Big City, Big Park: From Phoenix to the Grand Canyon
Phoenix, Arizona, blends a wealth of urban attractions with a bounty of opportunities to get outdoors.
Surrounded by striking peaks and photogenic saguaro cacti, the ever-growing city is a destination of its own accord, as well as the jumping off point for visits to the USA’s most notable attraction: the Grand Canyon.
Vast, Immense, Inspiring
There are many words used to describe the Grand Canyon, though none can fully capture the awe evoked by one of the USA’s most famous landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Grand Canyon National Park encompasses plummeting crevices and fiery hues stretch across nearly 5,000 square kilometers.
There are many different ways to experience the park, from relaxing hikes and mule rides along the South Rim trails to adrenaline-pumping rafting trips down the Colorado River to scenic helicopter tours through the canyon’s maze of ravines. Just be sure to bring plenty of water to drink, and come prepared with a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the hot desert sun.
Many tour companies offer day and multi-day trips to the Grand Canyon. You can also rent a car at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and make the three-hour drive yourself.
What to See En Route
But don’t be in such a hurry to reach the Grand Canyon that you miss out on other exciting opportunities to enjoy Arizona’s great outdoors along the way. Consider a stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument, about 150 kilometers north of Phoenix, to see the ancient cave dwellings built by the Sinagua people about 900 years ago. Or pull over in Sedona, roughly 185 kilometers north of Phoenix, to hike through the blazing Red Rock State Park or shop for Native American arts and crafts at the outdoor Tlaquepaque marketplace.
The centerpiece of Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona is the ancient Native American dwellings built right into the cliff face.
You’ll also find plenty of opportunities to explore Arizona’s spectacular desert scenery right in the Phoenix area. More adventurous travelers can stretch their legs along the area’s numerous hiking trails. Although the trek up is a challenge, Camelback Mountain’s summit boasts spectacular city views of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Meanwhile, Papago Park, to the east of central Phoenix, features vistas that are just as enviable, yet easier to experience.
Camelback Mountain, which towers over Scottsdale, Arizona, is one of the area’s most popular hiking spots, thanks to its incredible views.
Desert Flowers and Wild West Heritage
Should you prefer to experience the city’s scenery without strapping on a pair of hiking boots, spend a few hours in the Desert Botanical Garden. Located within Papago Park, this beautiful garden showcases some of the Sonoran Desert’s most beautiful plant life, including a cornucopia of cactus species. Or, get a feel for the area’s Wild West heritage with a stroll through Old Town Scottsdale, where you’ll find a smattering of shops selling everything from cowboy hats to Native American jewelry.