Interesting and fun things to see and do in Arizona

Enjoy the waters and the wilderness at Patagonia Lake AZ, where you can hike, fish, camp, swim and go boating at this state park in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona. Here are our favorite things to do at Patagonia Lake State Park. In addition to a 256-acre lake, the park encompasses more than 2,600 acres, making it a fabulous spot for wildlife and hiking trails. The park is surrounded by the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, offering an additional 7,000+ acres of wilderness. All told, a stay at Patagonia Lake provides access to nearly 10,000 acres of high desert wilderness.

History of Patagonia Lake AZ

Patagonia Lake AZ is a man-made lake that was formed by damming up the Sonoita creek, south of the town of Patagonia. The Sonoita Creek is one of the few year-round creeks in the state of Arizona, making it a popular spot for wildlife. Iate 1960s a group of local citizens formed the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association, Inc. (LPRA) with the intent of creating a lake and recreation area. In 1968 a dam was built on the Sonoita creek west of the Circle Z Guest Ranch, creating 256-acre Patagonia Lake.

sailboat and motor boat on patagonia lake az, with tree in front
Soothing Patagonia Lake amid the desert landscape (Getty Images via Canva)

Over the next several years the state authorities worked to acquire land surrounding the lake, which at the time was owned by oil company Conoco. Eventually the State of Arizona also secured title to Patagonia Lake itself and established Patagonia Lake State Park in 1975.  Roughly 5,000 acres of wilderness was acquired by the state just east of the lake and opened as the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area (SCSNA) in 2000. Additional acquisitions of nearby land increased the protected area, eventually connecting it to Patagonia Lake State Park. All told, between the two facilities, there are nearly 10,000 acres to explore.

Patagonia Lake State Park

Today Patagonia Lake State Park offers a campground, beach for swimming, a creek trail and picnic areas. For boaters there’s a marina and boat ramps. Patagonia Lake AZ is tucked away in the hills, about 2 miles off highway 82, providing a quiet escape. Because of its remote location, coupled with year-round water, it’s one of the few places in Arizona where you’ll find of whitetail deer roaming the hills and great blue herons walking the shoreline.

Things to do at Patagonia Lake AZ

The combination of Patagonia Lake State Park and the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area provides a combination of potential activities to satisfy many interests. Water lovers can enjoy boating and fishing (and swimming in the warmer months), while the adjacent wilderness offers plenty of opportunity for hiking, wildlife spotting and backcountry camping.

Things you can do when visiting Patagonia Lake AZ:

  1. Swimming
  2. Hiking
  3. Horseback Riding
  4. Birdwatching
  5. Wildlife Viewing
  6. Picnicking
  7. Kayaking
  8. Canoeing
  9. Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
  10. Motor Boating
  11. Boat Rental
  12. Water Skiing
  13. Fishing
  14. Cabin Camping
  15. Tent Camping

Can you swim in Patagonia Lake AZ?

Families playing on the beach and in the water at Patgonia Lake AZ
Boulder Beach swimming area at Patagonia Lake AZ (photo courtesy AZ State Parks)

Patagonia Lake allows swimming in designated areas that are in the no-wake zone of the lake, away from boat launches. The lake is considered to be “wild water” and swimmers swim at their own risk. Boulder Beach (near the campground) has a roped-off swim area, which is great for families. NOTE: Be advised that swimming at Patagonia Lake AZ is at your own risk. There are no lifeguards on duty, so be sure to use life vests with kids and novice swimmers.

child swimming in lake wearing a life vest
No lifeguards at Patagonia Lake-be sure kids have life vests! (photo by Getty Images via Canva)

Hiking at Patagonia Lake and Sonoita Creek Natural Area

Hikers can use Patagonia Lake State Park as a basis for hiking through the nearly 10,000 acres of the combined state park and Sonoita Creek Natural Area. Near the lake there is a 1/2-mile hiking trail that leads to Sonoita Creek. This is a popular birding area.

Pedestrian bridge over lake inlet at Patagonia Lake State Park
A pedestrian bridge over one section of the lake offers a great viewpoint to watch the boats (Getty Images via Canva)

Those looking for a bit more of a challenge will find longer and more rugged trails in the  Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. There are 20 miles of trails (some shared with equestrians). Most of the trails are more remote and the shortest round trip hike to the creek is three miles on the Sonoita Creek Trail, with a minimum elevation change of 300′.

For a short hike with a terrific view, check out the “Overlook Trail.” This moderate difficulty 1.5-mile trail is adjacent to Patagonia Lake State Park and offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding scenery. Spectacular!

PRO TIP: Hike the “Overlook Trail” at Patagonia Lake AZ for a 360-degree view of spectacular scenery. This 1.5 mile trail is moderately difficult and not far from the visitor center.

Patagonia Lake Az Horseback Riding

For those who have their own horses, the area around Patagonia Lake offers some excellent riding opportunities. (NOTE: there are no horses for rent at the park.) The majority of equestrian trails are in the Sonoita Creek Natural Area, although you park and unload the horses near the Visitor Center at Patagonia Lake State Park. Follow the Horse Corral Trail, which heads west into the Natural Area. Shortly you’ll reach the Sonoita Creek, and the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad trail, which follows the creek westward for about 5 miles.

creek winding through treed area with late spring green colors. horse hoofprints on beach in foreground
The trail along Sonoita Creek makes an ideal equestrian trail near Patagonia Lake, AZ (photo Getty Images via Canva)

The year-round Sonoita Creek is edged by trees, making this a lovely shaded ride during summer. The trail also offers opportunities for creek crossings at three points (provided the water level isn’t too high), which is a refreshing transit for the horses. (NOTE: be sure to check at the Visitor Center before setting out for any high water warnings.)

Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing at Patgonia Lake Az

Thanks to the year-round flowing Sonoita Creek, which feeds Patagonia Lake, there is an abundance of native Southern Arizona wildlife in the park. The park’s trails all pass through a variety of prime habitats for a large variety of reptiles, birds and mammals. Observant hikers might spot javelina, coues whitetail deer, coatimundi (also known as coati), bobcats and coyote.

In addition to seeing wildlife out on the trails, there is a designated wildlife viewing area perched on a small hill at the eastern end of the lake. This is a popular spot for birders: in 2007 the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area partnered with the Arizona Audubon Society to have the area named an Important Bird Area. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the elusive Elegant Trogon, with its signature red chest and white banding.

Remember, this is NOT a petting zoo, all animals here are wild. Give them plenty of space so they don’t feel threatened, and don’t try to feed them. Treat any wildlife viewing as nature’s gift: a window on a unique habitat.

Below are some videos supplied by Arizona State Parks of some wildlife that you might encounter at Patagonia Lake AZ:

Patagonia Lake Boat Rental & Watersports

Patagonia Lake AZ is divided into two sections to allow for different types on boats and watersports. A marina is located at the midpoint between the two sections. This is where Patagonia Lake boat rental facilities are located.

Paddlers will enjoy the eastern end of Patagonia Lake, which is a “no wake zone” (Getty Images via Canva)

The eastern end of the lake is designated a “no wake zone,” making it ideal for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboards. This end is also where the designated swimming beach is located. Motorized boats can enter this part of the lake, but they must travel at very slow (no wake) speed.)

Waterskiing and motor boating are done on the western portion of Patagonia Lake Az. (Getty Images via Canva)

The western end of the lake has no speed limits, therefore it’s more suited to motor craft and water skiing. Note that all boats must travel in a counter-clockwise direction. Water-skiing is permitted, however timing differs, depending on the time of year. Following is a breakdown of permitted water-skiing days.

  • Winter months (Oct 1 through Apr 30): water skiing allowed on both weekdays and weekends
  • Summer months (May 1 through Sept 30): The lake is more congested at this time of year, so water skiing is allowed on weekdays only. Prohibited on weekends and legal holidays.

NOTE: The following type of motorized water craft are prohibited at all times:

  • Personal water craft (PWCs)
  • Jet-skis
  • Waterbikes
  • Above-water exhaust boats
  • V-8 jet boats

Patagonia Lake Boat Rentals & Ramps

Spending time on the water is a great way to explore the scenery from a totally different viewpoint. Patagonia Lake State Park allows you to bring your own watercraft (be sure to check above for a list of those that are prohibited). Additionally you can also rent boats on a daily basis at Patagonia Lake Marina for paddling, water skiing or fishing. Motorized pontoon boats are available for rent, in addition to “no-wake” craft: canoes, rowboats and paddle. Patagonia Lake Marina will have updated prices: (520) 287-2804.

Those that bring their own boats can access the 2 boat ramps at Patagonia Lake. Boat launching is included in the camping or day-use permit fees paid upon entry to the park. Ramps are made of cement and are suitable for most size boats, provided the water is at normal levels. Boat owners must remember to register their own watercraft with Arizona’s state Game and Fish Department.

PRO TIP: Bringing your own boat to Patagonia Lake? Remember to register your craft with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

A boat allows you to get into some of Patagonia Lake’s secluded nooks and crannies. Perfect for fishing . . . or just solitude. (Getty Images via Canva)

Patagonia Lake Fishing

Fishing is a popular pastime year-round at Patagonia Lake State Park. Anglers can find largemouth bass, catfish (both channel and flathead varieties), sunfish and crappie. Additionally, From November through March the lake is stocked with rainbow trout. There are plenty of opportunities for success when fishing at Patagonia Lake, whether by boat or from the shoreline.

Because of its unique location in a high mountain valley, some portions of the lake are over 100 feet deep (imagine canyons underwater). These depths provide ideal dwelling opportunities for flathead catfish, and over the years the lake has yielded up some whoppers: the current record is a mind-bending 56.2 pounds! (That’s a LOTTA catfish!)

Check out this link for tips on bait-setting techniques for each type of fish. And remember to purchase a fishing license from AZ Fish & Game for any angler 10 years or older.

Camping at Patagonia Lake Arizona

Patagonia Lake State Park offers a variety of camping options. There are cabins, as well as campsites for tents and RVs, all available on a nightly rental basis. There are even boat-in options for those who bring their own boats (or choose to to rent them). Services available depend on the type of site you are renting. The busiest months are from May until November. Patagonia Lake AZ is not the spot for a rowdy late-night crowd. Quiet hours (no generators, music, or loud voices) are from 9 p.m. – 8 a.m.

Patagonia Lake Cabins

Camping cabins are available on the eastern end of Patagonia Lake AZ (which is the quieter, “no-wake” section of the lake). In total, there are seven cabins, of either 2 or 3 rooms each. The cabins are slightly elevated above the RV/tent sights, and as such have beautiful views of the lake. All cabins are fully wheelchair friendly and accessible.

