South of Route 66 and I-40 from Ash Fork, or west from Sedona, Hwy-89A makes a wonderfully scenic loop, winding past 7,815-foot Mingus Mountain into photogenic Jerome (pop. 455; elev. 5,066 feet), the liveliest and most interesting “ghost town” in Arizona. Set on steep streets that switchback up the mountainside, Jerome is an old copper mining camp that has turned itself into a thriving artists community, with many nice shops, galleries, and cafés, and almost no touristy schlock. Park wherever you can and walk around, enjoying the incredible views out over the Verde Valley to the San Francisco Peaks and beyond.
At the north (uphill) edge of town, a mile off Hwy-89 at the end of fairly rough Perkinsville Road, the Gold King Mine (928/634-0053, daily 10am-5pm, $5) has a misleading name but is still a great place to go. It’s not so much a mine as an anarchic collection of ancient-looking machinery (sawmills, pumps, hoists, trucks, cars, and ore cars), most of which is kept in working order, plus an intact old gas station dating from Jerome’s 1920s heyday.
At the heart of Jerome, enjoy food or a fine shot of espresso at the Flatiron Café (416 Main St., 928/634-2733), or for a full meal with a great view, try the delicious Asylum dining room inside the huge old Jerome Grand Hotel (200 Hill St., 928/634-8200, $155 and up), a former hospital.