The 16-mile gorge of Oak Creek Canyon is an outdoor wonderland that’s ripe with rusty red hills, towering trees and impressive waterfalls. Area campgrounds and picnic sites are available throughout the park, catering to visitors eager to explore some of the dozen or so trails that crisscross what’s commonly referred to as the cousin of the Grand Canyon.
Hiking newbies can meander along easier paths, like the 2.9 mile Long Canyon Trail or the shorter Vultee Arch Trail, while the more advance can head out on Casner Canyon Trail or the A.B. Young. Serious outdoor lovers can trek along the 9.5 mile Long Canyon Trail, where a 1,5000 fee rise in elevation means spectacular views and an even better workout. Just be prepared to get your feet wet, since creek crossings are common on many of the park’s scenic trails.
Want to make a spectacular understatement? Go ahead and call the Grand Canyon “a great big hole in the ground.” About 277 miles (444 km) long, an average of 10 miles (16 km) wide and more than a mile (1.6 km) deep, the colorful, eroded layers of this northwestern Arizona wonder reveal nothing less than the incredible geological history of the North American continent.
Each year, some 5 million people visit this testament to the power of water over rock, making the Grand Canyon the most popular national park in the U.S. Some arrive on a historic train from the depot in the Old West town of Williams, an hour south, while far more travel here by car.
You can brave the Skywalk, a transparent (and strongly reinforced) walkway that juts out over the West Rim; hike down, around or across the divide (remembering to bring lots of water); or soar high above the whole canyon on a helicopter tour.
Camelback Mountain is an iconic mountain visible throughout most of the phoenix metropolitan area. Towering over the city at 2,704 feet (824 meters) above sea level, the mountain was named after its very obvious resemblance to a resting camel. The mountain features unique sheer red sandstone cliffs as well as a variety of desert wildlife. Some of its more popular desert animals include Rock Squirrels, Gila Monsters, Javelinas, Coyotes, and Grey Foxes. These natural wonders make the mountain a very popular hiking and rock climbing location.
Although it is possible to hike to the top of Camelback, both trails are a strenuous undertaking and are only recommended for advanced hikers. Echo Canyon Recreation Area does, however, offer two easier hiking options for those less advanced hikers. All trails offer the ability to experience desert wildlife up close, as well as admire Camelback’s unique geological formations.
Boynton Canyon Trail’s breathtaking red rocks views and easy passes make it one Sedona’s most accessible hikes. Travelers find impressive panoramic landscapes early in the three-mile trek, where open desert, lush foliage and sky-high canyon views reign supreme. And while some say this accessible hike ends in a rather anti-climactic way because box canyon walls stretch up on either side, ancient Sinaguan Indian ruins and tons of biodiversity make it a memorable outdoor experience for visitors to Sedona.
Urban centers like New York and Chicago tend to get the most cred for their scenic skylines, but Cathedral Rock, in the heart of Arizona’s peaceful Sedona, has inched towards fame with its picturesque natural skyline, where towering vibrant red rocks meet clear blue sky.
Located in Coconino National Forest, the steep ascent to this famous land formation draws travelers in search of a challenging hike, clear desert air, breathtaking views and wide-open space. And while the trail is only a short 1.5 miles, a quick 600-feet elevation change means parts of the passage can be a real scramble. Pack water, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a serious climb with views that are truly worth it.
With stunning views of soaring, deep red cliffs everywhere you look, Red Rock State Park is truly a sight for sore eyes. Trails slice through this 286-acre nature preserve, winding through manzanita juniper and eventually leading to the banks of Oak Creek. The creek crawls its way through the park, creating the rich setting of abundant vegetation and diverse wildlife.
An afternoon spent hiking along the park's copious trails is the perfect way to enjoy Arizona's scenic natural beauty. The park's visitor center offers numerous daily activities for guests, including bird walks, nature walks, and various naturalist activities. Anyone who considers themselves a lover of the great outdoors will definitely want to make a stop by Red Rock State Park to see the gorgeous diversity in landscape and wildlife that the desert has to offer.
The city of Scottsdale sits adjacent to Phoenix, attracting visitors by the bus-load to Scottsdale Old Town. This older section of town is also its main cultural hub, thronged with dining, drinking, shopping and nightlife options.
Native American crafts, jewelry and artworks are sold in this downtown arts district, and galleries and outdoor sculptures add to the cultural feel. It’s also where you’ll find museums like Scottsdale’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the city’s historical museum.
Walking tours highlight the old town’s Old West character, with hitching posts from the days when horses were ridden through town and quaint stores selling Western gear.
