15 Must-Visit State and National Parks in Arizona

Published:

Modified: August 24, 2021

by Rina Bernardo

Panoramic view of the Grand Canyon in Arizona

The state of Arizona has long been known for its picturesque views, filled with towering red rocks and bushes of cacti. Pretty to look at, these sites are even more fascinating as some of them are key areas in the development of Arizona and even the world. Because of the significance of these lands, they are protected and declared state and national parks in Arizona. As visible proof of Arizona’s heritage, visiting these parks is a great way to appreciate its beauty and history.

From the iconic Grand Canyon to the fascinating water slide in Slide Rock, there are plenty of parks you can visit and explore. What’s even better is that you can get free or discounted entry to these parks if you have a National Parks Senior Pass or a National Park Pass!

 

Best State and National Parks in Arizona

1. Grand Canyon National Park

 

Aerial view of the iconic Grand Canyon National Park
Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Address: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ 86023, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 20 USD
Best time to visit: March to May, September to November 

When it comes to national parks in Arizona and in the United States, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best. This UNESCO World Heritage Site prides itself on being one of the natural wonders of North America, giving you a glimpse of Mother Nature’s best creations. It boasts miles and miles of canyons formed through the Colorado River’s erosion and other geologic activity. 

Hike, bike, jog, or simply visit and admire the beauty of the Grand Canyon. Because of its vast land area, there are four divisions that make up the national park. The South Rim is very popular among tourists since it provides picture-perfect views of the canyons. On the other hand, the North Rim is perfect for those who want to veer away from crowded areas. Grand Canyon East features the famous Little Colorado River Gorge where you can find the infamous skywalk. 

 

2. Petrified Forest National Park

 

Colorful tepee in Petrified Forest National Park
Photo by ArtTower on Pixabay

Address: Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 15 USD
Best time to visit: March to October 

Feel as if you’ve been transported back in time as you explore Petrified Forest National Park, one of the best national parks in Arizona. Home to several petrified wood and fossils, the park is evidence of what life was like more than 200 million years ago. Other than that, Petrified Forest National Park also features colorful hills, sandstone formations, and more than 400 plant species.

As one of the least crowded parks, you can soak up the otherworldly atmosphere and explore the place at your own pace. Join a guided hike that highlights certain aspects of the park-like archaeology, the petrified wood, plants, and the overall natural environment. Take your bike and follow the trails that take you through its famous Tepees. Petrified Forest National Park is also a pet-friendly area, so you can bring along your furry friends and explore the park with them.

 

3. Saguaro National Park

 

Tall saguaro cacti as seen at a trail in Saguaro National Park
Photo by Christoph von Gellhorn on Unsplash

Address: Saguaro National Park, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 15 USD
Best time to visit: October to April

In Tucson, don’t miss a visit to Saguaro National Park! This is one of the national parks in Arizona and in the United States that features the saguaro cactus, an icon of Sonoran deserts. Here you’ll find numerous giant saguaro cacti in their natural environment along with other desert flora and fauna. Its desert climate also provides a home for animals like javelina, desert tortoise, black bear, deer, and even the Mexican spotted owl.

Only a short drive away from Tucson, Saguaro National Park is a worthwhile day trip. Whether you enter the east or west access point, there are different hiking, biking, and jogging trails to follow. Get the best views of the Rincon Mountains on a scenic drive and get a chance to see different plant species that thrive in a desert climate. For a more relaxing activity, bring some snacks and enjoy a quiet picnic surrounded by the tall saguaro cacti. 

 

4. Catalina State Park

 

View of the plants and flowers at Catalina State Park
Photo by Max Richard on Flickr

Address: 11570 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85737, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 3 USD
Best time to visit: October to May

Located at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Catalina State Park serves as a haven for thousands of desert flora and fauna. It boasts more than 5,000 towering saguaro cacti, scattered around its vast 5,500 acres of land. A protected area in Arizona, the state park was occupied by the Hohokam people centuries ago, and you can find ruins of different pueblos in the park.

