Let’s all blaze up and head out to one of these three excellent AZ national parks
Arizona is the geographic and cultural center of the American Southwest — and how lucky we are that it’s right next door to our fair state. For starters, the Grand Canyon is an unrivaled attraction — but it’s hardly the only outdoor spot that Arizona has to offer.
Throughout the state, visitors are wowed by some of the United States’ most enchanting scenery, open spaces, and wildlife. And, now that weed is legal in Arizona, it’s a great time to blaze up and hit the trails at three of the state’s excellent national parks.
Rugged desert beauty in the South-west Arizona is the sixth-largest U.S. state but hosts just the 14th-largest population. The state’s residents are clustered in Phoenix, Tucson, and a few other urban centers. Most of the state consists of wide-open spaces and incredible natural beauty.
Fortunately, many of Arizona’s geological and ecological points of interest are well-preserved and enjoy protected status. The state is home to 11 national wildlife refuges, six national forests, one national monument, and 31 state park units.
Of course, the pinnacle of protected status is national park designation. National parks in the United States fulfill a dual mission — to preserve natural resources while accommodating public visitation.
In Arizona, there are three unique and fascinating national parks. Visitors to these sites are treated to some of the world’s most majestic landscapes. Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon State? Here are the basic facts on Arizona’s three national parks.
Petrified Forest National Park
Size: 221,391 acres
Location: Eastern Arizona; 26 miles east of Holbrook, Arizona, and bordered to the north by the Navajo Nation
Main Attraction: petrified wood deposits
Petrified Forest National Park is home to one of the world’s best-known deposits of petrified wood. This type of fossil comes from ancient trees or tree-like plants. Petrified wood is created when minerals replace a plant’s organic material. Thus, a three-dimensional replica of the original plant specimen is formed.
Along Petrified Forest National Park’s hiking trails, you’ll see entire logs of pre-served petrified wood, an incredibly rare bit of geologic sightseeing. In addition to the fascinating fossils, the park is full of beauty and history. You’ll encounter petroglyphs, mesas and buttes, and badlands. Featured wildlife includes coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, badgers, and desert cottontails.
Grand Canyon National Park
Size: 1,217,262 acres
Location: Northwest Arizona, 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona, and 130 miles east of Las Vegas, Nevada
Main Attraction: Grand Canyon South Rim
It’s impossible to overstate the splendor and significance of the Grand Canyon. It’s considered one of the great wonders of the natural world. Grand Canyon National Park is the quintessential national park, visited by nearly six million guests per year.
At over 1.2 million acres, Grand Canyon National Park is the 11th largest U.S. national park and the fourth-largest outside of Alaska. The national park provides camping, rafting, wildlife viewing, helicopter tours, and all levels of hiking.
The Grand Canyon itself is a 277-mile-long and 18-mile-wide canyon of the Colorado River. Millions of years of geological processes are laid bare in the canyon’s enormous splendor —providing some of the planet’s most spectacular and prized views. The top tourist viewpoints occur on the park’s south rim, at Mather Point and Yavapai Point.
Saguaro National Park
Size: 91,716 acres
Location: Southeastern Arizona, on both sides (west and east) of Tucson, Arizona
Main Attraction: Sonoran Desert landscapes
Saguaro National Park is named for the giant and iconic Saguaro cacti that speckle its landscapes. Saguaros, native to the Sonoran desert, can grow up to 40 feet tall and survive for 150-year lifespans. There are nearly two million Saguaro cacti in the National Park. Some of the park’s most exciting wildlife includes mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, javelinas, and roadrunners.
The park consists of two separate areas, one 10 miles west of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains and the other 10 miles east, below the Rincon Mountains. Saguaro National Park offers excellent hiking through the unique cactus-covered landscape.
The enormous cacti cutting into the desert sky create some of the most fabulous sunsets you could ever hope to catch.
Touring Arizona’s unique landscapes Arizona is the land of the Grand Canyon and Southwestern deserts. But the state’s landscapes offer so much more. Many visitors are surprised to learn that the state is heavily forested and teeming with fascinating wildlife.
From end to end, Arizona is an amazing land to explore. The state’s three national parks provide perfect focal points for any southwestern adventure.