From rust-red cliffs, towering rock formations and massive living caves to huge lakes, ancient pueblos, and historic missions, Arizona is full of spectacular parks and monuments. Some, like the Grand Canyon, are world-known, while others are hidden gems typically enjoyed by locals only. Arizona parks protect its natural wonders, native cultures, spectacular geological forms, rare plants, and thousands of years of history, and each is worthy of a visit, whether you are having a scenic drive or an adrenaline-pumping hike.
1.Alamo Lake State Park
Snuggled deep in the Bill Williams River Valley, away from human activities and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Alamo Lake State Park is a perfect spot to spend some time enjoying outdoor activities, superb bass fishing, and spectacular nature. The beautiful crystal clear lake is surrounded by towering mountains covered with brush, wildflowers and cacti. In the spring, rains bring to life fields of colorful wild flowers. The lush lake environment attracts a range of wildlife such as waterfowl, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, wild burros, and bold or golden eagles. As the park is free of city lights, stargazers can enjoy a spectacular night sky, while anglers consider Alamo Lake State Park as one of the best places in Arizona to fish for bass.
Alamo Rd, Wenden, AZ 85357, Phone: 928-669-2088
2.Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Arizona's largest and oldest botanical garden. Its 323 acres are covered with plants from the world’s deserts – from Australia, southern Africa, North and South America, and other arid regions. Ancient trees, fascinating cacti, rugged mountain cliffs, and lush riverside forest all combine into breathtaking landscape. The park is located in Sonoran Desert about an hour drive from Phoenix, and it includes many natural habitats that support 3900 different plant species such as a hidden canyon, a desert lake, specialty gardens, and others. There are three miles of trails and paths that wind through this magnificent environment, making it ideal for nature photographers, hikers, bikers and nature lovers. The Arboretum was founded in the 1920s by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson and is one of his legacies.
37615 E US Highway #60, Superior, AZ 85173
3.Buckskin Mountain State Park
Located near Parker, Arizona, Buckskin Mountain State Park stretches along the shoreline of the Colorado River in the shadow of the Buckskin Mountains. This picturesque park is great for a scenic camping, mountain hikes, a desert escape, and exciting water adventure. The park has a good campground, camping with river views, a swimming beach, miles of hiking trails, a boat ramp, a picnic area with tables and benches, volleyball and basketball courts, a restaurant, a playground, a park store and even an arcade. The River Island, about one mile north, is part of the park and is ideal for tent camping. In the summer, both Buckskin and River Island are popular destinations for boating, swimming, jet skiing, and camping. In the winter, the mild climate allows visitors to enjoy fishing, camping, and hiking.
5476 N Highway 95, Parker, AZ, Phone: 85-344-8776
4.Canyon de Chelly National Monument
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Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a vast 83,840-acre park in northeastern Arizona, located on Navajo tribal lands. The park’s most outstanding features are an 800-foot tall Spider Rock spire and massive sandstone cliffs that surround a lush canyon. The area has been inhabited by several Native American peoples for thousands of years and is full of prehistoric rock art. There are remains of ancient Pueblo villages called today White House Ruins and Mummy Cave. Almost vertical sandstone walls are up to 1,000 feet tall. There are several scenic overlooks and a number of well-preserved Anasazi ruins. The area offers fascinating insight into the life of the modern Navajo, who still live on the valley floor.
Highway 191, Chinle, AZ 86503
5.Catalina State Park
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Catalina State Park is located at the foothills of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains on the outskirts of the Tucson metropolitan area. A haven for desert plants, the park is home to almost 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500-acre park consists of canyons, foothills, and streams perfect for picnicking, camping, and bird watching. There are more than 150 species of birds in the park. The park also offers miles of trails for horseback riding, birding, hiking, and biking. The trails wind through the Catalina State Park and continue into the Coronado National Forest as they get to the elevations of almost 3,000 feet.
11570 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85737
6.Chiricahua National Monument
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Chiricahua National Monument is one of the more remote Southeast Arizona parks. The 11,985-acre site was called “the land of standing up rocks” by the Chiricahua Apaches. The park is famous for its strangely shaped stone rock spires that delight photographers and hikers who pass by. These rock pinnacles that can be found at the higher regions of the park are the results of a massive volcanic eruption that happened about 25 million years ago. The park also preserves several historically and culturally significant sites. The most accessible rock formations are located in canyons, especially in Echo Canyon. The park can be explored using the eight-mile long paved scenic drive and 17 miles of hiking trails.
