I recommend heading to Prescott from Sedona trough Jerome for the more adventurous. The former mining town of is cool place to check out. The old photogenic architecture has been converted to art galleries and restaurants.
Leaving Jerome on Hwy 89A will take you through a curvy mountain road with scenic overlooks along the way. Even though it may take a little longer, this is my preferred path.
You can skip Jerome and head south on I-17.
Once in Prescott (pronounced to rhyme with biscuit) you can check out historic Whiskey Row. The town square with historic architecture is lined with eating and drinking establishments. If you only hit one go to The Palace. Frequented by locals in western attire from the hat all the way to spurs, the old west vibe is strong. Your servers are in character as well wearing dancer costumes. You can picture the Erp brothers and Doc Holiday who were said to have eaten and imbibed there.
On Hwy 89 Granite Dells is a spectacular scene with huge granite boulders popping out of Watson Lake. It’s a can’t-miss spot. You can rent a kayak and explore or a well maintained trail follows the lake for many different views. Wildlife flourishes.
Phoenix: Papago Park
A water feature surrounded by palm trees and cactus is a treat. It’s a well maintained park with picnic areas. As the park shares an entry road with the Phoenix Zoo, you might want to make that a stop as well. Another mile down the road is the Botanical Gardens. You could easily spend a full day or two here in this area.
Gilbert: Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
For the avian photographer Water Ranch Riparian Preserve is a treat. The ponds have been established for a long time in this park. 110 acres of ponds and paths were created to be the final step in treating wastewater.
In a unique way the town has combined water resource management with wildlife habitat creation. Quite a few species have made this home and many more pass through regularly during migration times.
If you want to see wild horses head for the lower Salt River Basin. The wild ones graze among the saguaro cactus and you might find them crossing the river. Hike around the Coon Bluff Recreation Area in the Tonto National Forest for the best chances. Even if you never come across a horse the hike along the creek can yield some nice scenics and bird-life.
There is a group that try to help out the horses and during certain times of the year they bring in some feed which brings the horses to one location. Check online for current happenings.
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge
If you head west and a bit south you’ll find the Colorado River. Along the banks of the Colorado you’ll find photo opportunities galore. There are formal campgrounds along the river as well as BLM land. I find myself near Ehrenburg boondocking on the river.
Just down the road is Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. A large preserve with marshes, mountains and wildlife, there are numerous opportunities for the photographer.
Guess we need a fourth installment to touch on the southern part of the state. Tucson and surrounding small towns hold even more image capture possibilities.
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob