Driving US Route 89 between Flagstaff and Page brings you into contact with three distinctively different landscapes: black volcanoes, multicolored desert hills and red cliffs.

Bonita Lava Flow in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Bonita Lava Flow and volcanic cinders ejected from Sunset Crater volcano.

At the southern end near Flagstaff is a volcanic area dominated by the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona at over 12,000 feet. The peaks are surrounded by cinder cones and lava flows. The dominant color here is black—black lava and black cinders and the dark green of ponderosa pines. All that darkness is offset by red pine tree bark and patches of cinders in rusty red colors.

You can get close to one of the biggest of the volcanic formation by taking the loop road sixteen miles north of Flagstaff through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Sunset Crater is the youngest volcano in the San Francisco Field erupting about 900 years ago. The road passes through the Bonita Lava Flow where magma oozed out at the base. The cone is 1,000 feet high and is crowned by red oxidized cinders that seem to glow at sunset and gave the peak its name.

Sunset Crater Volcano

Sunset Crater Volcano glows red in early morning light

 

Ruins of prehistoric Indian dwellings in Wupatki National Monument

Ruins of Indian dwellings in Wupatki National Monument

Also on this loop road off US Route 89 is Wupatki National Monument where the ruins of prehistoric Indian dwellings are open to visitors. These ancient buildings were occupied for about 100 years shortly after the formation of Sunset Crater. The ash from the volcano made the land more fertile by absorbing moisture and preventing evaporation. By 1180 thousands of people were farming this region. Their multistory buildings are still standing today as a testament to their excellence as stone masons.

Painted Desert

Hills of the multicolored Painted Desert along US 89

The middle part of US 89 between Page and Flagstaff passes through the Painted Desert on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Here you will marvel at the soft hills striped in white, red, brown and purple. It is hard to believe that this now dry land was once dominated by dinosaurs and giant trees as evidenced by logs of petrified wood. The highway reaches its low point at the Cameron Trading Post on the banks of the Little Colorado River.

Cameron Trading Post

Cameron Trading Post

Cameron was established in 1911 when the bridge across the Little Colorado was completed. Today it is a popular stop for travelers and includes a large gift shop, restaurant and lodge. Be sure to visit the gallery in a separate historic building where you will find examples of fine Indian arts and crafts, both historic and contemporary. Also, tucked away in the back of the gift shop are a couple of display cases of “pawn”. You will feel like you’ve found a hidden treasure when you spy a very nice piece of jewelry at a reasonable price.

Cameron is also the gateway town to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Look for the intersection with Arizona Route 64 just south of town. It is a 30 minute drive to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Stop at one of the view points along the way to see the canyon of the Little Colorado River.

Echo Cliffs along US Route 89 in northern Arizona

The northern end of US Route 89 parallels the Echo Cliffs

At the northern end, US 89 parallels the 800 foot high Echo Cliffs that gently guide you toward the Colorado River in Marble Canyon. Here the dominant colors are the red and white strata of petrified sand dunes.. At Bitter Springs, US 89 continues north and switchbacks up the cliff face to a broad, high desert plateau leading to Lake Powell, a blue expanse of water from the Colorado River backed up behind Glen Canyon Dam. Alternate US 89 turns west toward Marble Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs. See the Guide to Driving US Route 89 and 89A for details of the two roads between Bitter Springs and Kanab, Utah.

Flagstaff to Page MapAt A Glance:
Distance: 135 miles

Driving Time: 2.5 hours

High Point: 7,300 feet at the entrance to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument 16 miles north of Flagstaff

Low Point: 4,100 feet at the Little Colorado River at Cameron 52 miles north of Flagstaff/83 miles south of Page

Services:
Flagstaff: gas, food, lodging, camping
Cameron: gas, food, lodging
Cedar Ridge: gas, food
Page: gas, food, lodging, camping

Access To:
Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Wupatki National Monument
Strawberry Crater Wilderness
Grand Canyon National Park
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

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12 comments

  1. Comment by james whitecavage

    james whitecavage Reply February 22, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    james
    my wife and I are traveling from Chandler to Springdale UT via route 89 in mid March 2017. Do you know if they have had a bad winter and if the roads can handle a 36 foot class A dragging a car.

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply February 23, 2017 at 6:45 am

      To the best of my knowledge it has been a typical winter in northern Arizona and southern Utah. I haven’t heard of any road closures or other problems that would affect your travels. It is always a good idea to check on road conditions and weather a few days before your departure. Read this post on getting up to the minute information on road conditions. Also, if you want to avoid the climb up the Echo Cliffs between Flagstaff and Page, you could take Navajo Route 20 from The Gap to Page instead. You should also be aware that you will have to pass through the tunnel on the east entrance road to Zion. You will need to get a tunnel permit at the entrance station. Check out the tunnel information on the Zion National Park website. Have a great trip.

  2. Comment by merl scott

    merl scott Reply January 30, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    how far from page miles and driving time to kanab?will be driving from flagstaff to kanab middle of may .i will be pulling 25 ft bumper trailor with 4.6 8 engine f150 ford. i will go 89 all the way with hope i can find detour on 20 around bad part of 89 .what your thoughts on this.will ice snow be a factor or fog

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply January 31, 2017 at 6:21 am

      The distance from Page to Kanab is 74 miles, about an hour and a half driving time. From Flagstaff to Page is 135 miles, about two and half hours. The turn for Navajo Route 20 at The Gap is clearly marked although continuing on US 89 to Page should be no problem. We see 18-wheeler trucks as well as large RV’s on that route all the time. It is highly unlikely that you will run into snow and ice or fog in the middle of May.

  3. Comment by Akshay

    Akshay Reply December 19, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Thanks for this wonderfull information. I have a question. I shall be leaving from Page to Flagstaff in the evening on 27th/28th December as I have booked my accommodation in Flagstaff.
    Is it too dangerous to drive to flagstaff in the evening. I am planning on to leave Page (Horse Shoe at around 5)

    Thanks a million for your suggestion in advance.

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply December 20, 2016 at 6:35 am

      The current forecast for Cameron which is about half way between Page and Flagstaff is for clear weather. Be sure and check the weather forecast closer to your trip, but the drive from Horseshoe Bend to Flagstaff should not be dangerous. The drive is about 130 miles and usually takes less than two and half hours. There are gas stations at The Gap and Cameron and the Cameron Trading Post is a great place to stop for dinner. US Route 89 has undergone significant improvements over the last few years including a number of passing lanes which help to keep traffic moving.

  4. Comment by Michelle

    Michelle Reply October 19, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Hi, I’ll be traveling from Flagstaff to Page for work in mid-December. Just wondering what the road conditions are like then. Should I get a SUV or is a compact car fine?

    Great website! Thanks much for your help!

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply October 26, 2016 at 9:20 am

      The most likely place where you will encounter snowy conditions will be in Flagstaff and going north for the first few miles until you get past the mountains. From there on to Page, US 89 is likely to be smooth sailing. Since 89 is a federal highway and the main route north of Flagstaff, ADOT clears the road quickly and spreads cinders to keep it passable. A four-wheel drive vehicle should not be necessary but you should check driving condition before setting out. Here is a blog post with information on getting up-to-the-minute information on driving conditions.

  5. Comment by Kim

    Kim Reply April 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Does this affect getting from page to monument valley via 98 south to 160 north???

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply April 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Should be no problem on 98 south from Page to 160, except the possibility of increased traffic because that is now the detour route around the collapsed section of US 89.

  6. Comment by Joe Todd

    Joe Todd Reply March 27, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Finally heading west this summer..Phoenix-Grand Canyon-Zion-Bryce-then heading to MesaVerde etc..Have been receiving your emails for a couple years now–just ordered your book and am pretty excited.. Thanks for all your work.. Any tips would be appreciated..will be taking a lot of photos any tips with he bright sun being a factor??

    • Comment by James Cowlin

      James Cowlin Reply March 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

      The sun in the west always seems brighter. Clear air, higher elevations and the nearly naked land forms make for very saturated colors in photographs. My best advice is to check the histogram of your photographs a few times when you get started. Make sure that it is mostly centered and not bumping up against the right side which indicates over exposure. Once you get used to the light, a quick check on the LCD will reassure you that you are getting it right. When you get home from your trip, you can add your stories and photographs to the Road Trip Guides on the US Route 89 website. Click on Share Your Stories to get started. Have a great trip.

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