You know all about the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls and Sedona’s unique red rocks, but what about the things you didn’t know you could do in Arizona?
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Paddle Through an Emerald Cove (Nearby Hotels)
Discover a hidden oasis on the Colorado River by paddling the Black Canyon Water Trail, a 12-mile stretch that’s jam-packed with dramatic desert landscapes, narrow slot canyons, and a number of incredible hot springs. One of the most impressive spots of all is Emerald Cove. It features iridescent waters that are probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. If you aren’t a highly experienced kayaker, take a guided tour. You’ll not only feel more comfortable making the trip, but your expert guide will tell you all about the local geology and make sure you get to see all the most spectacular sights.
Sleep Underground at Grand Canyon Caverns (Prices & Photos)
Ever fantasized about sleeping in cave? Well, you can do just that when you visit Arizona. The Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs offers what it bills as the “largest, deepest, darkest, oldest, quietest motel room in the world,” a room in a cave that sits 220 feet below the ground, accessed by an elevator. The room is 200 feet by 400 feet and has a 70-foot-high ceiling, and the only sounds you’ll hear are the beat of your heart. The largest dry cavern in the United States, it’s so dark that there isn’t even a hint of natural light, though lighting is provided as it probably wouldn’t be all that fun stumbling around in the dark for too long. It also includes all the amenities you need, like beds and a living room, along with a library of old books and magazines, a working record player with records, a bathroom and more.
See 'Chocolate' Falls (Nearby Hotels)
Nicknamed “Chocolate Falls” as the muddy Little Colorado River makes the water look like churning chocolate, Grand Falls is located 30 miles east of Flagstaff and is even higher than famous Niagara Falls. As they falls are fed by snow melt and rain, there are only certain times of they year that they’re actually flowing, with March and April the best time to see them. Nearly 200 feet high, they known for the magnificent rainbows that are created in the spray of the falls when the sun shines through. Some say they look like the chocolate waterfall in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Getting there requires a half-mile hike, and you’ll need a hiking permit at it sits on Navajo land – it’s easy to procure by visiting navajonationsparks.org.
Stare at the Sun Through the World's Largest Solar Telescope (Nearby Hotels)
Set atop Kitt Peak, some 60 miles southwest of Tucson, the world’s largest instrument dedicated to studying the sun allows visitors to actually look at that great big burning ball in the sky without going blind. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope commands a spectacular view with its distinctive 110-foot-tall tower and 200-foot-long diagonal shaft. Unlike other solar telescopes, this one is sensitive enough to observe bright stars in the night. Sadly, due to a reorganization of the National Solar Observatory, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope is scheduled for decommissioning and will be open to visitors only until October 2017, so if you hope to peer through it plan to go soon.
Visit a Camel Farm (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The Camel Farm in Yuma is working farm that specializes in breeding Arabian camels and other exotic animals. You can cuddle up to and feed the one-humped camels as well as goats, miniature donkeys and sheep, and check out the emus, water buffaloes and giant tortoises too. It also hosts a very unique creature known as a zeedonk – a cross between a donkey and a zebra. A fun family-friendly, inexpensive attraction, great for kids and the kids-at-heart, it’s open from October through late May.
Stroll Through a Botanical Garden (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While it may sound strange to have a botanical garden in the desert, the reality is, it’s filled with life. Find out what it’s really like by taking a stroll through the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. It boasts 17,000 species of desert plants and a large research center. The Garden features over 50,000 accessioned plants throughout five thematic trails that illustrate topics like desert living, conservation, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert and desert wildflowers. A two-acre wildflower exhibit bursts with color in the springtime, with the peak blooming of flowers like desert lupine and Mexican poppies occurring in March and April.
See Genuine Dinosaur Tracks (Nearby Hotels)
This unofficial off-the-grid attraction on rocky land near US Highway 160 offers the chance to see genuine dinosaur tracks that were embedded in the rock surface. Formed in the early Jurassic period, about 202 to 200 million years ago, a number of different types of dinosaurs are represented by their tracks here, and all are carnivores. Based on the age of the rocks and the fossils of carnivorous dinosaurs in the area, it’s likely that Coelophysis kayentakatae and Dilophosaurus wetherilli made the tracks at this site. A Native American guide will take you on a mostly flat, easy hike that winds around several stone spires and past hundreds of tracks
Explore a Castle (Nearby Hotels)
This castle may not be the royal palace you were envisioning, but it’s no less fascinating. Montezuma Castle near Camp Verde in north central Arizona, is home to one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the country. It dates back to the 12th century, and is one of a number of ancient dwellings in this region, including the Walnut Canyon, Tonto, Wupatki and Tuzigoot national monument, though it’s arguably the most spectacular. Used by the Sinagua civilization, the five-story structure features 20 rooms and is built into a recess in a white limestone cliff, sitting about 70 feet above the ground, resembling an ancient high-rise apartment complex. When first re-discovered, the ruins were believed to be Aztec in origin, with European-Americans naming it after the Aztec emperor, but it actually predates the birth of Montezuma II by a century. The site also includes a visitor center and museum displaying a wide array of artifacts and relics like stone tools, bone needles, millstones and shell ornaments.