Arizona is rich in culture and history. The following are some of the most notable historic sites we encourage Grand Canyon visitors to explore.
Walk among old pueblos, see ancient cliff dwellings, tour historic copper and gold mines, re-live the Old West, like it was, explore Native American culture and ride a historic train. This list goes on.
Time spent at any of these will provide a cultural immersion that is unmatched, and will result in a more fulfilling vacation while in this diverse state.
Northern Arizona Historic Sites
Wupatki National Monument
Fewer than 800 years ago, Wupatki was the largest pueblo around. It flourished for a time as a meeting place of different cultures. Situated in a hot, dry (not the most hospitable) place, how and why did people live here? The builders of Wupatki and nearby pueblos have moved on, but their legacy remains and visitors get to witness it.
Navajo National Monument
Navajo National Monument preserves three intact cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people. A visitor center, museum, three short self-guided trails, two small campgrounds, and a picnic area provide service to travelers that make the trek to this remote hamlet. For a ranger-guided tour to cliff dwellings, call 928-672-2700.
Canyon De Chelly National Monument
This is the home of the longest-continuously inhabited landscapes in all of North America. The cultural resources of this national monument include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery and exhibit remarkable preservation integrity that provides visitors with outstanding opportunities for study and contemplation. Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance. Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land that remains home to the canyon community. NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the living Navajo community.
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
This is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased a trading post here in 1878, ten years after Navajos returned to their homeland from their terrible exile at Bosque Redondo, Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. During the four years held at Bosque Redondo, Navajos were introduced to many new things. After they returned home, traders like Hubbell supplied those new items for the Navajo. Hubbell family members operated this trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1965
Grand Canyon Railway
Located in Williams, AZ, the Grand Canyon Railway remains one of the most unique ways to travel to the Grand Canyon. The Railroad was originally built to transport ore in the Wild West from the Anita mines, 45 miles north of Williams in the late 1800s. In 1901, the train took its first passengers to the Grand Canyon South Rim aboard the train from Williams, Ariz. In 1908, the historic Fray Marcos Hotel and Williams Depot were built and designed for use by the Santa Fe Railway. Riding on Grand Canyon Railway is truly a cultural and historical (and exciting) experience. Visitors have four choices for what type of ride they’d like to experience, including Coach, First Class, Dome Class and Parlor Class. Enjoy a 2-hour ride complete with living history, interpretation and culture along the journey. Also, to start the adventure, Old West Shootouts are staged near the Depot in the corral.
Riordan Mansion State Park
This State Park preserves the Riordan Mansion, built by the Riordan brothers in 1904. The lumber baron brothers built the 13,000-square-foot mansion before Arizona gained statehood. The Riordan family donated the home and everything in it, from the picnic basket in the back entry to the maps in the library, to the park system. Touring the mansion, visitors will feel as if the Riordans are at home while you’re “snooping” through their house. This mansion is in Flagstaff, AZ.
Hopi Walpi Village
The Hopi Indian reservation is northeastern Arizona comprises more than 2,500 square miles and is home to the hopsi and Arizona Tewa people. They live in villages that are based around three mesas in the traditional pueblo style which has been traditionally used by the Hopi. Walpi is the oldest village on First Mesa, having been established in 1690 after the villages at the foot of mesa Koechaptevela was abandoned for fear of Spanish reprisal post 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The Tewa people live on First Mesa. Hopis also occupy the Second Mesa, and Third Mesa. (Wikipedia.org)
North-central Arizona Historic Sites
Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo built by a culture known as the Sinagua. The first buildings were built around A.D. 1000. The pueblo consisted of 110 rooms including second and third story structures. The Sinagua were agriculturalists with trade connections that spanned hundreds of miles. The people left the area around 1400. The site currently comprises 42 acres.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Visitors can glimpse through the windows of the past into one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. At this national monument is a 20 room “high-rise” dwelling, nestled in a towering limestone cliff, telling a 1,000-year-old story of ingenuity and survival in an unforgiving desert landscape.
Petrified Forest National Park
If history if what you’d like, Petrified Forest National Park delivers, big time. Historic structures, archeological sites, and displays of over 200-million-year-old fossils, Petrified Forest National Park is an amazing land full of fascinating science.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Walk in the footsteps of people who lived at Walnut Canyon more than 700 years ago. Peer into their homes, cliff dwellings built deep within canyon walls.
Fort Apache Historic Park & Apache Cultural Center
This historic park is located at the foot of Arizona’s White Mountains and provides visitors a glimpse at historic Fort Apache as well as the Kinishba Ruins, an ancient site of the tribe.
Verde Canyon Railway
This railway provides the best access along a historic route into Verde Canyon, often called “Arizona’s other Grand Canyon,” and takes passengers by Indian ruins to the ghost ranch, Perkinsville. The Verde Canyon Railroad was financed and built in 1911 and 1912. It took 250 mean using 200 mule, picks and shovels and lots of black powder explosives to lay these rails.
