The 25 best places to visit in Arizona

 

Dating from around 1100 AD onward, between the city of Flagstaff and the state capital, Phoenix, is the Montezuma Castle National Monument, protecting a set of well preserved ancient dwellings that were built by the pre-Columbian Sinagua people. Created over three centuries, the main structure comprises five stories with around 45 to 60 rooms, situated 27 metres (90 ft) up a sheer limestone cliff. Despite its name, the site has nothing to do with the Aztec emperor Montezuma, and was not built as a fortified castle structure.

25. Montezuma Castle National Monument

 

In the far south of the state, south east from the city of Tucson is the small town of Tombstone, a modern take on an old western town. The shops, restaurants and attractions are western themed, and there are also staged gunfights and western characters walking the streets. Historic sites in the town include the famous OK Corral, the Boothill Graveyard and the old Tombstone Courthouse.

24. Tombstone

 

In the far north east of the state, south from Utah's Monument Valley along US Route 163 is Agathla Peak, rising 457 metres (1,500 ft) above the surrounding flat desert terrain. Considered a sacred site by the Navajo people, this giant volcanic plug makes for a fantastic landmark within its barren surroundings.

23. Agathla Peak

 

In the far south of the state, south east from the city of Tucson close to the Mexico border is the 7,200 square kilometre (2,780 square mile) Coronado National Forest, comprising an enormous forested area that encompasses the five ranges of Pinaleño, Galiuro, Santa Teresa, Winchester, and Greasewood Mountains. Highlights of the forest include the highest peak of the Santa Catalinas, Mount Lemmon, the rugged Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area, and the popular Sabino Canyon.

22. Coronado National Forest

 

In the southern centre of the state is the city of Phoenix, the capital and most populous city of Arizona. Surrounded by desert mountains and a number of national forests, Phoenix is seen as a great winter city for sun seekers. Known for its shopping, dining, golf courses and desert parks, Phoenix is a top spot for walking, hiking, and biking.

21. Phoenix

 

Directly east from the state capital, Phoenix, is the Superstition Wilderness Area, home to an arid landscape centred around the Superstition mountain range. A popular hiking destination covered by a number of trails, prominent landmarks include Weavers Needle, a tall eroded volcanic remnant, and the picturesque Superstition Mountains themselves.

20. Superstition Mountains

 

North east from the state capital, Phoenix, covering an area of some 11,627 square kilometres (4,489 square miles) is Tonto National Forest, the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and the fifth largest national forest in the United States. The most visited urban forest in the United States, the landscape is varied, with the most prominent being substantial forest and incredible canyonlands of colourful rock formations and desert terrain.

Pictured is Apache Lake.

19. Tonto National Forest

 

Built in 1927, in the far northern centre of the state close to the border with Utah is the Navajo Bridge, a pair of steel spandrel arch bridges that cross the Colorado River. Measuring 254 metres (834 ft) across with a height of 142 metres (467 ft) above the river below, they make for a fantastic sight in the remote and desolate desert mountains of northern Arizona.

18. Navajo Bridge

 

In the extreme south of the state, south west from the state capital, Phoenix, sharing the border with the Mexican state of Sonora is the 1,340 square kilometre (517 square mile) Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grows wild. Because the organ pipe and many other types of cacti and desert flora native to the Yuma Desert section of the Sonoran Desert thrive here, the national monument has also been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

17. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

 

North west from the state capital, Phoenix, right on the border of Arizona and California is Lake Havasu City, situated on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu, a large reservoir formed by the Parker Dam on the Colorado River. The cities biggest attraction is undoubtedly London Bride. Built in the 1830's the bridge originally spanned the River Thames in the English capital, London. Purchased by Robert P. McCulloch for 2.5 million Dollars, the bridge was dismantled, transported and assembled brick by brick, where it was completed in 1971 after four years of construction.

16. Lake Havasu City

 

In the extreme north west of the state, directly east from Las Vegas, and shared with neighbouring Nevada is the 6,053 square kilometre (2,337 square mile) Lake Mead National Recreation Area, protecting an area that follows the Colorado River corridor from the western boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park. Home to 500 animal species, encompassing Lake Mead, a number of reservoirs as well as nine separate wilderness areas, the landscape is one of red rocky canyons, shrubland and barren mountains.

15. Lake Mead National Recreation Area

 

In the south of the state, just west of the city of Tucson is the 371 square kilometre (143 square mile) Saguar National Park, comprising an area that covers the Tucson and Rincon Mountains. Conserving parts of the Sonoran Desert, the landscape is one of hills, mountains and dry arid regions that are notable for the giant saguaro cactus. A favourite among hikers, there are more than 266 kilometres (165 miles) of trails winding through the park.

14. Saguaro National Park

 

In the northern centre of the state, between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon National Park is the 6,500 square kilometre (2,510 square mile) Kaibab National Forest, a large natural forested area that reaches a maximum height of 3,175 metres (10,418 ft) at the summit of Kendrick Peak. Made up of a number of wilderness areas, the landscape is a mix of dry bush lands, grasslands, mountains, verdant forests and alpine lakes.

13. Kaibab National Forest

 

Just north from the city of Flagstaff, standing 3,851 metres (12,633 ft) above sea level is Humphreys Peak, the highest natural point in Arizona. Located within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest, this dormant volcanic mountain has become a favourite among hikers. The Humphreys Summit Trail is around 7.7 kilometres (4.8 miles) in length and is considered relatively easy.