Cabins sleep up to six people, with a queen-sized bed and two sets of bunks (byo linens). There is a mini-fridge & microwave, along with a outdoor barbecue and picnic table. Cabins have electricity, overhead lighting/ceiling fan and even heating and air-conditioning! Family-style shower facilities are a short walk away. 

Reservations are easy to make for Patagonia Lake Cabins by using the AZ State Park online system.

Gorgeous evening views from a Patagonia Lake cabin, photos courtesy AZ State Parks

Patagonia Lake Camping: RV & Tent Sites

If you enjoy camping in a tent or RV, Patagonia Lake AZ is a terrific spot for you. The park has 105 developed campsites located in two different sections: East and West. Both sections are located on the “no-wake” section of the lake, however the East section is a bit farther away from all the boating activity, so this might be a better choice for those seeking a quieter location.

Campsites have a picnic table, a fire ring/grill, and parking for two vehicles, along with 20/30 amp and 50 amp voltage. (Some sites also have a ramada). Most campsites can accommodate any size RV. There are also two non-electric campsites, which can accommodate 22ft. campers/trailers.

Patagonia Lake State Park attracts a laid-back crowd. Quiet hours (no generators, music, or loud voices) are from 9 p.m. – 8 a.m. Book a campsite by accessing the State Parks’ Patagonia Lake Reservations site.

Most campsites can accommodate either tents or RVs and are equipped with electrical hookups. (Photos courtesy AZ State Parks)

Patagonia Lake Camping: Boat-in Campsites

Patagonia Lake AZ has 12 boat-in campsites available by reservation. The sites give you your own designated bit of shoreline, away from the land-based campsites. Boat-in campsites are only accessible by boat, strung along the northwestern portion of the lake (in the wake zone). Each campsite has its own fire ring and picnic table. Some sites have portable restrooms. Boats are available for rent from Patagonia Marina and Boat Rental. Access the Patagonia Lake Reservations site to reserve your boat-in campsite.

Your own private shoreline space with one of Patagonia Lake State Park’s boat-in campsites (photos courtesy AZ State Parks)

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Tucson is a fantastic destination for hiking. The city is ringed by mountains, with the fabulous Sonoran Desert providing endless Tucson hiking opportunities for all physical abilities. It’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson. Here we share our favorite Tucson day hikes throughout the area.

Tucson hikes in Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is a recreation area that is part of Coronado National Forest, just northeast of Tucson. It’s at the base of the Catalina Mountains, with excellent opportunities for exploring the Sonoran Desert landscape. One of the things I really like about Sabino Canyon is that there is something for everyone: there are trails for all fitness levels and accessibilities, making it an ideal destinations for families. There is a visitor center, which has exhibits about the local flora and fauna, along with a gift shop that sells an excellent selection of books and detailed maps of local trails. Restrooms and fresh water are also available.

Information: Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area

Hours: Recreation area always open; Visitor Center open daily, 8:30am to 4:30pm

Admission: $8/vehicle/day; $10/vehicle/week; $40/vehicle/year; National Park Passes accepted

PRO TIP: Sabino Canyon is a popular spot. There is a huge parking area, along with an overflow lot, which can fill up in the fall & spring and during holiday weekends.

pond with saguaro cactus reflected on tucson hikes

Sabino Tram Road (Walking Path): Accessible/Flat

This paved wide path begins near the visitor center and follows Sabino Creek for about 3.8 miles up into the canyon, with several bridges traversing the creek along the way. You can hike the entire 7.6-mile out-and-back length, or turn around whenever you’ve had enough. It’s one of the few Tucson hikes with water year-round; and there are plenty of trees that provide greenery in spring/summer and pretty foliage through the fall (and most of the winter). The path is a gradual incline, rising about 700 feet over the entire distance (so gentle that you barely notice you are climbing!). There are restrooms and picnic areas along the route.

As the route name implies, there is also a tram, called the Sabino Canyon Crawler that goes up the path (roughly every hour), with stops along the way. It’s popular to ride to the tram and hike the 3.8-mile path back as it slopes gently downward toward the visitor center. This is a lovely hike in mid-late afternoon; you can often see deer and other wildlife taking a sip in the creek.

Michael with deer at sunset in Sabino Canyon
A late afternoon encounter on the Sabino Tram Road

Phoneline Trail: Easy to Moderate

I like trails that offer a loop, so I don’t feel like I’m retracing my steps. The Phoneline Trail is one of the Tucson trails that offers a few different options depending on how much time (and energy) you have. As the name implies, the trail follows the historic phoneline that was once the only means of communication between the Palisade Ranger Station on Mt. Lemmon (which rises about 6,500 feet above you) and the rest of the world.

The trail climbs about 500 feet, hugging the side of the canyon and offering magnificent views of Saguaro cactus, the creek below–and of the city of Tucson in the distance. After about 2 miles, you have option of returning via a trail that descends toward the creek and back toward the visitor center. Or you can continue along the canyon ridge for an additional 3-ish miles, where it meets up with the Tram Road at its end. From there you can stroll the paved path back, or take the tram if you’re feeling particularly tired.

Seven Falls (via Bear Canyon Trail): Moderate

This 7.8-mile out-and-back hike along Bear Creek, which is in Bear Canyon, just east of Sabino. As the name implies, there are waterfalls along this trail, which vary throughout the year, depending on the amount of recent rainfall. Unlike the paved Sabino Tram route, this is one of the Tucson hiking trails where you actually cross through the creek as you climb. Along the way you’ll climb about 700 feet, getting stunning views of the saguaros and the Rincon Mountains to the southeast.

NOTE: It’s important to check the hiking conditions at the visitor center before you set out (and be sure to wear shoes that can handle a little water and/or mud!). While this is one of the best Tucson hikes after rain, occasionally flash flooding can make this hike dangerous.

Take a Saguaro National Park Hike

standing amid saguaro cactus on tucson hikes
There are plenty of great Tucson hikes in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park flanks the city of Tucson with two distinct sections: The Rincon Mountain District to the east of town, and the Tucson Mountain District to the west. Both sections offer an abundance of trails through desert terrain, with plenty of opportunities to view the magnificent cacti up close for hikers of all levels. The eastern section is larger, and has some longer trails that go high into the Rincon mountains, for those looking for more challenging Tucson hikes.

Information: Saguaro National Park

Hours: Vehicles, Saguaro East-5:00 am to 8:00 pm in summer, 5:00 am to 6:00 pm in winter; Saguaro West-sunrise to sunset, year-round. Park is open to hikers and cyclists 24 hours/day.

Admission: All passes are good for 1 week: Vehicle-$25.00; Motorcycle-$20.00; Individual-$15.00. National Park Passes are accepted.

Desert Ecology Trail & Mica Trail (Saguaro East): Accessible/Flat

There are two trails in Saguaro East that are great for those looking for flat Tucson hikes; these trails also provide access for those using wheelchairs. The 1/4 mile paved Desert Ecology trail has exhibits about the plants and animals that are found in the Sonoran Desert. Resting benches are spaced along the trail. Separately, a 0.7 mile portion of the Mica View Trail is graded to ADA standards and surfaced with a natural material that supports all types of wheelchairs. Park at Mica View Picnic Area or the Broadway Trail head.

Freeman Homestead Trail (Saguaro East): Easy

This 1.1 mile “balloon” trail is a one of our favorite short Tucson hikes for families. The trail is meanders through a wonderfully dense grove of saguaros and past the site of an old homestead foundation, which provides a real sense of discovery. There are interpretive signs and featuring exploration activities for little ones, making this more than just a “walk to see some cactus.” Although fairly flat, the trail has some steps and is rocky in places. Therefore strollers & other wheeled vehicles are not recommended.

back of woman in blue shirt on tucson hiking trail with cholla cactus
Many tucson hiking trails are flat and suitable for families

Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls (Saguaro East): Moderate

This 5.8-mile out-and-back hike to Bridal Wreath Falls is popular with birders. The seasonal falls (most likely after summer monsoons or winter snowmelt) are a hit with the feathered set. Regardless of the time of year, this is one of the Tucson hikes that climbs into the Rincon Mountains and offers good views of the city of Tucson and the Catalina Mountains to the north, along with plenty of saguaros and other cactus. You might also spot a group of riders heading out from the luxury Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.

Tanque Verde Ridge Trail (Saguaro East): Moderate to Difficult

This trail up to Tanque Verde Peak is not for the faint of heart. With a 2,000 foot climb over 8 miles, it’s certainly one of the more challenging hikes in greater Tucson. The good news is that this is an out-and-back route, so you can turn around at any point, making the hike as long (or short) as you like.

After a fairly steep 3/4 miles, you are already up on the ridge, so views to the west and south over the Tucson basin are spectacular, and just keep getting better the higher you climb. (Be sure to take in the Boneyard, where more than 4,000 military planes are stored in the desert sun.) A good shorter hike goal is at the 2.5-mile mark, where you’ll see an example of the rare (1 in 10,000!) crested saguaro cactus. If you’re planning to hike the 8.7 miles to Tanque Verde Peak, consider camping at the Juniper Basin Campground, at the 6.9-mile mark.

Desert Discovery Trail (Saguaro West): Accessible/Flat

Those seeking flat terrain with interpretive signs will find it on this 1/2 mile paved trail in Saguaro West. The trail features shade ramadas with resting benches scattered along the textured pavement trail. Trail guides in braille may be obtained at the visitor center. This is also a great trail for photo ops: the views of saguaros at sunset are fabulous.

King Canyon/Gould Mine Trail (Saguaro National Park West): Easy to Moderate

This is one of the Tucson hikes that offers a little bit of everything: a climb up a dry wash, lots saguaros, scenic views . . . and the remains of an abandoned copper mine. All this in a 2.5-mile loop! Begin the hike scaling the King Canyon Wash bottom, which is sandy with several rocky stair-step ways to climb as you go.

After a mile or so, the trail connects to the Gould Mine trail, which passes by piles colorful copper residue piles, along with the remains of a stone cabin and a few mine shaft entrances. Although this trail is within the national park boundaries, the entrance to trail is accessible from a small parking lot in Tucson Mountain Park, which is free.

PRO TIP: The King Canyon Trail straddles Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park. Saguaro National Park charges a fee, however if you park at the Tucson Mountain Park trailhead, you can access this trail for free.

