 1250 to 1300 A.D. While walking these paths, you are immersed in a state of calmness and serenity as you contemplate and attempt to imagine what it would have been like almost 1,000 years ago.

The amazing Aspen trail is .8 miles round trip and dips down 300 feet into a perfect spot to view the ancient aspen forest. Here overwhelming cliffs surround you as you take in one of the most unique Arizona views that our great state has to offer its visitors.

The Sandal trail is a 1 mile round trip that offers a paved path to an overlook with views of the Betakin/Talastims cliff dwelling. Make sure and bring some binoculars so you can view the cliff dwellings and their unique architectural traits.

Navajo National Monument offers several strenuous hikes ranging from 3-17 miles that bestow close up views of these amazing cliff dwellings. Reservations must be made in advance and are subject to cancelation due to the weather.

Navajo National Monument is open year round. However, if visiting in the winter, be prepared for snow and ice, as the elevation is over 7,000 feet. I personally enjoy this area because it is not very well known being near more popular sites such as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. You can always find a camping spot: my favorite being the Canyon View campground which offers breath taking sunset views of the canyons. As of Labor Day 2011, there were no fees to camp but donations are always encouraged.

Make a weekend trip up to Navajo National Monument and experience one of  Arizona’s TOP 5 Cultural Attractions as voted by the readers of Experience AZ.

Visit www.nps.gov/nava/index.htm for more information on Navajo National Monument.
Phoenix Zoo Giraffe

The Phoenix Zoo: Getting Wild

Voted as one of the top five zoos for kids in the country, the Phoenix Zoo is home to some of the world’s most distinct animals.

Visitors do more than just stroll the zoo; they ride (camels and trains), pedal boats, encounter and pet animals, rock climb, bike and so much more.  The zoo also offers an exceptionally varied menu for when visitors’ stomachs growl in hunger after a day of these activities.

With 2.5 miles of walking trails and nearly 125 acres of land, the Phoenix Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals, including more than 200 endangered species.

The Phoenix Zoo has four major themed trails: tropics, Arizona, Children’s and Africa’s — each with an experience worth remembering.

The lives of the animals are not framed behind cages and exhibits; in fact, visitors can experience the wildlife with no barriers in-between. Visitors may interact with the monkeys in the “Monkey Village,” encounter giraffes and pet stingrays.  Other activities include camel rides and a visit to the petting zoo, a trip to the farm without ever having to leave the zoo.

When reality hits hard for the kids and the animals become too real, there is also the Endangered Species that will take them for a ride on authentic, hand-crafted animals.

Families can also enjoy a wide variety of seasonal activities like Breakfast with the Animals and Wild Art Classes, where kids have a meal with some of their favorite animals or are inspired by them to create their own ornaments, masquerade masks or even sun catchers.

The Phoenix Zoo is perfect for a casual day out in the wild for kids, families and animal-lovers of all ages or a pleasant, yet wild, night during the zoo’s tent-camping experience. The night camp is a full night-in-the-wild experience with a fresh dinner off the grill, a night hike, close-up animal encounters and a camp fire. Campers also wake up to a breakfast with the animals and a private safari tour.

Since 1962, the Phoenix Zoo provides locals and travelers from all across the world an experience of the wild and a glimpse of an animal-loving traveler, bringing to the state some of the world’s most threatened, yet distinct, animals.

For more information about the Phoenix Zoo, visit phoenixzoo.org.