Unbelievable National Parks in Arizona That Are Must-Sees!

National Parks in Arizona to Visit

During our Arizona RV rental trip, we road-tripped from Phoenix to northern Arizona. And on our trip, we had the pleasure of exploring and documenting some epic National Parks in Arizona. (and adding them to our national park checklist) So make sure you add these four national sites to your next Arizona road trip.

Must-see National Parks in Arizona


Wupatki National Monument – National Parks in Arizona

To say that this is an impressive site would be an understatement – it is history coming alive right in front of your eyes. Here are a few things to get you started on a trip to Wupatki

Wupatki National Monument

What to do at Wupatki National Monument? 

Wupatki is considered a national monument made up of ancient pueblos and other archeological treasures of civilizations of the past. Learn about the history of these communities, hike the trails to the pueblos and overlooks, explore the archeological sites, become a Jr. Ranger, and get your NPS stamp.

Where is Wupatki located?

Located just north of Flagstaff in northern Arizona and south of the Grand Canyon, it’s nestled in a cluster of 3 national parks along with Sunset Crater and Walnut Canyon. The drive to the Visitors Center is actually a 34-mile scenic loop road that takes around an hour. But the drive is stunning with forever views of grasslands and the Painted Desert – so sit back and enjoy the ride!

When to visit Wupatki National Parks in Arizona? 

We visited in late October, and the weather was perfect. It’s Arizona, so take into consideration that summers are insanely hot, but winter, spring, and fall are beautiful times to go.

Who lived at Wupatki? 

Wupatki is traditionally associated with 13 different Native American tribes throughout 150 years, from hunters and gatherers to farmers, herders, ranchers, and caretakers.

How to get to Wupatki National Park? 

Because of the long drives throughout the land, you’ll need a vehicle to get to the site. We drove in our RV, so any type of vehicle will do. Just remember to take in the beauty of the drive along the way!

Why add Wupatki to your list?

Legacy landscape, incredible views, history at your fingertips – take your pick! You will not be disappointed with any aspect of this incredible national park in Arizona.

National Parks in Arizona - Wupatki

Grand Canyon National Park – National Parks in Arizona

There’s a reason why the Grand Canyon is called Grand! With it’s stunning views for days, gorgeous landscapes, and a beautiful sunset moment, you’ll be picking up your jaw with every stop. The Grand Canyon is a monumental national park for sure!

Grand Canyon National Park

​​Camping & Lodging at the Grand Canyon, South Rim

A visit to the Grand Canyon is one of those bucket list moments – so why not stay a few days to really take it in? Here are some options of where to stay inside the Grand Canyon, South Rim:

Grand Canyon South Rim Campgrounds – National Parks in Arizona

  • 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗿 𝗩𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗥𝗩 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸: This is where we stayed on our RV trip and the only option that includes full hookups. Close to the store, Yavapai Lodge, and bus station, we loved the convenience that is offered. The sites were also nice, but beware – there’s NO wifi or service at all at the campground. It was the most expensive of all the campgrounds we stayed at – $120 for 2 nights. But it was worth it!
  • 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗖𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱: Mather caters more to tent campers or RVs who don’t require water/electricity. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and campfire grates on-site as well as a free dump station. It’s located in the same area as Trailer Village and Yavapai Lodge.
  • 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝗩𝗶𝗲𝘄 𝗖𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱: If you don’t mind staying a bit further out at the East Entrance, this might be a good option for you. Again, these sites are geared for tents or small RVs that don’t require hookups.
(And if camping at the Grand Canyon isn’t awesome enough – we experienced our FIRST SNOW SIGHTING EVER there! What a magical moment!)

Non-Camping Lodging at the Grand Canyon 

There are a variety of lodges to choose from, the most popular being Yavapai Lodge which has a restaurant, cafe, tavern, and gift shop – AND wi-fi. Since it’s right next to Trailer Village, we ended up spending some time there.

What we loved about staying right in the park was the convenience factor. Each place has quick and easy access to the FREE bus system that takes you around the park to all the lookout points. We were also near hiking paths, the on-site grocery store, the visitors center, bank, and post office (for all you postcard senders).

And, we got to see some wildlife right outside our window! 