Hugh Norris Trail to Wasson Peak (Saguaro West): Moderate to Difficult

At 4,369 feet, Wasson Peak is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains west of the city. You’ll climb roughly 2,000 feet over the roughly 4.5 miles to reach the peak on this out-and-back hike. But the views once you reach Wasson Peak are totally worth it: a 360-degree panorama of the entire Tucson basin.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of saguaros (natch!), plus ocotillo, barrel cactus and prickly pear. There’s also the remains of an abandoned mining shack, which is a fun (and shady) diversion. Remember to sign the log book at the top of Wasson Peak . . . if you make it this far, you certainly deserve the credit!

Hiking trails in Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park is one of the largest municipally-managed natural resource areas in the U.S. There are more than 60 miles of shared-use trails in the park’s roughly 20,000 acres, so there are an almost endless combination of trails you can take here. The park is located just south of Saguaro National Park’s Western section. As a result the scenery (i.e. Saguaros everywhere!) is very similar. And best of all, the park is FREE.

Hidden Canyon Bowen Loop Trail: Easy to Moderate

This 2-mile trail gives visitors a terrific snapshot of Tucson saguaros in a fairly compact loop. The trail begins and ends just behind the Marriott Starr Pass Resort, making it a great option if you’re staying at that hotel. Begin on the more southerly (and flatter) Bowen Trail, then turn off to the Hidden Canyon Trail after about 0.3 miles.

The trail will climb about 300 feet via some switchbacks, and is rocky in spots. But you’ll be rewarded with a quiet canyon full of saguaros, ocotillos, and other cacti. This trail is particularly lovely in spring, when the cactus flowers are in bloom. If you’re looking for a rich Tucson hiking experience that doesn’t take too long, this is highly recommended.

Rock Wren/Yetman/Bowen Trail Loop: Easy to Moderate

This is a pleasant 5-mile loop that we created ourselves by using the excellent trail map of Tucson Mountain Park. It involves a little gentle climbing on saguaro-strewn hills, plus a hike through a sandy wash that leads past the stone remains of the Bowen homestead. (Always cool to find ruins while hiking!)

Begin at the Richard Genser Trail Head and eventually exit the park behind the Marriott Starr Pass Resort. From here, the last mile-ish is an easy amble through the Starr Pass neighborhood back to the parking lot. We like to stop at the Marriott for a coffee (on chilly days) or a refreshing cool drink (when the weather is hot), enjoying the view from their patio before heading back to our car. It’s a fun indulgence at the end of an enjoyable hike.

Brown Mountain Trail: Moderate

woman in blue shirt hiking in tucson on Brown Mountain
Views for miles as you hike the ridge of Brown Mountain

It’s fun to be able to climb a (not too high) mountain and walk along its ridge as you take in the surrounding views. Brown Mountain offers that in this 4.5 mile loop trail in the western part of the park. All told you climb ascend about 500 feet over the course of about a mile to reach the ridge, then enjoy a few dips and bumps as you skirt along the top. After descending at the opposite end of the ridge, the return portion of the loop is along the valley floor, amid lots of cactus of all varieties. There are also restrooms and picnic tables here.

This is one of the Tucson hikes that passes along a ridge, offering great views of the valley below, including Old Tucson Studios off to the south. It’s easy to imagine you’re in some old Western movie, perched on a lookout point, a “pardner” scouting for cattle rustlers 🤠.

Catalina Foothills Hikes

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the western end of Santa Catalina Mountains and is adjacent to Coronado National Forest. The park includes some great Tucson hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas and equestrian trails in 5,500 acres of desert landscape, (which includes almost 5,000 saguaros!).

Information: Catalina State Park

Open: 5am to 10pm Daily; check website for holiday hours.

Admission: $7.00/vehicle; $3.00/individuals, cyclists

Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail (Catalina State Park): Easy

Michael standing at stone ruins on romero ruins trail


This is a fun little loop trail (3/4 mile) for those of you who like a little archaeology on your Tucson hikes. In addition to some stone remnants of the Romero homestead, this site also includes remains from a Hohokam village that’s about 1500 years old! (Wow!) There are interpretive signs along the trail explaining the the archaeology and Hohokam culture.

NOTE: Although the trail through the ruins is flat, you must climb about 80 steps to reach it, making it unsuitable for wheeled vehicles.

Romero Canyon Trail to Romero Pools & Romero Pass(Catalina State Park): Difficult to Strenuous

Romero Canyon offers Tucson hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, depending on how far you choose to go on this out-and-back trail. The roughly 3 mile hike to the (seasonal) Romero Pools is relatively flat for the first mile, then turns into a steep and rocky climb for the rest of the hike. Views of the canyon are magnificent, and the pools are a refreshing sight.

Those looking for more of a challenge can continue an additional 4 miles to Romero Pass at an elevation of 6,000 feet. In total you’ll scale an elevation gain of 3,300 feet, with a hike that takes about 5 hours one-way. To continue to Romero Pass, follow the trail to your right as it ascends out of the streambed. The trail then slowly climbs up-canyon to the Pass.

Linda Vista Trail Loop: Easy

Linda Vista is a family-friendly hike (with free access) on the western slope of the Catalinas. The 3-mile loop has just enough short climbs up and down for kids to feel like they’re on “nature’s playgym,” but never so much that it becomes a slog. Access this trail via a small parking lot behind the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy off of Oracle Road. Although adjacent to a neighborhood of upscale homes, you quickly reach a small valley where you feel you’re in the middle of the saguaro wilderness.

There are some spectacular saguaros here, including one that has over 20 arms! There are also spots with lacy green palo verde trees (the Arizona state tree), providing a dappled shade, which can be welcome on Tucson hikes. The trail is narrow at many spots, so alert young hikers to avoid “sticky” encounters with the cacti on the trail.

Tucson hikes within the city of Tucson

Sentinal Peak (“A Mountain”): Easy

man atop Sentinel peak with city of tucson in the distance
Standing alongside the giant “A” with a terrific view of Tucson in the distance

This is one of most popular hikes in Tucson–and it’s free to access. It’s hard to miss the huge “A” that adorns the side of a small mountain southwest of downtown Tucson. Sentinel Peak served as a sentry point to alert Tucson of impending danger during the Civil War. But after a University of Arizona football victory in 1915, students claimed it as their own by constructing a massive basalt “A” (160 feet high x 70 feet wide!) on the mountain’s face and whitewashing it for all to see.

Today there is a paved drive up to the top, with picnic tables and benches on the western side of the mountain. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, park at the trailhead lot partway up, and hike the trail that brings you across the saddle and up to the top. You pass through some lovely saguaro and cholla cactus before reaching the Big A, and are rewarded with a spectacular view of downtown Tucson (and the U of A campus in the distance). Go Wildcats! 😊

Rillito River Park Path: Accessible

The Rillito River Park Path is a 10-mile paved path (with free access) that follows along the Rillito River/Wash northeast of Tucson. The Park is part of the 136-mile Chuck Huckleberry Loop that is popular with cyclists. The path is flat and crosses the River periodically via dedicated bridges. There are parks and stopping points along the way, making this a nice option among Tucson hikes if you’d like to take a more leisurely stroll as well.

The Rillito River Path is accessible to everyone, photo courtesy Visit Tucson

The path is popular with cyclists as well as hikers/walkers (and the occasional horse!), so everyone should be mindful of others using the path.

PRO TIP: Take the Rillito Park Path on a Sunday morning and stop in at the Heirloom Farmer’s market. It’s a lively event with dozens of food and craft vendors, as well as some terrific food trucks offering yummy breakfast treats.

Tucson Hiking: Cienega Creek Natural Preserve

AZT loop via Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead: Easy

This 2-mile loop, which is (a short) part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) is one of the more unique hikes in Tucson. Pass through serene Davidson Canyon, a riparian habitat in the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve that is free to use. Pass under shady cottonwood trees as you hike along the sand creek bed (dry in all but the summer monsoon months). Cross under an active Union Pacific Railroad bridge before climbing back up to a ridge and the return portion of the trail (which parallels a second railroad bridge). Chances are pretty good that you’ll see at least one freight train passing through during your hike, reminiscent of a scene in a Breaking Bad episode.

SPECIAL NOTE: This trailhead commemorates Gabe Zimmerman , a US congressional aide who was killed in 2011. He loved this portion of the Arizona Trail. Read more about him on the Arizona Trail website.

A poignant sign commemorating Gabe Zimmerman at the trailhead bearing his name

Want more Tucson hiking recommendations?

If you’re looking for more hikes in and around Tucson, we suggest picking up a copy of Five Star Trails: Tucson by Rob Rachowiecki. The author lives in Tucson and provides lots of detail about the area and the many hikes you can take there. As you can see from the photo, our copy is pretty dog-eared because we use it so much. Highly recommended! It’s available on Amazon.

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We’ve developed our list of favorite things to do in Page AZ, based on our recent trip exploring this scenic part of northern Arizona. The city of Page is the gateway to Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, which makes it an excellent base for exploring this scenic section of northern Arizona.

The city of Page is not a particularly old community, in fact, it’s one of the youngest communities in the United States. This Arizona small town was established in 1957 when the federal government began construction on Glen Canyon Dam. The dam was built to retain water from the upper Colorado River, producing hydroelectric power for the region. In the process, Lake Powell was created along the border of Arizona and Utah. The dam opened in 1966, and in 1972 the government dedicated the 1.25 million acres surrounding Lake Powell and Glen Canyon as a National Recreation Area.

The Dam and the city of Page sit at the edge of the Navajo Reservation, where there are multiple areas of both cultural and natural interest to explore. Between Glen Canyon Dam, the Navajo sights and the National Recreation Area, we discovered plenty of interesting things to do in Page AZ.

Glen Canyon Conservancy 3-D Model

Overhead view of relief map of Powell Country with annotations marking Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Town of Page Az, Antelope Canyon
This 3-D relief model helps to put all the things to do in Page Az into perspective

Glen Canyon Conservancy (GCC) is the non-profit organization that works in conjunction with the National Park Service and other municipal organizations in the area to ensure the best visitor experience at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell. They oversee interpretive centers throughout what they call “Powell Country.” Their administrative headquarters and “flagship store” are located in the town of Page. It’s a great place to begin your exploration of all that Page and its environs has to offer.

There are a few basic displays about the history of the area, along with some informational brochures. But the real reason to visit is the 3-dimensional terrain model of Powell Country that’s huge: roughly the size of a small motor home! The model gives you a bird’s-eye-view of the region, and helpful assistants point out sights of interest using a laser pointer.

