9 Extraordinary Natural Attractions in Arizona You Must See at Least Once

Written by Alyssa Shea
Published: December 2, 2023
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Arizona has a highly diverse landscape absolutely filled to the brim with natural wonders! From scenic valleys to incredible deserts and inspiring mountains, these are treasured and unspoiled examples of nature. You can spend the day hiking, exploring bodies of water, and experiencing beautiful sunsets. Some popular names pop up on this list, but even more surprising additions are to be found! Learn all about the natural features that make Arizona such a mesmerizing state!

1. Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon West: Witness to the Great Unconformity-A Geological Enigma

Did you know that the Grand Canyon is bigger than Rhode Island?

©Thiago de Paula Oliveira/Shutterstock.com

It’s no surprise that the Grand Canyon is on this list! Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon must be experienced in person, as pictures can’t do it justice. Measuring in at an average width of 10 miles and a length of 277 river miles, it’s no surprise that this location is such a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It might surprise you to find out that scientists aren’t even exactly sure how old the canyon truly is! There are a variety of trails and lookout points that let you experience the majesty of this wonder up close, too. Did you know that the Grand Canyon creates its own weather? This is due to the large size and sudden elevation changes that impact temperature and precipitation. The weather will vary drastically depending on where you stand in the Grand Canyon!

2. Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon lights and rocks arizona usa

The Navajo call

Antelope

Canyon “The place where water runs through rocks.”

©Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

Antelope Canyon is one of the most famous of all slot canyons. Over millions of years, it was formed by erosion, most of which was done by flash floods. There are two sections: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. Upper Antelope goes by the nickname “The Crack,” while Lower Antelope is known as “The Corkscrew.” Most of the pictures you see of Antelope Canyon are of Upper Antelope due to the way light from the sun beams through the area. The rich red and orange hues are due to the sandstone rock it’s carved into, dating all the way back to the Jurassic period!

3. Monument Valley

Starry Sky behind the Ear of The Wind, a hole in a rock formation in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the border of Utah and Arizona, United States

The valley began forming around 300 million years ago during the Permian period.

©Harry Beugelink/Shutterstock.com

On the Arizona-Utah border, you’ll find the 91,000-acre Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley. The biggest draw of this beautiful park would have to be the vast sandstone buttes. Their elevation is around 7,000 feet, and you can expect to pay a small fee to enter the park. Visitors travel along the 17-mile dirt loop called Valley Drive on self-guided tours and can set off on a hike to Mitten Butte. Silversmiths, potters, and weavers are set up in the Trading Post at The View Hotel, and you can purchase artwork made using traditional Navajo methods.

4. Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River at sunset near Page, Arizona, USA

The Northern Shoshone and Northern Paiute Indians were the first tribes to inhabit the area.

©Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

A part of the Colorado River creates a horseshoe-shaped bend that is beautiful to behold! This geological phenomenon is a prime example of an entrenched meander. About 6 million years ago, the area was much closer to sea level with a nearly level floodplain! Located upriver from Grand Canyon National Park, the vibrant reds and oranges of the Navajo Sandstone attract plenty of visitors. Also, indigenous peoples have lived in the area for over 10,000 years! Commonly referred to as the “east rim of the Grand Canyon,” this bend is located close to Page in Arizona. You’re welcome to wander the trail year-round, too!

5. Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls, Arizona Swimming Holes

The Havasupai tribe has lived at this site for over 800 years.

©LHBLLC/Shutterstock.com

Do you want to see an astonishing 98-foot waterfall just outside of the Grand Canyon? The turquoise waters of these falls cascading over the red and orange cliffs are worth the hike to its remote location! These waters are so blue because of the dissolved magnesium and calcium carbonate found in Havasu Creek, which feeds the falls. Remember that you need a permit from the Havasupai Tribe to visit, as well as lodge or campsite reservations. You can also swim in the 5-foot-deep pool at the base of the falls and behind the falls themselves. You’ll find a small rock shelter behind the falls where you can relax and enjoy the sound of the water!

6. Sedona Red Rocks

Sedona, Arizona, USA at Red Rock State Park.

The red color of these rocks is due to the amount of iron in them.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

You have to visit the beautiful red rock walls that surround Sedona! These walls are a part of the Red Rock State Park. Formed 210–370 million years ago, the rocks consist of nine different layers of stone. These include:

  • Basalt lava
  • Kaibab Limestone
  • Toroweap sandstone
  • Coconino sandstone
  • Hermit shale
  • Supai sandstone
  • Red Wall limestone

The best time to check out the rocks has to be during sunset. The reason is that the red rocks enhance the sunset’s glow, making the experience even more remarkable. Native American heritage and culture are strong in Sedona, with the very first inhabitants being tribes like the Paleo, Anasazi, Hohokam, and Sinagua people.

7. Meteor Crater

Arizona Meteor Crater, USA

Scientists have found evidence at the bottom of the crater of water, meaning a lake once existed here.

©turtix/Shutterstock.com

Also called Barringer Meteor Crater, Meteor Crater is located on the Colorado Plateau between Flagstaff and Winslow. At 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers) across and about 600 feet (180 meters) deep, the crater formed from this meteor rocked the area nearly 50,000 years ago! The impact from the impact was equivalent to a 10-megaton atomic bomb, and the meteor itself was almost entirely vaporized on impact. Experts say this one is remarkably well-preserved compared to other craters we’ve found and explored. You can either take a walk along the self-guided trail or a guided tour along the rim of the crater.

8. Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, - Cactus

Saguaro National Park was first designated as a National Monument in 1933.

©Nate Hovee/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that the nation’s most enormous cacti are found in Tucson, Arizona? This is where you will find the Saguaro National Park! You can check out this 92,000-acre park that is sectioned into two parts on either side of Tucson. There aren’t just cacti here, either. You’ll also see pine, coniferous trees, and a wide range of flora and fauna. It’s home to 70 mammal species, 200 bird species, and plenty of reptiles, too. This breathtaking area is also the ancestral home of the Tohono O’odham people, who still visit every summer to pick saguaro fruit. Start at the visitor’s center, where most of the numerous hiking trails and scenic drives begin.

9. Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

 This national park is home to the world’s largest deposits of petrified wood.

©Juan Carlos Munoz/Shutterstock.com

Covering 146 square miles, the Petrified Forest National Park has more features than you may think. You can find historic structures, which include a 20th-century homestead. There are plenty of exhibits that you can visit to learn more about the park’s history. Theodore Roosevelt created the Petrified Forest National Monument on December 8, 1906, and it was turned into a national park on December 9, 1962. You can find plenty of fossils from plants and animals, including early dinosaurs! Hiking and scenic drives are some of the most common activities to do here. The remains of this Late Triassic Period forest are petrified because they were buried under layers of sediment and volcanic ash for around 200 million years. Wood becomes preserved due to a lack of oxygen!

RankName
1Grand Canyon
2Antelope Canyon
3Monument Valley
4Horseshoe Bend
5Havasu Falls
6Sedona Red Rocks
7Meteor Crater
8Saguaro National Park
9Petrified Forest National Park

The photo featured at the top of this post is © RENA MICHAEL/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

I'm a 36-year-old mother of 2 and military wife. I have 2 dogs and a cat that I'm thoroughly obsessed with. When I'm not writing for work, I'm writing as a hobby. You can find me knee deep in a pile of books or way too invested in a video game.

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