Interesting and fun things to see and do in Arizona

Inside: Millers Surplus in Tucson is part military surplus store/part museum. Chat with owner Don Sloane (a very active World War II veteran 😱) while you shop for fun stuff!

Shopping for military surplus or specialty camping gear can be hit-and-miss. After scouring tons of small shops and big box stores that carried what seemed like everything BUT what we were looking for, we were resigned that we’d have to shop online. Until we found a store that was in a class by itself.

Part surplus store, part museum, this place not only had what my husband wanted, the store came with its very own goodwill ambassador . . .

. . . and this guy totally made our day.

96-year old Don Sloane, owner of Millers Surplus in Tucson
Don Sloane, the owner and “good will ambassador” of Millers Surplus in Tucson

What is Millers Surplus in Tucson?

Established in 1951, Miller’s Surplus is not just a military surplus store; it’s a mini military museum and an integral part of Tucson’s history. Owned by Don Sloane, the business has been thriving for over seven decades, displaying the dedication and passion of its (cheerful) proprietor.

What started as a post-WW II shop selling military surplus has now transformed into an unmatched collection of military paraphernalia and all sorts of camping equipment.

Located in the Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District, Millers Surplus of Tucson is big, with an incredible selection. But that’s not all the store has.

What really sets it apart is its owner, Don Sloane. He’s a World War II veteran-and one of the happiest guys we’ve had the pleasure to meet. Just chatting with him brings a smile to your face 😊.

It’s like Millers Surplus has a secret weapon: it’s the military surplus store with a heart of gold 🤩.

History of Millers Surplus

To explore the history of Millers Surplus of Tucson, you need to consider the history of Don Sloane; the two are inextricably linked. So we need to go back a little . . .

Specifically, to 1945. World War II is in its waning days, but it’s not over yet. Spry young whippersnapper Don Sloane−all of 18 years old−joins the Army.

After training Don gets sent to Europe and spends 3 years there as an M.P., dealing with post-war issues. Even though the war was “officially” over, Don got shot . . . twice! 😱. (Proving that just because the treaties have been signed, life isn’t immediately hunky-dory.)

In 1948, with his military service completed, Don returns home to America. Don’s originally from Brooklyn, NY, so he attends New York University (NYU) on the G.I. Bill and studies business.

Collection of vintage military uniforms at Millers Surplus
Part of Don Sloane’s personal collection of military memorabilia.

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But, you may be asking, what does all of this have to do with Tucson?

The answer: asthma. (Not for Don himself, but for a family member.) The family moved out to Tucson for the warm, dry, and relatively pollen-free air.

So it’s 1951. Don Sloane, World War II Vet and NYU alum finds himself in Tucson, Arizona at the ripe old age of 24. What’s a guy to do?

Don looks around for a business to buy and settles on Miller’s Surplus. He understands business, and he KNOWS the military, so it’s a natural fit.

Military tactical gear and clothing at Millers Surplus in Tucson
Plenty of military surplus clothing tactical gear (vintage uniforms on display on wall).

Originally known as Miller’s Army Surplus Exchange, the business was located on Congress St. in downtown Tucson. In the early 50s the Army had a whole lotta surplus stuff. Fortunately, Don understood it all, so he was happy to meet his customers’ needs with military gear.

The company moved to it’s current location on 6th Ave. in 1966. (Fun fact: the building is a former car dealership that sold every GM brand except Chevrolet.)

And 70+ years later Don Sloane−and Millers Surplus−is still making customers happy.

What makes this Military Surplus Store unique?

In a word: Don Sloane. (well, okay, that’s 2 words.) But there are 3 reasons Don makes this store unique.

1. A Mini Military Museum

First, Don doesn’t only sell military clothing and gear, he collects it. And he has it on display in the store.

Walking around Miller’s Surplus is like being in a mini-museum. Vintage uniforms and military artifacts line the walls and shelves above the modern-day goods for sale.

Vintage motorcycle on display at Millers Surplus-Military Surplus store in Tucson
Be sure to look for the vintage motorcycle on display at Millers Surplus in Tucson

As you browse the store, be sure to look up (and in all the nooks and crannies). You’ll find a whole range of military relics, ranging from antique military patches, pins, and medals, to unique, vintage items like gas masks, military bags, and helmets. There’s even a vintage military motorcycle! 🏍️

2. A Vast−and Varied−Selection of Military Gear & Clothing (and more!)

A walk down the store’s aisles will reveal the store’s specialization in military items, stockpiling everything from authentic uniforms of the past and present to finely crafted insignia and hard-to-find military gear.

SeaBees shirts on display at Millers Surplus Tucson
Navy “SeaBees” shirt on display amid contemporary bucket hats and vintage flags

Don respects all branches of service, and carries supplies and goods related to some of the more unique military functions, such as the Navy’s Construction Battalion, familiarly known as the “SeaBees.” 🐝

My husband was looking for a US Coast Guard t-shirt, to honor his dad, who had been a veteran “Coastie.” Sure enough, Don had a collection of Coast Guard shirts available in all sizes.

Keeping pace with current trends, Don also stocks a wide variety of camping gear and accessories (including an awesome selection of enameled coffee pots that look like they’d be right at home on a Grand Canyon campout.)

3. Don Sloane, Proprietor & Good-Will Ambassador 😊

Don Sloane or Millers Surplus, working in the store

All of the above make a trip to Millers Surplus worthwhile, especially if you’re looking for military or camping gear.

But the most interesting−and happiest−reason to visit Miller’s Surplus in Tucson is for Don Sloane himself.

Where else will you have a chance to chat with a World War II veteran? (Not to mention one who still works every day!)

You’ll find Don walking around the store, chatting with customers, making sure they’re finding what they’re looking for.

And he’s always smiling 😊.

When we asked him about his happy disposition, he told us, “my mother told me, ‘every time you smile, you extend your life by the tiniest little bit.’ So I smile as often as I can. It keeps me active.”

It must be working . . . Don is 96-years . . . young.


The Military Surplus Store worth a Special Trip

Whether you’re an ardent military enthusiast, lover of antiques, or simply a curious visitor, a visit to Miller’s Surplus promises a journey back in time, an essence of the past encapsulated in the present.

It’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson.

And, after meeting Don Sloane, I dare you not to smile yourself. 😊

Posing with Don Sloane, owner of Millers Surplus military surplus store
C’mon, doesn’t this guy make you smile?!

Pins to Bookmark for Later


INSIDE: Surprisingly vibrant and walkable, we share a whole list of things to do Phoenix downtown–you won’t even need a car!

For years I thought of Phoenix as a “region.” Great weather & spectacular scenery? Sure. But a city? With a traditional downtown? Not so much. Then I went to a concert, expecting to leave right afterward, and discovered something unexpected . . .

Downtown Phoenix was hopping-there were people everywhere, out and about, walking around and having a great time. Wait, WHAT???

It was time to give the downtown “city” part of Phoenix a closer look.

Downtown Phoenix Arizona: It’s a (real) Thing

Clearly I had taken my eye off the ball regarding what was going on in the state’s largest city (and its capital). In recent years, Phoenix has committed to redeveloping its urban corridor to offer more experiences to both business and leisure travelers.

Translation: there’s lots of cool stuff in downtown Phoenix. And you can walk to it all.

It’s not just the “big things,” like the Convention Center, baseball stadium and basketball arena. Those are great, but not enough to create a downtown atmosphere. You could drive to an event, then go home afterwards.

To be a true downtown you need more. Specifically . . . people.

Woman in a hat holding up a microbrew in downtown phoenix
Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewing celebrates walkable downtown Phoenix Photo by Jenny Dupuis

Tons of new apartments and condos have sprouted up in recent years. Which means people are living downtown. And where people live, they shop, eat, and just plain do stuff.

Which makes being in downtown Phoenix fun.

And it’s all within walking distance, so you even get a little exercise in the process. (Which in my mind totally justifies stopping for a cookie! 🍪)

We’ve put together a guide of what to do in downtown Phoenix to get you started. Whether you’re looking to shop in funky boutiques, discover some history, or just enjoy the Arizona sunshine with a refreshing microbrew, you’ll find it here.

Next time you’re coming to town for a convention, or even just in from the ‘burbs to catch a Diamondbacks game, take some time to explore downtown Phoenix. It’ll be worth the trip.

Things to do Phoenix Downtown: Live Performances

Downtown Phoenix is no slouch in the live performance scene. From bass-thumping rock or hip-hop to an elegant ballet to live theater, Phoenix runs the gamut for creative entertainment. 🎸💃🏻

Every night is a unique artistic experience, where passion and creativity take center stage. Check out these terrific venues to find your performance of choice.

1. Footprint Center

An anchor in downtown Phoenix, the Footprint Center arena delivers an electrifying fusion of entertainment, sporting action, and local culture.

In addition to year-round sporting events (see below), this arena host an ever-changing array of BIG events. Whether it’s the Ringling Brothers circus, Tim McGraw or Megan Thee Stallion, there’s something heart-stopping for fans of all ages and tastes.

Attending an event at the Footprint Center can form the lynchpin for your exploration of Phoenix’s downtown scene.

2. Arizona Financial Theater

Despite the confusing name (they do NOT put on plays about mortgages 🙃), the Arizona Financial Theatre offers up a great lineup of all sorts of entertainment.

This 5,000 seat entertainment venue is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment. I like to think of it as either an “intimate arena” or a “whompin’ big theater.”

This is the place to see comedy acts like Bret Goldstein and Bill Burr and multiple music genres, including latin, hip-hop, rock and country. You can even attend boxing matches here! 🥊

3. Phoenix Symphony Hall

If you’re craving a little high culture, Phoenix Symphony Hall will fix you up right.

This spectacular venue serves as home to a myriad of renowned organizations, including the illustrious Phoenix Symphony—the Southwest’s largest full-time symphony orchestra—as well as the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona.

Ballet dancers at Phoenix Symphony hall-one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown
Attending a ballet is one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown Photo: Ballet Arizona

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4. Herberger Theater Center

The Herberger Theater Center, serves as a cultural hub offering an immersive live arts experience. This captivating hive of creativity showcases a wide variety performance genres, encapsulating the city’s thriving arts scene. Events include thought-provoking plays, musicals an interactive art exhibitions.

For a change of pace (and budget ) try out the Lunch Time Theater program: One-act plays lasting 45 to 50 minutes, with tickets at $10 each, PLUS guests can bring a lunch (or pre-order one from the Herberger Theater’s caterer when ordering tickets.) Now that’s a great deal!

5. The Orpheum Theater

Every great city needs a grand old theater in it’s repertoire. The Orpheum Theater fits that bill for downtown Phoenix. It opened in January 1929, at the peak of the Roaring 20s-no expense was spared. The massive stage made it a popular stop for traveling vaudeville shows that changed weekly back in the day.

The elegant 1920s interior of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix
The elegant interior of the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix dates from the 1920s

This historic performance arts venue is a bit of an architectural show-off with its magnificent Italian Renaissance Revival design. It even had an early form of air conditioning!

Today the Orpheum plays host to a diverse range of performances that cater to every artistic taste. Performances range from the mesmerizing Broadway musical Wicked to showings of vintage silent films accompanied by live orchestra. The Orpheum Theater is indeed a crowning jewel in Phoenix’s vibrant arts scene.

6. The Van Buren

People standing in a music venue waiting for a concert to begin
The Van Buren offers an intimate spot to see live music in downtown Phoenix

If you’re looking for something a bit more intimate and edgy in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Van Buren might just fit the bill.

Originally built in 1939 as an automotive showroom for the Phoenix Motor Company, it was repurposed into an eclectic music venue in 2017. Recent performances include Grammy-nominated artist, Leon Bridges, and indie rock band, The Arctic Monkeys, showcasing the Van Buren’s commitment to diverse and high-caliber entertainment.

Click here for upcoming events at the Van Buren.

7. The Crescent Ballroom

Part live performance venue, part Southwestern scratch kitchen, the Crescent Ballroom provides entertainment and sustenance at the western end of Phoenix’s downtown in a historic setting.

exterior view of the crescent ballroom in downtown phoenix, with people eating at outdoor tables
The Crescent Ballroom features live music & great Southwestern grub (Photo An T. Pham)

Housed in the F.L. Hart Garage, which was built in 1917, it sits along the original Dixie Overland Highway, more commonly known as US Highway 80. As a member of the inaugural class of US highways commissioned in 1926 [the same “class” as its neighbor to the north, Route 66], US 80 ran through Phoenix along Van Buren Street.

This route was often referred to as the “Broadway of America,” with motor lodges and automobile garages, catering to tourists. Today, the Crescent Ballroom showcases a wide variety of live music and related activities.

And the Arizona tapas, margaritas and more at onsite Cocina 10 are a welcome treat for a hungry wayfarer! 🌮🍹

What to do in Downtown Phoenix with Kids 🧒🏻🧒🧒🏽

Ignite your child’s curiosity with engaging museums, interactive exhibits, captivating live events, lush parks, and more. Designed for their endless amusement, downtown Phoenix has fun-filled adventure awaiting in every corner. Create unforgettable memories with these things to do Phoenix downtown today!

8. Valley Youth Theater

group of children putting on a play-things to do phoenix downtown
Potential future Oscar winners (photo: Robert Kneschke)

The Valley Youth Theater cultivates raw talent into masterful, world-renowned performers. This hub of artistic excellence proudly counts award-winning artists like Jordan Sparks and Emma Stone among its notable alumni.

Fun for kids and grownups alike, catch a performance at the VYT and you might just get a glimpse of a future Oscar winner. You can say, “I saw them when they were just a kid!”

9. Arizona Science Center (and Create! Annex)

Tweens in front of a giant mock-up of skin at Arizona Science Center
Arizona Science Center, (photo by Brad Olson)

Encourage your child’s curiosity (or your own!) at Arizona Science Center, featuring over 350 interactive exhibits.

Dive into the mind-bending Dorrance Planetarium or traverse the simulated Mars landscape. In the Create! annex, innovate with hands-on learning in design, 3D printing, and robotics.

My husband is not usually a “science guy,” but he definitely engaged with the Under the Hood, Engineered by Subaru! exhibit. He got to get up close and personal with a Boxer engine, and then “test-drive” wooden Subaru model cars on a track. Boys will be boys. 👦🏻👦🏻

The Science Center also offers a series of adults-only events, called “Science with a Twist.” These include a happy hour 🍸 along with an adults-oriented science program.

10. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Who wouldn’t want to play in the Noodle Forest?

Housed in a beautifully restored, historic school building, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers engaging, interactive exhibits for children to learn through play.

Popular attractions like the Noodle Forest, the Climber, and the Art Studio captivate children’s imaginations, fostering curiosity and creativity. This award-winning museum encourages hands-on exploration and discovery, providing delightful experiences for young minds and making it a must-visit destination for family fun and learning.

11. Go on a City Mural Scavanger Hunt

Experience the vibrant street art throughout downtown Phoenix. This colorful explosion of creativity transforms buildings into kaleidoscopic canvases featuring everything from sprawling surreal landscapes to enchanting abstract pieces.

(I like to see if I can incorporate someone into the scene . . . see my husband, who has become “one with the cactus,” below 🤣)

man standing in front of cactus mural in downtown Phoenix
See if you can become part of the street art in Phoenix downtown murals

This interactive open-air museum provides a fun, educational activity for kids, provoking discussions about art and expression. Explore the dynamic world of Phoenix street art, where imagination meets urban landscape.

Delve into local History

Although downtown Phoenix is vibrant and modern, the area is rich with history. Snippets of the city’s (and the state’s) past are hiding in plain sight for anyone curious enough to take a peek.

Anyone with an interest in the past should include these on their list of things to do Phoenix downtown.

12. Heritage Square Walk

Take a peek at Phoenix’s vibrant Victorian Past at Heritage Square. Located on Block 14 of the original townsite of Phoenix, the Square dates back to the late 1800s.

Embark on a fascinating walking tour, which showcases the evolving history of the Phoenix area. From the pithouses of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert Peoples to the construction of the 1895 Rosson House and beyond, this walk will teach you much about how the city of the past shaped the downtown Phoenix of today.

13. Rosson House Museum

The crown jewel of Heritage Square, the Rosson House Museum, is preserved Victorian-era beauty that brings the past to life. Uncover Phoenix’s rich history with guided tours through the authentically-restored rooms.

Be transported back to the late 1800s as expert guides weave tales of past residents and the city’s early days. Explore Rosson House Museum, where every corner whispers untold stories.

14. Arizona Capitol Museum

Arizona Capitol building in downtown Phoenix
The Arizona Capitol Museum, walking distance to downtown Phoenix (photo © Corbis)

As the state’s capital, Phoenix holds treasures not just from the city’s past, but from all of Arizona as well.

This free museum, which is housed in the original Capitol building, provides an excellent glimpse into all facets of Arizona History-including from when it was just the “Arizona Territory.”

Explore four floors of interactive exhibits, antique artifacts, and historical records that weave a rich tapestry of statewide heritage. From early Native American origins to the ground-breaking Buffalo Soldiers to present-day politics, the museum offers a captivating journey through time.

✻The museum is located adjacent to the Arizona State Senate and House of Representatives. If you’re lucky (or you time it right), one of the houses will be in session and you can pop in and observe State Government at work.

15. Bolin Memorial Plaza

Bolin Memorial Plaza, located in a sprawling park just east of the historic state Capitol building, brings history to life through its captivating monuments.

man standing in front of giant anchor from USS Arizona (sunk at Pearl Harbor)
The anchor from the USS Arizona is a poignant memorial from the Pearl Harbor attack

A collection of stirring tributes such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, remind us of heroic stories and sacrifices. Unique attractions include artifacts from the USS Arizona (sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack), which provide a tangible connection to our past.

This memorial plaza is not just a place, but a journey through time, commemorating those who dedicated their lives for our freedom.

16. Phoenix Police Museum

old western Arizona marshall brass badge, surrounded by vintage bullets and rifle
Learn about law enforcement history from the Arizona Marshalls to modern CSI techniques at the Phoenix Police Museum photo by zim286

Experience the history of regional law enforcement at the Phoenix Police Museum, showcasing a rich collection of vintage police vehicles, artifacts, and memorabilia. It’s got a fitting location, set in the old City Hall.

