arizona mountain town Chiricahua National Monument

Arizona Mountain Towns

Arizona is famous for wind-swept desert vistas, iconic saguaro cacti reaching toward the sky and backdrops of glowing, amber-hued sunsets. While the summer sun delivers its warm embrace in the state’s lower elevations, there are equally captivating sights and experiences waiting to be explored across the state’s cooler mountain regions as well. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these destinations.

“After you’ve spent a few days poolside enjoying the sunshine in the Valley, the next stop on any summer vacation is to explore our cooler, higher-elevation communities and parks,” says Lisa Urias, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “Spending time in the 70’s and 80’s among the ponderosa pines exploring Arizona’s mountain regions is another great way to revitalize and enjoy our beautiful state.”      

Here are a few insider tips for residents and travelers to answer the call of Arizona’s mighty mountain hideaways.

arizona mountain town williams
Grand Canyon Railway

Northern Arizona – Williams

Elevation: 6,765 feet 

Average Summer Temp: 83 degrees

Midway between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, Williams’ small-town charms invite lingering. This gateway to the Grand Canyon boasts a vibrant historic downtown district, plenty of lodging and dining options, and access to outdoor recreation.

The Williams-Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center, housed in a 1901 train depot, is a great place to start a trip and learn about the area’s natural and human history. Today, exploring the rest of this town reveals neon signs, soda fountains and restaurants serving American staples of beef and potatoes in all their various glories. This Arizona mountain town is a wonderful place to snap a few photos of Americana relics or buy some cowboy leather.

Williams is also the pickup point for the Grand Canyon Railway. The train ride takes about two hours and drops you off on the canyon’s South Rim. There are a number of class options, including an observation dome and the budget-minded Pullman Class.

Southeastern Arizona – Mt. Graham & Roper Lake

Roper Lake Elevation: 3,000 feet

Average Summer Temp: 98 degrees

Mt. Graham Elevation: 10,724 feet 

Average Summer Temp: 66 degrees

Mt. Graham towers at over 10,700 feet as the pinnacle of the Pinaleño Mountains in Southern Arizona near Safford. As home to the Mt. Graham International Observatory, it’s perhaps best known as a hotspot for stargazing and fans of astronomy. The ideal way to soak in the experience of Mt. Graham is to take the bus tour, which starts at the visitor center at Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus. Tours include a scenic drive up Mt. Graham, a lunch near the summit and a guided tour of the observatories.

Even though it’s a bit warmer than the summit of Mt. Graham, staying in one of the eight air-conditioned cabins at nearby Roper Lake State Park is a great way to end this trip. Plus, they’re just steps from the water, making them the perfect base from which to explore this area. 

Northern Arizona – The Mountains of Prescott

Elevation: 5,367 feet

Average Summer Temp: 88 degrees

Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level among the largest stand of ponderosa pine forests in the U.S., Prescott‘s breathtaking landscapes are complete with granite mountains, lakes, streams and rolling meadows. With three lakes to choose from, several options for paddling on the water are found in this Arizona mountain town. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards await to help visitors get out and explore. Plan a ride around a full moon and enjoy the glow on the water, peaceful surroundings and nighttime views.

When not on the lakes, activities include horseback riding, golfing, hiking, mountain biking, shopping or visiting the local breweries and restaurants.

Once the territorial capital of the state, the City of Prescott is rich with Western history embodied in its world-famous Whiskey Row, abundant historical landmarks and the “World’s Oldest Rodeo.” 

arizona mountain town fools hollow
Fool Hollow Lake

Northeastern Arizona – Show Low & Fool Hollow Lake

Elevation: 6,349 feet 

Average Summer Temp: 86 degrees

Show Low, the largest city in the White Mountains, traces its name to a card game between two ranchers who needed to decide who would stay and who would go (clearly, the town wasn’t big enough for them both). The one who could “show low” would win. The main street in town is named “Deuce of Clubs”— the winning card. The Show Low Historical Museum is a good kick-off to any trip, featuring a collection of quirky stuff from locals, including quilts, military memorabilia, blacksmithing tools and barbershop equipment.

As a cool place in the summer, Show Low is also home to Fool Hollow Lake State Park. At the edge of the lake, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards from J&T’s Wild-Life Outdoors, the concessionaire located near the east boat launch ramp. Rentals are available on the spot, but reservations are always a good idea. Watercraft rental is seasonal and is currently only available in summer.

Southern Arizona – Chiricahua National Monument & Coronado National Forest

Elevation: 5,134 feet to 7,310 feet 

Average Summer Temp: 87 degrees

Another Southern Arizona summer escape is Coronado National Forest. Free, dispersed camping is available along Pinery Canyon Road. Some of the spots are right next to Pinery Creek, but it’s not always flowing, so it’s best to bring ample supplies of water. Fires are permitted, but always check local fire restrictions, as the area may have burn bans throughout the year. 

For those looking for a more traditional camping experience next to one of Arizona’s most scenic areas, nearby Chiricahua National Monument (pictured at top of page) offers 25 developed sites at Bonita Canyon Campground.

Arizona mountain towns offer cool, refreshing getaways for summer fun and memories. For more ideas, visit


  1. Dean Showers

    Don’t forget Greer Arizona. The highest in Arizona! I would call it a mountain town.
    Thank you

  2. How do you not mention Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon?

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