20 Awesome Places To Visit In Arizona: Famous Parks + Hidden Gems



Photo of a red rock landscape with swirling patterns and rock formations backed by a deep blue sky and the words 20 fun places to visit in arizona overlaid

Arizona is a sun-kissed land of adventure and extraordinary landscapes. It’s best known for the mighty Grand Canyon, but we can assure you there’s so much more to see and do when you visit Arizona. Are you interested in hiking, photography and outdoor activities? Then you’re going to love what’s on offer in AZ.

In this guide we show you 20 famous and lesser known places to visit in Arizona, based on our experiences.

Our Arizona Experience

Couple standing together next to a maroon Jeep on a red rock flat table like expanse and towering red cliffs bursting up behind
Here we are with our hired Jeep at sunset in Sedona AZ

We first visited Arizona in November 2019 near the end of our 3 month road trip around the American southwest, and we returned again in December 2022 to explore more areas of the state. As hikers and travel photographers, we’re huge fans of Arizona’s vast and striking landscapes.

Our favorite experiences so far in Arizona are day hiking Rim-to-River at the Grand Canyon, hiking The Wave and spending 8 amazing days in Sedona. We think Sedona is one of the best travel destinations in the US for outdoors orientated people like us. When we next visit AZ we’ll be heading further south to Phoenix and the parks around Tucson. Read more about us.

1. Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona is a great place to horseback ride
Striking topography at Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a rugged natural landscape in rural northeastern Arizona. We think it appears in some ways like a much smaller version of the Grand Canyon and Zion combined, with its tall canyon walls and wide open valley below. It’s managed and protected by the NPS but it belongs to the Navajo tribe, who have lived inside the 1,000-foot deep canyon for more than 300 years.

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path experience, we’d say Canyon de Chelly is one of the best places to visit in Arizona. Don’t miss the chance to take a guided horseback ride through the canyon with barely another soul in sight as you pass by towering sandstone monoliths and spires.

Here’s what you can do in Canyon de Chelly:

  • Drive both north and south rim highways and stop at all overlooks
  • Take a guided Jeep or hiking tour into the canyon
  • Go on a guided horseback ride through Canyon de Chelly
  • Photograph the famous Spider Rock monolith and ancient pueblos

2. Cottonwood

Man drinking glass of wine in a wooden building
Mark tasting wine in Arizona’s Verde Valley

Cottonwood is a small but quaint city known as “The heart of Verde Valley wine country”. Its touristy Old Town is located just 19 miles southwest of Sedona and it’s the most popular stop on Arizona’s famous Verde Valley wine tour.

If you’re looking to spend a relaxing night or two after the chaos of nearby Sedona, Cottonwood is the perfect place to slowly walk from winery to winery and dial down the action. We enjoyed sampling delicious wines at a handful of fantastic spots in and around Cottonwood when we visited Sedona, and we highly recommend you do the same!

Here’s what you can do in Cottonwood:

3. Flagstaff

San Francisco Peaks glowing behind a field and trees
San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff at twilight

Flagstaff is a popular four season travel destination located right in the center of Arizona. It’s surrounded by the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, the gigantic San Francisco Peaks, Grand Canyon South Rim and multiple US National Monuments, which makes Flagstaff the perfect place to set up base for your Arizona adventure.

The beauty of Flagstaff is how many options it gives you because it’s so close to South Rim and Sedona. It has lots of great hotels and restaurants so you could stay in Flagstaff, day trip into South Rim and Sedona, then spend your remaining days exploring other nearby attractions. It also works as a great place to stop if you’re driving Route 66.

Here’s what you can do in Flagstaff:

  • Hike to Arizona’s highest point (12,663 ft) at San Francisco Summit atop Humphrey’s Peak
  • Visit the Lowell Observatory and see the dark night sky through astrotourism in Flagstaff
  • Use the city as a base to explore several parks, monuments and even parts of Route 66
  • Explore the historic old town with excellent food, art and culture.

4. Grand Canyon National Park

Hiking into Grand Canyon South Rim one of the best places to visit and most fun things to do on a visit to Arizona
Photo we took on our sunrise hike down into the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the world’s most recognizable and iconic natural landscapes. Ninety percent only visit South Rim which stands at 7,000 feet and remains open year round, whereas only ten percent visit North Rim which stands at 8,800 feet and closes for a long winter period.

We’ve photographed sunrises and sunsets, driven to all the viewpoints, hiked all the major trails and we’ve even been to the canyon floor. For us, the Grand Canyon is one of America’s most incredible landscapes, and it’s one of few places that genuinely stopped us in our tracks the first time we saw it. Do not miss it when you visit Arizona!

