Overlooked Tourist Attractions in Arizona, USA

By wasatch | Jul 14, 2021
North America > United States > Arizona

Given the paucity of AZ Tips on Triptipedia and other travel sites outside of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, I suspect that Arizona's many tourist attractions are usually overlooked, possibly because Phoenix, the ugliest city in the developed world, is the main gateway to AZ... It is understandable that being forced to see Phoenix on a trip to the Grand Canyon leaves visitor with the impression that suffering through AZ to the Grand Canyon is the only reason to visit AZ. Not so. Utah and California are the most scenic USA states. Next comes AZ, barely beating out CO and AL.

Travel data indicates that foreign visitors to the USA like Indian Reservation. There are more than a dozen in AZ, including most of the vast Navajo Reservation (much larger than Austria).

Arizona Geography

Like Gaul, Arizona has three parts. Roughly, the northern third of the state is located on the Colorado Plateau, 5,000 to 8,000 ft above sea level. The south half is desert. Phoenix' altitude is 1,080 ft. More than 1,000 ft lower than the bottom of the Grand Canyon (2.600 ft. ). Yuma, on the CA border, is 140 ft above sea level.

The third notable feature of AZ's geography is the vast, scenic Mogollon Rim (say muggy own), a broken shear cliff running all the way across the state from east to west that separates the Colorado Plateau in the north from the desert south.

Again roughly, the temperature changes by 3 degrees F (1 degree C) for every 1,000 ft change in altitude. These dramatic differences in temperature make the state a rather unique vacation destination because there is not high or low tourist season for AZ. Summer is low season for the south where winter is high season, and its reversed in the north. AZ's weather also makes AZ a year round tourist delight-- very little rain (or snow)-- we were in Phoenix one day when Phoenix got half a year''s worth of rain in three hours. That was unusual for there was minor street flooding because there are no storm drains on Phoenix' streets because it almost never rains enough to need them. I was discussing the weather with a longtime AZ resident who said that when he moved to southern AZ in the early 1950s, the average humidity in Phoenix was 2%. When we talked in the mid 1970s, he said it was up to 10% because of all the new residents watering their lawns.

Small mountain ranges break up the plateau and the desert all over the state.

National Parks and Monuments

In some other Tip I explained why National Parks and National l Monuments are legally different but, for the tourist, the same thing. There are 29 National Parks and National Monuments in AZ, ranging across canyons, volcanoes, cliff dwellings, unique cactus, petrified wood, and Indian Reservations.

The Top Sights

I don't need to mention the Grand Canyon, but just south east of the Grad Canyon is a remarkably collection of interesting sights-- Volcanoes (Sunset Crater area and the San Francisco Mtns. ); the Great Meteor Crater; the Painted Desert; the Navajo Indian Reservation; Walnut Canyon, a fine collection of Cliff Dwellings in a lush scenic setting.

Marble Canyon

The Colorado River descends from Colorado's Rocky Mtns. national park, flows through a broad valley to the Utah border where it enters UT and a continuous canyon that extends almost to California. Various- prats of this long canyon have different Names, Canyonlands national park, Lake Powell (Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area, Marble Canyon, and finally, the Grand Canyon, but in reality, this is all one really big canyon. Although we have ever done it, I would estimate that it would take a bout 2 days of driving without any sight seeing stops to traverse this canyon. There are only two places were the bottom of the canyon (river level) can be reached by road-- just north of Moab, UT, and at Lee's Ferry, AZ, in Marble Canyon.

Oak Creek Canyon

Most travel web sites, guide books, etc seem to call this Sedona, AZ, because that is the tourist trap nearby town where everybody finds expensive lodging near Oak Creek Canyon. Located near the top of the Mogollon Rim on the Colorado Plateau at an altitude of 4, 500 feet above sea level, Sedona is in the Colorado Plateau's spectacular red rock country, Roughly once again, the rock is red because it rusted. Oak Creek Canyon is most scenic of the scenic places near Sedona, but it is in the fall, where the fall foliage colors come out that Oak Creek Canyon is at its best. Seeing this is worth a trip from anywhere.


Far and away, the top tourist sight in AZ's southern desert is the desert in bloom. And again, roughly mid February is when the cactus flower. Seeing the desert in bloom takes careful planning, but it is worth it. Aside from the Desert in Bloom, there extensive interesting places to see concentrations of many types of Cactus.

American Indians

There are a number of Indian Reservations in AZ, including some of the most famous tribes of the Wild West-the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, and Papago.

The Road from Phoenix to Las Vegas

The obvious route between Phoenix and Las Vegas is a surprisingly attractive drive even though there are no major sights along the way. There are so many good enough things to see along the way that it adds up to a solid road trip.


A major silver, gold, and copper mining center in the early 20th C, most of Jerome's population moved away in the 1950s when the mines closed, leaving behind enough people to operate full tourist facilities and a living museum of a well preserved western town as it was at the turn of the 20th C.

The Southeast

The southeast corner of AZ may be the least visited of the USA's major tourist areas, Home to the famous Apache Indian Chief, Geronimo, this corner of AZ was also home to some of the most infamous locations in the world West-- Tombstone, home of the Gunfight at the OK Coral, the hunt for Geronimo, Geronimo's last stand, the mining center Bisbee, and there are at least 8 ghost towns near Tombstone.


The Navajo, Hopi, and Papago American Indian tribes produce some remarkable hand crafts that make great souvenirs. The Navajo produce pottery, jewelry featuring silver and turquoises, and hand woven wool rugs. The Hopi do jewelry in striking geometric designs of colored natural stones, such as coral, turquoises, and Mother of Pearl. The Papago were and are basket weavers. We have a 50 year old Papago basket that still looks brand new.

Hand woven Navajo Rug

Hand woven Navajo Rug

Hopi  inlaid coral and Mother of Pearl

Hopi inlaid coral and Mother of Pearl

Hopi  inlaid  on silver

Hopi inlaid on silver



North America Off the beaten path Things to do United States Arizona Geography

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Written by wasatch
1st international trip: 1965. ~57 EU vacations. Visited 6 continets. Extensive USA travel. You can email me at kb1942@yahoo.com

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