Pluto. The solar system's most mysterious planetary body owes its discovery to the Lowell Observatory. It was here, in 1902, that Percival Lowell first suspected the possible existence of the cold, lonely body. However, Pluto isn't the only feather in the observatory's astronomical cap. Lowell astronomers also noted the the first evidence of the expanding universe, and measured the motions and properties of distant stars. In the 21st century, a staff of nearly 90 continues to look skyward in search of scientific breakthroughs.
Visitors can interact with these achievements at the Steele Visitor Center. Opened during the observatory's centennial year in 1994, the center carries on Percival Lowell's astronomy advocacy by welcoming more than 80,000 guests each year. In addition to tour and lectures, guests can peer through telescopes, visit engrossing exhibits, and take in educational multimedia shows.
in addition to celebrating their heritage, t he astronomers at the Lowell Observatory are also looking towards the future. In 2012, they celebrated the completion of the new Discovery Channel Telescope. The 4.3-meter scope opens an even wider eye into the secrets of the universe and its foundations, and expands the research possibilities for the observatory's team of scientists. The telescope also serve the public good, lending its breathtaking images to programming produced by Discovery Communications.
Just south of the gateway to the Grand Canyon stands Bearizona, a drive-thru wildlife exhibit that regales creature-seeking carpools with bison, mountain goats, and other animals from the comfort of their own automobile. The 3-mile drive takes guests through sprawling enclosures, where they can peer in on packs of cuddly arctic wolves or ask black bears for directions to the nearest stocked cooler. After traversing the park’s drive-thru section, visitors can stroll through the forested Fort Bearizona enclosure, which houses exhibits of smaller animals and Bearizona Barnyard, an interactive petting zoo.
Flagstaff nature trails feature scenic cross country skiing and hiking, set in the wilderness of Coconino National Forest. Unlike a jaunt around the world's largest Cheerio, the facility features 40 km of nonredundant trails, all traversable by classic and skating skis, or a pair of snowshoes. There are trail passes for adults, children, and students/seniors. Flagstaff's equipment rentals include pulk sleds and ski packages.
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:
Much of Arizona remains unchanged from the days when cowboys and their dinosaur steeds ruled the desert plains. Millions of acres of lush trees still blanket the Coconino National Forest, growing up over mountains in defiance of the desert's red rocks. In Mayer, miles of horseback trails snake past rivers and rock outcroppings, passing by historic windmills and cattle ranches that still operate to this day.
The horseback guides at Pot A Gold Adventures call each of these majestic landscapes home. Each day, they lead groups from three different stables: Hitchin' Post Stables, Pot A Gold Stables, and Mountain Ranch Stables. From here, they depart on two-hour adventures through deserts and forests. On some of these trips, they might stop to build a fire and cook dinners of steak, potatoes, and beans.
Lemonade and iced tea replace cowboy food during the spring and summer. The wagons are drawn on rubber wheels to make the ride as smooth as possible so guests can enjoy the views as well as the horses, as they are nearly as beautiful as the surrounding landscape. Pot A Gold Adventures' trainers raise most of the purebred Quarter and Paint horses almost from birth.