Uniquely Arizona outdoor adventures
At first glance, miles and miles of desert and cactus doesn’t exactly sound too inviting a place to visit… However, you should consider an Arizona road-trip this spring for some uncommonly good times! Getting outdoors for some fresh air and exercise always makes you feel good and with these excursions your mind will be exercised as well.
We’re not talking about seeing the Grand Canyon by hot air balloon or visiting a dude ranch for some horseback riding… While those activities are great, our list of things-to-do is geared to be a little closer to nature. In Arizona, that means experiencing cactus filled deserts and beautiful rocky structures that are only found in the south-west. If this sounds attractive to you, here’s a few places that should be of interest…
Journey where few others have ventured by exploring slot canyons and mesas on a Navajo Reservation with the direction of a knowledgeable local guide. Tours are available for you to learn about these unique sandstone landscapes, and of course you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take some absolutely stunning / unique photographs. Tour operators are located in Page, Arizona.
Travel back in time… to the Montezuma Castle. Located just south of Sedona in the Verde Valley lies a very unique historical structure. One of the first 4 National Monuments formally protected by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, this site is home to one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. Imagine living in the Americas more than 500 years ago, when the Sinagua people built this 20 room “high-rise apartment” in the sides of this towering limestone cliff. A short trail takes you alongside a creek highlighting the local flora and the Montezuma well, before coming upon the dramatic Montezuma Castle - A truly unique sight!
Release your inner “birder”… Arizona is said to be one of the top ten places in North America for bird watching and there are a number of options available to you across in the southern regions of the state. Located in a 600-acre nature park, Phoenix’s ‘Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center’ has interactive exhibits, as well as hiking and riding trails - including an educational interpretive loop. They also offer nature programs and birding classes/walks for those interested in a more complete educational experience. For those of you who like to explore on your own, a few of the best places to see a large variety of birds, both migratory and resident, are in the following Arizona conservation areas:
- Chiracahua National Monument
- Ramsey Canyon Preserve
- San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
- Buenas Aires National Wildlife Refuge
- Madera Canyon, Sabino Canyon
- Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve
In the center of the state, Sedona’s Verde Valley is also home to a large variety of bird species. The Hummingbird Society holds an annual Hummingbird Festival in Sedona in late summer, offering speaker presentations, garden tours and more. Also of note is Sierra Vista, south of Tucson, which thanks to it’s mild climate and diverse habitat, is referred to as the Hummingbird capital of the USA, where a variety of colorful and rare species can be seen.
For the stargazer... experience some astrophysics in Arizona. Discovery Park and the Mount Graham International Observatory are located in the remote south-east corner of the state. Discovery Park’s visitor center offers weekend tours (starting in mid May), with experienced guides providing information on the mountain as well as the Observatory and it’s incredible telescopes. There’s also a ranch and wildlife area at the Park.
Experience wide-open space while looking for bighorn sheep at the 'Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge'. A portion of the Refuge’s 860k acres is “designated wilderness” for the public to explore. Bighorn sheep and Sonoran pronghorn roam free through-out the desert landscape. Some primitive camping is allowed on-site. This sanctuary is located 4 hours south-west of Phoenix.
For some uncommon natural sights only found in this part of the world, visit 'Chiricahua National Monument' located in the south-east corner of Arizona. It will soon become obvious as to why this area is known as the "Wonderland of Rocks". You will find a large number of rock pinnacles, some of which are 100s of feet tall with bases smaller than the structures above them. This 12k acre conservation area has an 8 mile scenic roadway as well as 17 miles of hiking trails. The best way to explore the area is by day-hiking through the pre-historic volcanic landscape. Along with the desert environment, you can also venture into grasslands, scrublands as well as deciduous and evergreen forests.
If all of that is not enough for you to experience Arizona's uniqueness, there’s also the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix. It’s “museum” is actually 50+ acres of outdoor exhibits, including displays of 139 rare plant species from around the world. If you’re into fishing, Arizona has a number of uncommon locations to choose from. There are rare desert lakes surrounded by canyon walls, as well as cool pine forest waters to cast your line into.