A Local's Guide to Northern Arizona
When most people think of Arizona (AZ), they think of the desert. Hot, dry, and desolate. While this can be true for the middle and southern parts of the state, Northern Arizona has actual seasons! I went to college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ and quickly discovered how many amazing destinations are packed into such a small area. Here are 7 destinations you should check out in the northern part of the state!
Located just south of Flagstaff (and well north of Phoenix), the red rocks of Sedona are perfect for hiking, camping, and exploring! Because it isn’t as elevated as Flagstaff, the winter in Sedona is pretty mild, with temperatures in the 50’s. In the summer it will reach up to the high 90’s, so bring sunscreen, hats, and a lot of water.
Highlights in Sedona include:
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is built into the red rocks. It can get very crowded, but the view is beautiful!
Slide Rock State Park has water flowing over slippery rocks that you can slide down. It’s nature’s slip-n-slide and during the hot, summer months it gets very crowded.
Hiking trails to see Cathedral Rock, Devil’s Bridge, and Bell Rock.
Montezuma’s Castle and Well National Monuments (Camp Verde, AZ)
If you’re looking for something to do off the beaten path, these national monuments are for you! Montezuma’s Castle is an incredibly well preserved cliff dwelling of the Sinagua people five stories above ground in limestone. The Well, located 10 miles from the Castle, has smaller cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins, an ancient pit house, and irrigation ditches that date back over 1000 years!
Alright, I acknowledge that I might be biased because I lived here for 3 years, but Flagstaff has so many beautiful spots, especially as the seasons change! One of Flagstaff’s main attractions is Arizona Snowbowl. Situated at the top of the San Francisco Peaks at 9,500 ft. elevation, Snowbowl is perfect for snow sports. In these mountains, you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, ride a snowmobile, and camp in a yurt!
During the fall, the aspen trees in Flagstaff cover the mountains and turn bright yellow! You can see them at Arizona Snowbowl or Lockett Meadow. Personally, I have been to both, and while Lockett Meadow is great for camping, Arizona Snowbowl is much easier to get to with no off-roading required.
One final selling point for Flagstaff is that it was the world’s first “International Dark Sky City” in 2001. This means that light pollution at night is intentionally non-existent, so you can see the stars so clearly! Flagstaff holds events regularly celebrating astronomy and the stars. You can visit free parks at night to view the stars, such as Buffalo Park. And, be sure to check out Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was first discovered in 1930!
Only 20 minutes from Flagstaff is Winslow, Arizona. The main attraction here is Meteor Crater! One of best-preserved meteorite craters in the U.S., this place is worth the stop if you like astronomy. The visitor center has an educational video, discovery center, exhibits, and provides access to the Crater Trail.
Horseshoe Bend (Page, AZ)
While you’re in Northern Arizona, you have to stop at the Grand Canyon. It’s one of America’s incredible national parks and for good reason. Horseshoe Bend is part of the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River and feels like a sneaky way to see it without paying the National Park fee. Located in Page, AZ, you can get to Horseshoe Bend directly from Highway 89 at mile marker 545. You will see signs and other cars turning into a dirt parking lot off the side of the road. The trail is only ¾ mile and takes you directly to the edge of the cliff. The path is in direct sun 99% of the time so BRING WATER. I cannot stress this enough. Located past the mountains of Flagstaff, Page has no protection from the heat. I went in June and it was 110 degrees! The view is so worth it though.
Antelope Canyon (Page, AZ)
Antelope Canyon, a famous slot canyon on Navajo land, is also located in Page. Because of its location on the Reservation, you have to book a tour. There are two slot canyons, Upper and Lower, and the best time for perfect lighting is midday when the sun is directly above the canyons. I went to the lower canyon around 4pm and it was still amazing! The tour guides are great! They tell you the history of the canyon in the Navajo culture, as well as the geography. They also famously take tourists phones to take the best photos of the canyon. My tour guide did just that and took the photo of the heart formation below!
The visitors center is located in Arizona, while Monument Valley itself is located directly on the border of Utah and Arizona. When I visited, I was with my research team collecting environmental samples from all across the Reservation. We made sure to stop at the visitors center to take in the view of the sandstone buttes and the jeeps off-roading below!
In the summer, it is HOT in Arizona, but it’s a dry heat. That being said, bring water, sunscreen, and hats everywhere.
The Navajo and Hopi peoples are native to Northern Arizona so if you go north of Flagstaff, try some fry bread or Navajo tacos (which are on fry bread). They’re delicious!
Book tours and campsites ahead of time when you can. Sedona, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley get very crowded in the summer!
Make sure to slow down, watch the gorgeous Arizona sunsets, and take in all the stars!
Written by: Alanna Koritzke
Hi there, my name is Alanna! I am a full-time graduate student studying chemistry at the University of Georgia and I’m a part-time traveler. I used to travel a lot with my family when I was a kid. So much so, that by the time I was 18 years old I had been to 18 different countries! Now, I mostly travel for science conferences and make time to explore the area. I started my blog, Periodic Adventures, as a way to share all that I have learned from traveling as a kid and a graduate student.
My favorite destination changes often, but right now I’m enjoying rediscovering my hometown of Los Angeles and exploring my new home, Georgia. And, I absolutely love music so I always pair a song with each blog post!
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