Celebrating the Centennial: 11 Hotspots for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Arizona’s outdoors scene draws people from all over the world. Few places on earth are so diverse – dense forests, barren and beautiful deserts, picturesque mountains and canyons. Our state offers plenty of opportunities to explore and connect with Mother Nature. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Exploring Northern Arizona’s Lava River Caves: About 14 miles north of Flagstaff in the Coconino Forest, a network of caverns and lava-encased passages lie just below the feet of hikers, hunters and other recreation seekers.
  2. Antelope Canyon: An Abstract in Sandstone: One of my favorite spots in Arizona is Antelope Canyon, a magnificent sandstone sculpture created by time and nature. Located near Page on the Navajo Reservation, the slot canyon is a photographer’s paradise because the waters that roar through it after a desert rainstorm have washed away portions of the canyon walls.
  3. Face in the Rocks Along Tom Thumb’s Trail, McDowell Mountains: Tom’s Thumb Trail, on the north side of the McDowell Mountains, is dotted with curious rock formations, especially this particular boulder bearing a striking resemblance to one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs.
  4. Picacho Peak is Destination for Avid Hikers, Civil War Buffs: About 40 miles north of Tucson, Picacho Peak abruptly rises 1,500 feet above the flat desert landscape typical to many other parts of Southern Arizona. It’s among the most prominent landmarks along the highly traveled stretch of Interstate 10 connecting Tucson and Phoenix.
  5. South Mountain Preserve is Hub for Hikers, Cyclists: South Mountain Preserve, one of the nation’s largest municipal parks, offers outdoor enthusiasts a quick and easy escape from the daily grind. It features 16,000 acres of desert wilderness, just a short 10-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.
  6. A Scary Glimpse Down the Skywalk at the Grand Canyon: Looking down into the Grand Canyon has always been a test for those vertigo because it’s thousands of feet from the top to the bottom. And now, in what would appear to be an attempt to make it even scarier, the Hualapai Indians have the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that allows those with a high queasiness quotient to view the Canyon from 4,000 feet.
  7. The Hoo-Doos of the Chiricahua Monument: The Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona is one of my favorite places because of the spectacular rocks. Officially, they’re the result of the Turkey Creek volcanic eruption that occurred more than 27 million years ago, but I look at the formations and think of cartoon characters (one looks like a giant mouse) and crinkly spires that resemble giant trolls waiting to pounce upon the unwary traveler and demand coinage for safe passage.
  8. The Famous Faces of Canyon deChelly?: There are many colorful rock formations spread across Arizona, and some of the more spectacular are located in Canyon deChelly on the Navajo Reservation at Chinle. The most prominent is Spider Rock, a towering sandstone obelisk that rises almost 900 feet above the floor of the canyon.
  9. Regulars, Newbies Flock Daily to Piestewa Peak Summit Trail: Located at the heart of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, Piestewa Peak serves as a prominent landmark along State Route 51, just minutes northeast of downtown Phoenix. The summit of this 2,608-foot peak offers 360-degree views of the Valley.
  10. Elephant Feet in Northern Arizona?: Every now and then, as I search across Arizona for things of an unusual nature, something pops up as a complete surprise, something I’d never heard about even though I thought I’d seen ‘em all. Several of them did that to me recently as I wandered across the northern part of the state, and they involve elephants. Or things that evoke mental images of elephants.
  11. Boynton Canyon Vortex in Sedona: Famed for its stunning red rock cliffs, Sedona is one of those Arizona cities you simply can’t get enough of. People travel from around the world to catch a glimpse of the crimson landscape sitting in our backyard. Yet the red rocks alone aren’t drawing tourists. Many flock to Sedona to feel the power of energy vortexes dotting the region.


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