Arizona’s nickname is the Grand Canyon State, and rightly so. Millions of tourists flock to this natural wonder every year in an attempt to get a peek at one of the world’s most magnificent natural creations. However, many people forget about the vastly unique wonders that exist around the rest of the state. From tucked-away caves to flowing waterfalls, Arizona has some truly awe-inspiring natural creations that often get overlooked in lieu of more famous or recognizable destinations. Here are the best and most discreet natural wonders in Arizona that are worth a visit.
This magnificent slot canyon is situated on Navajo land, with the only access available via guided Jeep tour. Visit during the afternoon for a calmer, less busy exploration of the canyon. The upper canyon tour takes guests through stunning crevasses, with unmatched views. Explore the narrower crevasses in the lower canyon where you can climb ladders, to gain an even more immaculate view of the area.
Travelers seeking paradise need not travel to far away tropical oases. Havasu Canyon, home of the Havasupai Indian tribe, houses some of the most gorgeous waterfalls on the planet. The Havasupai Reservation is deep within the Grand Canyon and has steep plateaus with water runoff from the Colorado River. The result is a spectacular display of blue green waterfalls and pools. Havasupai Falls is a destination for hikers that require an extensive eight-mile hike and advanced planning. Campgrounds are limited, so visitors should make sure to book a trip well in advance.
Devil’s Bridge is an iconic hike near Sedona ending with one of the most frequently photographed spots in the state. This 4.5-mile trail is accessed via Dry Creek Road and leads to a large natural arch in the red rock cliffs on the north side of Capital Butte. This hike gets major foot traffic and a large portion of the trek involves walking towards the small trailhead to begin the ascent to Devil’s Bridge. Once there, however, it offers scenic views of red rocks and the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona.
Fossil Creek is located in the Coconino National Forest. With excellent hiking trails, and secret swimming spots, this place is truly an escape. Fossil Creek is widely-known for its legendary toilet bowl, which is actually just a swirling pool of water that comes from a decommissioned dam. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hop into the bowl for a swim. And even further, you can explore a grotto-like cave under a waterfall for a truly serene experience.
Slide Rock is a state park in Oak Creek Canyon—a few miles away from downtown Sedona. This 43-acre park attracts thousands of visitors each year for its giant natural water slide. The slide is an 80-foot slippery shoot down a creek that developed by being worn into sandstone. Visitors can slide down the natural water chute and wade around in the half-mile swimming creek area. For a brief reprieve, enjoy some sunbathing on the red rock beaches surrounding the creek.
It’s hard to call any part of the Grand Canyon a hidden gem. Still, there are less heralded areas of the natural wonder that for some reason don’t get the major crowds or appreciation they deserve. One such area is Horseshoe Bend—located outside of Page, Arizona. This hike offers spectacular views of the Colorado River from a 1,000-foot vantage point. Horseshoe Bend is comprised of hardened sand dunes that have petrified into a smooth sandstone over millions of years. The Colorado River cuts through the sandstone and over time created the 270-degree horseshoe bend in the canyon that exists today.
Grand Falls is a natural waterfall located 30 minutes east of Flagstaff. This 181-foot marvel is fed by melted snow from the White Mountains. As a result, the waterfall only flows during certain parts of the years and is best visited in the spring. At 181-feet, Grand Falls is actually taller than Niagara Falls and has equally breathtaking views. When the runoff is high, the falls give off a spectacular view and the spray creates rainbows. The falls are located on Navajo land and a hiking permit is required.
Arizonans seeking a challenging adventure should look no further than Seven Falls. This extended eight-mile hike includes water crossings, a series of waterfalls, and picturesque views of the Catalina Mountains. To reach the falls, hikers start at the Sabino Canyon parking lot and follow telephone trail to Bear Canyon road. After a series of water crossings and switchbacks, hikers will arrive at the Seven Falls Trail. It may be an exhaustive trip, but the scenic waterfalls and refreshing pools make this full day adventure well worth the effort.
Kartchner Caverns is a live cave in southern Arizona that features some of the most unusual cave formations known to man. Though the cave has been undergoing continued growth for thousands of years, it wasn’t fully explored until 1978. Since then, many have traveled to experience the cave’s extraordinary variety of formations. Kartchner Caverns is comprised of speleothem structures formed by the deposition of minerals into water. Epic stalactites and stalagmites fill the cave—including a 21-foot soda straw stalactite and the massive 58-foot Kubla Khan column.
Tucked away in a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge is not so easy to find. Tonto is situated in a valley between Pine and Payson, and this geologic marvel was discovered after three days of thorough searching by prospector David Gowan. This natural travertine bridge features a 400-foot-long tunnel and is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge on the planet.