The shop sells a nice selection of history books and specialty guidebooks about the area, as well as maps, simple hiking gear and a few souvenirs. A visit to Glen Canyon Conservancy will help you decide which things to do in Page AZ will interest you the most.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook

view of horseshoe bend, red rocks with colorado river snaking through page arizona
Horseshoe Bend: one of the “must” things to do in Page AZ

For many people a visit to Horseshoe Bend is their first priority of things to do in Page AZ. This view of a U-shaped bend in the Colorado River is certainly an Instagram darling. Although it’s technically free to visit (it’s within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), it’s difficult to access without a long hike. The easiest way to see it is to park at the facility built by the city of Page. For $10 you can park your car and walk a well-paved (and accessible) 1/2-mile trail to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. There are railings and plenty of good viewing spots (there are also plenty of people).

*Please avoid the temptation to climb out on the edge of the rocks for that “perfect Insta shot”– it’s a 1,000-foot drop and the red sandstone on the cliffs is very crumbly! 😱

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

For those looking for a similar, but less crowded, view high above the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, we recommend the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, a quiet spot just west of town. It’s free to visit, with a fun short hike over irregular sandstone to reach the viewing point (there are railings!). You also get two-for-one views: looking south you’ll see a view of the much like Horseshoe Bend (but without the curve); looking north you get a fantastic view of Glen Canyon Dam, superimposed by the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge. This is one of the lesser-known things to do in Page AZ, but it’s well worth the trip.

Hike to the Hanging Gardens Arizona

Larissa standing at the hanging gardens, one of the cool things to do in page az
Hiking to the hanging gardens is one of the cool (literally!) things to do in Page AZ

The rocky terrain around Page, Glen Canyon and Lake Powell is pretty stunning, but there’s not a lot of natural greenery. For a refreshing change, take a short hike on the Hanging Garden Trail to the amazing Hanging Gardens Arizona. An unusual configuration in the otherwise unrelenting red rocks allows water to collect, giving ferns and wild orchids just enough moisture and shade to flourish. After the sun and heat of all those red rocks, its almost thirst-quenching to view. (And the temperature is literally cooler there too!)

John Wesley Powell Museum

When exploring things to do in and around Page AZ, don’t forget to check out what’s in the town itself. The Powell Museum celebrates the life and achievements of Major John Wesley Powell, who is credited with leading the first group of white men through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

The museum is housed in a building was originally built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a concrete testing lab for the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Today, the collections, archives, and exhibits illustrate the history of Powells expeditions, as well as providing information about visiting Page and the surrounding Colorado Plateau.

Note: The Powell Museum is currently closed for renovations (as of 12/1/21). Check the website listed above prior to visiting

View Lake Powell from Several Scenic Overlooks

view of lake powell, one of the things to do in page az
The view of Lake Powell from Navajo Viewpoint

There are endless vistas on this high Colorado Plateau and one of the fun things to do in Page Az is to see them is from a series of overlooks near the Lake Powell Marina. Each provides terrific photo ops.

Each of these viewing spots are accessible from US Highway 89, just a few miles north of Glen Canyon Dam. Wahweap Overlook is free to access and offers a 360-degree panorama of the whole region. Two other spots, Wahweap Viewpoint (not to be confused with the overlook of the same name) and Navajo Viewpoint, face east toward Lake Powell and Navajo Mountain in the distance. (These latter Viewpoints are within the fee area of the Lake Powell Marina and Campground.)

Things to do in Page Az: Tour Antelope Canyon

Photogenic and awesomely cool Antelope Canyon

Those photos of swirly red rocks in narrow slot canyons? Yep-that’s Antelope Canyon. Thanks to Instagram, it’s the most visited-and photographed-slot canyon in the American Southwest. The canyon was formed over 100 million years ago as water eroded the layers of red sandstone. The canyon is divided into two sections: the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. Each have their own unique beauty. Upper Canyon is like following a dried up stream as it snakes through a tunnel of rocks. Lower Canyon has more spiral, corkscrew-y configurations.

Because it is located on Navajo Triabal Lands, taking a tour is mandatory to view either of the canyons. The number of visitors is limited, so it’s best to book a tour ahead of time through one of the approved operators listed on the Navajo Tribal Parks website. It’s one of the top Page AZ things to do.

PRO TIP: Space is limited on Antelope Canyon tours, so be sure to book ahead

Float down the Colorado River

Here’s a unique way to see Horseshoe Bend: looking UP from the river! Sign up for a tour that takes you down from just below Glen Canyon Dam, 15 miles downstream to Lees Ferry. There are kayaking tours, or multi-person raft excursions if you’d just like to float along.

You’ll pass through the tunnel to the base of the Dam (very cool!), then gently float down the river, past ancient petroglyphs and around Horseshoe Bend, where you can wave to all the people at the Overlook 1,000 feet above you.Tours are about a half-day, including transportation to and from the river. Be sure to book ahead, as seating is limited.

Rafting down the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend is one of the more awesome things to do in Page Az

Tour Glen Canyon Dam & Bridge

When considering things to do in Page AZ, it makes sense to visit the site that caused the creation of the town in the first place: Glen Canyon Dam. At The 710 feet high this massive concrete structure is just a teensy bit smaller (16 feet) than Hoover Dam. The damming of the Colorado River, which created Lake Powell, generates hydroelectric power for much of northern Arizona.

Because there were no rail lines to this remote canyon, Glen Canyon Bridge was built just south of the future dam site to facilitate transport of construction materials. When completed in 1959, it was the highest arch bridge in the world, rising 700 feet above the Colorado River.

Visitors are welcome to take free guided tours of the dam and the power plant. Sign up at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, where there are exhibits about the Dam’s construction along with a panoramic interior viewing platform of both the dam and the bridge. Outside, there are multiple viewpoints of the bridge, and an excellent view of the dam from a walkway on the Glen Canyon Bridge itself.

The Carl Hayden Visitor Center is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, however there are still plenty of outdoor viewpoints that are accessible.

open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day; and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. The visitor center is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Tour hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are limited to 20 persons each tour.

Spend some time on Lake Powell

aerial view of lake powell with marina full of boats page arizona
Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell offers loads of options to get out on the water: boat or “toy” rental, or tours

Lake Powell was created when the Glen Canyon Dam began to regulate the flow of the Colorado River in the 1960s. The National Recreation Area was opened in 1972 so everyone could enjoy the water in this otherwise dry area of the southwest. Water levels have dropped in recent years due to drought conditions, but there’s still a lot of Lake Powell to enjoy.

If all this exploring around Lake Powell has you itching to get out on the water itself you can do so at Wahweap Marina. No matter what type of water “toy” you’re looking for, you can rent it here-it’s one of the things to do in Page AZ. From a houseboat for a multi-night stay on the water, to motor boats & jet skis, or kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, there are rentals available. Half-day boat tours and dinner cruises are also available in the summer months.

There are so many fun and interesting things to do in Page AZ. Which will you do first?

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Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a must-see stop if you’re exploring this area in northern Arizona. Many people miss it because they’re racing to see the more famous Horseshoe Bend, or Glen Canyon Dam itself. But it’s worth taking a short detour to this well-maintained overlook for spectacular views and great photo ops. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Page AZ.

What is the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook?

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a designated spot perched 1,000 feet over a bend in the Colorado River about 3/4 mile south of Glen Canyon Dam itself. It’s important to note that this is an official vista point created by the National Park Service to provide visitors a scenic–and SAFE–way to see the Dam, the Colorado River and Glen Canyon itself.

View of glen canyon dam with bridge in front, taken 3/4 mile away at glen canyon overlook
A spectacular view of Glen Canyon Dam from the Overlook. Note the bridge just in front of the dam.

Five reasons to visit Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

  1. Terrific views of Glen Canyon Dam, plus Glen Canyon Bridge
  2. Wonderful views of the Colorado River slicing through Glen Canyon
  3. The overlook is easily accessible via a short (900-foot) hike
  4. Similar views to Horseshoe Bend, with less people
  5. Access is free

What can you see at this overlook?

The views at this “overlooked” overlook are stunning. Glen Canyon Dam Overlook provides a combination of views, ranging from natural to man-made wonders. The dam overlook is about 3.5 miles north of Horseshoe Bend, with much of the same natural scenery (only without the big hairpin turn in the river . . . or the crowds).

Looking to the north, you’ll be able to see the massive concrete engineering marvel of Glen Canyon Dam wedged into the red rocks of Glen Canyon. It’s the only place you can see the dam with the Glen Canyon Bridge superimposed over the front of it–it’s a very cool sight!

If natural scenery is more your thing, all you have to do is look south . . . or down. Looking down you’ll see the Colorado River flowing placidly over 1,000 below you. (If you’re lucky you might see either a motor boat or kayakers making their way down the river.)

Horizontal view of colorado river flowing through the vertical rocks of glen canyon
A view of the Colorado River above 1000-foot cliffs, looking south from Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

The view to the south gives you a terrific vantage point of the river splitting the red sandstone to create Glen Canyon. Since it curves off into the distance you’ll have some idea of what Horseshoe Bend looks like. One of the fascinating things to see is the greenery growing along the edge of the river. The vivid green against the red sandstone makes a nice color contrast, but it’s also soothing to the eye amidst all the reds and browns of this high desert landscape.

man with cowboy hat standing at overlook viewing glen canyon dam
Plenty of railings, plus space and shade to enjoy the view

There are railings all along the overlook, as well as a covered viewing area facing north toward the dam. As you can see from the pictures here, there are plenty of great photo ops, so there’s no need to do anything crazy (or irresponsible), such as climbing out beyond the railings. (DON’T do that!)

How to access the Glen Canyon Overlook

sign at the beginning of the glen canyon dam overlook trail
Sign at the trailhead, note the railings, and a glimpse of Glen Canyon Dam in the upper right

There is a short trail leading to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, accessed via the Dam Overlook Trailhead. The trail is only about 950 feet long, but you must descend a series of natural (but irregular) steps carved out of the sandstone. (Therefore, the trail is not suitable for those with mobility issues.) It’s a roughly 80-foot descent to the overlook, but the trail has railings all along the way. This comes in handy, as trying to balance a camera and water bottle as you’re scrambling down slightly angled steps of varying heights can get a little tricky.

To reach the trailhead, turn off of US Highway 89 onto Scenic View Road (which is a pretty appropriate name!), then turn west onto an unmarked, (but well-paved) road opposite the back entrances of the Baymont and Home2Suites Hotels. You’ll see Glen Canyon Dam in the distance, and the road will slope down slightly to a small parking lot (which, unlike parking at Horseshoe Dam, is free). From there you can access the trailhead.

man standing on red rocks above Glen Canyon admiring the view.
Take time to savor the views

How much time is required to see the overlook?

