Explore Arizona National Parks

Arizona National Parks Guide

Arizona, the desert state of USA is world-famous for the awesome Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Nestled in the southwestern part of the USA, Arizona has a predominantly desert climate.

Stunning landscapes and world-famous locales are part of Northern Arizona. Grand Canyon, Red Rocks of Sedona, Monument Valley and Lake Powell are the must-see destinations here. Additionally, the flavor of Native American cultures pervades all around and their, history, culture and artworks are bound to make the visit truly memorable. North-Central Arizona is a different slice altogether. With cooler temperatures gifted by the pine forests, mountain ranges, and scores of lakes, visitors who dread the scorching sun are perfectly cared for. Summertime is right for rodeos, while in the winters the White Mountains offer a snowy retreat.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the earth’s true natural wonders. No photograph, no set of statistics, can prepare you for such vastness. At more than one mile deep, it is an inconceivable abyss; varying between four and eighteen miles wide, it’s an endless expanse of bewildering shapes and colors, desert brightness and shadows.

grand canyon

The overlooks along the rim all offer views that shift and change unceasingly from dawn to sunset. You can hike down into the depths on foot or by mule, hover above in a helicopter or raft through the whitewater rapids of the river itself; you can spend a night at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor, or swim in the waterfalls of the idyllic Havasupai Reservation. And yet that distance always remains – the Grand Canyon stands apart.

While it may look forbidding, the Grand Canyon is not a dead place. All sorts of desert wildlife survive here – sheep, rabbits, eagles, vultures, spiders, scorpions and snakes. Layer upon layer of different rocks reveals their own fossil records. Yet how the canyon was formed still remains a mystery. All that is known is that the fantastic limestone and sandstone formations are the result of erosion by wind and extreme cycles of heat and cold.

Most tourists visit the South Rim of the Canyon. Visits to the South Rim start at the Mather Point, from where the views to the east, in particular, are stupendous. If you walk west for ten minutes, you come to Yavapai Point. From here, you can see two separate segments of Colorado. It is hard to imagine a more perfect position than these two points from which to watch the sunrise over the canyon.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon is a spectacular gorge where thick cottonwoods and lovely willows offer shade and greenery in an astonishing setting of the lofty red sandstone cliffs under the beautiful cerulean sky. The turquoise waters in this paradisiacal gorge surge into magnificent travertine pools, enhancing its beauty. Havasu Canyon is a side branch of the panoramic Grand Canyon and has been occupied by the Havasupai tribe for the last 800 years. The word Havasupai refers to the people of the blue-green waters. This tribe has merely 600 people and is the smallest Indian Nation in America. At present, these people cultivate crops and have developed booming tourist industry.

havasu canyon

The major attraction in the Havasu Canyon is the Cataract Creek that meanders across the high plains for more than 50 miles (80.4 km) before dropping down into the steep-sided Cataract Canyon. The creek ascends on the Bill Williams Mountain and flows across the Coconino Plateau. Melting snow, percolating water, and seasonal rainfall are drained by this creek. As it reaches the Havasu Springs, an underground river gushes forth and forms the Havasu Creek. This magnificent blue-green creek flows at a rate of 28,000 gallons per minute. It is characterized by the limestone that lines the river bed. The waters of the Havasu Creek finally plunge over Mooney Falls, Navajo Falls, and Havasu Falls, making their way to the Colorado River.

Several controversial wall drawings of several ibex and a dinosaur have been found on the red sandstone cliffs. The cliff dwellings, ancient fortress, and several wall paintings are situated in other areas of the Havasupai Reservation. Havasu Canyon is very popular among the hikers. Hiking in the area requires prior approval from the Havasupai Tourist Enterprise. Facilities like a lodge, a village cafe, a post office, a general store, and campgrounds are made available for the tourists. Besides, horses are also available for rent to carry riders or packs. Alcohol, pets, drugs, and weapons are not allowed in the canyon.

The trail that leads to the canyon has sparse vegetation and rocky soil at the trailhead. In the first mile, the trail descends steeply by a series of switchbacks into the Hualapai Canyon. For the next 1 ½ mile,  it drops gradually to the bottom of the Canyon. The Canyon abounds in cottonwoods, willows, box elders, hackberry trees and wild grapevines. The climate on the Havasu Canyon Floor as well as on its rim is moderate from April to May and from September to November. Owing to moderate temperature and less crowd, these months are the best for a visit to the magnificent Havasu Canyon.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park is one of America’s most interesting national parks. It contains America’s largest deposits of petrified wood, along with a treasure trove of more than 500 archaeological sites. The park is also known for the undulating expanse of solidified sand dunes, which at different times of the day take on different colors.

petrified forest

The name of the park is due to the rich collection of petrified wood found mainly in the south section of the park. The park preserves a fossilized prehistoric forest of gigantic trees, which has been unearthed by erosion. The original cells of the wood have been replaced by multicolored crystals of quartz. Cross-sections, cut through with diamond saws and polished, look stunning, and can be seen in the two visitor centers of the park. These centers are located thirty miles apart at the north and south entrances.

Petrified Forest has plant and animal fossils going back over 200 million years. However, since the trees are segmented, crumbling and very dark, they might not appear as exciting as you would expect. Here and there rough concrete walkways have been laid over the terrain – and often over the tree trunks themselves. The Long Logs Walk near the southern entrance is probably the best section in this respect.

The northern section of the national park – site off the main visitor center and entrance station, is renowned for views of the Painted Desert, a vast expanse of sand dunes. The park appears bluish shades of gray and reddish shades of brown at different times of the day.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, previously Saguaro National Monument, contains a wide variety of desert plants, and the famous saguaro cactus, a symbol of the American Southwest. Flanking Tucson to either side, the two sections of the park offer visitors a rare and enthralling opportunity to stroll through strange desert forests of monumental saguaro cactuses.

saguaros

Each saguaro can grow up to 50 feet tall and weigh up to 8 tons, but it takes around 150 years to do so. Whatever you may have seen in the movies, you can drive a long way in Arizona without seeing one; saguaro are unique to the Sonora Desert, and the thrill of encountering a thousand at once is immensely satisfying. Both segments of the park can be seen on short trips from the city; there is no lodging, or even permanent campground, in either segment.

The Tucson Mountain District, which stretches north from the Desert Museum around fifteen miles west of downtown Tucson, on the far side of the mountains, charges no admission fee. Beyond the visitor center, the nine-mile Bajada Loop Drive loops through a wonderland of weird saguaro, offering many short hiking trails and photo opportunities. Signal Hill is especially worth mentioning, for its rock carvings and superb sunset views.

Short trails such as the Desert Ecology Trail lead off the eight-mile Cactus Forest Drive, but many visitors come specifically to hike far from the road, up into the mountains. A popular way to enjoy the park is to bike around one of the scenic loop drives.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

It is amazing to witness living near the fire. Although the eruptions from the volcano have changed the lives of people in the area it does have its attraction. It is located in the north of Flagstaff and was developed after the eruptions since 1040. You can dramatically witness here some beautiful signs of life that are not commonly expected in such areas. Here you will get some geological moves, wildflowers of their own kind, animals and trees. Moreover, if you are lucky enough then you might witness an eruption there which is very rare for now.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in southern Arizona and shares its border with Sonora. The Monument showcases the ultimate wildlife and landscape pieces from the Sonoran desert that is attractive enough for many of the activities there. You can enjoy camping, hiking, and soak the beauty of the southwest. It is simply amazing to have a brief but deep look into the structure and environment of a specific place at the monument.

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