E Bonita Canyon Rd, Willcox, AZ 85643, Phone: 520-824-3560
7.Dead Horse Ranch State Park
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Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located on the Verde River in an area called the Verde River Greenway at the elevation of about 3,300 feet. The 423-acre park has 10 miles of hiking trails, 150 campgrounds, several picnic areas, and 23 group camping sites. There is trailhead access to the Dead Horse Trail System, which runs through the nearby Coconino National Forest. The ranch was named by its original owners, the Ireys family, who sold it to the state of Arizona to be converted into a state park. The park is famous among bird watchers and nature enthusiasts for its annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. The "Birdy Verde," as it is popularly called, is a four-day bird-watching event held in April. During the festival, bird-watching trips are often led by nationally recognized experts. Another popular event held at Dead Horse Ranch State Park is Verde River Day, which celebrates the protection of the riparian habitat of the Verde River.
675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
8.Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest at an elevation of 6,300 feet next to a beautiful 150-acre lake. The visitors can camp by the lake among the tall pines and hike along the meandering trail by the lake. Fool Hollow is a very popular area for year-round fishing, camping, boating, picnicking, and wildlife observation. The lake is home to large and small-mouth bass, brown trout, green sunfish, walleye, black crappie, and channel catfish. Arizona Game & Fish regularly stocks the lake with catchable-sized rainbow trout during the summer, from mid-May to the end of September.
1500 Fools Hollow Rd, Show Low, AZ 85901, Phone: 928-537-3680
9.Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is vast - over 1.2 million acres of spectacular nature with Lake Powell with 2,000 miles of shoreline at its heart. The park stretches from the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry, Arizona to the Orange Cliffs, Utah. It offers incredible opportunities for recreation both on land and on water, and you can take part in activities such as boating, canoeing, fishing, swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The lake is home to large and small-mouth bass, brown trout, green sunfish, walleye, black crappie, and channel catfish. This unique area offers breathtaking views, unique geological features, and fascinating evidence of 10,000 years of human habitation.
4304 Bullfrog, Lake Powell, UT 84533, Phone: 928-608-6200
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10.Grand Canyon National Park
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Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona, was created to protect the vast Grand Canyon, one of the most famous canyons in the world and one of the world’s most visited tourist destination. Grand Canyon National Park includes all canyons, river tributaries and grounds around them. The steep-sided canyon was carved by the Colorado River and is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. The park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The park has two public areas: the North and South Rims. At 7,000 feet above sea level, the South Rim is the most accessible part of the park, with many spots where visitors can admire the views. The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher than the southern rim and is not as popular because it is more difficult to access. The trip from one rim to the other can be done by car or on foot, on a donkey or whitewater rafting.
11.Homolovi State Park
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Homolovi State Park is a 4,000-acre park of Arizona created to preserve more than 300 Ancestral archaeological sites of Pueblo Indians. Homolovi is a Hopi word for "place of the little hills." Homolovi State Park is used as a center of research for the Hopi and their late migration period from the 1200s to the late 1300s. Homolovi State Park is located at the elevation of 4,900 feet and offers visitors an opportunity to explore the historic sites and visit the museum, hike the trails, stay at a campground, and check the visitors’ center. Covered picnic tables and benches can be found throughout the park and pullouts provide them with an opportunity to observe park’s wildlife.
AZ-87, Winslow, AZ 86047
12.Jerome State Historic Park
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Jerome State Historic Park was established to protect the Douglas Mansion and its estate. The stately mansion was built in Jerome in 1916 by the mining entrepreneur James S. Douglas on the hill overlooking his Little Daisy Mine. The mansion is now a museum that focuses on the history of the Jerome area, the Douglas family, and mining in the Black Hills. The museum contains a collection of photographs, family artifacts, and minerals found in the mine as well as a video presentation and a fascinating detailed model of the town and underground mines. There is a lovely picnic area in the garden outside the mansion with more displays and a beautiful panoramic vista of the Verde Valley.
100 Douglas Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331, Phone: 928-634-5381
13.Kartchner Caverns State Park
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Kartchner Caverns State Park‘s main feature is a show cave with 2.4 miles of open passages. The park is located nine miles from the town of Benson and west of San Pedro River on the east side of the Whetstone Mountains. The caverns, discovered in 1974 by local cave explorers, are carved out of limestone and full of spectacular speleothems, some of which have been growing for more than 50,000 years. There are several tours organized every day. They usually cover about half a mile and last between one and two hours. No self-guided tours are available. Trained guides tell visitors the story about the cave discovery, the speleothems created by water and limestone interaction and the plants and animals living in the cave.
