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Best of AZ
Coal Mine Canyon, near Tuba City

© George Stocking

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Best of AZ
Unless you're über-omniscient or an arrogant know-it-all, there's no way of putting together a definitive list of the best of everything. Especially in a place like Arizona, where the range of people, places and things is as vast as the Grand Canyon. Nevertheless, in our ongoing effort to steer you toward the state's superlatives, we present our second-annual Best of AZ package. From the beefiest bratwurst to the best place to shack up with the stars, this is our take on the best places to eat, stay and play in Arizona.

By Kelly Kramer

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Best Example of "Anything a Greenhouse Can Do, Mother Nature Can Do Better"
Arizona's Native Orchids
Arizona is its own hothouse — literally and fig-uratively. At least 10 varieties of orchids grow in the Arizona wilderness. You'll find fairy slipper orchids in the shade of the White Mountains, bog orchids in the high elevations of the Lukachukai and Pinaleño mountains, coral root orchids in the pine and spruce forests of the Santa Catalinas, and adder's mouth orchids in the Chiricahuas. Now that's some real flower power. Information: www.orchidsocietyaz.org.

Best of Arizona

AH Best Restaurants 2010 >>
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Best Poolside View in the Great Outdoors
Romero Pools, Oro Valley
You won't find cabana boys or fruity drinks at Romero Pools, but you will find cool, natural pools amid beautiful Sonoran Desert scenery. Tucked away within Catalina State Park, the pools can be accessed via the Romero Canyon Trail, a 7.2-mile trek through riparian canyons, creosote, ocotillos and saguaros. Who needs cabana boys when the scenery is this stunning? By the way, before you pack up and go, pick up the phone. Like many state parks in Arizona, this one could fall victim to legislative budget cuts. Information: 520-628-5798 or www.azstateparks.com/parks/cata.
Best Opportunity to Be Blown Away
Wupatki National Monument, near Flagstaff
There's a lot to see at Wupatki National Monument, including the amazing Moenkopi sandstone homes of the ancient Sinaguan and Puebloan people. But there are also some pretty interesting natural wonders at the monument, including an unlikely and unusual blowhole. Located near the amphitheater, the hole is an opening in the Kaibab limestone that "breathes," thanks to air moving through interconnected underground cavities. It's weird. And cool. Information: 928-679-2365 or www.nps.gov/wupa.
Best Place to Go Where Seldom
Is Heard a Discouraging Word
DeMotte Campground, North Rim, Grand Canyon At DeMotte Campground, near the Grand Canyon's North Rim, the deer play and the skies are not cloudy all day. There are also miles of hiking trails, beautiful meadows and, of course, the North Rim itself, which yawns just 7 miles south of the site. This is a place to revel in nature, sleep under the stars and get elevated — the campground rests around 8,500 feet above sea level. It's hard to hear a discouraging word up that high. Information: www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai.
Best Opportunity to Rub Elbows With Elephant Feet
Navajo Nation
Just east of the town of Red Lake on the Navajo Nation, you might cast a glance out your window to the north side of U.S. Route 160 and do a double take, shocked to find two bodiless pachyderm pieds. But don't be alarmed and think you're in The Twilight Zone. They're really just sandstone pillars, shaped and sanded over time by the elements to form elephant feet. There's no formal visitors center at the site, but you will find Navajo merchants selling handmade jewelry and other crafts. Information: www.explorenavajo.com.
Best Place to Catch a Glimpse of a Critter You Won't Find in Florida
Bass Canyon, Muleshoe Ranch, near Willcox
Seven permanently flowing streams create an impressive watershed at Muleshoe Ranch, and thanks to The Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Land Management and the Coronado National Forest, the area and its abundant wildlife are well-protected. That includes coatimundi, funny little raccoon-like critters that populate the canyons of desert mountain forests, including Bass Canyon. You'll hear the social creatures chattering in trees and foraging for manzanita berries, and don't be surprised if you find them watching you — they're a little nosy. Information: 520-212-4295 or www.nature.org.
Best Place to Fall Under the Spell of a Hoodoo
Coal Mine Canyon, near Tuba City
Coal Mine Canyon looks like the bottom of the ocean. That's because a long, long, long, long, long time ago, it was very likely covered in water. Now it's home to hundreds of hoodoos, funky-looking rock formations that rise from the canyon floor to varying heights. They're striated — the layer of black at the bottom comes from the canyon's name-inspiring coal — and perhaps even haunted. One legend says that the ghost of a Navajo woman wanders the canyon in search of her husband and baby, who fell to their deaths there. Spooky. Information: 928-679-2303 or www.navajonationparks.org.

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