Home to a fantastic array of natural destinations, there are so many beautiful places to visit in Arizona. Arizona boasts 31 state parks, six national forests, three national parks, and four national monuments. Choosing the best places to visit in Arizona is a treat and a challenge, especially if you find yourself short on time.
It can be overwhelming if you’re in the planning stages of an Arizona itinerary and wondering where to go for the best natural scenery. From some of the best hiking in the US to incredible natural and historical monuments – you could easily spend an entire year exploring the Grand Canyon State and still only scratch the surface of Arizona’s natural wonders.
We’ve narrowed down some of the most beautiful places in Arizona to help you map out an incredible vacation itinerary.
If you wish to visit some of the most beautiful national parks in Arizona and Utah but don’t want to do it independently, it is possible to join an immersive multi-night, all-inclusive National Park tour such as the Best of Utah & Arizona National Parks Tour – 7 days Las Vegas to Las Vegas. You will visit the following national parks to see some of the best attractions and the hit the best hiking trails:
- Zion NP
- Bryce Canyon NP
- Antelope Canyon
- Monument Valley
- Grand Canyon NP
12 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world and one of the most popular places to visit in Arizona – Over six million visitors each year agree. One of the first national parks in America, Grand Canyon National Park is considered one of the most iconic and best national parks in the USA.
Without seeing it for yourself, there is no way to truly understand the canyon’s immense size. And while the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited parks in the US, it is still possible to find solitude and calm. Even for day visitors, there are an incredible array of Grand Canyon day hikes where you can retreat from the crowds.
If you’re not a hiker, there is plenty to do away from the hiking trails or the tourist routes. Enjoy camping beneath the stars, biking, or donkey riding. For two thrilling Grand Canyon experiences, try whitewater rafting down the Colorado River or a helicopter ride over the canyon for a bird’s eye view.
In addition to the natural beauty, the Grand Canyon National Park has other attractions, such as the incredible Grand Canyon Sky Walk, Grand Canyon IMAX theatre, historic Grand Canyon Railway, and the Desert View Watchtower.
Whatever you do, don’t miss a sunrise or sunset; its hands down one of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon National Park.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
One of the largest natural travertine bridges in the world sits in the 160-acre Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, tucked in the narrow canyon of Pine Creek.
The 183-foot-high Tonto Natural Bridge spans Pine Creek with a 400 feet long and 150 feet wide cave. The geological wonder features a trickling waterfall from the top of the natural bridge into Pine Creek, the final touch to the fairytale setting.
Prospector David Gowan discovered the bridge in 1877. He sheltered in the cave for three days after being chased by a group of Apaches. He eventually claimed squatter’s rights and settled his family in the small valley in 1898.
You have incredible views of Pine Creek from the top of the bridge and astonishing rock formations to explore inside the tunnel. There are picnic tables and a paved road on top of the bridge for those who like a more leisurely pace.
Under and around the bridge, there are several hiking trails. Most are short at under a mile but can be steep and rocky in places.
Some trails wind along Pine Creek to mossy waterfalls that feel entirely out of place in Arizona’s typical desert landscape. Others offer magical viewpoints. You can also see the bridge from four viewpoints in the parking lot.
Follow the Pine Creek Trail directly under the bridge, where you will find an inviting pond where Pine Creek pools. There is no swimming allowed there, but you can swim further up or downstream.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a sacred area that straddles the state lines of Arizona and Utah near the Four Corners area.
Described as one of the most photographed places on earth, Monument Vally is an iconic stretch of land characterized by towering sandstone rock formations sculpted over time. Some of the magnificent sandstone buttes stand as high as 1,000 feet above the valley floor.
Monument Valley has been a filming location for Western movies since the 30s – A favorite of director John Ford who made some of his best films in the valley. When talking about the spectacular and dramatic landscape, critic Keith Phipps said, “its five square miles have defined how decades of moviegoers imagine America’s West.”
The looping, 17-mile Valley Drive is often described as one of the most scenic drives in America. You can view the world-famous panorama of the Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte from the road or overlooks like John Ford’s Point.
