Arizona is what some might call an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Not far from every major city you’ll find geologic wonders and natural beauty like nothing you’ve ever seen before. From the grand daddy, the Grand Canyon to the mammoth Phoenix Zoo there’s plenty to see and it all seems to be super-sized.
On a trip to Arizona pack your hiking shoes and bring along your sense of adventure because you’ll need it. Hiking, climbing, swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and backpacking are a few of Arizona’s favorite sports so active travelers will have plenty to keep busy. You’ll also want to have your camera ready because this southwestern state is known for some of the most breathtaking scenery around. Even though action and adventure comes first and foremost on a trip to Arizona you’ll also want to be ready to spend some time marveling at the wonders of the natural world.
Grand Canyon National Park
It’s one of the wonders of the natural world and one of America’s most visited sites so a trip to Arizona isn’t complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon. This impressive geologic formation was carved out over millions of years by the Colorado River and now stands at over a mile wide.
The two visited areas of the canyon are called the North Rim and the South Rim. Most tourists visit the more accessible South Rim where the most popular destinations are located. At the South Rim visitors can see Grand Canyon Village where there are plenty of views, historic buildings, and a hiking trail head. Other popular sights include the Desert View a historic watchtower with a spectacular view of the canyon.The North Rim is at a higher elevation with different flora and climate. Popular views at the North Rim include Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, and Point Imperial. In Grand Canyon National Park visitors can enjoy hiking, guided tours, whitewater rafting, and flight seeing.
Colorado River & Horseshoe Bend
Almost as impressive as the Grand Canyon is the river that created it the Colorado.The Colorado River is the main river in the southwest United States at 1450 miles long. It’s known for dramatic canyons and spectacular whitewater rapids. Some who whitewater raft the Colorado call it the “granddaddy of rafting trips.” Aside from rafting as a major attraction, the Cataract Canyons and Colorado headwaters area are also popular areas for boaters.
Horseshoe Bend is the name of a meander shaped like a horseshoe in the Colorado River. This geologic wonder is 5 miles from Lake Powell. It is popular to view the horseshoe shaped section of river from atop the steep cliffs above at 4,200 feet above sea level.
Meteor Crater (Barringer Crater)
This popular attraction is exactly what it sounds like, a massive meteor crater in the Earth’s surface. The Barringer Crater, often referred to as just the Meteor Crater, is a whopping 4,000 feet in diameter. The crater was discovered in the 19th century, but is believed to be over 50,000 years old.
At the crater you’ll find a visitor center that includes exhibits about meteorites and asteroids and an American Astronaut Wall of Fame. There is also an observation area with a view inside the rim of the crater and guided tours of the rim are available.
The Phoenix Zoo, which opened in 1962, is the largest non-profit zoo in the US. With over 125 acres and 1,300 animals it’s not your typical city zoo. Inside the zoo are 2.5 miles of walking trails that access themed habits called Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and Children’s Trail (a petting zoo). The zoo is conservation oriented and has a sanctuary for animals that are considered endangered or unwanted. Some of the specialty attractions include Stingray Bay with 30 rays some of which visitors can touch, an endangered species carousel and Leapin Lagoon Splash Pad, Safari Train, and camel rides.
This reservoir on the Colorado River between California and Arizona is one of Arizona’s premier vacation destinations. The lake itself is popular for fishing, boating, and camping. Lake Havasu City, a small town on the lake, is a popular tourist and vacation destination as well. The city founder purchased the original London Bridge and moved it to the lake and it has since become a popular visitor attraction.
Top Things to do in Arizona
This unique museum located in Phoenix with a branch in Scottsdale, has 250,000 visitors annually, and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Affiliations program. The mission of Heard Museum is to educate the public about the heritage and culture of the Native peoples of America especially the people of the southwest. It is called a “living museum,” not a history museum because it features both artifacts and contemporary art of the native cultures. The Heard Museum was founded by the Heard Family in 1929, but has grown in size to be an internationally recognized museum with excellent educational programs and festivals.
Petrified Forest National Park
Visitors to this peculiar park are taken aback by the strange and surreal surroundings, but the Petrified Forest is certainly worth a visit. The forest is named for the large deposits of petrified wood spread throughout a 146 mile area in the Navajo and Apache counties. The northern part of the forest extends into the famed Painted Desert.
At the national park tourists can enjoy activities like sightseeing, photography, hiking, and backpacking. The national park has a visitor center and museum, with guided ranger tours available.
Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff
Established in 1894, the Lowell Observatory is one of the oldest observatories in the country and it is a National Historic Landmark. The observatory is the location of the telescope that discovered the dwarf planet Pluto in 1930 as well as numerous other discoveries. Today Lowell Observatory is still involved in research and building newer telescopes to observe areas even deeper into outer space.
Guided daytime tours and night tours with opportunities to view through the original 24” Alvan Clark Telescope that discovered Pluto and other telescopes are available.
Sonora Desert Museum
This 98 acre museum in Tucson is one of the city’s biggest attractions. The museum combines the attractions of a zoo, museum, and botanical garden. It is focused on the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. One of the main attractions at the Sonora Desert Museum is a demonstration of Raptor Free Flight where raptors fly over the audience.
Red Rocks, Sedona
Like many of Arizona’s other famous sights this work of nature is a breathtaking beauty. Red Rocks is the name given to famous geologic structures throughout the city of Sedona and surrounding areas. The red rock structures are formed by a thick layer of red to orange sandstone that is only in the Sedona area.
Some of the famous Red Rock attractions include Cathedral Rock which resembles a cathedral and Red Rock Crossing. Red Rock State Park has a visitor center with interpretive exhibits, a junior ranger program, and a network of trails totaling 5 miles.
Things to do in Arizona
Whether you’re interested in viewing them from afar, or throwing on your hiking boots and getting a little dirty, the natural wonders of Arizona can be enjoyed by all. On a trip to this desert state you can plan to see some of the biggest and best sights of America.