Arizona National Scenic Trail

The Arizona National Scenic Trail was designated by Congress in 2009 and runs for over 800 miles, making its way from the U.S.-Mexico border in the south up to Utah. The Trail highlights Arizona's diverse history, wilderness, scenery, and wildlife. It is administered by the U.S. Forestry Service, with additional support from other agencies like the National Park Service.

Read more about the Arizona National Scenic Trail here.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Today, Canyon de Chelly is home to the Navajo, but people have inhabited this area on the Colorado Plateau for 5,000 years. With sources of natural water and good soil for crops, the canyons provided a home for the ancient Puebloan people. Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover to protect these historic lands and to preserve its ancient culture.

The Monument lies entirely within Navajo lands, and the National Park Service works jointly with the Navajo to help manage the 84,000 acres within the Monument. Popular activities include guided tours of the canyon, hiking, and camping. There are two paved scenic drives along the rim of the canyon, and if you have just a half day to visit, you can visit all 10 overlooks along the north and south rim and also get in some hiking if you like. The Welcome Center is open from 8:00-5:00 and is closed on major holidays. Nearby Petrified Forest National Park is only about an hour and a half away to the south.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

The Casa Grande Ruins is one of the largest prehistoric sites ever built in North America. It was constructed by the ancestral Sonoran Desert people around 1350 C.E., but no one seems to know why. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison set aside one mile of land surrounding the site so that work could begin on the restoration of the site and to prevent further damage. It was the first cultural preserve ever established in the United States.

Today visitors to the Monument can take guided tours of the site or follow the markers for a self guided tour around the Grand Casa. Stop in the Visitor Center which is open all year to learn about the Hohokam Culture and to watch a short film about the site. Picnicking sites are also available. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is located southeast of Phoenix and is just a short drive from Saguaro National Park, Tonto National Monument, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is a small park in Southeastern Arizona known as the "Wonderland of Rocks". This unique landscape was created due to the erosion of volcanic ash from a 27-million year old eruption. What remains are pinnacles, hallow caves, faults, ancient lava flows, the remnants of a giant volcanic caldera, and other mountain formations.

Guests can take the 8-mile scenic drive around the park, hike the 17 miles of trails, camp, or take a guided tour. The original park was created in 1924, protecting 4,238 acres. Today the park is 11,985 acres and is mostly designated wilderness area.

Coronado National Memorial

The Coronado National Memorial tells the story of the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and Europe's first contact with Native Americans in the Southwest. While there is no direct evidence of the expedition in the area, it is believed that the nearby San Pedro River was used as the corridor the expedition used while looking for mythical Cibola. This interpretive site guides visitors through the story of Coronado and his expedition to the Americas in 1540.

One of the most prominent features of the park is Montezuma Pass. At 6, 575 feet tall, it offers sweeping views of the San Pedro River and the surrounding areas. Other activities include scenic drives to various points, hiking, birding, and guided tours. The Visitor Center offers some exhibits and period relics, but as a memorial, there are no actual artifacts from the time of Coronado. This memorial is designed as a place of reflection rather than a museum.

Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Fort Bowie was an Army outpost that stood in opposition to the Apache in Arizona in the 1800's and was the site for many bloody conflicts. Visitors to the site can tour the remnants of the Fort, hike, and enjoy wildlife viewing. There is also a cemetery on site that was restored in 2011 to match historical photographs of the site as it stood in 1884-1894, which is when the Fort finally closed.

Fort Bowie National Historic Site is located 116 miles east of Tucson, AZ via Interstate 10.

Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

Horseshoe Bend - Arizona National Parks

Just north of Grand Canyon National Park lies Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This NRA protects an incredible 1.25 million acres of backcountry wilderness along with the Colorado River, its tributaries, and scenic and natural areas within its borders, including Lake Powell. Located at the center of the Colorado Plateau, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area is popular for all kinds of water sports, camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and guided tours of the area. Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the park is Lake Powell which was created by the construction of the impressive Glen Canyon Dam. Be sure to stop by the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at the Dam for more information on its construction and for some great photos.

