I’ll be in Phoenix for three weeks next month. It’s my first extended time in Arizona, which seems to be a rather photogenic state. So my question is, what pretty locations are in short driving distance (I’d say around 1.5 hours, max) from the Phoenix area? I’m interested in hiking and stargazing as well, but I figure that follows naturally if I just ask about the photos.
If you drive about 175MPH you can get to the Lake Powell area (which is awesome) in an hour and a half.
Unfortunately that’s about as far south as I know very well.
South Mountain park
Piewesta Peak park
North Mountain Park
Desert Botanical gardens
Royal Palms Hotel
Bartlett, Canyon, Saguaro lakes
White Tanks mountains
Globe / Maimi
Sedona / Oak Creek Canyon / Red Rock country
Even Farther Away:
If you’re driving – and you kind of have to; there’s nothing in the state accessible by foot, and it’s still going to be too hot to walk around all afternoon – about an hour south of Phoenix, the highway cuts through… a lot of nothing. If you like sprawling desert vistas, the drive from Phoenix to Tuscon is full of them.
Large hot places are not really my thing, which is why I live in Flagstaff now. But if you find yourself careening around the 101 Loop a lot, there are spots just outside of town where the view is nothing but empty desert with a lot of sandstone-colored multi-layer interchanges. I’m kind of partial to it. It looks like the Jetsons moved to Tatooine.
Just don’t go to any girls volleyball games.
Most of these are outdoor/hiking related, but it doesn’t appear that you’ll have any issues with it. Where mountains and peaks are listed, you can get excellent pictures of the mountains themselves as well as excellents pictures of the views from these mountains.
Phoenix and vicinity:
[li]Camelback Mountain/Echo Canyon[/li][li]Squaw…er…Piestewa Peak[/li][li]South Mountain, as mentioned[/li][li]Lost Dutchman State Park[/li][li]Siphon Draw/Flat Iron (located in Lost Dutchman. The Siphon Draw is a brutal hike full of boulder hopping up to the Flat Iron, but if you’re in shape for it, I recommend it.)[/li][li]Peralta Canyon[/li][li]Apache Trail, including Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt Lakes (warning: the Apache Trail turns into a dirt road just past Tortilla Flat. Roosevelt may also be reached via Hwy 60 and 188, neither of which is dirt.)[/li][/ul]
North/Northwest of Phoenix:
[li]Pretty much all of Hwy 89, including:[/li][LIST]
[li]Vulture Mine/Vulture City near Wickenburg (now an outdoor ghost town/mining museum thing)[/li][li]Yarnell (I’m not particularly religious, but the sculptures along the hillside at the outdoor church are pretty amazing)[/li][li]Downtown Prescott/Whiskey Row (Also a fun place to hang out and not take pictures. This pretty much is at your 1.5 hr limit, but I’ll mention a couple of other places.)[/li][li]Jerome (old mining town, now art community, built into the hillside. Very unique)[/li][li]Sedona (very touristy, but the red rocks and other sites make for great picture taking)[/li][li]Oak Creek Canyon (just a beautiful, foresty area between Sedona and Flagstaff)[/li][/ul]
[li]Flagstaff (depending on where you’re staying in Phoenix, this will be right at, or just outside your 1.5 hr threshold)[/li][/LIST]
Northeast of Phoenix:
[li]Mogollon Rim[/li][li]Tonto Natural Bridge[/li][li]Payson, Strawberry, and vicinity[/li][/ul]
South of Phoenix:
[li]Picacho Peak[/li][li]Biosphere 2 in Oracle[/li][li]North Tucson area, though getting to the photogenic areas requires an exit of the freeway and a drive through town, which can take quite a while[/li][/ul]
Note: While it is cooling off, and will cool off even more before the end of your trip, the desert sun can still be pretty brutal. Use caution, drink plenty of water, and don’t overexert yourself if it’s too hot. The northern areas are at higher altitudes and will provide a better reprieve from the desert heat.
As long as I’m at it, I’ll point you to some of my blog entries, including photographs, on Arizona locations:
[li]Vulture Mine (well within your travel threshold)[/li][li]Flagstaff (probably just outside your threshold)[/li][li]Arizona’s wine country (definitely outside your threshold, but hey, you’re going to be here for three weeks…)[/li][/ul]
Another vote for South Mountain and the Sedona area.
I’ll also recommend a trip east on Highway 60 to Salt River Canyon, although I’m not sure if you can get there in 1.5 hours. It may take 2 hours, but it’s a very scenic drive. Also, Boyce-Thompson Arboretum is along Hwy. 60, before you get to Superior, and worth a visit.
ETA: Just thought of another suggestion- Roosevelt Reservoir.