Arizona Things to Do Tips by richiecdisc
Arizona Things to Do: 564 reviews and 1,085 photos
who can deny the sheer beauty of the Mittens
Monument Valley may conjure visions of John Wayne and the Wild West but this is Navajo country. It is not a National Park as some would have it but a full fledged Tribal Park. While it is true that many a spaghetti western was filmed here and the scenic bluffs that dot the otherwise bleak horizon are about as American as apple pie, Native Americans have held the place sacred long before John Ford emblazoned it on celluloid. Would it be run better as a National Park? Probably. Would they be building a big hotel visible from its famous Mittens bluffs? Probably not. For better or worse, this is one park you will experience in all its Native glory. Its beauty shines through despite what feels like mismanagement. You will somehow feel you are no longer in the good old USA. That's okay, you're not. You're in Navajo country.
Directions: Monument Vally Tribal Park is in Arizona, but right up against the Utah border in the far north of the state. You can visit if from Utah at their state park with the same name. It's about five hours north of Phoenix.
stunning Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place of great contrasts and showcases the good and bad of the National Park system. It is a valiant attempt to maintain some connection with the natural affiliation Native Americans of the area have for this land so sacred to them. Taken for its sheer beauty, there are few places in all the southwest that combine so many elements of nature in such an awe inspiring harmonious way. A deep gorge of sheer red rock cascades down into a surprisingly verdant lush greenness. Even with no hieroglyphics or cliff dwelling ruins, this would be a special place. But these remnants of its Native American past are very much on display and that is where the chasm in how the park is being run takes its origin.
Most National Parks have some Native American history. Some of them reject their past and thrive as tourist attractions sans the baggage of a past they would like to forget. Others are trying to embrace the past but still shun the local population who feel cheated by their exclusion. Then you have Canyon de Chelly. It is very much part of the National Park system but staffed almost entirely by Native Americans who quite naturally live in and around the park. It has a different feel than the other National Parks; it's a bit more stark, but that is understandable when you look at the bleakness that surrounds it. It feels sad and with all the beauty in the canyon itself, an odd contrast. It can only be hoped that in time, the local Native American population can better harness what they have to not only take advantage of it but to welcome their fellow Americans in a way that they do not feel foreign in what too has become their country.
Directions: Northeastern corner of the state, about five or six hours from Phoenix.
no, not just a mirage
It is not hard to imagine the colorfully hued rock formations of Utah being submerged under a sea of blue. They would perhaps fit better there than sitting incongruously on the planet's exterior. Capitol Reef National Park's name comes from its hallmark feature, the Waterpocket Fold. This 100 mile unbroken buckling of the Earth's surface was called a reef by early settlers referring to its impenetrability. Yet, the least famous and visited of Utah's National Parks is much more than this unusual wrinkle on the planet's crust; it is valley full of life with a river flowing through it. The Fremont River sustained the Navajo from whom the sandstone forming the park's colorful features takes its name and Mormon's who forged a land of fruit and plenty in an otherwise unlikely place.
The park's lack of visitors is one of its great pleasures, with one of the more developed but least used hiking networks among Utah parks. Combine this with surreal scenic drives as well as well-preserved remnants of early Mormon settler life and one can easily be wooed by an idyllic pastoral quality, where fruit orchards and rainbow rocks mix effortlessly in a place the Navajo so eloquently called The Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.
Directions: Located right off scenic route 89 in the north of the state, heading for the Utah border. It's five hours from Phoenix but we visited this area via Utah later in the trip.
is anyone ever disappointed at the first glimpse?
Immense, not only in its vast size, but also in its place in the psyche of Americans by citizenship and those who travel here from afar by choice, the Grand Canyon is the icon of the American National Park system. Even with such hype, few are disappointed by their first gander of its grandeur on broaching the canyon's rim. It is that rare time that one can precisely imagine how our predecessors on the planet felt on first seeing it. It's likely exactly as we do now. In complete and utter awe. It would be a losing conjecture to argue that Native Americans have not held this special place sacred long before the white man laid eyes on it. But by the same token, even as these rightful inhabitants gain more control over their native lands in general, the Grand Canyon is unlikely to ever be taken from the realm of the masses. It is just too big a part of what the United States stands for when in control by leaders who truly understand its doctrines. Protection of those things special take precedence over gain in the monetary, and needless to say short run. The Grand Canyon is one thing we must all learn to share. Its preservation is our salvation.
One of the most developed in the National Park System, the Grand Canyon is accessible from every angle imaginable. There are scenic drives along the rim with many pullouts featuring explanatory signs.
The new Visitor Center is something out of Disney World, as big it seems as the canyon itself. You even have to visit by shuttle bus or a fair walk from the parking area. You can hike along the rim for a flat and scenic walk or hike to varying degrees into the canyon. Full amenity camping is offered on the rim and back country campsites at various spots on the way into and at the bottom of the canyon. You can either walk or ride a mule to these. Rafting is also popular on the Colorado River. This may all add up to a very crowded place during the main season but there's no denying that you name it, the Grand Canyon has it.
Directions: In the north central part of the state, about three to four hours north of Phoenix.
the Sonoran Desert at its best
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument may lie geographically in the United States but it becomes readily apparent that borders are indeed quite arbitrary once within its confines. This is substantiated by the fact that the rare organ pipe cactus from which it derives its name is found only here and south of the border in the real Mexico. Though very impressive, the rare cacti is not the only draw of this beautiful slice of the Sonoran Desert. Despite its scenic attributes, the Monument was formed for its extensive biodiversity as well as its cultural importance to Native Americans and settlers who mined and ranchers the area. Scenic drives on gravel roads and hikes allow visitors to catch a glimpse of what is now primarily designated a wilderness area in hopes of stemming the tide of man's overuse. You might not need a passport to enter, but if you walk out into the hills you'll walk perhaps not into another country, but a different time and world awaits.
