Whether it’s the wonderland of rocks at Chiricahua National Monument, the enduring colors of Petrified Forest National Park, the iconic desert sentries of Saguaro National Park or the timeless splendor of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona’s impressive collection of 22 national parks, monuments, sites and trails beg to be explored.
If you’re looking for a reason to plan your next Arizona road trip, let National Park Week serve as your inspiration. The annual celebration featuring special events and even free admission on the first day starts on Saturday, April 16, and continues through Sunday, April 24.
“All of our Arizona parks serve as an impressive showcase for our state’s cultural and geologic diversity,” says Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “This is a perfect time of year to take a road trip to one, or a few, of our spectacular state and national parks!”
So gas up the car (or RV) and get ready to explore Arizona parks and the unique communities along the way. Here are a few suggestions for inspiration on behalf of Arizona Office of Tourism.
Chiricahua National Monument
Nearby Community: Willcox
Chiricahua rewards those adventurous enough to travel to the southeastern corner of Arizona with 12,000 acres of towering vertical formations made from rocks appearing to be delicately balanced on one another, all explorable via 17 miles of trails.
Visitors can extend their trips by staying the night at Bonita Canyon Campground and visiting the Faraway Ranch (a two-room cabin from 1886). Another great way to see the sights is to take the eight-mile scenic drive ending at Massai Point, which offers 360-degree views of the area. Birders and nature lovers are also big fans of Chiricahua, where Mexican Jays, Cactus Wrens and Sandhill Cranes are plentiful.
Petrified Forest National Park
Nearby Communities: Holbrook, Chambers, St. Johns
Petrified Forest is a high-desert geologic treasure chest offering visitors a highly explorable array of nature, geology, archaeology, paleontology and, of course, loads of petrified wood, which has morphed over the centuries into colorful, nearly solid quartz.
Two visitor centers — Painted Desert Visitor Center in the north and Rainbow Forest Museum to the south — offer exhibits, books and gifts, limited food service and restrooms.
Cruise the 28-mile Main Park Road, which winds past viewpoints, trailheads and other attractions. For a closer view, wander along trails in the park’s southern section. The Crystal Forest, Giant Logs and Long Logs trails loop past petrified wood deposits, huge logs and even an ancient log jam.
Saguaro National Park
Nearby Communities: Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita
Ready to see the towering kings of the desert in their native environment? Staff protect and preserve the giant saguaro cactus forest that stretches across the Valley floor near Tucson. Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros can reach as high as 50 feet and can live longer than 200 years.
Start your visit at the visitor center of either one of the Saguaro National Park districts. Here, you can take in museum exhibits, slideshows, cactus gardens or shop at the Western National Parks Association Bookstore. The visitor centers are also the starting point for numerous hiking trails, wildlife viewing and scenic drives. Guided walks led by visitor center staff are also available – giving the best close-up experience with some of the most notable areas of the park.
Grand Canyon National Park
Nearby Communities: Tusayan, Cameron
Vast, magnificent and inarguably beautiful, the Grand Canyon is easily Arizona’s most distinguishable landmark — a natural wonder whose splendor must be seen to be believed.
Stretching 277 miles from end to end, the Grand Canyon’s rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where the wild Colorado River continues to carve away at the rugged landscape. Everyone should see the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime, along with area businesses and outfitters making the canyon experience accessible to everyone.
Whether it’s your first trip ever or your first trip this year, from the rims to the canyon floor, there are myriad ways to explore the park and its wonders. We recommend starting with Arizona Office of Tourism’s 3 Perfect Days in the Grand Canyon itinerary or First-timer’s Guide to the Grand Canyon.
Plus, in honor of National Park Week, immerse yourself in a grand adventure of Arizona’s 50-plus parks, monuments and recreation areas with the new digital AZ Parks Passport. Enjoy access to trip ideas, maps and find diverse experiences catered to what you’re looking for—from colorful canyons to dark sky wonders. (Download your free digital parks passport at AZParksPassport.com.)
Head to VisitArizona.com to find more parks info and thousands of Arizona trip ideas.