The southwestern state of Arizona is a popular tourist destination. With its numerous national parks and canyons, it’s no wonder so many people flock to Arizona each year.
Of course, Arizona is known for the Grand Canyon, but that’s not the only thing Arizona has to offer. Arizona is rich in history and Native American culture. Its cities are a fascinating blend of old and new, but the state is perhaps best known for its interesting and unusual natural attractions.
1. The Grand Canyon
Last, but certainly not least, is the Grand Canyon, top of the list of things to do in Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park is located just northwest of Flagstaff. Although it’s not the largest national park in the country, it certainly feels like it when you’re staring into the abyss. Nearly 300 river miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon seems endless.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited, perhaps because it is the most accessible. While the North Rim has some of the prettiest views of the canyon, it is difficult to get to without driving, and often the roads are closed due to weather.
The Skywalk at Eagle Point is a major tourist attraction, known for its glass floored walkway suspended from a cliff 4,000 feet above the ground. You might feel more comfortable viewing the canyons from the walkway than near the edge of a cliff without a railing.
After visiting the Grand Canyon, be sure to make your way over to Havasu Falls. Located in a side canyon near Grand Canyon National Park, Havasu Falls is something you have to see to believe. The crystal blue waters and white waterfalls are the perfect ending to your Grand Canyon visit. You can even swim in the blue lagoons.
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2. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is at the northern tip of the state. Known as a slot canyon, Antelope Canyon is a winding channel with something to explore around every bend. The canyon walls are formed of Navajo Sandstone, which has eroded over time due to flooding. As flooding occurs, the passages deepen, making the canyon ever-changing.
There are two distinct sections – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon is the most accessible since it’s entirely at ground level. If you aren’t a hiker and don’t want to climb, visit the upper canyon instead of the lower canyon.
People love to visit this canyon to view the sunbeams penetrating 120 feet below the earth’s surface. The view is prettiest in the summertime, but you can visit year-round.
The Lower Antelope Canyon, although just as beautiful, is much harder to maneuver than the Upper Antelope Canyon. Because it’s difficult to enter and exit, metal stairways were installed to help people get around. However, even with these stairways, you may still experience some difficulty.
At over 600 miles long, Antelope Canyon will seem like a never-ending adventure. It’s like something out of an abstract painting with its flowing curves and red coloring. You’re sure to be in awe over the earth’s natural beauty.
3. Monument Valley
Another northern Arizona attraction and near the top of our list of things to do in Arizona that you won’t want to miss is the Monument Valley – a red-sand desert filled with sandstone buttes. A butte is a flat-top hill with vertical sides; the tallest butte in the valley reaches about 1,000 feet.
You might have seen Monument Valley without even knowing it—it’s appeared in several movies, tv shows, music videos, and even video games. Several westerns, such as John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” “My Darling Clementine,” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” were filmed in the valley. In fact, John Ford has a point named after him in Monument Valley in tribute to his many films there.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located in the valley. You can tour the valley on your own and park where you like along a 17-mile dirt road or, you can take a guided tour. There are many famous parts to see, such as Hunts Mesa and Mystery Valley.
It can be uncomfortably hot to visit in the summer. If you want to visit Monument Valley when it’s less hot, plan your trip in April, May, or even October.
4. Coconino National Forest
Next on our list of things to do in Arizona is this amazing forest. If you travel south to the southeast corner of Route 66 and I-17, you’ll find Coconino National Forest. This nearly two-million-acre forest was established as a national forest in 1908. The Coconino National Forest has several different types of terrains, such as deserts, flatlands, pine forests, mesas, and even volcanic peaks.
To say Coconino National Forest is beautiful would be an understatement. This forest has some of the best views in Arizona. If you want an unforgettable photo, head down Devil’s Trail. You’ll need to be a bit of a daredevil, but eventually, you’ll come to Devil’s Bridge – a naturally formed bridge made out of sedimentary rock formations. Wow your friends with some incredible photos taken from your perch on this bridge.
Southeast of Devil’s Bridge is Wet Beaver Creek. Here, you can take a dip in refreshing creek waters. You can also try cliff diving if you crave an adrenaline rush. Coconino National Forest offers plenty of outdoor adventures.
5. Petrified Forest National Park
Located in the eastern half of Arizona, right below Route 66, is Petrified Forest National Park. Established as a national park in 1962, Petrified Forest National Park is full of historical artifacts, such as Native American lands, petroglyphs, and even dinosaur fossils. With nearly 230 square miles of land to explore, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.
History aside, the park’s natural beauty is definitely worth seeing in person. The park gets its name from the petrified wood; petrification is the process by which wood transitions into stone, such as quartz. The park’s petrified wood gives off a fiery, rainbow appearance that is simply stunning.
Be sure to make time to see the Painted Desert badlands and the Blue Mesa badlands. These two sets of badlands are a must-see if you’re looking for breath-taking views. You can also visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and the Agate House. The Agate House is a Puebloan building that has been partially reconstructed out of petrified wood. The Rainbow Forest Museum is an all-in-one look at the national park as it has dinosaur skeletons, petrified wood, petroglyphs, and other interesting artifacts.
Arizona is filled with canyons, parks, and forests that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Why not plan your next vacation visiting some of Arizona’s most interesting places?