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.
ParaToys Arizona’s powered-paragliding pilots spirit passengers into the sky in four-wheeled tandem paragliders. After a thorough safety briefing, student and instructor buckle into a BlackHawk LowBoy tandem quad paraglider, a two-seated aviation machine with a low center of gravity that keeps the vehicle stable. An engine, similar to that of an airboat or a tricycle fitted with an airboat engine, fills the attached parachute with air, lifting the pair of aeronauts off their feet. As guests take in panoramic views of the Arizona landscape, soaring at up to 28 miles per hour, the pilot explains flying techniques before handing off the controls. Passengers steer the aeronautical go-kart as the airborne expert offers helpful tips on how to pick up midair snacks from passing commercial airliners.
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.
There are a lot of words one can use to describe barbecue sauce. Some are sweet, some spicy, and some tangy. But at the AZ Rhythm & Ribs festival, only one adjective matters: best. The KCBS Competition takes all comers, restaurant and solo operation alike, to vie for the best barbecue title in the categories of chicken, pork ribs, pork, and beef brisket. Other awards include best dry beans, best sauce, best dessert, and the Anything Goes award, given to a chef who makes the best side dish. Guests vote for their choice with samples—some included with entry—and cleanse their palate between bites with micro-brewed beers from all over the country. Meanwhile, country and southern rock stars make tunes as zesty as the savory stars of the show.