1. Enjoy a fall color hike
Forest Road 552, , 86001
Yes, Arizona does see a fall season: it happens to be quite spectacular! Home to a diverse mix of plant life, including ponderosa pines and aspens, trails in the region shine a gorgeous mix of gold and green come fall.
For prime leaf peeping, check out either the Aspen Nature Loop (a 1.5 mile loop along the western end of the San Francisco Peaks) or the Inner Basin Trail (a tough 4 mile journey through towering aspens).
2. Explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park, , 86023
Approximately an hour and a half north of Flagstaff lies Arizona's most famous natural wonder: the gorgeous South Rim of the Grand Canyon. From scenic overlooks, to historic landmarks, to challenging back country trails and fun whitewater trips, there is just so much to explore. For a challenging hike with spectacular views, be sure to hike the Kalibab Trail to Skeleton point. Or, sign up for a guided ranger walk to learn some interesting new facts.
Whitewater rafting adventures, float trips, and guided mule rides are other fun activities to consider, although these activities require advance planning.
3. Step back in time at the Petrified National Forest
6618 Petrified Forest Road, , 86025
One of the most unique sights to see on any Northern Arizona road trip is the Petrified National Forest, home to one of the largest collections of petrified wood. These gorgeous fossils, comprised almost entirely of quartz, were formed by nature over 200 millions years ago, back when dinosaurs once roamed the land.
Aside from getting a close up view of this incredible natural process, you will also get to enjoy a range of diverse attractions during your visit including several short hiking trails, picturesque overlooks of the Painted Desert, and ancient petroglyphs, all of which are accessible via a 28 mile scenic drive through the park.
4. Take a bike ride along the Peavine National Recreational trail
Hwy 89 at Side Road, , 86301
Enjoy this rare opportunity to take a scenic cruise along one of the few rail trails in Arizona. The 11 mile Peavine National Recreational Trail in Prescott is an easy, flat ride which offers breathtaking views of Watson Lake and the beautiful Granite Dells rock formations.
If you need a bit of extra motivation to get out there and exercise (whether that be a bike ride, jog, or walk), the picturesque lake views along this trail will surely motivate you to get out there and enjoy the Arizona sunshine!
5. Hike to Devil's Bridge
Dry Creek Road, , 86336
For one of the most picturesque and photo worthy Sedona hikes, be sure to make room for Devil's Bridge. A moderate, slightly challenging journey through Sedona's majestic red rock scenery ultimately leads you to the largest sandstone arch in the area, known as Devil's Bridge.
If you are brave enough, you can venture out onto to the bridge for panoramic views of the area, not to mention the perfect take home souvenir photo. Expect a lengthy wait, especially on weekends, for that perfect photo opportunity!
6. Experience an adventure anytime of year along the beautiful Aspen Nature Loop
N. Snowbowl Road, , 86002
Flagstaff offers a rare setting for Arizona, being located right in the middle of the country's largest ponderosa pine forest. With its' high altitude location (7000 feet), the city experiences dramatic climate changes, including a colorful fall season and a very snowy winter.
A variety of trails in town and nearby offer year-round recreation through the peaceful high desert landscapes. The Aspen Nature Loop, a 1.5 mile hike at Snowbowl (the area's downhill skiing resort), offers the most scenic year-round exercise opportunities.
From summer hiking through the gorgeous green pines and aspens, to a stroll through golden aspens in October, to a snowshoe trek surrounded by snow capped mountains after the first winter storm, a hike at Aspen Nature Loop is always different and exciting.
For its' beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks and the quiet setting, the Aspen Nature Loop stands apart from the rest as the top nature trail in town.
7. Climb the 240 step Island Trail and explore ancient ruins at Walnut Canyon National Monument
3 Walnut Canyon Road, , 86004
Walnut Canyon, at 20 feet long, 400 feet deep, and a quarter of a mile wide, is quite a sight to behold. Plan a visit to this national monument specifically for the short, yet fun and challenging, climb up and down the Island Trail.
Here you will past more than 20 ancient cliff dwellings as you make your way down, and then up, the 240 step staircase. Anyone interested in Native American history will have a field day.
The views are simply outstanding every step of the way, so have your camera ready. Walnut Canyon is an amazing place for almost any activity: exercise, photography, history, and possibly even a rare wildlife sighting!
Best of all, your ticket also includes entry into nearby Sunset Crater. Both of these attractions are located along a scenic drive known as the Sunset-Wupatki loop road.
8. Photograph Horseshoe Bend
545 Hwy 89, , 86040
Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed natural wonders in Arizona. In a state with seemingly endless natural wonders, this is just one of many incredible sights. The unique curve the Colorado river makes around a sandstone formation truly creates an interesting sight. Although it is not located at the Grand Canyon, it is often referred to as "the east rim of the Grand Canyon."
Horseshoe Bend is a great detour enroute to Zion National Park. Also, if you happen to be touring Antelope Canyon in Page, this is a great quick add on activity.
9. Hike the Arizona trail
7 miles up Snowbowl Rd, , 86001
The Arizona trail is an 800 mile trail which crosses through the entire state. Although completing the entire trek would be quite a feat for the novice hiker, a short hike is all that is needed to take in the beauty of this majestic state. The most incredible views can be experienced in Northern Arizona, particularly around the Flagstaff area.
Aspen Corner to FR 418 is a particularly scenic stretch of trail. This route is about 6 miles, however, you can go out as far as you like and turn around at any point. This hike is best enjoyed in early fall when the aspens trees are at full peak. For the best fall leaf peeping in the state, there is no better choice.
10. Drive Oak Creek Canyon, Hike the West Fork Trail, & Soak in Sedona's Incredible Red Rock Views
Hwy 89a just south of Flagstaff, , 86336
The 14 mile Oak Creek Canyon Drive, located between Flagstaff and Sedona, is a must -do on any Northern Arizona trip. The dramatic change in scenery from pine covered mountains to peaceful, towering red rock formations is quite unusual in an extraordinary way.
During your journey, you will want to take a break and hike the West Fork Trail: a peaceful, beautiful trek through deciduous trees with 13 fun creek crossings. Also check out the natural water slide at Slide Rock State Park or simply take in the stunning views from various overlooks.
One thing is for sure: a drive along Oak Creek is time well spent!