It’s a dry heat. Sedona has four mild seasons. Summers aren’t bad – we have monsoons. We’ve heard it all and, while we’ll admit our summers are a walk along the beach compared to our neighbors downstate, it still gets hot in northern Arizona. What can you do to beat the heat that doesn’t involve movie marathons at Harkins Theatres? We’ve compiled a list of our top ten cool spots for the summer months. Seeking air conditioning that isn’t your own? Try a tour at the Hoover Dam or a visit to the Museum of Northern Arizona. If you turn into a fish (or just like to fish) when the mercury rises, we have you covered with trips to Lake Powell, Lyman Lake, Fool Hollow Lake, and Slide Rock. If underground adventure sparks your fancy, set out for Lava River Cave or the Grand Canyon Caverns. And if you’d rather be above the action rather than below it, check out the north rim of the Grand Canyon or the Scenic Skyride at Arizona Snowbowl. So don’t sweat it – study our guide and this summer will be a breeze.
Grand Canyon Caverns
It’s a little off the beaten path but well worth the Route 66 trip, especially when you factor in the retro-cool Burma Shave signs you’ll see along the way – and that the 24/7 temperature inside the Grand Canyon Caverns is 56 degrees. The story goes that a woodcutter on his way to a poker game in 1927 discovered these limestone caves, located 210 feet underground, when he nearly fell into a hole that, upon later exploration, turned out to lead inside. The caverns have been called by many names, including Yampai Caverns, Coconino Caverns, and Dinosaur Caverns. They became Grand Canyon Caverns in 1962; though the Grand Canyon is 123 miles away, scientists discovered the national landmark is where the air in the caverns originated. According to our tour guide (you can’t access the caves without a guide) the attraction received 78,000 visitors a year during its heyday – now it’s around 40,000. The decline’s a shame considering the quirky stories lurking inside the caverns. For example, in 1963, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. government stored enough food and rations within the caverns to sustain 2,000 people for two weeks – it’s a bit startling on the tour to come across barrels and barrels of these rations in the middle of one of the cave’s enormous rooms (see inset photo at left). Another fun fact: You can get married inside the Chapel of the Ages cavern. A big white arch has been erected in the main cavern and there are even a few dried bridal bouquets resting in niches on the cave walls.
The 25-minute short tour takes in the Chapel of the Ages; the 45-minute tour leads you through all the major rooms and gives you a glimpse of Gertie, a 15-ft. 4-inch model of a giant ground sloth whose remains were found near the entrance of the caverns. Feeling more adventurous? Make reservations for the Explorers Tour and go off-trail into rooms not seen on the other two walks. There’s a gift shop, restaurant, motel, and campground at the entrance.
Grand Canyon Caverns are located on Route 66, 22 miles from Seligman. The caverns are open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas Day) – call for hours. Admission: The Regular and Short Tours cost $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for children; the Explorers Tour costs $44.95 per person. Tours depart every 30 minutes. For more information, visit www.gccaverns.com or call 928-422-3223.