Arizona

Arizona, also known as the Grand Canyon State, is located in the American Southwest. Admitted as the 48th State of the Union in 1912, Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon as well as a variety of terrain, climates and cultures. To the west are California and Nevada, to the north is Utah, to the east is New Mexico, to the northeast is Colorado, and to the south is the Mexican state of Sonora. It is one of the Four Corners states.


Regions

Arizona regions - Color-coded map
Eastern Arizona
High desert lands, Wild West history galore and small towns near the border.
Greater Phoenix
The fourteenth biggest metropolitan area in the United States has artsy urban communities, ritzy resorts, the country's largest university and resulting college town, beautiful desert wilderness on the outskirts and miles upon miles of suburban sprawl.
Northern Arizona
Including Grand Canyon and the "Arizona Strip." The Navajo Nation and numerous beautiful deserts and forests populate the region.
South Central Arizona
The corridor from Tucson to the biggest port of entry into Arizona, Nogales, has some beautiful high desert, interesting cities and sparse wilderness.
Western Arizona
Mostly high desert and irrigated farmland, especially off the Colorado River along the border with California, on the western edge. Includes Yuma in the southwest, Arizona's third most populous metro region after Phoenix and Tucson.

Cities

Other cities are listed in their regions.

Other destinations

National parks

National Monuments

Ravens, Petrified Forest National Park

National Forests

State Parks

The Arizona State Parks offer an array of options for outdoor enthusiasts:

Understand

Landscape

Grand Canyon National Park

Arizona covers 113,909 square miles, with about 350 square miles of water surface including Lake Havasu, Lake Powell, Lake Mead and the Colorado River. The state consists of three primary topographical features: a high plateau in the northeast of the state, averaging between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation; a mountainous region which runs from the southeast to the northwest with peak elevations between 9,000 and 12,000 feet; and low mountain ranges and desert valleys in the southwestern of the state.

The state is defined by the Grand Canyon in the north, the Mogollon (pronounced MUG-ee-own) Rim in the central mountainous region and the Sonoran Desert to the south. Scattered among these regions, features such as the red rocks of Sedona, the tall, wind-swept towers of Monument Valley and the saguaro-filled desert valleys around Phoenix and Tucson add depth and character to the landscape of Arizona.

Another prominent feature of the Arizona landscape, a Ponderosa Pine forest stretches across the state from the White Mountain region around Greer and Alpine across the Mogollon Rim to the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. This strip of pine also extends beyond the Grand Canyon onto the Kaibab Plateau and into Southern Utah.

Humphreys Peak, part of the San Francisco Peaks, is the highest point in Arizona with an elevation of 12,611 feet. Baldy Peak, located in the White Mountains, is the second highest point with an elevation of 11,490 feet. In the southwest of the state, the Sonoran Desert stretches out of Mexico and into Arizona with elevations as low as about 100 feet above sea level in the Lower Colorado River Valley.

The Grand Canyon

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon dominates the Northern Arizona landscape. Stretching 277 miles across the high plateaus and plunging up to 6,000 feet into the arid plateau, the canyon was shaped and carved by the constant motion of the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon features three or four eras of geological time as well several layers of fossil records, several varieties of rock types, numerous caves and several major ecosystems.

Climate

What To Wear

When visiting Arizona pack accordingly depending on the time of year and where you are traveling. Throughout the state dress is usually casual and comfortable, especially during the summer months. Very few restaurants require jackets and ties, however if you are planning on attending a cultural event or dining at a finer restaurant, consider bringing business casual attire as well.

During the summer, shorts and sandals are standard wear during the day. You might even see some children barefoot in public. You can wear a light sweater or jacket during the evenings at higher elevations. In the cooler months, temperatures can differ greatly from day to night, so consider bringing a sweater or jacket if traveling in the desert areas. At higher elevations in the north of the state, a winter jacket is recommended.

Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen should be used year-round.

A primary reason for travelers to visit to Arizona, specifically in the low desert regions around Phoenix and Tucson, is the state's mild climate during the fall, winter and spring. The warm weather and low precipitation provide travelers with an enjoyable climate for numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, golf and sightseeing. At higher elevations during the winter, snowfall allows visitors to enjoy winter sports such as cross-country skiing.

