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Coal Mine Canyon

When reflecting on the past year and all there is to be thankful for, a beautiful backdrop and serene surroundings can enhance this nostalgic time.

Arizona has many local escapes that act as the ideal place to bask in tranquility, and Coal Mine Canyon is one of the more notable ones, leaving its visitors feeling very thankful for nature.

The stunning, mostly untouched canyon is on the border between the Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservations. It sits on the edge of the 120-mile-wide amazing "Painted Desert." This canyon is accessed from Highway 264 between Tuba City and Old Oraibi. A small, used road forks south off of the US 160. (The canyon is off of Highway 264 between mileposts 336 and 337). 

At first sight, about 15 miles from Tuba City, the commonly used viewing area is accessed after a half-mile drive along a dirt track. This dirt road is mostly fine for all types of vehicles, and because many people don't know about this gem or simply haven't navigated it because of its remote nature, Thanksgiving weekend can mean a peaceful retreat for those looking to escape and explore the Canyon. 

The Canyon offers a small picnic table area near a windmill on its outskirts, and visitors will easily notice an unbelievable mix of eroded spires, hoodoos, gullies, fins and cliffs in every color of the rainbow. The rocks that are on the rim are soft and crumbly composed of layers of the Dakota Sandstone group. Visitors should hike with caution.

"I loved catching the sunrise over Coal Mine, even if it was a frigid 13 degrees!" photographer Annemarie Comes says. "My fingers might have been numb that early in the morning; as I witnessed the gorgeous sun illuminating the hoodoos—made it worth it. The beauty is astounding, and the fact that it does take a little effort to find it and go see it makes it all that much more worth the visit. I loved pulling up to the windmill and slowly discovering this incredibly diverse hole in the earth. Coal Mine Canyon is definitely filled with a variety of colors and rock formations that will leave a lasting impression. A daytime visit to hike the exterior top edge and to view all of the colors in the canyon would be fun, or go to watch the light change over the canyon during sunset. It might be a bit warmer and just as phenomenal."