Best Sunset Views at the Grand Canyon, South Rim 

While pretty much every viewpoint is incredible at the GC, not each point is suitable for those sunset shots. So here are the 𝗧𝗢𝗣 3 𝗩𝗶𝗲𝘄𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 to capture the sunset at the South Rim:

  1. 𝗛𝗼𝗽𝗶 𝗣𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 – Hopi is the number one spot to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon. It’s accessible only via the Red Hermit Road Shuttle Bus Route during regular months and by private vehicles during the winter months (Dec – Feb). This is where we went to capture the sunset. Be aware: the most popular = the most crowded.
  2. 𝗠𝗼𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗣𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 – Mohave is the 2nd most popular spot to see the sunset and is one stop after Hopi on the Red Hermit Road Shuttle Bus Route. This point also draws in the big crowds.
  3. 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗮𝗷𝗼 𝗣𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 – The only of the three that is located from entering from the East Entrance on Desert View Drive. This location is known as the Hidden Gem of the sunset points to locals because no shuttles drive here. It’s a bit of a drive from the campgrounds but worth it if you want to avoid crowds.
Sunset at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Jr. Ranger Program – National Parks in Arizona

𝗟𝗲𝘁’𝘀 𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗸 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗼𝗻 𝗝𝗿. 𝗥𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺! I have nothing but GREAT things to say about it. So, of course, when we went to the Grand Canyon, Mia was excited to get her booklet and badge. And let me tell you, the GC program is a fantastic one!

  • The booklet is a full-fledged book – not a simple paper pamphlet.
  • The activities help foster exploration and boost creativity.
  • Kids learn more about the environment, geology, wildlife, and history of the Grand Canyon.
  • And it promotes excitement about getting out and exploring nature!
Jr. Ranger Program at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Picture Ideas

Just as vast as the Grand Canyon is, the picture idea possibilities are just as grand! So while you’re there and taking all the typical family poses, try to get in some untraditional shots, too. Like walking down into the Grand Canyon, hugging, and pictures with the Grand Canyon in the background with your subjects in the forefront. They just might end up being your favorites.

Walnut Canyon National Monument – National Parks in Arizona

Walnut Canyon tends to be an underestimated national park in Arizona since it’s so close to the Grand Canyon, but it’s still impressive and worth the visit! Want to plan a trip to Walnut Canyon? We’ve got you covered:

Walnut Canyon

What to do at Walnut Canyon?

Walnut Canyon is a national moment made up of small cliff dwellings with views to die for. Hike, see incredible views, get the kids involved with the Jr. Ranger Program, and enjoy a day in nature.

Hiking Trails at Walnut Canyon

There are two main hiking trails at Walnut Canyon.

  • 𝘙𝘪𝘮 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘭: The Rim Trail is an easy, 0.7-mile paved trail that runs along the rim of the canyon. This trail is great for families with little ones who aren’t ready for the more challenging one.
  • 𝘐𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘭: The Island Trail will take you down into the canyon for a first-hand look at the cliff dwellings. It’s a 1-mile round trip trail and is quite strenuous with 736 stairs. It’s more suited for older and more experienced children/teens.

Where is Walnut Canyon located? 

Located just east of Flagstaff in northern Arizona it’s one of the three national parks in Arizona this area. We camped at the Flagstaff KOA, and it was just a 5-minute drive from the campsite.

When to visit Walnut Canyon? 

We visited in late October, and the weather was nice. It was crazy windy the day we went, so make sure you come prepared with warmer clothes in the winter.

The park closes at 4:30, so if you are looking at doing the Island Trail, they close access at 3:30. Make sure to arrive before then.

How to get to Walnut Canyon? 

There is no public transportation to Walnut Cove, so you’ll need a vehicle to get to the site. If you’re coming from Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 towards Albuquerque and take exit 204. The visitor center is located about 3-miles at the end of the road.

Why add Walnut Canyon to your list? 

Many hikers prefer Walnut Canyon over the Grand Canyon because you can actually hike down inside the Canyon in one day and without additional permissions. Plus, the views are seriously gorgeous!

Montezuma Castle National Monument – National Parks in Arizona

Steeped in Native American history, it’s one of the very first sites dedicated as a national monument back in 1906. Montezuma Castle is made up of dwellings built by the Southern Sinagua tribe. It’s a smaller national monument, so you don’t need much time to explore. I think we spent around an hour and covered everything.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

What to do and see at Montezuma Castle – National Parks in Arizona?

Walk around the short, paved loop to view the 5-story cliff dwellings, have a picnic at the picnic area, and enjoy the nature around you. You can also explore Montezuma Well, just a short drive from the Castle.

Montezuma Castle Hiking Level? 

The hiking level at Montezuma Castle is -sxtremely easy and stroller-friendly. The paved walk is only about a 1/3 mile loop, suitable for pretty much everyone. 

Where is Montezuma Castle located? 

Located in Camp Verde, Arizona, 45 minutes south of Flagstaff and 90 minutes north of Phoenix, it’s a great stop on an Arizona road trip to break up the driving.

When to visit Montezuma Castle? 

We visited in late October, and the weather was nice. We even got to see some beautiful Fall foliage throughout the walk. I highly suggest visiting in early Spring or Fall, before the hot summer sun shows her face.