Located in the southernmost point on the Grand Canyon’s south rim, Grandview Point is accessible via a one-mile side road off of East Rim Drive. Travelers agree the panoramic views from this famous vista are some of the park’s most impressive. Easy hiking trails wind through narrow ridges and well-preserved nature, giving travelers the opportunity to stretch their legs while driving the popular pass along Highway 64. But it’s the epic views and scenic landscape that make Grandview Point a quintessential Grand Canyon stop.
This scenic drive in the Canyon’s southern section is open year round and boasts scenic views, incredible landscapes and plenty of overlooks. Travelers can explore the 26 miles of highway in about an hour, while en route to the park’s east entrance. While the spectacular views are the highlight of this journey, the Desert View Watchtower and Tusayan Ruin and Museum are both worth a stop for visitors who want to explore the region’s history and Native American culture.
This chapel in the red rocks of Sedona is literally built into the side of a hill. And while it may be a spot for religious contemplation and quiet prayer, it’s also home to some of the area’s most breathtaking views, including epic sunsets over pristine desert landscape.
As in most chapels, the benches of this tiny structure face an altar made for worship, but what makes Chapel of the Holy Cross unique is the massive windows that overlook some of the state’s most impressive and picturesque scenery.
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One of the highlights in Grand Canyon West is the Hualapai Village. The authentic dwellings provide a real fun-filled real Western adventure, which includes gun fights, cattle drives, and cowboy games like axe throwing and horseshoes. You can even mount up for a horseback or wagon ride to the edge of the rim for a spectacular scenic view of the Grand Canyon.
At the Hualapai Village, you can shop at the Hualapai Market, tour an authentic re-creation of an Indian village, watch Native American dance performances, dine at eateries and cafés, and view the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River from 4,000 feet/1,200 meters above from the Grand Canyon Skywalk. You can also enjoy activities like river rafting or exploring the Grand Canyon Caverns, which are dry caverns created from lava and limestone. This is also the only place within the Grand Canyon where visitors can access the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon on a helicopter.
The towns of Flagstaff and Sedona both sit within the Coconino National Forest, a 1.9-million acre area of protected land fringed by four additional national forests. Many of the natural attractions around Flagstaff can be found within Coconino National Forest, such as the San Francisco Peaks—including the 12,600-foot Humphreys Peak—and the Sunset Crater National Monument. Visitors can find ample outdoor adventures within the forest, from fishing and swimming holes along Wet Beaver Creek to hiking and biking on red rock trails like those around Carroll Canyon.
This iconic rock may be Sedona’s most famous red rock destination. Named for its uncanny resemblance to the cartoon dog, visitors can see the popular pup relaxing on his doghouse from a number of nearby viewpoints.
Snoopy Rock has made travelers crack a smile since its name was first given and visitors agree you won’t even have to squint to find the massive homage Mother Nature paid to Charles Shultz. Nearby Lucy Rock, named for its resemblance to Charlie Brown’s famous friend, rounds out the Peanuts experience for travelers to this iconic Sedona spot.
Stunning scenery, epic red rock landscapes and wide-open skies are just part of what makes a trip to Sedona’s Bell Rock a memorable travel experience. Visitors can navigate the destination’s five trails, which range from an easy hike between the Courthouse Vista Parking Lot and the Base of Bell Rock, to more challenging routes, like the moderate climb to Upper Bell Rock Trail or the most strenuous option, known as The Ascent. Travelers will catch incredible views of Chicken Point, Submarine Rock and Chapel of the Holy Cross—true icons of Arizona’s famed Red Rock State Park—from various lookouts along Bell Rock’s multiple trails.
Most travelers venture to Sedona to get back to nature, get outdoors and get up close to Arizona’s stunning red rocks. But the unique shops, handmade crafts and tasty restaurants of Tlaquepaque offer visitors a chance to experience another part of Sedona—its artist community.
Visitors can wander the 40 specialty shops that make up this laid-back shopping destination and bare witness to artisans at work. Whether its blowing glass, painting an Arizona landscape or throwing a pot in one of Tlaquepaque’s studios, a visit to Tlaquepaque puts travelers in touch with the artists and offers a one-of-a-kind experience that’s sure to be a memorable part of any Sedona trip.
With one of the most spectacular vistas in the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Point lies at the end of the Bright Angel Point Trail, one the most popular of the North Rim corridor trails. The trail itself is wide, well graded and easy to follow. It's equally attractive to first-time canyon hikers and seasoned pros, as well as mule trains, making it a popular route. Because once you reach the point, panoramic views of the Grand Canyon unfold.
