Arizona Route 180, Arizona, USA – Flagstaff, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Just NE Flagstaff on our way to the Grand Canyon, we passed by a horse pasture that also served as home to a few hundred prairie dogs. As soon as I stopped to photograph a few, they scurried to their burrows immediately and thus began a period of waiting and watching. Eventually I found one of these little critters willing to stand up and take a bow. It’s partner continued the eyeball just over the rim of the hole routine.
Traveling south from Flagstaff into Sedona a day earlier, we were treated to a temperature change of probably abut 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about +75F in Sedona). Today, we were heading north-east from Flagstaff toward the south rim of the Grand Canyon and I was surprised to find that we were soon seeing snow. When I pulled off the road to stretch my legs on a hiking trail, I only walked a short distance on the trail and then I turned back because the trail was snow covered and a bitterly cold wind was blowing. The images that follow show the scenery, but don’t capture how happy I was to have a warm car to hop back into. Not life-threatening cold but definitely a shock to the system compared to the +75F of a day earlier.
Driving NE from Flagstaff on US Route 180 and heading for the Grand Canyon, we climbed from about 7000 ft in Flagstaff and passed through snow covered mountains and Ponderosa Pine forests. The route is billed as a scenic route and certainly provides a lot of variety of terrain. The day before I had been in shorts and t-shirt temperatures in Sedona and now here, I was standing in snow with a vicious wind blowing around me!!!
Once we crossed through the mountains, we entered a flat plateau/valley where the wind had a broad sweep and really buffeted our vehicle.
In this photo, the mountain on the left is Arizona’s tallest at an elevation over 12,000 ft. Apparently there was a great deal of volcanic activity in the area and there are over 600 peaks from volcanic activity. I didn’t stop to count – too cold and windy :-).
The route north from Flagstaff took us through hilly forested areas, past a local ski slope and past many dormant volcano cones, as well as wide open range land.
Further along we dropped down into a vast plateau/desert where Pinyon Pine were the predominate species. We saw lots of evidence that wildlife had been around and only hoped at this point to catch a glimpse of something alive and interesting.
The main vegetation in some of the areas was Pinyon Pine, sometimes rather scattered and rather widely spaced in desert-like surroundings and other times fairly dense. A large part of the route was through government managed lands.
We saw only one group of Pronghorn Antelope, but I am sure that there were plenty more.
As we continued along U.S. Route 180, we left the Pinyon Pine Forests behind and entered upon a broad open expanse of just about nothing – big sky, a few cacti and a bit of sage brush. Big Sky country and lots of open spaces where “Don’t Fence Me In” would seem to be an easy sentiment to develop.
It’s a nice drive from Flagstaff and we arrived in time to see the sun setting on the Grand Canyon and in time to get our bearings for the next full day at the canyon.
Stayed in Tusayan on the edge of the park ready to tackle more of the canyon the next day. More of today’s canyon images here:
Grand Canyon -South Rim