#1 must-see (also one of the World’s Wanders)
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and roughly over a mile deep. President Theodore Roosevelt had a major role in the preservation of the National Park and has been a place of religious pilgrimage and a home for Native American tribes for thousands of years. It officially became the 17th National Park in February of 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. Due to Colorado river flowing through the canyon, there is a large variety of plant and animal species that call the it home. Being such an expansive area allows for varying ecosystems to be located throughout. There is a total of five “life zones” that differ in climate and elevation housing prominent species such as bighorn sheep, mule deer, peregrine falcons, ringtail cat, and many more.
The Vermilion Cliffs are a sandstone formation located against the Utah and Arizona border. It takes up a total of 280,000 acres with several popular spots for visitors to explore. Located in the Northwest part of the monument in the Coyote Buttes are The Wave, Buckskin Gulch, and Paria Canyon. Since the area is highly protected there is a lottery system for visitors to be picked from in order to be able to visit the site. The Vermilion Cliffs primarily consist of sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and shale that has eroded for millions of years-thus explaining the many layers one can see through the winding troughs of rock formations. Another popular area of the cliffs is the White Pocket that has large masses of white and coral colored rock that years of erosion have shaped into what looks like a brain pattern.
The Meteor Crater is located in the desert between Flagstaff and Winslow Arizona. It is known as the world’s best-preserved meteorite impact site and is the result of an asteroid colliding at 26,000 miles per hour over 50,000 years ago. The crater has also been used by NASA to train astronauts in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. Visitors can hike the trail that follows the rim and even look through one of the telescopes on site to see closer at the impact spot. Being privately owned by the Barringer Family, there is no admission to see this spectacular landmark. The Meteor Crater Visitor Center provides interactive exhibits and learning experiences about all things space related for visitors of any age.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land, east of Lechee, Arizona. There are five separate scenic selections on the reservation: Upper Antelope Canyon (The Crack), Rattle Snake Canyon, Owl Canyon, Mountain Sheep Canyon, and Lower Antelope Canyon (The Corkscrew). Years of flash flooding, rainwater, and Navajo sandstone erosion have created the characteristic flowing shapes. It is a Navajo Tribal Park, meaning all tours are guided to ensure safety of visitors and the canyon alike. Flash floods are very popular in the canyon due to its structure therefore the park has to be very cautious when allowing tours, especially during monsoon season. The Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular site to visit due to its convenience and accessibility for any visitor; it also helps that the signature beams of light produced are more common here.
Havasu Falls is a beautiful and scenic water oasis that features a stunning waterfall that plunges over 100 feet into a pool of water. Located on the Havasupai (meaning “people of the blue-green water”) Indian Reservation the falls are available for camping and hiking, but a reservation is required. It is a great spot for experience hikers and adventurers as the trails are very challenging. However, the 10 mile trek is worth the effort once you get down to the waterfall and spring itself because of the vibrant blue-green waters that await. The water gets its signature color from calcium carbonate and magnesium. Both occur naturally and together they create the iconic color that it is known for today.
Lava River Cave
The Lava River Cave is a mile long lavatube that was formed roughly 700,000 years ago. Made from molten rock that flowed from a volcanic vent near Heart Prairie, this cave is a magnificent site to see. Located in the Ponderosa Pine forest near Flagstaff, AZ the cave is accessible all year round. It is recommended to visit around the spring and summer months since inside the cave stays around 35-45 degrees even in the hotter seasons. For anyone looking for an extra sense of adventure, they can ski or snowshoe to the cave opening during the winter months. Although the length of the cave is not excessive, it can be quite difficult getting through due to loose rocks and slippery areas from water and ice. One can make an exciting trip when visiting this site as camping is allowed at least one mile away from the cave.
Northeastern Arizona is known for its luscious pine tree forests, but it is also home to the expansive Petrified Forest. The 346 square mile national park contains large deposits of petrified wood, and has been a fossil excavation spot for decades. The landmark was made a National Monument in 1906, and a National Park in 1962. More than 400 species reside in the park, with the most prominent being coyotes, bob cats, snakes, lizards, and some field rodents. Visiting the park is very convenient as there are seven main trails ranging from 0.5 to 3 miles, and nine “off the beaten path” trails for those looking for a self driven adventure. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds or onsite lodging but not far away in Holbrook, AZ there are different lodging options.
Tonto National Bridge
Tonto Natural Bridge is located near scenic Payson, AZ and is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Measuring at 183 feet high, 400 feet long, and 150 feet wide the bridge is quite a sight to take in. Underneath the bridge is a beautiful ravine that one can hike around and hang out in the shade. There are a total of three hiking trails to explore, one picnic area, and other group spots to use. The bridge became a State Park in 1967 and continues to be a beautiful spot to visit.
Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff, AZ is known as the highest natural point in Arizona and is located with a group of dormant volcanic peaks, the San Francisco Peaks. While the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort is a big reason for a lot of people to visit Flagstaff, taking the hike to Humphrey’s Peak is another great activity to add to the itinerary. The trail up to the peak is 4.8 miles and conveniently starts at the Snowbowl resort. Permits are required in winter to hike, thus the recommended seasons to visit are between late Spring and early Fall. There is no camping allowed once one passes the tree line, but luckily Flagstaff has more than enough options for lodging.
Horseshoe Bend is a stunning and popular spot for Grand Canyon visitors since it is conveniently located on the East Rim of the park. The distinct look of the bend is result of millions of years of the rock being uplifted and the Colorado River being trapped in its river bed and wrapping itself around more rock to create Horseshoe Bend. It is a fairly easy hike to get to the overlook from the rim, as it is only 1.5 miles roundtrip from the parking area. From the rim down to the river is a 1,000 foot drop, but luckily there is a fence to keep visitors safe!