Summer Destinations in Arizona

Higher Elevations and Cooler Temperatures

by Lynn Bremner

As the sun heats up the desert, we start thinking of escaping to locations with shade and higher elevations where temperatures are cooler. There are many activities in the high desert regions where you can escape the heat and go for a fun hike or outdoor excursion. Arizona has many great destinations at higher elevations, including the Grand Canyon region, Sedona, Flagstaff, and locations near Phoenix, Arizona.

Grand Canyon

One of the most popular summer destinations is Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and the surrounding points of interest. Most people just tour the main view points, enjoy the Visitor's Center, museums and rim walks. There are, however, some great hiking trails that can take you into the canyon and down to the river. The hikes can be strenuous, but you will be rewarded with vast canyon views, see the inner-most parts of the canyon and experience walking along the river that cuts through the canyon. Not everyone has ventured to the bottom of the canyon. It's well worth the effort for those who are physically fit. Here are links to a number of different hikes organized by region; the park contains many trails varying in distance and skill level: South Rim Hikes and North Rim Hikes.

If you don't want to hike into the Grand Canyon you can sign up for a mule ride down or experience the canyon by way of the river. There are a number of river tours available and all offer different types of water craft options. Grand Canyon Tour Companies can help you plan your adventure into the Grand Canyon.

Points of Interest Near the Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Lowry Spring Hike and the Colorado River Hike are trails located off the road that intersects U. S. 89-A at Arizona's Marble Canyon, and leads to Lees Ferry, near the beginning of Grand Canyon. You will find two exceptional opportunities for day hikes in this location. One will take you north, up into the stunningly colorful Vermilion Cliffs, to a formation that locals call The Tooth. More formally, it is also known as Powell's Rock. The other will take you down through the spectacular Cathedral Wash to the Colorado River.

If you are not up for trekking into the Grand Canyon, there are many other diversions. The Grand Canyon Caverns are approximately 125 miles away from the Grand Canyon. The natural limestone caverns offer an underground experience where the temperature is 56 degrees year round. It is a popular point of interest that receives approximately 70,000 visitors per year.

The Skywalk

Another popular attraction is the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, which lies outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon West is located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation; it's approximately five hours by car from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim or approximately three hours from Las Vegas. Click here for information about the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West.

If you are looking for paradise you can hike, helicopter, or ride a horse to “a Garden of Eden in the desert.” It's called Havasu Falls. There are several separate waterfalls in this blue-green paradise. The water temperature is about 70 degrees year round. The hike in is about 10 miles and is considered moderately difficult. Those who don’t want to hike can rent horses and ride in or take a quick helicopter ride in and hike only two miles to the waterfalls. The main trailhead is located at Havasupai Hiltop Campgrounds. It is about 3-4 hours from Flagstaff, 5-6 hours from Phoenix or Las Vegas and about 203 hours from Kingman.

Points of Interest Near Phoenix, Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona.

If you're closer to Phoenix, Flagstaff or Sedona there are a number of other fun destinations to visit. If you want to sit back and take in the scenery without having to hike or even drive, take a train ride through Verde Canyon in Clarkdale, Arizona. It's approximately two hours north of Phoenix, one hour southwest of Flagstaff and 25 minutes west of Sedona.

About 100 miles northeast of Phoenix you'll encounter the Mogollon Rim, which offers forests of pine and scrub oak at an elevation of approximately 5,000 – 6,000 feet. Here you'll find several quaint communities including Payson, Strawberry and Pine, Arizona. Between Payson and Strawberry you will find Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Tonto National Forest. It's worth the trip to the park to see the largest travertine natural bridge in the world. It rises 183 feet above the canyon floor and 400 feet along the creek bottom.

Sedona, Arizona is another great summer destination – you can sightsee, mountain bike, hike, take jeep tours, fish, horseback ride, shop and participate in many other activities. Sedona is located at the lower end of Arizona's spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, renowned for its stunning red buttes and monoliths, as well as its surrounding lush forests. The breathtaking colors of red paint the canyon walls and rocks in contrast to the surrounding forests and greenery.

Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, in Arizona

Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, in Arizona is nestled into a limestone recess high above the flood plain of Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley. Here stands one of the best preserved and most easily accessible cliff ruins in North America. This 5-story, 20-room cliff dwelling served as a "high-rise apartment building" for prehistoric Sinagua Indians more than 600 years ago. Click here for a description and information about Montezuma's Castle near Sedona, Arizona.

Another interesting side trip is Tuzigoot National Monument, in Arizona. At Tuzigoot you can tour the ancient ruins of one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua between 1100 and 1450 AD. Click here for details about Tuzigoot NM near Sedona, Arizona.

If you want to hike in this area then check out Sycamore Canyon Wilderness near Sedona, Arizona. It's protected within the 56,000-acre Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area. The namesake gorge measures more than 21 miles in length and, at points, seven miles in width. There are several documented hiking trails with a map and descriptions of the trails. There have also been numerous stories of UFO and other unusual phenomena reported in the canyon.

Jerome, Arizona

A visit to the once thriving mining town of Jerome, Arizona is an excellent way to spend an afternoon or a weekend. Jerome was a once thriving mining town that has now become a tourist attraction and artists' community. With a population of approximately 450, Jerome maintains its small town charm. There are two museums, a number of historical buildings and about seven bed and breakfast locations. Jerome is about a 2-hour drive north of Phoenix, or a 1 1/2-hour drive south of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Another great summer destination is Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is a small city located in north central Arizona, situated at the base of San Francisco Peaks, a 12,633-foot-high dormant volcano. Flagstaff is the county seat of Coconino County, the second largest in the United States, which encompasses the winter ski resort, Arizona Snow Bowl, Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert and Oak Creek Canyon. Flagstaff stands as the gateway to many nearby national parks and monuments -- Sunset Crater National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Petrified Forest National Park. At 7,000-foot elevation, be prepared for abrupt weather changes in any season. Summer days are warm with temperatures in the eighties. Afternoon thunderstorms are likely from July to September.

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