In 1906, after studying disruptions in the orbit of Uranus, Percival Lowell began to suspect the existence of a planet beyond Neptune. He referred to it as Planet X, and he scanned the night sky from his Flagstaff observatory until his death in 1916. More than two decades passed after the initial conjecture before Lowell astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh sat down in the very same observatory and confirmed the existence of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Though Lowell and Tombaugh's planet was kicked out of the solar club in 2006, their discovery led to several decades of essential research at Lowell Observatory. The observatory’s astronomers have since discovered evidence of the expanding universe and have also provided exhaustive measurements of the motions and basic properties of stars. In 2012, the nonprofit observatory became home to the Discovery Channel Telescope—the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States and currently the only one capable of observing the astronauts stranded on Neptune.
Tucked in the shadows of the evergreen peaks of Bill Williams Mountain, Elephant Rocks Golf Course weaves through scenic terrain at an elevation of 6,000 feet or more. Elephant Rocks' alpine perch provides golfers a cooler destination than the desert or volcano-side courses typically associated with Arizona golf, but the temperate air is hardly the course's only draw. Rows of mature ponderosa pines pinch the fairways throughout the 6,695-yard, par 72 course, and water hazards come into play on seven holes, including two par-threes where tee shots must clear a pond in order to reach the green. The course draws its name from a series of large lava rocks that line the road into to the club that resemble elephants in color, size, and strident anti-mouse attitude.
A driving range and practice green share Elephant Rocks' scenic grounds, letting golfers warm up before starting their rounds. After a day at the links, guests can unwind with a drink or a snack at the club house, which was originally built by railway workers in 1932 and features local stone, a natural rock fireplace, and original timber roof beams.
Course at a Glance:
The highly trained guides at Canyon Rio Rafting spearhead half-, full-, and multi-day expeditions down the Salt River, Rio Chama, and San Juan River. Certified in first aid and versed in advanced wilderness medical and rescue training, they ensure that trips run as smoothly over Class II–IV rapids as a mustache over the foam of a cappuccino. Following romps on oar rafts, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayaks, guides nourish excursionists with gourmet meals.
Alternatively, Canyon Rio Rafting's certified instructors help foster future whitewater navigation by staging courses for guides, rescue technicians, and kayakers.
Sedona Golf Resort's par 71 course challenges golfers of all skill levels with 6,646 yards of mesa-trimmed greenery, earning accolades from Golf.com and Golf Digest for its awe-inspiring views. Practice on the clubhouse-side putting area before carting off across a labyrinth of tees, manicured greens, and fairways that test short and long games as well as each golfer's ability to tell a sand trap from a quicksand trap. The 10th hole invites competitors to drink in Cathedral Rock's majestic spires, piercing clouds against a backdrop of distant desert peaks and blue skies. Athletic endeavors wind down as crews converge around the 18th hole's peaceful pond, lined with stones and windsocks stitched from the recycled polos of champions. Snag a discounted online tee time with the Red Rock Card, which not only takes 20% off the Golf Shop's designer duds from brands such as Adidas and Nike, but also grants golfers reduced rates at Sedona and eight other Arizona courses.
In 1966, Chuck Mabery bought a cattle ranch that dated back to the late 19th century, planting the seeds of the Blazin' M Ranch. After stints herding and growing vegetables, the flood of 1993 forced the Mabery family to start over, inspiring them to show off their musical talents at a traditional chuck-wagon dinner staged on the property. Fully renovated in 2010, the ranch now hosts an authentic Arizona frontier town where visitors can experience the cowboy life through such activities as lassoing mechanical steers, shooting wax bullets out of a real Colt .45, and learning how to easily covert ten-gallon hats into metric. A selection of shops fits customers out in Western-themed apparel, the copper Spur Saloon serves local wines and microbrews, and a museum delves into the history of the ranch, pioneer-era Arizona, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. An old-time photo studio, "Pistols and Petticoats", allows groups to have their likeness captured while wearing Victorian costumes. At the museum, the unique Wood'n West Gallery enthralls visitors with moving dioramas of Western life, hand carved over 30 years by a master whittler.
Held annually on Jackpot Ranch, the Verde Valley Fall Festival celebrates the advent of autumn with three days of family-friendly activities and seasonal treats. Thousands of pumpkins and gourds await plucking from the patch's vines, hayrides whisk passengers across the private ranch's grounds, and live musicians keep toes tapping on the dance floor more effectively than automated tap-shoes. As kids of all ages gambol about carnival rides, a youngster zone offers up age-appropriate attractions, and adults pluck favorite brews from the beer garden and wash palates with tastings from local wineries. More local merchants hawk wares such as handmade crafts, jewelry, and art, while tasty snacks from restaurants such as Johnny Rockets, Babe's Round Up, and Zainey's Yogurt reenergize guests throughout the fest.