Other national park system units, including Grand Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument also share a boundary with the park. Glen Canyon adjoins approximately 9.3 million acres of other federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

Other popular areas of Glen Canyon Recreation Area are the famous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, Rainbow Bridge National Monument  - the world's largest natural bridge - Lees Ferry, and the Orange Cliffs which border Canyonlands National Park. Four Visitor Centers are scattered throughout the park and are worth visiting for information, exhibits, and current conditions. The Escalante Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante, Utah shares offices with Glen Canyon, along with the Dixie National Forest, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and has some amazing views.

Glen Canyon Dam Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is immense, and visitors will have no trouble finding things to do in this awesome park. The dimensions are staggering - up to one mile deep and eighteen miles wide. As the Colorado River continues its slow work in the canyon, it only becomes more spectacular.

Grand Canyon National Park consists of two large areas - the South Rim, which is open all year, and the North Rim which is not as developed and is closed during the winter months. The South Rim is the busier of the two, but no matter which you decide to visit, plan ahead and consider visiting in one of the shoulder seasons like spring or fall. Grand Canyon National Park is the second-most visited park in America, so expect crowds, especially in summer.

Popular activities include hiking, camping, RVing, fishing, whitewater trips down the river, and many more. This park has just about everything. Some of our favorite things we did during our visit were enjoying a sunset at one of the overlooks along Hermit's Trail Road, driving out to the Desert View Watchtower on the east end of the park, and dining at the historic El Tovar Lodge. Whatever you decide to do, it's a great park to explore.

The Grand Canyon recently celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019. The Park was established in 1919 by Congress as a National Park, but it was first protected as a National Monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1979, it was also recognized as a World Heritage Site.

Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

Hohokam Pima National Monument

The Hohokam People lived in Arizona from around 300 A.D. to 1200 A.D., and the village of Snaketown was home to as many as 2,000 people. The village was first excavated in the 1930's where they found evidence of "urban" living with a central plaza, pit houses, a crematorium, sophisticated irrigation systems, and rooms where jewelry and pottery were made.

The site exists wholly inside the Gila River Indian Reservation and is not open to the public. To learn more about the Hohokam culture, consider visiting Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Hubbell Trading Post has been serving customers since 1878 and is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased it in 1878, and he and his family built a trade empire selling all types of goods, but he was particularly fond of Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing.

The National Park Service bought the Trading Post in 1967, and it is still active and operated by the Western National Parks Association. The Trading Post and Museum has preserved nearly all of the Hubbell family's belongings and all of the buildings at the site still contain their furnishings and artifacts.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

In 1775-76, Juan Bautista de Anza led a group of 240 men, women, and children from Arizona to the San Francisco Bay area in California to establish the first non-Native settlement there. The stories and history of this 1,800-mile  journey are told at the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The trail consists of historic sites in both California and Arizona that are open to visitors. The 1,200-mile Historic Trail also offers an auto touring route, along with the Anza Recreation Trail, supported by communities along the trail. Visit here for more information and specific markers along the trail.

Lake Mead National Recreational Area - AZ, NV

Lake Mead National Recreational Area was created after the damming of the Colorado River and runs along the Nevada/Arizona border. It's immense - 1.5 million acres - and is the first and largest National Recreational Area in America. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave are the major highlights of the park and offer visitors a vast amount of recreational opportunities including boating, fishing, paddling, camping, hiking, and much more. Paddlers in particular might be interested in the new 30-mile Black Canyon National Water Trail which was established in 2014. Schedule a tour and set out from the Hoover Dam to explore beaches, caves, coves, hot springs, wildlife, and more. For those looking for more solitude, Lake Mead NRA has nine designated wilderness areas to explore.

The Alan Bible Visitor Center is the main Visitor Center in the park and is located just north of Boulder City, Nevada. The impressive Hoover Dam is also nearby and is open to visitors for guided tours.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a 20-room cliff dwelling in Camp Verde, Arizona, and was one of the four original sites to be named as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt under the new Antiquities Act in 1906. The dwelling was built nearly 800 years ago by the Sinagua people. The park offers scenic trails and Ranger-led interpretive talks about the site. The museum and Visitor Center offer exhibits and artifacts from the site depicting life for the ancient Sinagua.

Navajo National Monument

Some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in Arizona can be found at Navajo National Monument. The site was established in 1909 to preserve the cultural and historical significance of these ancient Pueblo sites. Ancestral Pueblo built Tsegi Phase villages into the cliffs overlooking Tsegi Canyon which visitors can see today.

