Most visitors coming to northern Arizona head immediately to the wonders of the Grand Canyon. And if you see nothing else in the area, this is a must-do. But you can visit several other outstanding scenic and hiking areas in this part of the state.
Here are five of the most impressive national monuments you can easily see before and after visiting the canyon.
1. Meteor Crater National Natural Landmark
Arizona boasts an impressive hole in the ground near Winslow and Flagstaff. Meteor Crater is nearly three-fourths of a mile wide and over 500 feet deep, and it was caused by a meteorite impact around 50,000 years ago. Pieces of the meteorite can be viewed at the visitor center.
Aside from the enormous impact hole itself, the crater has a fun and quirky history. While scientists had debated how the crater was formed, a businessman named Danial Barringer was convinced that a massive lode of iron ore was just waiting to be found in the meteorite to make him rich. He never found his fortune, but his family still operate the crater as a tourist attraction.
Famous visitors to the crater include the Apollo astronauts while training for their trips to the moon.
2. Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle is the centerpiece of a collection of dwellings of the Sinagua people who inhabited this region for hundreds of years. Although you no longer can climb into the main castle ruins on the cliff face, you can find a number of stunning views from the interpretive trails. And you can visit several other structures throughout the park.
Be sure to visit the nearby Montezuma Well to see how ancient peoples found and maintained water in a cool environment despite living in a harsh and unforgiving desert.
3. Sunset Crater National Monument
Want to see a volcano up close and personal? Take a short drive from Flagstaff to nearby Sunset Crater National Monument. The stark shape of the volcano reminds visitors that the Earth remains geologically active. This volcano erupted last around 1805 and had a severe impact on the nearby population that lived in Northern Arizona.
Visit the visitor center for more education about the way that nature can impact human lives suddenly and surprisingly. While you can’t camp inside the monument, you can visit a park service-operated campground near the visitor center. You can make this visit part of a simple day trip or spend more time away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Canyon.
4. Walnut Canyon National Monument
Get a more close-up view of ancient ruins by exploring the many trails in Walnut Canyon. You’ll find easy and accessible viewpoints and trails along the rim as well as more demanding routes leading to higher elevations.
If you’re looking for a little challenge, the climbs up to elevations as high as 7,000 feet can give the uninitiated a real workout. Fortunately, the large collection of dwelling is a great reward for your hard work.
5. Wupatki National Monument
Arizona has more than its fair share of Native American dwellings and villages perfect for anyone’s taste. Nestled near Sunset Crater is Wupatki National Monument and its various pueblo and kiva ruins. You can make this part of a day trip to the volcano or spend more time hiking around ruins like Wupatki Pueblo and Wukoki Pueblo.
If traveling to Arizona in the off season, you have plenty of opportunities for a unique park experience. You can participate in guided day hikes, and for more experienced hikers, the park service operates a guided overnight hike called Crack-in-Rock during the winter months.
You can see why savvy visitors flock to Arizona’s well-kept secrets around the Grand Canyon. Get started on your outdoor Arizona adventure today by visiting us at Peace Surplus in Flagstaff.