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Quite a contrast to see a history of electric vehicles perched on Route 66, a mid-century mecca for gas guzzlers

One of the more recent additions along the so-called “Mother Road” is the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum. Located in Kingman, Arizona, the museum opened in 2014. It’s billed as “the only museum in the world devoted to electric vehicles.”

It seems fitting that Route 66, the ultimate Road Trip route, should have a car museum on it. Kingman is part of the longest continuous remaining stretch in of the original Route 66. The Powerhouse complex contains multiple attractions to augment a museum visit. In addition to the auto museum, inside you’ll fine the Kingman Visitors Center, Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and Route 66 Museum.

electric race car, route 66 electric vehicle museum arizona
The electric-powered Buckeye Bullet

The birth of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum

The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum is the brainchild of Roderick Wilde. Wilde founded the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation with support from the city of Kingman. A long-time proponent of electric propulsion, Wilde started racing electric vehicles in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway. In 1995, he and his business partner Bob Rickard built what is considered the first all-electric hot rod. They fabricated the canary-yellow car, which is now in the museum, on a 1929 Ford Roadster.

Bright yellow street rod with battery engine
Looks like a classic street rod . . . until you peek under the hood

En route to the electric cars, visitors detour through the Route 66 Museum. This museum highlights the history of the historic road. View exhibits from its days as the National Old Trails Highway up through mid-century, with a 1950 Studebaker Champion parked outside a reproduction Richfield service station. The museum exits via descent into an indoor basketball court-sized space to see the electric cars. Due to the relatively tight quarters, Wilde can only display 30 cars at any one time. The museum’s has almost 100 cars in its collection. One of the goals is to find larger space to showcase the entire collection.

Light color brick powerhouse building with cars parked out front
The Powerhouse, home of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle museum; photo courtesy of Jared via Flickr

Electric Cars & a Need for Speed (sort of)

You can view both former and current electric vehicle technology at the museum.

A 1930 Detroit Electric represents “what might have been” for the future of automotive propulsion. It was powered by 14 (count em!) 6-volt Edison batteries. Thanks to all this “power,” it reached a top speed of 20 mph. Not exactly ground-breaking, but batteries were in their infancy back then. Who knows what efficiencies and technological improvements might have been achieved with greater development funding?

White Detroit Electric Antique car
Hard to believe there were electric cars 90 years ago

Flash forward about 80 years. Ohio State University students built the Buckeye Bullet 2.5 racecar (also on display). Because it was powered by lithium-ion batteries, the the car could go much faster than than it’s ancestor from the 1930s. The Buckeye Bullet zipped up to a staggering 320 mph (!) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011.

Sleek electric race car, route 66 electric vehicle museum arizona
Not hard to believe this beauty can reach speeds of over 300 mph!

Not so speedy, but they work . . .

Because electric vehicles represent an alternate energy source, they’ve taken a few detours finding practical application.

One of Wilde’s favorite pieces in the collection is the Custer Chair, manufactured between 1919 and 1933. As the name implies, it resembles a motorized tricycle version of a wheelchair. Since few survived World War II scrap metal drives, the model on display here is a rarity.

Luzern Custer developed the Custer Chair. His friend and business neighbor in Dayton, Ohio–Orville Wright–inspired his invention. Custer also produced four-wheel versions of the chair. Because of its diminutive size, Wilde describes the Custer as “the smallest street-licensed vehicle ever made. The license plate is wider than the front of the car!” Not surprisingly, many Custers were later sold as amusement park rides.

A rare example of a Custer Chair

Not so speedy . . . but they’re fun!

You can find many electric vehicles out and about . . . if you know where to look. Due to their small batteries and low speeds, the majority are golf carts. Here, they are represented in style with two tricked-out versions from country music greats: Waylon & Willie. Willie Nelson’s 1981 Rolls-Royce themed golf cart comes complete with an on-board wet bar. And why wouldn’t you stitch “Willie” on the crushed velvet seats? Sitting right alongside it, Waylon Jennings’ Mercedes-Benz-themed model seems almost tame by comparison.

Red golf cart with Rolls Royce front grille
Willie’s “Rolls” & Waylon’s “Benz” electric golf carts

Electric cars on Route 66

But the museum is much more than one-off race cars and quirky golf carts. If you follow the automotive industry you know that electric vehicles are very much the wave of the future. The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum gives us a glimpse into cars that paved the way for today’s Teslas, Chevy Volts and the like.

In 1959 and 1960 Henney Motor Company produced the Henney Kilowatt. US-based Henney Motor Company built the cars using Renault Daphine bodies. Henney delivered a few dozen Kilowatts were to utility companies for promotional purposes, but the line never sparked much interest. Despite low-wattage sales, its transistor-based electric technology was a precursor to electric vehicles like GM’s EV1.

Henney Kilowatt electric car at the museum on route 66
The midcentury Henney Kilowatt

Fun Fact: Henney Motor Company invented first electric-powered casket mover—a niche market it there ever was one.

Moving up to the 1990s, we can see two odd-looking cars that demonstrate the evolution of the three-wheeled Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV). A Danish 1993 Citycom City El Targa had a range of 30 miles with a top speed of 35 mph. Corbin produced the turquoise Sparrow sitting next to it Ohio from 1999 through 2003. With an MSRP of $29,999 its range expanded to 40 miles with a top speed of 70 mph. Due to its sinewy lines, it earned the nickname the “Jelly Bean.”

Electric cars at the route 66 electric vehicle museum
A pretty lil’ turquoise Corbin Sparrow, with a red City El Targa just beyond

What’s next . . .

The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum explores the possibilities of electric propulsion for the future. As recent announcements from the Big 3 automakers show, “Detroit” and “Electric” can once again be uttered in the same sentence. Tesla continues to make progress, and the technology appears to finally be emerging from its former role as a quirky sidecar to the mainstream automotive industry. The industry’s eccentric forbears warrant a visit.

After your visit, stroll across the Mother Road to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. The retro café has a few classics parked out front, including a wedge-shaped electric circa 1980 Comuta-Car and a decidedly non-electric 1954 Chevy pickup truck.

old chevy pickup, bright blue, with funny electric car in background
The “Tow Mater”-like chevy pickup is definitely NOT electric!

If you’re hankering to see more of Route 66, check out our Route 66 in Arizona post! And if you really love classic cars, check out our Road Trip Through Arizona post, where we showcase classic cars “in the wild”!

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Everyone talks about how great it is to drive Route 66, but what about the details: what to see, where to stay, and which direction to drive?

There is no more iconic road in America than Route 66. To experience the best that the “Mother Road” has to offer, take a road trip on Route 66 in Arizona. Here, the 300-mile drive offers most of what makes this travel back in time so memorable. You’ll see National Parks like the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Wayside villages that seem lost in time have Route 66 running right through them. Ruins of abandoned sights from yesteryear and sterling desert scenery that pop out at every turn. Best of all, it’s under that cerulean blue high desert sky. You can even take a side trip to a giant hole in the ground known as the Grand Canyon. 😉

Best way to travel Route 66 in Arizona

map showing route 66 in Arizona with a blue line

The rise of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s obliterated many classic old U.S. highways and Route 66 is no exception. These days Interstate 40 is now the main east/west transit way across northern Arizona. Despite this, traces of the old road still exist. Therefore, it’s still possible to cobble together a ride that would reenact cruising along Route 66 in Arizona in the pre-superhighway era.

There are many miles where I-40 actually overlays the original Route 66 in Arizona. Typically, this is in wide-open stretches where there isn’t much to see beyond Arizona’s wide open skies. Old Route 66 detours are generally near towns or other points of interest. Because of the combination of 21st century highway and old US route, you have the benefit of motoring through the desert and slowing down for the interesting bits. In short, a perfect Arizona road trip! 😃

Green road sign showing directions to Payson and Winslow Arizona

Although you can make this journey in either direction, we recommend traveling from east to west. By doing this, you’re traveling in the footsteps (or tire treads) of the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl in Depression-era America. Imagine encountering the harsh landscape when they set their weary eyes on the Arizona desert for the first time. It must have looked like the parched land they were fleeing. Fortunately, we modern day travelers can glide along in air-conditioned comfort to experience one of America’s most iconic road trips.