Visiting this little-known sight doesn’t take very long. It’s about 5 minutes each way to get from the parking lot to the Glen Canyon Dam overlook, and back again. If you’re really quick, another 5 minutes for photos and in just 15 minutes . . . BAM! you’re outta there.

But I encourage you to take a bit more time. The scenery is truly magnificent, and you’re likely to have the place almost to yourself. It’s a great place to slow down for a few minutes and absorb the beauty in front of you. Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a pleasant surprise, and, like the Hanging Gardens Arizona, well-worth the short detour.

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Hanging gardens Arizona is a delightful surprise amid the seemingly endless rocky landscape surrounding Glen Canyon. Less than a mile from the famous Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ lies a sheltered cove where greenery flourishes. Take a short, relatively easy (and free!) hike along the Hanging Garden Trail to find this marvel of nature.

It’s hard to believe this desert oasis is hiding just off the road in an area where tourists flock daily to see sights like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Yet this beautiful display of greenery gets very few visitors. Follow our tips to find some solitude and lushness amidst this otherwise stark landscape.

Ferns clinging to a red cliff face outside Page Arizona
Panoramic shot of Hanging Gardens

What is a hanging garden?

Hanging gardens form when a continuous water source, such as a spring, emerges along the vertical wall of a cliff. Winter precipitation seeps into the porous sandstone, eventually reaching a less permeable layer of rock. At this point the water can no longer travel downward, so it begins to move sideways along the rock.

Eventually the water reaches the wall of a canyon, seeping out of the stone and flowing down the side of a cliff. If there is enough of an overhang to prevent the water from evaporating too quickly (also keeping the temperature from getting to hot), the moist stone creates a rich environment for plants to grow. These alcoves or “glens” then become a hanging garden, where plants grow both along the cliff face and on the ground directly below where the water seeps.

What grows in the Hanging Gardens Arizona?

The springs that feed the hanging gardens Arizona in Glen Canyon nourish maidenhair ferns and wild orchids. Both plants are a capable of growing on a rocky surface. They are a deep, rich green, which creates a striking contrast to the red sandstone that forms the base for these thirsty plants. The maidenhair ferns are especially fluffy, an unusual sight in a desert climate more known for water-conserving plants with spiky configurations, such as cactus and scrub pines.

You’d expect to find ferns growing in the lush, moist climates, such as the ferns at of the Pacific Northwest, such as the ferns at North Cascades National Park in Washington State. But to see these delicate bits of greenery at the hanging gardens Arizona is truly something special.

The Hanging Garden Trail

The Hanging Garden Trail is contained within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, one of the many National Parks and Monuments in Arizona. The trail is approximately 1.5 miles, round trip, over mostly flat rocky terrain. There is a small amount of scrambling up rocks to reach the hanging garden itself, about 100 feet in front of it.

The trail suitable for hikers of any level, including children. (However keep in mind that this is not classified as an “accessible” trail). On our last visit a we saw a family of four enjoying this hike. The two kids, who were aged about 4 & 6, exclaimed that it was more fun than climbing the play gym at home. (Chalk one up for getting out and showing young people real world experiences!).

Access the Hanging Garden Trail from a turnoff on the northeast side US highway 89, about 2/3 of a mile east of the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center and 2 miles northwest of the center of the town of Page, AZ. It’s well-marked by a brown and white sign. After about 1,000 feet you will come to a small gravel parking lot with some signage indicating the trailhead.

The Hanging Garden Trail itself is easy to follow: small stones have been laid across the flat plain indicating the path. To your left you will see the power lines of Glen Canyon Dam in the distance, in front of you will be the flat plain leading to Lake Powell. After about 1/2 mile you’ll begin to round a red sandstone butte to your right. A sign will point toward the Hanging Garden. Follow the stone pathway and in a few hundred feet you’ll see a hollow in the stone butte to your right, along with some black streaks on the red stone. This is a clue that there is moisture nearby.

At this point you’ll need to scramble up the rocks a bit to reach the Hanging Gardens Arizona. (It’s not difficult–if you can climb stairs you can climb this.) The small stones lead you up the left side of the hollow, which is a gradual climb. And then you’ve reach the Trail End . . . there it is!

Looking at the sign for the end of the Hanging Garden Trail, it’s hard to believe what’s right behind you

What to expect at the Hanging Gardens Arizona

The Hanging Gardens Arizona is a wall of greenery clinging to the red rock cliff face. The garden is in a curved hollow of the rock, about 50 feet long, and about 15 feet high. When you arrive you immediately feel the drop in temperature-it’s about 10 degrees cooler. Although there is no water running (unless there have been recent rains, which is rare), you can feel a higher level of humidity here.

In this photo, you see a nice bit of greenery in the desert rock . . .
Standing in front of ferns at the Hanging Garden Trail in Arizona
But seeing someone standing next to them makes the Hanging Gardens Arizona really impressive!

The cliff wall is filled with fluffy, dark green maidenhair ferns. Occasionally along the wall you’ll see the waxy leaves of wild orchids peeking through. There’s something very soothing about seeing all this green in the middle of all this reddish clay soil. And, unlike nearby Horseshoe Bend, you’ll have the place virtually to yourself.

Accessing the Hanging Garden Trail

How to access the Hanging Garden Trail from Glen Canyon Dam:

Proceed east on US Hwy 89 for 2/3 mile from the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center (crossing the bridge). The entrance to the trailhead will be on your left.

How to access the Hanging Garden Trail from Page, AZ:

From central Page (which Google Maps considers the intersection of Lake Powell Blvd. & S. Navajo Drive–near Big John’s Texas Barbecue), proceed north on Lake Powell Blvd for about 1.3 miles until it intersects with US Hwy 89. Turn right on Hwy 89 and proceed for about 1/2 mile. The entrance to the trailhead will be on your right.

Leave No Trace

When taking the Hanging Garden Trail, be sure to “Leave No Trace,” ensuring the Hanging Gardens Arizona remain intact and pristine for those who come after you. For more details, check the National Park System’s Leave No Trace Policy.

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A Grand Canyon November visit can be a rewarding experience. The summer crowds are gone and the weather is beautiful: chilly at night and mild during the day. A trip to the Grand Canyon is one of the best road trips in Arizona, so consider visiting when you’ll have more of the park to yourself.

According to the National Park Service, in an average year the Grand Canyon gets a smaller number of visitors in the late fall than in the park’s busiest months in summer. And we mean a significantly smaller number: in 2019 there were roughly 300,000 fewer visitors in the November than in either July or August. That translates to 10,000 less people per day. Which means there’s a LOT more space to enjoy the park. [NOTE: Statistics are similar for most prior years; 2020 visitation numbers are all out-of-whack due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]

Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park with snow-Grand Canyon November
A little bit of snow and a whole lotta space to yourself at the Grand Canyon in November

What is the Grand Canyon weather in November?

Grand canyon National Park entry sign

Temperatures at the Grand Canyon in November range from a high of 52 to a low of 27 degrees (Farenhiet). We visited in late November during Thanksgiving Week and were surprised to see a bit of snow. While it was a brisk 42 degrees, between plowing and solar melt the roads were very clear so there was no problem getting around. In a strange phenomenon, when it snows at the Grand Canyon by the time it gets to the lower elevation canyon floor the snow has melted and becomes rain.

Is the Grand Canyon North Rim open in November?

Yes, but only for day visits. Due to its higher elevation (more than 8,000 feet), the North Rim gets more snow. All park services at the North Rim close October 15 and do not reopen until May 15. Anyone looking to make a Grand Canyon November visit should probably focus on visiting the South Rim.

So now that you know you’ll experience less crowds and mild-to-chilly weather, what’s so special about visiting in November? We’ve put together a list of expert tips for enjoying the Grand Canyon in late fall:

Spend more time at the Overlooks

standing at an overlook of the Grand Canyon November
Lots of space to yourself on a Grand Canyon November visit. Full disclosure: this is NOT at the edge–just a creative photography angle 😉)

In the summer months the overlooks are jam-packed with people, making it difficult to appreciate the majesty of the view in front of you. However, with much fewer people around at the Grand Canyon November it’s easier to get a front-row view of the canyon in all its glory. The view is so massive and so magnificent it’s impossible to absorb it all in a single glance and quick snap of your camera. Stop. Breathe. Look around. This is truly one of the wonders of the world–take the time to savor it.

One the joys of visiting in November is with so few people you can go back to the same spot hours later just to see how the shifting light changes the view. (This is awesome for photography buffs!)

Stay right in the park (or near the entrance)

It’s easier to get a room in (or very near) the park in November

This sounds like a no-brainer, but anyone who’s tried to get a reservation at one of the park lodges (or even within a few miles of the park entrance) during high season knows you have to book waaaaaay ahead of time, making it almost impossible. Not so with a Grand Canyon November stay, when less crowds also translates into more hotel rooms. For our most recent trip we visited the park during Thanksgiving week (although not during Thanksgiving itself).

The historic El Tovar Hotel was full (that hotel always books up way ahead), but we were still able to book a room at the nearby Yavapai Lodge (also in the park) just a few weeks prior to our trip. We were within walking distance of the rim path, which meant we could stroll along and view the canyon by moonlight. It was a magical moment: gazing out at the Grand Canyon as the multi-colored layers of ancient rock were kissed by a glimmer of silvery moonlight with absolutely no one else there to spoil the view . . . and talk about QUIET! I’m convinced you can hear the pine cones grow.

Interior of the El Tovar Hotel is much less crowded in the fall. And doesn’t that fire look cozy?

Even if the park lodges are full, you still have a pretty good chance to score a room at one of the hotels in nearby Tusayan, which is just outside of the park’s South Entrance Station. The park is open 24 hours a day, so you can still make the short drive to the rim for that moonlight stroll.

When staying in or nearby the park, you also have an opportunity to view the canyon at sunrise on your Grand Canyon November visit. If you’re an early riser, that is. [Full disclosure: we opted to sleep in, and have breakfast with a view instead . . .see below]

Have breakfast with a view of the Grand Canyon

Imagine nibbling on this while looking at the Grand Canyon!

