Unveiling Arizona’s Lesser-Known Gems to Explore and Camp Nearby
Arizona is well known for its many famous destinations, like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Sedona (just to name a few). But there’s so much more to this great state than just these well-known spots. Let’s take a look at 12 hidden gems in Arizona that are well worth checking out.
Which hidden gem in Arizona will you visit first?
1. Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park features vast landscapes with colorful petrified trees. The fossilized remains create a terrestrial landscape that looks like almost nowhere else on Earth. You’ll also find miles of trails, an ancient village and petroglyphs, and the beautiful banded badlands of the Painted Desert.
For a nearby place to stay, we recommend the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA Journey.
2. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
A short drive north of Payton, you’ll find Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high at its highest point and stands over a 400-foot-long tunnel that measures 150 feet wide at its widest. While there, you can learn about the history of the area and about the formation of the natural bridge.
For a place to stay, we recommend Payson Campground & RV Resort, a short drive south of the park.
3. Barringer Crater
Did you know you can see an ancient meteorite crater right in Arizona?
Barringer Crater was created 50,000 years ago when a meteorite crashed into the Earth with the force of 2.5 million tons of TNT. Today, you can visit the 3,900-foot wide, 560-foot deep crater and soak in the ancient history of the location. Plus, the site has a space museum and crater discovery center where you can learn and have fun.
For a place to stay, you can’t beat nearby Meteor Crater RV Park.
4. Superstition Mountains
In the eastern part of Maricopa County, you’ll find the steep, rugged cliffs of the Superstition Mountains. These mountains are perhaps best known for their role in the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. According to the legend, somewhere in the Superstition Mountains, there lies a lost gold mine full of riches.
While you’re in the area, we recommend staying right in Lost Dutchman State Park, home to the Superstition Mountains.
5. Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Just a short drive east of Phoenix, you’ll find Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. At this hidden gem in Arizona, you’ll find 20,000 plants from 4,025 different taxa, representing plants from nearly every desert region on Earth. Plus, birdwatchers can enjoy spectacular birding opportunities at the park, which is an officially designated Important Bird Area.
For a nearby place to stay, we recommend Mc Gavin’s RV Resort.
6. Chiricahua National Monument
The beautiful Chiricahua National Monument is an Arizona hidden gem that covers over 12,000 acres and features stunning volcanic rock formations. Thanks to these formations, the monument has been called a “wonderland of rocks,” and is sure to delight any geology lover.
While you’re there, we recommend staying right there in the park at the Bonita Canyon Campground.
7. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
In the extreme south of Arizona, on the border with Mexico, sits the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This officially designated UNESCO biosphere reserve covers over 330,000 acres and is the only place in all of the US where the namesake Organ Pipe Cactus grows. The park offers 28 miles of trails to see the cactuses and the rest of the park’s ecological marvels.
While you’re there, we recommend staying at Twin Peaks Campground.
8. Kartchner Caverns State Park
Love caves? Then you don’t wanna miss Kartchner Caverns State Park, an expansive limestone cavern just southeast of Tucson.
Take a tour of the caves, walk the trails above ground, and check out the hummingbird garden full of native vegetation. Or take a guided “bat walk,” where you can see as many as 13 different species of native bats.
Plus, you can stay right there at the park’s campgrounds for maximum convenience.
9. Mount Graham
Mount Graham is southern Arizona’s highest mountain offering a cool refuge from the desert heat. The mountain boasts 6,320 feet of prominence, making it the most prominent peak in Arizona – an impressive sight to see. The area is also home to the Mount Graham International Observatory, housing three separate telescopes.
While in the area, we recommend staying at the campgrounds at nearby Roper Lake State Park.
10. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests offer not just one but two beautiful national forests to see. At this hidden gem in Arizona, you’ll find stunning and diverse landscapes, from deserts to alpine tundras and more.
The forests cover a combined 2.76 million acres, making this a genuinely massive park to explore. In Apache-Sitgreaves, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and camping at some of the best campsites in all of Arizona.
While you’re there, we recommend staying in one of the park’s many campgrounds, such as the Canyon Point Campground.
11. Lake Havasu State Park
Want to cool down from the summer heat? Lake Havasu is the perfect hidden gem in Arizona to do just that.
The park covers 900 acres and features 2.5 miles of shoreline. It’s the perfect place to take your own boat or rent one on-site. Are you a land lover? Spend some time fishing on the shore, enjoy some birdwatching, or simply relax on the beach.
For a palace to stay, we recommend Islander RV Resort.
12. Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge
Sitting on the lower Colorado River, the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge offers a glimpse into what the Arizona landscape was like hundreds of years ago. Here, you can find hundreds of species of birds, one of the last stands of naturally regenerated Cottonwood-Willow forests in the area, and so much more.
While you’re there, we recommend staying at River Island State Park.
There are So Many Hidden Gems in Arizona to Discover
Petrified forests, gorgeous mountains, fascinating caverns, and ancient craters. When you go off the beaten path, you can find some truly amazing hidden gems in Arizona. These spots and many more are just waiting for you to discover them!