And if you really want to get into the road trip spirit, be sure to check out our recommendations for hotels on route 66 in Arizona. They’re all super-atmospheric, either mid-century motels, historic properties, or contemporary hotels that have taken the “route 66 in Arizona” theme seriously. Check them out, and get your kicks!


Visiting the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

Rusted out antique car in desert

About 50 miles west of the New Mexico border you’ll come to Petrified Forest National Park (I-40 exit 311). The park is smack-dab in the middle of the Painted Desert. Polychromatic layers of red, yellow, purple, green, and grey sand in the Painted Desert. Formed more than 200 million years ago, these colorful striations reveal the history of the formation of the earth. A section of the Painted Desert is conveniently located right in the Petrified Forest National Park. Here, nature lovers are awed by psychedelically colored mineralized logs that looks like tie dye t-shirts turned to stone. They are the remnants of an ancient forest of tall conifers dating from when dinosaurs rumbled through the area.

Rust-colored petrified log lying amid gray stones

Sleep in a Tepee on Route 66 in Arizona

Paint peeling on "Sleep in a Wigwam" sign with concrete teepee in background route 66 in Arizona

After a day of exploring the outdoors, lay your head down at a rare vestige of mid-century Route 66 travel: The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook that’s located on the old Route 66 (now known as West Hopi Drive/Route 40). Built in 1950, travelers sleep in 28-foot-tall fully furnished concrete teepees with classic cars parked outside each one. It’s a unique experience that hearkens back to early American road trips. (Yes, despite the name of the motel, they are teepees, not wigwams.)

antique cars in front of kitschy teepee motel rooms route 66 holbrook arizona

At dusk, cruise slowly along the main drag of Holbrook to view surviving vintage neon signs as they flicker to life for the night, providing a spectral glow to the streetscape. One of those signs is a pulsing beacon for the Roxy Theater, opened in 1954 it’s the only operating movie theater along Route 66 in Arizona so you can even take in a film. Stop in for a some Mexican & American Food at Joe & Aggie’s Cafe. Pink and neon outside, wood-paneled inside, this mid-century spot is perfect for a burger . . . or huevos rancheros . . .or both! 😋

Joe and Aggie's Mexican Cafe

Winslow: Standin’ on a Corner

Route 66 sign on roadbed, Winslow Arizona

For the town of Winslow, Arizona, Route 66 connections are serious. The town has painted giant route markers on the main street. Here you’ll find an intersection made famous in the Eagles’ hit song Take it Easy. Jackson Browne penned the famous line: “Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see.” The town commemorated this lyric with a statue of a folk singer representing Browne. (And recently added a statue of the late Eagles singer Glenn Frey.) They are staring at “a girl, my lord” in an actual flame-red 1960 Ford flatbed pickup truck.

Statue of folk singer with front of ford pickup in foreground, Winslow Arizona route 66

One block east of the intersection is a relic of old Route 66 in Arizona, the La Posada Hotel. For a true trip back in time stop in for either a meal or for the night. Designed by Mary Colter, the Fred Harvey Company built the hotel in 1930. Many credit The Harvey Company with civilizing the rough-and-tumble American southwest. Art galleries throughout the building are open to the public and range from traditional southwestern motifs to the truly bizarre.

The elegant La Posada Hotel in Winslow; photo courtesy DesignsbyKari via Flickr

Arizona Route 66 Attractions

Thirty-five miles west of Winslow you’ll come across a poignant reminder of the hopes and dreams both travelers and those who served them on Route 66 in Arizona. Two giant 25-foot long yellow arrows with red arrowheads and feathers are thrust into the ground at a sixty-degree angle, marking the ruins of the old Twin Arrows Trading Post. Only the abandoned, graffiti-scarred buildings remain of this former business that attracted generations of road weary travelers.

On this section of the road Humphreys Peak a constant marker off to the north. At 12,633 feet it’s the highest point in Arizona and is snow-capped for much of the year.


Flagstaff: a Route 66 road trip midpoint

Tudor-style train station building along railroad tracks

The next major town, Flagstaff, is the halfway point of a Route 66 road trip in Arizona. Stroll around the old Western town, which has a cool Victorian vibe. Be mindful that you are now at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation and may feel the effects. Be sure to visit the Flagstaff Visitor Center, which also has a terrific Route 66 gift shop. It’s located in the old train station along Route 66 just south of town. Trains still pass by just outside, you’ll definitely hear the “toot, TOOT!” 🚂

Orange freight train engines alongside teal streetlamps

In 2001, Flagstaff became the first International Dark Sky Place, providing stargazers with incredible sights. Head over to the Lowell Observatory, where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, for nighttime constellation tours.

For nightlife of another kind, the Museum Club on the eastern approach to Flagstaff has been a honky tonk bar offering up country music fare—Willie Nelson and Wanda Jackson have performed here—since the 1930s. Two step through the giant inverted forked ponderosa marking the entryway and enter a décor festooned with wagon wheels, animal trophy heads and Native American artifacts, all underneath a wooden ceiling supported by tree trunks that are so large you can’t even hug them. 


Williams: Old-School Arizona (& gateway to the Grand Canyon)

For a classic road trip stop along Route66, Willams, Arizona fits the bill. The town, also known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, has some great Old route 66 attractions on its own. For a “good old American steak dinner,” head to the circa 1946 Rod’s Steak House. Look for the building with the large steer perched on top. The interior is so old school you’ll be forgiven for thinking you left your ’57 Chevy out in the parking lot.

building with statue of cow in front

Seligman Arizona: Route 66 starts here

No trip along Route 66 in Arizona would be complete without passing through Seligman. There’s nary a stoplight in this town that got bypassed by the interstate, but it’s well worth a stop anyway. Seligman is known as “the birthplace of Historic Route 66” due tohistoric preservation efforts by local barber Angel Delgadillo. Along with other local residents, he spearheaded efforts to have the road declared a historic highway by the state of Arizona. Along with some awesomely retro motels and memorabilia shops, there are some wonderful old cars scattered around. (Seligman is said to be the inspiration for the fictional town of Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.) You might even get to meet Tow Mater!

Tow Mater look-alike (or inspiration!) in Seligman, AZ. Photo courtesy of Scott Blackwell via Flickr

Route 66 Kingman, Arizona: Classic cars & museums

End your Route 66 in Arizona journey just 30 miles from the California border with a stay in Kingman, a town that’s part of the longest continuous remaining stretch of the original Route 66. The 1907 brick Powerhouse Building contains multiple attractions to augment a Route 66 journey with the Kingman Visitors Center, Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, Route 66 Museum, and Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum.

Red and blue neon sign stating “route 66 museum”

The Route 66 Museum highlights the historic road, from the early days of the National Old Trails Road up through mid-century, with a 1950 Studebaker Champion parked outside a reproduction Richfield service station.

After your visit, stroll across the Mother Road to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. The retro café has a few classic cars parked out front, including a wedge-shaped electric circa 1980 Comuta-Car and a decidedly non-electric 1954 Chevy pickup truck.

Old diner with antique pickup truck in front

For one last touch of the Arizona portion of historic Route 66, spend the night at the El Trovatore Motel. Welcoming guests since 1939, you can’t miss the “El Trovatore” neon sign that soars 100-feet in the air like a large radio tower marking the place. Take a look at the 200-foot-long Route 66 map (billed as the world’s longest) painted on the outside of the building and review all the places you’ve visited. It’s nice to know that in the modern era of the Internet and selfie sticks, intrepid travelers can still embark on a classic Route 66 road trip.

At this point you’ve finished the easily-navigated portion of Route 66 in Arizona, and you have a few options: head north to Las Vegas, continue west toward California on Interstate 40, or white-knuckle it to Oatman to see the donkeys. If you choose the last option, read on oh brave soul . . .

Taking the Route 66 By-way from Kingman to Oatman, AZ . . .if you dare!

The sign for this segment of Historic Route 66 in Arizona looks harmless enough

(WARNING: This drive is not for the faint-of-heart!) The final segment of Route 66 in Arizona goes between Kingman and the California border, passing through a mountain pass and the old mining community of Oatman. This 48-mile segment is an awesome drive, but it’s very steep and crooked, with some scary drops 😱!

