Travel the Trails

Trip 2: US-89 North: Flagstaff to Cameron

48 miles (77 km) from Flagstaff to Cameron

Disclaimer: NANACT trip guides are based on information from Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo & Hopi Nations, 2nd Edition by Fran Kosik (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2005). Some information may have changed since the publication of the book. While NANACT will attempt to maintain current information, consider verifying the current operation/existence of businesses, accommodations, dining and similar interests before planning your trip.

Maps, photos and text used by permission of Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo & Hopi Nations, 2nd Edition by Fran Kosik (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2005).

Scenic & Historic:

U.S. Highway 89

Highway 89 was called Lees Ferry Road before 1931. It was a wagon road that connected Flagstaff with Tanner’s Crossing over the Little Colorado at Cameron and continued north along the Echo Cliffs to Lees Ferry.

MM 425 San Francisco Peaks (West)

Rising to a height of 12,643 feet (3,831 m), the San Francisco Peaks are Arizona’s highest mountains. Franciscan missionaries living in the Hopi village of Oraibi in 1629 named these mountains to honor their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

These mountains hold meaning for everyone living in northern Arizona. You will see them dominating the southern horizon throughout your travels on the Hopi mesas.

One of the more beautiful times of the year to visit northern Arizona is when the band of aspens that encompasses the middle of the San Francisco Peaks changes colors, usually at the end of September or beginning of October. It is also when many of the wildflowers are in bloom.

Surrounding the peaks are more than 2,200 square miles (5,720 sq km) of volcanic remnants and more than 400 extinct volcanos. The most prominent and most recent volcanic cone is Sunset Crater.

MM 425 Sunset Crater (Northeast, the volcanic cone with the red rim)

Known to Navajos as Yellow Top Mountain and to Hopis as Red Hill, this cinder cone was given its name because of its sunset colors by John Wesley Powell, the famed explorer of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. The Hopis believe their wind god, Yaponcha, lives in a crack in the black rock near the crater.

Sunset Crater is the last of numerous volcanos that developed in this area and is thought to have erupted around 1064. Two lava flows created this volcanic cone: Kana-a Flow, which headed northeast toward the Little Colorado, and Bonito Flow, which traveled northwest.

Scenic Detour:

Mile 430.5 Sunset Crater Volcano/ Wupatki National Monument

One entrance fee covers both Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monument. If you plan on visiting the Grand Canyon, purchasing a National Park Pass here is a good idea. It is $80 and can be used at any national park requiring an entry fee. The pass is good for one year and will admit you and accompanying passengers in your vehicle.

The road through the monument is a thirty-five-mile (57 km) winding road with no gas stations and no food aside from that in the snack machines in the visitors centers at Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki. To see everything in both parks, plan at least four hours and bring a lunch. Both visitors centers open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. (MST). All of the trails and ruins close at dusk.

Mile 32.7 Bonito Campground (North)

Located directly across from the Sunset Crater Volcano visitors center, this forty-three-site campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Maximum vehicle length, thirty-five feet; no RV hookups. Closed in winter. For more information call (928) 526-0866.

Mile 32.6 Sunset Crater Volcano Visitors Center(South)

The center has interpretive displays about volcanism and the Sunset Crater area. It also has an earthquake monitoring system that records earth movements all over the world. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MST).

Mile 31.3 Bonito Lava Flow (North)

Flowing from the base of Sunset Crater, the molten lava cooled very quickly to form the hard outer covering seen here to the north. Inside, the lava continued to flow as a liquid, spreading over a wide area.

Mile 31 Self-Guided Walking Tour Through Lava Flow

Mile 29 Cinder Hills Overlook(South)

You can see the beginning of the Kana-a Flow that follows the road all the way to Wupatki. Kana- a is the name for the Hopis’ friendly katsina that lives here. The Hopis lived on the southern edge of Black Mesa when Sunset Volcano erupted around 1064.

Mile 25.3 Painted Desert Vista and Picnic Area(West)

Mile 24 Strawberry Crater Wilderness (West)

The jagged, sharp-looking lava found here is a good example of aa lava. A Hawaiian word, it is pronounced ah-ah. Pahoehoe (pronounced pahoy-hoy), also Hawaiian, is smooth lava.

