One of the top reasons people love living in and visiting Arizona is nature. She is beautiful, colorful, flawless, and intense here in the Southwest, making this an incredibly unique place to visit. If you want to explore more of what nature has to offer in Arizona, you will definitely want to check out this list:
1. Antelope Canyon
This northern Arizona slot canyon is a must-visit for hikers, photographers, and the non-claustrophobic. The smooth, curvy walls were formed by water rushing through the canyon over millenia, creating a serene, otherworldly environment.
2. Aravaipa Canyon
If you’re a regular reader, you may remember it from a couple of previous articles. This pristine canyon is located halfway between Globe and Oracle, and only allows 50 people at a time within the area in order to better preserve the wilderness here. This is perfect for a peaceful multi-day hiking trip.
3. Chiricahua National Monument
Seeing the hoodoos and other rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument is just one reason to visit. This area is also rich in history, culture, and wildlife.
4. Fossil Creek
This picturesque oasis in the pines is the best summer day trip escape! A trail takes you through the woods to this waterfall, perfect for a swim and lounging before heading back home.
5. Grand Canyon
Is there any reason
not to visit the Grand Canyon? Nope! There are tons of things to do here: hiking, camping, kayaking, white river rafting, riding mules and helicopters, photography, and so much more.
6. Grand Falls
Looking something like an overflowing cup of chocolate milk, this seasonal waterfall makes for a great spot to visit and take in nature. Don’t be fooled by the picture above; the waterfall is HUGE and the water roars at its peak after the snowmelt.
7. Kartchner Caverns
This recent discovery is perfect for amateur and experienced spelunkers alike. The wet cave features still-growing formations, many of which are unique to this one place. It’s a sight that needs to be seen!
8. Lake Powell
This major vacation spot on the Arizona-Utah border, this is currently our largest reservoir (Lake Mead’s water levels are kind of low right now). Since its home is Glen Canyon, the area is stunningly beautiful with sandstone and unique rock and land formations. A lot of people come here for boating, but there’s also plenty of hiking options as well.
9. Mogollon Rim
Living in Arizona, I’ve heard this place pronounced about a half dozen different ways but it is always mentioned with love. The Mogollon Rim is one of the major places for outdoor adventure and you really need to spend a week here to truly appreciate how beautiful and complex the environment is.
10. Monument Valley
One of the most iconic scenes in the West, we share this park with Utah. The famous mittens and plenty of other formations are found on the Arizona side (yay!), plus these sights are most beautiful at sunrise or sunset. Get up close to the buttes with hiking or a guided tour.
11. Navajo National Monument
Like hiking and seeing ancient ruins? You can get an up-close perspective of centuries old buildings and ancient history by visiting Navajo National Monument, which is home to some of the best preserved cliff dwelling ruins in the country.
12. Petrified Forest
This Route 66 favorite has a lot of Southwest landscapes and history contained within one area: petrified wood, fossils, mesas, painted desert badlands, wildlife, petroglyphs, ruins, and so much more!
13. Picacho Peak
Hikers! If you’re looking for a challenging trek, this is one you won’t want to miss. The hike—especially when you get to the spire—is deceptively steep and you’ll feel every muscle in your legs and glutes working to get you up that mountain.
14. Pinaleño Mountains
Home to Mount Graham, Riggs Flat Lake, Hospital Flat, and Mount Graham Observatory, this mountain range is beautiful and doesn’t quite get the recognition it should. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing because it has a fragile, though resilient, ecosystem.
15. Red Rock State Park
This state park has beautiful red sandstone buttes that are almost an unexpected find in central Arizona. This place has plenty of hiking and camping options, so try out some of the longer, lesser-traveled trails the next time you’re here.
16. Salt River Canyon
Located just an hour outside of Phoenix, this canyon and its beauty are seriously underrated. If there’s any place to find rugged desert landscapes mixed with riparian areas, this is it.
17. San Francisco Peaks
Located just outside of Flagstaff and visible for miles around, the San Francisco Peaks are home to the tallest summit in Arizona (Humphrey’s Peak) and also the only tundra in Arizona. This area is a popular one year round for hikers, campers, and skiers.
18. Superstition Mountains
Here’s another area with some incredibly rugged terrain that also happens to be abundant in beauty. This area is also home to the fabled Lost Dutchman’s gold mine, which has claimed a number of lives.
19. Sycamore Canyon
Here’s another canyon that frequently flies under most peoples’ radar but that makes a trip here extra special. It is the second largest canyon in Arizona and is a good example of our state’s transition zone: a hike through the canyon will take you from desert to pines within a matter of miles!
20. Topock Marsh
Did you know Arizona has wetlands and marshes? Its something we don’t see often anymore—thanks to all the dams that have been installed in the past century—but the rivers all naturally have these riparian areas. It’s a great place for watching wildlife and finding a bit of solace.
21. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
The final place on our list is also one of the more remote areas that, again, a lot of people don’t know about. Vermilion Cliffs has some
spectacular landscapes, including canyons, buttes, and mesas. This includes “The Wave,” a windblown, curvy landscape that looks like it could have been formed by water.