Vehicles over 40 feet are prohibited, so RVs will have to take the Interstate.

You might be saying “guardrails? What guardrails???” as you climb a series of switchbacks to Sitgreaves Pass at 3,500 feet. The speed limit is 15 mph, and believe me, you won’t be tempted to go any faster! Another 3-4 miles on the downward slope (still biting your nails!) and you’ll reach the town of Oatman.

Not exactly “guardrails” along Historic Route 66 on the way to Oatman, Arizona

Oatman is a former mining town that’s now a kind of funky, touristy backwater. There are a few cafes, gift shops, and historic displays, making it a nice stop to let your heart rate return to normal after that drive.

For a fun photo-op, snap one of the “wild” donkeys roaming the streets. Legend has it that these critters are descendants of the donkeys that once worked the mine. The remaining 20-ish mile drive to the California border is wide and relatively flat–practically a walk in the park after passing through the mountains!

One of the “citizens” of Oatman, Arizona

But as you ease westward, give a thought to those intrepid travelers of the 1930s and 40s, when this was the only route west in this part of the country. And those cars all had manual transmissions. Yikes!


Bonus: How to Find the Original Historic Route 66 in Arizona

While much of the original Route 66 in Arizona was covered over by Interstate 40, there are still remnants of the original road that snake around back country rock formations and canyons and through old towns that were bypassed by the modern highway. In fact, in-town sections of the route often reveal the most highlights from the old days. To find the original Route 66 we recommend the Route 66: EZ Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. This spiral-bound book provides detailed drawing and descriptions of the multiple routes of historic Route 66 while pointing out all the sights of interest along the way.

This road trip on Route 66 in Arizona is only one of many great itineraries you can explore. For more ideas, check our complete list of Arizona road trips–you can mix and match them to make up your own perfect trip!

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INSIDE: There are over 30 Arizona National Parks and Monuments, ranging from magnificent natural wonders to ancient historic sights. Find your favorite here.

With so many National Parks in Arizona, it can be overwhelming when trying to plan a visit. This list breaks it down so you can choose the best sights for your interests.

A wide array of Arizona National Parks and Monuments greet visitors throughout the state. The parks range from magnificent natural wonders to ancient historic sights. Therefore, there’s something for everyone. For example, there are sites of outstanding natural beauty, indigenous culture, and American history. Here’s our list of over 30 national sites to visit in Arizona.

The Grand Canyon gets most of the attention (and visitors)⏤but you probably know that already! However, take some time to discover the many other wonderful national sites in the state. The result will be worth it! These 30+ sites are scattered throughout the state. Because of this, you’re never far away from a national park or monument during your Arizona vacation.

NOTE: You can use the table of contents below to jump directly to your site of interest. Or scroll through the list to browse the many Arizona National Parks and Monuments throughout the state.

How many national parks are there in Arizona?

There are 3 National Parks in Arizona: Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro. There is 1 National Historical Park: Tumacacori. In total there are 31 sites in Arizona with some type of “national” designation that are managed by the National Park Service and/or the Bureau of Land Management, or a combination of local authorities. The remainder of the sites are either National Monuments, National Historic Sites or National Recreation areas.

1-Agua Fria National Monument

Petroglyphs of animals on rocks, mountains in background
Petroglyphs at Agua Fria National Monument; photo courtesy BLM

Agua Fria is a large preserved area of mesa along with the canyon of the Agua Fria River. Additionally, the visitors can explore the stone masonry remains of Pueblo la Plata, a prehistoric site. The 70,000-acre monument spans elevations from roughly 2,100 to 4,600 feet. This means there is a wide variation in wildlife and vegetation, including the famous saguaro cactus at the lower altitudes.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 40 miles north of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Historic Ruins, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Hunting, Camping
  • Facilities & Services: None, bring all supplies
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • More information: Agua Fria National Monument

2-Arizona National Scenic Trail

Cactus blooming with mountains in background
Arizona National Scenic Trail; photo courtesy NPS

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is over 800 miles long and runs from the Mexican border to the Utah state line. The Arizona Trail is divided into 43 passages, you can explore as much or as little of it as you like. (You don’t have to do all 800 miles . . . but you can if you’d like). The trail begins in the south with the Huachuca Mountains. It ends in Northern Arizona at Buckskin Mountain Passage. The trail passes through (or near) many Arizona National Parks and Monuments. Similarly, you’ll also get to explore as well as some National Forest land.

  • Location: Passes roughly through the center of the state, running 800 miles from North to South
  • Reason to visit: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding
  • Facilities & Services: None, bring all supplies
  • Managed by: National Forest Service (NFS), in conjunction with agencies who manage the territories that the trail passes through.
  • More information: Arizona Trail Association

3-Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly with riverbed and trees
Canyon de Chelly National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Canyon de Chelly is a special place. The monument encompasses a magnificent red rock canyon that has been inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years (yes, five thousand!). This is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that is fully contained within the Navajo Nation reservation. Due to this unusual configuration, 40 families still live within the park’s boundaries even today. Drives with multiple lookout points (many of which are wheelchair accessible) provide a peek into this special place. Hikes into the canyon must be accompanied by either a Park Ranger or Navajo Guide.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 100 miles southwest of Four Corners
  • Reason to visit: Scenic drives, hiking (guided), Navajo and ancient Pueblo culture
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, Guided tours, Accessible paths
  • Managed by: National Park Service & the Navajo Nation
  • More information: Canyon de Chelly

4-Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Great House ruins with canopy
The Great House at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Casa Grande is a collection of ruins from an ancient farming community of Sonoran Desert Peoples. The ruins date from the mid 1400s. Because little documentation regarding the structures exist, its overall purpose is still a mystery. But the extensive ruins make a fascinating visit.

Due to its location midway between Phoenix and Tucson, its one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that makes a nice detour while traveling between those two cities.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Tour ancient ruins
  • Facilities & Services: Guided tours, gift shop, picnic grounds
  • Managed by: National Park Service (NPS)
  • More information: Casa Grande Ruins

5-Chiricahua National Monument

Rhyolyte rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument
Some of the giant rock “needles” at Chiricahua National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

If you love rocks, Chiricahua is your kind of place. Nearly 27 million years ago the nearby Turkey creek volcano erupted. As a result, this valley is filled with towering “rock needles.” These giant rock towers look like giants were playing with building blocks 27 million years ago. The nearly 12,000-acre park has 17 miles of hiking trails and an 8-mile paved scenic drive. Because of its location in an avian flyway, Chiricahua is also terrific for birding.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 120 miles southeast of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Ancient rock formations, hiking, camping, birding
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms and drinking water; camping at Bonito Canyon
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Chiricahua National Monument

6-Coronado National Memorial

Desert beauty at Coronado National Memorial; photo by Dave Bly, courtesy NPS

Coronado National Memorial offers a glimpse into two things: first, the history of the region. Secondly, Coronado showcases the area’s natural beauty. Many scholars believe that the Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542 passed through this region alongside the Mexican border. A visitor center explores the lasting impacts on the culture of northwest Mexico and the southwestern United States.

The park is also a nature lover’s paradise. The area incorporates four distinct ecological zones: Sierra Madre, Chihuahua Desert, Rocky Mountain, and Sonoran Desert. The flora and fauna are represented in the park’s diverse landscape. Explore hiking trails through oak woodands, piñon-juniper, grasslands, and riparian corridors. Spelunkers will love the natural limestone cave, while drivers will appreciate the sweeping vistas from Coronado Peak.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 90 miles southeast of Tucson, along the Mexican border.
  • Reason to visit: Cultural history, hiking, birding, cave exploring.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms and drinking water.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Coronado National Memorial

7-Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Ruins of Fort Bowie
Fort Bowie National Historic Site; photo courtesy NPS

Fort Bowie and Apache Pass was the site of nearly 25 years of conflict between the Chiricahua Apache and the US Army in the late 1800s. Learn about this turbulent history at the visitor center and nearby graveyard and fort ruins.

