This was a short trip, and my final day would be even shorter, since I had to be back in Phoenix by mid-afternoon for my departing flight. So, I decided to enjoy whatever I could along the way, without going much out of my way. From Holbrook, Show Low and Globe seemed almost as direct a route to Phoenix as Flagstaff and I-17, and I remembered reading somewhere that US 60 was scenic. So, off I went.
Route 77 was pretty uneventful, with the exception of the surprisingly large towns of Snowflake and Taylor. After a half hour or more of high desert flatness, suddenly there were banks, drive-thru’s, and even a shopping mall.
The brief brush with civilization ends as quickly as it began, as you leave Snowflake and Taylor behind, and head on to Show Low. As for Show Low itself, it wasn’t the wild-west town I had hoped for. Maybe I just missed the downtown district, but all I saw was a typical street lined with average businesses.
After you leave Show Low, you’re definitely in the mountains, or more accurately, on top of them. The road winds through this high country for a while, then the descent begins, and you’re quickly dropping into a Grand Canyon-like landscape. You’ve reached the Salt River Canyon.
As you descend, the views just keep getting better and better. Don’t bother stopping at every turnout, the best stuff is near the bottom.
Next to a small gas station (which appeared to be closed) you’ll find the Salt River Jail. At first glance, it looks like something built for tourists, but there is a jail cell inside, complete with hefty steel bars. I wouldn’t put it past an Apache Nation police officer to throw a particularly disrespectful or obnoxious visitor in here.
Near the bottom of the canyon, there’s a turnoff that offers a great view of the mountains surrounding the Salt River. A dirt road travels alongside the river, but you’re supposed to have a visitor’s pass from the Native American tribes, in order to proceed any further.
So instead, cross the Salt River on this new, steel arch bridge (the old bridge still stands next to the new one, and serves as a foot bridge)…
… then stop at the rest area, and take the stairs down to the large viewpoint below the bridge. It’s a great place to see the surrounding mountains reflecting on the water. Also, it’s likely that there will be a few Native American jewelry stands nearby, in case you need a souvenir.
As you climb out of the canyon, you’re once again treated to a new perspective of the mountains. Look closely at the picture above, and you can see the curvy road that you just descended.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the absolute best view of the Salt River Canyon. Unfortunately, there’s no turnout here. If you are desperate for a picture that shows the river, the winding road, and the bridges, as well as miles and miles of distant canyon, you’ll have to walk about a quarter mile from the nearest turnoff. Or, just enjoy the beauty as you drive by, then continue on to Globe and neighboring Miami.
If you’ve read a lot of my website, you may know by now that I’m especially attracted to old mining towns. They seem to all have a forgotten-in-time feel. Miami, Arizona is no different.
The biggest thing in the small town of Miami is the large Phelps Dodge copper mine. You’ll pass part of it alongside the main road. But my favorite part of Miami is the downtown stretch of old buildings and small businesses. I had very little time (just a few hours before my flight left Phoenix) but I still managed to poke around some of the antique stores. I don’t often find antique stores that I like, but Miami definitely has some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Once your visit to Miami is complete, head towards Phoenix on US 60. You’ll wind through some more great scenery and at least one canyon, then emerge into the Valley of the Sun, for the long, flat, and boring drive into the urban sprawl of the city.
My trip ended with a quick lunch at Garduño’s in Scottsdale, then a stop at a local grocery store for New Mexico green chile (if you pack it in your luggage, it will stay frozen–or at least cold–until you get home).
Note: This trip was first published in 2006.