There's no better way to kick off a day in Arizona than by getting up early to watch the sun rise over rocky formations, sandstone and saguaros. Here are amazing spots to watch the sunrise in Arizona.
Airport Mesa, Sedona
The red rocks surrounding Sedona offer countless vantage points for watching the sunrise, but Airport Mesa, with its panoramic views of Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte, is one of the best. Go early to snag a parking spot in the small lot halfway to the mesa's top, and make the short hike to the overlook for the best view.
Camelback Mountain, Phoenix
Early morning is the ideal time to hike Camelback Mountain - not only because it's cooler and there are fewer people - but because, at the summit, you'll be treated to 360-degree views of Phoenix flickering below as the sun comes up. It's a difficult hike, though, especially in the pre-dawn darkness, requiring a rock scramble in the last stretch of the 1,200-foot elevation gain. Bring plenty of water, and take frequent breaks.
Mather and Yaki Points, Grand Canyon
Just about any spot along the rim of the Grand Canyon offers a front-row seat to the colorful play of light on the canyon's walls as the sun rises, but Mather and Yaki points are two top spots to catch the dazzling morning show. Park at the visitor center and either walk to Mather Point or take the free Kaibab Rim Route (Orange) Shuttle Bus to Yaki Point. Mather Point is extremely popular at sunrise, especially with tour buses. For a more intimate experience, opt for Yaki Point instead.
The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Every room at The View Hotel has a private balcony facing Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and guests who set their alarm are rewarded with a stunning sunrise as rock formations turn from dark purple to a glowing orange in the morning light. Not a guest? The viewing area at the tribal park visitor center, adjacent to the hotel, offers an equally impressive vantage point.
East Wetlands Restoration Area, Yuma
Yuma's restored wetlands of cottonwood, willow and mesquite trees are a great spot for both sunrise and sunset. In the morning, the sun crests the Gila Mountains. Come back in the evening to watch the sunset over the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park and Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge over the Colorado River.
Saguaro National Park (East District), Tucson
For stunning views of saguaros bathed in early morning light, head to the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park, located on the east side of Tucson. Be there when the park opens at 7 a.m. and drive the 8-mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive, stopping at the scenic vistas and pullouts to watch the sun pop over the mountain range.
Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction
Legend has it that the gold discovered by "the Dutchman," German native Jacob Waltz, is still buried somewhere in Lost Dutchman State Park, but the real treasure here may just be the sunrises over the Superstition Mountains. For a panoramic view, stake a safe spot along the Apache Trail. In the park, hike the relatively easy Jacob's Crosscut Trail or Prospector's View Trail.
Sentinel Peak and Tumamoc Hill, Tucson
Neighboring Sentinel Peak - otherwise known as "A" Mountain - and Tumamoc Hill make great vantage points to watch the sun rise over Tucson. Although the gates to Sentinel Peak will be closed at sunrise, you can park at the base and walk up. It's just the opposite at Tumamoc Hill - the 850-acre ecological and archaeological reserve immediately to the west - the one-way road closes to walkers from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, although you are allowed to access the trail before and after those hours.