NOTE: For most visitors, the visitor center and ruins are only accessible via a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area at the trailhead. Consequently, visitors requiring ADA access can drive to the site by prior arrangement with the Park Service. See driving access to Fort Bowie for more information.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 120 miles east of Tucson.
  • Reason to visit: Native American and Old West history.
  • Facilities & Services: Interpretive visitor center, restrooms.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Fort Bowie

8-Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Horseshoe Bend
Famous Horseshoe Bend at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; Photo by Brent and Dawn Davis, courtesy NPS

Glen Canyon is a massive 1.25 million–acre (yes million!) park that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah. The majority of the park is in Utah, however the main entrance is in Arizona, near the town of Page. From here you can visit Glen Canyon Dam. This engineering marvel damming the Colorado River creates Lake Powell to the north, where you can enjoy water sports aplenty.

Those looking for a terrific photo op can visit the now-famous Horseshoe Bend at the southern end of Glen Canyon. But there are other wonderful things to see and do in this vast recreation area, such as visiting the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook (for views similar to Horseshoe Bend with less crowds), and the soothing greenery on the Hanging Gardens Trail.

  • Location: Northern Arizona (near the Utah state line), about 275 miles north of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Water sports, hiking, stunning scenery, tour Glen Canyon Dam.
  • Facilities & Services: Multiple visitor centers, gift shops, restrooms, water, campsites, ADA accessible trails.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

9-Grand Canyon National Park

Long distance view of the Grand Canyon
The view from Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon National Park; photo courtesy NPS

The Grand Canyon is “the Big Kahuna” of Arizona National Parks and Monuments. And for good reason: it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. [Full disclosure: this is the only place I’ve ever been that actually left me speechless. I couldn’t get over the vast beauty of it. I’m not sure which amazed my husband more, the grandeur of the scenery, or my inablity to talk. 😆]

The park encompasses over 1,900 square miles of land, including its namesake canyon. The Grand Canyon itself averages 1 mile DEEP, following 277 miles of the Colorado River. In some spots it’s almost 18 miles wide. No wonder they call it “Grand”!

The Grand Canyon is one of Arizona’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming approximately 6 million visitors per year. As a result, there are extensive facilities, including several options for lodging in Grand Canyon National Park. (Be sure to reserve early, as these get booked, especially during the summer.) Consider visiting the Grand Canyon in November, when the weather is still mild and the summer crowds have gone.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, about 225 miles north of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery, hiking, cycling, rafting, scenic drives, camping.
  • Facilities & Services: Multiple visitor centers, gift shops, restrooms, water, hotels/lodges, campsites, ADA accessible trails.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Grand Canyon National Park

10-Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument is unique among Arizona National Parks and Monuments. It is located within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation. One of the largest known ancient Hohokam villages, Snaketown, is located there. Excavations have revealed that the area was inhabited from about 300 B.C. to 1,200 A.D, and include the largest scientifically excavated collection of whole artifacts from the Hohokam Culture are.

In order to protect the fragile site, the Gila River Indian Community has closed the Snaketown site to visitors. However, many of the magnificent artifacts are on display at the nearby Huhugam Heritage Center. Visit to see elaborately decorated whole pots, stone bowls, and bone artifacts, and to learn more about the Hohokam culture.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 20 miles south of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Large display of ancient Hohokam artifacts, learn about ancient culture.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center/museum, restrooms.
  • Managed by: Gila River Indian Community
  • More information: Hohokam Pima National Monument and Huhugam Heritage Center

11-Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Old trading post building, Hubbell Trading Post
Historic Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site; photo courtesy NPS

Hubbell Trading Post is unique among national historic sites: it is still active! The post was founded in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell as a place where local Navajo peoples could trade their wares for household goods. Hubbell operated several posts throughout the region, however this was his home.

Today Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest continuously operating trading post in the southwest. Visitors can shop for Native American arts and crafts, and even watch some Navajo weavers creating their masterpiece rugs. Tours of the historic family home and farm are available, and there are picnic grounds on site. *NOTE: Hubbell Trading Post is located on Navajo Nation lands, which observes Daylight Savings Time (unlike the state of Arizona).

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 150 miles northeast of Flagstaff.
  • Reason to visit: Historic “shopping” experience, Native American arts and crafts, historic homestead.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, Active trading post with crafts, gifts, snacks, picnic area, restrooms.
  • Managed by: Western National Parks Association
  • More information: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

12-Ironwood Forest National Monument

Petroglyphs in desert, Ironwood National Monument
Petroglyphs in the desert at Ironwood National Monument; photo by Bob Wick, courtesy BLM

Ironwood is for those who like their parks and scenery “raw and uncut.” This massive (129,000 acres) site contains no facilities or services. As a result, be prepared to bring whatever you need.

 Most importantly, humans have inhabited the area for more than 5,000 years. For those who like a little ancient culture mixed in with their wildlife, Ironwood Forest National Monument has three areas of archaeological interest. The Los Robles Archeological District, the Mission of Santa Ana del Chiquiburitac and the Cocoraque Butte Archaeological District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 25 miles northwest of Tucson.
  • Reason to visit: Wildlife, native plants, petroglyphs, archaeological sites, hunting, camping.
  • Facilities & Services: None. Bring all supplies.
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • More information: Ironwood Forest National Monument

13-Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Men in historic dress in desert with saguaro cactus
Hiking and history on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail; photo by Bob Wick, courtesy BLM

In 1776, Spanish Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led more than 240 men, women, and children from New Spain (now Mexico) through Arizona to establish a settlement in California. The 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail follows the route of the first colonists to travel overland through the southwest to establish San Francisco.

Beginning in Nogales, Arizona, the trail travels approximately 350 miles through southwestern Arizona. After that, it turns north in California. The trail passes through several important historical sites along the way, including Casa Grande and Tumacacori (see below). Following this trail is an excellent way to see several historic sites in context; as a result, you can connect events of the past.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona, from Nogales, north through Tucson to Phoenix, then west to Yuma.
  • Reason to visit: Follow the trail of an historic expedition, see multiple historic sites.
  • Facilities & Services: Marked autoroute; detailed maps of each county the trail passes through
  • Managed by: National Park Service, in conjunction with local agencies and organizations at sites along the way.
  • More information: Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

14-Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Marina at Lake Mead
Boating in the desert at Lake Mead National Recreation Area; photo courtesy NPS

Lake Mead National Recreation Area straddles the Arizona and Nevada borders along the Colorado River. It was the first National Recreation Area created by the National Park Service, and it is HUUUUGE! The area encompasses 1.5 million (yep, MILLION) acres of both land and water. It is also the site of the famous Hoover Dam.

Of all the Arizona national parks and monuments, this is the one that probably has the most water. The area includes mountains, valleys, canyons, wilderness areas, and two large lakes (Lake Mead and Lake Mojave). Because of the lakes, this recreation area is terrific for boating and fishing, as well as camping and hiking and exploring. It also makes a great base for exploring much of northern Arizona, including the Grand Canyon.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona (the corner bordering Nevada)
  • Reason to visit: Boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, hunting
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, multiple campgrounds (both tent and camper), boat ramps, marinas, food and fuel services, shops (both gifts and provisions)
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Lake Mead National Recreation Area

15-Montezuma Castle National Monument

Cliff dwellin at Montezuma Castle National Monumnet
The massive cliff dwelling at Montezuma Castle National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Montezuma Castle is one of the largest ancient cliff dwellings in the country. The structure was built by the Sinagua people over 600 years ago. It’s a massive 40-50 room “apartment complex” carved out of a rock face. The structure is fragile, consequently, in order to preserve the structure, visitors cannot climb into the dwelling. However, it’s still astounding to view it from the valley floor.

You can visit an additional cliff dwelling site is located about 11 miles north of the “castle.” Known as Montezuma Well, this structure is not as large as Montezuma Castle. However, the smaller size allows you to view the structure from a closer vantage point. Take this shady hike; it makes a nice change from much of Arizona’s desert landscape.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 90 miles north of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient culture and architecture.
  • Facilities & Services: Montezuma Castle has a Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, along with picnic grounds. Montezuma Well has picnic grounds and pit toilets.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Montezuma Castle National Monument

16-Navajo National Monument

Cliff dwellings, Navajo National Monument
Majestic cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Navajo National Monument offers visitors the opportunity to see ancient cliff dwellings amidst spectacular desert sandstone scenery. Three distinct cliff dwelling sites that date to the 1300s are housed within the monument grounds. Two sites (Betatakin and Keet Seel) are available to visit. This is one of the Arizona national Parks and monuments contained within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, offering an excellent opportunity to seek out some Native American Frybread for a meal or snack.