Here’s what you can do at the Grand Canyon:

READ: Visiting Grand Canyon South Rim for the first time

5. Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls waterfall cascading from rocks at twilight
Colorful clouds at twilight over Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls is a popular waterfall located within Havasupai Indian Reservation land. As the crow flies, Havasu Falls is very close to Grand Canyon South Rim, but the only way to access the waterfall area is by driving 190 miles from South Rim (in a giant U-shape) to Havasupai Trailhead, and then hiking 10 miles to reach the waterfall.

Havasu Falls is exceptionally photogenic, so it’s highly sought after. But before you can hike the challenging trail to reach the waterfall, you’ll need this permit and you also to secure accommodation. If you’re lucky enough to win a permit, don’t forget your camera with spare batteries and SD cards!

Here’s what you can do at Havasu Falls:

  • Hike the challenging Havasupai Trail to and from the waterfalls
  • Photograph the spectacular natural scenery
  • Camp out under the stars with views of waterfalls
  • Meet other hikers and nature lovers in nearby tents

6. Hoover Dam

Back side of the Hoover Dam one of the best things to do in Arizona
Photo we took from the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel built between 1931 and 1936 in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Spanning the Nevada and Arizona state lines, the mighty concrete arch-gravity Hoover Dam was the world’s largest hydroelectric power station until 1949.

Are you planning to use Las Vegas on the way into or out from your trip to Arizona? Well, The Hoover Dam is just 40 miles from the Vegas Strip, so it’s super easy to access. We visited the Hoover Dam in 2022, and it was even bigger in person than we imagined. It’s a great spot to take the kids and there are official dam tour options available.

Here’s what you can do at the Hoover Dam:

  • Walk across the 14 meter wide top of the dam
  • Head up to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
  • Take an official guided tour of the Hoover Dam
  • Walk the historic railroad hiking trail to Hoover Dam Boneyard
  • Drive to Lake Mead Overlook for an expansive lake vista

READ: Visiting the Hoover Dam from Las Vegas

7. Monument Valley

Towering buttes and desert vegetation with blue sky one of the most popular things to do in Arizona
Photo we took during our visit to Monument Valley

Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes in Arizona and the entire United States. You’ll recognize the skyline dominating towering sandstone buttes bursting out of the flat and arid terrain if you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump. And it’s just as impressive in real life.

You’ll be blown away by the likes of Mitten Buttes, North Window, Totem Pole and Three Sisters as you explore the area. We drove the loop road around Monument Valley and it was a lot of fun to get different perspectives, but you can see most of it from the main road. Our top tip is to see Monument Valley at dawn or dusk with soft light, before the sun rises.

Here’s what you can do in Monument Valley:

  • Drive the 17 mile Tribal Valley Loop to all of the best scenic overlooks
  • Take the classic Forrest Gump photo
  • Watch sunrise, sunset or stay for stars
  • Visit nearby Valley of the Gods for similar topography

8. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument plant silhouetted against colorful sky
Twilight colors at Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus is a US National Monument and International Biosphere Reserve located right on the Arizona and Mexico border in the Sonoran Desert. It’s the only place in the entire United States in which the organ pipe cactus and senita cactus grow naturally in the wild, and both are incredibly photogenic.

Organ Pipe Cactus is remote, rural and best of all it’s completely free of crowds. You’ll find miles of hiking trails and countless places to frame beautiful desert photographs, especially around the golden hours of dawn and dusk. We think it’s among the best off the beaten path places you can add to your Arizona itinerary, but only if you can make it all the way down to the border.

Here’s what you can do in Organ Pipe Cactus:

  • Hike trails for all levels and abilities
  • Photograph organ pipe and senita cactus
  • Camp under the stars in a dark night sky environment

9. Page

Curving Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend in Page is one of the best places to visit in Arizona at sunrise with purple sky and orange sun
Clear sunrise we enjoyed at Horseshoe Bend in Page

Page is a small but exceptionally popular tourist town in the far north and center of Arizona, not far from the Utah border. Each year, millions of people flock to Page on US southwest road trips to see the likes of Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. It’s a great place to use as base for exploring the immediate border area, which can include easy day trips into southern Utah.

We’ve driven around the southwest twice and both times we naturally spent a night in Page. It has plenty of great places to eat and lots of affordable hotels, so we recommend you do the same. Antelope Canyon is the most popular thing to do, but we prefer Horseshoe Bend because it’s less crowded and much cheaper.

Here’s what you can do in Page:

READ: Top rated hotels in Page AZ

10. Petrified Forest National Park

Colorful mounds at Petrified Forest National Park in eastern Arizona
Colorful sediment layers in Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest is a small but unique national park located right on I-40 in the east of Arizona. In the north of the park you can see colorful mounds similar to those at Badlands National Park, but with more reds and oranges. And to the south of Petrified Forest you can hike short trails leading to colorful ancient petrified logs.