Mile 14 WukokiPueblo (East)

Meaning “Big House” in Hopi, this three-story dwelling was home to ancient Sinagua people from shortly after A.D. 1100 to 1210.

Mile 13.6 Wupatki National Monument (West)

NOTE: Wheelchair accessible to the upper pueblo. The ruins were named Wapatkikuh, or “Tall House Pueblo,” by anthropologist Dr. Jesse W. Fewkes, who completely mapped the area in 1896. Wupatki plays an important part in the Hopi Snake Clan legend. The Zuni Parrot Clan was said to have traditionally stopped here. The Havasupai people claim knowledge of these ruins through their ancestors. And like so many ruins in the Southwest, this one also bears a Navajo name, Anasazi Bikin, or “House of the Ancient Ones.”

Wupatki Pueblo (A.D. 1100–1200)

The ballcourt is the most unusual feature at the ruins. It’s thought to be similar to ballcourts built by the Aztecs and Mayans. Next to the ballcourt is a blowhole that acts like a barometer. When the atmospheric pressure is low, air is forcefully blown out of the hole; when it is high, air is sucked into the hole.

Mile 10.5 Painted Desert Viewpoint

As you come down off Woodhouse Mesa, the vegetation changes to desert scrub dominated by sagebrush and saltbush. The names and characteristics of these plants are identified at the Wupatki visitors center.

Mile 9.4 Doney Picnic Area(South)

Ben Doney was a fortune hunter who lived here from 1883 to 1930 and spent most of his time looking for the Lost Padre Mine. He believed this area was the site of a lost Spanish mine from the seventeenth century. The story described the mine’s location as being in a red hill forty miles (64.5 km) west of the Hopi villages. Doney sunk many shafts looking for the mine but never found anything.

The large and small volcanic cinder cones here bear his name. Doney Trail leads to the top of one cinder cone and takes about one-half hour to climb. It offers a great view of the Painted Desert, Sunset Crater, and the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field. Keep your eyes open for golden eagles, which nest on Doney Mountain. Not wheelchair accessible.

Mile 4.1 Citadel Pueblo (West)

Built in the late 1100s, this pueblo offers a 360-degree view. It’s called the Citadel because its design suggests the builders wanted protection from attack, although there is very little evidence that warfare was a serious threat. Behind the ruin is a large limestone sink originally thought to have provided the community with water, but it is too porous to hold water. Cisterns and drainage systems were built to collect rainwater during the wet years. When it didn’t rain, the closest source of fresh water was the Little Colorado River, about ten miles (16 km) away.

Mile 3.8 Turnoff to Lomaki Pueblo(North)

The name of this pueblo, built in the 1100s, means “Beautiful House” in Hopi. The .25-mile (400 m) trail that leads to it passes by Box Canyon Ruin. Both ruins sit on the edge of earth cracks that are found throughout Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. Earth cracks are thin vertical openings in the Kaibab Limestone caused from the movement of the earth.

End Scenic Detour

U.S. 89 North

MM 433 O'Leary Peak(East)

Named for Dan O’Leary, a guide for the military during the Indian Wars of the 1800s, this volcanic dome is part of the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field.

Mile 436.5 Sacred Mountain Trading Post (West)

Built in 1915, this trading post was once known as Deep Wells. Bill Beaver bought the post in 1960 and renamed it Sacred Mountain Trading Post. Today it is an operating post, supplying native craftspeople with materials for beadwork and jewelry in exchange for finished jewelry, rugs, and artwork. Beaver speaks Navajo and was influential in assisting local Navajo artists develop their roadside businesses, which you will see along U.S. 89. He also is credited with encouraging the San Juan Paiutes to revive their basketmaking traditions.

Roadside Vendors

The first automobile to travel from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon made the trip in 1902. Traveling over a rutted wagon road, it took the tourists three days to make the seventy-mile journey from Flagstaff to Grandview Point on the South Rim of the canyon. Encouraged by the increase in tourism, the first Navajos to set up vendor stands were probably those living close to the wagon trail. Today vendors typically congregate in large groups of bead stands. Many sellers are related and from the same area. Outside vendors are not welcome to participate in this lucrative method of direct selling to tourists. For many vendors, roadside selling is their only means of support, and the entire family, including children old enough to make change, will participate in running the stand.