Directions: On the Mexican border, about five hours south of Phoenix.
gorgeous red rock is Sedona's real draw
Sedona is the kind of town I love to hate but with all that gorgeous red rock surrounding it, it's hard to hold a grudge just because it's the playground of people who want a pedicure, massage, and carb-less salad after a day of hiking. There are tons of trails as long as you don't mind paying $5 to park though a year pass for $20 seems more reasonable. Sadly, they do not advertise that your America the Beautiful Pass that gets you into all National Parks is also good for parking here. This would have surely made me like the place better. There are lots of spas, lots of restaurants, and lots of shopping. Actually, for the average person who kind of likes the outdoors, I guess it rocks, no pun intended. But for us, it was just a place to stop on the way from Saguaro to the Grand Canyon. We were heading to Utah too and we figured here would be tons of red rocks up there and we knew our pass was good for there! Oh, and they have a brewery and I'm a sucker for local beer even if it's served in a fancy goblet. ;)
Directions: Two hours north of Phoenix, about half-way to the Grand Canyon.
Named after the most fierce branch of the Apache tribe, Chiricahua National Monument's signature pinnacles are a fitting reminder of their strong and proud namesakes who once roamed this for them sacred land. Physical beauty in nature instills spiritual feelings in men of all creeds and it's easy to see why the Chiricahua would have been drawn to these powerful, foreboding rock pillars. It was also an obvious choice in which to try and escape their capture by white settlers intent on colonizing the surroundings, with its maze like quality and high points perfect for spotting intruders from a great distance. But colonized it was and with the surrender by Geronimo, it was only a matter of time before the new immigrants forged their way of life and left their imprint. In fact, the National Monument has little to say about its Native American past and dwells more on Swedish settlers and rock spire formation. In time, even if this does not become a full fledged “Indian park,” it is likely more of its illustrious past will be better documented as well it should be. Even without such official validation it is nearly impossible to be here without feeling the spiritual presence of the Chiricahua. Sacred it remains.
Directions: Southeast corner of the state, about four hours from Phoenix.
the place to go to see Saguaros
Saguaro National Park might not be one of the most famous in the National Park system but the image of the Saguaro is perhaps the defining one of the American Southwest. The iconic cacti is symbolic of the Wild Wild West and seeing them while motoring down the wide open highways is certainly one of the great joys of driving in the west of the United States. While the park might lack fame, it has an abundance of their namesake cacti in a scenic mountainside setting. Couple this with a great arid climate, too many days of sunshine to mention, and a beautiful extensive Visitor Center, and you have an easy access park well worth exploring. The huge cacti might be the symbol of the west but you can't find them just anywhere. If you want to see them in profusion, this is the place to do it.
Directions: In the southeastern part of the state, about two hours from Phoenix.
More Reviews (14)
- See All The Wave
- on being self-contained
- hiking & backpacking are great sports!
- camped EVERY night in Arizona and loved...
richiecdisc's Related Pages
Arizona Travel Guide
Member Travel Pages
- "Beautiful, Historic Arizona"
- "WALK IN BEAUTY"
- "Jumping Around Our Very Own State - ARIZONA!"
- "Arizona, breathtaking scenery"
- "Jumping Thelma and Louise in Arizona!!!"
- "Raising Arizona to New Heights"
- See All...
- Things to Do in Arizona
- Hotels in Arizona
- Transportation in Arizona
- Nightlife in Arizona
- Restaurants in Arizona
- Shopping in Arizona
- Warnings and Dangers in Arizona
- See All...
Explore the World
- Fiesta Island Hotels
- Byron Bay Hotels
- Port-of-Spain Hotels
- Oak Cliff Hotels
- Giardini Naxos
Badges & Stats in Arizona
- 118 Reviews
- 158 Photos
- 0 Forum posts
- 6 Cities
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (115)
Have you been to Arizona?Share Your Travels
Latest Activity in Arizona
Photos in ArizonaSee All Photos (158)
Top 10 Pages
- Top 5 Page for this destination United States of America Intro, 125 reviews, 127 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Cartagena Intro, 50 reviews, 143 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Galápagos Islands Intro, 54 reviews, 125 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Yosemite National Park Intro, 53 reviews, 103 photos
- San Francisco Intro, 58 reviews, 95 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Grand Teton National Park Intro, 41 reviews, 112 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Bavaria Intro, 73 reviews, 74 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Glacier National Park Intro, 47 reviews, 96 photos
- Dresden Intro, 53 reviews, 87 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Olympic National Park Intro, 44 reviews, 89 photos
Top Arizona hotels
- Sedona Hotels
- 865 Reviews - 2017 Photos
- Scottsdale Hotels
- 254 Reviews - 597 Photos
- Phoenix Hotels
- 744 Reviews - 1533 Photos
- Tucson Hotels
- 953 Reviews - 2189 Photos
- Flagstaff Hotels
- 394 Reviews - 769 Photos
- Grand Canyon Hotels
- 945 Reviews - 3128 Photos
- Kayenta Hotels
- 14 Reviews - 41 Photos
- Winslow Hotels
- 34 Reviews - 145 Photos
- Tempe Hotels
- 96 Reviews - 216 Photos
- Yuma Hotels
- 194 Reviews - 428 Photos
- Holbrook Hotels
- 46 Reviews - 177 Photos
- Payson Hotels
- 63 Reviews - 180 Photos
- Prescott Hotels
- 74 Reviews - 171 Photos
- Lake Havasu City Hotels
- 95 Reviews - 208 Photos
- Oro Valley Hotels
- 13 Reviews - 47 Photos