AMAZING PLACES TO VISIT IN ARIZONA

There is no secret that there are many amazing attractions in Arizona. Everyone has heard about the Grand Canyon and Sedona, but the truth is that the state is blessed with many off-the-beaten-path fascinating sights. Hidden in the state’s remote areas, some of them are so surreal they seem more like a product of artistic imagination than nature’s creations. Few are easy to reach but to visit others, you need a stroke of luck. In fact, in the case of the world-famous red rock formation, The Wave, you have to win an entry lottery, and good luck with that! So let’s take a closer look at Arizona’s most spectacular attractions to help you decide which ones are right for you. 

Hiking the Wave in Arizona.
Hiking to the Wave was one of my life’s dreams and luckily it came true.

18 AMAZING ATTRACTIONS IN ARIZONA

  1. Hoover Dam
  2. Grand Canyon Skywalk
  3. Toroweap (Tuweep) Overlook of the Grand Canyon
  4. Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon 
  5. Grand Canyon South Rim
  6. Grand Canyon North Rim
  7. The Wave in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument 
  8. Antelope Canyon 
  9. Horseshoe Bend
  10. Canyon de Chelly National Monument 
  11. Hopi Reservation and Blue Canyon 
  12. Petrified Forest National Park
  13. Sedona, Arizona
  14. Prescot and Watson Lake 
  15. Saguaro National Park
  16. Park San Xavier de Bac Mission 
  17. Madera Canyon 
  18. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The Wave in Arizona. Only 20 people per day can visit it.
The Wave in Arizona. Only 20 people per day can visit it. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski. 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliated links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Along with neighboring Utah, Arizona is my favorite state. The US is stunningly beautiful, but nothing compares to the fascinating treasures of the red rock country. Arizona is home to many world-famous iconic attractions. It took me three visits so far to check most of the must-sees, but I am not done yet.

When planning your trip to Arizona, do not overload your itinerary. Some of Arizona’s gems are located in remote areas and many belong to Indian reservations. You will need to make specific arrangements before you arrive, often including hard to get permits. 

Map of Arizona Attractions 

Remember that some attractions may look close to each other on the map, but many of them cannot be reached without driving back and forth from the Grand Canyon. For example, driving from the South Rim to the North Rim of the canyon requires a five-hour drive of 220 miles (354 km), even though in a straight line is about 20 miles. 

Click on the icon to see more details. 

 

1. Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, on Nevada and Arizona border, is one of America’s great engineering wonders. Completed in 1935, this massive structure over the Colorado River is 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long.

It took less than five years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. Now, years later, Hoover Dam still stands as a world-renowned structure. It is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.

Hoover Dam -National Historic Landmark.
Hoover Dam -National Historic Landmark. Photo: Unsplash.

2. Grand Canyon Skywalk – Grand Canyon West 

The Skywalk, managed by the Hualapai Tribe and located on tribal lands, consists of a horseshoe-shaped steel frame with a glass floor and sides that projects about 70 feet (21 m) from the canyon rim.

While the Skywalk is the most famous attraction at Grand Canyon West, tours also include other points of interest and unique canyon views. The tribe operates a hotel, restaurant, and gift shop in Peach Springs. 

The Skywalk in Hualapai Tribe Reservation.
The Skywalk in Hualapai Tribe Reservation. Photo: Unsplash.

3. Torowap ( Tuweep) Overlook of the Grand Canyon

One of the very little known attractions in Arizona, the Tuweep Overlook is truly a hidden gem. With 3000 vertical feet of air to the river, Toroweap, or Tuweep as it is also known, is the narrowest and deepest segments of the inner canyon. And no long hiking is required to see it! 

It takes about two hours to drive on a dirt road to reach the canyon from Kanab, Utah. Only high clearance SUVs should attempt the drive since it gets really rough toward the end. The best way to get this one of a kind experience to take a tour with Dreamland Safari Tours. It is expensive, over $200 per person, but you can travel with ease and without worrying about damaging your car or getting lost. I loved it! 

Tuweep Overlook at the remote part of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Tuweep Overlook at the remote part of the Grand Canyon National Park.

4. Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon (not part of the national park) 

One of the most remote attractions in Arizona, Havasu Falls, is still on my bucket list, but I am slowly starting to give up on it. To reach the falls, you need to take a strenuous 10-mile hike deep into Havasupai Indian Reservation. There are some possibilities to make the visit less demanding, but that would require a lot of luck and determination. 

A series of beautiful and photogenic waterfalls can be found on Havasu Creek, a tributary to the Grand Canyon. The water flows out of limestone, which gives it a beautiful blue-green hue. The waterfalls have created large plunge pools that are clear, deep, and inviting. 

To visit the falls, you need to make reservations, obtain a permit, and pay a fee. The process of planning the trip is complicated so start well in advance. Here are tips on planning the hike in Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls, Arizona.
Havasu Falls most likely will remain unchecked on my Arizona must-see list. Photo: Getty Images.

