Explore Arizona by hiking, biking or strolling in Red Rock State Park. View a geologic wonder at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, surround yourself in pine trees at Arizona lakes. You’ll find state parks can often be less crowded than national parks, so they are a great place to explore the natural beauty of Arizona.
1. Red Rock State Park in Sedona
This is a 286-acre nature preserve and environmental education center with stunning scenery in Sedona. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the rich banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock. The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. This riparian habitat provides the setting and the opportunity for the park to offer a focus on environmental education. azstateparks.com/red-rock
2. Slide Rock State Park in Sedona
Cool off in Sedona at this state park. Located 7 miles north of Sedona on the way to Flagstaff, Slide Rock State Park houses a smooth natural water slide formed from red sandstone that cascades into a cooling swimming hole. During the hot and dry Arizona summers, locals and visitors head to this oasis to cool off. azstateparks.com/slide-rock
3. Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood
The Verde River makes this park an oasis in the desert where a wide variety of animals and plants live. You can rent a horse inside the park at Trail Horse Adventures and camp in the campground or in one of eight camping cabins. azstateparks.com/dead-horse
4. Verde River Greenway State Natural Area in Cottonwood
This park is next to Dead Horse Ranch State Park. The Greenway encompasses nearly 480 acres and is six miles long. The 3,300 foot elevation means mild temperatures for hiking along the Verde, canoeing, picnicking, fishing or just wading in the cool water. azstateparks.com/verde-river/
5. Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde
The park is the best-preserved example of an Indian Wars period fort in Arizona. Several of the original buildings still stand and living history programs are scheduled periodically, giving visitors a glimpse into Arizona’s history. It celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021. azstateparks.com/fort-verde
6. Homolovi State Park in Winslow
Just three miles from Winslow lies Homolovi State Park where you can stretch your legs, tour ancient ruins and spend the night in the campground under dark night skies.
“Even though it is right off I-40, not many people know about it,” says Michelle Thompson of Arizona State Parks. “It has great trails, sweeping views of the eastern part of the state and you can see petroglyphs and walls of old Hopi residences.”
Homolovi is Hopi for “Place of the Little Hills,” which was the original name for present-day Winslow. The Hopi lived in the area from 1200 to the later 1300s, and today researchers work with the Hopi to piece together the history of the area. Because it’s far from any metro area, the park offers fantastic stargazing, including a new observatory, and star parties with rangers who share their knowledge of the night skies with travelers.
Visitors may visit the archaeological sites and use the park facilities including a visitor center, museum, trails and a campground. azstateparks.com/homolovi/
7. Jerome State Historic Park in Jerome
One of the most striking towns in Arizona is the artist-filled Jerome, which is perched on Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley and what was once Arizona’s largest copper mine. In its heyday, which peaked in 1929, the mine produced more than 3 million pounds of copper a month. Discover the stories behind Jerome’s mining history at the Jerome State Historic Park.
You’ll find exhibits and more in the Douglas Mansion built in 1916 by a family of mining entrepreneurs below the town of Jerome. From historic photos to artifacts and minerals, the mansion provides travelers a window into life in Jerome, Ariz., when copper mining sent mine owners like James S. Douglas, who built the mansion, awash in riches.
“The great thing is you can go to the Douglas Mansion and learn all about the history of Jerome and then go up the hill, have an amazing lunch and imagine what the town was like back then when it was a booming mining town,” says Michelle Thompson, chief of communications/PIO for Arizona State Parks & Trails.
There are no camping facilities at this park. Camping is available at private campgrounds near Jerome and at Prescott National Forest. azstateparks.com/jerome/
8. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff
The park was built in 1904 for Michael and Timothy Riordan’s families. The Mansion features rustic exterior log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches and hand-split wooden shingles. The Park offers lecture events and daily tours of the Mansion. azstateparks.com/riordan-mansion/
9. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – Payson, AZ
Tucked away in a tiny valley in Payson, Ariz., surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.
A short stroll will bring you down to the river, so you can catch a view of the bridge above you.
“It’s really stunning,” says Michelle Thompson, chief of communications/PIO for Arizona State Parks & Trails. “ It’s a really interesting park. “You are on level with the top of the bridge at the park, but as you hike down your views get more and more amazing.”
Cool down by swimming in Pine Creek downstream from the bridge, but there is no lifeguard on duty, so swim at your own risk. Back at the top where the parking area is you’ll find a park visitor center in the historic Goodfellow Lodge that has interpretive exhibits on the bridge, the lodge and prehistoric inhabitants of the area. There’s also a park store. Built in 1927, the lodge itself can be rented out to groups. There are 10 bedrooms, a kitchen and communal bathrooms. azstateparks.com/tonto
10. Lost Dutchman State Park
Get a rare insider’s view of the Superstition Mountains when you hike on easy to difficult trails through this corner of the Sonoran Desert. It’s just 40 miles east of Phoenix. Bring lots of water, start really early as summer temps can exceed 100 and wear sturdy shoes. azstateparks.com/lost-dutchman
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