Spending a summer in Arizona can feel like a bit of a conundrum. Typically, summer is a time for vacation hours and relaxation, but that can be difficult when some areas of the state get so hot you’ll feel like you’re walking through a massive open-air oven. Don’t fret! We have a great list of things you can see, do, and eat so that you can make the best of your summer!
Before we get to the fun stuff, let’s talk about a few safety considerations. Most importantly, the temperature.
Arizona is perhaps best known for its ridiculously hot summers. When the mercury extends well into the triple digits, finding ways to stay cool and avoiding heat-related illnesses becomes a real task. If you’re traveling through one of Arizona’s hot regions, be sure to take every precaution to avoid succumbing to the heat.
We suggest increasing the amount of fluid you drink, limiting your time spent outdoors between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., slathering on the sunscreen, and reducing the level of physical activity during the hottest days of summer - heat stroke is no joke!
Also, be sure to check the weather and be prepared for unexpected storms.
The monsoons in summer are dramatic, wild, and absolutely necessary for life in Arizona to thrive. It’s a thrill to watch the dust storms and rainclouds roll over the landscape, but there are also some precautions to take when the monsoons arrive.
Be wary of driving in the middle of storms. The rain, wind, and other weather factors can get intense and the dry environment is unable to absorb rain as quickly as it falls. You’ll find that roads, washes, and canyons will flood within minutes and can easily carry away vehicles. So, if a road you’re traveling states "do not enter when flooded," take that warning seriously!
Another tip is to avoid driving in the middle of dust storms, particularly in rural areas where the winds will reduce visibility to zero! The general rule is to pull off the road, turn off your lights, and wait until visibility reaches about 300 feet (approximately the length of a football field).
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the activities! First, let’s take a look at things you can do in the summer in Arizona’s favorite mountain city: Flagstaff.
Looking for cooler temperatures and the smell of pines? You’re going to love traveling to Flagstaff, where the trees tower above you, the mountain views look absolutely stunning, and the nights may feel chilly, even in the middle of summer.
One of our favorite things to do around here? Hiking! You’ll find a number of trails all around that range from an easy stroll through Buffalo Park to more strenuous trails on the Peaks. Choose a trail and remember that although the temperatures are milder than other areas of the state, you’ll still want to make sure you stay hydrated and rest often in the shade.
Or, if hiking at high elevation isn’t something you’re up for, hop aboard a ski lift for an incredible view of the Peaks, Flagstaff, and the surrounding area.
Address: 9300 North Snow Bowl Road, Flagstaff
If you prefer much chillier temperatures, then head underground for Lava River Cave.
This lava tube will stay in the low-40s, even in the middle of summer, and the darkness will make you feel like you’re hiking through a long freezer. Just be sure to bring a jacket and several light sources, and be ready to climb over some massive rocks at the entrance.
Address: 171B Forest Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
When you get hungry between all these cool locations, you’ll want to stop at NiMarco’s Pizza for a few slices and a cold drink.
Other dining options include MartAnne’s Burrito Palace, Mike and Rhonda’s The Place, and The Crown Railroad Cafe.
Spend a relaxing weekend in Rim Country.
Another option for heading up to the pines is to pay a visit to Rim Country. Located in central Arizona, this area is a quick retreat for many people in Phoenix and surrounding communities. Like Flagstaff, the elevation here is higher and the temperatures are milder than other areas of the state, so it’s a perfect spot to enjoy outdoor recreation like hiking and camping.
Another option is to visit the lakes out here - you’ll find quite a few!
Knoll Lake (pictured above), Blue Ridge Reservoir, and Woods Canyon Lake are just a few of our favorites where you can enjoy a day of fishing, kayaking, or canoeing. Just be sure to check in advance for forest fires which can result in area closures.
Your restaurant options in Rim Country are varied and delicious, but take note that many close at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., so be sure you’re ready for dinner earlier in the evening!
One of our absolute favorite places to dine is at Old County Inn in Pine, where you can get a wood-fired pizza pie that is ridiculously good. Pair that with an appetizer of the beer cheese and a craft brew and you’re set for one amazing dinner. Old Country Inn is located at 3502 AZ-87, Pine, AZ 85544.
Other dining options in the area include The Randall House in Pine, Early Bird Cafe in Pine, Bandits Restaurant in Strawberry, and Beeline Cafe in Payson.
Don’t forget to stop by Arizona’s other mountain regions!
The White Mountains are another popular spot to visit in the summer and you’ll find that the further east you travel, the fewer people you will encounter. Just like Rim Country, the White Mountains are rife with areas to enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, and camping. Meanwhile, towns like Pinetop-Lakeside, Heber-Overgaard, and Greer offer a rustic experience where you can grab a meal, stay in a cozy cabin, or do a bit of antique shopping.
Mount Lemmon is another great little retreat that is a quick escape for Tucson residents.
You’ll find cooler temperatures and towering pines here, plus plenty of trails and a ski lift to ride. Definitely check out Marshall Gulch Trail for a picturesque hike and then grab a meal at the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin. Further up the road, you can stop at the Iron Door Restaurant (located at 10300 E Ski Run Rd., Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619) for a hearty meal.
Ramsey Canyon is one of those little-known spots that few people know exists but it’s a great little retreat from the otherwise hot temperatures in Sierra Vista.
You’ll find plenty of wildlife roaming the area, which is why this is a popular spot for bird watching. On select days, you can participate in a docent-led hike or nature walk through the canyon. For more info on these guided hikes, check out
The Nature Conservancy website
Make a day trip to a swimming hole for a quick relief from the summer heat.
You’ll find a number of nature's own little swimming holes around the state, most of which are located along creeks and rivers where the water temperatures are cool and refreshing. You can read about some of our favorite swimming holes in one of our previous articles
And don’t forget to visit a water park for splashing, sliding, and swimming!
If you’re unable to escape town, visiting a water park or swimming pool is the next best option. Despite being a desert state, Arizona is home to some fantastic water parks where you can find a bit of relief from the heat. There are plenty of water parks across the state, so check out our previous article
for a few suggestions or check out some of Arizona's fantastic public pools
What are some other things you absolutely love doing during the summer here in Arizona? Feel free to share your thoughts below or on our