Looking to explore a different Arizona? You may not know it, but our great state is full of incredible destinations with cooler temperatures, big lakes, meandering streams, mountain views, and the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. The perfect setting for outdoor adventures, a stimulating hike, and overnight camping.
There’s a stretch of Highway 191 that beckons you. If you haven’t yet driven the winding stretch of roadway between Alpine and Clifton in eastern Arizona, you must. If not for the twists and turns of the road, do it for the stunning beauty that passes by. With 5,000 feet of elevation gain you’ll be amazed at the ever changing landscape which is so diverse that visitors won’t believe they are in Arizona. Allow yourself the time to breathe deep, clear your mind, and leave that pesky technology behind so you are sure not to miss the slightest blink of visual delight during any of the four seasons.
You can head north on Highway 191 from the curiously haunting town by the name of Clifton, that requires a stop for collectible antiques and hand crafted accessories in the Chase Creek Marketplace. The road then climbs steadily out of Clifton past the dusty open pit mines of Morenci, where copper mining continues today. Once through this industrial yet historic community, the road plateaus into prairies of juniper bush and long waving grasses. It continues up to the Mogollon Rim and what seems an endless forest of ponderosa pines, finally opening into green, lush meadows and some of the most pristine mountain views and vistas. Picturesque is an understatement. Once you begin the drive, you won’t want to turn back, rather you will want to drive on into the deep natural, untold secrets of the White Mountains.
There are plenty of places to pull off and picnic, hike, rest and nap for those out on a day trip. But quickly turn your day trip into a night getaway by reserving a night at Hannagan Meadow Lodge, about halfway through the 115 mile stretch. A quiet, dreamy space with a lulling porch swing and visiting seasonal wildlife. Summer brings in fluttering and buzzing hummingbirds right to the front deck, and deer and elk frequent the meadow adjacent throughout the year.
The lodge has a restaurant, but picnic snacks and libations are always a compliment to an evening in front of the fireplace or playing scrabble (a complete, old school board, with tiles available on site) in the library. Winter snowshoeing, hiking, and horseback riding are also available.
It’s a fantastic getaway for a day or a long weekend. So, take the challenge, stow your cell phone in the glove box, place it on silent, flip it to airplane mode, or for the truly brave and committed, turn it off completely. Then sit back, relax, and watch, mesmerized by the sights of an unknown Arizona landscape. Take some time to enjoy a few local northern Arizona joyspots. You might just discover some of your very own along the way.
Driving north from Clifton to Alpine? Highway 191 can be accessed at Clifton by taking US 70 from Globe, Arizona.
Driving south from Alpine to Clifton? Highway 191 can be accessed at Springerville by taking US 60 from Globe, Arizona