Self-guided trails provide a tour of the canyon and an overlook of the Betatakin cliff dwellings. Those interested in seeing cliff dwelling sites up-close must sign up for a ranger-guided tour. Tours to Betatakin involve 3-5 hours hiking over steep terrain. Keet Seel is more remote: tours are by reservation only, and involve a 17-mile round trip hike. Camping is available near the trailhead. More information is available at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 140 miles northeast of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient culture and architecture.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings, camping.
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Navajo National Monument

17-Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail

Dry riverbed in Virgin River Canyon, Old Spanish Trail, Arizona
Virgin River Canyon along Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail; photo courtesy NPS

The Old Spanish Trail commemorates the trading route that connected goods and people between Mexico and the fledgling United States. The trail begins in Santa Fe, New Mexico and splits into a few branches through Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada before rejoining near Los Angeles, California. Due to its connection with other states, the branch of the trail in Arizona ambles very near the state’s northern border with Utah.

Following the Trail is an excellent way to string together several Arizona National Parks and Monuments in the southwest since it connects multiple sites. Use this interactive map of Arizona sights on the Old Spanish Trail to help plan your route through this historic and scenic countryside.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah
  • Reason to visit: Follow historic trade route, connect multiple Arizona National Parks and Monuments and parks
  • Facilities & Services: Distinctive National Trail Signage; see related listings for facilities at sites along the Trail
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Old Spanish National Historic Trail

18-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe cactus silhouette in sunset
Sunset at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

The magnificent cacti of the Sonoran Desert are on spectacular display at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. There are 516 square miles of territory to explore the flora and fauna of this unique landscape, which has been designated and International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Because of this Biosphere designation, it’s a popular spot for birding as well as spotting other types of wildlife and desert plants, including a gorgeous display of Arizona wildflowers in Spring. There are also some remains of abandoned mines and ancient cultures that are accessible via hiking trails.

This is an excellent park to visit if you’d like a fair amount of land to yourself. Organ Pipe has a similar landscape to Saguaro National Park near Tucson, yet gets only 1/4 the number of visitors annually. No matter what level of “outdoorsy” you are, Organ Pipe National Monument has you covered. Since this is such a vast park, there are scenic drives, hiking trails and spots for both RV and tent camping.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona, about 125 miles west of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Explore a the unique ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert, hiking, camping, horseback riding
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with displays, bookstore, restrooms; scenic drives, hiking trails, RV and tent campsites, backcountry camping
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

19-Parashant National Monument (Grand Canyon)

SUV in desert at Parashant National Monument
Four-wheelin’ at Parashant National Monument; Photo by M. Draper, courtesy NPS

Parashant National Monument is one of several Arizona National Parks and Monuments located in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. This is a terrific destination for those who love the rough and rugged outdoors amid stunning scenery. The million square miles that make up Parashant border the northern boundary of the Grand Canyon in the extreme northwest corner of Arizona. Although the monument is in Arizona, there are entrances from Nevada and Utah. Due to its location north of the Grand Canyon, the information center located in St. George, Utah.

NOTE: There are no paved roads in Parashant. Most roads that do exist require a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. Check here for a list of scenic drives at Parashant National Monument, which includes descriptions of vehicle requirments.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah and Nevada
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery, very few people, off-roading, backcountry camping
  • Facilities & Services: No services within the monument boundaries. There is an information center in St. George, Utah
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Parashant National Monument

20-Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified tree trunks in foreground, with badlands peak in background
Petrified Forest National Park; photo by T. Scott Williams, courtesy NPS

Anyone taking a road trip through Arizona along historic Route 66 should plan to explore a few Arizona National Parks and Monuments. Petrified Forest National Park is probably the the most convenient. The park is super-easy to access: it straddles Interstate 40, and there’s an exit right into the park! Route 66 and I-40 are combined along this stretch, so if you’re road-tripping Route 66, you will literally pass through the park on our drive.

Sure, you can come here to see the petrified logs that made the park famous. But there’s also a lot more to see here. Petrified Forest National Park is full of badlands, buttes and mesas that contain ancient petroglyphs, fossils, wildlife and wildflowers. If you only have an hour or so, you can see some spectacular view from your car, with a few stops at overlooks. Stretch your road-trip legs by walking one of the short maintained trails. Or hike into the backcountry along for some desert solitude one of the “Off the Beaten Path” routes.

PRO TIP: Petrified Forest National Park is pet-friendly, and gives your fur babies a chance to get some exercise too!

  • Location: Eastern Arizona, along Interstate 40, about 125 miles east of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Startling “other-worldly” landscape, hiking, biking, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center (2), with museum, gift shop, snacks, restrooms; hiking trails, pet-friendly
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Petrified Forest National Park

21-Pipe Spring National Monument

Stone homestead of Pipe Spring National Monument
The Mormon homestead at Pipe Spring National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Life was tough for travelers passing through the high desert in the 1800s. Temperatures were extreme and water was scarce. Therefore, when Mormon settlers discovered the fresh water oasis at Pipe Spring, they knew it was something special. Native Americans (the Kaibab Paiute) had been using the oasis for hundreds of years already. As you can imagine, the arrival of the newcomers caused some conflict.

Today, you can get a glimpse into oasis life at Pipe Spring National Monument. This is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that offers live demonstrations. Tour the historic Mormon homestead and (still working!) farm. You can purchase heirloom fruits and vegetables in season, which also includes Native American corn, beans and melons.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona, near the Utah border
  • Reason to visit: Visit historic spring and ranch site; learn about Native American and Mormon cultures
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center with museum, bookstore, restrooms; historic ranch with animals, fresh heirloom fruits and vegetables (in season)
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Pipe Spring National Monument

22-Saguaro National Park

Multiple Saguaro cactus in the late afternoon sun, with mountains in the background, one of many Arizona National Parks and Monuments

There is probably no plant more associated with the American Southwest than the giant Saguaro cactus. You can find these magnificent spiny structures growing at specific altitudes throughout southern Arizona. See these beauties, along with cholla, ocatillo, prickly pear, and other desert wildlife at Saguaro National Park.

The park is unique among Arizona National Parks and Monuments in that it is divided into an East and West section, with the city of Tucson in between. It makes a great day trip if you’re visiting Tucson. You can take a slow drive through each section. But the cacti are so beautiful. Therefore, we recommend one of the many hikes to really see the cacti up close. 🌵

  • Location: South central Arizona, immediately east and west of Tucson (2 separate branches of the park)
  • Reason to visit: Explore the Sonoran Desert, hiking, drives, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center (2) with exhibits, bookstore, restrooms, drinking water; hiking trails, scenic drives, camping
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Saguaro National Park

23-Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

Tumacacori cemetery with trees overhead
Tumacacori mission cemetery is part of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area; photo courtesy NPS

The watershed of the Santa Cruz Valley has been home to settlers for thousands of years, making it an area rich in history and culture. In 2019 the National Park Service connected three national sites along the Santa Cruz river and created the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area. This newly-formed area helps put the vast and varied history of the area into context.

The National Heritage Area includes JUAN BAUTISTA DE ANZA NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILSAGUARO NATIONAL PARKTUMACÁCORI NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (all listed here in this post). Information about how the sites relate to one another is available at each of them. Since this is a relatively new (and creative!) entity among Arizona National Parks and Monuments, look for many new and exciting programs in the coming years.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, between Tucson and the Mexican border
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic Spanish and Native American Sights and desert landscapes
  • Facilities & Services: See individual sights for more information
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

24-Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert with saguaro cactus in foreground, mountains in background
Sonoran Desert National Monument; photo by Bob Wick, courtesy of BLM

If you love saguaro cactus and a desert landscape, but want something a bit more rough and rustic than Saguaro National Park, try Sonoran Desert National Monument. The nearly half-million acre area has limited facilities, but lots of desert beauty.

