Headed for the Grand Canyon? You can get there from Phoenix in around four hours, but you also miss a whole lot of spectacular scenery, several Indian ruins, a historic cavalry fort, and some very interesting towns. Why not slow down and take the scenic route. Add two to four extra days to your itinerary and you'll get a much better feel for what Arizona is all about.
Start by eschewing the interstate and heading northwest from Phoenix to Wickenburg. This old cow town was once the dude ranch capitol of the Southwest (they call 'em "guest ranches" these days), and though there are only a handful left in the area, Wickenburg still hangs on to its wild west character. Be sure to tour the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, and if you're a bird watcher, stop by the Hassayampa River Preserve.
From Wickenburg, head north to Prescott. En route, you'll pass through some rugged, rocky country and even cross a high, forested mountain range. Prescott was once the territorial capital of Arizona, and, in the center of town, you'll find the city's grand old courthouse, which is surrounded by stately shade trees. Surrounding the square are lots of antique stores, a few galleries, restaurants, and several old saloons on what was once known as Whiskey Row. Beyond the commercial blocks are lots of old Victorian homes. To learn about the history of this town, visit the Sharlot Hall Museum, and if you have an interest in Western art, be sure to visit the Phippen Museum.
From Prescott, head north, passing through the giant boulders of the Granite Dells just outside of town. Your route then climbs up and over Mingus Mountain to the old copper-mining town of Jerome. Though nearly a ghost town in the early 1960s, Jerome is now full of art galleries and interesting shops, and many of the old homes have been restored. From the vertiginous hillside setting, you can gaze out across the Verde Valley to the red rocks of Sedona and the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.
From Jerome, the road drops down to Clarkdale, where, if you have time to spare, you can ride the scenic Verde Canyon Railroad. Just outside of Clarkdale, you'll come to Tuzigoot National Monument, where the ruins of an ancient Indian pueblo stand atop a hill overlooking the valley.