This southwestern state and the 48th, Arizona, is one of the most visited states of the country and it’s not hard to see why it’s such a desired spot for tourists. I first came to Arizona as one of those tourists in 2016 and I was intrigued by every spot my family was showing me around and it must be that I’ve never experienced the unique and awe-inspiring desert before that is familiar to Arizona.
Towards the end of September, I had just hit my 2-year anniversary of living in this state. The more I explored this 113,998 mi² state with a population of about 7.3 million people, the more natural beauty I was discovering in every corner of the state and I learned that Arizona is by far more than a desert. It eventually became my muse for a lot of my work for this blog.
While running this blog, I have been active in the outdoor and travel community on Instagram and I’ve met plenty of amazing like minded adventurers. I had to ask some of my favorite outdoor content creators, business owners, and travel bloggers what they thought was a beautiful place to explore when they visited Arizona. Below, you can find beautiful places they suggest that you should check out too. (*All photos belong to the submitters.)
Arizona is home to several other national parks and monuments. The state has vast land of nature that seems to amaze tourists from all over the country from red rocks to cacti to desert landscapes. This is why it makes Arizona one of the perfect states to take an All-American road trip in. From its friendly hospitality that is present in its locals to the super delicious Southwestern and Mexican foods easily found in the state, it’s not hard to see why Arizona is a place worth vacationing in.
There’s a lot of Native American history to learn from this state and find evidence that will trace back to history. There are several federally recognized Native American tribes that reside in the state and 1/4 of the state consists of Indian reservations. From Native American culture to the Western stories it’s known for and ghost towns, Arizona is a state with a lot of its own unique traits. It’s also the perfect playground for outdoor activities such as water activities that take place on lakes, hiking, horse riding, camping, and more. However, don’t think of Arizona just for its intolerable high temperatures, it’s cooler up north and it snows during the winter time. There are also pine trees to find and snow capped mountains.
If you’re in the Phoenix Area, make sure to book a tour of Frank Lloyd’s Taliesin West House in Scottsdale. You will feel inspired by the modern architectural designs while enjoying views of AZ’s beautiful desert landscapes!
2. Sundance Canyon at West Clear Creek Trailhead
This place is way upstream West Clear Creek. Where I like to go is Sundance Canyon. You have to park at the West Clear Creek Trailhead and hike in. It’s about a 1/2 mile hike into the canyon but it drops about 600 feet vertical so the climb out is intense. It’s a beautiful lush canyon with a couple of water crossings. To get into Sundance, it’s a swim across the creek where it gets to about 5 feet deep. I hiked upstream about 3 miles and was there for about 4 hours and only saw 2 other couples hiking at time.
3. Havasupai Indian Reservation
One of the most beautiful places in Arizona, and arguably the entire country, is the Havasupai Indian Reservation. This popular destination is only accessible via permit and it is a 22-mile RT hike to get there. However, once you arrive in Havasupai your efforts will be rewarded with the most magnificent turquoise blue waters and several waterfalls. The type of permit you obtain will determine where to stay – either the campground or lodge. You can explore a variety of waterfalls on your trip and even make another 18 mile RT hike out to the Confluence of the Havasu River and the Colorado River.
4. Superstition Mountains
We, The AZ Hikeaholics, are proud to highlight one of our local favorites in the greater Phoenix-metro east valley, the Superstition Mountains. We are in awe of the unique and easily recognizable mountain range silhouette created by the jagged-edged rock uprooted from the earth with sharp points and steep cliffs. Within Lost Dutchman State Park or Tonto National Forest’s Superstition Wilderness, you’ll find colorful spring blossoms lining the trails, mountainside caves, too many Saguaro cacti to count, boulders polka-dotting the mountainside, hoodoos sticking up like spikes, cliffs shaped like a flatiron, peaks and valleys looking like battleships, or an eroded column of rock shaped like a needle.
Monument Valley looks like a scene right out of a movie – because it was! Featured in a dozen films, you’ll feel like John Wayne himself as you walk along the dusty red trails. You can even rent horses from inside this Navajo Tribal Park (like we did!) for an even more authentic cowboy experience. At 91,696 acres, the park sits on the Arizona-Utah border, spanning both states. It’s most famous for its large mitten buttes, but you might know it best from the movie Forrest Gump (when he decides he’s going to stop running and go home).
Things to do: Hike the 4-mile Wildcat Trail for an up-close look at the magnificent buttes and towering sandstone mesas. And don’t miss the 17-mile Valley Drive! The road is bumpy, so take your time, but it’s the best way to see the sandstone formations from all angles and the breathtaking grandeur of the landscape.
