While Arizona’s geography does include the high deserts that everyone knows, it also features a few unexpected surprises—snow-capped mountains, pine-filled forests and red rocks.
A Breathtaking Vista
South Mountain Park
Whether hiking, mountain biking or skiing, Arizona’s 194 mountain ranges provide an array of elevations and experiences for every skill level—and the views are always spectacular.
Arizona’s largest city, the Greater Phoenix area, sits in a valley completely surrounded by mountains and parks such as South Mountain Park and Preserve, the largest municipal park in the U.S. with about 58 miles of trails.
An Ecological Wonder
The Sky Islands
To the south in Tucson, mountains can be seen from nearly any spot in the city, especially those of the Catalinas and Mt. Lemmon, one of seven “Sky Islands” in southern Arizona that ascend from desert lowlands to 9,000 feet and forests.
Sky Islands are geographic wonders popular with climbers, hikers (the southern terminus of the Arizona Scenic Trail goes through them), cyclists as well as birders and biologists. The varying changes in elevation result in diverse plants, animals and temperatures—summer temps in the southern Arizona mountains can average twenty degrees cooler than their surrounding valleys.
An Elevated Perspective
The Mountains of Northern Arizona
In northern Arizona, the Mogollon Rim (“the Rim”) transitions from desert to forests of pine and alpine where bear and elk roam. The mountain ranges here include the White Mountains to the east and the San Francisco Peaks to the north—both with average elevations of 11,000 feet, which mean cool temps in the summer and snow in the winter. Snow skiing—downhill and cross-country—as well as snowboarding and sledding can be enjoyed at both Sunrise Ski Resort in Greer and Snowbowl in Flagstaff.