With some of the most spectacular natural scenery and vibrant Native American heritage in North American, the northeast quadrant of Arizona is a stunning place for a road-trip, national parks adventure, hiking and photography adventure, or spiritual getaway. Most visitors to this region spend time at the Grand Canyon and the nearby college town and outdoors hub of Flagstaff, which is just 45 minutes' drive north of GLBT-popular Sedona. From there, you're within a scenic drive of two to four hours from all sorts of mesmerizing landscapes with noteworthy, gay-friendly accommodations, from historic Winslow to breathtaking Monument Valley. Here are some of the best hotels and gay-friendly inns in this region stretching north and east from Flagstaff and Grand Canyon National Park to Winslow and Petrified Forest National Park, Lake Powell and Page, and Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly.
With expansive views of Lake Powell, this gay-owned three-bedroom B&B just over the Utah border in Arizona is a smartly decorated option that makes a good base for the lake itself as well as northeastern Arizona attractions like Monument Valley (140 miles east), the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (140 miles south), and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (150 miles south). Dreamkatchers' B&B (1055 S. American Way, Big Water, UT, 435-675-5828) is open only spring through fall (April 15 through October), which is a perfect time for hiking, boating, and exploring in the region (the North Rim is only open in summer, too). The rooms here - Classic, Asian, and Cherub - are individually decorated, and surrounding this sleek, contemporary Southwestern-style house are a sundeck, patios, and an eight-person hot tub.
Since it opened in 1905 to serve early passengers on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway, El Tovar (Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, AZ, 303-297-2757) - which is perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon's South Rim - has been one of the nation's iconic national park lodges. You'll need to book as far in advance as possible (a year ahead, if you're able to) to secure a room here during high season (late spring to early fall), and suites are especially hard to score (and run from about $350 to $450). But for a truly memorable visit to the Grand Canyon, it's really worth trying to stay here - standard rooms start at under $200, which is pretty reasonable considering the history and character of this dark-wood lodge that's also home to the best restaurant in the park (the romantic El Tovar Dining Room). Only a handful of the 78 rooms and suites have true canyon views (a number of them have angled or partial vistas), but the building is right at the rim - walk out the door, and you're there. Or cool nights, it's fun to sit in the dark lobby, with its vaulted ceilings and numerous mounted deer and elk heads, soaking up the ambience. Even if you don't stay or eat here, have a drink in the bar and channel the spirits of the hundreds of famous past guests, from Teddy Roosevelt to George Bernard Shaw. For those worried about modern amenities, El Tovar received a major rehab in 2005; all rooms have flat-screen TVs and modern bathrooms.
The original sections of the 297-room Grand Canyon Railway Hotel (233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams, AZ, 800-843-8724), built by the famed Fred Harvey Company, dates to 1908; it adjoins the most scenic and relaxing mode of transport for reaching the Grand Canyon's South Rim, the Grand Canyon Railway, which snakes through the high desert wilderness and pine forests of north-central Arizona on a 2-and-a-quarter-hour, 65-mile journey each morning at 9:30 am, returning to Williams in the evening 5:45 pm. Part of the fun of staying here, of course, is experiencing the train ride - for a quick visit, just spend a night in one of the rooms, which vary from simple but tasteful (and handsomely updated) standards with comfy beds and all the usual modern conveniences (alarm clocks, satellite TV, Wi-Fi) to rather sumptuous suites with wet bars, kitchenettes, two queen beds, and more room to spread out. You're steps from the historic rail depot in the morning, and there's an atmospheric pub and restaurant at the hotel as well as some fun places to eat and drink within walking distance in downtown Williams (Red Raven is the top dining option in town, while the dive-y but fun Grand Canyon Club is perfect for a cold beer or a strong cocktail. Traveling all the way to the Grand Canyon and back in one day is a fairly ambitious plan; for a more leisurely visit, consider spending a night at the hotel, and perhaps one more when you return to Williams, and a night or two in between at one of the Grand Canyon lodgings on the South Rim, such as El Tovar, Bright Angel, Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges, or one of the others mentioned elsewhere in this article).