Catalina State Park is a destination fit for any kind of traveler. There are easy nature trails as well as longer and more challenging hikes and trails for more experienced ones. Aside from camping and hiking, Catalina State Park is one of the state and national parks in Arizona that’s perfect for stargazing. Every year, the park hosts a Star Party where anyone can admire the beauty of the night sky while learning more about it. Whether you have a big RV or a small RV, the park is also perfect for car camping.

 

5. Red Rock State Park

 

Towering sandstone rock formations at Red Rock State Park
Photo by Eric Donzella on Unsplash

Address: 4050 Red Rock Loop Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: October to April

If you’re traveling from Phoenix to Sedona, make sure to visit Red Rock State Park. The park features tall sandstone formations, scenic trails, and cliffs. Its red-hued rocks and gorgeous views of Sedona make it a favorite among locals and foreigners alike. Like most state and national parks in Arizona and in the country, the park aims to protect and preserve the surrounding habitat. 

Marvel at the stunning landscapes of Arizona at Red Rock State Park. Join expert naturalists on guided tours and learn more about the history and goals of the park and nature preserve. From the park, get the best views of Cathedral Rock, Sedona’s most iconic rock formation, through different trails and viewpoints. With easy, moderate, and advanced hiking and biking trails, this state park is an ideal destination for travelers of different ages.

 

6. Alamo Lake State Park

 

View of the mountains and flora at Alamo Lake State Park
Photo by joel on Adobe Stock

Address: Alamo Rd, Wenden, AZ 85357, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 3 USD
Best time to visit: December to April 

Take a break from the desert-like scenery and head to Alamo Lake State Park, one of the few state and national parks in Arizona featuring a large body of water. Its highlight is Alamo Lake, a recreational reservoir that also doubles as a flood control center. As a flood control center, the lake is capable of capturing large amounts of water instantly. Because of its relatively remote location, the park is considered to be one of Arizona’s best-kept secrets. Open all-year-round, visit the park during spring when colorful wildflowers are scattered around. 

There are plenty of things to do in Alamo Lake State Park! You can go fishing, boating, camping, and more. For wildlife enthusiasts, don’t miss the chance to spot wildlife like the gold and bald eagle among others. At night, bring out your cameras and take photos of the night sky, making sure to spot a few constellations here and there. 

 

7. Slide Rock State Park

 

View of Slide Rock State Park in Arizona
Photo by oliver.dodd on Flickr

Address: 6871 AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 10 USD
Best time to visit: June to September

Visiting Slide Rock State Park is one of the best things to do in Sedona, Arizona. Once an apple orchard, the park is famous for its water slide made from red sandstone, hence its name. The park is also an example of agricultural development in Arizona and helped in the rise of tourism in Oak Creek Canyon and in Sedona.

Beat the summer heat and go for a swim in Slide Rock State Park. Slide down the creek or go sunbathing on the rock bed. Aside from water activities, there are also three different hiking trails, namely the Slide Rock Route, Clifftop Nature Trail, and the Pendley Homestead Trail. Take note that since Slide Rock State Park is among the popular state and national parks in Arizona, there can be plenty of people during summer, mid-spring, and early autumn.

 

8. Dead Horse Ranch State Park

 

View of the lagoon, trees, and mountains at Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Photo by Martha Marks on Adobe Stock

Address: 675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 3 USD
Best time to visit: October to mid-December 

Located in Cottonwood, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a 423-acre land filled with plenty of recreational activities. Its somewhat peculiar name was coined by the Ireys family who turned over the ranch to the local government to become a state park. Since then, the state park has become a favorite destination for campers and bird watchers because of its ecosystem. In addition, the park is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, making it an oasis in the middle of Arizona’s desert landscapes.

For travelers with RV campers, you can find more than a hundred camping sites in the park. There are also several cabins available around the state park for overnight campers. If you’re visiting for a short day trip, there are hiking and mountain biking trails with varying levels of difficulty. Additionally, the Lime Kiln Trail features a 15-mile long route that takes you from Dead Horse Ranch State Park to Red Rock State Park in Sedona.