There are three self-guided trails at the park - Sandal, Aspen, and Canyon View - but only Sandal Trail offers views of the cliff dwellings. Several NPS-Guided tour options are available that will get you up close the sites and are free of charge. Some are more strenuous than others, so be aware of your limitations when choosing one. Camping is free at the park's two campgrounds, and the park is open year round, except when there is excessive ice and snow in the winter.

Old Spanish National Historic Trail - AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT

Old Spanish National Historic Trail tells the story of the people and places along the trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California. The trail was used heavily during the early 1800's to move goods through the Southwest and made Santa Fe a center of commerce in the area. The trail was a pipeline for both Mexican and American traders over a few decades until the United States finally took control of the Southwest and opened new trade routes and wagon trails, which left the Old Spanish Trail obsolete by the 1850's.

The trail runs through six states - New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California - and there are several points for visitors to interact and learn more about its history. Here are some popular locations for Passport Stamps along the trail:

- Navajo National Monument - Shonto, AZ
- Pipe Spring National Monument - Fredonia, AZ
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Page, AZ (Also the location of Horshoe Bend)
- El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument - Los Angeles, CA
- Mojave National Preserve Headquarters - Barstow, CA
- Colorado National Monument - Fruita, CO
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve - Mosca, CO
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - Montrose, CO
- Aztec Ruins National Monument - Aztec, NM
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Boulder City, NV
- Arches National Park - Moab, UT
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Kanab, UT

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

31 species of cacti live in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, including Organ Pipe and Saguaro. Located in southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert along the Mexican border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is full of life. Besides its most famous residents, there is a lot of wildlife as well, including kangaroo rats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, and jack rabbit.

Visitors can bike or drive one of the several scenic drives through the park, camp, hike, and ride horses on the developed horse trails. Ranger-led programs are available including night programs out of the heat in the park's amphitheater. Visitors can also travel to Organ Pipe's sister park in Mexico - El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Sonora.

Parashant National Monument

Parashant National Monument sits directly in between Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Mead NRA and is marked by canyons, buttes, bluffs, cliffs, and plateaus. Its geology and ecosystems are the result of the Colorado Plateau bumping up against the Mohave Desert. Parashant is mostly an underdeveloped wilderness - 4-door sedans need not apply. 4x4 vehicles are what you'll need to get around, even on the most basic scenic drives throughout the park.

What the park lacks in development it makes up for in beauty. Visitors can enjoy camping and hiking in solitude, world-class stargazing, and adventurous off-roading. The park is open every day all year, but there are no Visitor Centers or facilities within the boundaries of the park. Nearby Pipe Spring National Monument in Fredonia has information about exploring the park.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest  Arizona National Parks

Like many other parks in the U.S., Petrified Forest National Park sits on the Colorado Plateau, which means it's full of unique geologic structures, beautiful colors, and plenty to see and do. There are several areas of the park to explore, but of course, its most famous residents are the petrified remnants of the forest that used to exist here. Visitors can hike around most parts of the park and easily find them. Some of the best examples are at the south end of the park near the Rainbow Forest Museum and the Giant Logs hiking trail.

Petrified Forest NP is easy to get to - its just off Interstate 40 - and visitors can enjoy a scenic drive from one end of the park to the other and back in a half-day. Be sure to stop at the many overlooks though, particularly in the Painted Desert. There are several hiking trails throughout the park that highlight many areas, including ancient Pueblo sites and dwellings. There are two Visitor Centers in the park - one in the North and one in the South. Backpacking, wilderness hiking, horseback riding, and geocaching are other popular activities here.

See our guide for more detailed information about visiting Petrified Forest National Park.

Pipe Spring National Monument

Pipe Spring National Monument protects the crucial Pipe Spring in arid Northern Arizona. The spring was important for travelers, Mormon settlers, and others making their way through the area. The National Monument tells this story of human history and interaction with the area and landscape.

Visitors should explore the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians Visitor Center and Museum to learn about the people and culture that helped shape the area and to learn more about modern Paiute culture. Guided tours are also available at the fort called Winsor Castle. In the summer, the site offers demonstrations of pioneer life and adaptation to the arid climate and challenging landscape.

Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area was designated in 2018 and is the newest National Heritage Area in the U.S., encompassing 3,300 square miles. It is located in southern Arizona in the Santa Cruz River Valley and serves to protect and interpret the stories and history of this region.