During the summer months, temperatures in the low desert regions can reach well above 100 degrees F, however the climate at higher elevations, as in Flagstaff, stays mild and allows for enjoyable outdoor activities as well as a break from the summer heat.

Temperatures

High temperatures near or above 100-110 degrees F are common throughout the summer months at the lower elevations. During the winter, cold fronts can bring temperatures well below zero in the higher areas of central and northern Arizona, with lows averaging between 15 and 20 degrees F.

During drier portions of the year (traditionally the winter months), temperatures can differ greatly from day to night, sometimes as much as 40 to 50 degrees F. In the low desert valleys during the winter, temperatures during the day could average 70 degrees F, with night temperatures dropping to around 40 degrees F. During the summer, the central portion of the state along with the lower elevations can can experience temperature changes up to 30-40 degrees F from day to night.

Precipitation

Rainfall in Arizona is primarily determined by season and elevation. In the mountainous region, that runs from the southeast to the northwest, rainfall amounts will average between 25 and 30 inches (including melted snow) annually, while the low-lying desert region averages only three or four inches annually. The high plateau region in the northeast of the state averages 10 inches of rainfall annually.

During winter months, November through March, storms occur regularly at the higher elevations in central and northern Arizona and can produce heavy snowfall. Summer months, particularly early July through mid-September, bring the monsoon season to the desert region. Monsoons are strong thunderstorms, typically lasting a short time in a certain area, that produce powerful winds and brief periods of blowing dust prior to the storm's arrival. Almost all of these storms occur roughly between mid-afternoon and the middle of the night.

The average number of days with measurable rainfall per year ranges from around 70 in the northern part of the state to 15 in the desert regions. The air is usually dry and clear, with low relative humidity and a high percentage of sunshine. April, May, and June usually produce the most clear days, while July and August (in lower elevations), as well as December, January and February (in higher elevations) have the cloudiest weather due to thunderstorms. Humidity is low in comparison to other states, however it is typically higher during the monsoon season.

Despite the common perception of Arizona as a warm state, snowfall does occur annually in high altitude areas such as Flagstaff.

Average Temperature / Rainfall
Desert (1200 ft) Mountain (7000 ft)
Month Average Low Average High Average Rainfall Month Average Low Average High Average Rainfall
January 41.2F/5.1C 65.9F/18.8C 0.6" January 16F/-8.8C 43F/6.1C 2.18"
February 44.7F/7C 70.7F/21.5C 0.7" February 19F/-7.2C 46F/7.8C 2.56"
March 48.8F/9.3C 75.5F/24.2C 0.9" March 23F/-5C 50F/10C 2.63"
April 55.3F/12.9C 84.5F/29.2C 0.22" April 27F/-2.8C 58F/14.4C 1.29"
May 63.9F/17.7C 93.6F/34.2C 0.1" May 34F/1.1C 68F/20C 0.8"
June 72.9F/22.7C 103.5F/39.7C 0.1" June 41F/5C 79F/26.1C 0.43"
July 81.0F/27.2C 105.9F/41.1C 0.9" July 50F/10C 82F/27.8C 2.4"
August 79.2F/26.2C 103.7F/39.8C 1.0" August 49F/9.4C 80F/26.7C 2.89"
September 72.8F/22.6C 98.3F/36.8C 0.86" September 42F/9.4C 74F/23.3C 2.12"
October 60.8F/16C 88.1F/31.2C 0.7" October 31F/-0.5C 63F/17.2C 1.93"
November 48.9F/9.4C 74.9F/23.8C 0.7" November 22F/-5.5C 51F/10.6C 1.86"
December 41.8F/5.4C 66.2F/19C 1.0" December 17F/-8.3C 44F/6.6C 1.83"

Native American Culture

Arizona is home to 22 Native American Tribes that contribute to the history, culture and economy of the state. While most tribes welcome visitors to experience their proud history and culture, each tribe does have its own guidelines for visitors. In addition, the 22 reservations operate under their own governmental structure. Tribal laws should be viewed in the same manner as U.S. laws and regulations. Before visiting a tribe, you should consult or contact the individual tribe for additional visitor information.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

When visiting a Native American Tribe or reservation, you should be aware that:

Time Zone

Arizona is always on Mountain Standard Time (UTC -7) and does not observe daylight saving time. The exception is for the Navajo Nation, located in the northeastern corner of the state, and extending into New Mexico and Utah (which also observe daylight savings). Note the large Hopi reservation is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, but is on standard time like the rest of Arizona.

