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It’s not a secret that Arizona has an abundance of diverse landscapes that are bursting with natural beauty. From the world-renown Grand Canyon to the rock formations in Monument Valley, Arizona is home to an impressive range of attractions that are easy to explore. With its remarkable variety of spectacular canyons, scenic rivers, vast deserts and towering mountains, visitors are spoiled with picturesque vistas worth finding on an outdoor adventure. Whether you want to spend a day hiking or soak in an awe-inspiring sunset, read on to discover some of Arizona’s greatest natural wonders.
Let’s face it, the Grand Canyon National Park is Arizona’s most popular natural wonders, if not in the entire United States. It garners all the attention for a good reason, as it boasts an incredible landscape that will simply take your breath away. Measuring an average width of 10 miles and a length of 277 river miles, the statistics of this wonder doesn’t prepare you for experiencing the canyon for the first time. Home to a series of trails and lookout points in the South and North Rim, the highlight here is capturing the variety of colors that paint the canyon walls at sunset. From orange to red and everything in between, this “grand” wonder is truly like no other.
Located in the city of Page, the Antelope Canyon lies within the Navajo Nation reserve boundary. A hotspot for amateur and professional photographers, this slot canyon is popular throughout the year. There are two parts to this attraction, the Upper and Lower. Only accessible if accompanied by a licensed Navajo guide, it’s worth the trek to capture some of the most impressive nature photos in the state. A narrow sandstone slot, once the sunlight hits the walls, the impression gives off a kaleidoscope of colors, from red to purple.
A major destination for serious hikers, Havasu Falls is near Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Cascading over 100 feet, the blue-green waterfalls are hidden in the Grand Canyon and require a bit of planning. A 10-mile hike each way, hikers are rewarded with the breathtaking views of the pools at the base of Havasu Falls, forked at the base so it appears that there are two falls. A picturesque point of interest with its serene bathing pools, the Havasupai Indians have inhabited the area and protect the natural resources of the environment.
Situated at the border of Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park offers visitors an impressive landscape of the American West. Here you’ll encounter jagged rock formations, dramatic buttes and scenic sand dunes. Filmed and photographed many times over the years, the bright and deep colors against the empty, sandy desert and isolate red meses have become an iconic landmark. There are a variety of ways to see this wonder, as visitors can do a self-drive tour through the 17-mile valley, or for photography enthusiasts, you can also book a fascinating guided photography tour.
Only a short drive from Page, Sedona, and Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend is a small wonder that is worth venturing off-course for. It’s only a 3/1.5 mile round trip hike out to the edge of this attraction, where visitors can stand at the edge of the impressive canyon and soak in panoramic views of the river. A perfect addition to a trip to Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend is only a few miles from the entrance of the National Park. One of the most photographed spots in the Southwest, those that are brave can look down 1,100 feet below to capture stunning views of the Colorado River, where at different times of the day visitors will see a drastically different view.
Petrified Forest National Park
Located in the northeastern part of Arizona, the Petrified Forest National Park is home to large pieces of petrified wood, a fascinating wonder with rich geographical history. Boasting some of the most impressive fossils ever found, the area was once a tropical region where experts have now discovered more than 150 different species of fossilized plants. Drive along the park’s road to find short interpretive trails and viewpoints that allow for close-up looks of these unique sights and explore the four main areas that include Blue Mesa, Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest and Rainbow Forest.
Red Rock State Park
Located in the picturesque Sedona area, Red Rock State Park is filled with glowing red rock formations. Home to the famous Cathedral Rocks, this 286-acre nature preserve offers panoramic views of Sedona’s other famous formations. Start your journey at the park’s visitor center to learn more about the area’s rich history before embarking on a guided nature walk or once-in-a-lifetime moonlight hike. Famous for its natural beauty, the park serves as a beautiful backdrop to the city and is a family-friendly attraction the entire family can enjoy. Varying in difficulty and length, visitors are spoiled for choice in hiking trail options, while various Junior Ranger programs cater to young children.
Glen Canyon National Recreational Area
A stunning landscape of blue water and desert landscapes, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline that wrap around Lake Powell. Visitors can navigate the area for days and never see the same horizon, as the area’s 1.2 million acres offer a variety of land and water-based recreation. Lake Powell is one the largest man-made lakes in the United States and a premier destination for boating enthusiasts, while the Glen Canyon Dam is one of the highest dams in the country. Swimming, camping and fishing are other popular activities in the area, while a scenic drive is a memorable adventure.
The world’s largest stalactite formation, Kartchner Caverns is a massive limestone cave that is situated in the southern area of Arizona, just a short drive from Tuscon. Boasting an array of outstanding features, this wonder is perfect for adventurers of all ages, as even kids will be fascinated by the remarkable minerals and formations and the mysteries of the caves. Discovered in 1974, visitors can go underground and explore the living cave and marvel at the tallest natural column formation in Arizona on a guided tour. Learn about the fragile eco-system and bat population, with interactive exhibits illustrating the cave’s formation.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Home to spectacular cliff dwellings, the Canyon de Chelly National Monument is found on the base of steep-sided canyons and sheer sandstone walls that rise up to 1,000 feet. Spider Rock is the main canyon and a striking rock formation, while the area is home to some of the best-known cliff dwellings in remote locations, which are said to be occupied from 350 AD to 1300. The area has several scenic outlooks and well-preserved Anasazi ruins, giving visitors great insight into the life of the Navajo.
Lava River Cave
Located in the Coconino National Forest, the Lava River Cave is a sight to behold. Discovered in 1915 by a lumberman, this natural wonder is home to the longest cave in Arizona. An educational experience for those interested in biology and geology, visitors can learn in-depth knowledge about the area’s rich history and how it evolved. Perfect for adventurous travelers, since the attraction doesn’t have a front door, visitors will have to climb down a deep hole to even access the area, where they’ll be engulfed in the cave’s mesmerizing features.
An impressive site to say the least, the Meteor Crater is the result of a collision between an asteroid travelling 26,000 miles per hour over 50,000 years ago. The world’s best-preserved meteorite impact site in the world, this fascinating attraction is 550 feet deep, where visitors can hike the trail around the rim on a guided tour or capture unique views of the distant rock walls from one of the telescope’s offered on site. In addition to the actual crater site, visitors will find observation trails, a movie theater and a gift shop, along with a display of the largest surviving fragment weighing at 300,000 tons.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
A sandstone rock formation located near the Arizona and Utah border, the Wave at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes. Well-known by hikers and photography enthusiasts, this colorful and unique wonder requires a challenging hike to reach it. Consisting of intersecting U-shaped troughs that have eroded from the Navajo Sandstone of the Jurassic age, the area boasts four trailheads to explore. With a bit of pre-planning, visitors can soak in the mesmerizing views of the erosional forms and sandscapes.