Located in the southwest region of the United States, Arizona is a unique and beautiful state. It ranks #6 in size and #14 in population among the 50 states. Phoenix is the state’s capital and most populous city.
Arizona was admitted to the Union as a state on February 14, 1912, making it the 48th state and the last of the contiguous states. When Mexico gained its independence in 1821, the land that had previously been part of New Spain’s Alta California also became Mexican territory.
Mexico lost the Mexican-American War and gave up a large chunk of its territory to the United States in 1848. The Gadsden Purchase in 1853 added the southernmost part of the state to the United States.
Its desert climate is well-known, making the summers extremely scorching and the winters relatively pleasant in southern Arizona.
Pine, Douglas fir, and spruce forests, the Colorado Plateau, mountain ranges (including the San Francisco Mountains), and big, deep canyons may all be found in northern Arizona, which also benefits from significantly cooler summers and heavier snowfalls in the winter.
Flagstaff, Alpine, and Tucson all have proximity to ski slopes. Many protected areas exist, including the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Of all the places in the United States, Arizona seems to have some of the most fascinating geographical formations. All but 10 on this list of famous landmarks in Arizona are natural occurrences.
Famous Landmarks in Arizona
1. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is probably one of the most majestic wonders you can find in the United States. It measures about 227 miles long, and it spans about 18 miles wide.
The Colorado River has eroded this mountain area into a valley that now is more than a mile (6,093 feet) deep. The Grand Canyon National Park contains only part of the canyons.
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The Kaibab National Forest, Havasupai and Hualapai Indian Reservations, and the Navajo Nation also are around the Grand Canyon Park.
President Theodore Roosevelt remained active in preserving the canyon. He also enjoyed hunting in the area and appreciated its scenery.
2. Monument Valley
The full name of Monument Valley is the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The National Parks Service claims that it’s one of the most photographed “points on earth.”
Monument Valley consists of land formations called “buttes,” which are isolated towers of sandstone rock with flat tops. In the pictures, they look like stubs.
However, they actually reach more than 6,000 feet (more than a mile) high. They’re only a little more than a mile from where Arizona meets Utah at the border.
People come to see the East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Buttes via a guided tour. Other spots, such as the Ear of the Wind, are also seen by guided tours only.
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The best times of the year for photographers are at the end of March and the middle of September. That’s when sunsets hit the famous buttes of Monument Valley at its finest angles.
The Buttes consist of organ rock shale at the bottom, de Chelly Sandstone in the middle, and the Moenkopi Formation on the top. The surface is made of Shinarump Conglomerate.
When you look at the buttes, you’d think that humans carved them. After all, 173,668 Navajo tribe members resided here as of 2020. However, scientists claim that the buttes, which take on the appearance of a monument, are the result of 70 million years of wind, rain and ice erosion.
3. Saguaro National Park
You will find the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. The National Park Service calls the saguaro cacti that stands 15-16 feet tall after about 95 years the “icon of the southwest.”
It takes 200 years for a saguaro cactus to mature though. When it does, it extends to 45 feet into the air. The number of arms that cacti have varies from several to none, standing erect with either the appearance of a hand or a tall stem.
The Saguaro Cactus is what most people probably picture when thinking of Arizona. You’d spot them in the Sonoran Desert if you visited it. It’s a prime photo opportunity too.
The Tohono O’Odham tribe appreciates these gigantic cacti for more than just their looks though. They regard the Saguaro cactus as a “different type of humanity.” The tribe also regards the cacti as “respected members” of the community.
Apparently, the Saguaro cactus will not grow anywhere but southern Arizona in the Sonoran. It can grow to about 4000 feet above sea level though.
However, they usually thrive best on the southern slopes of the mountains, and you can take Ajo Mountain Drive to view them. You might also see Organ Pipe Cacti in the area.
4. Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park contains the Rainbow Forest. The petrified wood found here has a colorful, “rainbow” appearance. You can view the vast shades of wood when exploring the numerous access points along the Rainbow Forest Museum walking routes.
Newspaper Rock and Puerco Pueblo are two significant viewing spots you wouldn’t want to miss. There’s also a Painted Desert built sometime in the 1930s. It has Hopi murals on it.
Scientists say that the Petrified Forest contains fossils dating from more than 225 million years ago. It is also home to historical and cultural buildings. It’s located in northeastern Arizona and spans to both Navajo and Apache counties.
