Arizona is rich in history and natural landmarks scattered throughout the state. Arizona’s most famous landmark is the Grand Canyon, but many other sites also deserve to be mentioned. The sixth-largest US state has plenty of places to see, from towering rock formations to red cliffs, historic mines, abandoned ghost towns and ancient petroglyphs. Meteor Crater was created by a meteor back in 508 BC and is one of the best-preserved craters on Earth.
Arizona is packed with natural monuments and the only USA state with four desert regions – the Chihuahuan, the Mojave, the Sonoran and the Great Basin Desert – full of treasures. Here are 21 Arizona landmarks to tick off your bucket list.
- 21 Landmarks in Arizona
- National Landmarks in Arizona
- 1- Monument Valley
- 2- Antelope Canyon
- 3- Horseshoe Bend
- 4- Grand Canyon
- 5- Canyon de Chelly National Monument
- 6- Oak Creek Canyon
- 7- Cathedral Rock
- 8- Chiricahua National Monument
- 9- The Sky Islands
- 10- Meteor Crater
- 11- Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
- 12- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- 13- Havasu Falls
- 14- Grand Falls
- 15- Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
- 16- At the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
- 17- Tonto National Monument
- 18- London Bridge
- 19- Biosphere 2
- 20- Chapel of the Holy Cross
- 21- Montezuma’s Castle
- National Landmarks in Arizona
21 Landmarks in Arizona
National Landmarks in Arizona
1- Monument Valley
Monument Valley is a stunning desert landscape on the border of Arizona and Utah.
Wind and water sculpted the land over millions of years, and the impressive sandstone buttes in the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park are some of the most photographed landscapes in the world.
The park is a popular natural backdrop for Western movies, and access is along the 17-mile (27 km) Valley Drive.
Monument Valley is most famous for its two buttes, the West and East Mitten Buttes, known as the Mittens.
You can view the Mittens from the road and from the south, they look like two giant mittens with thumbs facing inwards.
Monument Valley is at Indian Route 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, Arizona.
2- Antelope Canyon
An awe-inspiring geographical landmark, Antelope Canyon is a slot in Arizona’s north.
Its high cathedral-like walls are nature’s sandstone sculptures and a dream to photograph.
When the natural light shines on the wave-like natural features, the canyon takes on an ethereal look.
The best time to photograph the light is in summer and from March to October.
Antelope Canyon was chiselled by nature over millions of years due to water erosion.
According to the Navajo, the canyon’s name “Tse’ bighanilini” means “the place where water runs through rocks.”
The canyon was once home to pronghorn antelope.
You’ll need to join a guided tour to explore Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is near Page, Arizona.
3- Horseshoe Bend
Featured worldwide in tourism brochures and websites, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most famous Arizona landmarks.
Located in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the 270º horseshoe-shaped bend of the Colorado River is 1,000 ft (305 m) deep.
The bend is nine miles downstream from the Grand Canyon National Park, and the land south of the parking area, the trail to the bend and the viewing point is on Navajo Nation land.
The Colorado River sweeps around a sandstone bluff and makes wide bends on its journey towards the ocean.
Around five million years ago, the Colorado Plateau uplifted, trapping the meandering rivers in their beds.
Over time, the rivers carved through the layers of sandstone, creating Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend is near Page; the parking lot and trailhead are off US Highway 89, approximately five miles (8 km) from Carl Hayden Visitor Center.
4- Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most distinguishable landmark and a natural wonder to tick off our bucket list.
The vast landscape stretches 277, with rocky walls descending over a mile to the canyon floor, where the Colorado River flows to the Southwest.
The Grand Canyon National Park celebrated 100 years as a national park in 2019.
The Colorado River flows through the canyon, draining water from seven states, but the Grand Canyon is in Arizona.
Although no dinosaur bones were found in the Grand Canyon, many other fossils, including 1.2 billion-year-old marine fossils and 10,000-year-old land mammals remains, have been found in the canyon.
The only town in the Grand Canyon is Supai Village, within the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is not reachable by road.
The remote community of 208 people receives its mail by pack mule!
The South Rim Visitor Centre is at S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona.
5- Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to ancient pueblo ruins built between 350 and 1300 AD.