Highlights include the exhibits through time, beginning with Phoenix’s first Marshall and jail, through the Arizona Rangers of the wild west, all the way up the sophisticated C.S.I. techniques of present day. Of particular note is the Phoenix connection to our famous “Miranda Rights:” Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix in 1963.

Kids will love that chance to try on a police uniform & get their own (sticker) badge to take home. Learn more at Phoenix Police Museum.

Be a Sport -Watch a Game . . . Right Downtown!

Experience exhilarating professional sports just steps away from downtown Phoenix. Thrilling games, outstanding athletes, all within easy reach of urban amenities. Your unforgettable sports journey starts here.

17. Pro Basketball Year Round at the Footprint Center 🏀

If you love hoops, you can spend just about every month of the year at the Footprint Center.

In winter & spring, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns take to the court, with heart-stopping shots, adrenaline-fueled dribbles, and astounding blocks.

Watch pro basketball year round at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix

Then, before you’ve had a chance to say “time out,” the ladies of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury 🔥 are swishing threes and setting up sweet layups. (And if you’ve been following women’s college basketball lately, you know that these gals can play!)

No matter which team you follow, you’re sure to be in for an electrifying atmosphere, packed with athletic thrills and off-court spectacle.

18. Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field ⚾️

Experience the exhilaration of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball at Chase Field.

Little kid cheering at a baseball game at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix
Root, root, root for the home team right in downtown Phoenix

Perfectly positioned in downtown Phoenix, this extraordinary stadium offers more than just a game. Its innovative retractable roof provides year-round comfort for spectators, making every a memorable experience.

Listen to the crack of the bats and cheer on the D-backs through spring, summer and fall. Be captivated by the raw energy, immerse yourself in the excitement, and feel the pulse of the city’s heart as it beats in rhythm with the home team’s performance. Chase Field delivers exceptional baseball, up close and personal.

Enjoy the Funky Neighborhood Vibe on Roosevelt Row

Roosevelt Row runs along Roosevelt Ave. on the northern end of Phoenix downtown and is a vibrant epicenter of art, culture, and community.

Experience its innovative galleries, inspiring murals, delectable restaurants, and trendy shops. Fostering creativity and diversity, this walkable urban district is a fascinating fusion of historical charm and modern chic.

mural at the entrance to Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix

Roosevelt Row is downtown Phoenix’s walkable arts district, home to art galleries, restaurants, bars and boutique shops in a landscape dotted by colorful street art.

19. First Fridays Art Walk in Downtown Phoenix

Experience Phoenix’s creative soul at the First Fridays Art Walk , which runs all along Roosevelt Row. The first Friday of every month the street becomes a kaleidoscope of color (and culture!) with artwork, music and crafts at every turn.

People shopping for art at street fair on roosevelt row, phoenix
First Fridays on Roosevelt Row

Ignite your senses and explore local artists’ unique expressions. Experience art in motion, in vision, in sound. Don’t just see art, live it.

20. Shop for Chic and Funky Goods

shelves at a shop filled with artisan pieces of pottery and prints in downtown phoenix
One-of-a-kind items by local artisans at Made Art Boutique

You’ll find unique blend of niche boutiques and eclectic shops along Roosevelt Row.

Made Art Boutique showcases one-of-a-kind works from local artisans and craftspeople (okay, I’m fessing up on my fascination for funky earrings here 😊). Whether you’re searching for handcrafted jewelry, hand-drawn notecards or unique pottery pieces you’ll find them here.

Dialog is the go-to spot for high-end home design, while Straw and Wool is the place to go for absolutely stunning hats.

This strip is a haven for the artsy, fashion-forward, and design-savvy. It’s a great place to shop if you’re looking for something that’s beautiful AND unique.

21. Sip your Beverage of Choice 🍺 ☕️🍸

As your ambling down Roosevelt, shopping for cool stuff and admiring the murals, there are plenty of spots to stop and “refresh yourself.” And there is variety . . . so you can opt for your cocktail, brew, coffee, or even mocktail of choice.

Watch the world go by with an artisan microbrew at either woman-owned Greenwood Brewing (that’s owner Megan Greenwood hoisting a glass at the top of the post!), Pedal Brewhaus or Wilderness Brewing, all of which are locally owned. 🍺

Image of a non-alcoholic cocktail alongside a cup of cappuccino
A unique selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and coffees at dialog. (Photos: dialog, Getty Images)

Enjoy your latte or macchiato . . . or chai in the soothing setting of Songbird Coffee & Tea House (plus their housemade pastries are definitely worth a stop!) Or go for the coffee & cocktails setting at Kahvi Coffee & Cafe.

If you prefer to stay completely alert, check out the unique “zero-proof” bar at Dialog (yep, the same folks listed above as carrying swanky home furnishings.) In addition to a selection of coffee & tea, they serve a unique selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including craft cocktails, wines and beers.

Nibble, Munch or Chow Down in Downtown Phoenix

Prepare yourself for a day of exploration of things to do Phoenix downtown by fueling up at one of many unique eateries in this district. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner (or my hubby’s favorite: a snack), the restaurants of downtown Phoenix have got you covered.

PRO TIP: Take a Food Tour of Downtown Phoenix . . . you’ll get to sample some yummy treats while walking by many of the historic sites listed here!

Here are a few tasty samples (see what I did there? 😉):

22. Snag a Whompin’ Breakfast 🍳

overhead view of a restaurant breakfast, with eggs, potatoes, coffee in downtown phoenix
Ready for anything after this! (photo by Matt’s Big Breakfast)

Get the perfect start to your day of exploring things to do Phoenix downtown with a monumental morning meal.

Try Matt’s Big Breakfast for the “chop & chick” (shown above) or indulge in fluffy blueberry pancakes. At Breakfast Bitch, enjoy a lil’ bit o’ sass with your avocado toast and an iced caramel macchiato.

No matter what you choose, these spots will have you fueled up for the day!

23. Sample some Legendary Pizza 🍕

Pizzeria Bianco, in Phoenix’s Heritage Square District, is one of the city’s culinary gems. It’s right here-at this humble spot in the Heritage Square District-that artisan pizza in American became a thing.

Margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil at pizzeria bianco
The “OG” of artisan pizza in America

Established by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco, its artisanal pizzas are revered. From the Margherita’s sweet tomato finish to the Rosa’s tantalizing blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and red onions, it charts a historic journey of Italian cuisine, redefined by the Arizona landscape.

Snagging a pie at Pizzeria Bianco is a way of merging 19th- and 21st-century downtown Phoenix together.

24. Get Crusty at Cornish Pasty Company

Everything tastes better wrapped in flaky pasty crust (photo by Andrew1Norton)

There’s just something about wrapping food in a yummy, flaky crust to make it taste even better. Enter the Cornish pasty: a handheld, crimped pastry, brimming with hearty fillings, which originated in Cornwall, England.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with downtown Phoenix? It turns out, plenty.

Owned by natives of Corwall, Cornish Pasty Company does a bang-up job of bringing that Cornish tradition to the valley of the Sun. With over 40 varieties to choose from, the menu caters to every palate. Savory offerings range from the traditional steak and potatoes to the exotic Moroccan-spiced lamb. Sweet pasties, like tangy apple or opulent chocolate, are the perfect finales to an epicurean adventure.

I also have it on good authority that the peanut butter & jelly with banana dessert pasty is delish (she said as she wiped the crumbs off the side of her mouth 🫢😍).

They make the pasties right next door–for a little foodie adventure, you can watch them rolling and crimping before or after your meal.

25. Go Local at the Churchill

people dining at the Churchill food hall Roosevelt Row downtown Phoenix
Eat (& shop) local at The Churchill (photo by Visit-PhoenixAn-Pham)

Can’t decide what to eat? Check out The Churchill.

Part food hall, part shopping destination, and overall neighborhood gathering spot, The Churchill showcases local businesses from downtown Phoenix in a communal environment, fostering a neighborhood atmosphere. Its mission revolves around promoting sustainability, education, and community growth.

Options abound, from satisfying pizza at Freak Bros. to nutritious acai bowls at InFruition to burgers & bagels at Stoop Kid. You might want to save room for a deep-dish cookie sundae (yes, I did say cookie and sundae in the same sentence 🍪🍨!) at The Scookie Bar.

Find ways to relax and chill

If all the excitement of things to do Phoenix downtown has you itching for a little peace and quiet, we’ve go some ideas for that too.

Explore these options to unwind at the end of a busy day-or just find some serenity in the midst of a bustling city.

26. Japanese Friendship Garden

Immerse yourself in an calming oasis at the Japanese Friendship Garden. 🌸

Japanese garden with statue, bonsai and water in downtown phoenix.
Serenity amidst the bustle of downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Japanese Friendship Garden)

With meticulously manicured landscapes, tranquil waterfalls, and vibrant koi ponds, it’s a beautifully crafted haven offering a peaceful escape in the middle of the day.

Discover tranquility and embrace cultural enrichment in this picturesque Zen sanctuary, just a block or two away from the city’s bustle.

27. Sip from on high at a Rooftop Bar

cocktail at a rooftop bar with downtown phoenix in background
Sip something special at a rooftop bar high atop downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Visit Phoenix)

Phoenix’s spectacular weather makes doing anything outside a no-brainer–particularly as the sun begins to set. What better way to celebrate the end of a busy day (or start off a fab evening) than with something sippable at a rooftop bar?

There are several hotels who have made the most of their upper stories. Check out the Eden Rooftop Bar at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Floor 13 atop the Hilton Garden Inn, or From the Rooftop at the Cambria Downtown.

No matter which you choose, sipping something special high above the bustle of downtown Phoenix is a fitting way to unwind after the day’s adventures. (I might add that it’s also a fun spot to watch the planes taking off and landing at PHX. But then, I’m a plane-spotting geek 🛫🤓)

Conclusion

From art and culture to food and entertainment, downtown Phoenix has it all. These 27 experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring this vibrant city center. Make sure to add these to your itinerary and discover even more amazing things to do in Phoenix’s downtown core.

What are your favorite things to do Phoenix downtown? Hit the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family who are planning a trip to Phoenix.

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INSIDE: Inspired by Arizona’s majestic scenery, but at a loss for words? Me too! So I created this handy list of quotes about Arizona & Arizona captions, too!

“Arizona evokes a sense of timelessness, its landscapes whispering tales of centuries past.” – Barbara Kingsolver.

THIS!!! 👆👆👆 This is how I feel when I’m traveling through Arizona (only I’m not as good at clever with words as Barbara Kingsolver 🤷‍♀️).

It seems that no matter where I travel in the Grand Canyon State, I encounter views that are majestic, dramatic, or just darned pretty. (It doesn’t hurt that there’s almost always a clear blue sky!)

Yet those wide open spaces often leave me at a loss for words.

That’s why I’ve put together this post of quotes about Arizona. Now I’ve got a handy reference list of beautiful sayings and Arizona captions. They can express the mood of the moment when I just can’t manage to string together the words to do it justice.

You might even decide to use them as Arizona Instagram captions (Feel free! Just remember to credit the beautiful Arizona sunsets, or mountains, or canyons for your inspiration 🤩.)

We’ve even thrown in some funny sayings about Arizona and some Arizona puns for those who like their inspiration served with a side of humor.

So journey with us, as we explore Arizona through the eyes of some pretty impressive people-Amelia Earhart, Stephen King, Ansel Adams-who’ve succumbed to its mesmerizing charm.

You’re about to fall in love with Arizona, one quote at a time. 😍🌵

Quotes about Arizona that Evoke the State’s Spirit

Sometimes it’s that elusive quality, that je ne sais quoi (yep, I’m showing off with a fancy French term 👩‍🎨 🙃) that exemplifies a feeling about a place. That’s where my “me-not-poetry-good-with” comes into play. I just not-have-words . . .

So I’ve let these famous people take care of it for me.

Their quotes about Arizona might not describe anything specific, but they do make you feel like “I want to go to there 🤩.”

“The spirit of Arizona is not easily captured or tamed.” – Gary Johnson

“There’s something about Arizona that makes me stand up and cheer.” – Jack Kerouac

“Arizona is a state of extraordinary contrasts, where every turn of the road brings into view something grand, mysterious, or lovely.” – Zane Grey

Writer Zane Grey has plenty of quotes about Arizona (Getty Images)

“The Arizona desert takes hold of a man’s mind and shakes it.” – David Foster Wallace

“There’s a reason they call it the ‘Valley of the Sun.’ Arizona provides a sun-soaked sanctuary like no other.” – Helen George.

“Arizona is a combination of the wild, wild west meeting modern luxury. There’s something for everyone here.” – Bella Ross.

“The saguaro cactus: A prickly symbol of Arizona’s enduring spirit.” – Mark Twain.

“Arizona’s lure is not just in its deserts; it’s also in its mountains, rivers, and fascinating history.” – Amelia Earhart.

“Arizona is a testament to the resilience of nature, standing firm under the radiant sun.” – John Muir.

“The wildcats of Arizona embody the state’s fierce determination and free spirit.” – Jane Goodall. (Given that this Arizona quote comes from a famous naturalist, I’m assuming she means the animal in the desert 🐆, not the University of Arizona mascot ⛹️‍♀️!)

“Experience the intoxicating mix of heat and history that is Arizona.” – Debra White Smith.

“In Arizona, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good.” – Dan Shilling

“Arizona, with its dry desert climate, is a paradise for many.” – Anonymous

“The Grand Canyon State – Arizona is not just a place, it’s a state of mind.” – Timothy Egan.

“Life in Arizona is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.

“Phoenix, Arizona: Like no place else on Earth.” – Kendare Blake

“The heat of Arizona is not a barrier; it’s a challenge that demands respect.” – D.H. Lawrence.

Image of arizona mountains in pink sunset with text overlay of quote by amelia earhart
One of the more poignant quotes about Arizona (Getty Images)

“Arizona is the place where the wild west meets the comfort of modern living. It’s the best of both worlds.” – Paul Theroux.

“Arizona is the desert’s rose, sprawling amid the sand and stones.” – Anonymous

“The open expanses of Arizona offer not just a sense of freedom, but also a sense of connection with the land.” – Henry David Thoreau.

“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in words or symbols; it must be seen to be appreciated.” – John Wesley Powell


Arizona Quotes about the Sun 🌞

The sun is A. BIG. DEAL. in Arizona. Much of the state enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year. And the city of Yuma has been documented as the sunniest city in the US!

As a result, there are lots and lots (and lots) of sunrises and sunsets to see . . . and to write inspiring words about. The following quotes about Arizona mention the sun in one way or another. It’s a major character in our state’s ongoing play. 😎

Image of red & gold arizona sunset with silhouette of saguaro cactus and text overlay of quote by mark twain.
Easy to find inspirational quotes about Arizona when looking at a sunset. (Getty Images)

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day in Arizona, and you should see as many of them as you can.” – Jo Walton

“If you’ve never seen an Arizona sunrise, then you’ve never seen a sunrise.” – Anonymous

“Arizona: Where every day holds the promise of a spectacular sunset.” – Anonymous

“In Arizona, the sky takes on shades of orange during sunrise and sunset – the color that gives you hope that the sun will set only to rise again.” – Ram Charan

“Arizona is indeed the sunshine state with clear skies and bright stars at night.” – Bar Refaeli

“Arizona is a land of contradictions where desert blooms, snow falls on cacti, and the sunsets paint the sky in unabashed colors.” – Barbara Kingsolver.

“Few sights can compare to the sunrise over Arizona’s desert, where the hues of dawn bring the sand to life.” – John Muir.

“There’s something about an Arizona sunset that ignites the soul.” – Rupert Brooke.

“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. In Arizona, we get both in a single day.” – Frank Lane

“A sunset in Arizona is a moment painted in a palette of colors only nature could create.” – Mark Twain.

“Arizona’s sunsets are a fiery farewell to each day, a spectacle that never ceases to amaze.” – Bill Bryson.

“Arizona’s sunsets are but a daily reminder of nature’s ability to amaze and inspire.” – Carl Sagan.

“In Arizona, the sun doesn’t set, it simply lingers on the horizon, reluctant to say goodbye.” – John Keats.

“In Arizona, the sun is an ever-present companion, its warm rays a constant reminder of the richness of the desert.” – Mark Twain.

“Arizona’s sunsets are a symphony of colors, singing a song that only the heart can hear.” – Maya Angelou.


Sun-related Arizona Captions

Sometimes we don’t need deep and moving quotes about Arizona sunshine-a quick and snappy caption will do the trick.

Check out these Arizona captions inspired by the radiant, omnipresent sun. Perfect for Instagram . . . or just making a mental note to yourself ☀️ (Three cheers for self care! 🥰)

“Where every sunset is a masterpiece – Arizona.”

“Succulents, Sunsets and Arizona.”

“Thumbs up for the Arizona sunshine.”

“In Arizona, the sunsets kiss back.”

“Riding off into the Arizona sunset.”

“Soul full of sunshine and heart full of Arizona.”

“Living the sun-drenched life in Arizona.”

“Sipping sunrise, tasting sunset. Arizona love!”

“Where Mother Nature paints the best sunsets – Arizona.”

“Chasing the sun in the Grand Canyon State.”

“Sunset hunting in the heart of Arizona.”

“In Arizona, every hour is golden.”

“Arizona, where adventures begin and sunsets never end.”

“Arizona – where life is beautifully lit by the golden sun.”

“Never met a sunset I didn’t like in Arizona.”

“Chasing the Arizona sun.”

Arizona, where the sunsets are beautiful, and the puns are plentiful.

“Find me under the Arizona sun.”

“Riding with the sun, from dawn to dusk.”

“Where the sun spends the winter – Arizona.”


Quotes about Arizona Beauty

By now you’ve probably gotten the message that Arizona scenery inspires. There is beauty wherever you turn.

Check out the eloquent way these great writers and travelers say it in their quotes about Arizona beauty. I couldn’t have said it better myself! (No really, I couldn’t 🥹)

“To live in Arizona is to one day find your heart broken by the beauty around you.” – Michael Finkel

“Arizona is the wild west, still untamed in its beauty and possibilities.” – A. Igoni Barrett

“In Arizona, every day is a masterpiece of vivid colors and rugged beauty.” – Jerry Spinelli

“Arizona has the kind of beauty that latches onto the soul and refuses to let go.” – Stephen King

“An Arizona road trip is an adventure through time, culture, and untamed beauty.” – Rick Steves.

black & white image of stark arizona landscape with text overlay by ansel adams
You just knew I had to do this one in black & white, right? (Getty Images)

“Arizona is an oasis of beauty and adventure, hidden behind a façade of desert and heat.” – Ed Abbey.

