Arizona Trip Plans & Vacation Ideas

Arizona Trip Plans & Vacation Ideas
Arizona is more than the Wild West. It has mountains, waterways, the Grand Canyon and volcanoes in addition to the Sonoran Desert. To get a feel for the state's geology, early inhabitants and pioneer history, consider hiking and camping trips around the 48th state. Enjoy the antics of distinctive desert rodents, birds and mammals. Drive from one place to the next past natural displays of petrified wood, cactus and cholla varieties, colorful rock cliffs, traditional Navajo hogan dwellings and deep gorges. Birdcalls, desert smells, dramatic sunsets and sunrises add spice to stunning vistas. Astonishing seasonal spectacles--Monsoon lightning, the blooming of ocotillo plants, rodeos, desert wildflowers, Saguaro cactus harvest and Native American pow-wows--make each Arizona visit exceptional.

Natural Wonders: Five Days

Spend three days at Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, staying at Maher Campground and taking day hikes. The most common South Rim hikes start from Grand Canyon Village on the Bright Angel Trail and from Yaki Point on the South Kaibab Trail. Less commonly hiked, Grandview and Hermit trails have everything a canyon hike should have.

Next, drive around the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and go some distance on the North Kaibab Trail. Stay at the North Rim campground. Stop in the Vermillion Cliffs area during your drive to or from the North Rim; it's a photographer's dream.

Grand Canyon National Park (NP)
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Arizona Ruins Tour: Six Days, Part 1

From about 1000 BCE, Pre-Puebloan and Puebloan people cleverly used desert resources and left behind signs in the form of cities, buildings, pictographs, petroglyphs and artifacts.

Day 1: Near Camp Verde, about 100 miles north of Phoenix, visit Montezuma Castle National Park. The walk is less than half a mile, but the stop makes a good introduction. Visit Montezuma Well, then continue on gravel Beaver Creek Road, to the V-Bar-V Heritage Site, a fine first acquaintance with petroglyphs. Cross Interstate 17 at Exit 298 on Arizona 179 and go to Tuzigoot National Monument. Take Arizona 89A north through spectacular red sandstone formations toward Sedona but detour to Honanki and Palatki ruins. Camp at Cave Springs, north of Sedona.

Montezuma Castle NP
P.O. Box 219
Camp Verde, AZ 86322

V-Bar-V Heritage Site (HS)
2657 Village Drive
Cottonwood, AZ 86326-5875

Tuzigoot National Monument (NM)
P.O. Box 219
Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Honanki HS (Honanki and Palatki ruins)
Red Rock Heritage Sites
P.O. Box 20429
Sedona, AZ 86341

Cave Springs campground
U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Coconino National Forest (NF)
Red Rock Ranger District
P.O. Box 20429
Sedona, AZ 86341

Arizona Ruins Tour: Six Days, Part 2

Days 2 through 4: Turn northeast. Take the loop drive of Wupatki National Monument. Continue into the Navajo Nation to Navajo National Monument. Take a ranger-guided hike to Betatakin if you can. If not, take the Sandal Trail. Get on the list of hikers to Keet Seel and watch the orientation film. Camp at Sunset View or Canyon View campground.

Next day, hike to and spend the night at Keet Seel. When you return to the canyon rim, drive to Canyon de Chelly. If a special ranger-guided tour is offered, arrange your schedule around it. Camp at Cottonwood campground.

Wupatki NM
6400 N. Hwy 89
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Navajo NM
HC 71 Box 3
Tonalea, AZ 86044

Canyon de Chelly NM
P.O. Box 588
Chinle, AZ 86503

Arizona Ruins Tour: Six Days, Part 3

Day 5: Walk White House Ruins Trail and drive the Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerte rims. On the way back to Flagstaff, stop at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, a pioneer-era trading post, and browse some Native American crafts. Camp at Homolovi Ruins State Park.

Day 6: Stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Set aside several hours in Flagstaff to see the Museum of Northern Arizona. Stay at one of the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds on Lake Mary Road, south of Flagstaff.

Day 7: Return to Phoenix.

Hubbell Trading Post NHS
P.O. Box 150
Ganado, AZ 86505

Homolovi Ruins SP
HCR 63, Box 5
Winslow, AZ 86047

Walnut Canyon NM
Road #3
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N. Ft. Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

USFS, Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake District
1824 S. Thompson St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Cowboys, Miners and Missionaries: Six Days

Days 1 and 2: The flavor of the Old West remains in the southern Arizona towns of Willcox, Bisbee and Tombstone. Drive past Tucson and Benson and turn south at Willcox to arrive at Fort Bowie National Heritage Site. Spend the night at Bonita campground in Chiricahua National Monument and choose a pleasant hike in the morning. Drive on to Tombstone.

Days 3 and 4: Take the road to Bisbee, being sure to walk around downtown shops and take the Copper Queen Mine tour. Continue to Kartchner Caverns State Park, which has a campground.

Days 5 and 6: Drop south to the sister cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, and get in some shopping. It's best to park in one of the many pay lots near the border and walk across. You must have your passport or travel documents to re-enter the U.S. Complete the tour with stops at Tumacácori National Historic Park and San Xavier del Bac Mission.

Ft Bowie National HS
3203 S. Old Fort Bowie Road
Bowie, AZ 85605

Chiricahua NM
12856 E. Rhyolite Creek Road
Willcox, AZ 85643

Tombstone, AZ

Bisbee, AZ

Copper Queen Mine
East Copper Mine Road
Queen Creek, AZ 85243

Kartchner Caverns SP
520-586-2283 (reservations)
520-586-4100 (information)
P.O. Box 1849
Benson, AZ 85602

Tumacácori NHS
P.O. Box 8067
Tumacácori, AZ 85640

San Xavier del Bac Mission
1950 W. San Xavier Road
Tucson, AZ 85746

Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at

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