This easy trail follows a ridge line at the end of the Bright Angel Peninsula to Bright Angel Point, which offers a panoramic view of the canyon from its north side. You can also see and hear the rush of Roaring Spring, the North Rim’s only water source, which lies 3,600 feet/1,100 kilometers below the rim. Portions of the Cottonwood Campground, 4,000 feet/1,200 meters below the rim, are visible from the end of the trail. Grand Canyon Village on the south rim is visible about 10 miles/16 kilometer across the canyon.
One of the sites most visitors encounter when they enter the South Rim is Mather Point. It’s an astonishing, breathtaking glimpse into the Grand Canyon. Best of all, you’re a short walk to the Canyon View Information Plaza, where you can pick up park information and begin your journey into the Canyon.
Mather Point has quite an extensive viewing area, set as it is on the south side of the Colorado River. Two narrow, railed overlooks, built on projecting rocks, provide views along the rim in both directions. The panorama extends from the lower end of Garden Creek, taking in some of the Bright Angel Trail, and a spectacular view over the deep canyon of Pipe Creek. To the west, you can jump on the Rim Trail, which offers more scenic vistas on its way to Yavapai Point. You can also see Bright Angel Creek, on the North Rim, between a collection of red buttes and ravines. A stop here is an excellent introduction to the Grand Canyon.
A visit to Tusayan Ruins and Museum provides a glimpse into the life of the Hopi tribe and the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the region 800 years ago. Inside the museum, there are artfully displayed exhibits on various aspects of life in the village including pottery, arrowheads, and other household artifacts. The museum also features some of the original 2,000–4,000 year old split-twig figurines, which are made in the shape of deer or bighorn sheep, sometimes with horns or antlers.
The Tusayan Ruins and Museum is part of the Grand Canyon South Rim’s Desert View Drive. The trail itself holds a variety of attractions including Desert View, the breathtaking scenery unfolding from Desert View Watchtower, Navajo Point, where you can see the Colorado River and Escalante Butte, and Lipan Point, where you can see several stretches of the Colorado River. Also here is Moran Point, where you can see a layer of red shale in the canyon walls.
You could think of Phoenix’s South Mountain Park as a large outdoor playground. Actually, a very large outdoor playground. With more than 16,000 acres to explore, according to the Trust for Public Land, South Mountain Park is one of the largest municipally operated parks in the United States.
With more than 50 miles of trails, South Mountain Park is a favorite among horseback riders, hikers and mountain bikers. But drivers can take in the scenery too. A little more than five miles up the Summit Road, there are Valley wide views to be had at Dobbins Lookout. If you’re inspired, keep going to the Gila Lookout for a view of the Gila River Valley. The drive is scenic, so take it slow to safely enjoy the view. There are many steep sections and blind curves and cars share the road with bikers and hikers.
Visitors to Oak Creek Canyon would be wise to stop at this scenic viewpoint for a bird’s eye view of the rolling Arizona landscape. A well-kept lookout lined with Native American artisans selling handmade jewelry proves a popular destination for tourists and photographers alike. Though visitors warn Oak Creek Vista can get crowded, most agree its epic views are worth the trip.
As a non-profit organization, the Arizona Science Center‘s main goal is to entertain and educate people of all ages about science. They opened in 1984 as a small, 10,000 square feet (3,048 square meters) museum featuring select hands-on exhibits. Since its humble beginning, the Arizona Science Center has quickly grown into one of the most popular local attractions in Arizona. Today the Arizona Science Center stretches over 120,000 square feet (36,576 square meters) and is one of the most high-tech museums in the world. With over 40,000 square feet (12,912 square meters) of gallery space, they currently feature over 300 hands-on exhibits in five different themed galleries. There are daily shows in their multi-media Dorrance Planetarium as well as in the giant, five-story IMAX Theater.
The Arizona Science Center is designed around the concept of making learning fun. Exhibits are created to be interactive, encouraging visitors to learn from doing.
A collection of once violent volcanoes dots the rugged high desert north of Flagstaff. Collectively called the San Francisco Peaks, or just ‘The Peaks’ by locals, today they sit dormant, offering a wilderness playground for adventurous visitors keen to hike, climb, bike or ski. The tallest is Humphrey’s Peak towering 12,633 feet, where hearty hikers can tackle a nine-mile, round-trip hike to its top. For wildlife spotting, lower elevation trails like Little Bear Trail wind through ponderosa pine, oak, and aspen forests, and the Lava River Cave offers great views and an exciting walk through a lava tube. The 44-mile Peaks Loop road is perfect for car-based sightseeing, while winter visitors can hit the slopes at Wing Mountain or the Snowbowl Ski Area.
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