Highlights include the town of Marana and the Tuscon area which has been named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy for its 4,000-year food heritage, Tumamoc Hill (National Historic Landmark), Saguaro National Park West, and Tumacácori National Historic Park, along with many others. These places preserve important archaeological, historic, and culturally significant places in the area.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona, protects some of the largest cacti in the United States, but there's more to visiting than just the succulents. Camping and hiking are also popular here, and the various trails offer visitors some great views of this dry landscape. Saguaro National Park also has 57,930 acres of designated wilderness area to explore, making overnight backpacking trips possible.

Saguaro National Park was created and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover in 1933, first as a National Monument. In 1994, Congress elevated its status to a National Park, where today it protects thousands of acres of park and wilderness in the Sonoran Desert.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Around 1085, Sunset Volcano erupted, decimating everything around. It wasn't until about 500 years ago that plant life recovered. Today, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument protects two different volcanic craters, Sunset and its smaller neighbor, Lenox Crater Volcano.

Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking trails, interpretive programs, and night sky events and programming. The park Visitor Center is open all year. Other nearby Parks include Walnut Canyon National Monument and Wupatki National Monument.

Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument protects the ancient Pueblo and cliff dwellings of the Salado peoples that lived in the area from 1250 to 1450 C. E. This northern Sonoran community is known for its colorful pottery and woven cotton goods. Guided tours of the cliff dwellings are available on certain days of the week. Opportunities for hiking, camping, and other activities are available throughout the Tonto Basin and Salt River areas, as well as inside Tonto National Forest and nearby Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

Tumacácori National Historical Park protects several Spanish missions and churches that were founded along the Santa Cruz River in Southern Arizona, most of which were founded by Padre Kino. San José de Tumacácori, Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi, and San Cayetano de Calabazas are the three specifically administered by the National Park Service, and guided tours are available to all three. Padre Kino began establishing missions in this area called the  Pimería Alta in 1687 which was a confluence of Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, along with Native Americans and settlers passing through.

Today visitors can take tours of the missions, as well as hike around the sites and enjoy cultural demonstrations. The park's museum and Visitor Center contains exhibits and artifacts that give insight to life in the Santa Cruz Valley during this time.

Tumacácori National Historical Park is about forty-five miles south of Tucson, AZ.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument protects an ancient Puebloan site of the Sinagua people who lived in the Verde Valley 1,000 years ago. Visitors are able to hike and visit the structure as well as visit the Museum to look at artifacts and explore other interpretive information. Tuzigoot is less than an hour away from Montezuma Castle National Monument where you can see other ancient Puebloan structures.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is administered by the Bureau of Land Management and protects 280,000 acres of pristine wilderness in northern Arizona. The Monument sits adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park as well as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

In addition to the Vermillion Cliffs themselves, other parts of the Park to explore include the Paria Plateau, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. The park also protects several types of wildlife including an increasing population of endangered California Condors. Backpacking and primitive camping are popular, but there are no paved roads in the park and 4x4 vehicles are required due to deep sand in places.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument was created by Congress in 2000.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon National Monument preserves the culture and structures of the ancient Sinagua people who lived in the area from about 600 until 1400 A.D. The two main trails in the park - The Rim Trail and the Island Trail - offer visitors the chance to see the cliff dwellings up close. The Visitor Center is open all year and provides information along with guided walks through the park. A museum also displays artifacts and exhibits from the site.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is close to other ancient Puebloan sites at Tuzigoot National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument.

Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument protects ancient Pueblos that were inhabited about 900 years ago, and there are several at the park that can be explored. The largest in the park is the Wupatki Pueblo with about 100 rooms - probably the largest and most influential Pueblo in the region at the height of its popularity.

The Park offers interpretive programs and guided hikes to some of the Pueblos for a closer look for those interested. From Flagstaff, AZ, it takes about an hour to reach the Park.

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area

Yuma, Arizona has always been a crossroads for explorers and traders moving across the Colorado River. The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area aims to improve the area's wetlands and to re-develop the connection between Yuma's historic downtown and today's commerce and tourism. Places to visit include Colorado River State Historic Park, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, Yuma East Wetlands, Yuma West Wetlands, and Pivot Point Plaza.

Read more about Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area here.