You might not be able to get a room at the El Tovar hotel during your Grand Canyon November visit, but the next best thing is to have breakfast there. The classic grand El Tovar Dining Room serves up a morning meal that’s a notch or two above classic breakfast fare, all with a view over the Grand Canyon

On our last visit we enjoyed buttermilk pancakes with Arizona prickly pear syrup and pan-seared rainbow trout with eggs. Sitting in the log-paneled room with a fire crackling by the picture windows with soft music in the background was delightful. It was a cosy and delicious way to watch the morning sun play over the canyon’s walls.

Note: The El Tovar Dining room does not take breakfast reservations, however there are rarely long waits for a table in November.

The view from our breakfast table at the EL Tovar Hotel. Okay, so not everyone was impressed with the view like we were.

See the Grand Canyon with snow

Rare view of architect Mary Colter’s 1932 Desert View Watchtower in the snow

At an elevation of 7,000 feet the Grand Canyon November weather can be surprising, with mild daytime temperatures dipping to below freezing at night. But those chilly temperatures can yield a wonderful surprise: on our first morning we woke up to snow dusting the ground. We were treated to rare vistas of snow in the Grand Canyon and a few people (okay, I was one of them) had fun tossing snowballs into the gaping maw. That is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Even though it snows the roads are clear.

Grand Canyon November: Dress in Layers!

Layered clothing-down jacket over thermal turtleneck

Those wide swings in temperature mean different clothing needs throughout the day. Unless you’re sleeping in a tent, you don’t want your Grand Canyon November trip to involve packing a bulky coat you only wear for an evening stroll.

Our advice: dress in layers. We like base layers in both silk and merino wool. They’re thin and lightweight, yet amazingly warm. You’ll still be warm and cozy, but you’ll have more room in your suitcase for souvenirs. And since there’s a chance you might get snow, it’s a good idea to wear shoes (or boots) that are waterproof or water resistant. (And layer with wool socks to keep your tootsies warm 😊)

Free Admission on Veterans Day

If you’re planning a Grand Canyon November trip, it’s good to remember that admission to the park is free on Veteran’s Day! In addition to the many battlefields and memorials that are national treasures, the National Park Service says, “every national park is part of our collective identity that defines who we are and where we came from as a nation. They are tactile reminders of the values, the ideals, and the freedoms that our veterans protect.” Thus, they honor our veterans and active military by making the park (and all National Parks!) free to EVERYONE on that day. Way cool.

Please note: Free admission is only valid on Veteran’s Day itself. The regular admission to the park ($35 per vehicle) is good for 7 days. If you are planning to spend more than just Veteran’s day at the park, you’ll still need to pay for the additional days. Also, keep in mind that while visitor traffic during most of November is typically low, there may be slightly bigger crowds on free admission days such as Veteran’s Day. (However there will still likely be less people than during the busy summer months.)

Snow on the rim of the Grand Canyon in late November.

There are 6 expert tips for enjoying the Grand Canyon November vacation. The Grand Canyon is so spectacular you’ll want to enjoy every moment there. Hopefully these tips will help you do so.

What are your tips for visiting the Grand Canyon in the late fall? If you’ve got any thoughts, click the “contact us” tab and send us a note–we’d love to hear from you!

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Want to find a pumpkin patch in Arizona? We’ll help you out. There’s something just so autumnal about a pumpkin patch. . . the bright orange color, the rustling of leaves and yellowing corn stalks in the neighboring fields beckon on a crisp fall afternoon. You can choose a big ol’ “punkin” or just indulge in little festive fall fun (such as family-friendly games and corn mazes). Whether you’re an Arizona local or visiting on vacation, a stop at an AZ pumpkin patch is sure to brighten your day. It’s as classic a fall event as exploring Apples in Arizona.

PRO TIP: Most pumpkin patches and fall festivals have Covid-19 safety precautions in place. Please check individual sites for more information

Pumpkin Patch in Arizona: Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF PUMPKIN PATCH

This Flagstaff pumpkin patch has been serving up autumn fun since 2001. Located at the Viola’s Flower Garden nursery, you’ll have fun picking out pumpkins in this country setting tucked into the pines. Choose from 25 (!) different pumpkin varieties, scattered among hay bales with tons of scarecrows and photo ops.

Photo courtesy Flagstaff Pumpkin Patch

PRO TIP: Continue a few miles south of Flagstaff on 89A to see the foliage at Oak Creek Canyon, one of the fun things to do in Sedona in the Fall.

THE WILLIS FARM (SNOWFLAKE, AZ)

Plenty of fall fun on this farm in northeastern Arizona (not far from Petrified Forest National Park). Pick your pumpkin from a patch out in the field, or select gourds and “Indian” corn. Try your luck navigating the corn maze, or simply take a train ride around the property.

There’s also a game zone for little ones and paint ball & laser tag for older kids.For those who like a scary thrill, Willis Farm hosts “Haunt Nights” every Saturday in October–tickets are timed, be sure to order online ahead of your arrival.

Photo courtesy Willis Farm
  • Location: 381 S. 1st E. Street Snowflake, AZ 85937
  • Dates: September 25 through October 30 (note: Closed on Sundays)
  • Website: Willis Farm & Ranch

Where to find an AZ pumpkin patch near Phoenix

FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS (SCOTTSDALE, AZ)

Those looking to add a little “glam” to their fall pumpkin experience need look no further than the Pumpkin Fest at this luxury hotel. Fall-themed treats abound for young and old alike, including (sort-of spooky) kiddie rides, toasted marshmallows, skeleton storytellers, and–new for 2021–a Cider Orchard offering both both hard and soft versions of the fall favorite. Visit for just the day, or can cap off the event with specially-priced hotel and spa packages.

JUSTICE BROTHERS U-PICK FARM (WADDELL, AZ)

Head out to the western fringes of Phoenix to farm and orange grove country to find this u-pick pumpkin patch. Pay for your pumpkin, then stop at the free decorating station to jazz it up. There are plenty of photo ops in this Arizona pumpkin patch, and you can even make your own scarecrow!

Photo courtesy Justice Bros.
  • Location: 14629 W. Peoria Avenue, Waddell AZ 85355
  • Dates: October 1 through 31 (note: Open Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon; closed Tue, Wed, Thur)
  • Website: Justice Brothers Ranch & U-Pick

MACDONALD’S RANCH (SCOTTSDALE, AZ)

At MacDonald’s ranch, there are pumpkins, and a whole lot more. Admission to this Arizona pumpkin patch gives you access to a petting zoo, panning for gold, hay bale maze, kids’ pedal car track, lawn games and plenty of photo areas. Purchase pumpkins, and optional pony rides.

Photo courtesy MacDonalds Ranch
  • Location: 26540 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
  • Dates: October 1 through 31 (note: closed Tuesdays)
  • Website: MacDonald’s Ranch

MORTIMER FARMS (DEWEY, AZ)

There’s something for everyone at the Mortimer Farms Pumpkin Fest and Corn Maze. There are games, hayrides, ziplines and more. Oh yeah, you can pick a pumpkin, too! Add in some farm to table food, and you’ve got a great fall day! NOTE: Purchase tickets in advance online.


MOTHER NATURE’S FARM (GILBERT, AZ)

At this Arizona pumpkin patch you can pick out pumpkins grown right at the farm in any size: from 1 ounce to 500 pounds! For the price of admission you can take a hayride, visit the OZ pumpkin, or do a spider crawl. Unlike many other pumpkin patches, Mother Nature’s Farm lets you bring your own picnic (although they have a concession stand as well).

  • Location: 1663 E. Baseline Road Gilbert, AZ 85233
  • Dates: September 25 – October 31
  • Website: Mother Nature’s Farm

SCHNEPF FARMS (QUEEN CREEK, AZ)

With an event known as a “Pumpkin and Chili Party” you know you’re in for a great time. This fall extravaganza includes kiddie carnival rides, corn mazes, ziplines, a petting zoo and a slew of other games for all ages. In addition to chili, there are food tents offering chicken, burgers, pizza and (because . . . fall) succotash. Reserve tickets online.

Note: Filmed prior to COVID-precautions are now in place

PRO TIP: For a fall getaway break, book a spot at Schnepf Farms’ adjacent glamping resort, The Cozy Peach. Stay in one of 9 fully refurbished vintage trailers!


TOLMACHOFF FARMS (GLENDALE, AZ)

This 4-generation family farm kicks off their “Pumpkin Days and Corn Maze” event on October 1. This AZ pumpkin patch has something for the whole family: Great big pumpkin patch and 3(!) corn mazes: a 6-acre family corn maze, a mini corn maze for little ones & a haunted corn maze (ideal for jaded teenagers 🙄.) Other activities include a petting zoo, train ride, hay pyramid, corn box, adult/child pedal cart track, jumping pillow and much more.

  • Location: 5726 N. 75th Ave. Glendale, AZ 85303
  • Dates: October 1 – 31 (Note: Closed Mon, Tue)
  • Website: Tolmachoff Farms

VERTUCCIO FARMS (MESA, AZ)

Celebrate “Cooler Days in the Corn Maze” at Vertuccio Farms’ Arizona pumpkin patch in Mesa. In addition to the maze there’s a train ride around the farm, a petting zoo and games galore, including a giant tube slide and the ever-popular pumpkin bowling (sign us up!)

Photo courtesy Vertuccio Farms

  • Location: 4011 S. Power Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
  • Dates: October 1 through 31, 7 days/week
  • Website: Vertuccio Farms

Arizona pumpkin patches in Southern AZ

APPLE ANNIE’S (WILLCOX, AZ)

Grab a wheelbarrow and head out to the field to pick your ideal pumpkin. Or better yet, get a ticket for a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, in a wagon pulled by one of Apple Annie’s tractors. Set aside some time for the corn maze; the average visit is 2 hours! And if you come on a weekend, be sure to walk through the Sunflower Spectacular, with fields of 12 varieties of sunflowers on display-gorgeous! (Spoiler alert: they have apples, too. But you probably already figured that out 🙂 .)


