Arizona is like a quilt of fascinating history and geology. Each square gives a different color and texture to the multilayered textile, offering sights and experiences that are almost otherworldly. This guide provides insights into the grand adventures that can be found in the Navajo Nation beyond the Hollywood favorite Monument Valley.
Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest is as famous as the Monument Valley but National Park Service has made improvements that will want to make you rediscover the Petrified Forest. More areas have been opened for backcountry hikes and the park now has a special program called the Bark Ranger that allows pets to properly enjoy the trails and official wilderness areas.
For those who have never been to the park and are unfamiliar with it, no photos or description will prepare you for strange and fascinating sights the Petrified Forest has to offer. A generation that grew up with Harry Potter may be expecting something like the Forbidden Forest, but this national park looks nothing like a forest. The ancient petrified trees, scattered in a seemingly unforgiving desert, are bent into unrecognizable shapes. You will also find quartz crystals adorning petrified wood along the one-kilometer Crystal Forest trail.
While a hike along the Petrified Forest can teach us about geology and ancient history dating back to over 220 million years ago, Chevelon Butte can teach us about the Gilded Age and how agriculture can contribute to conservation.
As a fairly isolated basalt formation, the Chevelon Butte is the perfect place for those who like a nice little challenge while hiking. Not all roads are well-developed and some can be closed due to lingering snow in the first quarter of the year or due to the hunting season. But a few minutes into the trails, you will be rewarded with a serene atmosphere and when you get to the northern half of the butte, you’ll find a vertical cliff that offers breathtaking views.
Integral to the Chevelon Butte is the O’Haco Ranch, which is known for its rich history, sustainable cattle farming practices, and wildlife conservation projects. The ranch has also made news recently for hosting the 477MW Chevelon Butte Wind Farm slated to be completed by the end of 2020.
Two Guns Ghost Town
Two Guns Ghost Town’s history consists of drama, deceit, murder and a curse, making it one of the most colorful attractions along the Historic Route 66. Before the town was born, a nearby cave, now called Apache Death Cave, became the site of a major confrontation between the warring Navajo and Apache tribes, which lead to the loss of many lives.
In the 20s, as more people headed to the west driving along the road now known as the Historic Route 66, a couple named Earl and Louise Cundiff created a trading post where travellers could rest and gas up.
The escalating property gained the interest of Harry Miller who convinced the couple to lease the property to him for 10 years. Under his watch, he created a zoo showcasing native Arizona wildlife and started tours down to the death cave. It is said that he sold the skulls of the Apaches as souvenirs, which started the slew of misfortune that befell him, the Cundiffs, and other Two Guns inhabitants.
Fast forward to the 70s, I-40 bypassed the town, making it difficult for Two Guns to attract tourists and further business. Like many other tourist attractions along Route 66, Two Guns died a quick death.
Although dead, Two Guns still attracts some visitors who want to take a long drive along Route 66 and visit its historic stops. You can still see the zoo’s ruins, several abandoned buildings and you can go into the Apache Death Cave.