I've Got to Get Out of This Heat!

Quick escapes from summer's heat:
For Arizonans living in the state's lowland deserts, summer heat is a fact of life. However, just because the weatherman is calling for temperatures in the low 120s doesn't mean you have to cook. There are quick escapes from the heat, and anyone unfortunate enough to have scheduled a summertime visit to Phoenix, Tucson, or anywhere else in the desert may want to know how they, too, can stay cool.

If you're in the Phoenix area, your quickest escape is up the aptly named Beeline Highway, which makes a beeline from Phoenix to the mountains. By the time you reach the town of Payson, pines are more prevalent than cactus and temperatures are usually much more bearable. Payson lies at the foot of the Mogollon Rim, a 200-mile-long escarpment that meanders across much of north-central Arizona and divides the lowland deserts from the pine forests of the higher elevations.

Continuing on past Payson, you climb to the top of the Mogollon Rim and the climate finally begins to feel significantly cooler. From here to the Alpine area stretch 150 miles punctuated by mountain getaway communities that cater to families escaping the heat. Trout fishing, boating, and hiking are among the most popular activities in such towns as Snowflake, Pinetop-Lakeside, Greer and Alpine. Head south from Alpine and you'll be on one of the state's most scenic and little traveled mountain highways. Known as the Coronado Trail, this winding highway leads south to Clinton, from south of which you can head back west to Phoenix.

If you're in Tucson, relief is as close as the northern edge of the city where the Santa Catalina Mountains rise more than 9,000 feet high. The Mt. Lemmon Highway ends at what in winter is the southernmost ski area in the United States. Needless to say, cabins and cool pine forests provide needed relief, and from the road up it is possible to gaze down on the sweltering city of Tucson. At the Madera Canyon National Forest Recreation Area, south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains, you'll also find that temperatures are a bit cooler than in Tucson. Mt. Graham, northeast of Tucson, is another popular mountain getaway here in southern Arizona.

However, these escapes pale in comparison to that offered by the forests of northern Arizona. Though the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a fiery furnace in summer, the canyon's rims are often the coolest locations in the state. In fact, at the South Rim, snow has been known to fall on Memorial Day weekend, and the North Rim doesn't even open to cars until May due to the snow pack on the access road. For less crowded escapes from the heat, head up into the San Francisco Peaks just north of Flagstaff. Here, ski lifts continue operating throughout the summer to carry people high into the mountains.

The Route:
From Phoenix, head northeast on Hwy. 87 to Payson and then continue east on Hwy. 260 through Show Low, (spend the night in Snowflake Rt 77).Go back to 260 through Lakeside, Pinetop, and Greer to Springerville and Eagar From here, head south on Hwy. 191, through Clifton and Morenci, to Hwy 70 west. Follow Hwy. 70 west through Safford to Globe, where Hwy. 60 continues back to Phoenix.

From Tucson, take the Mt. Lemmon Highway from the northeast edge of the city. To reach Madera Canyon, drive south on I-19 to exit 63 and go east for 11 miles. To reach Mt. Graham, drive east on I-10 to just beyond Willcox and then go north on Hwy. 191 to Hwy. 366.

To reach the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, head north on I-17 to Flagstaff and then take Hwy. 180 north to the South Rim. To reach the North Rim from Flagstaff, go north on Hwy. 89, take Hwy. 89A west to Jacob Lake, and then go south on Hwy. 67. 10 to Willcox. From Willcox, continue west on I-10 to return to Tucson.