If you’re driving east or west along Interstate 40 between Arizona and New Mexico, you simply have to allow for a fleeting visit at the park. You’ll only need 2 or 3 hours to drive through, stop for easy hikes and photograph quartz-like logs. It’s also a very quiet national park, so you won’t have to contend with any overcrowding issues.

Here’s what you can do in Petrified Forest:

  • See petrified wood in the south
  • Hike short and easy trails
  • Photograph the Painted Desert in the north
  • Drive the 27 mile scenic road through Petrified Forest

11. Phoenix

City of Phoenix from afar with mountains and cactus framing one of the most popular places to visit in AZ
View of Phoenix and distant mountains from a trail

Phoenix is the largest city and capital of Arizona. It’s surrounded by countless parks, mountains, deserts and hiking trails, so it’s a fantastic place to visit if you love the great outdoors. But there’s also tons to do in town, from top notch museums to fashionable shopping areas and excellent eateries.

The population of Phoenix is steadily growing as more Americans go in search of a warmer climate and lots of nature on the doorstep. We’ve met a lot of people on recent travels who told us they were looking for houses in Phoenix. Nearby Scottsdale is another popular place to visit, especially for golf trips.

Here’s what you can do in Phoenix:

  • Walk around the Desert Botanical Garden
  • Hike Camelback Mountain
  • Explore multiple parks around the city
  • Eat, drink, shop and golf in Scottsdale before partying in Tempe
  • Explore museums in downtown Phoenix

12. Sabino Canyon

Cactus and deset vegetation with rocky mountains and colorful clouds in Sabino Canyon
Colorful clouds at sunset in Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon Recreational Area is one of the most popular natural places to visit in southern Arizona. It’s located on the outskirts of Tucson at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and it’s part of Coronado National Forest.

Sabino Canyon is extremely popular with locals but not many tourists know about it, so we’re classing this stunning area as a hidden gem place to visit in Arizona. You’ll find hiking trails rated easy through hard, as well as lots of sharp and photogenic ravines leading to waterfalls after rain.

Here’s what you can do in Sabino Canyon:

13. Saguaro National Park

Close up of a Saguaro plant the flower and state symbol of Arizona
Close up of the famous Saguaro cactus

Saguaro National Park is split into two distinct regions; half to the east of Tucson and half to the west of Tucson. The giant saguaro is the largest species of cactus in America and it’s only found here in Saguaro National Park. It’s an iconic symbol of the US southwest and Arizona’s state flower.

You can hike a ton of trails between the two halves but the best thing to do in Saguaro is capture silhouetted photos of the giant cacti around sunrise or sunset when ambient light is soft and the sky is full of color.

Here’s what you can do in Saguaro:

14. Sedona

Hiker in Subway Cave Sedona during the day one of the most popular places to visit in Arizona
Kristen walking inside the awesome Subway Cave in Sedona

The small desert town of Sedona in central AZ is one of our personal favorite places in America for hiking and photography. It’s our top recommendation for your visit to Arizona because you’ll truly be spoiled for choice with so many fantastic things to do. What we love about Sedona is how inclusive it is for all ages and travel styles.

The way we view Sedona is that it’s like an adventure playground for adults. We spent more than a week hiking amazing red rock trails, driving thrilling off road Jeep trails, tasting top notch wine, visiting national monuments, exploring hidden caves and photographing amazing landscapes. As far as we’re concerned, Sedona is unmissable on any first time Arizona itinerary.

Here’s what you can do in Sedona:

READ: Unmissable things to do in Sedona

15. Sunset Crater National Monument

Cinder cone volcanic landscape with ponderosa pine forest
The Sunset Crater cinder cone on a clear day

Sunset Crater is a volcanic National Monument located just 18 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. An oval shaped cinder cone is all that remains from Arizona’s most recent volcanic eruption around a thousand years ago, and you can see inside the cone if you hike to O’Leary Peak lookout tower.

Sunset Crater is a great spot for the whole family to walk through the charred remains of a 1,000 year old lava flow. And once you gain elevation, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views over the nearby San Francisco Peaks. Try to visit at dawn or dusk for the best chance of spotting wildlife in the ponderosa pine forest encircling the base of the cinder cone.

Here’s what you can do in Sunset Crater:

16. Superstition Mountains

Cacti and brush in a barren landscape with towering rock formations
The oddly shaped Superstition Mountains

The Superstition Mountains is a volcanic range located just east of downtown Phoenix. It’s one of the most popular places to visit, hike and photograph in Arizona because it’s so easy to access from the most populated city in the state. And there’s a legend that the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine is hidden somewhere in Superstition Wilderness, so keep your eyes peeled!

You’ll find over 100 miles of excellent hiking trails ranging in difficulty from easy through challenging in the Superstition Mountains. Known locally as ” The Supes”, it’s a fantastic area for the whole family to explore with scenic drives, saguaro plants, hikes, famous photography spots, mystery and intrigue in abundance.

