Top 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Arizona

Arizona is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. with numerous national parks and otherworldly viewpoints.

I know this is a bold claim, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but few would be able to lay eyes on the suggestions on this list and not be amazed. The biggest bonus? Many of them don’t require much walking and you can drive right up to the overlooks! Keep in mind that Arizona can get incredibly hot in the summertime, so time your walks for the early morning or opt solely for overlooks if traveling during the months of May through September.

The following are 10 of Arizona’s most beautiful places:

1. Phoenix

Chances are that your Arizona adventure will begin at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where you can drive for about 20 minutes to check out the Camelback Mountain hike, which gives you a scenic view over the city. 

There are two options to reach the summit: The Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail. Both are only a mile and a half out to the trailhead and back on foot, though the Echo Canyon Trail is a bit steeper. However, the reward is a 360-degree view of the city. Both hikes are difficult, so if that’s not your speed, check out the following options:

  • Papago Park: Just minutes from downtown and the airport, check out the red butte formations in Popago Park. The pathway is paved and accessible.
  • Scottsdale: The Gateway Loop Trail is a 4.5-mile loop that only gains 655 feet in elevation, making it a nice, leisurely walk through the lovely desert landscape.
Phoenix Image by Christophe Schindler from Pixabay

 

2. Sedona

The perfect place to base for a few days of exploration, Sedona is a dreamy artist’s wonderland with an alternative vibe. Here are some of the best hikes in the area:

  • Devil’s Bridge: This moderate hike (out and back) has a total mileage of 2 or 4 miles depending on where you start, and the elevation is only 400 feet. This gives you incredible views of Sedona and is one of the more popular ones in the area.
  • Bell Rock: An easy, 3.6-mile trail gives you a view of a unique bell-like rock. 
  • Cathedral Sock: This is a popular short hike that is only 1.5 miles round-trip, though it’s a bit steep. This is a pretty exposed trail, so be sure to go in the early morning hours!
Sedona Image by skeeze from Pixabay

 

3. Petrified Forest National Park

If you’re into fossils, petroglyphs and spring wildflowers, this unique national park belongs on your list! These are some of the best things to do there:

  • The Painted Desert: Arizona’s badlands, with sedimentary rock formations that look like a layer cake!
  • Overlooks: This is one of those parks where you can drive through and get a great look at many of the most beautiful sights by stopping at the overlooks, like Newspaper Rock and The Teepees. The main park road is only 28 miles with many viewpoints along the way.

If you’re feeling adventurous: You can cycle, back country hike and horseback ride in the area as well. Learn more here.

Painted Desert Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

 

4. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon truly lives up to its name, with spectacular vistas, hiking and rafting opportunities and two main areas to choose from between the North and South Rim. The South Rim is generally considered more beautiful, although the North Rim may be closer to other activities that you choose from this list, so consult a map and consider how much time you have before making your choices. Here are a few highlights:

  • Desert View Drive: The drive between the Desert View Watchtower and the Yavapai Point gives you access to several spectacular viewpoints along the canyon’s South Rim. Be sure to budget several hours so that you can stop at all the viewpoints as each of them provides a slightly different view. My personal favorites were Yavapai and Lipan Points.
  • Hiking In: You can hike into the canyon for an even more immersive experience. To do this, you’ll need to get permits ahead of time which you can obtain here.
  • Flying Over: Helicopters depart from several areas around the canyon, depending on which part you want to see. They offer a spectacular overview that you can’t otherwise get!
Grand Canyon

 

5. Canyon de Chelly

This national monument is located on a reservation and is full of scenic overlooks. You can also see some ancient cave dwellings, and there are also opportunities to take to tours through the canyon.

  • Spider Rock Overlook: The park’s most famous and unique feature is easily viewed from an overlook at the southern end of the park.
  • Canyon Tours: Private tour companies offer canyon tours for hiking or on horseback. You’ll need a back-country permit and can find a listing of tour companies here.
  • White House Overlook: An opportunity to see some cave dwellings on this 600-foot up-and-down switchback trail.
Canyon de Shelly

 

6. Havasu Falls

This is a spot on the list that you’ve got to work a little bit harder for, but it’s worth it! This baby blue water is caused by minerals in the river that feeds the waterfalls. It’s located on the Supai reservation and permits are notoriously hard to get, going on sale once per year in February, though it is possible to jump in when there are cancellations. The main activity to do in the area is to hike to the falls, beginning at the trailhead parking lot. It’s a 10-mile hike which is uncovered and exposed for most of the way, so be sure to time it for the early morning or afternoon hours. Bring along a tent and all the gear that you’ll need. You can learn more about how to get permits and all of the important things to know here.

Havasu Falls

 

7. Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona

This area has several spots worth checking out including the upper and lower cliffs, including the famous Wave, and White Pocket. Like Havasupai, the popularity of the Wave requires that you apply for permits before you can go into see it. Only a few people get to go in each day so that the delicate rock formation can be preserved. You can either get permits by showing up in Kanab, Utah, the day before to apply in person, or you can try your luck four months ahead of time via the online system. If you don’t get permits, don’t despair as there other things to do in the area:

  • Vermillion Cliffs: Some have described this location to be just as beautiful (but less difficult to get permits for) as the Wave. You still need to get permits to see it, however, and they are still hard to come by during high season. 
  • White Pocket: If you strike out on permits for either of the previous two locations, check out White Pocket for one-of-a-kind rock formations that look like a turtle shell mixed with white and orange waves. Be sure to take a tour with Kanab Western Adventures to reach this one as you’ll have to drive through deep sand to get there. Read more here
The Wave Image by David Mark from Pixabay

 

8. Horseshoe Bend

It’s no wonder this is one of Arizona’s most popular and photographed sunset spots. The pleasing symmetry of this canyon is unparalleled. Conveniently, it only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to walk there from the parking lot in Page, and from there you can stake out a spot to watch the sunset. Be sure to catch some other things to do in the area as well:

  • Lake Powell: Lake Powell and the entire Glen Canyon recreational area are gorgeous and worth checking out. There are some campsites near here as well! 
  • Antelope Canyon: Read on to see how to access this beautiful slot canyon below!
Horseshoe Bend

 

9. Antelope Canyon

Also near Page, this is a strong contender for one of Arizona’s most photographed natural wonders. This area is broken up into two slot canyons and can only be accessed by taking a tour. There are two canyons that you can check out:

  • Upper Antelope: Most of the photos with the famous light beams have been taken in Upper Antelope Canyon. You’ll need to take a guided tour and get on a big truck which will drive you to the canyon.
  • Lower Antelope: Lower Antelope is ever so slightly less claustrophobic and is accessible from the nearby parking lot, however, there are stairs involved.

If you have time, it’s worth doing both, but if not, you can read a comparison of the two here on my blog to decide for yourself.

Antelope Canyon

 

10. Monument Valley

Straddling the border with Utah, Momentum Valley has beautiful rock formations that seem to appear out of nowhere. The Monument Valley is located on a Navajo reservation and as such, it’s required that you pay entry to see it, but it’s worth it! You can find a list of tour operators here.  

While this is a great place to start in planning your Arizona itinerary, I highly recommend budgeting in some time to check out the national forests and monuments that you will pass during your drive from Phoenix to all these other destinations. There’s so much to see and Arizona is a dream to drive through!

Monument Valley Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
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About the Author

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over five years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.