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:
The Colorado Plateau is a sprawling piece of natural history. The 130,000 square-mile area has been home to diverse life?from prehistoric plants and dinosaurs to Native Americans, who have inhabited the area for 12,000 years. Since 1928, The Museum of Northern Arizona has celebrated the region and its beauty with science-based and art exhibits.