Home to a Navajo Indian community that herds sheep in summer, the canyon is one of the longest inhabited natural landscapes on the Colorado Plateau.
Go on a guided tour, join a hike or admire the views.
One of the most recognisable landmarks within Canyon de Chelly is the towering sandstone cliffs of Spider Rock spire.
Take a hike along the White House Ruins trail or join a tour to see prehistoric rock art and remains of ancient Pueblo villages.
Canyon de Chelly is in Chinle, Arizona.
6- Oak Creek Canyon
South of Flagstaff, the Arizona State Route 89A follows a series of switchbacks into the scenic Oak Creek Canyon.
The canyon’s natural features are its spectacular scenery, natural formations and colourful rocks.
There’s a bird’s-eye view of the canyon from the Oak Creek Canyon Vista and plenty of scenic viewpoints, swimming holes and hiking trails.
A tributary of the Verde River, Oak Creek, flows along the canyon’s floor.
The canyon formed when about 65 million years ago, the east side shifted upwards and the exposed top rock layers eroded until both sides were level.
Streams carrying gravel and lava flowed into the canyon from the north.
Oak Creek Canyon is south of Flagstaff on the Arizona State Route 89A.
7- Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock is a natural sandstone butte in Sedona within an area famous for its stunning natural landmarks.
The best view of this stunning Arizona landmark is along the Red Rock Crossing hiking trail.
The Cathedral Rock trail begins off Back O’ Beyond Road and is a short trail, only a mile long, through the fantastic landscape.
Cathedral Rock is in Yavapai Country, Arizona.
8- Chiricahua National Monument
A national park with towering vertical rock columns, Chiricahua National Monument has 17 miles of trails.
The territory near Willcox is 12,000 acres of pure Arizona nature.
27 million years ago, a volcanic eruption at Turkey Creek created a massive amount of ash that hardened into volcanic rock.
Over the years, that rock eroded to form a rock garden with impressive rock spires, some several hundred feet tall.
Faraway Ranch is a historic homestead within the area where early pioneers Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson raised three children.
Chiricahua National Monument is at E Bonita Canyon Rd, Willcox.
9- The Sky Islands
Isolated mountain ranges in the southeastern part of Arizona, the Sky Islands connect to Mexico’s Sierra Madre and have an incredible diversity of plant life.
The Sky Islands are popular for climbing, hiking, birding and mountain biking.
During the Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, there was not as much desert area, but as temperatures rose, animals and plants on the Sky Islands evolved.
A Sky Island is a unique ecosystem with various plant communities, from desert plants to sub-alpine plants.
10- Meteor Crater
Meteor Crater was formed by a nickel-iron meteor that crashed into the ground 50,0000 years ago while travelling at around 26,000 miles per hour.
It’s one of the Earth’s best-preserved meteorite impact sites and is one mile wide and deeper than 500 feet.
What happened to the meteorite?
Some of the meteorite vaporised during impact, and some melted.
The rest remained in the crater and blended with the fragmented rock.
It would have only taken seconds for the impact to form a crater 2.4 miles in circumference.
The meteorite displaced more than 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone.
Meteor Crater Barringer Space Museum is at Interstate 40, Exit, 233, Winslow.
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11- Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is a pristine geological region with diverse landscapes such as plateaus, cliffs, canyons and buttes.
The monument, which has soaring ranges up to 7100 feet, is sandwiched between Kaibab National Forest and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
It’s home to endangered California condors that are released here as part of a captive breeding programme.
The Wave, a sandstone sea of stunning red and gold cliffs, is one of the spectacular sights.
Other things to see are 3,000-foot cliffs, unmarked paths, sandy slot canyons, and pulled-taffy rock formations.
Vermillion Cliffs has no visitor centres or campsites. To get there from Flagstaff, travel north on US Highway 89 to US Highway 89A at the Bitter Springs turnoff.
12- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Sunset Crater was created during the 11th century when the ground opened up and spewed rock and lava.
During the 20th century, NASA’s Apollo astronauts trained for the lunar landings in this lunarscape.
The national monument was named after its rim, where red and yellow cinders look like an Arizona sunset.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is at 6082 Sunset Crater Road, Flagstaff.
13- Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, just outside of Grand Canyon National Park.