Recommended by: Sandy and Howie
6. Lockett Meadow
This is an absolutely enchanting trail in Coconino National Forest: Kachina Peaks Wilderness in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s one of my favorite trails because you can go anytime of the year (when roads are open) and see all four seasons! It’s full of Aspen trees which means you’ll see gorgeous yellow leaves in the fall! Also, this is a breathtaking site in the winter time with snow coverage on the foliage and a nice cooling trail during the summer & spring months. Most travel the trail back until you reach Inner Basin, which is a large open space giving you views of the San Francisco Peaks, but for a longer (and more challenging) hike, you could continue on the trail to Humphrey’s.
7. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is not only my favorite place in Arizona but it’s one of my favorite places in the US—it’s a true bucket-list destination! From hiking to wildlife viewing, there is so much to see and do just on the South Rim, which is the more visited side of the canyon. My favorite trail is the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point: a strenuous downhill climb that lets you see the Colorado River! For beginner hikers, stick to the Rim and get panoramic views of the canyon from the top! And make sure you keep your eyes peeled for elk—they’re everywhere if you know where to look!
Recommended by: Halle
Youtube: Halle’s Wandering Soul
Any Eagles fans already have “I’m-a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…” stuck in their head just by reading this town’s name. Arizona has tons of natural beauty, but this former Route 66 town is 100% worth mentioning. Not only will you get a taste of the famous Highway’s former glory days, you’ll also get to see this impressive Eagles memorial.
While you’re in town, make sure to check out La Posada, one of the best preserved and most beautiful Santa Fe Railway hotels; Little Painted Desert, for some multi-colored scenery; and the Apache Death Caves, for a lot of history and a little dark tourism.
9. Campbell Lookout
My favorite place to visit in Arizona is one that most people have never heard of: Campbell Lookout in Tucson. While the city is surrounded by gorgeous mountain overlooks and hiking, this is the one locals frequent. To access it take Campbell Road as far North as possible, the road will go from a major thoroughfare within the city to a winding single lane surrounded by saguaros and quaint houses. At the top is a small parking lot, small hikes and sweeping views of the whole Tucson basin. It’s a great city escape anytime, but especially lovely to catch a sunset and watch the city light up at night!
10. The Wave
The Wave is a hike of a lifetime. Located just south of the Arizona/Utah border in an area known as Northern Coyote Buttes which is part of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Because of the sensitive nature of this area, the Bureau of Land Management only issues 20 permits to hike the North Coyote Buttes Wilderness Area a day. If you are lucky enough to win the permit lottery you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views as you make your way to the famous landmark. Truly a unique experience because of the low number of people allowed each day to experience this wonder of the Southwest.
11. Lake Powell
Antelope Canyon may be one of the most photographed places in Arizona, but there are many slot canyons around Lake Powell that are an adventurer’s dream come true! Explore & hike after boating, kayaking, or paddle boarding to get to the trailheads. I promise it will be worth the extra effort because you can take your time and really immerse yourself in this awesome place. Don’t miss Horseshoe Bend which is only minutes away, and a short hike with an incredible view!
Recommended by: Sara Rae
12. Mogollon Rim
One of my favorite places to visit in Arizona is the Mogollon Rim. Rim Road Scenic Drive takes you along a beautiful stretch of the rim with amazing views throughout. If you want to experience nature more up close, there is a large system of hiking trails that are perfect for backpacking, camping and exploring the area. There are also several gorgeous lakes nearby if you want to spend a day out on the water. This place is so beautiful, and there are many ways to enjoy it. I highly recommend adding this one to your list!
Recommended by: Thalia
13. South Coyote Buttes
South Coyote Buttes are one of the most hidden gem hikes in Arizona. The Wave’s lesser-known sister hike, it has similar formations and also requires a day permit through the BLM lottery process like The Wave. Bring lots of water and the AllTrails app can help you navigate too!
14. Mount Lemmon
This is one of my more memorable camping trips in the Southwest. Almost a year into living in Arizona, a group of my friends and I planned to camp somewhere with pine trees and they chose a campground among the Santa Catalina Mountains on Mount Lemmon in the city of Tucson. Unbeknownst to me prior to going there, I would be traveling through a scenic road called Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway. The drive going up to Rose Canyon Lake (the campground we chose) was unforgettable. There are so many winding roads that just keep ascending and there are some amazing breathtaking scenic lookouts to stop by next to the highway and unique formations of “hoodoos” greeting you at every turn. Mount Lemmon’s summit elevation is at 9,159 feet. There are a few cool trails you can choose to hike out here too.
Recommended by: Me! (Gabby, the founder of this blog)
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