Tip: Download the Monument Valley Self Guided Driving Tour to see the best of the valley and learn some interesting facts.
There are lots of fascinating tours – especially sunrise and sunset tours and tours by horseback, which offer incredibly unique experiences in the valley. See a complete list of available Monument Valley Tours.
Located in the heart of Glen Canyon is the 1,000 ft (305 m) deep, 270º horseshoe-shaped bend created by the Colorado River.
The main viewpoint of Horseshoe Bend is a social media darling, but there is so much more to see than the magnificent natural lookout.
The 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round-trip hike from Page to the famous overlook is an easy hike and accessible – it is along a hardened path, and there are shaded stops along the way.
Once you have been to the famous viewpoint, there is much more to do and explore. There are many hiking trails in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to choose from, rafting, and helicopter tours on clear days.
One of the most popular places to visit in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend, is still relatively off the beaten track. You can sit right on the canyon’s edge and admire the beauty of the unique horseshoe bend in the Colorado River. There are no tickets or fees (other than parking) and little in the way of infrastructure, which add to the natural appeal.
Horseshoe Bend is an excellent quick-stop addition to your itinerary if you’re already planning on visiting the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley.
Tour Tips: You can take a combined half-day Lower Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend Tour from Page in a luxury vehicle.
Enjoy the thrill of a Horseshoe Bend Air and Tower Butte Helicopter Landing. A 45-minute helicopter experience with views of Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, and Horseshoe Bend before landing on Tower Butte.
In Arizona, Hiking and photography seem to go hand in hand. It would be hard to find more photogenic natural attractions anywhere in the US. And one of the most sought-after locations for hikers and avid photographers is Antelope Canyon in the city of Page.
The stunning slot canyon located in the Navajo Nation Reserve is the creation of water erosion, which gives the canyon its smooth, flowing, sensual lines.
The tall red rock canyon walls, with tunnels of light spilling through the narrow slots, offer photographers a continually changing kaleidoscope of colors with the sun’s movement.
The canyon is in two sections – upper and lower. Water still floods the canyon, so it is only accessible with a licensed Navajo guide. Tours are approximately one hour.
The best time to visit is between 10 am and 1 Pm for the classic sun shot through the slots.
Red Rock State Park
Cementing northern Arizona’s status as Red Rock Country, Red Rock State Park has some of the best natural attractions in Sedona.
The glowing red sandstone canyon covers part of Oak Creek and is surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. The park offers endless mountains and canyons, including the famous Cathedral Rocks.
The 286-acre nature preserve has some of the most beautiful panoramic views of Sedona and an incredible array of hiking options for all abilities. You can even try a moonlight hike or experience one of Sedona’s strongest vortexes at Red Rock Crossing.
Tour Tip: Learn about Sedona’s unique and mysterious vortexes on a 2-hour Small-Group Vortex Jeep Tour.
- Visit the vortexes of Sedona
- Enjoy the views of Sedona’s surrounding red rocks
- Discover the region’s healing powers and mystical energies
- Learn about Sedona’s world-famous energy spots
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona is where you will find the quintessential desert landscape to rival them all. Home to the “Kings of the Sonoran Desert,” the giant saguaros cactus draw people from all over the world to see them in their native environment. Some prickly giants are over 200 years old, reaching as high as 50 feet.
As well as iconic giant cacti, the Saguaro National park offers a diverse landscape beyond the desert botanical garden, wildlife, hiking, and scenic driving routes.
The park is divided into two sections – East & West, straddling either side of the city of Tucson.
The most bio-diverse desert in Northern America, in the mountainous regions of the park, are pine and coniferous forests that create a striking canvas of green. In the eastern Rincon Mountain District, the Cactus Forest Loop Drive offers impressive views of the desert landscape.
Hike the Signal Hill Trail to see the petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people. If wildlife is your thing, be on the lookout for bobcats, coyotes, the pig-like javelina, and desert tortoise in the lower elevations. You might be lucky to see black bears and deer in the upper elevations. These are just some of the hundreds of species in the park.
