National Parks in Arizona: Best National Parks and Monuments to Visit

National parks in Arizona stand as an affirmation of the state’s breathtaking natural wonders, making it the most spectacular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

National Parks in Arizona

In Arizona, the designation “national park” encompasses three extraordinary areas: Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and Saguaro National Park. Beyond these iconic sites, Arizona boasts a total of 21 areas managed by the National Park Service, including National Monuments, National Historic Sites, National Recreation Areas, and National Historic Trails.

For those seeking to expand their horizons, these spectacular areas, combined with the wealth of Arizona State Parks, offer unlimited exploration possibilities.

Join us i as we delve into the best national parks that showcase the unparalleled beauty of Arizona.

National Parks in Arizona

National Parks in Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park (AZ) – Desert View Viewpoint

1. Grand Canyon National Park

  • Year Established: 1919
  • Annual Visitors: 2,897,098
  • Area: 1,217,262 acres
  • Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to October

As one of the most popular natural landmarks in the United States, Grand Canyon National Park is the second most visited park in the nation! Over the course of 5 to 6 million years the mighty Colorado River carved the canyon into the natural wonder it is today.

The park is separated into the North Rim and South Rim. The South Rim is the most visited part of the park and gives visitors the most iconic views of the canyon. The South Rim offers amazing lodging, fantastic hiking and unparalleled views. The North Rim is closed in the winter, but has Bright Angel Point and a beautiful scenic drive. 

National Parks in Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

2. Petrified Forest National Park

  • Year Established: 1962
  • Annual Visitors: 645,000 
  • Area: 146,900 acres
  • Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to October

Petrified Forest National Park has one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. Scientific studies have shown that the petrified wood in the park dates back 212 to 218 million years. This phenomenon occurs when wood is fossilized over centuries via a mineralization process. 

With the addition of dramatic geological formations and ancient art, this park is a must visit in eastern Arizona. The petroglyphs in the park are remnants of once thriving Pueblo villages. 

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

3. Saguaro National Park

  • Year Established: 1994
  • Annual Visitors: 1 million 
  • Area: 91,327 acres
  • Best Time to Visit: October to April 

Saguaro National Park is full of towering Saguaro cacti that are synonymous with the desert and the American west. The park itself helps to protect and preserve its namesake while attracting travelers from around the world to view these Arizona native ‘Kings of the Sonoran Desert.’

This park that started as a national monument, is now separated into two distinct sections, East and West. These districts are separated by the city of Tucson, giving visitors easy access to both sides of the park. Explore the East side for access to hiking or the West side of the park for a large concentration of cacti. 

National Parks in Arizona: Best National Parks and Monuments to Visit 1
Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

4. Canyon de Chelly National Monument

  • Year Established: 1931
  • Annual Visitors: 500.000 
  • Area: 83,840 acres
  • Best Time to Visit: April, May and September and October
  • Closest Cities: Chinle, AZ, Window Rock, AZ, Gallup, NM
  • Closest Airport: Gallup Municipal Airport (GUP)

Located in northeastern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a testament to the region’s rich cultural and geological history. This unique park is home to stunning canyons, towering sandstone cliffs, and ancient pueblo ruins, offering visitors a glimpse into the traditions of the Navajo people who have called this area home for centuries.

Canyon de Chelly encompasses a network of canyons carved by streams, showcasing a landscape that seamlessly blends natural beauty with cultural significance. The park features three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons provide a canvas for the towering sandstone formations and the intricate dwellings built into the cliffs by the Ancestral Puebloans.

When visiting Canyon de Chelly, explore the well-preserved ancient ruins, including the White House Ruin, where you can witness the remarkable architecture and learn about the people who once inhabited these cliffs.

Appreciate the iconic Spider Rock, a sandstone spire that soars over 800 feet from the canyon floor. According to Navajo legend, Spider Woman resides here, adding a touch of mythology to the natural wonder.

Take in panoramic views from various scenic overlooks, such as the South Rim Drive and the North Rim Drive, offering different perspectives of the expansive canyons and rock formations.

5. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

6. Montezuma Castle National Monument

7. Wupatki National Monument

8. Walnut Canyon National Monument

9. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Other Areas of Arizona Maintained by National Park Services

  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  • Chiricahua National Monument
  • Coronado National Memorial
  • Fort Bowie National Historic Site
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
  • Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument
  • Navajo National Monument
  • Old Spanish National Historic Trail
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • Pipe Spring National Monument
  • Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
  • Tonto National Monument
  • Tumacácori National Historical Park
  • Tuzigoot National Monument
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument
  • Wupatki National Monument
by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

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