5. Antelope Canyon
The Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon that is a part of the Navajo Reservation. It’s made up of five sections, and Lychee, Arizona is west of it.
The five sections of Antelope Canyon include the Upper Antelope, Mountain Sheep, Owl and Rattlesnake Canyons. The Upper Antelope reaches about 660 feet. The Lower Antelope extends to 1,335 feet.
The Antelope Canyon is in the Navajo Tribal Park. There’s also a hiking trail to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, located in San Juan County.
The sandstone rock that makes up Antelope Canyon eroded primarily because of flash flooding. This flooding often occurs during the monsoon season, which happens from the end of June to September.
Sometimes Antelope Canyon closes because of heavy rain or snow, and may close 10 to 15 days per year. The annual precipitation average usually only totals 1.77 inches though.
6. Grand Canyon Village
The Grand Canyon is in Coconino County, Arizona. It’s on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and it only has a population of about 2004 people as of 2010.
Grand Canyon Village is a tourist spot catering to people that want to see the Grand Canyon. It’s not just the Canyons that are of significance though. The National Register Of Historic Places has designated Grand Canyon Village’s cluster of historic buildings as a National Historic Landmark District.
The Grand Canyon Village dates back to about 1901, near the time when Williams and Santa Fe railroads first operated in the area. Define Phoenix 180 miles from it. Incidentally, Tama Las Vegas is only 168 miles from the Grand Canyon Village.
Pending availability, you can travel between the village and the end of Flagstaff, Arizona via Groome Transportation. People have also historically traveled to Grand Canyon Village from North Rim, Page, Williams, Arizona and more.
7. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend sits near the town of Page, Arizona. It’s a horseshoe shaped trench called an incised meander. Its elevation surpasses the Colorado River, with the Horseshoe Bend at 42,000 feet above sea level. The river is only about 3,200 feet above the surface of the sea.
You can view the bend overhead from a cliff, where you can take pictures. Otherwise, you can walk a 1.5-mile trail after parking in a lot located on U.S. highway 89. That parking area is in Southwestern Page.
Other attractions only 5-10 miles away or less include The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Dam. Lake Powell is also nearby, about four miles from Page.
The Horseshoe Bend used to sit much closer to sea level according to scientists. The Colorado River was an almost level floodplain at this time.
Erosion could be a factor contributing to the deepened sinking of the Bend and River. However, some researchers believe that a tectonic plate below the Colorado Plateau loosened and fell deeper beneath the earth than it already was.
It’s possible that plate shifting underneath the earth’s surface caused the Bend and the River sinkage. The reason behind the Horseshoe Bend Shift and Colorado River is still under investigation.
8. Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Gardens spans 140 Acres. It’s in Papago Park on the Galvin Parkway. That’s in Phoenix, Arizona. This garden houses 50000 plants. About 379 of these are rare and threatened or endangered species.
About 4,000 categories of foliage came from this Arizona location. Desert Botanical plants include agave and cactus, including the opuntia subfamily. Shade houses have been built on the site to accommodate plants that don’t normally live in the desert.
All the botanical plants, including the Australian Baja California and South American collections, have adapted to the desert conditions. The Desert Botanical Garden also contains examples of a mesquite bosque, upland chaparral and semi-desert grassland ecosystems.
9. Havasu Falls
Apparently, there’s a right way to visit Havasu Falls, according to Travel Writer Teresa Bitler of Visit Arizona. The trek to the Falls is apparently difficult.
Bitler also says to “expect a hike with some shade,” which can be a relief. You don’t have to get sunburnt when walking through it.
However, there’s no water along the trail. You’re going to bring your own supply of it. Despite it being as hidden as it is, you may still need some sunscreen as you encounter some of the less covered spots too.
Havasu Falls calls for preparation in advance if you plan to stay at the bottom of the canyon. Bring a tent, first aid, a sleeping bag and pad, and other supplies, such as a backpacking stove that you would want to use here.
Don’t expect to easily get in and out of this area and think you can travel to a nearby convenience store getting items you forgot. It’s pretty remote. The trail starts at the top (Hualapai Hilltop) and continues along the Havasu Falls Trail. Until you make it to the bottom of the canyon.
10. Montezuma Castle National Monument
The Montezuma Castle is dedicated to the Native American culture. The Sinagua people that existed before Columbian times built and used the castle dwellings.
The Castle is found near Camp Verde, Arizona, on the side of a cliff. As of 2022, clan members sometimes return to these living quarters for religious observation.