Sinagua Trading Post(East)

This trading post has an RV park with full hookups (no shower) and a AAA 24-hour towing service; (928) 679-2331.

Mile 442.5 Antelope Hills

You will see herds of wild antelope on both sides of the road around this area. Truly a New World animal, the antelope has roamed the prairies of this continent for more than 12 million years.  Standing only three feet high (1 m) and weighing about 125 pounds (57 kg), the antelope’s only defense is its keen eyesight. Watch for them in early morning.

Mile 443.2 Painted Faces (East)

Don't miss this...if you can find it. Three faces painted in the style of Hopi katsinas decorate these fenceposts. In 1997 a local newspaper, The Navajo-Hopi Observer, offered five dollars to the person with the best explanation for the highway folk art. The winner, Teddy Goldtooth from Tuba City, says in 1938, his father, Frank Goldtooth Sr., and another Navajo man were commissioned by Hubert Richardson, owner of the Cameron Trading Post, to place the posts along the road between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Three sets in all were erected: one here at MM 443, another at the old Grand Canyon Road intersection at Cameron, and the third on the Navajo Reservation Boundary on the Old Grand Canyon Road. But the artist who painted the faces remains a mystery.

MM 446 Hanks Trading Post

Directly behind Hanks to the west is SP Crater. Like Sunset Crater, SP is a cinder cone and has an extensive aa lava flow that traveled northward. This is the closest gas station before you enter Wupatki National Monument, if you are traveling south.

Mile 450.5 Spider Web Ranch (East)

This is the headquarters for the CO Bar Ranch, owned by the Babbitt family of Flagstaff. The five Babbitt brothers moved to Arizona from Cincinnati, Ohio (hence the “CO” Bar cattle brand), in 1886. The first thing the brothers did when they arrived in Flagstaff was purchase 864 head of cattle. To buy their first herd, they used most of the $20,000 from the sale of their home and business in Cincinnati. Over the next forty years, they built a cattle empire of more than one hundred brands, with a grazing area covering most of northern Arizona from the Mogollon Rim south of Flagstaff, north to Tuba City, west to the Grand Canyon, and east almost to the New Mexico border.

The Babbitt family still owns most of the grazing land on both sides of U.S. 89 to Gray Mountain. If you are lucky, you will see real cowboys rounding up the herd to take them to market or to transfer them to another grazing area.

Mile 452.5 Wauneta Trading Post (West)

MM 458 Gray Mountain (West)

This looming gray expanse to the west rises to an elevation of 7,500 feet (2,286 m) and extends all the way to the Grand Canyon, about seventy miles away. The Navajos shared this plateau with the Havasupais for almost 150 years.

MM 460 - Entering the Navajo Nation

Note: The Navajo Nation recognizes daylight saving time (MDT) with the rest of the country from April to October. The Hopi Nation and the rest of Arizona stay on mountain standard time (MST) year-round.

Diné Bikeyah—Navajoland—has had many boundaries decided for it by the federal government. But to the Navajos, four sacred mountains enveloping the land mark their territory. The San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, forms the Navajos’ western boundary. Mt. Blanco in Colorado represents the eastern boundary. Mt. Taylor, east of Grants, New Mexico represents the tribe’s southern boundary. Mt. Hesperus in Colorado  lies to the north.

MM 466 Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise (West)

This business in the hogan-shaped building is owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. It offers quality handmade Navajo jewelry, rugs, and pottery, as well as unusual T-shirts and sweatshirts. Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (observes DST).

MM 466 Cameron Visitors Center (West)

If you are planning to camp or hike on the Navajo Nation you must obtain a permit.  For more information, contact Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 308, Window Rock, AZ 86515. (928) 871-6645, www.navajonationparks.org.

