Arizona is a place where even the most hapless point-and-click photographer comes back with spectacular pictures. With big blue skies and bold bursts of colour from the rugged desert scenery, there’s no need to switch settings and add filters.
It’s a state where the great outdoors is consistently dramatic, visually stunning and utterly enticing. Fortunately, Arizona offers several ways to make the most of its alfresco adventures.
Conquer the canyon
Arizona’s most famous natural wonder is, of course, the Grand Canyon. The Skywalk – a U-shaped cantilevered bridge over the canyon – should be seen as an introduction rather than the sole viewing platform, however.
For hikers, the Rim Trail along the South Rim offers a series of stupendous lookouts, with a shuttle bus service helping out those who don’t want to tackle the entire 13-mile route. There are, though, dozens of other hiking options from both the South and North Rim.
To add a touch of glamour to exploring the Grand Canyon, there’s the option of a helicopter tour. Maverick Helicopters runs scenic flights that take off from Grand Canyon National Park Airport, then zig-zag through the canyon bends, offering superlative bird’s eye views.
Raft the river
Seeing the Grand Canyon from above shows off the big picture. But rafting down the Colorado River puts you inside that picture, getting a true idea of just how steep those walls are.
From the town of Page, Wilderness River Adventures runs a series of multi-day Colorado River rafting adventures that tackle the rapids as condors circle overhead.
There are also motorised day-trip rafting options run by Rivers & Oceans from Peach Springs which include a walk down a side canyon to the outrageously pretty Travertine Falls.
Go Native American
The Grand Canyon rafting day tour is run by guides from the Hualapai Nation, and because several of Arizona’s most striking sights are on Native American land, the best way of seeing them is with Native American guides.
This applies to film favourite Monument Valley on the Utah border, where Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours heads by Jeep to sections of the mesa-dotted landscape that are otherwise inaccessible.
Navajo guides are also required to visit Antelope Canyon, a photographer’s dream of a slot canyon. Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours heads to the best photo stops, but also shares culture, history and geological detail along the way.
Hit the road
If ever a destination was made for road-tripping, Arizona is it. Route 66 runs across the state, with several driver-friendly sights nearby. These include Petrified Forest National Park, where the driving routes link fossils, Pueblo ruins, ancient petroglyphs and giant, striped, pyramid-shaped buttes.
Further west, the Walnut Canyon National Monument has 800-year-old cliff dwellings built into the canyon walls, and the Grand Canyon Caverns are the largest dry caves in the US.
Away from Route 66, the south-east of Arizona is punctuated by the Sky Islands – a series of mountains rising prominently from the plains to 6,000ft, brimming with bird life and unusual rock formations. Hikers and bikers love it here, but the highlights are easily knitted together in a driving route.
In the heart of the American West the romantic way to get around is on horseback. There are several trail-riding operations around Sedona, including Horsin’ Around Adventures, which runs delightfully varied rides through canyons and vineyards.
For a more immersive cowboy experience, stay at one of Arizona’s many ranches. The White Stallion Ranch near Tucson has guests participate in cattle musters and teaches them rock-climbing. Rancho de los Caballeros, north-west of Phoenix, plays the luxury card, putting an emphasis on its dining, spa and highly-rated golf course.
Learn more at visittheusa.co.uk
- The Bookseller - Rights - Everything with Words lands historical middle-grade adventure
- Your Romantic Partner Shouldn’t Be Your Only Adventure Partner
- Gettysburg among US towns with most tour and travel guides
- travel - A picture-perfect motorbike adventure in Vietnam
- Rivers, swamps, Bengal: Why does a new D&D adventure feel so familiar?