The landscapes throughout the state of Arizona are some of the most awe-inspiring in the country. From its renowned saguaro cactus forests and surreal sunsets to the colossal Grand Canyon boasting endless spectacular vistas, the scenery is an intoxicating feast for the eyes. A road trip through the state offers a safe way to explore these national treasures. Grab your camera and set off on an adventure through Arizona’s natural beauty.

 

Chiricahua National Monument | Southeastern Arizona

Here a multitude of rhyolite rock pinnacles (known as “hoodoos”) rise from the earth in hundred-foot-high pillars. Referred to as “The Land of Standing-Up Rocks,” these towering formations were formed by explosive volcanic activity millions of years ago. During the Indian Wars, many Apache leaders, including Geronimo and Chief Cochise, evaded capture here hiding among the rocks. Hike one of the park’s many trails for views of some of the more dazzling formations, like the famous gravity-defying balanced rocks. Other geological formations in the park include caves, a huge volcanic caldera, and ancient lava flows. The site encompasses more than 12,000 acres of land and is located in one of Arizona’s seven Sky Islands, allowing the average temperatures to stay in the 80s during the peak of summer.

Recommended Photo Ops

Inspiration Point – Sweeping views of soaring rock spires

Punch and Judy – Two massive boulders bearing a striking resemblance to the famous puppets

Big Balanced Rock – A massive boulder precariously balanced atop another rock formation

Closest Town/City: Willcox


Saguaro National Park | Southern Arizona

Come face to face with Arizona’s most famous inhabitant and the nation’s largest cactus—the mighty saguaro—at Saguaro National Park in Tucson. Home to nearly two million saguaros, the park is broken up into two districts, both accessible by foot, bike, and car. To the west—in the Tucson Mountains—find more dense concentrations of saguaros, along with centuries-old petroglyphs. The Rincon Mountain District, to the east, offers higher elevations and impressive views of the valley below. In the spring, the landscape is lush and blanketed with wildflowers, and saguaros bloom with brilliant white blossoms. If you’re lucky you may also catch glimpses of desert wildlife like rabbits, tortoises, and Gila monsters.

Recommended Photo Ops

Saguaros in Bloom – Beginning in late April

Tall Saguaros – Loma Verde Loop (East District) has a collection of exceptionally impressive saguaros

Sunset Saguaros – Capture a saguaro silhouetted against a fiery Tucson sunset 

Closest Town/City: Tucson


The Painted Desert | Northeastern Arizona

With colors ranging from deep lavenders to blazing reds, the Painted Desert is truly otherworldly. The hilly outcroppings scattered across this badlands area look as if they’ve been “painted” with vibrant multicolored stripes. Rich mineral content in the soil created these layers of color that chronicle the passage of hundreds of millions of years. Parts of this chromatic desert are located within Petrified Forest National Park, which protects one of the largest collections of petrified wood on the planet. Here you can walk amongst 200-million-year-old fossils preserved by volcanic ash. The northern parts of the desert lie in the Navajo Nation, where visitors can explore by off-road-travel with a permit.

Recommended Photo Ops

Little Painted Desert County Park – Breathtaking views, especially at sunset

Kachina Point at the Painted Desert Inn – Sprawling panoramic views

Blue Mesa – Hike one mile down Blue Mesa Trail to see blue-banded hills and lots of petrified wood

Closest Town/City: Holbrook (located on Route 66)


Grand Canyon National Park | Northern Arizona

There are few natural wonders on Earth that inspire awe like the magnificent Grand Canyon. At 277 miles long and over one mile deep, the canyon is unfathomably immense. Like the Painted Desert, the canyon’s strata are clearly visible, representing two billion years of geological time. Its stunning grandeur draws around six million visitors annually from across the world, but only one percent ever go below the rim. The South Rim and West Rim lie 239 miles apart, about a four-hour drive, and the West Rim is located in the Hualapai Nation, outside the national park. The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West—a glass walkway projecting seventy feet out from the canyon rim—is a popular way to experience sweeping views. There are also plenty of hiking trails that reveal different aspects of the canyon as you descend.

Recommended Photo Ops

Ooh-Ahh Point – Hike a short distance of the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh-Ahh Point for extraordinary panoramic views (hence the name “Ooh-Ahh”)

Hopi Point & Mather Point – Ideal for sunset or sunrise photos

South Rim Trail – An easy hike with views at every turn

Closest Town/City, Grand Canyon National Park: Tusayan or Williams (located on Route 66)

Closest Town/City, Grand Canyon West: Peach Springs (located on Route 66)


Monument Valley Tribal Park | Northern Arizona

The famed vistas of Monument Valley have been featured in dozens of films, including five John Wayne movies, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Forest Gump. The sandstone towers rising from the red earth of this Navajo Nation land are some of the most photographed geological features in the world, standing at heights of up to 1,000 feet. Drive the 17-mile Tribal Park Loop to view the most popular sites, hike the 3.2-mile Wildcat Trail to see the Mittens Buttes up close, or schedule a tour to view areas not open to the general public. Check into Goulding’s Lodge, right on the Arizona/Utah border, where you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery from your own private balcony.

Recommended Photo Ops

John Ford Point – Your bucket-list shot, this overlook provides the most famous panorama in the park

Three Sisters – Three towering spires of rock

Mittens and Merrick Buttes – Beautiful and iconic twin buttes that look like mittens

Closest Town/City: Kayenta


As you travel through this beautiful state, remember to Appreciate Arizona and Leave No Trace, so these gorgeous landmarks are preserved for the enjoyment of generations to come. Learn more about the principles of Leave No Trace here. Due to COVID restrictions in some areas of Arizona, please check with each park to confirm open status, along with current rules and regulations.

Know before you go: The Arizona Office of Tourism is continuing to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation. Before traveling to or throughout Arizona, check VisitArizona.com/COVID-19 for important travel and tourism updates.

Now start planning your Arizona adventure!