During the summer months, the state is an hour behind the rest of the Mountain Time Zone (or equivalent to the Pacific Time Zone). This causes confusion as daylight savings now runs roughly from March through October, so time in most of Arizona is effectively the same as Pacific Time for two-thirds of the year. During the winter months Arizona has the same time as the rest of the Mountain Time Zone. An easy way to remember this rule is: Colorado in wintertime, California in summertime. This does not affect the hour in which most TV programs are viewed for the local over-the-air networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, etc. The exception is for nationwide live programming, and all cable-only channels.

Talk

As with all states in the U.S., the primary spoken language in Arizona is English. However, due to the state's history and its proximity to Mexico, Arizona is home to a large population of Mexican-Americans as well as populations from several other Hispanic countries who typically speak the Spanish language (with some Hispanic cultures using a country-specific dialect) in addition to English. Most of the 22 Native American Tribes also have their own distinct language, however it is usually spoken between tribal members.

Get in

When To Go

Generally, the peak season in the desert areas (southern Arizona) lasts from January through March with the next most popular season is from April to May and September through December and the season when visitors can find the greatest values is June through August.

Peak and value seasons in the mountainous regions (northern Arizona) are the opposite of the desert areas. Generally, peak season is from June through August, shoulder season is April to May and September through December, and value season is January through March.

Peak season in some mid-climate areas of the state, such as Sedona, is from March to May and September through October, with shoulder season from January to February.

By air

Arizona's main entry point by air is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX). Located between downtown Phoenix and Tempe, Sky Harbor is served by most major airlines and provides non-stop service to over 100 cities worldwide.

The Tucson International Airport (IATA: TUS), located south of downtown Tucson, is Arizona's second busiest airport. Served by several major airlines, TIA current provides non-stop service to 18 cities.

In addition to Sky Harbor and TIA, several regional airports are located throughout Arizona including Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IATA: AZA, FAA LID: IWA) in the east Phoenix metro valley (formerly Williams Gateway Airport), Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (IATA: FLG) in Flagstaff, Lake Havasu City Airport in Lake Havasu City,Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IATA: IFP, FAA LID: IFP), in Bullhead City and Yuma International Airport (IATA: YUM) in Yuma.

By car

All parts of Arizona are accessible by federal or state highways as well as 22 'Ports of Entry' from surrounding states and Sonora, Mexico. The speed limit on most interstate freeways is 75 miles per hour, however this typically drops to 65 or 55 miles per hour near metropolitan areas. The speed limit on most state highways and U.S. routes in rural Arizona is 65 miles per hour.

Arizona law does require that each front-seat occupant wear a seat belt in a car is designed to carry ten or fewer passengers (i.e. not a bus). In addition, children under the age of five must be properly restrained as well.

By bus

Bus service to Arizona is available via Greyhound with several stops available including Flagstaff, Glendale, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma.

By train

Amtrak, +1 800 USA-RAIL (+1 800 872-7245) offer two routes through Arizona:

Get around

As with most western states, the easiest way to get around Arizona is via car. The federal and state highway system offers travelers easy access around Arizona whether you are driving your personal car or a rental car. While most major cities in Arizona do offer public transportation, including Greater Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona, state-wide public transportation is very limited.

By car

Nearly all major attractions and tourist destinations in Arizona are accessible via car.

Renting a car

Renting a car in Arizona is very similar to any other state. Rental cars are available at most major airports, especially the main entry points of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Tucson International Airport.

By bus

Bus service to Arizona is available via Greyhound with several stops available including Flagstaff, Glendale, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma.

Eat

Although, like most large metro areas, Phoenix is home to a wide variety of eateries of myriad ethic and cultural influences, Arizona is best known for their great Southwestern style food, including great traditional Mexican cuisine, particularly of the northern or Sonoran variety, upscale Mexican fusion eateries, right to working neighborhood catering trucks and street-side burrito stands.