Accommodations (Hotels/Camping/RV Parks):

Flagstaff - Hotels

Amerisuite Flagstaff; 2455 Beaulah Boulevard; 928-774-8042

Best Western Kings House; 1560 E. Route 66; 928-774-7186 or 888-577-7186

Hampton Inn East; 3501 E. Lockett Road ( I-40 Business loop); 928-526-1885

Hilton Garden Inn; 350 W. Forest Meadows Street (I-40 Exit 195); 928-226-8888

Best Western Pony Soldier Inn and Suites; 3030 E Route 66; 928-526-2388

Budget Host Saga Motel; 820 W. Route 66 (near University); 928-779-3631

Comfort Inn; 2355 S. Beaulah Boulevard; 928-774-2225

Days Inn East; 3601 E. Lockett Road; 928-527-1477

Embassy Suites Flagstaff; 706 S. Milton Road; 928-774-4333

Hampton Inn and Suites; 2400 S. Beaulah Boulevard;

Holiday Inn Flagstaff; 2320 E. Lucky Lane; 928-714-1000

Quality Inn Flagstaff; 2000 S. Milton Road; 928-774-8771

Radisson Woodlands Hotel; 1175 W. Route 66; 928-773-8888

Ramada Limited West; 2755 Woodlands Village Boulevard; 928-773-1111

Residence Inn by Marriott; 3440 Country Club Drive; 928-526-5555

Grey Mountain - Lodging

Anasazi Inn at Gray Mountain; (928) 679-2214.

Hwy 89 North - RV

SINAGUA TRADING POST (East), Hwy 89 N – Mile 436; (928) 679-2331; Hrs. 8am-5pm. This trading post has an RV park with full hookups (no shower) and a AAA 24-hour towing service.

Tours:

Food & Dining:

Flagstaff

Black Bart’s Steakhouse Saloon, 2760 E. Butler Ave; 928-779-3142

Busters, 1800 S. Milton Rd; 928-774-5155

Cottage Place Restaurant, 126 W. Cottage Ave; 928-774-8431

Lupo Horseman’s Lodge and Restaurant, 8500 N US-89; 928-526-2655

Josephine’s, 503 N. Humphreys Street; 928-779-3400

Mountain Oasis International Restaurant, 11 E. Aspen Ave; 928-214-9270

Grey Mountain

Gray Mountain Trading Post

928-679-2203; Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Summer hours: 6 am–10 pm. Because the town is off the reservation, it is legal to purchase alcohol here. Possession of alcohol on the reservation, however, is illegal.

Services (Auto/Gas/Repair/Emergency):

Hwy 89 North

SINAGUA TRADING POST (East), Hwy 89 N – Mile 436.5; (928) 679-2331; Hrs 8am-5pm; This trading post has a AAA 24-hour towing service.

Art & Culture (Galleries/Trading Posts/Museums):

Flagstaff

The Museum of Northern Arizona

3101 N. Fort Valley Rd; 927-774-5213 or 928-774-5211, Ext 275.

The Arboretum at Flagstaff

927-774-1442; It is a botanical garden, research station and environmental education center. 1hr tours offered 11am & 1pm

Cameron           

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise (West)

Owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. It offers quality handmade Navajo jewelry, rugs, and pottery, as well as unusual T-shirts and sweatshirts. Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (observes DST).

Cameron Visitors Center (West)

If you are planning to camp or hike on the Navajo Reservation you must obtain a permit. Camping permits are $5 per person per night. A backcountry permit for hiking is $5 per person, $10 for 2–10 people, and $20 for more than 10 people. The permit is good for 14 days. For more information, contact Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 308, Window Rock, AZ 86515. (928) 871-6645, 928-679-2303, www.navajonationparks.org.

Permissions

  • Trip information is condensed with permission from Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations, by Fran Kosik, Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tucson, Arizona, 2005. Trip numbers generally coincide with chapter number in the book. Fran's full book contains much more wonderful information on traveling our Native roads. For more detailed information, the book can be purchased from:
    Museum of Northern Arizona bookstore, 3101 N. Ft. Valley Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001; phone #: 928-774-5213 or direct 928-774-5211 + Ext 261. Or, contact the publisher, Rio Nuevo Publishers, PO Box 5250, Tucson, Arizona 85703; phone #: 520-623-9558 or 800-969-9558. Trip numbers generally correspond to chapter numbers.