Jerome (Ghost Town)
Once Arizona’s fifth largest city, Jerome is now a ghost of a city. In fact, the town of Jerome’s website claims its “the largest ghost town in America.” Copper was the city’s mainstay and legend has it that the town’s mining started some 1,000 years ago by the Tuzigoot Indians. In 1882, the United Verde Copper company was formed by James A. McDonald and Eugene Jerome of New York, and Governor Tritle of Arizona. Copper demands increased and so did mining in Jerome. At one time, Jerome have over 15,000 residents inhabiting its streets. The depression years marked the end of prosperous times for Jerome and the mines finally closed in 1950. Most of the town remains and is original. The original hotel has reopened and provides an amazing firsthand cultural experience for a night of lodging during your Grand Canyon vacation. (See http://www.azjerome.com/ for more information)
Southern Arizona Historical Sites
Tonto National Monument
Walk where prehistoric people lived more than 700 years ago. Here, visitors will see shallow caves overlooking Tonto Basin, which shelter the prehistoric masonry homes/dwellings.
Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument was created as the country’s first archeological reserve in 1892, and became a national monument in 1918. This monument preserves an ancient Hohokam farming community and “Great House.” Archeological evidence suggests the Hohokam descended from an earlier hunting and gathering “Archaic” culture that began in this area around 5,500 B.C.E. The “Great House” (Casa Grande) was one of the largest structures ever built in North America.
Fort Bowie Historic Site
Fort Bowie commemorates the bitter conflict between Chiricahua Apaches and the U.S. military – a lasting monument to the bravery and endurance of U.S. soldiers in paving the way for settlement and the taming of the western frontier. It provides insight into a “clash of cultures,” a young nation in pursuit of “manifest destiny,” and the hunter/gatherer society fighting to preserve its existence. For more than 30 years Fort Bowie and Apache Pass were the focal point of military operations eventually culminating in the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 and the banishment of the Chiricahuas to Florida and Alabama. It was the site of the Bascom Affair, a wagon train massacre, and the battle of Apache Pass, where a large force of Chiricahua Apaches under Mangus Colorados and Cochise fought the California Volunteers.
Coronado National Memorial
This memorial commemorates and provides interpretation for Francisco V’uez de Coronado’s expedition and the resulting cultural influences of 16th century Spanish colonial exploration in the Americas. The Memorial preserves and interprets the natural and human history of the area for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Located in Bisbee, AZ, is the historic Queen Mine. Visitors can take a tour of the Queen Mine and learn this mine’s interesting history. This was one of the greatest copper camps in the world. For almost 100 non-stop years, until 1975, the Queen Mine was in production. Today’s Queen Mine Tour takes visitors deep into the old workings of the famous Queen Mine where great tonnages of extremely rich copper ore was mined in the early days, catching the attention of the mining industry around the world as one of the greatest treasure troves of copper ever discovered. Taking the Queen Mine Tour is to step back in time. (See http://www.queenminetour.com for more information)
Called “The Town Too Tough To Die,” Tombstone is often the Old West town that people think of when thinking about the Old West and historic mining camps. Visitors can truly re-live the Old West in Tombstone. When Ed Schieffelin (SHEF-e-lin) came to Camp Huachuca (hwah-CHEW-kuh) with a party of soldiers and left the fort to prospect, his comrades told him that he’d find his tombstone rather than silver. Thus, in 1877 Schieffelin named his first claim the Tombstone, and rumors of rich strikes made a boomtown of the settlement that adopted this name.
Days of lawlessness and violence, which nearly had then-President Chester A. Arthur declaring martial law in Tombstone and sending in military troops to restore order, climaxed with the infamous Earp-Clanton battle, fought near the rear entrance of the O.K. Corral, on October 26, 1881.
Western Arizona Historical Sites
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
The Yuma Territorial Prison, in Yuma, AZ, is a living museum of the Old West. More than 3,000 desperadoes, convicted of crimes ranging from polygamy to murder, were imprisoned in rock and adobe cells here during the prison’s 33-year existence between 1876 and 1909. The cells, main gate and guard tower are still standing, providing visitors with a glimpse of convict life in the Southwest a century ago.
This is amazing. The official London Bridge, built in 1831, is the London Bridge visitors will see at Lake Havasu in western Arizona. How did the London Bridge end up in Arizona, you ask? After World War II, traffic on the bridge began to dramatically increase, and by 1962, it was evident that the bridge was crumbling into the Thames and was unable to handle the traffic volume over the river. The London government was in financial straits and needed someone willing to buy the crumbling bridge and remove it for them. Enter oil man Robert McCulloch, the founder of Lake Havasu City, who purchased the London Bridge for $2,460,000 and paid an additional $7 million dollars to have the bridge dismantled, shipped to America and reconstructed in its current location. Cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest antique, the famed stone bridge is worth a visit!