MARANA PUMPKIN PATCH (MARANA, AZ)

With 50 acres of freshly grown pumpkins you’re sure to find the perfect specimen at the Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival. Admission includes a wagon ride out to the patch (pumpkins priced separately, by the pound), along with access to the corn maze, swings and games, a petting zoo and a ride on the 1/4-scale diesel train (perfect for the train geek in your group! 🚂 )

Photo courtesy Marana Pumpkin Patch
  • Location: 14950 N Trico Rd, Marana, AZ 85653
  • Dates: October 2-31 (closed Mon, Tues, Wed)
  • Website: Marana Pumpkin Patch

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Want to know where find local apples in Arizona during the fall? Here are six ways to experience Arizona’s apple-growing heritage. We’re including u-pick farms, markets, a guest ranch in a orchard and one trek that’s, erm, a little out there, but we wanted to offer all sorts of options . . .

a crate full of freshly picked apples in a field

Go Arizona Apple Picking at Apple Annie’s

Apple picking is about as wholesome as it gets-it’s the ultimate family-friendly event. Although most orchards are now wholesale only, Apple Annie’s Orchard in Willcox is one Arizona apple orchard where picking is encouraged. Harvest season is late August through October; you pay for what you pick. It’s a fun day’s activity, but best of all you get to go home with a basket of fresh, crisp apples! Don’t feel like picking your own? No problem, you can buy an already-picked batch at the Country Store on site.

During weekends throughout the fall there are festive events most weekends, including pancake breakfasts with hot cider syrup and apple topping, apple cider donuts (our favorite!), lunch at the Orchard Grill (which features burgers cooked over apple wood) and pies, pies and more pies.

  • Location: 2081 W Hardy Rd. Willcox, AZ 85643
  • Phone: (520) 384-2084
  • Website: Apple Annie’s
  • Hours: Fruit orchard open daily, 8am to 5pm July-September; 9am to 5:30pm in October. Country Store open daily 8am to 5pm year round. (Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

PRO TIP: Apple Annie’s also has a terrific Arizona Pumpkin Patch, and a beautiful sunflower display.

Spend the night in an Arizona apple orchard

The Beatty’s dog, Red, out in the orchard in Miller Canyon, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

If you really want to immerse yourself in the orchard experience there’s no better way than to sleep among the apple trees. In this case we mean a cabin in the orchard, not literally sleeping under the trees (more about that later . . . ). Here at Beatty’s Guest Ranch, cabins are tucked into the orchard, which itself is tucked into Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona. Spend a few nights in this cozy setting; at 5,800 feet in altitude, you can be sure of cool fall evenings.

Whip up breakfast in your cabin using some of Beatty’s farm-fresh eggs accompanied by apples and other goodies grown at the ranch. All foods grown at the ranch are available for purchase in their on site store. The ranch is adjacent to several Miller Canyon trails, and only a few miles from the Coronado National Memorial, part of the National Park System. This area is also birding country; warblers pass through during their fall migration. In summer the apples aren’t yet ripe, but you might just see a hummingbird or two–or twelve. The ranch holds the record for the most species (14) ever spotted in one day!

A cabin in the orchard, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

PRO TIP: Miller Canyon is prime birding territory; in addition to apples, during a stay at Beatty’s Ranch you may “harvest” a few hummingbird and warbler sightings, depending on when you visit

Explore Sedona’s heritage of apples in Arizona

image of apple sorting equipment-apples in arizona

It’s hard to imagine now, but 100 years ago Sedona was the place to go to find an Arizona apple orchard. Nearby Oak Creek provided ready access to water, and Sedona farmers developed irrigation systems to supply their orchards. The Sedona Heritage Museum at Jordan Historical Park is housed at a former apple processing facilty. The museum’s logo is even the signature red rocks superimposed on an apple!

The orchard acreage was sold off in the 1970s, but the remaining buildings of the Jordan family farmstead remain to illuminate Sedona’s fruit-filled history. View vintage farm equipment and apple sorting machinery, and see a 1940s one-room farmhouse, where apples took pride of place. (While there, be sure to explore the exhibit on Sedona’s history in western movies.) This is one of the cool things to do during the Fall in Sedona.

  • Location: 735 Jordan Road, Sedona, Arizona
  • Phone: (928) 282-7038
  • Website: Sedona Heritage Museum
  • Hours: Open daily 11 am to 3 pm. Closed Major Holidays.
historic photo of orchards near Sedona
Photo courtesy Sedona Heritage Museum

Visit a historic Arizona apple orchard & homestead

historic, rusty farm equipment in front of Pendley orchards at slide rock state park
Historic farm equipment on display in front of the historic Pendley apple orchard at Slide Rock State Park

What is now Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona was once the Pendley apple orchard and homestead. Summertime visitors love to sluice down the water slide of the creek, but in the fall visitors come to see the beautiful colors . . . and the apples. The orchard, farm machinery, packing shed, old cabins and farmhouse at the site of the old Pendley homestead are all available to visit.

Frank Pendley planted his first apple orchard in 1912 after acquiring the site two years earlier under the Homestead Act. Park staff still farm the orchard, using Pendley’s original irrigation system. Be sure to visit in September and October, when the 13 varieties of apples grown on site are harvested and available for sale.

  • Location: 6871 N. Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Phone: (928) 282-3034
  • Website: Slide Rock State Park
  • Hours: Open daily, 8am to 6pm, Feb through November; 9am to 5pm Dec, Jan. Closed Christmas.
apples in a wooden box

Trek to a forgotten apple orchard in the mountains

wild apples out in an untended orchard-apples in arizona
Imagine finding these after a 10-mile hike through desert landscape!

Earlier I mentioned an apple experience in Arizona that was a little “out there.” This is it . . . literally and figuratively. In the late 1800s a quirky character named Elisha Reavis established a farm and in a remote valley in the otherwise dry, forbidding Superstition Mountains in eastern Arizona. Many rumors circulated about Reavis: some called him the “Hermit of the Superstition Mountains,” other say he scrapped with the Apaches. No one really knows for sure, but an apple orchard on the site planted after his death is a lasting legacy.

Today, what remains of this Arizona apple orchard continues to flourish (in a wild sort of way) in this tucked-away corner of the Tonto National Forest. Those intrepid enough to find Reavis Ranch can enjoy all the apples their belly can hold–after a 10-mile hike to reach it! Plan to make this an overnight trek, camping at the orchard before making the 10-mile trek back. For some, it’s an annual pilgrimage:

  • Location: Trailhead is located at Reavis Trailhead Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 (off state route 88)
  • Hours: Open all year; apple trees bloom in the spring, and are likely bearing fruit in September and October.

Pick up fresh Arizona apples at a Farmer’s Market

apples lined up in wooden bins at a farmers market apples in arizona

There are places in Arizona that produce apples, but are not open to the public. Most, however make their products available at local farmers’ markets throughout the state. So if you find yourself craving the the delicious fruit from an Arizona apple orchard, but aren’t in the mood to pick your own (or go on a 20-mile hike), download this Arizona Farmers Markets Directory to find one near you.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE AT RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF A GUIDE TO ARIZONA’S FARMERS’ MARKETS!

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Fall in Sedona is a magical time: the heat of summer has begun to fade, and the foliage turns shades of crimson, orange and yellow, complimenting those famous red rocks. The cooler weather makes enjoying the outdoors–and Sedona’s spectacular scenery–especially pleasant. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall.

NOTE: Some facilities might have modified hours due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check before visiting.

Ogle the Foliage at Oak Creek Canyon

One of the great joys of fall in Sedona is the magnificent display of colorful foliage. The best place to see this is via a drive through Oak Creek Canyon. A series of switchbacks along Arizona Highway 89A just north of Sedona will have you winding through spectacular scenery that is especially resplendent in autumn.

Creek with fall foliage in background fall in sedona

Be sure to stop at Oak Creek Vista, near the canyon’s northern end. As the title implies, it will give you a tremendous view-and a perfect photo op. There are also Native American craftsmen who display there wares here, if you’d like to do a little shopping.

PRO TIP: Just north of Oak Creek Canyon, near Flagstaff, stop in at an Arizona Pumpkin Patch for some additional Fall Fun!

Visit a Historic Apple Farm

No fruit says “fall” more than apples! The Pendley Homestead is a 43-acre historic apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon. The farm was established by Frank L. Pendley, who acquired the land in 1910 as part of the Homestead Act, and began his apple orchard in 1912. The state of Arizona acquired the homestead in 1985 and opened it as Slide Rock State Park in 1987.

Red apples on tree branches

There are still 300 fruit-producing trees in the orchard, along with the historic homestead buildings and farm equipment on display. When visiting Sedona in the fall, be sure to stop by the park to pick up some fresh Pendley Homestead apples!

Chill Out at the Sedona Stupa

Stupa in Sedona in the fall, with banners coming from peak

Sedona is a must-visit place for spiritual seekers the world over. The Sedona Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park offers a rare opportunity for solace at a form of sacred architecture that is typically found in Asia. Stupas date back over 2,500 years, to the time of Buddha. The structure represents the Mind of Enlightenment, and is considered to be living presence of the Buddha.

This sacred place is a soothing spot to visit during the fall in Sedona. It’s tucked into a clearing among pinion and juniper pines, under the watchful eye of Cathedral Rock. Take a short trek up winding trails for prayer, meditation, healing, and peace. The Amitabha Stupa (and the smaller Tara Stupa) is open every day from dawn until dusk. Like all places of worship, it is free to visit, but donations are accepted.

Hike the Red Rocks near Sedona in the Fall

Fall in Sedona is the perfect time to explore the area on foot. There are a myriad of trails for all abilities winding through the red rocks, valleys and Canyons. Southwest of Sedona, Red Rock State Park offers a collection of relatively short hikes (0.2-0.5 miles each) that can be combined to create longer treks. There is a small admission fee to the park.

For a broader range of hikes throughout the region, be sure to stop into the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center of the Coconino National Forest, located on AZ Route 179 just north of Interstate 17. There you’ll find an excellent selection of trail maps, with knowledgeable park rangers who can make suggestions based on your interests.

PRO TIP: Hiking is free in the Coconino National Forest, but parking areas at most of the trailheads require a fee. Pick up a Red Rock Pass at the Visitor Center, or purchase online ahead of your visit.

Taste Wines in the Verde Valley

Yellowing Grape vines in Verde Valley in the fall with a "syrah" sign

The fertile lands along the Verde River have been an agricultural hub for Arizona inhabitants for centuries, and is now home to the Verde Valley Wine Region. Wine tasting is a perfect activity to do in Sedona in the fall! The vines are ready to yield the season’s bounty and the the new vintages are making their way through the fermentation process.

Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are clustered around the town of Cottonwood, just a few miles east of Sedona. For those that like to turn tasting into a quest, download a passport to the Verde Valley Wine Trail, and check ’em off as you go! (If you’d like to have a designated driver, consider this wine tour with transportation.)

Hunt for ghosts in nearby Jerome

Front entrance Jerome Grand Hotel at night

Perched on the side of a mountain about 30 miles west of Sedona, the former mining town of Jerome is reputed to have its fair share of ghosts. Front and center is the Jerome Grand Hotel, which was repurposed from a former hospital. Some say the hotel is “the most haunted place in Arizona.” When visiting Sedona in the fall, all that vortex energy, coupled with Halloween, has got to raise a spirit or two. Right?