Here’s what you can do in the Superstition Mountains:

17. Tombstone

Wild West Tombstone Allen Street OK Corral
Authentic Wild West in Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone is a historic Wild West town located in southeastern Arizona, not far from the Mexican border. Allen Street is the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral between lawmen the Earps and a group of outlaws called the Cowboys.

Tombstone was at one time a hugely productive silver mining community in Arizona, and today it’s among the largest in tact and authentic Wild West towns remaining in the United States. Daily reenactments of the 30 second 1881 O.K. Corral shootout will keep history and western lovers entertained.

Here’s what you can do in Tombstone:

18. Tucson

Tucson Arizona lit up at night skyline photo
The Tucson skyline at night with Sentinel Peak in the background

Tucson is Arizona’s second largest city, and it’s a paradise for foodies and outdoor enthusiasts. The UNESCO City of Gastronomy showcases the best of Mexican and Native American culinary heritage, and nature can be found in all directions around Tucson with Saguaro National Park and Sabino Canyon on the doorstep.

Around Tucson, you can explore Colossal Cave, see the stars at Kitt Peak Observatory, hike around Mount Lemmon, explore Saguaro National Park or tour the Wild West movie sets in Old Tucson. It’s a fantastic place to visit with the family because there’s a ton to do and the food is great.

Here’s what you can do in Tucson:

19. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Spectacular landscape at The Wave in Arizona one of the best places to visit and top things to do in AZ
Photo we took during our hike to The Wave in Vermilion Cliffs

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic wonder sandwiched between Kanab UT and Page AZ. It’s home to some of the most spectacular formations we’ve seen so far in the US, including Buckskin Gulch slot canyon and the extraordinary North Coyote Buttes, which is also known as The Wave.

If you can win an elusive permit to the hike The Wave, you’ll be rewarded with access to one of the most magical landscapes on the planet. If not, you can still visit South Coyote Buttes, White Pocket or Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. Either way, the Vermilion Cliffs should be firmly on your Arizona itinerary.

Here’s what you can do in Vermilion Cliffs:

  • Hike to the insanely photogenic Wave at North Coyote Buttes
  • Explore the Southern Wave and White Pocket by 4WD or tour
  • Hike part of the longest slot canyon in the US inside Buckskin Gulch

READ: Essential guide to hiking The Wave

20. Walnut Canyon National Monument

Ledge trail with cliff dwellings and canyon walls
Cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon

Walnut Canyon is a popular US National Monument located just 10 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Sinagua Indians inhabited the 600-foot deep canyon carved by Walnut Creek. It’s made of Kaibab limestone and the Sinaguans used ingenious methods to create cliff dwellings for themselves.

Walnut Canyon is similar to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado but on a much smaller scale. It’s a wonderful place to get up close and follow in the footsteps of people who once lived here nearly a thousand years ago. Don’t miss the Island Trail hike so you can see the most intact dwellings.

Here’s what you can do in Walnut Canyon:

  • Hike the Rim Trail with your dog
  • Take the steps down Island Trail to see ancient dwellings up close
  • Photograph the cliff dwellings

Arizona Map

Click or touch the map above to activate. Zoom in and out, move around the map and find the locations for the top places to visit in Arizona that we’ve listed in this guide.

You can see that the icons are spread fairly evenly across the state of Arizona. Some are certainly a bit harder to reach, but you could quite easily plan a 10 day or 2 week Arizona road trip itinerary and cover most of the popular spots in one visit. Or you could pick out your favorites and include them with other spots in Utah and California.

The Morgan Conclusion

Sunset at Grand Canyon National Park Hopi Point shadows and light contrasting in the canyon
Approaching sunset at Hopi Point in Grand Canyon South Rim

Arizona is home to some our favorite hikes and photo spots in the US. We’re huge admirers of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, but we also really like Page and we’d love to explore the parks near both Phoenix and Tucson. We always recommend Arizona to our friends from the US and UK who want to see unique landscapes and hike amazing trails.

Here’s our top 5 things to do if you’re a family visiting Arizona with kids:

  1. Explore Saguaro National Park
  2. Walk around Tombstone
  3. Visit Grand Canyon National Park
  4. See the Hoover Dam
  5. Explore Petrified Forest National Park

And here’s our top 5 things to do in Arizona for couples:

  1. Hike into the Grand Canyon
  2. Explore Sedona
  3. Hike to Havasu Falls
  4. Eat out in Tucson
  5. Drink wine in Cottonwood

More US States

Best Of The US

Want more USA content? Head over to our USA travel guides to explore the best cities, national parks and road trips in America.

We hope this Arizona guide helps with planning your visit to the American southwest!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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