You can hike or ride horses on trails in one of three designated wilderness areas. Hunters will enjoy the vast acreage dedicated to that sport. And a side note to history lovers: the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (listed above) passes through this park.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 65 miles southwest of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Explore desert landscape; hiking, horseback riding, camping, hunting
  • Facilities & Services: Limited restroom facilities
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Sonoran Desert National Monument

25-Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The cinder cone of Sunset Crater
Sunset Crater National Monumnet; photo courtesy NPS

There’s a whole lotta geology going on throughout Arizona. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument gives you a chance to glimpse some of that up close and personal. You can view the cinder cone of Sunset Crater, an extinct volcano that erupted about 1,000 years ago. (That’s practically “last month” in geology terms!)

Hike the Lava Flow Trail, which takes you along some other-worldly landscapes that make you feel like you’re in a Star Wars episode. Then plant yourself in the cinder-coated center of nearby Lenox Crater, the park’s smaller volcano and stare off toward Sunset Crater in the distance. Because of this juxtaposition, you can imagine what it must have been like with the lava rumbling and ready to explode.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 20 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore remains of ancient volcano, hiking, scenic drives, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, restrooms, picnic grounds, campgrounds
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

26-Tonto National Monument

Ancient cliff dwelling with scrub in foreground, Tonto National Monument
Upper cliff dwelling at Tonto National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Tonto National Monument is an excellent place to learn about the Salado and their culture. The Salado were a society who lived approximately 700 years ago. They blended multiple Native American cultures and developed sophisticated cliff dwellings. Tonto preserves two of these remarkable building complexes. Many cliff dwellings elsewhere are only visible from a distance, however at Tonto you can get right in or near the structures.

There are two sets of dwellings at Tonto. Because they are perched in cliffs, you must walk a fairly steep path to reach them. You reach the (smaller) Lower Dwelling via a half-mile hike. To reach the (larger) Upper Dwelling, you must book a tour with a park ranger for a guided 3-mile (round trip) hike.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 115 miles east of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: See ancient cliff dwellings
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Tonto National Monument

27-Tumacacori National Historical Park

Tumacacori Mission with scattered clouds above
The mission church at Tumacacori National Historical Park; photo courtesy NPS

Tumacacori is located on the Santa Cruz River. Because of this irrigated location, it has been a site of settlement for multiple cultures for centuries. Of all the Arizona National Parks and Monuments, it is probably the one that provides the most insight into how civilization developed in the region. Today the historic Mission and surrounding community are preserved at Tumacacori National Historical Park.

The heart of the Mission is the beautifully preserved 16th century church, surrounded by many outbuildings. As a result, there are many buildings to visit. Be sure to explore the historic convento. Despite its religious-sounding name, the convento was a sort of 16th-century shopping arcade.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 45 miles south of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic church and mission grounds; learn about two unique cultures: Spanish and Native American.
  • Facilities & Services: Museum, Visitor Center, gift shop, restrooms, cultural events and demonstrations
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Tumacacori National Historical Park

28-Tuzigoot National Monument

View of stone tower remains at Tuzigoot National Monument
The “tower room” tops the pueblo at Tuzigoot National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Tuzigoot gives us insight to the Sinagua peoples that inhabited the Verde Valley nearly 1,000 years ago. Remains of a stone pueblo are perched on a ridge overlooking the Verde River. At one time this large pueblo contained between 80 and 160 rooms! As a result, you can still see the outline of many of the pueblo rooms today. Be sure to look for the “tower room,” which is perched atop the center of the pueblo structure.

Tuzigoot is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that makes a nice day excursion when touring the Sedona area.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 110 miles north of Phoenix
  • Nearest town: Cottonwood
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient Sinagua pueblo
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms, picnic grounds
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Western National Parks Association
  • More information: Tuzigoot National Monument

29-Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Man looking out over rock formations at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument; photo by Bob Wick, courtesy BLM

Want to go off-roading amidst some eye-bending scenery? Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is for you. This 280,000-acre chunk of northern Arizona is chock-full of weird and wonderful rock formations. Think “Dr. Seuss in the American Southwest.” You’ll see cliffs with squiggly stripes of white and orange and peaks that look like giant melting sand castles. It’s the sort of place you’ll use up an entire film card taking photos!

Be advised that among Arizona National Parks and Monuments, this is one of the most rugged: you MUST have high-clearance four-wheel drive in Vermillion Cliffs. There are no paved roads, and lots of potential places to get stuck. Check the website for info on permits and recommended driving routes. And bring LOTS of water!

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah, about 125 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore stunning rock formations, hiking, camping
  • Facilities & Services: None; nearest services are 40-50 miles away in Kanab, UT and Page, AZ
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

30-Walnut Canyon National Monument

Cliff dwelling alongside hiking path in the forest, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Hike right by cliff dwellings in the forest at Walnut Canyon National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Imagine taking a hike in the forest and coming upon an ancient dwelling tucked into the rock face along the trail. That’s what it’s like at Walnut Canyon National Monument. You feel like an explorer who’s just made a historic discovery!

Small ancient cliff dwellings are tucked into a forested canyon. You hike along the 1-mile Rim Trail, admire nature, and BAM! There it is, a row of rooms tucked under a rock ledge. You can even enter some of the dwellings. It’s awesome.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 12 miles east of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic cliff dwellings
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Walnut Canyon National Monument

31-Wupatki National Monument

A view of Wukoki pueblo on the plains at Wupatki National Monument
Wukoki pueblo, one of several on view at Wupatki National Monument; photo courtesy NPS

Waupatki National Monument showcases a collection of red stone pueblo remains. The Waupatki pueblos are out on the open plain. As a result, these pueblos are very different from the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon.

You can take a series of short ( 1/4-1/2 mile) hikes to explore six different pueblos. Join a Ranger-guided hikes to explore more distant sites. Ranger hikes are 2-3 miles and 2-3 hours long. The truly intrepid can sign up for an 18-20 mile overnight hike. Submit your name to a lottery for these limited capacity hikes, held in the spring and fall.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 30 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient pueblo ruins
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Waupatki National Monument

No matter where you go in the state, Arizona National Parks and Monuments are not far away. Be sure to seek them out and see some of the truly stunning natural and historic sites preserved in the landscape!


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INSIDE: Arizona small towns each have a unique history and character-perfect for a road trip! See our fave mining, western & funky artsy spots and work one (or three) into YOUR next road trip!

We needed a pit stop on our Arizona road trip. Sick of truck stops along the Interstate, with their harsh fluorescent lighting and sticky bathroom floorswe spied a small signpost pointing toward “downtown historic district” and “Original Route 66.” That combination was too tempting to ignore, so we veered off the exit . . .

. . . and drove into one of the best days of our road trip.

The trick was finding that Arizona small town to visit.

Exactly what type of charm do you find in an Arizona small town?

Most small towns in Arizona are off the beaten path–or at least off the Interstate–and they make a perfect road trip stop.

Although some of these towns are still bustling with the business that got them started, such as mining and cattle ranching, many have reinvented themselves as tourist destinations that celebrate their heritage. You’ll find a TON of charm, and maybe even include a ghost town👻!

Small town charm to the rescue!

The small town we discovered when we followed the signs? It was Winslow! We’ve included it below in our list of 18 favorite Arizona small towns, along with practical info to help you as your plan your trip. Each town is unique and offers up a special bit of Arizona charm.

We hope this helps you drive into one of the best days of your road trip too! 

Northern Arizona: 7 small towns that are Worth a Visit

1. Flagstaff: The highest elevation in the state!

Flagstaff is the largest town in northern Arizona. Old route 66 passes through the southern edge of town, so you get that “classic road trip” vibe. (And there’s a cool Route 66-themed gift shop in the old train station–souvenir alert!).

The main part of town has a “nice old-fashioned downtown” feel, with historic late Victorian brick buildings housing bars, restaurants, and shops. Northern Arizona University is also based in Flagstaff, which means the town is not just a tourist haven.

Of all the Arizona small towns, Flagstaff has the highest elevation in the state, at nearly 7,000 feet.

Flagstaff’s high altitude means temperatures stay cool in summer, a refreshing break from the desert heat. And in winter? Skiing at nearby slopes! Located midway between Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks, it’s a central base for exploring the natural wonders in northern Arizona.