On the wilder side, cactus is also edible and can be eaten fried or in salads.

Drink

Large amounts of water are a necessity during the summer months. The amount of water suggested varies from person to person, but dehydration or exhaustion can occur if one is not vigilant; especially in areas without air-conditioning. Summer days can be so warm that most convenience stores sell fountain drink cups in sizes up to a half gallon.

Stay healthy

Disease

Like many western states, Arizona has had cases of hantaviral pulmonary syndrome, 62 confirmed cases in the state since 1993. Realistically, however, hantavirus is of very little concern to the traveler; but sensible precautions should be applied. Do NOT venture in a wild animal's den or handle any dead animals; particularly rodents, as rodents seem to be the primary vector of the illness. There is no cure for the disease, treatment mainly consists of supportive therapies. The main defense against the virus is prevention.

For more information on prevention and transmission, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on hantaviruses.

Stay safe

Arizona / Mexico Border

Due to Arizona's proximity to the International Boundary with Mexico, visitors should be cautious while in areas near the border.

Crossing the border

Thousands of U.S citizens visit the state of Sonora, Mexico from Arizona every year with the majority of travelers returning from an enjoyable experience. However, Sonora can be very dangerous for travelers, and the U.S. State Department encourages travelers to limit travel to the main roads during daylight hours. Before traveling to Mexico, ensure that you have the proper documentation and are familiar with the recommendations for foreign travel from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs and with the current Mexico travel warnings.

Deserts

A large portion of Arizona's land area consists of extensive desert landscapes, many of which are very remote and can easily become disorienting to a tourist who is unfamiliar with these locations. It is not at all uncommon for temperatures in the Arizona desert to reach 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit (45–50°C) during the summer months, which have the potential to impose deadly consequences to anyone who should become lost or stranded in these areas.

If you are planning on traveling or hiking into these locations, follow desert survival guidelines. Be sure to take plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day), sunscreen and wear light clothing. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to get return.

Also, it is best to hike during the earlier part of the day, as thunderstorms tend to develop suddenly during the afternoon. In the event you encounter inclement weather conditions, seek high ground immediately! Thunderstorms can cause flash flooding in canyons and other low laying areas.

Driving

Drivers in Arizona should follow the same rules and regulations that apply throughout the U.S. Auto Tours USA site can provide you with all the information you need and more for your next road trip to Arizona.

Road conditions

For information on road conditions or traffic information dial *511 from any phone. Road conditions and traffic information is also available online from the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration.

Be aware that Arizona Highway Patrol can and do close I-40, I-17 and other major roads due to high winds or severe snow storms. During extremely severe weather, it may not be possible to send traffic back to a town, so travelers should plan accordingly.

Dust storms

Dust storms are caused by high winds blowing dust onto highways. Usually brief, dust storms should be taken seriously because they can quickly decrease visibility. If you see a dust storm while driving:

Rain

Typically during the summer monsoon season, Arizona does experience heavy rainstorms or monsoons. While these storms are usually brief, the heavy rain can cause flooding in low-lying areas. If you find yourself driving during one of these storms:

Emergency Services

In the event of an emergency, dial 911. For non-emergency police or fire assistance, contact the local police or fire department directly.

Summer Weather

Summer temperatures in some areas of Arizona routinely surpass 100°F (38°C) and visitors should take extra precautions while visiting the state. In Phoenix, record temperatures of 118°F and 116°F (48 & 47°C) have been approached with greater regularity in recent years. Frequent hydration is extremely important.

If outdoors:

Avoid heat-related illness:

Abandoned Mine Shafts

These are very numerous in Arizona, and many remain unmarked. Many mine shafts are as deep as a skyscraper is tall, creating an extremely dangerous hazard. Do not travel along unknown trails and primitive dirt roads by ATV, motorcycle, horseback, etc. or deviate (even by a few feet) from existing well-used ones. For more information, including safety tips, visit the Arizona State Mine Inspector website.

Go next

Arizona's geographic location and the interstate system allow easy access to California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado (via Utah or New Mexico) and the state of Sonora in Mexico.


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