Home to 31 state parks, 3 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 4 national forests, Arizona brims with glorious nature destinations waiting to be explored.
If you’re currently planning a trip to The Grand Canyon State, chances are checking out a few of the state’s striking natural wonders is at the top of your bucket list. With so many options to choose from, picking where to go can be a bit challenging, especially if you don’t exactly have an entire year to explore (one can dream, though!).
If you need a bit of help narrowing down the options but find yourself convinced nature is what you want to see the most, we’ve put together a list of the top natural destinations in Arizona you should focus your plans on!
7 Amazing Nature Destinations in Arizona For Your Itinerary
1. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend may just be Instagram’s favorite Arizona spot, and one of the most recognizable landmarks of Arizona! While getting to the lookout point is definitely a must, there’s plenty more to do here if you want to explore further afield.
Inside the alluring Glen Canyon, Horseshoe Bend is a meander shaped exactly like a horseshoe in the Colorado River. To get to the famous lookout point, you need to follow a pretty easy 1-mile trail from the city of Page, making it a quick place to visit on your Arizona itinerary, especially if you’re also planning to stop at other popular nearby locations like the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley.
There’s plenty more to Horseshoe Bend than meets the eye. After gawking at the beauty of the scenery, you can also indulge in other activities, including hiking lesser-frequented trails, rafting, and tubing!
2. Lake Powell
Imagine tranquil blue waters snaking their way around red rocks and you’ll get a pretty good picture of what the scenery at this unique lake is all about!
Lake Powell is one of the most popular landmarks in Glen Canyon. While simply getting to see the beauty of a lake that feels like it should belong on a different planet, there’s plenty more to do here if you want to linger a while longer.
During your visit, you’ll get the chance to get to know the lake’s fascinating landscape better by choosing activities like hiking, wildlife spotting, water skiing, paddleboarding, tubing, and so much more!
3. Petrified Forest National Park
Vibrant colors aren’t exactly what you’d expect to find in an arid region, but Petrified Forest’s landscape is proof of how fascinating nature can be!
Around 200,000 million years ago, heavy floods pulled dead logs into the area. Volcanic activity in the region later crystalized these logs, and once they were re-exposed over the ground, they created a beautiful landscape of colorful sparkly quartz!
Today, you can visit Petrified Forest National Park to feel as though you were transported into a completely different galaxy by exploring the park’s Painted Desert, walking through badlands, or wandering down the Giant. Logs Trail to see the largest logs in the area!
4. Havasu Falls
As one of Arizona’s most beautiful natural landmarks, Havasu Falls provides a picture-perfect contrast of waterfalls cascading down over bold red rocks and into emerald-hued pools.
Getting to them requires getting a special permit as the region they’re found in is considered sacred, but if you’re able to snag one, you’ll be guaranteed a real treat.
Moreover, reaching the falls requires a pretty difficult hike where you’ll face a steep elevation gain and a pretty challenging terrain, making visiting here a true adventure.
Don’t worry, though – you’ll have plenty of excuses to stop and catch your breath, especially when you consider how beautiful the landscape is every step of the way and the fact that there are a few more waterfalls scattered throughout the trail.
After an extensive closure period over COVID, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is again welcoming tourists in 2023.
5. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, making it a true geological wonder where you’ll get to feel as though you’re walking inside a storybook due to its unrivaled beauty!
During your visit, the main thing to do is to walk atop the bridge to get mesmerized by the beauty of Pine Creek and walk over more travertine rocks inside a tunnel. Moreover, you can also follow four different hiking trails that will take you down into the canyon to get a completely new perspective of the place!
6. Colorado River & Hoover Dam
While a dam may not sound like a super exciting destination, Hoover Dam is actually located inside the alluring Black Canyon and over the Colorado River, making it the perfect spot to stand above two of Arizona’s most beautiful natural landmarks.