2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602
14.Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu State Park is located on Lake Havasu in Mohave County, Arizona not far from the famous London Bridge of Lake Havasu City. The park was created to provide recreational opportunities for the residents of the area as well as to offer protection of and education on the desert flora through the Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden. The picturesque shores of Lake Havasu State Park are perfect for a day of outdoor activities, with sandy beaches, nature trails, three boat ramps, and 47 campsites. The 1.7-mile long Mohave Sunset Trail runs along the shoreline and through the lowland desert. The Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden displays the diverse plants and animals that live in the park and the surrounding desert. Many species of birds, lizards, and desert cottontails are commonly seen.
699 London Bridge Rd, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403, Phone: 877-697-2757
15.Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is located in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. It follows the Colorado River from the boundary of Grand Canyon National Park to the cities of Nevada, Laughlin, and Bullhead City. It includes all of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, both created by building Hoover Dam and Davis Dam, and the surrounding desert and wilderness. This vast 1.5 million acre park offers plenty of things to do for boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen on the water and for hikers, wildlife photographers, and sightseers in the desert. The park includes three of America's desert ecosystems – the Sonoran Deserts, the Mojave, and the Great Basin, providing home to a surprising variety of plants and animals, some of which do not live anywhere else in the world.
Temple Bar Marina, AZ 86443
16.Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park is a 320-acre park located in the Sonoran Desert near the Superstition Mountains in central Arizona, about 40 miles from Phoenix. The park was named after the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, a legendary lost Old West gold mine. There are several hiking trails that lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and Tonto National Forest. One of the easier trails is the Native Plant Trail, while the challenging Siphon Draw Trail leads those looking for more of a challenge to the top of the Flatiron. If you come in the spring and there has been enough rainfall, you will be greeted by a colorful carpet of wildflowers and might spot native wildlife such as coyote, javelin, mule deer, and jackrabbit. There is also a four-mile long mountain bike loop trail to give bikers good exercise.
6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119
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17.McFarland State Historic Park
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McFarland State Historic Park is a small historic park in downtown Florence, Arizona on the corner of Ruggles and Main Streets. The park features a well-preserved courthouse and several other buildings from the Arizona Territory period. The original structure was built in 1878. A jail was added in 1882 and the courthouse building in 1891. The courthouse is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. A visit to the park provides guests with a fascinating look into the past of the area during the Arizona Territory period. The building architecture is a transition between Sonoran and Anglo-American, with wood-shingled pitched roof on top of the traditional adobe walls. The original 1878 structure was built by hand from native materials.
24 Ruggles St, Florence, AZ 85232
18.Oracle State Park
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Oracle State Park is a 3,948-acre park in the northeastern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Arizona. The park serves as a wildlife refuge and has more than 15 miles of hiking trails, including seven miles of the Arizona Trail. The park has day-use picnic areas and is a designated International Dark Sky Park. Oracle State Park also functions as a Center for Environmental Education and provides environmental education programs for children and adults, including interactive programs for school groups. Most of the courses are conducted in the field, along trails, providing hands-on learning about habitats and the close relationships between people, plants, and animals.
3820 E Wildlife Dr, Oracle, AZ 85623
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19.Petrified Forest National Park
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Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona in Navajo and Apache counties. In its southern part, the Rainbow Forest is full of large deposits of colorful petrified wood, which gave it its name. The park is also home to the Rainbow Forest Museum, which features paleontology exhibits and a number of trail access points. In the park's center, visitors can see the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock and the remnants of Puerco Pueblo village. At the north side of the park is the Painted Desert Inn, a 1930s adobe structure that houses a museum with Hopi murals. The park is a popular spot for sightseeing, nature photography, backpacking, and hiking.
Petrified forest, as 86028, Holbrook, AZ 86028, Phone: 928-524-6228
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20.Picacho Peak State Park
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Picacho Peak State Park surrounds Picacho Peak in Picacho, Arizona between Casa Grande and Tucson. The park’s main feature is a 1,500-foot tall spire of the Picacho Peak visible from downtown Tucson. The summit is located at 3,374 feet above sea level. The view from the trails that run up the peak is spectacular, and in the spring the area is surrounded by a sea of wildflowers. The park and its neighboring area have unique geological features, diverse desert growth, and are of historical importance. The unique shape of the peak has been a recognizable landmark for travelers from prehistoric times. The park has a visitor center with informative exhibits and a store, a kids’ playground, several historical markers, a campground, and open picnic areas. Many trails cross the desert landscape and offer hikers scenic and exciting hikes.