Grand Canyon National Park – The Most Popular Attraction in Arizona 

The Grand Canyon – measuring approximately 277 river miles in length, up to 18 miles in width, and a mile deep – is the crown jewel of Arizona attractions. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, it encompasses canyons, river tributaries, and surrounding grounds. With millions of visitors making the trip to the canyon each year, it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.

5. Grand Canyon South Rim 

At 7,000 feet above sea level, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most accessible section of the national park, with numerous places where visitors can pull over to admire the views.

Grand Canyon South Rim offers not only stunning views but also lots of visitor services such as hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc. This is where the action is but that comes with the price of overcrowding. 

The Grand Canyon framed with tree.
The Grand Canyon can certainly put your existence in perspective. Some estimates suggest the Grand Canyon is 5-6 million years old,

Lodging in Grand Canyon South Rim 

Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, the primary provider of in-park lodging at the South Rim, manages six distinctively different hotel properties in the park. Start planning your trip well in advance since these rooms sell out quickly.  Make your reservation here. 

My favorite is the historic El Tovar located directly on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Its classic architecture and outstanding location are hard to beat. If you are out of luck inside the park, try these hotels outside the borders of the national park. 

6. Grand Canyon North Rim 

The Grand Canyon North Rim, 1,000 feet higher than its southern counterpart, isn’t as popular because it is harder to get to, especially when harsh winter weather closes access roads. By car, the trip from one rim to the other is 220 miles. 

But if the laid-back atmosphere is more your style, this is a place for you. A worthwhile trip for those who enjoy the road less traveled, the North Rim, receives only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors. 

7. The Wave in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument – A Bucket List Attraction in Arizona for Visitors From Around the World 

The Wave was first widely publicized in Germany by the movie “Faszination Natur” in 1996. Soon after, its images spread around the world, and The Wave became an instant mecca for photographers and hikers alike.

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in Arizona near its northern border with Utah. It is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau. It is a place of out-of-this-world beauty, guarded by harsh weather conditions, and strict visiting regulations. 

In order to visit the Wave, you need to obtain a permit and this is where it gets tricky. To put things in perspective, some people are trying for years to get their chance to visit this iconic attraction. Start with contacting the Bureau of Land Management office for the latest requirements.

Currently, only twenty permits per day are issued. Ten of them are available in advance by an online lottery conducted four months before the month for which the permit is sought. The remaining 10 are on a walk-in basis. Check the latest rates and requirements here.

The Wave – one of the most beautiful attractions I have ever visited.

8. Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona 

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located just outside of Page, Arizona in Navajo Tribal Park. The sculpted, twisting sandstone walls rise up around you, with shafts of light breaking through from the narrow opening above as you walk through the canyon. This attraction may be visited by tours only. 

Upper Slot Canyon – more popular of the two

Upper Antelope Canyon is an above-ground slot canyon. It’s an easy flat 100-yard walk, following a 2-mile off-road ride from the Navajo Tribal Park Gate on US98 to the canyon’s entrance. Upper Antelope Canyon is also where you can catch the world-famous sunbeams between the spring and fall months, but only during peak time tours.

The famous Antelope Canyon in Arizona, US. Photo Credit: Getty Images. 

Lower Antelope Canyon 

This is a longer slot canyon (600 yards), situated below-ground. Touring it requires descending and ascending a series of ladders, and stepping over a few boulders. Access to the canyon is directly from the Tribal Park Gate on US98. 

My (maybe unpopular) opinion: if it is out of your way, skip this attraction altogether. Remember, just to get there is two hours one way and the upper canyon is only 100-yard long. It will take you just a few minutes to walk through it and most likely other people will be there so do not count on peacefully enjoying the scenery. I felt that everyone wanted me out of their way to take the photo. 

Still, it is definitely a must-see place for serious photographers, but timing is very important to catch the beam of light. Make sure to plan your vising around it!  

Are looking for attractions in Arizona? You will be overwhelmed with a wide variety of choices. Here are some of the best places to visit.

9. Horseshoe Band

Horseshoe Bend is also located near Page, Arizona. This horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River is located approximately 140 miles from both the South Rim and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but only 5 miles from the beginning of Grand Canyon National Park. 

It is about a 3/4 mile walk out to the edge overlooking Horseshoe Bend. From the edge of the canyon, you can see the river and take photos. I liked this attraction a lot. 

Horseshoe Bend Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend, another unique natural attraction in Arizona. Photo Credit: Getty Images. 

10. Canyon de Chelly National Monument 

Still on my to-do list, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to spectacular Native American cliff dwellings set along steep-sided canyons, with walls up to 1,000 feet high. The park features a Welcome Center, two rim drives with ten overlooks, and one public trail to visit on your own. Private companies offer canyon tours. Two campgrounds in the park require a fee.

Spider Rock at sunset, Canyon de Chelly national monument, Arizona. Credit: Getty Images. 

11. Hopi Reservation 

The Hopi Reservation, including its fascinating Blue Canyon, is a must-see Arizona attraction if you are looking for a unique cultural experience combined with stunning desert scenery. The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation located in the northeastern part of the state. 

