Magazine article Sunset

Follow the Reader

Magazine article Sunset

Follow the Reader

Article excerpt

These intrepid explorers found amazing places in the West, and creative ways to get there. Here are three trips that will change your summer

Red rock high: A view of Cathedral Rock from Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ.

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70 | Arizona road trip

A Northwest family goes off the beaten path

Denise Diller

Arizona road trip

Uncover the craters and canyons of the Southwest

Montezuma Castle National Monument

ABOVE Reader Denise Diller with hersons, Kyle (left) and Ryan.

Blazing the trail

By car

The Diller family new into Phoenix from Albany, Oregon, and drove north, with the goal of getting to Flagstaff for a family reunion. Along the way, they explored ancient dwellings, canyons, and craters that delighted the two Diller kids. First stop: the i,ooo-year-old cliff ruins of 1 Montezuma Castle National Monument. "There's a 1/3-mile loop trail around the cliff base of the castle, a huge, five-story ancient building perched high up in a limestone wall," says Denise Diller. "My 5-year-old son, Kyle, kept asking my husband and me, 'How did the people get up there?'" $5; call for ranger talks schedule; 2800 Montezuma Castle Hwy.; nps.gov/ moca or 928/567-3322.

Afterward, the Dillers drove north through Sedonaand lush 2 Oak Creek Canyon, a verdant canyon lined with swimming holes and picnic stops. "We were amazed at how the red rock contrasted with the green of the trees - it was quite a bit different from how we pictured Arizona," says Diller. Js day pass; off State 89A, just north ofSedona; redrock country.org

In summer, locals flock to 3 Slide Rock State Park to shoot down the natural waterslides. The Dillers did a drive-by. "From the road, we saw tons of people down there having a blast," says Diller. $10 per vehicle; off State 89A1 7 miles north ofSedona; azstateparks.com

From Slide Rock, the family continued on to Flagstaff, which they used as their base for exploring the area over the next few days. First stop: 4 Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where "we walked the loop trail at the crater's base, winding through volcanic landscape," says Diller. $5; off US. 89, 12 miles north of Flagstaff; nps.gov/sucr

Next up: 5 Wupatki National Monument. "It was massive four stories tall. We explored an ancient community building; a ball court; and the blowhole, a crack in the earth where cold air comes up from the ground," says Diller. is; Wupatki Loop Rd. offUS. 89; nps.gov/wupa

Diller and her family made a final stop at the Q Arboretum of Flagstaff, with its thousands of species of wildflowers. 'They had great, really diverse high desert gardens." $6, $3 ages S-77; tours 71 a.m. and 1 p.m.; 4001 S. Woody Mountain Rd; thearb.org the route From Phoenix, the Dillers took Interstate 17 north to State 179, then followed State 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. From 89A, they took Interstate 17 to Flagstaff.

By train

After the reunion, the Diller clan hopped the train back home. They took the Southwest Chief from Flagstaff to Los Angeles, then caught the Coast Starlight all the way home.

"I'm from Oregon, but I saw parts of the state by train that I'd never laid eyes on before," says Diller. "The Coast Starlight runs for about 140 miles along the Oregon coast and crosses the Cascades twice. Sometimes it feels like it's going right down to the sand."

INFO Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs between Flagstaff and Los Angeles (from $59 for a reserved seat, from $177 for a sleeper); Amtrak's Coast Starlight runs between Los Angeles and Seattle (from $98 for a reserved seat, from $371 for a sleeper); amtrak.com

Sunset says...

By car Here are our picks for more don't-miss stops between Phoenix and Flagstaff

COOL off Eleven miles north of 1 is Montezuma Well, a bright blue (at least when the sky is clear) limestone sinkhole. …

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