Tudor-style train station building along railroad tracks

2. Kingman: Cars, Trains, and . . . Electricity?

Kingman was established as a railroad town in the 1880s, and soon grew thanks to mining in the surrounding area. Historic Route 66 passes right through town; Kingman is the westernmost Arizona town on the so-called “mother road.”

We thought it was going to be a “drive-by,” but we ended up enjoying our visit here. Andy Devine, one of the early stars of western movies, is from Kingman. To celebrate this celluloid hero, the portion of Route 66 that goes through the center of town is known as “Andy Devine Avenue.”

Today Kingman has a real “road trip” feel and celebrates its motoring and railroad heritage. The cool multi-purpose Powerhouse Visitor Center is in an old converted power station. You’ll also find the Arizona Route 66 Museum and the Arizona Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum there.

Across the street in Locomotive Park train geeks will love the ogling historic old steam engine #3579. And there is no shortage of Route 66 photo-ops: the logo is displayed all over town on signs and painted on the street.

Interesting things to do in Kingman Arizona abound for everyone in your road trip crew. It makes a great base for exploring northwestern Arizona, and the western ends of the Grand Canyon.


3. Page: Horseshoe Bend . . . but so much more

Page serves as the gateway to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes such attractions as Lake Powell and the famous Horseshoe Bend. Page is a relatively new community, established in the late 1950s to support workers building the dam.

Today it’s a friendly town with the most hotel rooms in the “Arizona Strip,” (the name for this far northern part of the state), which makes it a great base for touring this area of northern Arizona near the Utah borders.

Many people pop into Page, make a quick stop at Horseshoe Bend, then move on. But we found there’s a lot more to see and do in the area. Day trips from here include Vermillion Cliffs, Lee’s Ferry, and even the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We also love some of the lesser-known spots, such as Glen Canyon Dam Overlook and hiking to the (sort of secret) Hanging Garden Trail. Be sure to allow some time for water sports, whether it’s rafting down the Colorado River or boating on Lake Powell. No matter what you choose, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Page AZ.

Glen Canyon Bridge, looking eastward, with red sandstone in background, one of the things to do in page az

4. Seligman: Birthplace of “Historic Route 66”

This little hamlet, bypassed by Interstate 40, preserved the Route 66 legend. In 1987 locals petitioned the State of Arizona and had it designated a historic highway. Rumors are that Seligman inspired the location of Radiator Springs for the movie Cars.

Battered old red tow truck parked in front of building with American Flag painted on side
Is this Seligman . . . or Radiator Springs???

Today this no-stoplight town is a pilgrimage for Route 66 fans, who find retro motels, memorabilia shops . . . and lots of vintage cars parked around town (you might even get to meet Tow Mater!)


5. Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon

Two things distinguish Williams: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. Williams describes itself as “the best-preserved stretch of Route 66.” It was the last town on the “mother road” to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (in 1984), so it hung on to its Route 66 identity.

The center of town, with its diners, motels, and shops is a designated National Historic District. We first came here to use it as a base for visiting the Grand Canyon but found the town itself charming.

building with statue of cow in front
Old-timey charm in Williams, Arizona

Williams is also the town nearest to the main entrance of Grand Canyon National Park (about 50 miles due north), which makes it a great base for exploring the area. The town is the headquarters of the Grand Canyon Historic Railway and Hotel.

Because of its proximity to the park, many Grand Canyon tour operators are based in Williams. Kaibab National Forest surrounds the town, with plenty of hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities for outdoor lovers.

Brick and stucco front of Grand Canyon Hotel on route 66

6. Winslow: Yep, the place with “the corner”!

For anyone who has ever listened to a Classic Rock radio station and heard the lyrics, “well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona . . . ” Yep, this is the place! This is one of the small Arizona towns along old Route 66 which has capitalized on the Jackson Browne/Glenn Frey song made famous by the rock group Eagles. Get your 70s rock fix at the park that commemorates “Standing on a corner Winslow Arizona” where there’s even (you knew this was coming!) a flatbed Ford.

Route 66 sign on roadbed, Winslow Arizona

Winslow’s other claim to fame is the La Posada Winslow Hotel (we loved our recent stay there!), one of the original 1930s-era Fred Harvey railroad hotels designed by Mary Colter along the Santa Fe railroad line. Current owners renovated and reopened the southwestern-style luxury property in 1997.

Today it contains a top-notch restaurant and art gallery in addition to comfy guest rooms. It makes an elegant old-world stopover while cruisin’ Route 66. And check out these other things to do in Winslow Arizona.

PRO TIP: Go retro in Northern Arizona! Stay at one of these fabulous hotels on Route 66 in Arizona!

7. Honorable Mention: Sedona-Red Rocks & Blue Skies

You may be wondering why I didn’t include Sedona in the above list. While Sedona is a wonderful destination, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to visit Sedona (especially in the fall), it’s hard to classify it as a “small town.”

Shopping abounds along State Route 89A, although much of it is in clusters of small strip malls. And this road gets super jammed during weekends, so you’re not likely to go for a random stroll.

Shopping in Sedona along Hwy 89A-gorgeous red rocks, but not a small-town atmosphere

Sedona is best appreciated away from highway 89A–that is, enjoying the hiking amid the magnificent red rocks, or chilling out at a spa. By all means, check out Sedona, just don’t expect a “quaint small town” atmosphere. For a “village-esque” atmosphere, head over to the Tlaquepaque complex, a beautiful cluster of shops, galleries, and restaurants resembling a Mexican village.

  • What we love: Hiking the red rocks, Tlaquepaque shopping
  • Fave Eats: Mariposa (swanky, Latin-inspired spot with amazing views)
  • Highlights: Cathedral & Bell Rocks, Vortexes, Tlaquepaque
  • Road Trips: Red Rocks & Red Wine
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Sedona
man sitting on deck looking at red rocks of Sedona
Sedona is best when enjoying the red rocks

PRO TIP: For small-town charm NEAR Sedona, check out Cottonwood & Jerome (listed below)

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8. Cottonwood: Water & Wine

Cottonwood sits alongside the Verde River in the valley just north of Jerome. Due to its location along a river, Cottonwood is a unique small Arizona town: it began its life as a farming community in the late 1800s. The cute main street has a midcentury feel.

Our first visit to Cottonwood in 2013 showed a town with “good bones” but not a lot going on. However, all those storefronts with potential couldn’t stay empty for long! On recent visits, we’ve been delighted to see a town full of shops, cafes, and wine tasting rooms. (Be sure to visit NORTH Main St.–that’s the cute part 😊)

Lots of places for wine tasting in Cottonwood

Cottonwood has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Tuzigoot National Monument is just outside of town, the stone remains of this Indian pueblo providing evidence that this has been a prime growing country for centuries. The Verde Valley Wine Trail provides more modern evidence: rows of vines grace the gently sloping hills surrounding town and that musky smell of fermenting grapes permeates the air. Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are open for sampling in and around the town.

Red 1950s car parked in front of vintage gas station Cottonwood Arizona
A fun throwback experience at Bing’s Burger Station

9. Globe: Cattle, Copper, and Cute!

Globe was founded in the 1870s on copper mining and cattle, and both are still important industries today. This central Arizona small town is equidistant from Phoenix and Tucson and makes a nice day trip or weekend destination.

Take a walking tour of the historic downtown. Visit the Gila County Historical Museum and explore the work of local artists at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (in the former courthouse).

Sitting in the middle of the Tonto National Forest, Globe is near several native American historic sites, such as the Tonto National Monument (cliff dwellings), as well as Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park. The 3,500-foot elevation transitions between the saguaro-filled desert and ponderosa pine forest. Wildflower lovers come to Globe for some spectacular natural displays.

BONUS: Keep an eye out for interesting wildlife–we had to break for a tarantula crossing the road! 🕷😱


10. Jerome: Wicked (& a little creepy 👻)

Jerome is a unique former copper mining town that’s perched up high on Cleopatra Hill, not far from Sedona. It’s a hair-raising drive up a twisty road to get there. (I need to look straight ahead-not down!) But the good part is the view of the surrounding valley is spectacular. You can even see many of Sedona’s red rocks in the distance.