How to get to Montezuma Castle? 

It’s a quick drive to the site after you exit I-17, exit 289

𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁: Montezuma Castle actually has nothing to do with the Aztec emperor, Montezuma. Early Americans named it such because it looked to them like an Aztec structure. Personally, I think it should be renamed to reflect the true owners.

National Parks in Arizona - Montezuma Castle

National Parks in Arizona Bonus: Tonto National Monument

Located inside the gorgeous Tonto National Forest, the Tonto National Monument is one of those monument gems that not too many people add to their National Park lists. But definitely should! It’s a fantastic little park with gorgeous views and incredible history. Here’s what you need to know before heading to Tonto National Monument.

What to see and do at Tonto National Monument? 

The main attraction at Tonto NM is the cliff dwelling. There are actually two separate sections – the Lower and the Upper Cliff Dwellings. The Lower cliff dwellings are open to the public daily during operational hours. But the Upper cliff dwellings are only available to see by guided tour from the months of November through April. 

There are also historical movies to watch during your visit to Tonto National Monument and don’t forget to grab a Jr. Ranger packet for your littles. 

UPPER DWELLING TOUR TIP: If you’d like to tour the Upper dwellings, you need to reserve in advance. Reservations open on Oct. 1st for the upcoming season and fill up months in advance. You can sign up here: Upper Dwelling Tour Reservations 

Tonto National Monument

Where is Tonto National Monument located? 

Tonto National Monument is about a 2-hour drive from Phoenix, AZ, inside the Tonto Forest. You can either take the AZ 87/188 or AZ 60/188 to arrive at the monument. Currently, the AZ88 route that takes you through Tortilla Flat is closed in certain sections, so it’s not accessible all the way to the Monument. Make sure you check before heading on this route. 

How much does Tonto National Park cost?

Entrance to Tonto National Park costs $10/person, and kids under 16 years old are FREE. If you have the annual National Park Pass, this park is covered with the pass. 

Tonto National Monument Hike

The trail inside Tonto National Monument is quite short but steep. It is a 1-mile roundtrip hike on paved trails. It takes around an hour from the bottom of the trail to the Cliff Dwellings and back to complete. It’s considered an easy trail with a couple of benches along the way for stops. Our 5-year-old had no trouble hiking to the top. 

It’s important to note that during the summer months (June – August), the trails at Tonto National Monument are only open from 8:00 a.m. to noon. And you must start your hike before noon.

Is Tonto National Monument a Dark Sky Park? 

Yes, Tonto National Monument is one of the National Parks designated as a dark sky park. They offer night sky programs from November to April. This is one of the best parks in the US for dark sky photographers! 

When is the best time to visit Tonto National Monument?

We visited Tonto NM in late November, and the weather was absolutely perfect! The temps were in the low 70s with sunny skies. As with all Arizona parks, the best time to visit is during the months of September – May. The Summer months of June through August have limited available hours due to extreme heat, so if you’re going to visit in the summer, make sure you get started in the early hours of the day. 

What are some fun stops to visit during a trip to Tonto National Monument?

There certainly are some additional stops you can make during a trip to Tonto National Monument inside the Tonto Forest. Roosevelt Lake is adjacent to the monument, so stopping at the lake or Roosevelt Dam is a great stop to add to your trip. Tortilla Flat is also a really fantastic place to stop and eat, and Goldfield Gosttown is a cool family-fun stop located along the Tonto Forest route. 

Here is our complete list of things to do in Tonto National Forest.

Is a visit to Tonto National Monument worth it? 

Tonto National Monument is such a fantastic park to add to your national park list and completely worth it! It’s not a huge park like many of the national parks, so you can spend just a few hours and experience it all. Especially for non-hikers or young children, the short trails are a bonus. You’ll also see incredible views, learn about the history of the cliffs and area, and see the beautiful cacti all around you. Definitely worth it!

Jr. Ranger Program at Tonto National Monument

National Parks in Arizona Tips

Visiting national parks in the US is such a great way to see the landscape and learn about the history of the country. If you’re planning on visiting more than one on your trip, we highly suggest buying the America the Beautiful Park Pass. Valid for one year, it will provide access for your entire family to all national parks and federal recreational lands. Cost: $80.

Another great resource is the National Park app. It has information, maps, tours, and more information on every park in the US. It’s FREE and available on both Apple App Store and Google Play.

National Park Trippers – National Parks in Arizona

If you love national parks as much as we do and want to learn about even more national parks, you’ll love our National Park Trippers community. Guides, podcast episodes, tips, and more to enhance your future RV rental trips.  

Pin It! National Parks in Arizona to Visit

4 Comments on “Unbelievable National Parks in Arizona That Are Must-Sees!

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