“Arizona’s silent deserts are a testament to nature’s resilience and beauty.” – Rachel Carson.

“The beauty of Arizona lies in its extremes: burning days, chilly nights, silent deserts, bustling cities.” – Willa Cather.

“Arizona’s beauty lies not just in its landscapes, but in its spirit, resonating in its desert, its people, its history.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

“The Arizona desert is an ethereal beauty draped in warm colors and shrouded in a hushed tranquility.” – Jon Krakauer.

“Arizona is a place where beauty and resilience coexist, proving that even in harsh conditions, life endures.” – Sally Ride.

“The desert landscape of Arizona, while seeming harsh and inhospitable, is filled with life and beauty.” – Rachel Carson.

“The awe-inspiring landscapes of Arizona are a testament to the enduring power and beauty of nature.” – Ansel Adams.


Read Next: 80+ Special Instagram Cactus Quotes

Quotes about Arizona that mention the Sky

You can’t have all that Arizona sunshine without a whole lotta sky. (And it is really, really blue! 💙)

See what these writers have to say in their quotes about Arizona skies . . .

“You’ll never find a place quite like Arizona, where the deserts are as vast as the sky above.” – Bill Bryson.

“Arizona’s unending plains meet the unending sky, a spectacle of infinity.” – Christopher Buckley.

“The sky in Arizona is the daily bread of the eyes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Arizona’ skies are something to behold; they truly make you realize the grandeur of Nature.” – J.A. Devereux.


Finding the Sky in Arizona Captions

Looking for something a bit more brief to describe the Arizona skies? Try one of these Arizona sayings. They might be short, but the sky’s still huge and blue!

“Desert vibes and Arizonan skies.”

“Painted skies and desert roads in Arizona.”

“Swapping skyscrapers for Arizona’s mountains.” (okay, this one’s a bit of a stretch . . . maybe it should be under the “buildings” heading? 🤔)

“Blowing kisses under the Phoenix sky.”

“Arizona, pulsing under an electrifying sky.”

“Under the Arizona sky, dreaming by the desert fireside.”

“In Arizona, the sky is our canvas and the sun paints it every day.”


Funny Arizona Sayings

With all this sunshine and endless skies, there’s bound to be someone who sees the humor in things. (With sun comes heat 🥵, and there’s not a whole lot of water 💦 in the desert.)

Here are some quotes about Arizona that poke a little fun.

“There are only two seasons in Arizona: hot and hotter.” – Fran Lebowitz.

“Arizona looks like a battle on Mars.” – Albert Einstein

image of desolate arizona landscape with quote overlay by albert einstein
This is one of the funny quotes about Arizona, but maybe Einstein wasn’t kidding . . . (Getty Images)

“In Arizona, shade trees are your best friends and occasionally the postman.” – Terri Guillemets

“In Arizona, we salt margaritas, not sidewalks.” – Unknown

“You know you’re an Arizona native when you take rain dances seriously.” – Skip Boyer

“In Arizona, even the plants have enough sense to point to where the water is.” – David Lee Roth

“Arizona is the worst place to spend the summer – unless you’re a lizard!” – Al Yankovic

“You know you’re from Arizona when you feed your chickens ice cubes to keep them from laying boiled eggs.” – Unknown


Quotes about Arizona Desert Life

“Even the cacti in Arizona seem to stand taller, more defiant, basking in the heat of the desert.” – Paul Sullivan.

“Wherever you go in Arizona, one thing is for certain: the desert will always be close by.” – Laura Schaefer.

“Arizona is where the desert unfolds its secrets, one grain of sand at a time.” – Mary Cummings.

“Somewhere on a desert highway, she rides a Harley-Davidson.” – Neil Young

“Every cactus in Arizona tells a story of survival and resilience. The desert is unforgiving, but life prevails.” – D.H. Lawrence.

Image of saguaro with flower buds and two birds, with quote overlay by edward abbey
Quotes about Arizona make you look at things differently (Getty Images)

“Living in Arizona means embracing the paradox of thriving in an eternal summer.” – Rick Riordan.

“Arizona, with its dry desert climate, is a paradise for many.” – Anonymous

“In Arizona, the desert is not a desolate wasteland, but a thriving ecosystem teeming with life.” – Edward Abbey.

“The soul of Arizona resides in its desert, where time writes no wrinkles on its azure brow.” – Henry Miller

“In the heart of the desert, Arizona is a state of mind.” – Mark Rothko

Arizona captions about the Desert & Cacti

“Life’s a desert, make sure to sway like a cactus.”

“Desert dreams and Arizona schemes.”

“Blazing trails through the Sonoran desert.”

“Home is where the cactus grows.”

“Succulent dreams in the land of cacti.”

“Welcome to the land where cacti grow taller than men.”

“Breathe in the desert air. This is Arizona.”

“Canyon whispers and desert dreams in Arizona.”

“Leaving tracks in the copper red sands.”

“Desert child at heart – Arizona.”

“Just going where the cacti grow.”

“The desert is calling, and I must go.”

“Where every cactus has a story – Arizona.”

“Painted skies and desert roads in Arizona.”

“Where you find a field of cacti instead of roses – Arizona.”

“Desert rose blooming heart in Arizona.”

“Life’s a desert, thrive like a cactus.”

road heading through field of saguaro cacti, with text overlay of quotes about arizona
Short & to the point (pun intended): an Arizona caption

“Find your peace in the Arizona desert.”

“Live in the sunshine. Swim in the desert. Drink the wild Arizona air.”

“Life is sweet in the prime heart of the desert.”

“Desert life is the sweet life.”

“Lost in the desert and found in Arizona.”

History and Landscape Quotes about Arizona

Certainly the cacti, the sunshine and the big blue skies are what come to mind when thinking of Arizona landscapes. But give it a minute, and other treasures begin to emerge.

The state is rich with history-much of it predating America’s founding fathers. These quotes about Arizona delve a bit deeper into some of these more ancient treasures.

“Each layer of the Grand Canyon is a chapter in Arizona’s rich history.” – David Attenborough.

“Arizona is a state where cowboys and Native American history meets the 21st century.” – Ann Patchett.

“Arizona evokes a sense of timelessness, its landscapes whispering tales of centuries past.” – Barbara Kingsolver.

Image of cliff dwelling at canyon de chelly arizona with overlay quote by barbara kingsolver
One of my favorite quotes about Arizona! (Getty Images)

“Arizona’s vistas are like a postcard from the edge of the world.” – Diane Ackerman.

“Arizona’s sprawling landscapes are beautiful in their solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Arizona’s culture is a rich tapestry woven from a thousand threads of history and tradition.” – Doris Kearns Goodwin.

“Arizona is a place of extremes, where the heat of the day gives way to cool, starlit nights.” – Isabella Bird.

“Arizona’s history is as layered as its landscapes, every road a path to a piece of the past.” – David McCullough.

“The magic of Arizona lies in its diverse landscapes – from towering saguaros to the depths of the Grand Canyon.” – Bill Bryson.


Arizona Captions about History & Landscape

“Gettin’ dusty in the Grand Canyon state.”

“Embracing the Arizona heat with open arms.”

“Where life’s a journey through the canyons.”

“Sweat more in peace, bleed less in Arizona heat.”

“Uncover the untamed beauty of Arizona.”

“Feelin’ the heat in the Copper State.”

“Feel the heat. Feel Arizona.”

“Painting my dreams with the colors of Arizona.”

“Take the scenic route, it’s the Arizona way.”


Arizona Instagram Captions

Get ready to paint your Instagram with the colors of the desert 🎨, accompanied by enchanting captions.

These quotes about Arizona fall into a general “Arizona vibe” category that’s just perfect for your Insta feed. (Full disclosure: I think some of these might be para-phrased, but I promise I’m not the one who made them up! 😉)

“Migration mode on – Arizona, here I come.”

“Finding my solace, in the heart of Arizona.”

“Arizona, where the wild, west never died.”

“Setting my soul on fire – Arizona style.”

“Trading the city noise for Arizona’s peaceful whisper.”

“Sometimes, all you need is a bit of Arizona.”

“Channeling my inner cowboy in Arizona.”

“Keep calm and go to Arizona.” (See what I mean by paraphrased? 🙃)

“Sweat more in peace, bleed less in Arizona heat.”

“Refreshing my soul in Sedona’s red rocks.”

“Caught in the magic of an Arizona twilight.”

“Wandering through wonders in Arizona.”

“Arizona – a love story penned by Nature.”

“Get your kicks on Route 66.”

“Arizonan and proud.”

“Arizona – the place of awe and wonder.”

“Life’s better in Arizona.”

“Meet me in Arizona.”

“Arizona dreaming on such a winter’s day.” (This one juuuust miiight be paraphrased as well . . . 🤔)

“Feeling grand at the Grand Canyon.”

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of Arizona.” (Paraphrased? Nope-this one’s totally original 😂)

“Born to explore – Arizona.”

“Life’s milestones are better celebrated in Arizona.”

“Arizona is always a good idea.”

“Feeling the spirit of the wild, wild, west in Arizona.”

“Keep your spirit wild, your soul free, and your heart in Arizona.”

“Living on Arizona time.”

“Feeling on top of the world, or at least Arizona.”

“Arizona is a state of mind.”

“Keep it wild, keep it Arizona.”

“At home among the red rocks of Sedona.”

“All I need is a dollop of Arizona.”

“Where the road ends, Arizona begins.”

“Keep the wild in you, let loose in Arizona.”

“Have love, will travel. Destination? Arizona.”

“Arizona – where you find yourself in the wild.”

“Escape the ordinary, embrace Arizona.”

“Lost in Arizona, but don’t bother to find me.”

“Chasing red in Sedona.”

“Arizona – where the wild things roam.”


A Heaping Helping of Arizona Puns 🤣

Sometimes we all need a day with a little bit of a nudge & a wink 😉. These quotes about Arizona might take a second or two to figure out , but they’re all clever in their own way.

Arizona? You bet I canyon do it!

I’m Sedona with this pun.

Scottsdale in a daze.

Mesa love the desert.

A pun that’s a Grand, just like the Canyon.

Don’t dilly-dally, get to the Valley.

Phoenix? You mean, Fun-nix!

Not to mesa round, but I love Arizona.

Fully in-Tucson with these puns.

Apache way to humor.

No more Horsing around, this is Scottsdale.

A Chandler to light up the puns.

Don’t just Flag-staff it, feel it.

Staying in Gilbert is no Gilbert and Sullivan.

Glendale is just my kindler of humor.

The Peoria-fect pun!

Tempe-rature is on the rise with these puns.

Yuma-st be kidding me!

Prescott a button for more puns.

Stay on the Sun City side.

Kingman of the puns.

This list is no Bullhead City.

Sierra Vista-ically speaking, these puns are cool!

Feel the Gila Bend of humor.

A Camp Verde-an effort was put into this!

Dry humor? It’s just the Arizona heat.

Arizona is just Tomb-stone cold funny.

Bisbee-lieve me, it’s hilarious.

Reading this list is no Lake Havasu City.

Chino Valley-d a lot of puns here.

Douglas you enjoy these puns?

Flowing with laughter at Flowing Wells.

Payson attention, more puns are coming!

Get your Fill-more of puns.

Coolidge down, it’s just a joke.

Show Low, laugh high.

Wall? I’m all for Winslow.

Looking for some Cottonwood-y humor?

Verde is the color of laughter in Spanish.

Let’s head to the Fountain Hills for a chuckle.

Somerton to talk about with these puns.

Paradise Valley? More like Puns Paradise!

There’s Snow-flake chance I’m not laughing.

Arizona is pun-derful, no Bull!

Guess I’m Globe-trotting with laughter.

Cave Creek without a paddle, but with humor.

Ajo-ke a day keeps the blues away.


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INSIDE: We’ve found 40 lakes in Arizona to get out on the water-discover YOUR best lake in Arizona for swimming, fishing, boating and more!

“Skip a stone. Take a hike. Sit a spell. Listen. Daydream. Just breathe. This is lake living.”–Unknown

I might add: “Catch a fish. Paddle a bit. Take the PLUNGE!”

We all know hot summer days in Arizona can be, well, really HOT🥵! But luckily, there are refreshing lakes all over the state just waiting for you to dive into.

The Grand Canyon state is home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country, and these lakes look especially inviting when the temperatures are inching up.

From kayaking and paddle boarding, to fishing, boating, or just plain ol’ takin’ a jump in the lake, there are endless ways to enjoy these refreshing bodies of water. Whether you’re looking for a busy boaters paradise, or a sleepy little beach on a quiet cove, we’ve got you covered.

Read on for our list of 40 lakes in Arizona where you can cool off this summer. One of them is bound to be the BEST lake in Arizona . . . for YOU 😊.

(Note: to see an alphabetical listing of all Arizona Lakes, scroll down to the bottom of the page)

1-7: Arizona Lakes near Phoenix

1-Apache Lake AZ

Apache Lake, nestled between the Superstition and Four Peaks Wilderness Areas, is a hidden gem of Arizona. Its secluded location provides visitors with a serene escape from the bustling city life.

The lake is over 17 miles long (essentially a dammed section of the Salt River) and boasts crystal-clear waters. It’s perfect for swimming or water sports. Visitors can rent a boat or kayak to explore the lake’s many coves and inlets.

The lake’s picturesque surroundings also offer visitors an opportunity to hike, bike, or simply relax on one of the lake’s many beaches. From the lake, visitors can see breathtaking views of the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest.

Apache Lake is a prime location for wildlife enthusiasts, as it is home to a variety of animals such as mule deer, coyotes, and even black bears !🐻

Visitors looking to spend a night or two can choose from a variety of camping options or rent a cabin in the nearby town of Roosevelt. The lake’s campgrounds offer both tent and RV sites, as well as amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 70 miles east of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Boating, Camping, Swimming, Hiking
  • Nearest town: Roosevelt (16 miles)

2-Bartlett Lake AZ

Bartlett Lake, located in the Tonto National Forest, is a serene escape from the summer heat.

Although not a huge lake (about 2 square miles), Bartlett still manages to offer plenty of space for visitors to engage in boating, fishing, and kayaking.

The surrounding desert landscape and mountain ranges offer a beautiful backdrop for picnicking or lounging on one of the many beaches or shaded areas.

Bartlett Lake may be the best lake in Arizona if wildlife is what you’re seeking: it’s known for including bald eagles 🦅 and bighorn sheep, providing a unique opportunity for nature enthusiasts.

Those seeking a weekend retreat can stay at one of the lake’s many campsites or rent a cabin in the area.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 57 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Boating, Camping, Swimming, Hiking
  • Nearest town: Carefree (21 miles)

3-Canyon Lake Arizona

Located in the Tonto National Forest, Canyon Lake is a breathtaking oasis surrounded by rugged mountains and rocky cliffs. Made from damming the Salt River, Canyon Lake is just west of Apache Lake (see above).

The lake is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and camping, and many consider it the best lake in Arizona for the glass-like waters that are perfect for swimming and kayaking. If you’re looking for a place to relax and escape the heat, this is definitely the spot.

The lake is also home to several coves and beaches perfect for picnicking and soaking up the sun. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway, Canyon Lake is a must-visit destination in Arizona.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 38 miles east of Mesa
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling, Boating, Camping, Swimming
  • Nearest town: Apache Junction (15 miles)

4-Horseshoe Lake AZ

Just a short drive from Phoenix, Horseshoe Lake (technically “Horseshoe Reservoir”)offers a cool escape from the Arizona heat. The lake is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and kayaking, thanks to the dam at its southern end.

Visitors can also enjoy a picnic on the shore or hike one of the nearby trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains. But be warned: motorized boats are limited to 25hp. This adds to the peaceful ambiance of the area, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing day out in the sun.

For a more secluded experience, head to the lake during the week or early in the morning on weekends. This may be the best lake in Arizona for a quick escape.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 58 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, Camping
  • Nearest town: Cave Creek (25 miles)

5-Pleasant Lake AZ (Lake Pleasant Regional Park)

Nestled in the Bradshaw Mountains, Pleasant Lake is a delight to find so close to Phoenix. The lake is surrounded by Sonoran Desert landscape that boasts its share of Saguaros, along with plenty of wildflowers in the spring.

Whether you prefer to relax on the shore or explore the lake, there’s plenty to do at Pleasant Lake. You can enjoy a peaceful day of fishing, paddle-boarding, or kayaking while taking in the breathtaking scenery. If you’re looking for a more active adventure, take a hike around the lake or sign up for a scorpion-hunting excursion 🦂 (better you than me 😳)

I’ll be with the crowd that packs a picnic to enjoy in the shade.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 45 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, water sports, swimming, hiking, camping,
  • Nearest town: Lake Pleasant Town Center (14 miles)
Best lake in Arizona for a day trip

6-Saguaro Lake AZ

Saguaro Lake is a serious contender for best lake in Arizona, and it’s no wonder: Just a short drive from Phoenix, the lake is nestled in the Sonoran Desert with canyon walls all around and activities galore. As you might expect, there are Saguaro cacti all over the place 🌵. (And the drive up there is GOR-geous!)

Boating and water skiing are super-popular; the lake and can often get crowded on weekends. For a little more seclusion, head eastward to the upper reaches of the lake.

Saguaro may be the only Arizona lake that offers tour-boat trips: if you want to hang out an let someone else do all the work (a concept we totally endorse!), contact the Desert Belle for more information.

Feel like viewing the lake on horseback? No problem! Book a trail ride at the adjacent Saguaro Lake Ranch Stable for some super desert-immersion. For a more upscale lake experience, book a cabin at the Saguaro Lake Ranch. We love the combination of lake-desert-ranch living!

  • Location: Central Arizona; 43 miles east of Phoenix
  • Best for: Boating, fishing, waterskiing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming
  • Nearest town: Mesa & vicinity (~30 miles)

7-Tempe Town Lake AZ

Some days you’d just like to escape for a few hours, and you need someplace close and convenient. Tempe Town Lake to the rescue!

