I lived and worked in the United States for 4 months. Travelled across 9 different states. I even do pretty well on American quizzes. I wouldn’t say that makes me a USA expert by any means, but I certainly would have considered myself somewhat knowledgeable. And yet, if you had asked me about things in Arizona to see, I would have probably said the Grand Canyon and nothing else but heat and desert. That’s why when we visited Arizona as part of our Southwest road trip I had the shock of my life. I should have known it was going to be a trip of surprises after also shockingly loving LA, but Arizona surpassed expectations even further.
There certainly is plenty of desert. But Arizona is so much more than that. There are so many things I could write about: the spectacular desert sunsets; waking up with no other signs of civilizations for miles and miles; the contrast from bright orange and brown mountains to lush green forests within minutes… and of course the Grand Canyon. But that is the one thing everyone does know about Arizona, so no point in me talking about it. Instead, here are another 5 things in Arizona that are not the Grand Canyon, but are also worth the visit.
5 things in Arizona that are NOT the Grand Canyon:
Saguaro National Park
The Saguaro National Park is home to the Saguaro cacti. These cacti are a classic symbol of Arizona and yet they don’t just grow anywhere in the State. They also don’t just grow within the National Park, but across many other areas in the south of Arizona, although it is within the National Park on both sides of Tucson that you will find the most. I’ve seen some big cacti in my time, but these are absolutely gigantic. One of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen!
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park covers a very characteristic landscape featuring red sandstone canyons. Much like the Saguaro cacti, these bright coloured mountains are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. In a world where many of the travel pictures that are out there are heavily edited, it is hard to believe that they really are that colour. But believe me: they are!
I believe the strengths of Arizona lie in its landscapes, not its cities or towns. However, there is one exception and that is Sedona. Tucked away within Red Rock State Park, it’s got something for everybody. Whether you are looking for some hiking or mountain bike trails, or whether you are looking to disconnect at a desert resort. It is however most popular among those interested in the spiritual and healing world as well as those looking for UFOs. It is said to be the home of one of a very strong energy vortex. Like I said – something for everybody!
Out of all things in Arizona, even if you were to include the Grand Canyon, I believe Monument Valley is a must. It is one of those places that no amount of pictures or videos can prepare you for. It is breathtaking. It’s no surprise that it’s been used as backdrop in many movies including Forrest Gump, Back to the Future part 3, Lone Ranger, and many many westerns. It’s also found within the Navajo Nation Reservation, the second biggest Native American tribe in the United States.
When in Monument Valley, you can visit the Navajo market, some of the original Navajo houses made out of mud and even try some of the local Navajo bread. It all feels very staged, but it helps the tribe economically. Although be ready to get a little dusty – we visited Monument Valley after it had rained and we still came out completely covered in earth! I’d do it all over again though.
As I stated at the beginning, Arizona is by no means all desert. You might be as surprised as I was to learn that together with Utah, it hosts the second biggest man made lake in the United States: Lake Powell. A reservoir of the Colorado river, this lake is a popular vacation spot among Americans. Whether you are interested in water rafting, fishing or any other sort of sport activities, or looking for spectacular landscapes, Lake Powell fits the bill.
I’m sure there are many more other wonderful places in Arizona worth visiting, but I hope these show you that there is a lot more Arizona beyond the Grand Canyon. Be sure not to miss them if you are stopping by!
Anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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