Arizona was the 48th state to join the United States on Valentine’s Day 1912. That earned them the nickname “the Valentine State.” Other nicknames are ‘The Copper State’, because of their color as well as the many copper mines and ‘The Grand Canyon State’. Arizona was originally a Spanish colony, but they split off in 1821 and became part of New California. Located in the southwest near the Mexican border, the climate is hot and dry, with hot summers and mild winters. More than 7 million people live over 295 000 km², of which 1.5 million in the capital Phoenix. Other major cities include Tucson, Mesa, Yuma, Prescott, and Flagstaff. More than a quarter of the total area has been designated as reservations for 27 different tribes of Native Americans, including the Navajo. Thanks to its climate and impressive landscapes, of which Monument Valley and Grand Canyon are the best-known examples, the state often figures as a setting for Western films. Check necessaryhome for a list of U.S. cities starting with C.
Arizona ‘s Top 10 Things to Do
The Grand Canyon is perhaps the most famous of all canyons. The Colorado River and its tributaries have been cutting through the Colorado Plateau for millions of years, exposing layer after layer of the sandstone. In some places along the 443km-long notch, the sidewalls are more than a mile high, and at their widest point they are 18 miles (29km) apart. The region was and is inhabited by Pueblon, Yuman, Quechan, Havasupai and Hualapei tribes, and was colonized by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Today, there are several accommodations and camping areas for visitors, as well as visitor centers where rangers provide more information about the site’s history and geology.
Monument Valley, also known as ‘Valley of the Rocks’ by the Navajo, sprawls across the border with Utah, and lies entirely within the Navajo reservation. The name ‘Valley’ may not be quite appropriate. The Colorado Plateau looks more like a large plain on which buttes, a kind of hill, are up to 300 m high. Iron oxide gives the rocks of sandstone and sand their typical red color. These red rocks are perhaps the most iconic image of the American Wild West. There is only one major road through the valley, US 163 from Kayentah, AZ to US 191 in Utah. From there, small dirt roads between the large rock formations lead to Navajo villages.
In northern Arizona we find the Grand Canyon’s little brother: the Antelope Canyon. Because the formation process was different, this is a so-called ‘slot canyon’. Much less wide than it is deep, Antelope Canyon was shaped by the monsoon rains that swept through the fissures and crevices in the Navajo sandstone. The water gave the walls its typical flowing look. In fact, there are even two canyons here, the Upper and the Lower Antelope canyon. Both are extremely popular with photographers and tourists who want to see the spectacular images for themselves. Although the Upper Canyon is more popular because of its height; no climbing is required.
The Painted Desert got its name in 1540 when Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled through the region in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola. It’s obvious where the name comes from: the eroded buttes and rock formations show gradations of red in all shades, even layers of lavender. Most of the area is only accessible on foot or via small country roads, although there are a few larger roads. There are also two major Navajo settlements that you can visit: Cameron and Tuba City. You must have a special permit to travel on those small roads on Navajoland.
“The Highway of America” ran from Chicago (Illinois) to Santa Monica (California) through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The route brought many migrants – then also known as settlers – to the West. It was removed from the US Highway System in 1985 after large sections of it had already been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Locally, the “Historic Route 66” was often preserved. In Arizona, the section between Kingman and Seligman is still designated SR66, and along the route is one of two surviving Wigwam Motels from the 1930s. The rooms there are shaped like a typical tipi.
Petrified Forest National Park
In northeastern Arizona, just below the Painted Desert, we find the 600 km² Petrified Forest National Park. In the park you will find many remains of fossilized wood from the late Triassic era, after which the park was named. Route 66 once ran right through the park and remains of it can still be seen, as well as fossils from the Triassic era. In the visitor center you can see a brief history of the region and the origin of the fossils in a 20-minute film. There is no accommodation in the park itself, you can go to the surrounding villages for that.
The Havasu Falls are located in the Grand Canyon. It is one of the most photographed spots in the entire Canyon. You do need a 13 km trek there and back to see the beautiful green-blue waterfalls. The five falls take their name from the tribal land on which they are located: Havasu. The Havasu tribe operates camping pitches, which you must reserve in advance. Picnic tables are provided at the falls themselves, and you can also swim in and behind the falls.
Saguaro National Park
Near Tucson Saguaro National Park, you will find the “Saguaro National Park”. This relatively small park is made up of two distinct parts: the Tucson Mountain District west of the city and the Rincon Mountain District. The largest cacti in the country, the Saguaro, grows only here in the Sonoran Desert and is the universal symbol of the American Wild West. You can get around here on foot or by car. There are also several camping pitches.
Carved into a sandstone cliff about 27 m high, the Sinagua peoples built a building of 20 rooms spread over 5 floors: the Montezuma Castle. Montezuma was a famous Aztec emperor who has nothing to do with this structure, nor is it a castle. It’s so named after all because the European-American settlers made that connection when they came across the abandoned building in the 1860s. The Hopi and Yavapai are descended from the actual builders, and they return there regularly for religious ceremonies.
When the origin of the crater was started in the late 1800s, Daniel Barringer was the first to suggest that it may have been a meteor crater. His family still owns the surrounding property, so it is not protected as a national monument. It did receive the status of National Natural Landmark. The crater was formed about 50,000 years ago in the Pleistocene epoch when a nickel-iron meteorite about 50 meters in diameter slammed into the Colorado Plateau. In the 1960s – 1970s, the site was used by astronauts to train for the Apollo missions. Interested parties can still visit the crater today.