A section of the Salt River has been dammed up to create a fantastic public space right in the town of Tempe, adjacent to the ASU campus 🔱. (Apologies to my U of A buddies, but hey, it is what it is. 🤷‍♀️)

There are walks along the water’s edge, a boat basin and rentals of all sorts of (non-motorized) watercraft . . . even a beach on the north side and a pedestrian bridge spanning the lake.

After a few hours out on the water stop by one of the nearby restaurants, coffeeshops or brewpubs for a refreshing end to a great day on the water.

Tempe Town Lake is the best lake in Arizona for a super-quick lakefront getaway!

  • Location: Central Arizona ; 10 miles east of Phoenix
  • Best for: Paddling, walking, picnicking
  • Nearest town: In town Tempe
Denis Tangney Jr, Getty Images

8-22: Best Lake in Arizona: Eastern Arizona

8-Bear Canyon Lake AZ

Bear Lake is a picturesque destination surrounded by pine trees and rugged landscape. The lake is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a peaceful retreat from the scorching Arizona sun.

You can try your hand at fishing, paddleboarding, or kayaking across the tranquil waters. Go for a leisurely hike or picnic surrounded by the stunning nature of the area.

Keep in mind that Bear Lake is a no-wake lake, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing outing. If you’re looking for quiet, this may very well be the best lake in Arizona for you.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 45 miles northeast of Payson
  • Best for: Fishing, Camping, Swimming, Hiking, Paddling
  • Nearest town: Payson (45 miles west); Heber-Overgaard (40 miles east)

9-Becker Lake AZ

Becker Lake is just a short drive from the town of Springerville and is another gem in Arizona’s crown of refreshing lakes. This lake, amid the 622-acre Becker Wildlife Area, boasts crystal clear waters and unparalleled fishing opportunities.

In fact, this lake is known as one of the best fly-fishing spots in the entire state. With a variety of fish species like rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout, it’s no surprise that Becker Lake is a favorite among anglers. (Although be aware that it’s catch-and-release . . . so a great place to practice your skills! 🐟)

But it’s not just the fishing that makes Becker Lake worth a visit. The surrounding scenery is equally breathtaking. The surrounding trails through the adjacent wildlife area offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and simply enjoying the serenity of nature.

Becker Lake is only available for day use, however a few nearby RV parks make it a good destination for a longer stay.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 45 miles east of Show Low
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling
  • Nearest town: Springerville (2 miles)
Best lake in Arizona to practice your skills?

10-Big Lake AZ

If you’re an avid angler or just looking for a serene spot to unwind, Big Lake is a must-visit destination in Arizona. The lake is nestled in the eastern edge of the White Mountains, surrounded by ponderosa pines and aspen groves that offer a cool respite from the sweltering heat.

It’s a prime location for fishing (making it a contender for best lake in Arizona), with a bountiful stock of trout, and you can rent a boat or kayak to explore the lake’s pristine waters.

But fishing isn’t the only activity at Big Lake- there are miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The trails wind through the lush forests and meadows, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. You can spot wildlife such as elk, deer, and turkey while you hike.

There are plenty of designated picnic areas where you can recharge with a snack or lunch. Later, settle down for a relaxing evening at one of the many campsites (both tent and RV) near the lake. You can stargaze under the clear night sky and drift off to sleep with the sound of the rustling leaves and chirping crickets.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 55 miles southeast of Show Low
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling, Mountain Biking, Camping
  • Nearest town: Greer (38 miles)

11-Black Canyon Lake AZ

Black Canyon Lake, just a short drive from Luna Lake (see below), is another stunning destination for those seeking relief from the summer heat. The lake is a picturesque oasis nestled in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, surrounded by dense pine trees and an abundance of wildlife.

Visitors can fish for rainbow trout, paddle on the serene waters, or hike along the surrounding trails, taking in the scenic beauty of the area.

Camping is also available at the designated sites near the lake–although the lake area itself is restricted to day use. Be sure to reserve camping sites in advance as they can fill up quickly during peak season. In the evening, chill out and stargaze, enjoying the peacefulness of the outdoors.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 45 miles east of Payson
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling, Camping (nearby)
  • Nearest town: Heber-Overgaard (22 miles)
Is this the best lake in Arizona for paddling? Maybe.

12-Earl Park Lake AZ

Nestled in a canyon behind Hawley Lake (see below) on White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands, Earl Park Lake is small, relatively unknown . . . and calm.

Surrounded by a stunning combination of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and blue spruce, the lake is well protected from the winds that can whip many high country lakes into a frenzy. If you’re looking for a day(s) of super-chill catch-and-release fishing, this is YOUR best lake in Arizona! 🎣

Earl Park Lake is literally walking distance (0.6 miles) from Hawley Lake, with access to the same cabins and camping facilities.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 38 miles southeast of Show Low
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, Camping
  • Nearest town: Pinetop (25 miles)

13-Fool Hollow Lake AZ

If you’re seeking a more secluded and tranquil spot to cool off, Fool Hollow Lake might be just what you need. Located near the town of Show Low, this picturesque lake offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With sun-dappled waters surrounded by tall trees, Fool Hollow Lake is perfect for swimming, kayaking, and fishing.

As a designated recreation area in the Arizona State Parks system, Fool Hollow Lake has excellent facilities, including campsites and hot showers.

Fool Hollow also has several trails that wind through the surrounding forests–perfect for hiking enthusiasts. The lake’s peaceful coves and beaches are perfect for a picnic or simply soaking up the sun.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 5 miles north of Show Low
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling, Boating, Camping, Swimming, Picnicking
  • Nearest town: Show Low (5 miles)
Possibly the best lake in Arizona for a family getaway

14-Hawley Lake AZ

Hawley Lake is a beautiful alpine lake located on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona. Surrounded by tall trees and stunning mountain views, this lake is the perfect getaway from the desert heat.

Visitors can enjoy fishing and all sorts of paddling. For added variety, mosey over to adjacent Earl Park Lake (see above) for an even more secluded setting.

Hawley Lake also offers camping options for those who want to spend a night under the stars. The cool, crisp air and serene atmosphere make it a contender for best lake in Arizona for a family vacation or a romantic weekend retreat.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 38 miles southeast of Show Low
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, Camping
  • Nearest town: Pinetop (25 miles)

15-Knoll Lake AZ

Knoll Lake is a hidden gem that’s well worth the drive. This picturesque lake tucked UP (elevation 7,400 feet!) in the Coconino National Forest is a stark contrast to the arid desert landscape nearby. The placid water reflects the towering ponderosa pines 🌲🌲 that surround it, creating an idyllic setting for fishing, boating, or simply taking in the tranquil scenery.

The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for anglers looking for a peaceful day of fishing. Visitors can bring their own boats. There are also several picnic areas and a campground nearby, allowing visitors to spend the night and fully immerse themselves in the quiet surroundings.

If you love the cool air at high altitudes, this may be the best lake in Arizona for you.

PRO TIP: Knoll Lake is situated atop the Mogollon Rim–be sure to check out the Mogollon Rim Visitors Center during your stay!

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 145 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, Camping, Hiking
  • Nearest town: Payson (54 miles)

16-Lake of the Woods AZ

Lake of the Woods may be the best lake in Arizona if you like a little civilization mixed in with your love of nature. This picturesque lake is part of a private 25-acre resort, in the town of Lakeside amid Arizona’s White Mountains. It provides a serene and peaceful setting for anyone looking to escape the heat.

The resort provides cabin rentals, and stocks the lake with trout for fishing. You can spend hours exploring the lake, watching the wildlife, and simply taking in the beauty that surrounds you. If a lovely cabin by a quiet lake is your idea of paradise, put this on your shortlist for best lake in Arizona.

Note that swimming is not allowed in the lake.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 186 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Chillin’
  • Nearest town: In the town of Lakeside
Photo courtesy Lake of the Woods Resort

17-Luna Lake AZ

Ringed by wildflower meadows and ponderosa pines, Luna Lake is tucked away the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. A stay here offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Visitors can also enjoy boating (there are rentals on site), mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking and fishing (the lake is regularly stocked with trout).

After a day of adventuring, park your RV or set up a cozy tent at one of the many campsites near the lake and unwind under the stars. Surrounded by the chirping sounds of crickets and the rustling of the leaves, you’ll sleep like a baby (assuming your baby sleeps 😉)

NOTE: Because the lake is used for irrigation during July & August, fishing is best from March through June.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 3 miles west of the New Mexico state line
  • Best for: Fishing, biking, hiking, horseback riding, camping
  • Nearest town: Alpine (3 miles)

18-Rainbow Lake AZ

Rainbow Lake in Pinetop-Lakeside captures the essence of Arizona’s natural beauty in a comfortable in-town setting. Across the road from Lake of the Woods (see above), the lake is surrounded by lush greenery and cozy cabins. The serene atmosphere is perfect for those seeking to spend some time in the cool mountain air.

Whether you are interested in fishing (the lake is well-stocked), kayaking, or just lounging on the shore, Rainbow Lake has something for everyone. Gas-powered boats must be 10 horsepower or less, and boat rentals are available at Rainbow’s End Resort near the lake.

Much of the lake is surrounded by private property, however many of the cabins surrounding the lake are available for rental, and there are a few small lakefront resorts. If a cabin on a peaceful lake with modern conveniences nearby is your type of vacation, Rainbow Lake might be the best lake in Arizona for you.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 186 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, paddling, cabin/home rentals
  • Nearest town: In town Lakeside
Photo courtesy Booking.com

19-Reservation Lake AZ

Reservation Lake would be the best lake in Arizona for you if you like things “back country style.” Located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (so the name totally makes sense), this lake in the White Mountains is worth the unpaved roads taken to reach it.

At an elevation of 7,200 feet, you can be assured of cool days and cozy nights even in the height of summer. (The lake is closed between November and April.)

You can fish for rainbow, brook, and brown trout. There is a general store about 20 miles away.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 240 miles east of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, boating, camping
  • Nearest town: Greer (25 miles)

20-Theodore Roosevelt Lake (aka Lake Roosevelt AZ)

This man-made lake is located in the Tonto National Forest and is the largest reservoir in Arizona, measuring approximately 22 miles long.

Because of it’s size, Roosevelt Lake is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, with a variety of fish species such as bass, catfish, and crappie inhabiting its waters. So grab your fishing gear and get ready for some fun!

Aside from fishing, Roosevelt Lake also offers plenty of opportunities for water sports, such as boating, jet-skiing, and kayaking. And with that loooong lake, water skiers can really get zipping! You can also take a dip in the lake to cool off from the Arizona heat. There are multiple access points along the southern side of the lake, which include campgrounds.

The scenery surrounding the lake is breathtaking, and nearby Tonto National Monument is a worthwhile side excursion. The Arizona small town of Miami/Globe is also a fun day trip while in the area.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 108 miles east of Phoenix
  • Best for: Boating, water sports, camping, hiking, picnicking
  • Nearest town: Miami/Globe (27 miles)

21-Willow Springs Lake AZ

Willow Springs Lake is another beautiful option for those seeking a cool reprieve in Arizona’s White Mountains. The stunning setting of this boomerang-shaped lake at 7,600 ft elevation is sure to be refreshing even at the height of summer. It’s easy access off the Payson-Heber Highway makes it a great day destination if you’re staying in the area.

AZ Game and Fish created Willow Springs as a trout fishing lake, and it’s stocked regularly from spring through fall. Boating is allowed (limit 10hp motor), along with canoes, kayaks, etc.

For those wanting to stay longer, the Sinkhole campground is within walking distance. Taking a morning hike (or mountain bike through the nearby trails or simply enjoying a relaxing picnic by the lakeside.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 120 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Paddling, fishing, picnicking, camping, hiking, mountain biking
  • Nearest town: Payson (32 miles)

22-Woodland Lake AZ

Tucked in at the edge of the town of Pinetop, Woodland Lake anchors the town’s Woodland Lake Park. Set amid towering pine trees (we are in Pinetop, after all 🌲) this small alpine lake has all the facilities for a pleasant day at the lake, while still being close to in-town amenities.

The lake is stocked with trout for fishing, and has a boat ramp and jetty to get out on the water. There are numerous hiking trails around the lake and through the park, along with picnic grounds, volleyball courts . . . even a play area for little ones.🛝

After enjoying park, stop off at one of Pinetop-Lakeside’s many restaurants to round out a perfect day in the White Mountains.

  • Location: East Central Arizona; 190 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Paddling, fishing, picnicking, hiking, playground for little ones
  • Nearest town: Pinetop (on site)

23-29: Best Lakes in Arizona near Flagstaff

23-Blue Ridge Reservoir (C.C. Cragin Reservoir)

If you’re searching for a peaceful getaway, Blue Ridge Reservoir should be on your list for best lake in Arizona. This stunning, serpentine lake is tucked away in the Coconino National Forest and offers visitors a serene atmosphere to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. The crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming, fishing, or kayaking.

For those who enjoy hiking, Blue Ridge Reservoir has several trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding forest. The trails vary in difficulty, so whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you’ll find a route that suits your needs.

Camping is also available at the designated sites near the lake, but be sure to reserve in advance as they can fill up quickly during the (limited) open season. In the evening, gather around a campfire, enjoying the quiet forest and the stars above.

NOTE: The campgrounds and reservoir are closed in the winter months, only open from Memorial Day through mid-fall.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 63 miles south of Flagstaff
  • Best for: Fishing, Hiking, Paddling, Boating (up to 10Hp), Camping, Swimming
  • Nearest town: Strawberry (30 miles)

24-Lake Mary AZ

Located near Flagstaff, Lake Mary is a popular destination for those seeking to escape the summer heat. This man-made reservoir is surrounded by the Coconino National Forest and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Boaters & water skiers love Lake Mary: with no limit on motor size you can really zip along! But the lake is also popular with canoes, sailboats and . . . just about anything that floats!

The lake is stocked with multiple types of fish, making it a prime spot for the rod-n-reel set. Additionally, there are several picnic areas and hiking trails around the lake for those who want to explore the surrounding wilderness. Lake Mary may be the best lake in Arizona for anyone spending time exploring the area around Flagstaff during the summer.

  • Location: North Central Arizona; 15 southeast of Flagstaff
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, All motorized water sports
  • Nearest town: Flagstaff (15 miles)

25-Long Lake AZ (+ the Soldier Lakes)

Long & the Soldier Lakes make up a sweet little spot for fishing at the northeastern edge of the Coconino National Forest. The lakes aren’t large, and water levels vary greatly with rainfall/snowmelt.

But despite their small size, the lakes offer variety. According to the US Forest Service, “each of these bodies of water is known for producing a different species of fish. Soldier Lake provides good fishing for bass and catfish. Soldier Annex Lake is better known for its catfish, although blue gill can also be caught here. Long Lake is the only one of the three that is stocked with trout but is also good for walleye and catfish.”

Camping here is primitive, but if you crave a totally down-to-earth setting with lots of fish, this trio of small lakes may win your vote for best lake in Arizona!

NOTE: Winslow is the nearest town . . . be sure to check out Standing on the Corner Park!

  • Location: Northern Arizona; 68 miles southeast of Flagstaff
  • Best for: Fishing, primitive camping
  • Nearest town: Winslow (43 miles)

PRO TIP: Consider these things to do in Winslow AZ, when you’re done fishing at Long Lake!

26-Mormon Lake AZ

Trick question: When is a lake not a lake? Answer: When it’s Mormon Lake . . . maybe. Allow me to explain.

This natural lake in the Coconino National Forest is fed by rainfall and snowmelt, and its water level can fluctuate significantly throughout the year . . . and from year to year. However, no matter how much water is here, it’s a terrific destination!

When the lake has water in it, it is still relatively shallow, with enough water to resemble a riparian marsh. Boating is allowed, but you probably wouldn’t want to put a motor in here. However, kayaks and canoes would happily float along 🛶 . Mormon lake is also a popular spot for windsurfing.

Visitors can bring their own water craft or rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards from the on-site concessionaire. There are also several scenic trails around the lake that for both hiking and horseback riding in the ponderosa pine forest.

And if there’s not much (or any) water? Don’t despair! The lake bed forms a gorgeous alpine meadow that is a popular feeding spot for wildlife . . . and abounds with wildflowers . . . which is a pretty great consolation prize. 🌼🦌 So a candidate for best lake in Arizona? Just maybe!

There are tent sites for camping, and the Mormon Lake Lodge offers cabins and motel rooms, along with RV sites (and a cozy restaurant!). It’s a great place to escape the crowds and experience the beauty of nature . . . water or not.

  • Location: North Central Arizona; 135 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Windsurfing, paddling, wildlife viewing, hiking, camping, cabins
  • Nearest town: Flagstaff (25 miles)
Best lake in arizona-with or without water (Credit: US Forest Service Coconino Nat’l Forest)

27-Odell Lake AZ

Odell Lake is a small man-made lake at the southern end of the community of Munds Park in northern Arizona. It’s a shallow lake, suitable for simple (non-motored) boats and novice fisherfolk (i.e. kids . . .or me!) Since its not very deep the lake dries out periodically.

However, the lake’s southern end abuts the Coconino National Forest and has access to hiking trails and beautiful scenery with pine trees, wildflowers, and all that you might expect of a northern Arizona wilderness.

The community of Munds Park has a golf course, restaurants and several vacation homes available for rent. Therefore, this may be the best lake in Arizona if you’re looking for a sweet little community to spend your summer holiday.

  • Location: North Central Arizona; 125 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Hiking, wildlife viewing, Vacation home rentals
  • Nearest town: Flagstaff (21 miles)

28-Potato Lake AZ

Okay, let’s admit it . . . don’t you just love a lake named “Potato”? Tucked up in the Coconino National Forest, our buddy Potato Lake is modest, and totally okay with that.

It’s not a large lake, but it sure is pretty–surrounded by a combination of ponderosa pines and aspens that are beautiful any time of the year. Imagine this color combo in the fall . . . definitely a contender for best lake in Arizona for fall foliage! 🌲🍂

The lake is stocked with trout, but it’s small size puts it more in the category suited to novice fishermen (or fisherkids).

