Arizona: The Grand Canyon State From A Local Perspective

Arizona, state in the USA

Home of the best-known natural wonder of the world, the Grand Canyon, Arizona is an incredibly diverse state. Our articles, written as local residents of the state for three decades, showcase this diversity and beauty.

Table of Contents

We write a lot about out home state, highlighting mostly its natural beauty and diversity, the National Park units that help preserve the best sites, its archaeological sites, but also the cities of the state, especially our home, Phoenix (though most of our Phoenix articles also focus on the outdoors).

State Facts At A Glimpse

Arizona became a US state on February 14th, 1912, as the country’s 48th state.

Arizona became a US state on February 14th, 1912, as the country’s 48th state.

Covering 113,909 square miles, the state is the 6th largest in the nation.

Home to the best-known natural wonder of the world, the Grand Canyon, Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State.

The state flower is the gorgeous saguaro blossom. The huge white flower blooms in May and June, opening in the middle of the night and closing the next day—surviving only about 18 hours for pollination. Native to the Sonoran Desert, the Saguaro is the largest cactus found in the U.S.

The Palo Verde is the official state tree. Its name means “green stick” and it blooms a brilliant yellow-gold in April or May.

The official state mammal of Arizona is the ringtail, a fox-like, nocturnal animal that measures about two-and-a-half feet long.

The official state bird is the cactus wren. It gets its name from the fact that it likes to build nests in the protection of thorny desert plants, like the saguaro and other cacti.

The state also has an official amphibian, the Arizona tree frog.

Petrified wood is the official state fossil. The Petrified Forest in northeastern Arizona is home to America’s largest deposits of petrified wood.

Turquoise is the official state gemstone. You can find the blue-green stone throughout the state.

Arizona is the only state that includes a part of each of the four deserts found in North America: the Sonoran Desert (the state’s largest, and the most biologically diverse desert in North America), the Mohave Desert, the Great Basin and the Chihuahuan Desert.

You’ll find the largest contiguous stand of ponderosa pines in the world here, stretching from near Flagstaff along the Mogollon Rim to the White Mountains region.

The state has 3,928 mountain peaks and summits, with 26 peaks of more than 10,000 feet in elevation. Mount Humphreys north of Flagstaff is the state’s highest mountain, rising to a height of 12,643 feet.

Mount Humphreys north of Flagstaff is the state’s highest mountain, rising to a height of 12,643 feet.

The state is home to the best-preserved meteor crater in the world near Winslow.

Landmarks

National Parks and Monuments in Arizona

Arizona is home to24 National Park units, showcasing and protecting a variety of unique landscapes and historical sites. This includes three major National Parks, a Historical National Park, and several National Monuments. They are our favorite sites to visit in the state, so naturally, we wrote about them.

Grand Canyon NP

An overview of the National Park units in the state, with short notes from most of them, based on our own visits to each of them.

the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Tips on how to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon NP, based on multiple visits spanning over three decades.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Showcasing and protecting its namesake cactus, symbol of the American Southwest, Saguaro National Park it is one of the best-known National Parks in Arizona

Petrified log on the desert surface

All you need to know about Petrified Forest National Park, a unique landscape where where nature, geology, archaeology, and paleontology meet.

Montezuma Castle - photo by Győző Egyed

Montezuma never set foot in Montezuma Castle; He was born 100 years after the prehistoric cliff dwelling was abandoned. Learn about more of these facts and how to visit this interesting landmark.

Cliff dwellings on the sides of Montezuma Well

Tips on how to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon NP, based on multiple visits spanning over three decades.

The church at Tumacacori mission

A National Park that preserves vestiges of a time of mixing cultures in Southern Arizona, when the Spanish Church tried setting up a town concentrated around a Mission, sitting at the crossroads of several cultures.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

In Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves and showcases this unique cactus variety, along with the surrounding desert vegetation.

the ancient ruins of Tuzigoot

Featuring an ancient citadel on top of a hill overlooking a marsh, Tuzigoot is a short visit, but offers an opportunity to learn more about the ancient inhabitants of the state.

Walnut Canyon cliff dwelling

Walnut Canyon was home to ancient villages featuring cliff dwellings carved into the sides of the canyon.

Sunset Crater at sunset

Showcasing the youngest volcano in Arizona, Sunset Crater National Monument is one of the most unique National Park unit in the state.

