Flagstaff area national monuments & a long weekend

Took a nice, gentle paced, car camping trip to the Flagstaff area over the long 4th of July weekend. We camped at the Forest Service ‘Bonito’ campground, just outside the Sunset Crater National Monument – as the Lockett Meadow campground was closed due to the recent Schultz Fire. While the weather wasn’t as cool as I’d hoped, the high 70’s & low 80’s were a nice break from Phoenix weather.

We explored the three national monuments in the area – hiking on the cinder cones & lava fields of Sunset Crater, including a steep hike up the Lenox Crater trail. We also enjoyed the ruins of Wupatki and it’s associated pueblos and the stunning scenerey of the cliff dwellings of Walnut Canyon.

Additionally an ill advised trip to the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado took us over 10 miles of rough, washboarded road, only to be rewarded with a dry riverbed and no running falls.

We managed to visit the Lowell observatory, and while the tour and museum were interesting it was packed for the holiday weekend and we left before the telescopes were open for viewing as the crowds were too much. The camping did allow us some great views of the night sky though, including looks at a bunch of the Messier objects through a 6″ SCT telescope. Some of the highlights included : the Ring, Lagoon, Eagle and Horseshoe nebulas and Butterfly, Ptolemy clusters and Great Global Cluster in Hercules. Much nicer skies than trying to see anything from the light pollution of the Phoenix area.

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