Best State and National Parks in Arizona

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Most Arizona visitors flock to the Grand Canyon. While it’s certainly worth seeing (and first on this list), it’s not the only stop worthy of your itinerary.

The state and national parks of Arizona total thirty-four: three national, thirty-one state. The best ones offer a diverse and exciting state portrait you don’t want to miss.

Grand Canyon National Park

Deep peaks of valleys consisting of red rock constitute the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Nearest City: Fredonia, Arizona (north rim); Tusayan, Arizona (south rim)

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular National Park Service sites across the United States. Every year, visitors flock to relish in its magnificence.

Travellers can expect to find an endless array of hiking trails, some of which dive deep into the canyon. You’ll also find a pleasantly cold to warm climate, as well as breathtaking views of Arizona’s northern landscape.

In addition to many outdoor recreation opportunities, visitors can also enjoy driving loops and tours that will take them right from one landmark to the next.

 

Petrified Forest National Park

A lone rock formation sits in the foreground with large cliffs shown in the background at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Nearest City: Holbrook, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park is often overshadowed by the two larger national parks found in Arizona (Grand Canyon NP and Saguaro NP). However, it’s a rather unique landscape that has much to offer in terms of outdoor recreation, sightseeing, and history.

The park is named for the groupings of petrified wood deposited by time and weather over the years.

These petrified logs, along with geological tepees, provide an exceptional backdrop that introduces visitors to the landscape of Arizona’s Painted Desert.

Hiking trails meander across the park’s territory through the badlands, prairie, and the desert steppe.

Planning to visit Petrified Forest National Park in summertime?  Be aware of any heat advisories, and prepare with extra supplies of water and sun protection.

 

Lost Dutchman State Park

A paraglider is shown approaching landing in an open flat plain with a soaring cliff face in the background at Lost Dutchman State Park

Nearest City: Pinal, Arizona

In Lost Dutchman State Park, you’ll be transported to a time full of gold, outlaws, and tall tales.

Rumors have it the park’s namesake, the legendary Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, resides in the park.

Lost Dutchman also offers visitors opportunities for camping and hiking within the Superstition Mountain Range. Most of its hiking trails directly connect to those extending from the nearby Tonto National Forest.

The park’s most popular hiking trail is the Siphon Draw Trail. It leads to the iconic Flatiron formation, which resembles a pirate ship’s bow sticking out of the mountain range.

 

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Water cascades from the top of the entrance of the tunnel where red rock boulders lay at Tonto Natural Bridge, Arizona

Nearest City: Gila, Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is home to the Tonto Natural Bridge, which is said to be the largest natural arch in the world at 150 feet wide, over 400 feet long, and 183 feet tall.

The natural arch was first documented in 1877 by David Gowan. However, the first people to live in and around the natural arch were likely the Apache Native Americans.

Visitors can enjoy a number of hiking trails and unique photo ops. The park is located off Arizona State Route 87, which runs north from the city of Payson.

 

Red Rock State Park

Red rock formations and cliff reach towards a blue-purple sky at Red Rock State Park, Arizona

Nearest City: Yavapai, Arizona

Traveling through Arizona, you’ll definitely hear about the red rocks near Sedona.

Red Rock State Park draws in a large number of visitors every year, looking to take in views of Oak Creek, Cathedral Rock, and large outcroppings of red rocks made famous by films like Rocky Mountain, Fort Defiance, and Red Mountain.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Additionally, you can see remnants of the old Smoke Trail Ranch.

Smoke Trail Ranch was operational until the early 1970’s, until the Arizona state government ended up with control of the land.

 

the well known river in a valley surrounded by towering red rock cliff at Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Most likely, the Grand Canyon will continue as Arizona’s top destination. On the bright side, though, this leaves more room for dedicated travellers and hikers.

Now that you have learned more about four other national and state parks in Arizona, it’s time for you to get out and explore the state!

For more travel recommendations, check out these guides to Portugal attractions, the best Portland eateries, or planning a bike tour.