12. Humphrey's Peak

 

In the south of Arizona, crossing the border into California and northern Mexico is the 260,000 square kilometre (100,000 square mile) Sonoran Desert, the hottest desert in both the United States and Mexico. This vast landscape changes dramatically from sand dunes, high mountain regions to below sea level flat lands, and is home to a variety of unique animal and plant life that includes the large Saguaro and Organ Pipe Cactus.

11. Sonoran Desert

 

Directly east from the city of Flagstaff, covering an area of some 595 square kilometres (230 square miles) is the Petrified Forest National Park, most notable for its fossils, especially of fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Epoch of the Mesozoic era, around 225 million years ago. Crossed by the Historic US Route 66, the park encompasses an area of semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands.

 

Pictured are The Tepees.

10. Petrified Forest National Park

 

Directly north from the city of Flagstaff, standing 2,140 metres (7,021 ft) above sea level is the SP Crater, the SP supposedly standing for 'Shit Pot'. Surrounded by a number of other cinder cones which are older and more eroded, the almost perfect cone of the SP Crater makes it one of the most spectacular features in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, with its well-defined lava flow extending approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) to the north.

9. SP Crater

 

Completed in 1936, south east from Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, a concrete arch gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, straddling the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona. Impounding Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, the Hoover Dam has become a major attraction and probably the best known dam in the world. Recognised as a National Historic Landmark, this incredible feat of engineering should last for 10,000 years.

8. Hoover Dam

 

In the far north east of the state, within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation is the 339 square kilometre (131 square mile) Canyon De Chelly National Monument, one of the most visited national monuments in the United States. Encompassing the floors and rims of three major canyons, the landscape is defined by these enormous gorges created by streams and headwaters in the Chuska Mountains. Easily accessible from the North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive, the parks most notable geological feature is Spider Rock, a sandstone spire that rises 229 metres (751 ft) from the canyon floor.

 

Pictured is Spider Rock.

7. Canyon De Chelly National Monument

 

Just east from the city of Flagstaff in the northern Arizona Desert is the Barringer Meteor Crater, named in honour of Daniel Barringer who was first to suggest that it was produced by a meteor impact. Dating around 50,000 years old with a diameter of 1.1 square kilometres (0.73 square miles) it is considered one of the best preserved meteorite craters on Earth. The crater has been designated a National Natural Landmark of the United States.

6. Meteor Crater National Monument

 

South from the city of Flagstaff is the small city of Sedona, known for its incredible surroundings of red sandstone formations in the Upper Sonoran Desert of northern Arizona. Formed by a unique layer of rock known as the Schnebly Hill Formation, a thick layer of red to orange coloured sandstone found only in the vicinity of Sedona. Highlights of the region include the view from Schnebly Hill Road and the Devil's Bridge. Considered relatively easy, the Devil's Bridge Trail is around 6.7 kilometres (4.2 miles) in length, taking around 1 to 3 hours to complete.

Pictured is the Devil's Bridge.

5. Sedona

In the far northern centre of the state, straddling the border with Utah is the 1,188 square kilometre (459 square mile) Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, protecting four beautiful areas, the Paria Plateau, the Coyote Buttes, the Vermilion Cliffs and the Paria Canyon. Named after the Vermillion Cliffs, it is an area of steep eroded escarpments rising to a maximum height of 910 metres (2,986 ft) above sea level, they have been deeply eroded over millions of years exposing hundreds of layers of richly coloured rocks. One of the highlights and most well known landmarks in the region is known as The Wave, a sandstone rock formation situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, well known for its colourful and undulating land forms. Due to the fragile nature and large number of people wishing to visit, a daily lottery system is used to dispense only ten next day permits in person at the Kanab visitor center. Additionally, ten online permits for each date are available four months in advance of a planned trip. Considered a difficult hike, the Wire Pass Trail is approximately 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) return on unmarked trails across open desert.

4. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

 

In the far northern centre of the state, south east from the city of Page on Navajo land is the well known attraction of Antelope Canyon, home to two separate, scenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as 'Upper Antelope Canyon' or 'The Crack', and 'Lower Antelope Canyon' or 'The Corkscrew'. Upper Antelope Canyon is the busier of the two sections, with its entrance and entire length at ground level it requires no climbing, and the beams of light are more common than in the Lower Canyon. Beams occur most often in the summer months, as they require the sun to be high in the sky, with the beams starting to peek into the canyon around mid March and disappear in early October. The canyons are accessible only by guided tour.

3. Antelope Canyon

 

In the far northern centre of the state, south west from the city of Page within the Glen Canyon Recreation Area is Horseshoe Bend, a natural horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. Easily accessible via a 2.4 kilometre (1.5 mile) round trip hiking trail, this spectacular natural wonder has become one of Arizona's most visited landmarks.

2. Horseshoe Bend

 

In the northern centre of the state, covering an area of some 4,926 square kilometres (1,903 square miles) is the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most famous protected areas in the world. The park takes its name from the 446 kilometre (227 mile) long Grand Canyon, a steep sided canyon carved by the Colorado River. With depths of 1,857 metres (6,093 ft) it is one of the deepest canyons on Earth, regarded to be one of the planets natural wonders. Known for its visually overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best hiking locations and most visited places in the United States. This magnificent terrain of incredible vistas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

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