Watson Lake
Published November/December 2012

State Route 89A

Driving this scenic road — which begins in Prescott, and winds through Jerome, Cottonwood, and Sedona, before ending in Flagstaff — is equally about the journey and the destinations

BYStephanie R. Conner
Connecting Prescott to Flagstaff, scenic State Route 89A is more than just a practical state thoroughfare — it’s Arizona at its best. Breathtaking mountain vistas and tree-lined roadways are just two of the many reasons to traverse State Route 89A. This road, which serves as Jerome’s Main Street (and Sedona’s, too), is rife with state parks, campgrounds, and hiking trails.
You could do the whole 90-mile trek in just over two hours, but why would you want to? Take your time as you wind your way through the stunning Verde Valley and Oak Creek Canyon. In addition to the striking natural beauty you’ll encounter on the way, the towns along 89A have histories and personalities as distinctive as their landscapes.
Prescott asserts it’s “Everybody’s Hometown,” and when you drive into the heart of downtown, you can understand why. Festivals and concerts fill the town square many weekends, and families (and, more often than not, their dogs) meander through the downtown enjoying the coziness of small-town life. Local shops, restaurants, and bars line the streets.
The largest urban area in Yavapai County, Prescott boasts a rich history that dates back to 1864, when it was founded as the Territorial Capital of Arizona and the County Seat. With the exception of 1867 to 1877, Prescott served as the capital until it moved to Phoenix. A short walk from the city center takes you to the Sharlot Hall Museum for a healthy dose of Arizona’s pre-statehood history.
The Territorial Governor’s Mansion is the oldest building associated with the Arizona Territory. And the museum, founded by Sharlot Hall (a female poet, activist, and politician who saved the mansion from demolition), was developed around the estate, which sits in its original location. Other historic buildings were moved to the grounds as part of the museum, which houses a number of artifacts from the Territorial era.
To the east of the courthouse (an easy marker for navigation), several restaurants and bars line the 100 block of South Montezuma Street, or “Whiskey Row.” A fire earlier this year destroyed several businesses, which was devastating to the town and history buffs alike. Still, there remain plenty of saloons for an evening cocktail.
Around the corner from the Courthouse on Cortez Street, check out The Rose Restaurant, a fine-dining spot perfect for special occasions. Then, pop next door for a drink at the Hotel Vendome, a 16-room historic inn (built in 1917) with a quaint porch and a lobby bar. Better yet, stay the night here and savor the downtown experience.
Of course, there’s more to Prescott than its historic downtown. Three nearby lakes — Watson, Willow, and Goldwater — offer ample recreation opportunities, including hiking, boating, bird-watching, and fishing. Overlooking Willow Lake is the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, which boasts more than 150 animals that were rescued or arrived as surplus from other zoos. 

View Highroads: State Route 89A in a larger map

Welcome to AAA Highroads
To enjoy customized local content, please enter your ZIP Code below.
Zip Code
AAA Arizona proudly serves AAA members in the state of Arizona