Boats are limited to the non-motorized version, so bring your canoe or similar and settle in for a low-key day in a stellar setting. You’ll soon love a lake named “Potato”, too. 🥰

  • Location: North central Arizona; 128 miles northeast of Phoenix
  • Best for: Novice Fishing, paddling, enjoying the scenery
  • Nearest town: Strawberry (15 miles)
Stunning foliage in the fall

29-Stoneman Lake AZ

Stoneman Lake may just be the best lake in Arizona for you. . . if you’re looking for a quiet spot for birdwatching and spotting other wildlife.

Like its companion, nearby Mormon Lake (see above), the lake fills naturally from rainwater and snowmelt, which means the water level varies from year to year.

Either way, Stoneman Lake is a lovely spot. Bring your hiking boots, binoculars, and a picnic lunch and you’ll have a terrific afternoon tucked away in nature.

  • Location: Northern Arizona; 117 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Wildlife and bird-watching, hiking, picnicking
  • Nearest town: Munds Park (26 miles)

PRO TIP: Stoneman Lake makes a nice stop before/after visiting Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well

30-31: Lakes in Northern Arizona (near the Grand Canyon)

30-Lake Powell

Lake Powell boasts picturesque views that are sure to take your breath away. As one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, it offers plenty of options for water-based fun, including swimming, boating, water skiing, and fishing. The lake is also surrounded by beautiful red rock cliffs that create a stunning contrast against the sparkling blue water.

For those looking to explore the area a bit more, Lake Powell offers miles of hiking trails (including the marvelous Hanging Garden Trail) that provide a chance to take in the incredible beauty from a different perspective. You can also rent a houseboat or take a guided tour to further enhance your experience.

If you’re a history buff, a visit to the Glen Canyon Dam should be at the top of your list. Located just a few miles from Lake Powell, the dam offers a fascinating glimpse into the engineering feat that created the lake. And no stay Lake Powell would be complete without a visit to nearby Horseshoe Bend: it’s tops on what to do in Page AZ!

All in all, Lake Powell is arguably the best lake in Arizona if you’re looking for a destination with plenty of other attractions nearby.

  • Location: Northern Arizona; 280 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, water sports, swimming, hiking
  • Nearest town: Page (3 miles)
aerial view of lake powell with marina full of boats page arizona

31-Lake Mead

Located in the extreme northwest portion of the state, Lake Mead is a massive body of water that draws in thousands of visitors each year. The lake was formed by the Hoover Dam, which is a popular attraction for tourists to visit. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area spans over 1.5 million acres and offers a wide range of recreational activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, and camping.

Visitors looking to spend a night or two can choose from a variety of camping options. The lake’s campgrounds offer both tent and RV sites, as well as amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings. The lake’s proximity to both Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon also makes it a good midpoint for seeing those two destinations.

NOTE: Lake Mead is HUGE, and forms the border between Arizona and Nevada. Temple Bar is the largest area on the Arizona side. Be sure to check camping destinations carefully or you might end up in the wrong state (and have to drive 100+ miles to get back 😱).

  • Location (Temple Bar): Northwest Arizona; 318 miles northwest of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Boating, Swimming, Camping
  • Nearest town: Kingman, AZ(79 miles); Boulder City, NV (51 miles)
Best lake in Arizona . . .close to Vegas? 🎲

32-34: Arizona Lakes near Prescott, AZ

32-Lynx Lake AZ

Lynx Lake is just a short drive away from the town of Prescott (one of our favorite Arizona Small Towns!) yet it manages to feel worlds away. Tucked into the Prescott National Forest, it offers a tranquil setting for those seeking a peaceful escape from the Arizona heat.

With plenty of space for fishing and water sports, Lynx Lake is popular destination for those looking to cool off in the water. (And the mile-high elevation certainly helps with that!)

One thing unique to Lynx Lake is gold panning (yep, you read that right: GOLD! 🏆) on nearby Lynx Creek. Access more information on the Lynx Lake website. Okay, now that makes it a serious contender for best lake in Arizona! 🥇

After enjoying some time on the lake, visitors can head back into downtown Prescott for a bite to eat at one of the many local restaurants around its charming courthouse square.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 98 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, hiking, camping, gold-panning 🤩
  • Nearest town: Prescott (7 miles)

33-Watson Lake AZ (Lake Watson)

Located in Prescott, Watson Lake is a reservoir surrounded by stunning granite boulders–known as the “Granite Dells”-providing a picturesque setting for enjoying the lake.

Watson lake may be the best lake in Arizona for bouldering: hike the 4.8-mile Watson Lake Loop Trail, a series of interconnected trail segments which circles the lake and offers breathtaking views of the boulders at every turn. Segments of the trail are relatively easy, making it perfect for families with young children or novice hikers. The northern end is rockier and a bit more like bouldering–loads of fun!

Although swimming is prohibited, fishing, boating and all types of paddling are permitted, so get out onto the water and view those boulders from another perspective.

After a day of outdoor adventure, relax and enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic areas around the lake, or head into downtown Prescott for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants.

  • Location: Central Arizona; 103 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Hiking, rock climbing, paddling, fishing, picnicking, camping (summer only)
  • Nearest town: Prescott (5 miles)

34-Willow Lake AZ

Prescott is lucky enough to have two spectacular lakes just a few miles from downtown. Willow Lake, which is just 1/2 mile from Watson Lake (see above) and has the same spectacular boulders around much of its edge.

At approximately 400 acres, Willow lake is larger than Watson Lake, and is also a great place for boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and bird-watching. Take a hike on one of the many trails ringing the lake and be sure to bring a picnic lunch!

Unique to Willow Lake: there is a small (and charming) zoo adjacent at its western end–the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. So even if you don’t see much wildlife on the trail, you might still spot a bear . . . or even a peacock! 🦚

  • Location: Central Arizona; 103 miles north of Phoenix
  • Best for: Paddling, fishing, picnicking, camping (summer only), zoo 🐻.
  • Nearest town: Prescott (5 miles)
The Granite Dells are unique among Arizona Lakes

35-37: Best Lake in Arizona: Southern Arizona

35-Parker Canyon Lake AZ

If you’re looking for a change of scenery from the lakes up north, Parker Canyon Lake is a great option. Located south of Tucson, this lake offers a serene setting surrounded by the rolling Canelo Hills west of the Huachuca Mountains.

Thanks to its high elevation (nearly 5,400 feet), summer temperatures avoid the scorching level and the lake keeps things refreshing.

Like to fish? Parker Canyon Lake offers several species: longmouth bass, rainbow trout, and channel catfish. You can fish from a boat, fishing pier, or along the shoreline. An onsite concessionaire provides fishing and watersports rentals and manages the tent and RV campsites.

  • Location: Southeastern Arizona; 80 miles southeast of Tucson
  • Best for: Fishing, water sports, swimming, birding, hiking, camping
  • Nearest town: Sonoita (29 miles)

Southern Arizona is bird watching country, and the five-mile trail around the lake’s shoreline will provide plenty of peeping places, making this the best lake in Arizona for folks with varied interests.

36-Patagonia Lake AZ

Patagonia Lake is a hidden gem located in the southern part of Arizona. Heck, this whole section of Arizona is a hidden gem!

Patagonia Lake State Park is surrounded by beautiful high desert scenery (it’s at 4,000 feet), including mountains and trees. The lake is fed by Sonoita Creek, a rare year-round creek that creates an amazing habitat for local wildlife–and one of the best birding areas in the US!

The lake’s water is perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing. Additionally, the surrounding area is home to 30 miles of hiking trails–including a birding trail with a lookout point, providing visitors with an opportunity to explore this beautiful part of Arizona’s Sky Islands.

The lake’s campgrounds offer both tent and RV sites, as well as amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings. This is undoubtedly the best lake in Arizona if you like wine-tasting: the wineries of Sonoita are just a few miles away!🍷

  • Location: Southern Arizona; 78 miles south of Tucson
  • Best for: Fishing, water sports, swimming, birding, hiking, camping, wine-tasting
  • Nearest town: Patagonia (12 miles)
sailboat and motor boat on patagonia lake az, with tree in front
the best lake in Arizona . . .for wine-tasting?

Read Next: Tips for Visiting Patagonia Lake AZ

37-Rose Canyon Lake AZ

Anyone who has spent a summer in Tucson 🥵 knows the allure of the cooling higher altitudes up near Mount Lemmon.

Rose Canyon Lake adds to that allure with the promise of sitting by cooling waters amid the towering pines Mile 17 of the Mount Lemmon highway. At 7,000 ft elevation the area stays refreshingly cool even in the midst of an Arizona summer, making it the best lake in Arizona near Tucson.

Visitors can enjoy stunning views of towering pines and aspens while hiking the nearby trails . . . and there are many, including one that climbs up to Mount Lemmon (with some stunning views of Tucson along the way!)

Fishing enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for whiling away a sunny afternoon . . . (or maybe catching dinner 😊)

Rose Canyon Lake is an easy day trip from Tucson, but it also makes a nice getaway. There are camping opportunities for those who want to extend their stay, or consider booking at cabin at the Mt. Lemmon Hotel for a comfy/rustic experience.

  • Location: Southern Arizona; 34 miles northeast of Tucson
  • Best for: Fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking
  • Nearest town: Bear Canyon (23 miles)
Majestic wilderness so close to Tucson

38-40: Best Arizona Lakes in Western Arizona

38-Alamo Lake AZ

Located in the Bill Williams River Valley, Alamo Lake is a true oasis in the middle of the desert. This reservoir lake is perfect for fishing and boating, with an abundance of largemouth and striped bass, channel catfish, and crappie just waiting to be caught.

This may be your best lake in Arizona if you’re seeking solitude. Crowds tend to be much smaller than other popular lakes in the area due to its remote location.

Alamo Lake State Park offers a variety of campsites for those wishing to extend their stay and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area. The park also has picnic areas and restrooms, but it is important to bring all necessary supplies as there are no stores or restaurants nearby.

  • Location: West Central Arizona; 135 miles northwest of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Boating, Camping
  • Nearest town: Wenden (37miles)

39-Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu is another stunning lake in Arizona that is perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. Located on the Colorado River, this lake is known for its crystal-clear waters and picturesque views. The lake’s shoreline stretches over 450 miles, providing plenty of space for visitors to relax and soak in the sun.

The water at Lake Havasu is ideal for swimming, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and other water sports. Visitors can rent boats or take a guided tour to explore the lake’s hidden coves and scenic spots. History buffs can also visit London Bridge, which was dismantled in England and transported to Lake Havasu in the 1960s.

With its location right at Lake Havasu City, there are plenty of lodging options, ranging from tent camping to luxury hotels, and everything in-between.

  • Location: Northwest Arizona; 195 miles northwest of Phoenix
  • Best for: Fishing, Paddling, All motorized water sports
  • Nearest town: Lake Havasu City (right there!)
Lake Havasu: best lake in Arizona for bridge fanatics?

49-Martinez Lake AZ

Located just a short drive from Yuma, Martinez Lake sits alongside the Colorado River and is a popular destination for boating and fishing enthusiasts. If you like a lake with lots of “nooks and crannies,” among the reeds, this may be your best lake in Arizona. There are plenty of chances to find your own little spot.

With its calm waters and picturesque scenery, this oasis in the Sonoran Desert provides a refreshing escape from the scorching Arizona heat.

Looking to spend a few days? The Martinez Lake Resort rents bungalows and RV spots. Visitors can rent a boat, jet ski, or kayak the to explore the tranquil waters, or simply soak up the sun on the sandy shoreline.

  • Location: Southwest Arizona; 37 miles north of Yuma
  • Best for: Fishing, camping, boating, off-roading
  • Nearest town: Yuma (37 miles)

In the midst of a scorching Arizona summer, finding a way to cool off can seem like an impossible task. However, with this guide to the coolest lakes in the state, you can escape the heat and enjoy a refreshing retreat. From swimming and boating to fishing and hiking, there is something for everyone at these picturesque mountain lakes.

So, lather on some sunscreen, pack up your swimsuit or fishing gear, and take in the serene beauty of Arizona’s lakes. As the old saying goes, “life is better at the lake.”

Don’t wait, plan your trip today and experience the ultimate summer getaway.

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List of Arizona Lakes (Alphabetical)

  • Alamo Lake
  • Apache Lake
  • Bartlett Lake
  • Bear Canyon Lake
  • Becker Lake
  • Big Lake
  • Black Canyon Lake
  • Blue Ridge Reservoir (C. C. Craigin Reservoir)
  • Canyon Lake
  • Earl Park Lake
  • Fool Hollow Lake
  • Hawley Lake
  • Horseshoe Lake
  • Knoll Lake
  • Lake Havasu
  • Lake Mary
  • Lake Mead
  • Lake of the Woods
  • Lake Powell
  • Long Lake (& Soldier Lakes)
  • Luna Lake
  • Lynx Lake
  • Martinez Lake
  • Mormon Lake
  • Odell Lake
  • Parker Canyon Lake
  • Patagonia lake
  • Pleasant Lake (Lake Pleasant Regional Park)
  • Potato Lake
  • Rainbow Lake
  • Reservation Lake
  • Rose Canyon Lake
  • Saguaro Lake
  • Stoneman lake
  • Tempe Town Lake
  • Theodore Roosevelt Lake (aka Lake Roosevelt)
  • Watson Lake (Lake Watson, AZ)
  • Willow Lake
  • Willow Springs Lake
  • Woodland Lake

INSIDE: Anyone who’s been to the Arizona desert knows the importance of the cactus! Here’s a list of Instagram cactus quotes–that work anywhere else too!

“The cactus is not a bad plant. It is just a beautiful plant with thorns”–Unknown

If you’ve spent time in Arizona (or even if you’ve just read about Arizona!) you know that the cactus is vital to the landscape. Heck, the silhouette of the saguaro cactus is even on the license plate! 🌵

But there’s more to a cactus than a symbol on a license plate.

When you live in the desert the cactus is a source of food, water, and even of shelter-well that last one mostly applies to small animals and birds. But still . . .

. . .in short, around these here parts, the cactus is a source of inspiration!

So if you’re feeling the need for a little desert-related word-smithing, here’s a list of Instagram cactus quotes–or anywhere else too. Use them when you need a little prickly push of motivation. 😉

Cactus Love Quotes

If you’re looking for cactus quotes for instagram, you can’t go wrong with the topic of love. There’s something about the conflict between the sweetness of love and the prickliness of a cactus that makes a terrific combination!

“A cactus is a desert’s rose.” Matshona Dhliwayo

“Be a cactus in a world of delicate flowers.” Unknown

“Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.” Leigh Bard Ugo

“Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is like hugging a cactus. The tighter you hold on, the more it’s going to hurt.” Unknown

“If you get struck by a cactus, consider it a cactus kiss. Because we all know Love hurts.” Jessica Anna Jones

“If one can see beauty in the strength of how a cactus blooms in the desert, they would see beauty in the thorns it displays.” Reena Sharma

“In the desert of my heart, you don’t need to blossom to like a cactus.” Richa

“If holding cactus can cure my pain, I would love to have it for whole life.” Anonymous

Read Next: Gorgeous Tucson Hikes in the Desert

Inspirational Cactus Quotes

Ah, those thorny cacti! They make a great metaphor for life, and can add a little “deep thinking” to your instagram cactus quotes. (Or you can just read them and enjoy!)

“Hope is not a resting place but a starting point: a cactus, not a cushion.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus.” Unknown

“Very often, people are obsessed with what others think of them. It’s like if a flower wants to be a cactus or a palm but it’s not. A flower is a flower, and that’s enough. That’s all you have to do is be a flower.” Stjepan Hauser

After discovering this quote from Dorothy B. Hughes, I want to read her books!

“In a world full of flowers, be a cactus.” Kul Bhushan Negi

“During your struggle society is not a bunch of flowers, it is a bunch of cactus.” Amit Kalantri

“People are not cactuses, they need plenty of water and, when talking about friendship, the water is our time.” Birute Sol

“We reap what we sow. We cannot expect apples when we have sown the seed of a cactus.” Unknown

“People trample over flowers, yet only to embrace a cactus.” James Joyce

“A daisy blooming in the desert is worth more than a rose blossoming in a rainforest.” Mashona Dhimaya

“The desert works constantly to forbid it, and still the cactus blooms.” Uma Gokhale

“You are holding a cactus plant in your hand. The cactus is not hurting you—your own attachment with the cactus is hurting you.” Shunya

Read Next: 24 Spots to See Arizona Wildflowers in Spring

Funny Cactus Puns

Sometimes, when we’re thinking about Instagram cactus quotes, we don’t really want to get too deep–we just want to be clever! Here are some funny cactus puns that would be great on social media.

Full disclosure: they also work well in polite conversation too–people will be amazed at your sharp wit! 🤣

-You’re looking really sharp!

-Dear Cactus: I promise I’ll never desert you

-I’m totally stuck on you

-Cactus makes perfect

-We make a prickly pear

-Let’s stick together

-I’m ready to take it from cact-i to cact-us

-Grab life by the thorns

-Have a fanCACTUS day!

Cute Cactus Quotes

“My dad is like a cactus—introverted and tough.” Gary Vaynerchuk

“I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.” Demetri Martin

“I remember very clearly someone saying, “Don’t shake hands with the cactus,” and I thought, “Well, why not? What could possibly go wrong? Shaking hands is a friendly gesture.” Benedict Cumberbatch

“I’m the Big Cactus . . . because if you come to close, you’re gonna get stuck.” Shaquille O’Neal

Right from the horse’s (er, the cactus’s) mouth . . .the perfect Instagram cactus quotes!