 

9. Lost Dutchman State Park

 

View of the Superstition Mountain from Lost Dutchman State Park
Photo by Sylvia Bentele on Adobe Stock

Address: 6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 3 USD
Best time to visit: February to April, October to December

Named after the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is one of the best state and national parks in Arizona. Not only is it home to one of the classic legends of the Old West, but the state park also has the best views of the Superstition Mountains. In 2010, the park was scheduled to be closed, but an anonymous local from Texas donated money to help keep the park open.

On your visit to Lost Dutchman State Park, you won’t be able to find the missing gold, but instead, you’ll find a landscape straight out of a cowboy movie. Saguaro cacti frame the Superstition Mountains in a picture-perfect shot from every trail. If you want to spend more time at the park, there are campsites and cabins available for rent. 

 

10. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

 

View of the travertine bridge from the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Photo by ksblack99 on Flickr

Address: Nf-583A, Pine, Arizona 85544, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: February to April, October to December

Find the world’s largest natural travertine bridge at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, one of the many state and national parks in Arizona. Like Lost Dutchman State Park, the state park was scheduled for closing due to budget cuts. However, several groups donated funds to help keep the park open. Today, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

In summer, hike at any of the trails and marvel at the beauty of Tonto Natural Bridge. There are three different trails that aren’t long but can be strenuous. However, the view is simply breathtaking. Follow the Gowan Trail, named after the man who discovered the bridge, and stop by the observation deck at the bottom of the creek. The waterfall trail is the shortest trail and takes you around the waterfall cave. You can also enjoy a relaxing picnic at the campgrounds, surrounded by pine trees and junipers.

 

11. Lake Havasu State Park

 

Rock formations at Lake Havasu State Park
Photo by SoCali on Pixabay

Address: 699 London Bridge Rd, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 3 USD
Best time to visit: Mid-October to February

With Lake Havasu State Park’s turquoise waters and palm tree-lined shores, one wouldn’t think you’re in Arizona! Its tropical atmosphere nearly rivals the beaches of Florida, with its shores lined with colorful speedboats. With almost half a million visitors every year, this is one of the most popular state and natural parks in Arizona. 

Lake Havasu State Park’s main highlight is its water activities. You can go boating, kayaking, or paddle boating, and pass under London Bridge. On the other hand, you can simply pitch your beach umbrellas and bask under the warm summer sun. Visit the Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden and discover the flora and fauna that thrive within the environment. 

 

12. Jerome State Historic Park

 

Old mining cars displayed in Jerome State Historic Park
Photo by Jamie & Judy Wild/Danita Delimont on Adobe Stock

Address: 100 Douglas Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: October to April 

Visiting state and national parks in Arizona not only lets you in on its best natural wonders, but also give you a glimpse into its history. At Jerome State Historic Park, learn about Arizona’s history as a mining state and how it played an important role in the state’s economic development. Step inside and learn more about Arizona’s history, which is centered around Douglas Mansion,

Inside the Douglas Mansion, now a popular landmark and museum, see a 3D model of the town and its underground mines. The museum also contains photos and artifacts relating to Jerome as a mining town. In addition, you can also find authentic mining equipment used back in the day. Outside, enjoy a picnic lunch as you marvel at the views of Verde Valley.

 

13. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

 

Ancient structures in Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
Photo by Marine 69-71 on Wikimedia Commons

Address: 1 Burruel St, Tubac, Arizona 85646, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: February to April

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is a park that preserves the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, the oldest Spanish garrison in Arizona. It is also home to other historic buildings which are all listed under the National Register of Historic Places. The state park also gives you a glimpse of the history of Arizona, dating back to the Spanish Era. It was once scheduled for closing due to budget setbacks, but locals and the Tubac Historical Society helped raise funds to keep it open.

Head to Tubac Presidio State Historic Park’s museum and discover a different side of Arizona. See the historical items and exhibits about the Spanish Colonial and Native American period, all of which shaped Arizona into the state that we know today. Cap off your visit to the state park by visiting the ruins of the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac and see the former Commandant’s quarters.

