For many of us, Arizona conjures up images of a vast desert with deep canyons. But more than half of Arizona consists of mountains and plateau regions.
The state’s lowest point is the Colorado River, at 70 feet, but the highest point is Humphrey’s Peak, towering 12,633 feet.
Visitors to the Grand Canyon will have an even more memorable experience if some of Arizona’s high country is included on their travel itinerary.
San Francisco Mountains
The San Francisco Mountains are located in north-central Arizona and are beautiful mountains. This is a volcanic mountain range, located just north of Flagstaff, AZ. Known locally as “The Peaks,” this range is home to Arizona’s tallest mountain, Humphrey’s Peak, which towers 12,633 feet. Flagstaff, AZ, is a breathtaking beautiful and charming town that offers the best of both worlds: high mountain country and easy access to the Grand Canyon and other red rock and desert wonders. A big “small town,” Flagstaff is home to about 60,000 people. This is also the home of Northern Arizona University, a great assortment of attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as Snowbowl, Arizona’s premier alpine skiing/snowboarding resort), great galleries and excellent shopping, a rich culture, outdoor recreation galore, and more.
The Colorado Plateau, which occupies parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, covers the northern 40 percent of Arizona, is mostly pine-covered high country. Northcentral Arizona is a great contrast from the Basin and Range regions in southern Arizona.
The Mogollon Rim is an escarpment in central Arizona that defines the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. Sections of the Mogollon Rim are spectacular, boasting high and steep limestone and sandstone cliffs. The elevation of the Mogollon Rim ranges from 4,000 to 7,000 feet elevation, and stretches 200 miles from Flagstaff, AZ to western New Mexico. Mogollon is pronounced, ” mug-ee-yun,” and cuts into several canyons. Cities near this natural wonder are Payson and Show Low, AZ. Calling itself the “Gateway to Rim Country,” the town of Payson is located in the center of Arizona and is a nice town that serves as a great base camp from which to explore the Mogollon Rim. The town offers rich culture and endless outdoor recreation.
The White Mountains are an isolated mountain range located in eastern Arizona, near the New Mexico border. Accessed by towns with names like Snowflake, and Pinetop-Lakeside, visitors know from the start that this is mountain country, a contrast to so much of the desert landscape found in Arizona during your Grand Canyon vacation. Show Low, home to 12,000 people and situated at 6,400 feet elevation, lies on the Mogollon Rim in east-central Arizona. Show Low is a perfect gateway into the White Mountains. Springerville, a smaller town, is situated at about 7,000 feet elevation and is accessed via Highways 191 and 60.
Superstition Mountain has to be mentioned because of its unique name. This mountain is a single massive “volcanic plug” that’s located east of Phoenix and it anchors the Superstition Wilderness.