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A beginner's guide to Arizona
The State of Arizona has no shortage of amazing outdoor adventures for you! The hardest part will be narrowing down your list so you can enjoy some of the biggies - with of course the Grand Canyon being the grand daddy of them all.
What to do
Stretching 277 miles from end to end, steep, rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where the wild Colorado River cuts through the heart of it all. You can explore the Grand Canyon with a guided tour, a bike ride, high above in a helicopter, or perched atop a friendly mule. There are numerous hikes from easy rim-hikes, to tougher multi-day backpacking trips. Or for a whole different perspective, try a rafting expedition down in the Colorado River.
For a change of pace, visit Phoenix. Arizona’s capitol city will give you a different side of the state with big-league sporting events, renowned museums, and plenty of trails for biking and hiking. With a skyscraper-filled skyline complemented by famed Camelback Mountain, Phoenix offers the perfect balance of urban energy and Southwestern scenery.
Nearby Scottsdale is probably the poshest city in Arizona. This scenic desert city is home to luxury resorts and spas, dozens of golf courses, and great shopping and dining - but it’s also where you’ll find plenty of Old West charm and Southwestern art and jewellery.
Another must see is one of the grandest - and most photographed - landmarks in the United States, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This sprawling, sandy preserve spans the border between Arizona and Utah and is most known for its surreal sandstone towers – some as tall as 1,000 feet. Located inside the Navajo Nation - one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States - Monument Valley is about four hours northeast of Flagstaff.
Where to eat
No matter what kind of mood you're in, Arizona has something to offer. Sit down to some authentic Native American or Mexican cuisine, relax with old-fashioned, home-style grub or celebrate a special occasion at an exclusive restaurant. There are some cool, local breweries and wine bars too. Arizona’s proximity to Mexico naturally ensures some great Mexican street food and fusion cuisine. Some of the best restaurants in Arizona can be found in Phoenix and Scottsdale like at The Mission, which has modern Latin cuisine that is prepared on a traditional plancha-style grill. Another great spot is Elements, the Sanctuary on Camelback Resort's award winning restaurant. Hormone-free meats, local and organic produce, and sustainable seafood has made this restaurant one of the highest ranked in the area. Plus, with a remarkable view of Camelback Mountain, the ambiance can’t be beat.
Where to stay
From historic lodges and hotels to rugged campgrounds, Arizona has a wide range of places to stay – but you have to book early. The Grand Canyon has several options, with the largest being, the Yavapai Lodge. It is surrounded by Pinyon and Juniper woodlands and is about 1/2 mile from the rim.
Inside Monument Valley, the newer View Hotel has rooms with a perfect view of the Mitten Buttes and much more – but you’ll need to book a room well in advance. Camping is also available at Mitten View Campground, offering perhaps the best view from any campsite in Arizona.
In swanky Scottsdale, a stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a real treat. This magnificent resort is scenically set against the backdrop of Arizona’s McDowell Mountains and pays tribute to Arizona’s Spanish Colonial heritage. The Firesky Resort, a Kimpton Hotel, in the Sonoran desert is just blocks from Old Scottsdale.
For something a bit different, get your cowboy hat on and try out a ranch holiday. From horseback rides to steak barbeques to moonlight bonfires, a dude ranch is an experience you will never forget…and where better to experience it than the real ‘old west.’
Further reading: Arizona is ‘must visit’ for all fans of far reaching deserts, Native American culture and those quintessential reds, yellows and pink hues at sun down. Discover the top 10 things to do in Arizona.