1. The Grand Canyon National Park
2. Antelope Canyon / Glen Canyon
Painted Desert / Petrified Forest
This picturesque landscape is a concentrated and even more beautiful display of the painted hills along much of Arizona into Utah, New Mexico and even up in South Dakota. This is definitely the best display though. In addition to the beautiful red, orange, gray, and blue colors, there is also petrified trees that came about through unique conditions that I don’t think can be seen anywhere else in the world. It’s mostly a park you will drive through, but there a few trails and places to get out and look around along the way. The Blue Mesa Trail takes you through a leisurely stroll through colorful blue colored hills. Crystal Forest takes you through the petrified forest. Meteor Crater is nearby, just outside of Winslow. This privately owned attraction costs money. I didn’t see it, friends saw it and were unimpressed. It’s a tourist attraction so decide for yourself.
Recommended by a family friend, this place is gorgeous, in the low elevation mountains. Not far from Phoenix, the top two things are Whiskey Row, a town square with shops, restaurants, and bars with a very cool old west theme, and Watson Lake, which is just absolutely gorgeous and a must see if you have the time.
Flagstaff & Route 66
One of the stops along the old Route 66 where you’ll find an assortment of old hotels, shops, and gas stations. Some of the old highway exists on its own, but otherwise has been merged into the larger interstate highways. Flagstaff itself is a neat town, noticeably cooler that much of the rest of the state. With remnants of the Route 66 era and the nearby university, there is a really interesting mix of outdoor activities, shops, and eating options. The town itself is not that big and easy to explore in an afternoon. Or stay for longer and relax. Very friendly town. The Old Quarter is a great area with a street of small motels. Biff’s Bagels is an awesome bagel joint, good for breakfast.
Tombstone is a famed old west town stuck in the past. Site of the famous gunfight battle at the O.K. Corral. Here you can get a touristy representation of what it was like in the old west. Saloons, old trains, wagons, cowboys, miners’ tools, etc. I wouldn’t go out of your way to stop here, but if it’s on the way, definitely stop! There is a re-enactment gunfight that runs every so often. There is also some interesting info about the famous Apache, Geronimo. Definitely looks like someone not to be trifled with. Boothill Graveyard has some of the most hilarious (albeit slightly racist) etchings on the tombstones. Kartchner Caverns is nearby if you want some cave action, and there are several campgrounds in the area if you’re looking to camp for the night. Tuscon is the nearest major city. Not super exciting. Will be along the route if you’re driving I-10.
Location for the beautiful lake and waterfalls. Requires advanced planning as it's located just outside the Grand Canyon on the map, but like 6 hours or something to get there due to its location and the road system. I haven't gotten there yet, but it's on my list once I figure out the logistics. I believe it's also part of the Hopi reservation so that likely plays a role. If you've been and know how to get there, leave a comment!
- Weather. Temperatures can reach well into the 90s in the spring and into the 100s in the summer, especially around Phoenix. At least it's a dry heat, so things are not as muggy and cool down in the shade and at night. Of course it varies depending on what part of the state you're in. Wear a hat, bring sunblock, and drink plenty of water. Dress in layers though as it will be cooler in the upper elevations like the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.
- Nature. Some of the desert wildlife you may find across the state are rattlesnakes (and other venomous/non-venomous snakes), coyotes, fire ants (look for big mounds or clumps of dirt and DO NOT disturb), scorpions, deer, and jack rabbits. As with any nature, if you don't bother it, it won't bother you. You're unlikely to actually encounter any of these, but always good to be in the know and on the lookout.