The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights
Chiricahua National Monument

Side Adventures

The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights

Arizona is a bucket list state for many world travelers, and it’s easy to see why. Between Grand Canyon National Park, the energy vortexes of Sedona, and the movie-magic towers of Monument Valley, there is truly a lot to see. But which lesser-visited places are hiding in plain sight? Find our suggestions for the perfect complements to your classic Arizona itinerary below.

When you visit Grand Canyon National Park... add on Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks

The ideal micro-adventure, these ancient imprints are guaranteed to impress.

The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights

We get it, Grand Canyon National Park is the crowning jewel on your itinerary. This visually stunning natural feature is a joy to behold from the air, the visitor’s center, or the water itself. But don’t let your rush to get to the big ditch blind you from the sights along the way! Located five miles west of Tuba City along Highway 160, there’s one pull-off you don’t want to miss: Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks. Several Dilophosaurus skeletons were once extracted from the area, but today, visitors can enjoy viewing a series of fossilized footprints dating back 200 million years. Look for a handmade sign directing you towards the dinosaur tracks, and peruse the Navajo silversmith vendor stands on the side of the road. We recommend taking a tour of the fossils with a Navajo guide (you’ll likely be offered a tour upon arrival). This is not a formal park or monument, so tips are greatly appreciated.

When you visit Sedona... add on Homolovi State Park

This lesser-visited heritage area will astound the archeologist in your family.

The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights
Homolovi State Park (Credit: An Pham)

Sedona is Arizona’s red rock country. Each spring and fall, travelers flock to the sun-drenched canyons and mesas of Sedona to immerse themselves in one of the Southwest’s most beautiful places. Miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, swimming and bird watching in Oak Creek, vibrant green golf courses, and excellent food and shopping are all close at hand. Once you’ve ticked a few of your must-see Sedona sights off the list, try something different. Homolovi State Park is a great alternative and stopping point on your travels into or out of town. Here, a series of ancestral Hopi dwellings, dating back to 1260-1400 AD, emerge from the rolling hills to tell the story of a time passed. Take a walk on one of the several hiking trails and keep an eye out for pottery shards and petroglyphs. Remember to leave any artifacts where you found them, as they are part of the landscape’s story and should be enjoyed by future visitors like you!Find even more hidden gems in Northern Arizona.

When you visit Saguaro National Park... add on Roper Lake State Park

Perfect for cooling off on the water after your wanderings amongst giants.

The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights
Roper Lake State Park (Credit: Arizona State Parks and Trails)

For Tucson travelers, there’s nothing more iconic than Saguaro National Park! It’s here you’ll find the stately giant saguaro (pronounced “sawar-o”) cactus, the universal symbol of the American West. There are two sections to the park: the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon District. Cactus seekers are best off exploring the west side, whereas those who prefer a more remote feel will enjoy the tranquility of the east. Either way, pair your time in Saguaro National Park with an afternoon at nearby Roper Lake State Park. Tucked into the shadow of Mt. Graham, this is the bird-watcher and fisherman’s oasis. Paddle a kayak across the blue water and through lush reeds which provide habitat to endemic species. You will surely marvel at Southern Arizona’s diverse landscapes, all experienced in a single day.

When you visit Monument Valley... add on Navajo National Monument

Two of Arizona's largest ruins deserve a spot on your itinerary.

The Best Side-Adventures to Arizona’s Iconic Sights

Monument Valley is one of the most recognized places in the Southwest, thanks to its history as a larger-than-life movie set. On the day-to-day, it’s not all production crews and famous actors; although you’ll still want to bring your camera! Quiet corners of the Monument are easily accessible with the help of a guide. After you’ve hiked amongst rocks with names like Elephant Butte and the Three Sisters, continue on to Navajo National Monument. Just under an hour away, this destination is home to two of Arizona’s largest ruins: Betatakin and Kiet Seel. Spend some time behind your binoculars peering at these ancestral Puebloan cave dwellings, imagining what it must have been like to scale the cliffs and carve out a way of life in this intense landscape. Guided full-day hikes to see the sites up close are also available and offer an even more personalized journey through this corner of Arizona.

By adding these and other undiscovered sights to your trip, you are helping to support sustainable travel. Not only will these destinations add novelty to your visit, but they encourage local communities and cultures to thrive. Become the ultimate traveler by brushing up on your AppreciateAZ principles, and have a wonderful trip!

The above story was written by Whitney James and created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.

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About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

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