Located in northern Arizona, stretching up into southern Utah, Lake Powell is a tranquil section of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Lake Powell is the ultimate outdoor playground with some of the most spectacular scenery. Nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline trace pristine blue waters against the red rock canyon. With perfect weather and warm water, it’s no wonder almost two million people choose to vacation there each year.
There is so much to do at Lake Powell, understandably, hiking and watersports are two of the most popular activities. You can rent a houseboat, have an incredible glamping experience at Under Canvas Lake Powell, or do a combined lodging and rafting package. There are lots of guided scenic boating tours, or you can rent a boat to explore on your own.
Petrified Forest National Park
An incredibly unique natural wonder of Arizona is the Petrified Forest National Park. Located in the Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona, the park covers 346 square miles (900 square kilometers) of semi-desert grassy plains as well as the highly colorful badlands of the Painted Desert.
Visitors come to see the large deposits of colorful petrified wood dating back more than 220 million years to the late Triassic period. The colored logs scattered about are unexpectedly beautiful and almost ethereal.
You will also find a collection of well-preserved ruins, petroglyphs, and fossils in the park.
The Rainbow Forest Museum has fascinating paleontology exhibits and is the access to many trail points. In the center of the park are the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock and the ruined village of Puerco Pueblo. To the north, the Painted Desert Inn. The original construction in the ’20s was of petrified wood. The current facade dates to the 1930s renovation.
The Painted Desert Inn is now a museum highlighting the building’s history, Route 66, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. There are also restored murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
For those willing to make the hike, Havasu Falls is one of Arizona’s most secluded and beautiful natural wonders.
Located within Havasupai tribal lands deep in the Grand Canyon, Hasavu falls are famous for the serene blue-green swimming holes beneath a stunning 100-foot cascade.
Havasupai does require some planning, and the hike in and out is challenging in places. But the reward is well worth the effort.
Reservations for permits to enter the Havasupai lands are essential and limited. You need to book well in advance to secure a permit. It is 8 miles to Supai village and a further 2 miles to the falls – you will need to be relatively fit and check any weather warning which might close the track. Day hikes are prohibited, so you will need to plan around camping or lodging in Supai village.
See the Official Havasupai Tribe Site for details on the campground, Lodge, or pack mule reservations.
Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Explore some of Arizona’s lesser-known natural wonders deep inside Navajo tribal lands. Learn about the Native American people who continue to inhabit this awe inspiring region. Canyon De Chelly National Monument is a striking canyon area of rock formations and archaeological sites in northeastern Arizona.
The monument’s main feature, other than magnificent sandstone cliffs surrounding a verdant canyon, is the towering Spider Rock Spire reaching nearly 800 feet.
The National Monument is dotted with prehistoric rock art and ancient cliff dwellings of the Anazaki and Puebloan people – the White House Ruins and Mummy Cave are notable remains of ancient Pueblo villages.
There are incredible hikes through the Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto, and Monument Canyon, with several scenic overlooks. Many of the trails will take you past some of the area’s best-preserved ruins. There is no fee to enter the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. You can take tours of the canyon with local tour guides. See NPS for information on tours.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
In Coconino County in northern Arizona, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a 293,689-acre natural treasure.
Home to “The Wave,” the breathtaking geologic formations of Vermilion Cliffs require a little planning and effort to visit. But, for an up close look at this unspoiled natural wonder – it’s worth the planning and the hike.
Bordered by Kaibab National Forest and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument protects the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. It is where you will find some of the most stunning and unusual geological formations in the US.
The Wave, a sandstone rock formation of U-shaped troughs on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, is a revered hiking and photography destination. The area is so remote and removed from humanity, it is considered one of the most exclusive outdoor destinations in the country. The hike can be challenging to reach these unique erosional sandscapes carved out over millions of years.
If you want to hike or camp in one of the country’s most unique and secluded wilderness destinations, you will require a permit. Permits are issued by way of a daily lottery system. You can get more details on visiting Vermillion Cliffs National Monument here.
Are you ready to explore Arizona’s natural wonders?