Oh, and did I mention the hotel restaurant is called “The Asylum”? That’s not TOO spooky!

Browse the shops and galleries of Tlaquepaque

Many destinations have shopping areas and galleries, but it takes a place as special as Sedona to have Tlaquepaque Arts and Craft Village. Far more than a simple “shopping center,” Tlaquepaque was actually built to resemble a traditional village of the same name in Mexico. Although it was constructed in the early 1970s, it has a feeling of being around for centuries–the buildings themselves feel like a work of art.

Tlaquepaque artist village in sedona-buildings with mexican-style fountain in front

Originally conceived as an artist community, Tlaquepaque today has over 50 specialty shops and art galleries, many of which contain artists working on-site. As you stroll around trickling fountains under the shade of a giant sycamore, you’re bound to be tempted by ceramics, architectural decor pieces and contemporary jewelry along with fine art paintings and more.

Attend an Arts Festival

Sedona in Fall-hands of ceramic artist shaping pottery on a wheel

Browse unique works of art while helping to support future artists and artisans. Established in 1989, the Sedona Arts Festival is the oldest and largest arts festival in the community. Every fall in Sedona this festival exhibits the work of more than 125 artists in a variety of artistic mediums. Explore creations in ceramics, photography, sculpture, drawing, fiber art and more during the two-day festival, which is held outdoors with the magnificent red rocks as a backdrop.

Attend knowing you’ll be supporting art programs at schools, parks, camps and more. The festival has funded nearly $300,000 of programs during its history. And if all that browsing has worked up an appetite, be sure to check out the Gourmet Gallery for tasty locally-sourced treats.

Observe (or participate in) Art en Plein Air

hands of artist painting a watercolor outdoors

The dry sunny climate of Sedona in the fall is perfect for creating art outdoors, or “en plein air,” as the French dubbed it. Each year the Sedona Arts Center holds a week-long festival to celebrate this unique artistic experience. The Sedona Plein Air Festival consists of master artists painting, along with workshops, lectures and free events, all amid the magical scenery of Sedona.

The Sedona Arts Center originated over 60 years ago, when the region was just becoming known as an “art colony.” Sign up for one of the workshops and maybe you, too, will one day be one of the master artists!

Go back in time at the Sedona Heritage Museum

Nothing says “autumn” like shiny red apples, and in the early-mid 20th century, apples were big business in and around Sedona. So it seems only fitting that a museum celebrating Sedona’s past should be located on a former apple farmstead. To learn more about this history a visit to Sedona in the fall should include a stop at the Sedona Heritage Museum, located at Jordan Historical Park in Upper Sedona.

The farmstead buildings have been preserved and repurposed into exhibit halls, where visitors can learn about various periods in the region’s history, including Early Settlers, Ranching & Cowboys, the Orchard Industry, movies made in Sedona. There’s even a display about Sedona Schnebly, the woman for whom the town was named.

Ride the leaf-peeping Rails

Fall foliage in Arizona is at its most resplendent near rivers and streams, when the summer greenery changes to vivid reds and yellows. Along the Verde River northwest of Sedona much of this magnificent foliage is unavailable to view–unless you go by rail. A ride on the historic Verde Canyon Railroad will take you through canyons you’d otherwise be unable to see–and it’s especially beautiful during fall in Sedona.

Aerial shot of Verde Canyon Railroad going through canyon along a river with trees displaying fall foliage-near Sedona in fall
The Verde Canyon railroad snakes through gorgeous fall foliage. Photo by Tom Johnson via Flickr

The 40-mile, 4-hour ride takes you on a lazy ride through the canyons along the Verde River. Plenty of windows–and outdoor viewing platforms–give you plenty of terrific photo ops. The train departs from Clarkdale, about 25 miles west of Sedona. Refreshments can be purchased on board, and there are also special event rides, such as the Grape Train Escape Wine Tasting train ride (now there’s a way to multi-task!).

Take a Yoga Hike

In a destination where inner peace and hiking are both so important, a yoga hike is a natural combination. For those who like multi-tasking, yet really need to relax, this is a perfect solution. Spend 3 hours communing with nature as you reach within yourself. All out in the splendid scenery of Sedona in the fall.

There are so many ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall . . . which ones will you choose?

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Lovers of Franklin cars must visit the the Franklin Automobile Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It’s the largest public collection is devoted to the the quirky marque, built in Syracuse, NY from 1902 through 1934. Just getting to the museum is part fo the fun: it’s tucked away in the residential neighborhood north of downtown known as Richland Heights West, one of the last areas in Tucson with unpaved streets. You approach by driving across natural desert sand, much as a shiny new Franklin car might have done in the 1920s. It’s not uncommon to see the odd tumbleweed charting a lazy course across the sand like in some old John Wayne western.

So plan to take a trip back in time. Drive (slowly!) on some dusty sand roads amid cacti for a few blocks before arriving at the museum’s three adobe buildings. The throwback atmosphere is really part of the fun when viewing such a fine assemblage of pre-World War II cars.

Franklin Automobile Museum Tucson Arizona

History of the Franklin Automobile Museum

This 27-car collection of Franklin cars was developed by car restorer Thomas Hubbard. He purchased his first Franklin in 1950 and just kept buying them. He was first attracted to Franklins at the tender age of eight when his family bought a brand new 1933 model. Apparently his friends were not impressed.

Museum guide Bill, who as a child used to hang around helping Hubbard’s auto restorations, recalls Hubbard saying, “They’d rib me about the car. I had to explain to my friends, why if the car was so good they didn’t make them anymore.” Hubbard passed away in 1993 but the foundation he established funds the museum and its continued acquisition of cars including a purchase of a 1905 Franklin Model A Runabout with a rare rear-entry tonneau.

History of Franklin Cars

Franklins were the brainchild of engineer John Wilkinson and businessman Herbert H. Franklin, whose personal motto was “It can be done.” Franklin Automobiles were built in the much colder climes of Syracuse, New York in the early part of the 20th century, from 1902 through 1934.

All of the Franklins were air-cooled. Because air-cooling removed the need for a bulky radiator, Franklin cars took on some unusual front-end shapes including barrel hoods, shovels, and horse collars. They were a considered a premium brand; pricing ran just under a Cadillac. Collections this large are rare: although over 150,000 Franklins were produced, only about 3,500 survive today.

What’s on display at the Franklin Automobile Museum

There are three rooms’ worth of autos here. Because early cars required constant maintenance, the 1918 Franklin Model B Touring came with tool kits; the originals are cleverly hidden inside the front doors of Franklin cars and even included extra spark plugs. Look for the handy (and surprisingly small) golf bag on the 1929 Franklin Convertible Coupe.

In a sign of the times, with Charles Lindbergh having crossed the Atlantic Ocean (with an air-cooled engine) just two years before, an airplane logo was placed on the rear bumper to symbolize the car’s “airplane-type” engine; further increasing its sportiness factor.

A 1929/1930/1931 Franklin Model 153 is unique because it was company founder Herbert Franklin’s personal vehicle. The reason it has so many model years attributed to it was that he brought it into the shop annually to update it to the current model year. 

Franklin 1925 Sport Coupe

A one-off 1931 Franklin Model 153 Sport Phaeton was custom ordered by 21-year-old Stillman F. Kelley, II for his honeymoon. Despite the Great Depression raging, Kelley was able to pay $6,500 for this beauty, and may have survived the financial downturn better than Franklin. The automaker had leveraged his company for growth that didn’t materialize and was unable to shoulder the increased debt burden, declaring bankruptcy in 1934. The aircraft engine division survived but, in an odd twist, was bought in 1947 by Preston Tucker to produce engines for the Tucker 48. It’s not all Franklins though. In an outbuilding there are several other marques, including a 1909 REO Touring, which was the first car Thomas Hubbard restored.

And what’s with those dirt roads?

Part of what makes a visit to the Franklin Automobile Museum so unique is its setting in a quiet area with dirt roads. Dirt roads themselves aren’t really all that unusual-especially in rural parts of Arizona. But the museum is in the city of Tucson, which makes it quite an oddity. Here, you can still find corrals with horses and wild rabbits nibbling on mesquite leaves . . . and the speed limit is a whopping 15 MPH.

The dirt road entrance to the Franklin Automobile Museum harkens back to the 1940s

The neighborhood, known as Richland Heights West, is about 3 miles northeast of downtown Tucson. The 16 square block parcel was developed on a former ranch in the 1940s, before it was part of the city–and before paved roads were the accepted thing. The city offered to pave the neighborhood roads in the 1990s, but the neighborhood association said, “no thanks.” They like it just the way it is: quite, a little dusty, and full of wildlife. It’s also the perfect place to see a Franklin Car.

Unique roadside Americana near the Franklin museum

A visit to the Franklin Automobile Museum offers the opportunity to take in a bit of authentic roadside Americana located nearby. Anyone who loves road trips is aware of the Muffler Man statues that sprinkle the heartland. These distinctive, 20-foot-tall fiberglass figures were mostly erected in the 1960s to lure visitors to various shops and attractions. They were cleverly designed so the statue could hold an object related to the business they were promoting.

They came to be known as “Muffler Men,” regardless of what they held, because so many of them ended up holding mufflers to promote service stations. One of these icons of mid-century advertising presides over an intersection in Tucson, just two miles southwest of the Franklin Museum. The circa-1964 fiberglass giant at the corner of N. Stone Avenue and E. Glenn Street is one of the earliest “Muffler Man” statues. This one’s dressed up as Paul Bunyan holding an axe, yet it’s still auto-related, as it stands in the parking lot of Don’s Hot Rod Shop at 2811 N. Stone Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705.

PRO TIP: If you’re really into quirky sights, just about 6 blocks south of the Franklin Auto Museum is the intersection of Glenn & Campbell Although the Rhinestone Cowboy spelled his name with only one “n,” the crisscrossed street signs provide a nifty photo op.

This museum showcasing Franklin cars is one of several unusual museums in Tucson. It truly is a one-of-a-kind destination and a real trip back in time. Further information is available at www.FranklinMuseum.org.

Where is the Franklin Automobile Museum?

3420 North Vine Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719

When is the Franklin Automobile Museum Open?

Mid-October through Memorial Day, Wed-Sunday, 10am to 4pm.

What was unique about Franklin cars?

The engines were air-cooled, so there was no need for a bulky radiator.

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