This terrific scenic drive takes you through the Arizona-Strip. The Arizona Strip is 3.2 million acres of undeveloped land south of the Utah border and north of the Grand Canyon. It is unspoiled because access to it is difficult. In order to get to other parts of the state of Arizona from the strip, you must drive around the ends of the Grand Canyon. The Arizona Strip is looked after by the Bureau of Land Management and includes eight wilderness areas, the Kaibab National Forest and the Kaibab Indian Reservation. Driving is the best way to see this vast area of pristine wilderness.
The Fredonia-Vermilion Cliffs Scenic Road stretches between the towns of Fredonia to the small town of Bitter Springs just south of Lee’s Ferry. The road crosses some of the most scenic landforms in Arizona. It also travels through historical routes that were used centuries ago by those heading out West.
When you leave Fredonia takes U.S. Highway 89A east out of town. After leaving Fredonia the road passes through wide-open plains of sage. This landscape soon begins to change to shrub, then juniper and finally to ponderosa pine. The road travels through the Kaibab National Forest and into the town of Jacob Lake. Here you can venture off the scenic road and take State Highway 67 south for 45 miles to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Or you may continue on scenic road U.S. Highway 89A past Jacob Lake through the Vermilion Cliffs along the Paria Plateau. Along the drive you will come to the House Rock Valley Overlook. It is a pullout that provides a view of the House Rock Valley and part of the Vermilion Cliffs. The cliffs can be seen rising steeply to a height of more than a thousand feet. Their almost perpendicular face is a bright red, shading to orange and greens. This section of the drive is home to the condor. Several condors have been released in the Vermilion Cliff area. The Dominguez and Escalante Interpretive Site/San Bartolome Historic Site is another stop along the scenic road. It is halfway between Jacob Lake and Marble Canyon on the north side of the road. This interpretive site displays information about the Dominguez and Escalante Expedition in 1776 along the Arizona Strip. The next stop is Marble Canyon. The historic Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon has been converted to a pedestrian bridge. Visitors can walk the distance of the old bridge and take in the breathtaking views. The bridge was completed in 1928 and pretty much ended the use of Lee’s Ferry as a river crossing. Then 89A turns south and continues into the Navajo Indian Reservation to Bitter Springs where the scenic drive ends.
This scenic drive is often taken in reverse when heading from either Tucson or Phoenix up to Flagstaff. Then continue past Flagstaff on U.S. Highway 89 on up to Bitter Springs. It doesn’t matter which direction you take the drive it will be well worth your time.
This drive is a memorable one. There are many spectacular views and opportunities to see wildlife. However, it is important that drivers are prepared. There are long stretches of road with services spread out in between small towns.