When you think of Arizona, forests and greenery are probably the last thing you think about. Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State and it is full of deserts and dry areas that are a bit more well-known than the green spaces.
If you explore Arizona a bit deeper, you will find that it is full of lots of other natural beauty that you absolutely have to see for yourself.
Some of the best places to visit in order to witness this beauty are actually the national parks found throughout the state.
Arizona has many national parks and monuments, and they are all beautiful, but if you want to find the best ones then you have come to the right place!
We have put together a list of 10 of the best national parks in Arizona that you absolutely NEED to visit (looking to find some waterfalls? Check out our guide to Arizona Waterfalls here). There is something for everyone in each of these parks, so read on to find out more about each of them!
1. Grand Canyon National Park
We couldn’t make a list of the best national parks in Arizona without including Grand Canyon National Park.
This is the most famous and popular national park in the whole state, and it is of course home to the fantastic Grand Canyon, which should be seen in person at least once in your lifetime.
The South Rim of the national park is more developed and crowded, so if you want a more remote and secluded experience, check out the North Rim instead.
Regardless of where you go in the national park, you will absolutely love spending time here and you will be blown away by how magnificent the whole park is!
You can raft down the Colorado River if you have the chance, and there are also plenty of hiking trails for you to check out when you visit.
2. Walnut Canyon National Monument
The national monuments in Arizona are just as grand as the national parks, and the Walnut Canyon National Monument is definitely one that you need to visit.
This national monument is known for its ancient dwellings that were made by the Natives and they carved these dwellings right into the side of the cliffs!
These ancient dwellings are truly a sight to behold and you won’t really find anything like them anywhere else in the state.
You can find the Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, Arizona, and you can easily turn your visit into a day trip.
There are plenty of hiking trails and spots near the dwellings themselves, and there is plenty of natural beauty to explore in the area.
3. Montezuma Castle National Monument
The Montezuma Castle National Monument can be found in Camp Verde which is located between Flagstaff and Phoenix. It isn’t a big site, but what it lacks in surrounding areas, it makes up for in natural beauty.
Like Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle National Monument is another preserved cliff dwelling that was built around the year 700. It is incredibly well-preserved and will give you a fantastic insight into what the area was like in ancient times.
It’s a fantastic place to visit if you are enthusiastic about ancient history and it is incredibly beautiful too.
There are a couple of trails in the area for you to hike as well, so you can spend a decent amount of time here and have some fun immersing yourself in the history of the area.
4. Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to visit when you want to experience nature in a bit more of a unique form. As the name would suggest, the national park is home to many fantastic petrified trees!
From a distance, you will think they are rocks, but upon closer inspection, you will see that the wood of the trees has been petrified over time to create a unique landscape you won’t really be able to experience anywhere else.
The landscape of the national park is incredibly colorful and there are also lots of fossilized creatures and things you will find here, and yes, this even includes dinosaurs!
There are also plenty of hiking trails for you to explore, so you can easily spend the whole day exploring this unique landscape with your family and friends.
5. Wupatki National Monument
Like Walnut Canyon, Wupatiki National Monument can be found in Flagstaff.
You can find it just north of the city and it is home to multiple pueblos that were originally made out of red-brown sandstone that can be found throughout the region.
In the year 1085, a volcano erupted near the site that forced the locals to flee. They then returned to the site and rebuilt it. The ruins of Wupatki National Monument are the remains of what they rebuilt.
This is an incredible site to visit if you are interested in the history of the area and it will really give you a visual perspective of what the area looked like in the early 1000s.
You will have lots of fun visiting this monument and it’s a great place to visit when you want to spend the entire day out hiking.
6. Saguaro National Park, Tucson
The saguaro cactus is one of the most well-known and iconic cacti to come out of Arizona, so if you want to see a whole area of the state filled with them, you absolutely need to visit Saguaro National Park.
The saguaro cactus is a type of tall statuesque cactus that actually weighs quite a lot more than it might seem to!
They tend to live for a couple of hundred years, so you won’t have to worry about missing out on seeing them when you visit the national park.
There are also plenty of trails for you to explore in this park, so it’s the perfect place for people who really love to hike and want scenic views. Be warned though- try to avoid the midday sun, because it can get incredibly hot here!
7. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
If you want to see something incredibly unique, you definitely need to check out the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
The swirling patterns on the cliffs are enough alone to make you want to visit, but the rugged and untouched landscape is what really makes it special.
This is the perfect place for more experienced hikers to visit because the trails are not well-defined, but that’s what makes it more of an adventure!
In order to explore the area on foot, you will need to get a backcountry permit, but if you’d rather do something less intense, you can view the whole area at the top of the Navajo Bridge.
You won’t find a natural area like the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, so if you find yourself in Arizona, you absolutely have to visit!
8. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
If you would rather go somewhere that is home to more ancient dwellings and ruins, then you will absolutely love the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
Originally, the whole area was connected by a network of canals that were used for farming irrigation.
What makes this monument so interesting is the fact that it is completely shrouded in mystery.
No one quite knows what it was originally built to be used as a waypoint marker, a gathering place, or something else. But if you visit for yourself, you can make up your own mind about what you think its original purpose was!
You can explore the Sonoran Desert around the monument a bit, but make sure not to expose yourself to the desert heat for too long.
9. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
If you find yourself in Chinle, then you absolutely need to check out the Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
You will be right in the heart of the Navajo Territory when you visit, and you will get to experience America in a natural setting.
You will experience fantastic overlooks and canyons when you visit the monument and you will gain some insight into the ancient Navajo way of life.
In order to hike through the canyon, you will need to hire a native guide to escort you, but it’s definitely worth it to experience the area and the monument properly!
10. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cacti are another unique kind of cactus that are actually incredibly rare in North America, and the best place to see them is at this national monument.
When you visit you will be able to hire a ranger-led hike or educational program to learn more about the Organ Pipe Cacti as well as the main rugged plants and animals found in the area.
You can easily spend the whole day here learning more about the area and environment and it’s incredibly interesting.
So there you have it! 10 of the best national parks in Arizona that you NEED to visit! Each of these national parks and monuments has something unique and interesting to offer, and each one is worth visiting!
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