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy succulents! And that is pretty much the same thing.” Unknown

“You know you’re an Arizona native when you hug a cactus only once in your lifetime.” Nancy Dedera

“Anyone who’s ever tried to tangle with a teddy bear cactus knows there’s a whole lot more bear than teddy to it.” Kevin Hearne

“The trees were in leaf and every plant was blooming, except for the cacti, which were being stubbornly prickly.” Anonymous

Funny Quotes about Cactus

“I have learned the difference between a cactus and a caucus. On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.” Mo Udall

“A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet.” Hope Jahren

“I consider it the highest compliment when my employees go out and start their own companies in competition with me. I always send them a plant to wish them well. Of course, it’s a cactus.” Norman Brodsky

“Cactus classification is similar to fashion on women’s skirts: they first shorten improperly and then lengthen excessively.” R. Foster

“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” Joyce Meyer

“A cactus is really just an aggressive cucumber.” Unknown

“The one who swallows cactuses with spines should not complain about hemorrhoids.” Etgar Keret

“I’ve met some pricks in my time but you are the whole cactus.” Unknown

“A saguaro can fall for a snowman but where would they set up house?” Jodi Picoult

Instagram Cactus Quotes

“People trample over flowers, yet only to embrace a cactus.” James Joyce

“The desert works constantly to forbid it, and still the cactus blooms.” Uma Gokhale

“If a flower can flourish in the desert, you can flourish anywhere.” Mashona Dhimaya

“Deserts never believe in cactus. Seeds do.” Deepak Gupta

“Life is like a cactus. Thorny, but beautiful.” Unknown

“The cactus is not a bad plant. It is just a beautiful plant with thorns.” Unknown

Read Next: Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Quotes about Cactus and Life

“Anger was simple, self-sustaining as a cactus. You couldn’t look to closely at it, lest the spines get you in the eye.” Rebecca Scherm

Take the rose, most people think it very beautiful; I don’t care for it at all. I prefer the cactus, for the simple reason that it has a more interesting personality. It has wonderfully adapted itself to its surroundings! It is the best illustration of the theory of evolution in plant life.
Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Max De Pree

“A whale is as unique as a cactus. But don’t ask a whale to survive Death Valley. We all have special gifts. Where we use them and how determines whether we actually complete something.”Max De Pree

“Deserts are very dry places, but plants can still grow there. Desert plants collect and use water in special ways.” Julie Penn

“During your struggle society is not a bunch of flowers, it is a bunch of cacti.” Amit Kalanithi

“The world is full of cactus, but we don’t’ have to sit on it.” Will Foley

“I’m like the trunk of a cactus . . . I take in a dose of culture and time with friends, then I retreat and go live on it for a while until I get thirsty again.” Nancy Horan

“Only a few love the cactus as other fail to see their beauty. Because others just hate them for the thorns they posess, and they don’t understand the fact they are meant to work as their protective gear.” Lone Thinker

Cactus Captions

“If seeds waited for perfect conditions to grow, there would be no plants in the desert.” Mashona Dhimaya

“Adolescence is like cactus.” Anais Nin

“The thorns are worth bearing for a flower.” Kalinin

“Life can be prickly. Bloom anyway.” Unknown

“People trample on flowers, but respect cacti.” Lone Thinker

Longer Cactus Quotes and Poems

“She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and a way she flew.” Jerry Spinelli

When the going gets tough
Just like the golden barrel cactus
You bloom yellow
and poesy drips from you instead of tears.

Neelam Saxena Chandra

Every cactus blooms
Some with little rooms
Some give flowers that grow
Others so small it won’t show!

Ana Claudia Antunes

“The cactus thrives in the desert while the fern thrives in the wetland. The fool will try to plant them in the same flowerbox.” Vera Nazarian

” . . . it reminds me of us because a cactus can grow and thrive without a lot of water and attention. Even if it gets neglected on a shelf, it can blossom and still develop into something beautiful.” Rebecca Bloom

More Funny Cactus Puns for Instagram

-I needle little help

-You’re prickin’ awesome

-I’m caught in a prickle

-Cact-i plus cact-you equals cact-us

-Grab life by the thorns

-I’m on pins and needles

-You make me thorny

-Never drought my love for you

Well, there you have it, our list of more than 80 Instagram cactus quotes.  I think I need to grab my hiking boots and get out in the desert so I can use some of the funny cactus quotes this week on my Instagram!

If you’ve got more quotes about cactus that you think should be here, send us a note at contactus@arizonajourney.org. We’ll add it to the list (and give you credit 😊)

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INSIDE: How to find magnificent Organ Pipe Cactus out in the wild: take Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe National Monument-away from main roads

Dear Organ Pipe National Monument:

Where are all the organ pipe cacti??? I only saw one at the entrance!

We arrived at the entrance to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and dutifully took a photo of the sign . . . with its (natch) organ pipe cactus right alongside.

Eager to see the only place in the US where this cactus grows natively, we forged on 15 miles to the Visitor Center.

As we drove we saw . . . no Organ Pipes. Not. A. One. Plenty of Saguaros 🌵 and Arizona Wildflowers, which were lovely. But none of the cacti the national monument is named for.

What was going on here? Where were all the famous Organ Pipe cacti?

Spoiler Alert: we did find them eventually. The trick was taking the Ajo Mountain Drive . . .

What is the Ajo Mountain Drive?

Sign at the entrance of the Ajo Mountain Drive loop road
Get out onto the Ajo Mountain Drive to see the famous organ pipe cactus

Arguably the the best way to get a representative view of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21-mile scenic drive into, you guessed it, the Ajo Mountains, located within the park’s boundaries.

Sometimes called the Ajo Mountain Loop Road, this drive takes visitors on a journey through rugged mountains while offering breathtaking views of the surrounding desert. And, yes, on this drive you’ll see plenty of Organ Pipe cacti!

The winding road is perfect for a leisurely drive, allowing you to take in the sights and sounds of the desert at your own pace. Along the way there are trailheads for those looking to hike a bit deeper into the desert, as well as a few designated picnic stops.

But before you forge ahead, we suggest you stop at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center first. After we did, we understood why we hadn’t seen any Organ Pipes . . . yet.

The main road through organ pipe national monument-with saguaros and wildflowers, but no organ pipe cactus
The main road through the monument–where are the organ pipes???

Kris Eggle Visitor Center

The Kris Eggle Visitor Center is located more or less in the center of the park’s boundaries, right along AZ State Route 85, in a valley between two mountain ranges (this will become significant in a moment!)

The Visitor Center provides a great introduction to the park–and to the unique Biosphere Reserve that the park encompasses. There’s a small (and accessible!) 0.1-mile walk planted with various cacti (including an organ pipe), wildflowers, and other plants you’ll see in the park.

A small exhibit area provides displays on the unique plant and animal life here at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We love these mini museums–it helps us get an idea of what we’re actually looking at when we’re out out there exploring!

Helpful park rangers are on hand to provide suggestions, based on your interests. This is how we learned about the Ajo Mountain Drive . . .

exhibits about the sonoran desert at Kris Eggle visitor center

. . . and how to find the Organ Pipe Cactus.

Read Next: 17 Things to do in Ajo AZ

Where to Find the Organ Pipe Cactus

The organ pipe cactus (Lemaireocereus) is one of the most unique cacti in the world. It’s native to the Sonoran Desert of the southwest Arizona and northwestern Mexico. The area around Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the ONLY place in the United States where you’ll see it growing naturally. That’s why this park is so special!

The organ pipe cactus has an impressive and distinctive look to it–as you can tell by the name, it looks like a giant pipe organ and a saguaro had a baby. 🌵👶🏻 And these things are BIG–they can grow to almost 30 feet tall!

But . . . the organ pipe cactus doesn’t really like cold weather, which is why you only find it in extreme southwestern Arizona. And even then, Arizona can have some chilly nights. So . . .

Organ pipe cactus like to grow on south-facing crags and hillsides, where the sun warms up the rocky soil during the day. That warmth is enough to keep the cacti cosy at night, kind of like a big ol’ desert blanket.

organ pipe cacti growing on a rocky hillside on the ajo mountain drive
Organ pipe cacti LOVE growing on south-facing rocky hillsides

Which means . . . its unlikely organ pipe cacti in valleys . . . like the one you drive through to reach the Visitor Center. AHA moment! 💡To see the famous organ pipe cactus, we’d need to get into the rocky hillsides.

Hence, the Ajo Mountain Drive.

What to See and Do on the Ajo Mountain Drive

The drive offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings, so keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep and other desert animals. You’ll also encounter numerous pullouts along the way, allowing you to take in the stunning vistas and snap some memorable photos.

There are 2 picnic areas, but keep in mind that there is no water available on the drive, so you must bring your own (and bring plenty–it’s the desert after all!)

The drive also provides access to a few short/medium-length hikes, which is a great way to get a little deeper into the beautiful scenery.

Allow about 1.5-2 hours to complete the drive; longer if you plan to do any hiking and/or stop for a picnic lunch.

First, be sure to pick up an Ajo Mountain Drive Guide at the visitor center. (Or, if you have the NPS App, you can access it there.) There are 18 designated pull-outs along the drive, focused on nature. The guide lists the location of each one and provides descriptions for each of them.

PRO TIP: There are minimal placards along the Ajo Mountain Drive. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your experience, pick up an Ajo Mountain Drive Guide at the Visitor Center.

Some of the pull-outs are focused on specific sights you’ll see right there, while others are more general stops describing the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert.

We found some of the pull-outs more “stop-worthy” than others, but it really depends on your familiarity with the Sonoran Desert landscape. (Or just how much of a “completist” you are 😊.)

Highlights of the Ajo Mountain Drive

Ajo mountain drive-organ pipe cactus in foreground with suv on dirt road in background
One of the first organ pipe cacti you’ll see on the Ajo Mountain Drive

The 21-mile drive begins in the flat valley opposite the visitor center (so not many organ pipe cacti-yet). It gradually winds into the base of the Ajo mountains before looping back to the valley.

Here’s a list of what we found to be the most interesting stops along the drive. Designated stops are based on their distance from the pay-station kiosk at the beginning of the drive.

Stop 4: Mile 3.9

One of the first of the namesake organ pipe cactus you’ll see along the drive. (We’re still in the valley here.) But I was so excited to finally see one in the wild I naturally had to stop and take a gazillion photos. 🤦‍♀️

Stop 6: Mile 5.5

A stop with a picnic ramada along Diablo Wash. This wash is one of the many canyons within the park that was inhabited by people as far back as 12,000 years ago (!). The wash is dry most of the year, but fills up during the monsoon rains in August/September.

Stop 7: Mile 6.0

Saguaro and organ pipe cactus in the foothills of the ajo mountain drive

This spot is on a small ridge, just above the Diablo Wash. Great views to the west of the park, including Twin Peaks (so named because of its double summit). Also a panoramic view of Mexico’s Cubabi Mountains to the south.

There’s a picnic table here as well (although no ramada covering).

*At this point in the drive you’ll be getting into the foothills of the Ajo mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for some south- and west-facing rocky ridges: organ pipe cacti will start popping up sporadically.

**Also, as you look upward into the upcoming mountains you’ll see a cool rock arch up ahead. Resist the urge to try and photo it from here–you’ll have your chance in a moment.

Arch Canyon Trailhead: Mile 8.9

The Arch Canyon Trailhead isn’t listed as a pullout stop in the Ajo Mountain Drive Guide; it’s a landmark on its own. There’s a small parking area, along with a picnic tables (no ramadas). Placards explaining a bit about the geology of the area–including how arches are formed–are posted as well.

man standing at placard of arch canyon trailhead with stone arch high up in the background

This is a great spot to stop take photos. There are actually two arches, 600 feet up there at the top of the rock cliff. . . look closely to to see the second (smaller) one.

It’s hard to believe it from here, but that main arch is 90 feet wide!

For a short hike, the Arch Canyon Trail is short (about .6 mi each way), and takes you a bit closer to the base of the cliff beneath the arches. Be sure to take water if you decide to hike the trail! 💧💧

More intrepid hikers can continue on a short–but very steep–hike up to the Arch itself. This portion of the trail isn’t maintained by the monument, but is pretty well marked by fellow hikers.

The views are fantastic, but it’s a strenuous hike (and only recommended for experienced trekkers).

Estes Canyon: Mile 11.0

Estes Canyon is the midpoint of the Ajo Mountain Drive.

You can do 2 things at Estes Canyon: take a rest, or take a hike.

This canyon stop offers a serene and peaceful setting, perfect for a picnic lunch. Ramadas provide ample shade from the sun, making it a refreshing escape on a hot day. There are also (basic) restroom facilities here, which can come in handy.

If hiking is your thing, consider the Estes Canyon and Bull Pasture Trails. Combine these trails for a moderate-level loop (~3 miles) through the canyon.

Or, if you’re really into climbing, add on the strenuous trail spur to Bull Pasture. It climbs 800 feet in just 1/2 mile, but the views are magnificent.

One of the highlights of Estes Canyon is the many bird species that call it home. Keep an eye out for the colorful vermilion flycatcher or the striking black-throated sparrow. With over 300 bird species in the park, Estes Canyon is definitely a top spot for birdwatching.

After Estes Canyon you’ll begin looping back to the beginning of the trail. By this time you should be pretty adept at spotting organ pipe cactus!

You’ll be heading south, so you may have to pull over occasionally and look over your shoulder to see them on the south-facing hillsides. In the spring this area is chock-full of Arizona wildflowers.

field of yellow poppies amid cactus
Loads of wildflowers in Estes Canyon

Stop 15: Mile 13.1

At this stop you’ll see an nice sampling of something that is NOT a cactus: the ocatillo. These plants have a desert beauty all their own, looking like a giant bouquet of sticks (winter) or fluffy green-leafed plumes (summer). In late spring they sport lovely red flowers at the branch tips, which are popular with hummingbirds.

Stop 17: Mile 16.9

This area, known as “Teddy Bear Pass,” is a dense thicket of teddy bear cholla cactus. These cacti are beautiful with the sun shining through them-they look fluffy & cuddly (hence the name)!

Resist the temptation to give them a hug–they may look soft and fuzzy, but they are sharp!

teddy bear cholla cactus

Continue on the Drive back to the starting point.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Map

map of organ pipe cactus national monument, with the ajo mountain drive circled in red
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Map, courtesy NPS (with my highlight of the Ajo Mountain Drive 😊)

Now you’ve completed the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive. Hopefully you’ve seen your fair share of organ pipe cacti . . .along with all sorts of other desert vegetation!

If you’re like me, this drive gave you a new appreciation for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument–and the organ pipe cactus! 🤩

Common Questions about Organ Pipe National Monument

Is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument safe?

According to the National Park Service, YES. While Organ Pipe National Monument is located along the Mexican border, any border crossing activity occurs away from where park visitors are. Plus, the NPS says, “Migrants don’t want to be reported, so it is highly unlikely visitors will ever encounter them as they don’t want to be seen.” We felt TOTALLY SAFE during our visit. For more information and safety tips, visit the NPS safety page.

What is the history of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument?

The monument was created when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it into law in 1937. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was created to preserve this special area of the Sonoran Desert. At this time the National Park Service saw the value of preserving the nation’s ecological wonders as well as it’s scenic wonders (such as Montezuma Castle.)

What is the name of the desert in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument?

The Sonoran Desert, which covers a vast area of this part of the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Organ Pipe National Monument is one section of this desert, and an International Biosphere Reserve due to its unique community of thriving plants and animals.

What is the closest town to the Organ Pipe National Monument?

Ajo, Arizona is approximately 35 miles north of the monument, an easy drive up Arizona highway 85. Ajo is a charming small town with a town square, a few motels and restaurants, and a lively arts community. It makes a terrific base for visiting Organ Pipe National Monument; read more about it in our post things to see in Ajo, Arizona.

PRO TIP: Visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Ajo Mountain Drive can be part of a nice Southwest Arizona road trip. See our Arizona Roadtrip Planner for more information.

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2 images of organ pipe cactus along the ajo mountain drive, along with text overlay-at organ pipe national monument

SUMMARY: A visit to this charming former mining town in southwest Arizona makes a delightful getaway. We share 17 things to do in Ajo AZ.

Ajo was such a pleasant surprise! An Arizona small town that manages to embrace its past while still looking to its future in creative ways.

My introduction to Ajo began at the coffee shop on the plaza. Not the usual line of zombies waiting for their morning caffeine infusion–this crowd was only semi-comatose. The barista was keeping things lively by asking if anyone had some spare wood she could use for her latest art project.

In between grinding beans and frothing milk she a found sculptor who had some leftover wood in his studio (she was an expert multi-tasker). Problem solved, she got back to making coffees in earnest, whipping up “the usual” for customers who’d brought their own travel mugs.

When I picked up my “un-usual” (in that she didn’t know me), I apologized for not having any wood for her project (or, for that matter, my own travel mug). She smiled and said “it’s all good–welcome to Ajo!”

I decided I was going to like it here . . .

A Little Background on Ajo Arizona

front view of Curley School in Ajo AZ-1916 Spanish revival building

Ajo is one of our new favorite Arizona small towns! It’s located in southwestern Arizona, not far from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

If you’ve ever driven down to Rocky Point (aka Puerto Penasco, Mexico), chances are you’ve driven right through Ajo–perhaps without stopping. I know several folks with a house in Rocky Point who have never. stopped. And they’ve totally been missing out. 🤷‍♀️

Because, as you’ll see, there’s a lot more to Ajo than just a traffic light & a pit stop!

How Ajo got Started

Ajo has been known as a mining town since the 1700’s, when Spaniards mined first mined silver in the area. Scientific studies eventually indicated there was more copper in them thar hills, so industrious miners switched gears.

Through most of the 20th century the New Cornelia Mine became one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world. Dropping copper prices and a bitter strike eventually caused the mine to close in the 1980s, and Ajo has been working to re-invent itself ever since.

Why is Ajo Arizona called Ajo?

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the area was inhabited by native peoples. They mixed up a red body paint made from the copper-rich soil, calling it “au’auho,” which became “Ajo.”

Today, Ajo is has become a charming artist’s enclave, with several programs to welcome and encourage the arts, thanks to groups like the International Sonoran Desert Alliance. So a name that means “red body PAINT” seems totally fitting! 🎨🖌️

Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway from Phoenix or Tucson, or are just passing through on your way to Pureto Penasco, take some time to explore the many fun things to do in Ajo!

PRO TIP: Ajo is only a 2-hour drive from either Phoenix or Tucson–it makes a great weekend getaway!

1-12: Things to Do in Ajo AZ

A colorful past and even more colorful (artistic metaphor!) future, coupled with its location amid spectacular Sonoran Desert scenery means there will be plenty of things to do in Ajo for just about everyone!

Arched portico of ajo plaza with tiled cupola above-things to do in ajo az

1-Ajo Plaza

Any visit to Ajo should begin here. This magnificent Spanish Colonial Revival plaza forms the core of the town, filled with park benches and shaded by palms. It’s fronted on 3 sides by a blinding white arched portico–providing a perfect shady spot from the Arizona sun.

