Home to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and some of the most emblematic landscapes in the United States, Arizona brims with insanely beautiful and iconic American scenery.
With that said, Arizona also happens to be home to many hidden gems and lesser-visited spots, some of them so beautiful that you’ll quickly find yourself wondering how they’ve managed to remain out of most travelers’ radars!
If you’re the type of traveler who prefers getting off the beaten track and exploring places outside of guidebooks, or you simply want to add a few unique locations to your highlights itinerary, here’s the ultimate list of 7 of the best hidden gems in the Grand Canyon State you need to place on your bucket list!
8 Hidden Gems in Arizona For Your Road Trip Itinerary
1. Barringer Meteor Crater
Stretching over 4,000 feet in diameter and boasting a depth of 560 feet, Barringer Meteor Crater is the best-preserved meteor impact on Earth.
The massiveness of the crater is reason enough to visit Barringer. Still, when you add in the fact that it’s backdropped by plains and rugged Arizona scenery, you’re guaranteed to be in for a real treat when visiting.
Moreover, the scenic drive to get to the crater is also an adventure in itself, as you’ll be accompanied by beautiful desert scenery every mile of the way. Make sure you stop at the discovery center located off the highway, where you’ll get to learn all about the meteor that struck Earth some 50,000 years ago!
2. Watson Lake
Few lakes in the world look as unique as Watson Lake does. Encircled by massive granite boulders, the lake’s landscape consists of striking contrasts and picture-perfect views, making it an ideal location to escape Arizona’s dry environment.
While swimming isn’t allowed at the lake, you can enjoy it in many other ways, be it by hiking a few trails, canoeing, rock climbing, boating, fishing, and more!
3. Tumacacori National Historical Park
Hidden in the Santa Cruz River Valley, Tumacacori National Park is one of the biggest Arizona hidden gems and a real joy to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the state’s intricate history.
Not too long ago, Tamacacori was the exact spot where Native Americans would meet up with European missionaries. Sometimes, these meetings were actually for everyone to work together to improve the region!
The biggest highlight of a visit to Tumacacori checking out the park’s Franciscan mission, which was built under the guidance of American Indians and Spanish colonizers.
Other fun activities to try are hiking the Juan Batista de Anzanion National Historic Trail and going horseback riding.
Jerome is said to be the most haunted place in Arizona, which is why this small town is actually nicknamed the “wickedest town in the West”.
After many man-made disasters that took place during the town’s mining era, Jerome’s population slowly began to decrease.
To bring it back to life, its remaining residents decided to take advantage of the nearby valley and promote it as a destination for all things wine, arts, and spooky sights, which is exactly what Jerome continues to be known for up to date!
Aside from joining every ghost tour available, other fun things to do while at Jerome include checking out historical buildings, going wine-tasting at the many spots that dot the town, or indulging in its renowned arts scene.
Jerome makes an excellent day trip from Phoenix.
Tombstone was once a booming hub that was established as one of the last frontier towns during the region’s mining period.
Today, a visit to this incredibly historical city is all about taking a trip back in time to its days of glory, be it by exploring a few of the remaining mines, checking out museums, or taking a tour through its streets on an actual stagecoach.
Oh, and if you’re into cowboys, Tombstone actually hosts re-enacted cowboy gunfights! You’ll find them at the O.K. Corral outdoor theatres on Allen Street.
6. White Pocket
Located in the middle of the alluring Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, White Pocket may very well be one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Arizona and a wonderful alternative to popular The Wave because the landscape is pretty similar but doesn’t yet require a permit to visit!
White Pocket’s landscape consists of whacky-looking rock formations blanketed in swirls of colors, striking-looking hoodoos, and other-worldly-looking figures. Plus, the fact that it’s still a secret to most travelers (and even locals) means you’re likely not to have to share the scenery with anyone else!
7. Grand Canyon’s North Rim
We know what you’re thinking: The Grand Canyon is anything but a hidden gem, but what many travelers to Arizona don’t know is that there’s a much lesser-frequented section of it that only sees 10% of visitors!
While most visitors focus on exploring the South Rim of the national park, the North Rim is a perfect place to head to if you want to enjoy a much more solitary visit to one of America’s most famous natural landmarks.
Here, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails without another soul in sight, tons of boundary-free lookout points, and even a few campsites next to the rim!
Tip: Keep in mind that due to harsh conditions, the North Rim is usually closed during the colder months due to safety concerns. Best to visit the North Rim on a summer national parks road trip.
Have you ever visited any of these hidden gems in Arizona or know of others that you think should be included in the list? If so, tell us all about them in the comment section below!
More Tips To Know Before Heading Out On An Arizona Road Trip
- Find more inspiration for the most interesting places in Arizona and where to find the most incredible natural wonders in Arizona (beyond the Grand Canyon!)
- Make time to explore the capital, Phoenix with plenty of fun family-friendly activities to keep the kids busy beyond the natural wonders of the state.
- Do be mindful of timezones when traveling through Arizona! Arizona observes MST (Mountain Standard Time) year-round, whereas neighboring Utah (and Navajo Nation) move to MST (Mountain Daylight Time) from mid-March to Mid-November.
- First time driving in the desert? Especially if you’ll be traveling in Arizona over the hottest summer months make sure you check out our desert driving safety tips before you set out.
- Never forget an important road trip essential again! Download our family road trip checklist to help you pack for your next big adventure.
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