Blue Canyon is the Hopi Reservation’s unique feature. You can reach it by a 15-mile drive on dirt tracks. This remote uninhabited region spans the border between the Navajo and Hopi reservations. It presents an incredible array of badlands and eroded rock formations. Only guided tours are allowed. 

You need a permit and a local guide to enter Blue Canyon in Hopi Reservation.
You need a permit and a local guide to enter Blue Canyon in Hopi Reservation.

12. Petrified Forest National Park

Large pieces of petrified wood, along with fossilized plants, fish, and reptiles, have been revealed in great numbers in what is today Petrified National Forest. The park access road runs by many of the highlights and short interpretive trails allow for close up looks at a variety of unique sights.

Apart from petrified logs and fossils, the park features badlands, buttes and mesas, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and wildflowers, and vast vistas for more than a hundred miles. If you are craving quiet solitude, the Painted Desert is perfect for hiking. 

The Visitors Center provides insight into the ecology and geology of the park and is a good place to start before heading out on the drive.

Petrified logs in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

13. Sedona, Arizona 

Sedona, Arizona, gained its reputation as a place of outstanding red-rock scenery offering fantastic outdoor opportunities and the urban development to match its uniqueness. But there is more to its beauty than meets the eye.

Sedona vortexes, famous for its spiritual power, draw visitors who seek to pursue their spiritual and personal enrichment of the body and soul. Unlike many other rejuvenating locations, Sedona is vibrant, full of action, and by no means away from it all. On the contrary, it offers modern conveniences, superb accommodation, and even fantastic shopping. 

Things to do in Sedona, Arizona. Rocks and a house.
Sedona definitely found a way to integrate its architecture into its stunning nature.

14. Prescot, Arizona and Watson Lake 

Located at 5300 feet above sea level, Prescot offers a charming downtown and beautiful surroundings with tall Ponderosa pine trees, lakes, and opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and camping. 

Amazing Watson Lake at the edge of town offers outstanding beauty and tranquility. The park remains mostly undiscovered by tourists who pass by it on their way to more famous Arizona attractions like Sedona and Grand Canyon National Park. This attractive oasis combines desert beauty with water activities perfect for hot summer months. (No swimming allowed.)

Watson Lake near Prescot, Arizona
Watson Lake is the perfect place to escape the summer heat of Arizona.

15. Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona 

Saguaro National Park lets you experience the desert landscape around Tucson and see the famous saguaro cactuses up close. The park has two sections, an east, and a west portion, approximately 30 minutes apart. 

Both sections of the park offer great opportunities to see the desert flora and fauna along roads and hiking trails. Hikes range from easy walks to challenging trails that lead up into the high mountains, reaching up to 8,000 feet in elevation.

Saguaro National Park.
My friend posing for me to show the scale of saguaro cactuses in Saguaro National Park. 

16. Park San Xavier de Bac Mission 

If you are looking for architectural attractions in Arizona, visit San Xavier de Bac Mission. Completed in 1797, this iconic church features Baroque architecture & painted artwork. It is located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation.

The mission is the oldest European structure in Arizona. An outstanding example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, the Mission San Xavier del Bac hosts 200,000 visitors each year. 

San Xavier De Bac Church.
San Xavier De Bac Church.

17. Madera Canyon –  for bird watching and photography enthusiasts 

Madera Canyon is one of the largest of the deep wooded ravines in the Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson. This Arizona attraction is a world-renowned spot for bird watching. The area also offers an extensive trail system for hikers that’s easily accessible, and a retreat to those looking for cooler weather.

Hotels Near Madera Canyon 

For the best birdwatching or photography experience, stay at Santa Rita Lodge and enjoy the feeders which attract, in season, oak woodland birds including Scott’s Oriole, Yellow-eyed Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, and a variety of hummingbirds. The canyon is also home to several species of owls.

You need a good camera to capture nice shots of the birds but I enjoyed just sitting there and watching the birds, and people!  

Madera Canyon is a mecca for bird photographers.
Madera Canyon is a mecca for bird photographers.

18. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument 

Pipe Cactus National Monument, another natural attraction in southwestern Arizona, is located on the border with Mexico. The monument’s main feature is the organ pipe cactus, but the area is fascinating on its own, with mountains and beautiful sunsets over the desert.

The organ pipes grow up to 23 feet high and bloom from May to July. The park can be explored on various roads and hiking trails. The two main scenic drives are Ajo Mountain Drive and Puerto Blanco Drive.

You can access hiking trails off both of these roads. The Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop Trail is one of the top hiking trails in Arizona. 

You will find the monument is rather remote so the best place to find accommodation is in Tucson, Arizona. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a great place to visit but the heat was taking its toll on me.

You May Also Like 

Colorado National Monument – Visitor’s Guide 

Things to Do In Bryce Canyon National Park 

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers 

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Arches National Park at sunset.

The Ulitmate Itinerary for Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks 

Buffalo crossing the road in Yellowstone, Wyoming.

All You Need to Know About Visiting Acadia National Park 

A fog in Acadia can block the views, but it could paint a beautiful scene.
A fog in Acadia can block the views, but it could paint a beautiful scene.

Comments