2-The Flagpole

Okay, this might seem like an odd entrant in a list of “things to do in Ajo,” but humor me on this. The flagpole in the center of the plaza forms the focal point that anchored the town layout.

Ajo was planned in 1914 to create a pleasant place for miners to live. So . . .no standard “grid” for the fine people of Ajo–no siree.

Instead, streets radiate out from the central axis like “the wings of a bird,” with two similarly white churches anchoring those wings. Pretty cool, huh?

3-Visit the Historic Train Depot (Ajo Visitor Center)

Look for the tiled coupola at the far end of the plaza–this once housed Ajo’s train depot. But, in the words of Warren Zevon, “the train don’t run by here no more,” so the depot has been converted to Ajo’s Visitor Center.

Inside, you’ll be able to see vestiges of the former train station, as well as get information about the town and regional attractions. The folks in there are friendly and helpful. (No word on whether they can help you out with materials for your latest art project 😊)

4-Take a Historic Walking Tour

One of the helpful bits of information you’ll get at the Visitor Center is a handy map of Ajo’s Historic District, pointing out significant buildings and landmarks. This is a great way to get your bearings and view the town’s unique layout from different perspectives.

The tour is roughly 1/2 mile long, and will take you 20-30 minutes.

5-Check Out Artists Alley

Beyond the Murals highlighted on the art tour, you can seed additional creative works lining the walls of this alley behind the plaza.

You know a town is values artistic expression when the alleys sport colorful designs!

wall mural in ajo az-coyote and desert design with words "artists alley-Ajo, AZ" surrounding design

6-Explore Curley School Art Complex

As you’re exploring the town and it’s unique layout, you can’t help but notice that cool old domed building perched where the “wings of a bird” (i.e. the streets) open wide.

That’s the former Curley School, which has been transformed into a unique art complex/hotel/public space. It exemplifies Ajo’s commitment to both the arts and the town’s future.

The original 1916 schoolhouse (very cool Spanish revival architecture!) has been transformed into a multi-purpose complex with studios, a gallery and apartments specifically for artists. The 1930 school annex is now a hotel & conference center (see below).

front view of Curley School in Ajo AZ-1916 Spanish revival building

7-Stay in a Historic Schoolhouse (and Classroom!)

Courtyard of Sonoran Desert Inn with frog sculpture in foreground-Ajo Az
Art is everywhere in the courtyard gardens of the Sonoran Desert Inn

The 1930’s annex of the Curley School (see above) is now the Sonoran Desert Inn. It makes a charming place to stay while exploring Ajo.

We stayed here during our visit, and it really helped us get into the Ajo vibe.

The 11 guestrooms are in former classrooms, which all open onto a large courtyard. They’re decorated in a modern style, with a bit of Ajo artistic flair: funky sculptures and ceiling fans made from re-purposed light fixtures (remember those old fluorescent lights with the little metal grids in them?).

And fuzzy little javelina pillows adorn each bed (made by a local artist, natch). How cute is that?

hotel room bed at Sonoran Desert Inn, with yellow javelina pillow

The courtyard is filled with a collection of welcoming garden spaces that highlight the Sonoran Desert. And of course, there’s art everywhere!

8-Self-Guided Art Tour

Ajo’s support of the arts is evident all over town, in the form of murals, sculptures, and other installations. For a more in-depth understanding of the local works, take a self-guided art tour.

A brochure (available at the Visitor’s Center) provides a map with photos and brief descriptions of nearly 25 works that provide that little something extra to an already pretty town layout.

9-Visit the New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Lookout

A stop at this lookout point is one of THE things to do in Ajo AZ. It’s the mine that put Ajo on the map, and a peek into The New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Lookout gives you a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

Perched at the edge of the (now defunct) open pit, you’ll find a safe (i.e. fenced-off) area to look down into the depths to see just how deep (and wide!) that famous copper ran. A small museum with photos and a short video describing the mining process is also on site.

10-Ajo Historical Society Museum

Ajo Historical Society Museum, housed in a white adobe Spanish Revival church.

This museum is located just up the hill from the open pit mining lookout in the old St. Catherine’s Indian Mission (it’s hard to miss this pristine white building!).

The Ajo Historical Society Museum is a great place to get a sense of Ajo’s past. It contains many artifacts and mementos, including mining paraphernalia, a complete blacksmith shop, and an early print shop. 

11-Browse the Ajo Copper News (Bookstore/Gallery)

man standing in front of building with large desert mural, plus sign for ajo copper news

Ajo is definitely the kind of town that multi-tasks (remember my tale of the artistic barista? ☕️👩🏻‍🎨).

Nowhere is it more evident than the Ajo Copper News: the offices of local weekly newspaper also houses a fabulous used bookstore, a gallery of work by local artists, AND it’s got an awesome giant mural on the front!

Ajo multi-tasking at it’s best!

12-Chill with the locals on the Plaza at Oasis Coffee

The portico on that gorgeous Ajo Plaza is super hangout-able. (is that even a word???) Anyway, it’s a lovely spot to sit in the shade of the arches and watch the world go by.

You might even say it’s one of the musts among things to do in Ajo AZ.

Oasis Coffee (we’re back to the multi-tasking barista again) is the place on the plaza to chillax and soak up the vibe, watching the comings and goings of all and sundry.

And who knows, you might just find a source of materials for your latest art project. 😉👩🏻‍🎨

people sitting under the portico on Ajo plaza enjoying coffee

PRO TIP: Ajo makes a great stop on a road trip through Southwestern Arizona. Check out our Road Trip Planner for more ideas!

13-17: Things to do NEAR Ajo AZ

When considering things to do in Ajo Az it’s important to remember just how rich the region is in scenery nearby. Consider these:

13-Drive the Ajo Scenic Loop

One of the best things to do in Ajo AZ to get your bearings of the surrounding landscape, this 9-mile drive will give you a taste of the Sonoran Desert (with an Organ Pipe twist!)

The drive makes you feel like a star in your own western movie! 🤠. It skirts around the mine and the mountain to the west of town, and cuts through washes drive as it crosses BLM roads that seem to extend forever. Along the way you’ll see Saguaro and Organ Pipe cactus, and the vestiges of a few old homesteads.

Download a copy of the Ajo Scenic Loop Map here, or pick up a copy at the Visitors Center.

14-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Sign at the entrance to Organ Pipe National Monument near Ajo AZ

Although you’ll see a few Organ Pipe cacti dotting the hills around Ajo, check out Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to get a real sense of these beautiful succulents.

This southwestern part of Arizona is the only place in the US that you’ll find the Organ Pipe Cactus 🏜️, so exploring this park is a special experience.

This park is one of 18 National Monuments in Arizona, and it’s a real beauty!

15-Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

The main entrance to Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is just north of town. The Visitor Center there has a small museum explaining the local flora and fauna.

You’ll also be able to get info on what you can experience in this vast preserve (over 800,000 acres! 😲). This area is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and offers lots of space to “rough it.” If you’re into camping, hunting, hiking, birding, etc. this is the spot for you!

16-Go Mountain Biking around the local hills

Map of Ajo Az biking routes and Scenic Loop

The wide-open spaces surrounding Ajo are a mountain biker’s dream. 🚵🏻‍♀️. If you love hitting the trails, this should be one of the things to do in Ajo AZ for you.

The town has created 17 trail segments covering over 30 miles that cater to cyclists of all abilities. Mix and match segments to suit your spirit for adventure, whether it’s the easier “Old Faithful” trail, or the “Lower Chain Breaker” (that one is self-explanatory 😱.

A handy map explains each trail, with elevation changes and sights along the way. Download the Ajo Mountain Biking Map here, or pick it up at the Visitor Center.

17-Visit the Tohono O’Odham Museum & Cultural Center

The Tohono O’Odham Nation sits just east of Ajo, covering an area approximately the size of Connecticut (that’s BIG!)

Stop into the Museum & Cultural Center tucked into a magnificent setting of Sonoran Desert outside the town of Sells. There you’ll learn about the history of the O’Odham people, and the traditions that continue to this day.

Take some time to enjoy the spectacular view of Baboquivari Peak, which is of special cultural significance to the O’Odham people.

man standing in front of entrance to Tohono O'Odham cultural museum

Restaurants in Ajo, AZ

Ajo has a small collection of restaurants and coffee shops to satisfy your hunger pangs. There’s a strong focus on Mexican food-kind of like the rest of Arizona! 🌮

Keep in mind that many restaurants are only open on the weekends. Others may close at 6 or 7pm. So it’s always best to check opening hours of your dining choices.

Here’s a list of restaurants in Ajo, AZ:

  • Agave Grill: Casual, friendly full-service restaurant that offers a little bit of everything . . . steaks, chicken, burgers, all sorts of share-able appetizers, along with daily specials. Full Bar.
  • Ajo Farmers Market & Cafe: Simple breakfast and lunch menu focused on local ingredients. (Try the corn & tepary bean breakfast burrito 😋.) Onsite market features local farmers and food purveyors.
  • Arriba Mexican Restaurant: Full-service spot serving traditional Mexican fare on the north end of town. The red and green chile sauces are lovely. Full Bar.
  • Curley Coffee Roasters: Small cafe in the Curley School Arts Complex offering freshly roasted brews and simple pastries. Closed Monday, Tuesday.
  • Granny’s Kitchen: Down-home diner with a decidedly Mexican flair, located at the crossroads of charmingly named “Why, AZ”. Breakfast, lunch only. Good value.
  • Oasis Coffee: (Home of the multi-tasking barista!) Great place to hang out on the Plaza. All sorts of fun & fancy coffees, plus pastries and breakfast/lunch sandwiches.
  • Olsen’s Patio Cafe: Cafe adjacent to the IGA supermarket. Burgers, sandwiches & fried chicken daily, but the real draw is the Carne Asada specials on Tuesday & Thursdays. Closes by late afternoon most days, so check before going.
  • Roadrunner Java: Coffee shop and bakery on the north end of town. Open weekends only.
  • Sonoran Desert Inn: The hotel does not have a traditional restaurant on site, however they do have a fully-equipped catering kitchen and offer limited food options on a nightly basis. During our stay we enjoyed Chef Lucia’s excellent street tacos! (photo above 😊)
  • Tacos El Tarasco: Traditional Mexican fare right on the Plaza. But you’ll have to come early–they close at 6pm.

Hotels in Ajo Arizona

We recommend spending a night (or two!) in Ajo to really soak up the culture and see the sights. There are a few small hotels/motels to meet your needs and provide a good night’s sleep. Some have rooms with kitchenettes; all are equipped with fridges & microwaves. All, are locally owned and managed; it’s nice supporting the local economy by staying here 🤩.

List of Hotels in Ajo, Arizona:

  • La Siesta Motel & RV Resort: Traditional roadside motel, plus cute cabins, on the north side of town. Beautifully landscaped grounds with lots of shade and desert flowers. Several barbecue/picnic areas scattered around the property. NOTE: despite the name, they no longer accept RVs.
  • Marine Motel: Small and basic, but comfortable roadside motel on the northern end of town. A few rooms have full kitchen.
  • Sonoran Desert Inn: Courtyard rooms in a former school in the historic Curley School Arts Complex (see above), 2 blocks from the Plaza. Rooms overlook gardens and artwork. No restaurant, but hotel offers limited food options in the evenings.

NOTE: RV campers will find several options here. For a more complete list, check Ajo Arizona RV Parks.

Our recent visit to Ajo clearly demonstrated that this town was worth spending time — more than a simple drive-through on our way to somewhere else. With an intriguing mining history, colorful artsy vibe, and sprawling desert scenery, we’re glad we chose to stay a while.

We hope you do too! 😊🌵

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Inside: Where to see Arizona wildflowers in the spring-we show you 24 spots to drive, walk or hike throughout the state to see these colorful beauties!

“You belong among the wildflowers, you belong in a boat out at sea. You belong with your love on your arm, you belong somewhere you feel free.” — Tom Petty

Springtime in the Arizona desert means wildflowers–lots and lots of wildflowers. Roadsides streaked with purple scorpionweed, vivid orange globemallow peeking out from rocky soil, mango-bright poppies snuggling with prickly cactus. I actually have a photo of that last one! (see below)

Heck, even the creosote bushes are covered with tiny yellow blooms!

Doesn’t that conjure up a pretty picture? Sort of like the opening scene of “The Sound of Music,” but with an Arizona vibe. 😉

If you’re like me, and love seeing Arizona wildflowers, I’ve put together a list of 24 great places to find them. I’ve included roadways, walks and hikes. So no matter how much time (or energy) you’ve got, there should be something that’s sure to please.

Because don’t we all belong among the wildflowers?

Even a boring stretch of Interstate looks pretty when the Arizona wildflowers bloom!

Wildflowers in Central Arizona

1-4: Wildflower Drives in Central Arizona

1-US Highway 60 east of Phoenix: Head east out of the Mesa/Gilbert area on Hwy 60 towards the Arizona small town of Globe. Soon the flat valley floor will give way to rolling foothills of the Pinal Mountains. Along the way you’ll see Arizona wildflowers in most of the hilly spots. Spend some time exploring the cute shops and eateries in Globe and nearby Miami. This makes a nice day trip or weekend getaway from Phoenix.

2-AZ Highway 79 north of Florence: Florence is small town that’s a pleasant day trip from Phoenix. While this is true anytime of the year, it’s especially nice in spring, when the drive down AZ Hwy 79 puts on a colorful show featuring globemallow and poppies.

There are sporadic pullouts for taking photos, and a small parking lot for hikers (or flower peepers 🌼 👀) at Cottonwood Canyon Road.

3-Interstate 17 northbound from Phoenix: Okay, admittedly this one’s a bit of a stretch. It’s not exactly a destination for a “meandering” Sunday drive.

However, as you climb out of the Valley of the Sun there are some gorgeous saguaro-studded hills, which will typically have wildflowers nearby. Keep an eye out for tinges of purple, yellow and orange. It’ll make that drive up to Prescott or Flagstaff a little more fun.

field of california poppies in arizona

4-AZ Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) near Saguaro Lake: This road that heads northeast out of Phoenix toward Payson sports some stunning scenery any time of year, as the desert floor gradually gives way to saguaro-studded hills and eventually the trees of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The area near Saguaro Lake sports a Sonoran Desert landscape that yields up plenty of Arizona wildflowers in the spring.

5-State Route 88 (Apache Trail) between Apache Junction & Tortilla Flat: This roughly 17-mile stretch of road winds into the base of the Superstition Mountains past Canyon Lake, with plenty of petal-peeping and viewpoints along the way.

Grab one of the famous burgers at Tortilla Flat Saloon to make it the perfect spring outing.

NOTE: If you’re itching for a bit more adventure, continue on another 23 miles to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. But, caution: the remaining distance is unpaved a few miles beyond Tortilla Flat, and pretty twisty. Consider your vehicle–and your appetite for adventure–and decide accordingly.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

7-13: Central Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies
Pretty poppies–the color of the Arizona sun!

6-McDowell Sonoran Preserve: There is no shortage of terrific trails to explore in this fantastic (and vast!) park in Scottsdale. Fields of poppies, lupine and more intermingle with saguaro and prickly pear cactus in spring. More details are available at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve website.

Note: Anyone with mobility issues will enjoy the park’s Bajada Nature Trail, which is fully accessible.

7-Woods Canyon Lake: This is a great petal-peeping spot if you’re a bit of a procrastinator. (And who hasn’t been there at one time or another? 🤷‍♀️)

Because of its high altitude (7000′) along the Mongollon Rim, Arizona wildflowers bloom a bit later amid the Ponderosa Pines at Woods Canyon Lake. From late May (still spring!) through early October (definitely NOT spring!) you’ll see lupine and other floral delights along the 3.7-mile trail that circles the lake.

8-Desert Botanical Garden: If you’re looking for a “primer” on Arizona Wildflowers, the Desert Botanical Garden, just east of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is a good place to start.

Amid many other displays, the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, will show you what’s out in the, well, wild. The many helpful placards will give you a leg up on identifying those yellow and purple wonders you encounter on hikes and drives elsewhere.

Closeup of bright orange desert globemallow flower in arizona
Desert globemallow can be found along roadsides and flowering among the cacti

9. Lake Pleasant: This park straddles the Maricopa and Yavapai county line in northwest Phoenix with several nice hiking trails both along the lake and the hills surrounding it, which are filled with wildflowers in the spring.

Arizona wildflowers are especially nice along the trails above the lake; the Beardsley and Cottonwood trails are flatter and easier, while the Pipeline Canyon trail is more of a challenge.

10-Usery Mountain Regional Park: This Maricopa County park, just east of Mesa, offers up plenty of Sonoran Desert landscape just at the edge of Tonto National Forest. Springtime yields up acres of poppies, desert margold and more along the desert floor, while freshly-green ocatillo sport flame-red tips above.

ocatillo blooming at usery mountain park in arizona

11-Lost Dutchman State Park: Hike along the base of the fabulous rock formations at Lost Dutchman, where you’ll see acres of bright yellow brittlebush carpeting the spring hillsides.

NOTE: Lost Dutchman is along the Apache Trail on your way to Tortilla Flat (see “drives,” above) and makes a nice combined wildflower hike/drive combo for the day. Just sayin’ 😊.

Even scrubby creosote bushes become Arizona wildflowers in Spring!

12-Tonto National Monument: Get a lot of bang for your buck when visiting Tonto in the spring: in addition to a spectacular Native American cliff dwelling site, you’ll see plenty of beautiful flowers to boot.

Wildflowers at Tonto bloom in March and April, while the cacti put on a show in May and June.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

Southern Arizona Wildflowers

13-17: Wildflower Drives in Southern Arizona

red arizona wildflowers

13-Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak: Okay, another option that’s not exactly a leisurely outing. But let’s face it folks, that drive on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is boring! 🥱

Spotting the craggy top of Picacho Peak midway (sort-of) through that drive is one of the few interesting landmarks along the way.

In the spring, Picacho gives us another gift: a sea of yellow-orange poppies draping its base like a giant patchwork quilt. If you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses (I’m speaking metaphorically here), at least allow yourself a few glances for a brief respite from the relentless interstate.