With its enormous orange neon sign, the circa-1927 Hotel Monte Vista (100 N. San Francisco St., Flagstaff, AZ, 928-779-6971) has held a commanding presence over downtown Flagstaff for generations. This redbrick, four-story hotel just a few blocks from the Flagstaff rail station and Route 66 is neither fancy nor an ideal fit for everybody - if you're seeking a modern, efficient, and quiet overnight stay, you're probably better off with one of the many chain properties in town. Hotel Monte Vista has a very popular (and gay-friendly) cocktail lounge with live music, so noise can be an issue for some of the 50 rooms and suites, some of which are decidedly quirky and rough-around-the-edges. On the other hand, if you're a fan of historic charm (note that Bob Hope, Michael Stipe, Barbara Stanwyck, Debbie Reynolds, Freddie Mercury, and Humphrey Bogart have all stayed here), and you don't mind the Monte Vista's offbeat vibe, this might just be a perfect fit, especially given that the smallest and simplest rooms (which share a bath) are bargain-priced. It's also fun staying at a property that's just steps from many of Flagstaff's best bars and restaurants; in addition to the bar on-site, the Monte Vista has a cool little coffeehouse/lounge called Rendezvous.
Located within walking distance of Flagstaff's bustling downtown of endearing shops and hip restaurants, and with nine gorgeously decorated rooms, the gay-owned Inn at 410 (410 Leroux St., Flagstaff, AZ, 928-774-0088) occupies a handsomely restored early 1900s Craftsman-style house. One of the perks here is that rates include a full - and quite extensive - breakfast, which during the warmer months guests can enjoy on a lushly landscaped patio. Each afternoon, cocktails and tea - along with snacks - are served as well. Innkeeper Gordon Watkins has an extensive background in hotel hospitality, which shows in the first-rate service and the tasteful decor and thoughtful amenities in the rooms. Many are suites with separate sitting rooms, and features include iHomes, TVs with DVD players, and robes. Some rooms have fireplaces, too. The Grand Canyon's South Rim is just 80 miles northwest, and it's an easy 150 mile drive down I-17 to Phoenix.
It's a little less than a 10-minute drive east on old Route 66 to reach the supremely inviting and romantic Starlight Pines B&B (3380 E. Lockett Rd., Flagstaff, AZ, 928-527-1912), a blue, grandly restored Victorian house with red trim that's nestled within a grove of pine trees, in a quiet neighborhood that's nevertheless close to main thoroughfares and the interstate. Each of the four guestrooms is tastefully appointed, with such handsome elements as Tiffany lamps, claw-foot tubs, and Art Deco or Arts and Crafts furniture. Rates include an extensive full breakfast, and hosts Richard and Michael (along with a team of three very cute dogs) offer plenty of useful advice on making the most of a visit to the area.
Even the little elevator, which runs up and down between the building's three floors, has a stunning Monument Valley view at The View Hotel (Indian Hwy. 42, off U.S. 163 at UT/AZ border north of Kayenta, Oljato-Monument Valley, UT, 435-727-5555), a low-slung, 96-room property that was opened by the Navajo tribe in 2008. It's one of a few fairly recent upscale lodgings that have opened in the sparsely populated, spectacularly beautiful Four Corners region, so named because it's where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet. This area takes some effort to reach - to give an idea of distance, The View is about 180 miles east-northeast of the Grand Canyon's South Rim, and about 320 miles northeast of Phoenix. But driving in this part of the Southwest is part of the fun. The hotel itself is attractively furnished, with modern, eco-friendly rooms with simple but warm decor - what's important is that nearly every one has a balcony that looks out across Monument Valley's most seminal geological features: the Mittens and Totem Pole monoliths, which rise hundreds of feet above the valley floor. There's an informal restaurant on site with the same smashing views, and adjacent to that is a fantastic art and crafts shop and a small museum. From the hotel, a bumpy road leads drivers on a 17-mile self-guided loop, which affords a better look at the formations. It's not a stretch to say rooms at the View afford the best Southwest landscape panoramas of any hotel in the country. Note that alcohol is not sold or permitted (meaning it's illegal even to bring it with you) anywhere in the entire 27,500-square-mile Navajo Nation, and that the best view from these rooms is had at sunrise, so grab your camera and get up early.
Woodlands Hotel - Flagstaff
An upscale resort hotel with a bit more character and personality than the many chain options in Flagstaff, the Woodlands Hotel (itself formerly a Radisson) (1175 W. Rte. 66, 928-773-8888) has 183 attractive rooms with plenty of perks: 37-inch flat-screen TVs, bathrooms with granite vanities, sturdy work desks, coffeemakers. There's an outdoor pool opened seasonally, and the gym recently underwent a major renovation. The Woodlands has been an active sponsor of Flagstaff's annual LGBT Pride celebration in June, Pride in the Pines. It's a little over a mile west of downtown, convenient to I-40 and I-17.