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Why These Under-the-Radar Arizona Canyons Are Worth the Trip

Sponsored by Arizona Office of Tourism

Jan 10, 2020

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Yes, the Grand Canyon is truly grand—but for gorgeous rock formations with outdoor adventures, it's not your only Arizona option.

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The sunshine dances on the rolling sandstone formations of Arizona’s Canyon X—a dreamlike landscape once roamed by pronghorn (antelope). Bold hues of red, orange, and purple whirl around the rippling, uneven walls, creating a natural kaleidoscope that leaves you mesmerized.

From majestic saguaro cacti dotting the desert to visually stunning rock formations, Arizona features some of the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S., offering endless heart-pounding adventures. Whether you’re looking for hiking, rafting, flightseeing, or just relaxing spots to take gorgeous photos, Arizona inspires epic levels of fun. Here’s where to go.

Grand Canyon

While it’s hardly under the radar, any tour of Arizona’s magnificent canyons should include this spectacular treasure. Stretching 277 miles from end to end, the Grand Canyon, which ranges from four to 18 miles wide in places, is a vast natural wonder with the power to inspire awe—whether it’s your first or 50th time visiting. To put its size into perspective, driving from the South Rim to the North Rim could take around five hours. And the activities along the top, and on the canyon floor, are just as big. Hike along the easier-to-reach South Rim, take in the view from the glass-bottom Skywalk on the West Rim, or explore the more remote North Rim with a drive through the scenic Kaibab National Forest.

Marble Canyon

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Tucked in Northern Arizona, Marble Canyon is a gateway to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and a small hub for outdoor outfitters. For pioneer history, visit Lees Ferry—which was once the only crossing point on the Colorado River for hundreds of miles—and its accompanying Lonely Dell Ranch Historic Site, which served as a home base for the ferry operators and their families. Nowadays, it’s a popular launching point for rafting trips on the Colorado River—and a hot spot for fly-fishing.

Canyon X

With its undulating landscape of high-impact, wave-like structures and radiating light beams, Canyon X is the ultimate stopping point for social media-worthy pics that look almost supernatural. Located just east of Page in Northern Arizona, the stunning sandstone scenery was described as “the place where water runs through rock” by the Navajo. Take a tour and delve into its fascinating geology, as well as the local history and culture.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Whether it’s behind the wheel, on a bike, or on foot, get a taste of real-deal Arizona in Canyon de Chelly. At the crossroads of modern and ancient Native American culture, see pueblo ruins built between 350 A.D. and 1300 A.D., as well as a contemporary Navajo Indian community based on the canyon floor. Explore the White House Ruins Trail on your own (the only self-guided trail) or book a ranger-led tour offered by authorized Navajo guides.

Petrified Forest National Park

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On the edge of Arizona’s Painted Desert, take in a vibrant canvas of petrified wood, historic structures, and archaeological sites at Petrified Forest National Park, with everything from family-friendly activities to wild backcountry adventures. Formed more than 200 million years ago by volcanic lava flow, fossils offer clues to its prehistoric roots. Get off the grid with suggested routes, like the 1.5-mile Blue Forest Hike or the extreme, at-your-own-risk Devil’s Playground, which requires a permit.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Less than an hour from Tucson, Kartchner Caverns State Park, in Benson, is the perfect Southern Arizona day trip. Descend into the mysterious world of caves and view the world’s longest formation of stalactites, which hang like icicles. Tour the living limestone caverns with a guide and learn about the complex ecosystem, as well as the still-forming stalactites and their stalagmite counterparts.

Mount Lemmon

In hot weather, Mount Lemmon and the small town of Summerhaven offer cool retreats for Tucson dwellers. Surrounded by Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Range, Mount Lemmon was named for Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon, a female botanist who summited the mountain in 1881 while on a mission to catalog all of the plants of Southern Arizona with her husband. It’s a beautiful spot for hiking, stargazing, camping, and world-class pro cycling.

Lost Dutchman State Park

About 40 miles east of Phoenix in the beautiful Sonoran Desert, a stretch of arid land famous for its commanding saguaro cacti, Lost Dutchman State Park blends local lore and wildlife. Named for a fabled gold mine, the park is a gateway to the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Relish the peace and quiet on the Native Plant Trail, ride the four-mile mountain bike loop, or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail.

Explore more of Arizona’s thrilling opportunities for outdoor exploration at VisitArizona.com.

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