It takes five hours to reach the Havasu Falls trailhead from Lake Havasu City, from where it’s a 10-mile hike to the waterfall.
The trail is challenging, but the sight of the pristine blue-green waterfall plunging 100feet into a shimmering pool is jawdropping.
The reason for the vibrant colour is because the water is rich in calcium carbonate and magnesium.
The sight of the falls against is a stunning contrast to the red canyon in the background.
Havasupai Falls is near Supai Village. There are no roads to Supai village, and access is along the trail at Hualapai Hilltop.
14- Grand Falls
This chocolate-coloured waterfall is a wide tiered waterfall created by volcanic runoff from Merriam Crater.
Grand Falls is 30 miles from Flagstaff and is part of the Navajo Nation’s Painted Desert.
Fed by rainwater and snowmelt from the White Mountains, the waterfall only flows in March, April and a short window during the monsoon season.
Grand Falls is over 181 feet (55m) high and is taller than Niagara Falls.
Grand Falls is on the Little Colorado River, Flagstaff.
Historic Landmarks in Arizona
15- Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
Step back into history at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, where the 1882 courthouse is now a museum filled with paraphernalia from the Old West.
The 1882 Victorian structure was designed in the shape of a Roman cross to house the sheriff’s office and the offices of the recorder, treasurer and other officials.
Tombstone was a frontier silver mining town that boomed with miners, cattlemen, and pioneers.
The courthouse became a museum in 1931, representing the era’s events, including an invitation to a hanging and a brothel tax license.
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park is at 223 E Toughnut St, Tombstone.
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16- At the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
At the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, take a step back into history to discover the mysteries of the ancient Sonoran desert farming community.
The ruins date back to around 1350 and are one of the most significant prehistoric structures in North America.
Extensive irrigation, farming and trade occurred here for over a thousand years, but the purpose of Casa Grande is still a mystery.
It was the first archaeological reserve in the land in 1892 and declared a National Monument in 1918.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is at 1100 W Ruins Dr, Coolidge.
17- Tonto National Monument
Tonto National Monument consists of two well-preserved American Indian cliff dwellings that tell the story of ancient cultures.
The dwellings are perched on cliffs and have fabulous views of the Sonoran Desert.
They were occupied from the 13th to the 15th centuries and can be explored on a guided tour.
Tonto National Monument is at 26260 AZ-188, Roosevelt.
18- London Bridge
Arizona’s version of London Bridge was built in London in the 1830s and sold to an Arizona businessman Robert P. McCulloch.
In 1968, the 932-foot bridge was transported to Lake Havasu City via California and the Panama Canal.
Transporting the bridge was an enormous task where each stone was numbered, disassembled and reconstructed by 1971.
It complements the English village with its Tudor architecture and a traditional English pub.
The bridge has ornate lampposts created out of melted-down cannons that the British captured from Napoleon’s army after the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.
London Bridge is at 1340 McCulloch Blvd, Lake Havasu City.
19- Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2 is an impressive science research facility in Oracle, with the mission to research the Earth’s place in the universe.
Run by scientists from the University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 has seven model ecosystems, including a mature rain forest, a 2600 m3 ocean, mangrove swamp, tropical savanna grassland, coastal fog desert and model city.
Biosphere 2 is at 32540 S Biosphere Rd, Oracle.
20- Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is also known as the Chapel on the Rocks because it was built between two mounds of 200 ft (60m) high red rocks.
There’s a huge cross wedged between the rocks, with the full height of the glass showing off the views.
The Roman Catholic chapel falls under the episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, and St. John Vianney Parish in Sedona conduct its ministry.
The design was the brainchild of Frank Lloyd Wright’s student, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, and completed in 1956.
Chapel of the Holy Cross is at 780 Chapel Rd, Sedona.
21- Montezuma’s Castle
Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde is a historic structure built by Sinagua Indians and one of the earliest preserved cave dwellings in North America.
Wedged in a recess in a limestone cliff overlooking Beaver Creek, it is five stories high and has 20 rooms.
The building of the dwelling began in the 12th century and took three centuries to complete.
Explore the museum and wander through the sycamore grove at the base of the limestone cliffs.
There’s a ranger program covering a range of topics.
Montezuma Castle National Monument is at Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde.
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