Visitors who see Arizona’s most popular attraction, the Grand Canyon National Park, generally view the natural wonder from the edge of its north or south rims. Instead, splurge and go deep—a mile deep. Experience the awe-inspiring cliffs, rugged mountain trails, sandy beaches, desert critters and vegetation via a river raft (not the noisy motorized versions).
It’s where John Ford filmed nine classic Westerns and Tom Hanks abruptly ended his run in the movie “Forest Gump.” But Monument Valley is more than on-screen pop culture. It’s a northern Arizona attraction not to miss. Cabins, camping spots and a hotel inside the park bring you close to the towering red sandstone buttes, cliffs and mesas. The park map includes a self-driving tour. Better yet, hire a park-approved Navajo guide.
Arizona rivers generally run dry, but the scenic Aravaipa Creek, a tributary to the perennial San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona, runs wet—and not too wild, unless you count thirsty bighorn sheep. The 11-mile-long waterway, waist-high in a few places, flows between tall limestone cliffs and cottonwoods. Within the protected Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area, only 50 hikers are allowed in per day. It’s a great hiking spot in warmer weather.