Jerome is an Arizona Victorian small town perched on a mountain, here is the 1898 Hotel Connor with the red rocks of Sedona in the background

Jerome once had so many saloons it was called “The Wickedest Town in America.” Now you can browse in funky shops and wet your whistle at atmospheric bars and restaurants. Planning on whoopin’ it up old-tyme miner style during a night on the town? We recommend staying in one of the cute Bed & Breakfasts (or the allegedly haunted Jerome Grand Hotel). You won’t want to tackle the drive down that mountain late at night after a few drinks.

photo courtesy Visit Jerome

11. Prescott: Epitome of Small Town America

Prescott may be one of the most charming Arizona small towns. A classic old courthouse anchors the central square. (Remember the old Back to the Future movies? It wouldn’t be surprising to see Marty McFly zipping by in his SteamPunk DeLorean.) Pretty Victorian homes and cottages line the downtown streets.

Prescott Courthouse in background, compass rose on pavement in front, arizona small towns
The courthouse in the center of Prescott’s beautiful town square

Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, cafes, and western wear outfitters surround the courthouse square. Visit historic “Whiskey Row,” so called because that’s where all the “hootin’ & hollerin'” happened. Today you can do a bit of hootin’ & hollerin’ of your own on Whiskey Row, as you get your Western on . . . many of the bars feature live music.

That western atmosphere is legit: Prescott is also home to the world’s oldest rodeo, with the grounds about a half mile northwest of downtown. Nearby Prescott National Forest and Watson Lake State Park provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.

Watson Lake near Prescott offers great hiking

12. Honorable Mention: Scottsdale: Big city Small town

Scottsdale is a super-popular destination, and there’s an Old West feel to Old Town Scottsdale. But it stopped being a small town a long time ago. But with just over 250,000 people, it’s about the same size as Richmond, VA, and Toledo, OH.

Lots of cute shops in an “old west” setting in Old Town Scottsdale

Scottsdale is worth visiting: great restaurants, terrific shopping (including a gorgeous mall with a Neiman Marcus & a Nordstrom), as well as some wonderful museums, including Western Spirit Scottsdale Museum of the West (a terrific Smithsonian Affiliate). It’s just not a small town.

The skyline of Downtown Scottsdale-pretty, but not a small town

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13. Ajo: Creative, Folksy & Outdoorsy

Ajo is a small town in southwestern that is in the midst of a revitalization. A former copper mining town (like Bisbee, below), Ajo is the nearest town to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It also gets a lot of traffic from people headed down to the beach at Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) Mexico.

The cupola in the former train station anchors Ajo’s pretty plaza

In recent years Ajo has embraced an artistic culture, with several creative programs to attract artists. The result is a mixture of mining history with a creative culture, all centered around one of the prettiest plazas in Arizona.

organ pipe cactus with brittlebush at the base

14. Bisbee: Funky, Artsy & Historic

Bisbee, Arizona was established in 1876 as a copper mining town tucked away in the Mule Mountains southeastern part of Arizona. The mine is no longer operational, but Bisbee has now transformed itself into a cool and funky destination with a sort of “Victorian-meets-Midcentury” kind of vibe.

Street in Bisbee, Arizona with mountain in background
The winding streets of Bisbee, a small town nestled in the Mule Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

Learn how copper helped shape both the town⏤and the nation⏤at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, and then see the real deal underground on a Queen Mine Tour. Browse Bisbee’s many art galleries, and spend the night (or 3) at one of the town’s picturesque bed and breakfasts.


15. Patagonia: Chill at a Bird-lover’s Paradise

Patagonia is a small town nestled high in the Santa Rita Mountains, about an hour southeast of Tucson. Once a mining town, Patagonia today is focused on cattle ranching and recreation. The wine-growing region of Sonoita is just a few miles north.

The old train station in Patagonia is now the court house

The Sonoita Creek flows through Patagonia year-round (a rarity in Arizona’s dry climate). As a result, the region is a popular flyway for many unique types of birds⏤and is a great spot for birdwatchers. Downtown Patagonia has a few funky art galleries, shops, and cafes. The town’s high altitude (4,500 feet) keeps it cool in the summer, and many visitors like to stay for a week, enjoying nearby State Park at Patagonia Lake AZ, or ropin’ and ridin’ at the historic Circle Z Ranch.

  • What we love: The low-key cowboy vibe
  • Fave Eats: Wagon Wheel Saloon (fancy it ain’t, authentic? Yup!)
  • Highlights: Fairs on the town green, Patagonia Lake
  • Road Trips: South Central Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Patagonia
Birders love Patagonia

16. Tombstone: Hootin’, Hollerin’ Wild West🤠

Pose with Wyatt Earp & the lawmen at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, the classic western Arizona small town

It would be hard to get more “Old West” in Arizona small towns than Tombstone. This is home to the famous “OK Corral,” where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the ornery Clanton-McLaury gang. But there’s a lot more to Tombstone, including a rich silver mining history and clashes with the Apaches.

Tombstone has done much to preserve its Old West atmosphere. The main street is still dirt, and cars have to share the road with horses! Western wear shops, restaurants, and saloons line the wooden sidewalks. Historic sights include the Birdcage Theater and Tombstone Courthouse. But be sure to allow some time to see the “shootout:” it’s re-enacted daily.

17. Tubac: Artsy Historic Fun

Tubac is a small Arizona town about 50 miles south of Tucson that today is a thriving artist colony. Unlike most Arizona small towns, the history of Tubac predates mining and cattle. Because of its location along the Santa Cruz River, it was a settlement for native tribes. Many of these native tribes greeted the Spanish Missionaries when they arrived in the late 1600s.

Colorful pottery outside a shop in Tubac, Arizona
Colorful pottery is one of the many types of creative expression available in the artsy small town of Tubac, Arizona. (photo courtesy AOT)

History buffs should visit Tumacacori National Historic Park just outside of town. Here, hundreds of years and layers of history mingle together, incorporating Native Peoples, Spanish Missionaries, and Mexican and American soldiers. Tubac’s multiple art galleries line the sleepy streets of Tubac. The Tubac Center of the Arts hosts rotating exhibits, art workshops, and performances.

  • What we love: Great Mexican pottery
  • Fave Eats: Elvira’s-funky Mexican in a hip setting
  • Highlights: Art galleries; Tubac Presidio Historic Park
  • Road Trips: South Central Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Tubac

18. Yuma: An Old West Border Town

Yuma is a small Arizona town in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Sitting along the banks of the Colorado River made Yuma a strategic location in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially, it was missionaries who traveled this route. Passing through Yuma became one of the fastest ways to get out west during the California Gold Rush.

Today visitors to Yuma can get the feel of a real “old west” town by visiting the historic downtown. The center of town took off during the gold rush years. Yuma was also home to the Yuma Territorial Prison, which is now a state park. (The prison figured largely in the classic Western movie 3:10 to Yuma). Visit the Colorado River State Historic Park to learn about the importance of the crossing throughout the past few centuries.

  • What we love: The mixture of old west & border town
  • Fave Eats: Wagon Wheel Saloon (fancy it ain’t, authentic? Yup!)
  • Highlights: Territorial Prison Museum; Downtown
  • Road Trips: Southwest Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Yuma
Visiting a small town makes a road trip more fun

These Arizona small towns help to tell the fascinating history of the state. They all sit amid Arizona’s fabulous scenery, under those magnificent blue skies. The combination makes each of them a great destination for a few days’ excursion.

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List of Small Arizona Towns to Visit on a Road Trip (alphabetical order)

  1. Ajo (southern Arizona)
  2. Bisbee (southern Arizona)
  3. Cottonwood (central Arizona)
  4. Flagstaff (northern Arizona)
  5. Globe (central Arizona)
  6. Jerome (central Arizona)
  7. Kingman (northern Arizona)
  8. Page (northern Arizona)
  9. Patagonia (southern Arizona)
  10. Prescott (central Arizona)
  11. Scottsdale (central Arizona)
  12. Sedona (north/central Arizona)
  13. Seligman (northern Arizona)
  14. Tombstone (southern Arizona)
  15. Tubac (southern Arizona)
  16. Williams (northern Arizona)
  17. Winslow (northern Arizona)
  18. Yuma (southern Arizona)

three photos of charming arizona small towns, with text overlay