The 10 Best Nature Centers in Arizona!

Disconnect from the world for a bit and immerse yourself in nature. Nature centers across Arizona offer an escape from your bustling, everyday life in favor of the peace and quiet that only the natural world can provide. In Arizona, there are a number of nature centers worth visiting to observe wildlife, learn about the environment, and enjoy the great outdoors. Here are our 10 favorites. 

1. The Arboretum, Flagstaff, AZ

The Arboretum began as a research station for philanthropist Frances McAllister. Over the last 35 years it has evolved into one of the go to spots for nature lovers in Arizona. Today, it provides an educational look into the unique plants and animals that comprise the Coconino National Forest. The Arboretum is comprised of gardens, greenhouses, and natural habitats featuring horticultural collections and 750 plant species. Visitors are encouraged to take guided garden tours, bird walks, and explore the butterfly greenhouse.

2. Hassayampa River Preserve, Wickenburg, AZ

The Hassayampa River Preserve is a lush riparian habitat that is home to over 280 species of wildlife. The river is 100 miles-long and runs mostly underground but emerges at the preserve. This 770-acre preserve is crucial in providing life for its surrounding cottonwood-willow forests and the plants and animals that call it home. According the to Nature Conservancy, an estimated 90 percent of these landscapes have been lost or damaged in the last century. It's an important piece of preservation that offers a look into the rare flora and fauna of Arizona.

3. Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, Phoenix, AZ

The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center may seem like a mouthful—but it has earned its lengthy title. Its mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems for wildlife. Focusing on preservation of the Sonoran riparian habitat, this award-winning nature center is home to over 200 species of birds and wildlife. It's located in the middle of the 600-acre Salt River corridor only a few miles from downtown Phoenix. The center has interactive exhibits, hiking and riding trails, birding classes and bird walks, and more.

4. Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, Gilbert, AZ

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is a 110-acre wildlife preserve that is focused on educating and raising awareness for Arizona's ecology and natural resources. The Riparian offers family bird walks, overnight camping, tours of the preserve, and events for field trips. The Riparian also includes the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory and Water Ranch Lake—a popular fishing destination.

5. White Mountain Nature Center, Pinetop, AZ

The White Mountain Nature Center has been constantly growing since being established in 2003. Located on 10 acres in the Pinetop-Lakeside White Mountains, this nature center is currently undergoing an expansion to add a wildlife rehabilitation center and a learning center. In the meantime, visitors can check out the 583-acre Woodland Lake Park. The park has nature trails consisting of wetlands, spring-fed ponds, and the majestic animals of the northern mountains.

6. Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Sierra Vista, AZ

The Ramsey Canyon Preserve is ecologically unique. It's located in the Huachuca Mountains—an intersection of the Sierra Madre and Rocky Mountains. The result is an unusually cool desert environment and lush habitat that is hospitable to a variety of plants and animals. The canyon is friendly to many water-loving plants including sycamores, maples, and columbines. Animal lovers may spot some of the 15 species of hummingbirds native to the area, including the rare violet-crowned hummingbird.

7. Colorado River Nature Center, Bullhead City, AZ

The Colorado River has been an integral water source for the Southwest for thousands of years. The goal of the nature center is to preserve the wetland that provides habitat for a diverse wildlife species, including bird species and waterfowl. This 500-acre reserve has some of the best water activities that the desert has to offer. Amenities include beach access to the river for fishing, picnicking, and wildlife watching.

8. Community Nature Center, Prescott, AZ

The Community Nature Center is an 18-acre site that features hiking trails, guided nature walks, and bird watching. It may not be the biggest nature center, but it's a great spot for exploration and learning. The Habitat Garden has over 25 plant species in addition to the 41 found on the hiking trails. The headquarters are in a cozy log cabin with a lot of information on the flora and fauna of Northern Arizona.