Plus, Hoover Dam stands close to Lake Mead, which is another wonderful natural destination in the state where desert scenery is top-notch and wildlife encounters are guaranteed!
Traveling onward? These are the best nature spots to experience in Nevada
7. Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Canyon De Chelly provides both the opportunity to see some of the most striking desert scenery in Arizona while also getting close and personal with the culture of the Navajo people, who up to this day continue to call the canyon their home!
During your visit, you’ll get to explore a landscape of desert spires, mesas, buttes, and all sorts of whacky-looking red rock formations. The top highlight of Canyon De Chelly is Spider Rock, a monumental spire that looms over the scenery at almost 800 feet high!
Have you ever been to any of these incredible natural destinations in Arizona? If so, what was your experience like there? Let us know in the comment section below!
More Natural Wonders and Places of Interest in Arizona
Arizona contains an incredible range of state and national parks along with nature reserves and monuments. In addition to those we’ve highlighted above, you may also be interested to learn more about:
National Parks in Arizona
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Saguaro National Park
National Monuments in Arizona
- Canyon de Chelly
- Casa Grande Ruins
- Grand Canyon-Parashant
- Montezuma Castle
- Organ Pipe Cactus
- Pipe Spring
- Sunset Crater Volcano
- Walnut Canyon
National Forest in Arizona
- Canyon de Chelly
- Casa Grande Ruins
National Recreation Areas in Arizona
- Glen Canyon
- Lake Mead
National Historic Sites & Parks
- Fort Bowie
- Hubbell Trading Post
National Historic Trail
- Juan Bautista de Anza
- Old Spanish
State Parks in Arizona
- Alamo Lake State Park
- Buckskin Mountain State Park
- Catalina State Park
- Cattail Cove State Park
- Colorado River State Historic Park
- Dankworth Pond State Park
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park
- Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
- Fort Verde State Historic Park
- Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
- Homolovi State Park
- Jerome State Historic Park
- Kartchner Caverns State Park
- Lake Havasu State Park
- Lost Dutchman State Park
- Lyman Lake State Park
- McFarland State Historic Park
- Oracle State Park
- Patagonia Lake State Park
- Picacho Peak State Park
- Red Rock State Park
- Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
- River Island State Park
- Rockin’ River Ranch State Park
- Roper Lake State Park
- San Rafael State Natural Area
- Slide Rock State Park
- Sonoita Creek State Natural Area
- Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
- Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
- Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
- Verde River Greenway State Natural Area
- Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
How to Road Trip Arizona
Depending on how long you have to explore Arizona, many only have time to visit the northernmost natural attractions.
- Pop over here if you’d be interested in a 7 Day Southwest itinerary that sees you visit some of the country’s most incredible natural landmarks from Moab in Utah to the Grand Canyon.
- Longer to spend? This combined guide to Arizona and Utah Road Trip Itinerary will help you fit even more in.
- These are the most incredible scenic drives in Arizona you could incorporate into a road trip itinerary
- Find more of the best places to visit in Arizona you may want to add to your itinerary
- Based in Phoenix? You’ll love these Phoenix day trip ideas perfect for a family vacation (or staycation!) in the state of Arizona
- And don’t forget to make time to simply enjoy the capital, Phoenix is packed with family-friendly things to do
And some more handy tips for planning your Arizona road trip
- If you’ll be road-tripping between states in the southwest, be aware of time differences! Arizona stays on MST (Mountain Standard Time) throughout the year, whereas Utah switches to MDT (Mountain Daylight Time) roughly mid-March to mid-November.
- Crossing into Nevada? Then you’ll be on PST (Pacific Standard Time – 1 hour behind) or PDT (Pacific Daylight Time – same as Arizona). Clear, right?
- If you’re unfamiliar with driving in the desert, particularly in the peak of summer, you’ll want to check out our desert driving tips guide.
- Never forget an important item again! Download our road trip essentials checklist before your next family road trip
© Family Road Trip