The Tall House in Wupatki. photo (c) Jeff Fromm

In Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves and showcases this unique cactus variety, along with the surrounding desert vegetation.

Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly. View from the Rim

On the Navajo Reservation (Dinétah), Canyon de Chelly National Monument preserves several ancient cliff dwellings, but also showcases the way of life of modern-day Diné.

Casa Grande Ruins

An east day trip destination from Phoenix, Casa Grande showcases the ruins of an ancient city in the desert.

View from the trail to Coronado Cave

We visited the site several times, as part of a day trip destination from Phoenix.

Archaeological Sites in Arizona

The area the state lays today was inhabited since ancient times. While not all structures survived, the dry desert environment helped preserve many ancient buildings, cliff dwellings, and pottery pieces. Archaeological sites throughout the state preserve them.

This is our guide to 19 ancient ruins in the state, all of the descriptions based on our visits and first-hand experiences.

Montezuma Castle - photo by Győző Egyed

The most spectacular of the easy-to-reach cliff dwelling in the state is a place we visit often, and bring all our out-of-state visitors to.

Walnut Canyon cliff dwelling

The most spectacular of the easy-to-reach cliff dwelling in the state is a place we visit often, and bring all our out-of-state visitors to.

the ancient ruins of Tuzigoot
Tuzigoot

An ancient city of the Sinagua built on a hill, overlooking a marsh; Though out of the way, it is still easy to visit.

The Tall House in Wupatki. photo (c) Jeff Fromm

Remains of Wupatki and the surrounding pueblos are part of a National Monument near Sunset Crater, in Northern Arizona.

In and Around Phoenix

Phoenix

The largest city of Arizona, and the capital of the state, Phoenix, has grown from a tiny desert town into a vast metropolis in less than a century. Even since I first moved here thirty years ago, I have seen enormous growth, more than I could have imagined.
With its sunny skies and unique desert landscapes showcasing the giant saguaro, the city attracts thousands of visitors. And once here, most don’t want to leave, making Phoenix one of the fastest-growing cities in the US.

Offering ideas of things to do in Phoenix if you are only here for one day, showcasing some of the best and most unique things the city offers.

Ideas for things to do near Sky Harbor Airport, for travelers through our city who have layovers here, ranging from a few hours to a full day.

Museums and Cultural Landmarks of Phoenix


Besides the obvious downside of the city’s rapid (air and noise pollution and the disappearance of dark skies), the upside is a vibrant cultural life.
Now, Phoenix is home to several world-class museums, and a few known landmarks worth visiting.

A short list of only 5 of the very best museums in Phoenix – according to us, of course.

The first – and still the largest – museum of its kind in the world, MIM offers an opportunity to travel the world through music and dance.

This is a flexible section where you can share anything you want. It could be details or some information about feature three.

The Musical Instrument Museum

Zoolights experiences in December of 2023, when the Zoo celebrated its 30th anniversary.

A pleasant park in the center of Phoenix, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a great outdoor place to enjoy an oasis in the desert.

One of the major landmarks in Downtown Phoenix; we spent countless hours in it, exploring every corner of the building.

Outdoors in Phoenix


Though one of the largest metropolitan areas, nature parks and preserves in Phoenix offer miles upon miles of outdoor spaces to enjoy in the cooler months. Home to several mountain and desert preserves, it features over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, and about 40 access points to several protected wilderness areas within its limits.

Outdoors in Phoenix

From late fall to early spring, it is a great time to spend time outdoors in Phoenix; the city offers plenty of nature parks and preserves to choose from.

Phoenix is also home to plenty of trails, for all hiking levels, offering easy strolls for beginners to extremely steep and/or long trails for experienced hikers, and everything in between.

Day Trips From Phoenix

Day Trip Destinations from Phoenix in Arizona

Since Phoenix is almost in the center of the state, you can explore any part of Arizona as a day trip from here. Some day trips may be longer than others, but they all offer an opportunity to explore different environments from the cactus-filled desert of the city.

Grand Canyon West. View from Guano Point

A compilation of 30 day trip destinations from Phoenix in every direction.

View from the Kachina Trail Flagstaff

In the summer, you want to get out of the oppressive heat of Phoenix. The city is close enough to several destinations that offer a totally different environment.

the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Though best enjoyed as a two-day trip, the Grand Canyon is still a great opportunity for a day trip from the city.

Bell Rock - Sedona

Ideas of things to do in Sedona in one day.

Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

Near the Superstition Mountains, and overlooking it, stands Goldfield, a reconstructed ghost town.

Apache trail

Famous for its gorgeous vistas, the Apache Trail near Phoenix is the perfect road trip to enjoy in one day.

Mountain Lion at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Zoo, botanical garden, aviary, and even aquarium, all in one, the Desert Museum is the perfect place to learn about the Sonoran Desert and its incredible biological diversity.

Coronado

A closer opportunity, south of the city, is to use Coronado National Memorial as a day-trip destination from the city.

Road Trips Through The State and Beyond

We also embark on longer road trips, not only in Arizona, but beyond, everywhere we can get to by car within a few days. These destinations usually involve the Four Corners area of the US Southwest, and California. Here are a few examples of our explorations.

Grand Canyon South Rim

This road trip is best enjoyed in a week to 14 days, taking you through most of the sites worth exploring in our state.

A patch of aspens on the Kachina Trail in Flagstaff

I Our favorite stops along a road trip exploring the northern part of our state.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Here is an example of a road trip we like to explore the southern part of our state – usually a road trip we take in the winter.

Sunset Crater National Monument

One of our all-time favorite scenic road, this short road takes you through the youngest volcano in the state, along the remains of ancient pueblos.

Mesa Verde National Park

Phoenix is a great starting point to road trips that take you to the neighboring states. Here are some stops worth taken along a road trip from Phoenix to Durango, doable as a weekend trip.

Yosemite National Park

Starting off in another direction, you can use Phoenix as a starting point to visit Yosemite, and go through some gorgeous – and some famous – landmarks worth stopping for.

Death Valley - view from Zabriskie Point

Not many of us feel the need to drive to another desert, since we already live in one, but this road trip offers an insight into different types of desert environments.

“Four Seasons In One Day”

Arizona is one of the states where you can literally go through four seasons in one day. The state’s disparate climate may feature both the highest temperature across the nation and the lowest temperature across the nation on the same day. You can go from feeling like you are in an oven in Phoenix, and be in a hail storm in Flagstaff, all on the same day. (We did, on a Fourth of July weekend.)
You can also see desert flowers in bloom and gorgeous fall foliage of aspen growth in the same day. Or go from bone-dry environment and dust storms to dangerous torrential rain within minutes.
So, naturally, weather is not only present, but sometimes takes the role of main character in some of our articles.

Monsoon weather in Southern Arizona. Tumacacori

Have you even been caught in a torrential rain seemingly out of nowhere while driving? We did, more than once. This time, it was during a road trip through the southern part of our state. It was quite an adventure, apparently worth writing about.

Creosote - after rain

Since it’s so rare, rain in the desert makes a great character for an article, since it changes the environment within minutes, something you only see in the desert.

Patch of lupine Sunset in the Sonoran Desert preserve

Most people think of the desert as desolate, devoid of life. So, to show them how wrong they are, we put together this article showcasing the colors of wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert.

Wanderer Writes - flowers in the desert

And, since we showed you how beautiful the desert can be in spring, we also though we should offer at least a few ideas of where to look for these colorful desert wildflowers.

Squirrel on the Kachina Trail, Flagstaff, AZ

You want to be in Flagstaff and its surroundings in the summer if you are in the state. One of the best things to do there this time of the year is hike the Kachina Trail.

Fall colors in Flagstaff on the Aspen Loop Trail

Autumn is also beautiful in our state, both in the desert, and in higher elevations. Yes, we have some of the most beautiful fall colors here.

Aspens in Flagstaff

And the best of fall – in the traditional sense – is the golden hues of aspen colonies in and around Flagstaff. We offer a few ideas of where to find them.

Aspens during their peak colors in Flagstaff, AZ

As mentioned before, fall colors are the greatest in Flagstaff, so I wrote another article about them.

Arizona, home of the Sonoran Desert and its colossal Saguaro cactus

Of course, autumn also brings cooler temperatures – and sometimes a bit of rain – to the desert, where we can finally enjoy short hikes among the cacti.

Sonoran Preserve Trails Phoenix

Winter is the best time to be in Phoenix – of course, most people know this, since our population almost doubles in the winter months with the “snowbirds” flocking here from their frigid home towns. Here are a few fun things to enjoy outdoors in our city.

Trails in the Phoenix Desert.

Hiking is the best activity in Phoenix in winter, so here is a compilation of several hiking trails to enjoy.

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