9. Environmental Education Center at Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, AZ

Veterans Oasis Park is a watering hole in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. This 113-acre park has shallow basins that pick up reclaimed water in an effort to help with Chandler's water management plan. Hiking and equestrian trails and playgrounds surround the wetlands and lake. The park is also home to a butterfly and hummingbird habitat, educational exhibits, and an astronomy project called the Solar System Walk.

10. The Gray Hawk Nature Center, Sierra Vista, AZ

Located alongside the San Pedro River, The Gray Hawk Nature Center is a key player in the conservation of the wetlands of southern Arizona. It's part of the Riparian National Conservation Area and is a resting spot for many breeds of migratory birds. Guided natural history tours will give visitors an encounter with the plants and animals that rely on the San Pedro as a resource. As an added bonus, live reptile displays showcase native animals like the regal horned lizard.

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4001 South Woody Mountain Road, Flagstaff, AZ
Mission of the Arboretum at Flagstaff is to increase the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and plant communities native to th... Read More
2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ
MissionArizona-Sonora Desert Museum is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understandi... Read More
37615 U.S. Highway 60, Superior, AZ
Mission "The Mission of Boyce Thompson Arboretum is to instill in people an appreciation of plants through the fostering of educational, recreation... Read More
2150 North Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
Mission and History: Tucson Botanical Gardens is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization supported by income generated through admissions, membe... Read More
14805 West Vineyard Avenue, Goodyear, AZ
About Us:  These 19,840 acres of desert and mountains became the first regional park in the Maricopa County Park System in 1954. Located near... Read More
37019 N. Lava Lane, Cave Creek, AZ
This 2,922-acre park sits in the upper Sonoran Desert. Ranging in elevation from 2,000 feet to 3,060, this desert oasis provides any hiker and eque... Read More
20304 West White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell, AZ
Nearly 30,000 acres makes this the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mou... Read More
3131 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ
The Rio Salado Audubon Center's Mission: Opened in October 2009, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart ... Read More
Northeastern Arizona, right on the AZ-NM border, Window Rock, AZ
Mission: To provide a quality exhibition of native plant and animal species that will foster the understanding, appreciation, knowledge and respec... Read More
1151 S Forest Avenue, Tempe, AZ
The entire Tempe campus at ASU was officially dedicated as an arboretum by President Lattie Coor on November 20,1990. The Arboretum at ASU is mana... Read More
901 Ricardo Drive, Bullhead City, AZ
Colorado River Nature Center is a great place to recreate for those looking to enjoy the long, hot summers, and abundant sunshine on the water. Boa... Read More
1981 Williamson Valley Road, Prescott, AZ
This open space preserve of 18 acres was bought in 2006 by City of Prescott. Opportunities include picnicking, hiking, and large group activities. ... Read More
3918 GRAY HAWK LANE, Sierra Vista, AZ
The Gray Hawk Nature Center, located on the beautiful San Pedro River, seeks to promote understanding, appreciation, and conservation of the natura... Read More
1375 South Walker Road, Prescott, AZ
Vision Statement The Highlands Center for Natural History is a regional hub for lifelong learning. We nurture a meaningful sense of place and fost... Read More
27 East Ramsey Canyon Road, Hereford, AZ
Hours Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Closed Tuesdays/Wednesdays Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year'sFees $6.00 per person. Conservancy members an... Read More
3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa, AZ
Usery Mountain Regional Park, Located on the Valley’s east side, this park takes in 3,648 acres set at the western end of the Goldfield Mount... Read More
1201 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ
Mission The Garden's commitment to the community is to advance excellence in education, research, exhibition, and conservation of desert plants of... Read More
366 Research Ranch Road, Elgin, AZ
Mission and GoalsThe mission of The Research Ranch is to formulate, test, and demonstrate methods to restore and safeguard the bioregion, and provi... Read More
425 South Woodland Road, Pinetop, AZ
About Us: We started WMNC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 2005 and purchased the land for the Nature Center in 2007. After years of plann... Read More
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