With the summer heat in full swing in central Arizona, many of us begin to look towards the Northern Arizona airports for some relief. How about Show Low? While it’s not quite “Northern,” it still fits the bill nicely. On the edge of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and near the White Mountains, Show Low can be the weekend getaway you’re looking for when escaping the grips of summer. Summer highs average near 86° with summer lows in the 50s and 60s.
Show Low sits approximately 110 nautical miles northeast of Phoenix and 100 nautical miles east of Flagstaff. This quasi-remote location is what helps give the town its charm. Even the name is steeped in the Old West-themed lore of card games and gentlemen’s agreements. The main street in town is named the Deuce of Clubs in honor of this unique quirk of Arizona history.
While still a relatively small city of about 12,000 residents, the area’s population swells to near 170,000 with tourism and visitors escaping the heat, according to the city’s website. Visitors swarm the area for the fishing, hunting, camping, off-roading, and all that the forest has to offer. For pilots, the best part is that the city has an outstanding airport.
Show Low Regional Airport (KSOW) has been in service since 1946, originally on a US Forest Service Special Use Permit. Today, it offers essential air service to the White Mountain region. Boutique Air even offers scheduled service between Show Low and Phoenix on Pilatus PC-12’s and King Air 350s for reasonable fares. The airport sits at 6415 ft MSL and density altitude in the summer often soars well past 9000 ft. Density altitude must be considered year round, but is especially important here in the summer. Fortunately, Runway 7/25 is 7200ft long, paved, in good condition, and lighted. Runway 4/22 is shorter at 3938ft, but is also paved and in good condition, but not lighted.
Arriving from the west or south, dial up AWOS-3 on 118.075 and get a feel for the current conditions. Considerable turbulence on approach to Runway 22 when winds exceed 20 knots is possible and may include moderate wind shear, so remain vigilant. CTAF is found on 123.0. Plan to enter right traffic if using either Runway 25 or 4, otherwise standard left patterns are used. Once on the ground, taxi up to the transient area between the runways. Because the airport is located near several MOAs, it is not unusual to see some amazing aircraft on the ramp here.
If you’ve arrived during business hours, you’ll likely be met by friendly city-run FBO ramp staff who will guide you to parking. Self-serve and full-service fuel is available with both 100LL and Jet A. At the time of this writing, self-serve 100LL was priced at $4.77/gal and full-service is $5.02. Jet A was priced at $3.43 and $3.68, respectively. If buying over 250 gallons on 100LL in a month, the airport offers a 10-cent per gallon discount on fuel, as well. There is a modest overnight parking fee of $7 for singles, $10 for twins, and $35 for turboprop. Larger aircraft can expect higher overnight parking fees.
There are several options for transportation away from the airport. First, the airport offers a courtesy car. As can be expected, this is first come, first served. Alternatively, rental cars can be delivered to the airport ready for your arrival. Enterprise, Hatch Toyota, and Show Low Ford offer this service, should you want to venture further or stay longer than a courtesy car will allow. Of course, Uber and Lyft service Show Low, as well as a pair of taxi services. Lastly, the airport lies just east of the town proper, so a brisk walk of about a mile will place you downtown in just a few minutes.
Once in Show Low, several outstanding, locally-owned restaurants are only minutes from the airport. PersNIKKITY’s Café and Bakery, The House Restaurant, Sweetheart’s Café, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and Lounge, the Show Low Café, Licano’s Mexican Food and Steakhouse, Los Corrales, and the Pizza Factory are some of the city’s best fare. It’s apparent that this town loves to eat! With so much to offer nearby, you may wish to stay longer than just a day trip. Fortunately, there are several four and five-star hotels in town that will be happy to accommodate you.
As for the “what to do” question, there isn’t just one answer. From quaint and low-key strolls through a museum to the thrill of big-game hunting, Show Low offers it all. The Show Low Museum houses 16 rooms of historic Show Low memorabilia with some dating back several hundred years. There is no charge for the museum and it’s open Wednesday – Saturday from 10am – 3pm.
The Bison Golf Club is a highly-rated public course that offers 18-hole rates of $47/weekday and $54/weekend, including a cart. Seniors receive a discount on both rates. Tee times can be reserved online through the bisongolf.net website.
The Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is approximately 5 miles east of the airport and offers a great place to enjoy the mountain scenery, take a refreshing swim, or try your hand at fishing. J-T’s Wildlife Outdoors offers kayak rentals if you’d prefer to cruise the lake. They are open 7 days per week from 9-5. Reservations can be made in advance, or on day of arrival through 928-892-9170. Another water option is Pintail Lake. The lake is manmade and offers a peaceful walk around the perimeter with interpretive signs to explain the various birds likely to be observed there.
Of course, the adventure of the White Mountains and all of the big-game hunting and fishing that it offers is right outside the limits of Show Low if you’d rather get away from it all. Check fire restrictions ahead of time if camping and plan accordingly.
EAA chapter 586 is based at KSOW and meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6pm. The chapter hosts the annual Deuces Wild Fly-In and Pancake Breakfast in the early summer, lots of seminars, contests, food, and just a great time.
So dust off the plane, study performance numbers, and get on out to Show Low. There’s a ton of things to do that offer a true break from the summer heat. Stay for the day, the weekend, or the week, and enjoy the reason we love to fly. I’ll see you up there!