 

14. Oracle State Park

 

Landscape in Oracle State Park
Photo by robitaillee on Adobe Stock

Address: 3820 E Wildlife Dr, Oracle, AZ 85623, United States
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: November to April

Oracle State Park is one of the best state and national parks in Arizona to view the night sky. Like Sedona, the state park is a designated International Dark Sky Place, so stargazing here is a must. Aside from being a hotspot for stargazing, the state park also serves as a wildlife refuge, home to hundreds of bird, mammal, and reptile species.

An hour away from Tucson, Oracle State Park makes up for an exciting day trip from the city. The park boasts more than 15 miles of trails perfect for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. Additionally, you can join the guided nature walks and tours, which offer plenty of opportunities to view the wildlife. Although you can’t stay at the park overnight, viewing the Milky Way galaxy and other celestial bodies here is the best way to end the day.

 

15. Homolovi State Park

 

Ruins of an ancient pueblo in Homolovi State Park
Photo by Martha Marks on Adobe Stock

Address: HCR 63, Box 5 Winslow, AZ 86047
Entrance fees: Starts at 7 USD
Best time to visit: February to April, October to December

Learn about the history of the native people of Arizona at Homolovi State Park. It preserves more than 300 archaeological sites from the 1200s to the 1300s relating to the Hopi people. Like the Tubac Presidio State Park, four of the sites at Homolovi are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. The park boasts panoramic views of eastern Arizona as well as petroglyphs and ruins of Hopi residences.

For history enthusiasts, Homolovi State Park is one of the best state and national parks in Arizona to visit. Follow the paved Homolovi II Trail that takes you to the largest site at the park, a 14th-century pueblo with over 2,000 rooms. For a scenic view of the park, take the Diné trail instead. Although you can join ranger-guided tours and nature walks, you can also use audio guides to play on your phone so you can explore the park at your own leisure. You can also bring your tents or RV camper and spend the night at the park.

 

Tips When Visiting State and National Parks in Arizona

 

Red Rock State Park in Arizona
Photo by Ron Reiring on Flickr

 

  1. Be prepared for the weather. During summer, the weather in Arizona can be scorching hot. Make sure to bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and dress accordingly. In addition, don’t forget to bring sunglasses and a hat.
  2. Know when is the best time to visit the state and national parks in Arizona. Take note that some parks and parts of the park are open on a specific season. On the other hand, if you visit during peak season, be prepared for the thick crowds.
  3. If you plan on camping, make sure to reserve in advance as there may be limited slots available.
  4. Make sure to pack smart to avoid last-minute trips to malls, convenience stores, and other commercial establishments.
  5. Since these parks can be massive, choose to join guided tours and hikes instead of venturing out on your own. You can learn more from your guide and, at the same time, these tours take the stress out of planning and coordinating.
  6. Invest in a National Park Pass if you will be visiting more than one national park. Aside from national parks in Arizona and in the United States, you can also gain access to thousands of federal recreation sites and national wildlife refuges with your National Park Pass.
  7. After arriving at the park, be sure to check with the park rangers for any road closure or if there are certain areas that are inaccessible. They can also give tips and advice on your itinerary.
  8. Clean as you go. Before leaving the park, make sure to bring all trash and leave no trace behind.
  9. Visiting the state and national parks is one of the best ways to see wildlife in their natural habitat, but always keep a safe distance between you and the animal. As much as possible, don’t interact with them so they won’t feel threatened and attack.

 

Visit the Best State and National Parks in Arizona!

The national parks and state parks of Arizona are a testament to their history, culture, and heritage. These sites offer more than just postcard-worthy views, but also a glimpse into the history of both Arizona and the world. From the fascinating slopes of the Grand Canyon to the ruins and petroglyphs at Homolovi and Tubac Presidio State Parks, learn more about Arizona and get a deeper appreciation of its sites.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and camping gear and head out to see Arizona’s best parks!