Exit 219 off Interstate 10, Picacho, AZ 85131
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21.Red Rock State Park
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Red Rock State Park, located just outside Sedona, is a 286-acre nature preserve famous for its spectacular red sandstone canyon. The park has been established to preserve the fragile riparian habitat along Oak Creek. The park, with its spectacular scenery, also acts as environmental education center. There are numerous trails running through manzanita and juniper groves on their way to the lush banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are surrounded by native vegetation, with hills of red rock providing a striking background. The creek winds through the park, providing conditions for a diverse riparian habitat rich with plants and wildlife. Red Rock provides a range of special environmental education programs for schools and private groups, with daily and weekly events. The park has a visitors’ center, theater, classroom, park store and a covered shelter.
4050 Red Rock Loop Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336, Phone: 928-282-6907
22.River Island State Park
River Island State Park is a unit of Buckskin Mountain State Park near Parker, Arizona on the shore of the Colorado River with spectacular views of the Buckskin Mountains. River Island State Park is popular with tent campers and those looking for a scenic respite, a desert escape, or an exciting water adventure. It has 37 campsites, a covered shelter, a lovely sandy beach, a secluded cove, and a boat launch. In the summer, the park is used for boating, jet skiing, fishing, swimming, and camping, with a spectacular backdrop of Buckskin ountains. In the winter, the mild climate allows for pleasant camping and fishing.
5200 AZ-95, Parker, AZ 85344
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23.Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a 92,000-acre park in Pima County, southeastern Arizona. It has two distinct sections or districts on either side of the city of Tucson. The park was created to protect the giant saguaro cactus, found only in the desert environment of small parts of the US. In the western Tucson Mountain District, petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people can be reached by hiking the Signal Hill Trail. In the eastern Rincon Mountain District, Cactus Forest Drive offers breathtaking views of the desert landscape. The Rincon support high biodiversity and provide home to a range of plants and animals, including the giant saguaro cactus.
24.Slide Rock State Park
Slide Rock State Park is located in Oak Creek Canyon, about seven miles north of Sedona, Arizona. The park was named for a slippery rock that forms natural water slide in Oak Creek. It is located in Coconino National Forest and is known for tall red rock formations typical of the region. A working apple farm is also part of the park. The apple farm is one of the few still preserved homesteads in Oak Creek Canyon. Three trails run through the park: Homestead Trail, Slide Rock Route, and Clifftop Nature Trail. Slide Rock State Park is one of the most popular parks in Arizona and was voted by USA Today as one of the best swimming holes in the country.
6871 AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
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25.Tumacacori National Historical Park
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Tumacácori National Historical Park is a 360-acre park located in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley in southern Arizona. The park was created to protect the ruins of three Spanish missions, two of which are National Historic Landmarks. Tumacácori is located in the Santa Cruz River valley, a cultural crossroads where O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people lived and met with European Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, white settlers, and soldiers, at times in conflict and times in cooperation. The park also contains the 1937 Tumacácori Museum, also a National Historic Landmark. Tumacácori National Historical Park tells the stories of the influence Spanish missions had on the American Indian communities of the area of Pimería Álta and on the culture of the American southwest.
Off exit 29 on I-19, Arizona
25 Best Arizona State & National Parks
- Alamo Lake State Park, Photo: alipko/stock.adobe.com
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Photo: Ryan/stock.adobe.com
- Buckskin Mountain State Park, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Photo: Ivan Franceschini/stock.adobe.com
- Catalina State Park, Photo: Teressa L. Jackson/stock.adobe.com
- Chiricahua National Monument, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Photo: Martha Marks/stock.adobe.com
- Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, Photo: olenatur/stock.adobe.com
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Photo: juancat/stock.adobe.com
- Grand Canyon National Park, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
- Homolovi State Park, Photo: Martha Marks/stock.adobe.com
- Jerome State Historic Park, Photo: jon manjeot/stock.adobe.com
- Kartchner Caverns State Park , Photo: Dario Lo Presti/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Havasu State Park, Photo: Noel/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
- Lost Dutchman State Park, Photo: achraca/stock.adobe.com
- McFarland State Historic Park, Photo: Arizona State Parks
- Oracle State Park, Photo: Jason Yoder/stock.adobe.com
- Petrified Forest National Park, Photo: Brian Lasenby/stock.adobe.com
- Picacho Peak State Park, Photo: Teressa L. Jackson/stock.adobe.com
- Red Rock State Park, Photo: Linda J Photography/stock.adobe.com
- River Island State Park, Photo: yukoncharlie/stock.adobe.com
- Saguaro National Park, Photo: Chuck/stock.adobe.com
- Slide Rock State Park, Photo: Photosbyjam/stock.adobe.com
- Tumacacori National Historical Park, Photo: Teressa L. Jackson/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: ejnelson314/stock.adobe.com