14-State Route 86 west of Tucson: This drive passes directly through the Tohono O’Oldham nation, sports some of the most beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape out there–including a stand of the tallest, skinniest saguaros I’ve ever seen! 🌵

It is also almost 100 miles of non-stop wildflowers, including globemallow, scorpionweed and desert marigold. It’s an orange-purple-yellow extravaganza 🧡💜💛. And it makes the drive to Ajo or Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (or Rocky Point, Mexico) that much more enjoyable.

15-Mount Lemmon Highway: Mount Lemmon is famous for providing a diverse range of ecosystems as you climb 20–ish miles to its 9,000-foot peak. But you needn’t go that far to spot the Arizona wildflowers.

Pull into the Babad Do’ag scenic overlook about 2.7 miles up the mountain. There will be saguaros above and below you, with plenty of wildflowers sprinkled in among them.

NOTE: the more intrepid can hike the adjacent Babad Do’ag trail, although it gets steep fairly quickly.

16-Gates Pass: This road winds west from Tucson to carry you to the far side of the Tucson Mountains and to Saguaro National Park-West. Along the way you pass through some magnificent Sonoran Desert landscape, which in the spring pops with the color of wildflowers.

Stop at the Gates Pass Scenic Lookout, or spend more time hiking one of the trails in Tucson Mountain Park (see below).

organ pipe cactus with brittlebush at the base
Organ Pipe cactus and brittlebush living in harmony on the Ajo Mountain Loop drive

17-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: You have two ways of seeing wildflowers while driving through Organ Pipe: fast or slow.

AZ State Highway 85 offers the “fast” option. This route slices through the park’s center, carrying travelers en route to the Mexican resort town of Rocky Point. The drive is straight, with some lovely views of purple and yellow wildflowers, along with plenty of cactus (although not really many Organ Pipes).

However, we recommend taking the slow option, the 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop, which takes you deeper into the Organ Pipe’s unique landscape. Multiple stopping points allow you to get up-close and personal with the eponymous cacti, as well as the poppies, brittlebush and more that burst forth in springtime.

18-23: Southern Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

man standing in front of Organ pipe cactus and wildflowers

18-Saguaro National Park-East: The eastern portion of Saguaro National Park gets snowmelt from its location at the base of the Rincon Mountains, providing ample water for all those wildflowers to sprout up in between the cacti.

Check out some of our Favorite Tucson Hikes for more info, including an accessible nature trail suitable for everyone.

19-Saguaro National Park-West: After you’ve driven through the spectacular Gates Pass (see drives, above), continue on to the western section of this National Park.

arizona wildflowers-penstemon
Penstemon-a hummingbird favorite

Check with park rangers at the Visitor Center for the best trails for wildflower spotting during your visit. A perennial fave is the King Canyon Wash Trail, with the winter rains providing plenty of water for the wildflowers. (Rangers will alert you to any potential flooding dangers).

20-Picacho State Park: Although you can see the blanket of California poppies from I-10 (see “Drives” above), it’s worth it to just get off the darned Interstate already and see them up close.

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies

To see the flowers up-close there’s no need to climb the steep trail to the peak. The easy 0.5-mile Calloway Trail will take you to lovely overlook. Memories of this beautiful hike will be enough to sustain you through a year’s worth of dull drives up and down I-10. (Did I say that out loud? 🤭)

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

21-Catalina State Park: There are plenty of opportunities for wildflower spotting in this large park north of Tucson on hikes suited to all abilities.

The 1.0-mile Birding Trail is a great place to start, since flowers attract birds . . . and you might see some hummingbirds too!

22-Tohono Chul Gardens: There is a wide range of different themed gardens at this Tohono Chul, including some where wildflowers native to the region have been planted especially to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

For a sense of a more natural setting for Arizona wildflowers, take a stroll through the South Loop and Saguaro Discovery trails. These Tucson Gardens provide a more native Sonoran Desert habitat. Ideally, you’ll see some wildflowers growing alongside their famous crested saguaro (that’s the one that looks like it’s sporting a pompadour on top)!

Crested saguaro cactus in desert landscape
No wildflowers in this shot, but I really get a kick out of this crested saguaro at Tohono Chul

23-Tucson Mountain Park: Trails abound in vast Tucson Mountain Park for wildflower viewing. It’s location immediately south of Saguaro National Park-West means you’ll see virtually identical plant life–including wildflowers.

Access points on both the east and west side of the park-the Brown Mountain Trail offers some great views without too much climbing, as well as seeing wildflowers close-up.

(NOTE: for a nice drive through this park, see “Gates Pass Drive,” above.)

Poppies and cholla hugging it out–cute!

24-Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area: The year-round stream flowing through Sabino Canyon provides a pretty good insurance policy for seeing wildflowers in the spring.

This is especially true along the main canyon drive that parallels the stream: it’s paved, and therefore fully accessible to anyone with mobility issues.

For a more birds-eye view, consider the Phoneline Trail, which parallels the stream along the mountainside before looping back to stream level.

As you can see, there is no shortage of places to view the beautiful wildflowers of Arizona! Where will you go to see them?

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Inside: Everything you need to know to visit Montezuma Well, a stunning pool of deep water with cliff dwellings nearby Montezuma Castle.

Imagine living in the desert 1,000 years ago and stumbling on this huge pool of water at the top of a hill . . . you’d probably gasp, right?

Spoiler alert: I actually gasped myself when I first saw it last year! Montezuma Well is truly a breathtaking sight.

What is Montezuma Well?

Montezuma Well is a deep pool of water that is actually a giant sinkhole perched high atop a hill. It’s one of several Arizona National Monuments dedicated to Native American culture.

View of montezuma well surrounded by limestone and fall foliage, with cliff dwellings in upper left
View of Montezuma Well from the water level. Note cliff dwellings on upper left

The “well” was created by the collapse of an underground cave thousands of years ago, and is replenished daily by underground streams. Montezuma well is about the size of a football field and maintains a steady water level year-round.

It’s like a giant pond nestled in a hilltop nest of limestone. Add in evidence of ancient peoples, such as cliff-dwellings and water-level cave rooms, and you’ve got a site that’s truly worth seeing.

And to top it all off, its absolutely FREE!

Take the Montezuma Well Hike

Follow the 1/2-mile trail, which will take you past all the discoveries at this magical place.

Ascend a gentle 80-yard rocky slope to reach the rim of the well. Roughly 100 feet below you’ll see the serene blue water snuggled amid reeds and mesquite trees in its limestone nest. Gasp! 😲 (told you!)

View 100 feet above montezuma well from edge-with iron railing
The unexpected well as you reach the top of the hill

You can walk along the edge to view the well from multiple angles. (Note: keep toddlers in check, the railings are sturdy, but they’d be easy for little ones to squirm through.)

Exploring the Cliff Dwellings and Caves

From your rim viewpoint search for clues of prior inhabitants.

Remains of rooms tucked into the stone cliffs overlooking the well (to your left) along the rim are evidence of the native peoples who have lived here. Experts believe the Sinagua, Hohokam, Hopi, Zuni and Yavapai all used the well at one time or another over the centuries. Because of their cliffside location, this is as close as you’ll be able to get.

close up view of cliff dwellings at montezuma well
Cliff dwellings: 1000-year old condo with a water view!

Keep looking. There are more clues . . .

A small sign points toward the “Swallet Ruins.” Hmmm, not sure what a “swallet” is, but “ruins” sounds promising. Looks like it goes right down to the water’s edge.

Descend a short trail of 112 stone steps. With each step the temperature drops, delivering a cooling respite from the Arizona heat. That coolness is welcome today; for indigenous peoples centuries ago (pre-A/C!) it would have been downright miraculous.

Soon you find yourself at some small rooms carved into the limestone wall right at the water’s edge. This is awesome! It’s like you’ve just discovered some centuries-old secret hideout!

You have. You’ve found the cliff dwellings down at the water’s edge. It feels pretty safe down here. These dwellings would have kept their inhabitants cool in the summer, and protected from storms in the winter.

And you’ve also found the beginning of the swallet: the point where the water leaves the well and goes out to the nearby creek.

Hang out for a bit in these cool (literally and figuratively 😎) spaces, envisioning one of the Sinagua grinding corn or washing clothes 900 years ago. There’s something serene about these simple domestic tasks in such a unique setting.

There’s one more historic surprise waiting down here, although the culture isn’t quite so ancient, and unfortunately it’s inconsiderate. See if you can spot the 200-year-old graffiti on one of the walls.

Avoid the temptation to add your “tag” here. As the nearby placard will warn, these are still sacred sites to the native peoples, and graffiti such as this is disrespectful. (Not to mention it’s now a National Monument, and you don’t want to be “that guy” who defaces federal property.)

Completing the Montezuma Well Hike

Return back to the rim of the well and continue on the path, which will take you down toward Beaver Creek before looping back to the parking lot.

You’ll be back in the high desert landscape of grasses, mesquite and prickly pear cactus.

Along the way you will see the remains of a few more stone dwellings, this time simply built out on the open grassy plain. Compared to what you’ve just seen, these remains might seem a little . . . mundane.

Man in front of Hilltop ruins on the montezuma well hike with fall foliage in background
These hilltop ruins at Montezuma Well only hint at the wonders nearby

But it’s these remains that provided an indication that there was, perhaps, a little more going on around here. Something that said, “look a little harder, explore a little more.”

Aren’t you glad you did?

If you like archaelology and Native American Culture, be sure to check out this post:

Details about visiting Montezuma Well

You can visit Montezuma Castle and Well on the same day. Montezuma Well National Monument is a short drive (roughly 10 miles) from Montezuma Castle.

  • Admission:Montezuma Well is free (unlike the Castle, which charges a small fee).
  • Opening Hours: 8am to 4:45pm, daily. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day) Picnic area closes at 4pm.
  • Services: Picnic Area with flush toilets, water refill station. Pit toilets on the trail.

Montezuma Castle National Monument was established in 1906 as the third National Monument devoted to Native American culture. Montezuma Well was added as an annex to the Monument in 1947.

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Inside: Montezuma Castle in AZ: one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in America. Plus TWO BONUS free ancient sites nearby. So. Very. Cool! 😎

Can you imagine living in a 5-story apartment building . . . built into a CLIFF? Oh, and it was built 900 years ago!

Thats Montezuma Castle. It’s the ruins of a five-story cliff dwelling of more than two dozen rooms burrowed into a limestone cliff in central Arizona by the Sinagua People centuries ago. Can you imagine having to climb ladders to get home? Talk about a 5-story walkup! 🪜😳

You can visit Montezuma Castle National Monument as a day-trip from Phoenix, or on your way to points north, such as Sedona or the Grand Canyon. There are SO MANY reasons to visit . . . including getting access to TWO bonus parks for your admission fee!

1. See INCREDIBLE Architecture at Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle in AZ-view of cliff dwellings as seen from a distance-high up in the cliff

What, exactly, is Montezuma Castle? THIS! 👆👆👆 Pretty cool, huh?

Montezuma Castle is a 5-story, 20-room structure, built with stone and mortar. Simple enough, right? But here’s the kicker: it’s built into a cliff, nearly 100 feet above the ground. Suddenly it’s not-so-simple 🧐.

In fact, it’s pretty dang astonishing.

So, what’s the story here?

2-4. Learn about Montezuma Castle: History & People

Visiting provides incredible insight into people that lived in a prior millennium.

I mean, you can read about this stuff until your eyeballs 👀 get scratchy. But sooner or later, you just gotta see it for yourself. (And hopefully reading this blog post will make you want to do just that! 😊)

You’ll see that while in some ways the culture was primitive, in others they were remarkably sophisticated.

View of Montezuma Castle looking up through trees with fall foliage

2. Discover Who Built Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle was built by the Sinagua people. They established their culture in Arizona from AD 600 through AD 1450.

Experts theorize that the Sinagua settled here to be near Beaver Creek, which flows alongside the cliff. Experts theorize that the “castle” was built so high into the cliff to protect it from periodic flooding from the creek. No leaky basements for these guys!

View of Montezuma Castle from a distance perched high on a cliff from a
Approaching Montezuma Castle in AZ

3. Learn who discovered Montezuma Castle in AZ

Spanish settlers who arrived in the area 1500s gave the name Sinagua to the people that had come before them. The name means “without water.”

The Spaniards marveled at the magnificent structure they had built into the cliff, and arid landscape in which they had thrived. The Spaniards must’ve been scratching their heads, just like we all do! 🤔

4. Understand the name “Montezuma Castle”

Since “Montezuma” is the name of an Aztec emperor, Montezuma Castle in AZ must be connected the Aztecs . . . right? But the words “Montezuma Arizona” don’t exactly go together . . .

Spoiler alert! There is NO connection to the Aztecs. Early Spanish settlers misnamed the site. They assumed something so grand had to be associated with a regal figure like the emperor Montezuma. I suppose in the 1500s that sort of made sense. But it was a big leap . . . and an incorrect one.

Okay, chalk that one up to one of history’s great misnomers! 🤷‍♀️

5-10: Things to do AT Montezuma Castle in AZ

Once you’ve got your head around the basic history, here are some things you can do while visiting Montezuma Castle:

5. Take the Montezuma Castle Hike

Taking the Montezuma Castle hike gives you access to all that the site has to offer.

There are multiple sun shelters along the way, so you’ve got plenty of protection from the strong Arizona sunshine.

Best of all, the path is paved, and fully-accessible for anyone with mobility concerns! So everyone can experience the magnificence of Montezuma Castle in AZ.

Cartoon map of the walking trail at Montezuma Castle National Monument in AZ, including icons for the Castle and Cavate sights

6. Observe the Cliff Dwelling from Multiple Viewpoints

Stop periodically along the hike to view Montezuma Castle from different angles.

The sun will cast shadows on different parts of the structure, depending on where you’re standing.

This will help you get a more accurate 3-D picture of how intricate and sophisticated the structure really is.

7. Walk through the low-level Cliff Dwellings (Cavates)

You can walk through some of the ruins at the base of the cliff.

These low-level rooms, or “cavates,” are located at the western end of the hike, just before it begins to turn toward the river.

No one knows exactly how these were used, but many experts theorize they may have been storage rooms for grains and other living staples.

8. Study the Architectural Model of Montezuma Castle

At roughly the midpoint of the hike, you’ll find a model of Montezuma Castle in AZ in a glass case.

The model shows a cut-away version of what the castle looked like inside, and how the Sinagua people lived there.

Press the button at the front of the model to hear a short narration about life inside Montezuma Castle.

9. Take in the nature that inspired this ideal building location

There’s a reason the Sinagua chose this location: the beautiful valley with the water of Beaver Creek flowing by.

Take a few moments to stop and observe the tranquil setting and imagine someone 900 years ago coming to collect water.

Man reading placard overlooking river with trees-Montezuma Castle

10. View ancient artifacts at the Visitor Center Museum

Be sure to take some time to explore the small museum in the Visitor Center.

It’s not very large–you can view the whole thing in 10 minutes (if you’re quick!). There are several large posters and some examples of artifacts.

Spending a few minutes here will give you a better understanding of the Sinagua people, and help you appreciate Montezuma Castle in AZ even more!

Display of artifacts and placards at Montezuma Castle Visitor Center

11-15: Things to do NEAR Montezuma Castle in AZ

11. Visit Monetzuma Well (BONUS PARK #1 !!!): 10miles, 15 minutes

This crater-like “pond” is a shocking sight in the middle of the desert and an awesome bonus. Admission here is free.

Walk around the rim, where you can see cliff dwellings, then down to see the cavate structures near the water’s edge. (It’s really cool–literally–the temperature is about 10 degrees cooler down there! 😎)

12. Explore Sedona and the Red Rocks: 25 miles, 40 minutes

Montezuma Castle to Sedona is an easy drive. The magnificent red rocks of Sedona are a short drive up the road.

There you can hike to your heart’s content, shop til you drop, or find your inner Zen at one of the many yoga retreats.

(If you’re staying in Sedona, Montezuma Castle makes an excellent day trip.)

13. Tuzigoot National Monument (BONUS Park #2!!!): 22 miles, 35 minutes

For a sort-of parallel universe view of the Sinagua people, check out Tuzigoot.

This hilltop pueblo was built around the same time as Montezuma Caste, but has a very different look: less ladders, more sprawling.

Just as awesome.

And, like Montezuma Well, admission is included in your ticket to Montezuma Castle–BONUS! 🎉

Stone Ruins of Tuzigoot pueblo on a rise, with mountain in background

14. See more cave dwellings at Walnut Canyon: 63 miles, 56 minutes

This part of Arizona could be described as “cave dwelling” central.

The dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monutment were also constructed by the Sinagua people around the same time as Montezuma Castle in AZ.

Take the 1-mile-long “Island Trail,” where you can explore inside the 25 dwellings built along the edge of the mountain.

View of pine trees viewed through opening of cliff dwelling at Walnut Canyon National Monument

15. Verde Valley Archaeology Center: 5 miles, 8 minutes

If you want to place the remarkable achievement of Montezuma Castle in AZ into context of the surrounding terrain, this is the museum for you!

Verde Valley Archaelogy Center & Museum has a series of exhibits that compare & contrast the many cultures that have inhabited the region over the millinnea.

Don’t miss the Space Rocks! display, showcasing meteorites that have fallen to earth in the vicinity. 🪐☄️

Visitor information for Montezuma Castle in AZ

Sign at the entrance to Montezuma Castle National Monument
  • Where is Montezuma Castle located? Montezuma Castle is located right off Interstate 17, 94 miles north of Phoenix and 53 miles south of Flagstaff.
  • What does Montezuma Castle cost to visit? Admission to Montezuma Castle is $10 per adult, which is good for 7 days. Children aged 15 and under are free. ***This fee also covers admission to Tuzigoot National Monument.
  • When is Montezuma Castle open? Montezuma Castle is open every day from 8:00am to 4:45pm. (Note: closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Park closes at 1:45pm on Christmas Eve.)
  • When is the best time to visit Montezuma Castle? The best time to visit is spring and fall, when the weather is mild.
  • Can you go inside Montezuma Castle? No, you cannot go inside Montezuma Castle, but you can go inside the cavates at the base of the cliff, below the castle.
  • Is Monetzuma Castle worth visiting? I certainly hope you agree that the answer is YES! 👍

Want to learn more about the archaeology at Montezuma Castle? Check out this video from Arizona Project Archaeology (a state-approved educational organization). Go on . . . geek out! 🤓🤩

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