Eastern Arizona High desert lands, Wild West history galore and small towns near the border.
Greater Phoenix The Fifth Biggest Metropolis 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.
Flagstaff - Home of the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, Flagstaff is the gateway to the Northern reaches of the state with most people headed to the Grand Canyon's South Rim passing through Flagstaff.
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 variety rock types, numerous caves and several major ecosystems.
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, with 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.
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.
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 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)
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:
Each reservation operates under its own government and its own rules for visitors.
Photography and painting may not be allowed. Check with the individual tribe before taking photographs.
Dances are typically part of religious ceremonies. Think of these events as you would if you were visiting a holy site, such as a church. Also, be mindful that applause may not be welcome after a dance.
Do not climb walls or structures.
Sacred areas and graveyards are not usually open to visitors.
Reservations and villages should be treated with respect. While most reservations are open to visitors, individual homes are private and should be entered only by invitation.
Some arts and crafts sold around reservations may not be authentic. Consult the Indian Arts and Crafts Association for more information about purchasing authentic Native American arts and crafts.
Arizona is always on Mountain Standard Time and does not observe daylight saving time, except for the Navajo Nation. This means that during the summer months, Arizona is a hour behind the rest of the Mountain Time Zone (or equivalent to the Pacific Time Zone). 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.
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.
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.
Arizona's main entry point by air is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX, ICAO: KPHX). 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, ICAO: KTUS), 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 Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (IATA: FLG, ICAO: KFLG) in Flagstaff, Lake Havasu City Airport in Lake Havasu City,Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IATA: IFP, ICAO: KIFP, FAA LID: IFP), in Bullhead City and Yuma International Airport (IATA: YUM, ICAO: KYUM) in Yuma.
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.
Interstate 10 (I-10) runs east to west across southern Arizona and connects travelers with the major cities of Tucson and Phoenix. I-10 originates out of the east from Las Cruces, New Mexico and out of the west, from Palm Springs, California and Los Angeles. I-10 is a major interstate and does carry a large amount of car and truck traffic. During the week, portions of I-10 can experience very heavy traffic, usually around the Tucson and Phoenix metropolitan areas.
Interstate 8 (I-8) runs east to west, running from I-10 to Yuma. I-8 splits from I-10 south of Phoenix and provides the quickest access to Yuma as well as San Diego, California. However, in the other direction, it does not go to Phoenix directly. At Gila Bend, Hwy 85 connects I-8 with I-10, for travel to the west side of Phoenix and downtown (or Phoenix to San Diego). For the eastern suburbs, I-8 merges with I-10, and it's possible to reverse direction going from I-8 east to I-10 west (exit #178B) or vice versa (I-10 exit #199). Despite the signs, I-10 goes mostly north-south east of Phoenix, and backtracking is very minimal.
Interstate 40 (I-40) runs east to west across northern Arizona and connects travelers with the cities of Flagstaff, Williams and Kingman. I-40 comes into Arizona from east after passing through Albuquerque, New Mexico and from the west after passing through Barstow and Needles, California. I-40 is positioned above the Mollogon Rim and is affected by heavy snowfall during winter months.
Interstate 19 (I-19) runs south to north in south central Arizona and provides access from Tucson to Nogales as well as entry into Sonora, Mexico. I-19 splits from I-10 just south of Tucson. Because I-19 is a major route to and from Mexico, border patrol checkpoints are common along the interstate, however these checkpoints typically do not take long to pass through. The border crossing at Nogales can be a busy entry and exit point, be patient while waiting to cross the border and have proper documentation ready to present. See 'Stay safe' for additional information.
U.S. 93 runs southeast to northwest across northwest Arizona and connects travelers from Las Vegas to I-40 at Kingman. U.S. 93 is the route that the majority of local residents and tourists use to travel to and from Las Vegas and can become very busy on most weekends. On a side note, U.S. 93 also runs across the Hoover Dam on the Arizona / Nevada border.
U.S. 60 runs (in a general) east to west across central Arizona, entering the state just south of I-40 from New Mexico. U.S. 60 runs through the White Mountains and the towns of Eagar and Springerville on it's way to Globe and eventually, Phoenix.
U.S. 89 runs north to south through northern Arizona and connects travelers from Utah with Page and Flagstaff. In addition, U.S. 89 is the main route for travelers to access the South Rim, North Rim (via Alt-U.S. 89) and the east entrance of the Grand Canyon.
Alt-U.S. 89 runs through northern Arizona, starting near Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, and connects to U.S. 89 south of Page. Alt-U.S. 89 is the main route to access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
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.
Nearly all major attractions and tourist destinations in Arizona are accessible via car.
Interstate 17 (I-17) runs south to north across central Arizona and connects travelers with the major cities of Phoenix and Flagstaff. I-17 is the main route north to Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon from Phoenix. It provides easy access to Sedona via AZ 179 as well as Prescott, Jerome and Montezuma Castle National Monument. Because I-17 is the major route north, it does a large amount of car and truck traffic, especially during busy weekends and holidays. During the week, portions of I-17 can experience very heavy traffic due to commuters.
The Apache Trail (Hwy. 88) is a 42-mile long scenic drive through the Sonoran Desert. It goes out to Theodore Roosevelt Lake and the mining town of Globe. Along the way are ample views of yuccas, saguaros and desert lakes.
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.
Arizona is know for their great Southwestern style food, including everything from Mexican fusion dishes to street-side burrito stands. Cactus is also edible and can be eaten fried or in salads.
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.
Arizona / Mexico Border
Due to Arizona's proximity to the International Boundary with Mexico, visitors should be cautious while in areas near the border.
Know where you are at all times, follow good safety procedures and use common sense when making decisions.
Do not pick-up hitch hikers.
Keep valuables, including spare change, out of sight and lock your vehicle.
Avoid traveling in well-marked but unofficial "trails."
Avoid hiking or camping in areas of major border activity. If you are visiting a national or state park, consult park staff to help plan backcountry travel in safer areas.
Report any suspicious behavior to the U.S. Border Patrol.
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, a minority of travelers do experience difficulties and serious inconveniences while traveling to Mexico. 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
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 whom is unfamiliar with these locations. It is not at all uncommon for temperatures in the Arizona desert to reach 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, which have the potential to impose deadly consequences to anyone who should become lost or stranded in these areas.
If 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.
Drivers in Arizona should follow the same rules and regulations that apply throughout the U.S. Auto Tours USA can provide you with all the information you need and more for your next road trip to Arizona 
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 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:
Turn on your headlights and slow to an appropriate speed.
If you can safely avoid it, do not enter the dust storm.
If you need to pull off the road, get as far to the right as possible. Turn off the car, set the parking brake and keep your foot off the brake pedal – other drivers may think you’re a car in motion.
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:
If you need to pull off the road, get as far to the right as possible. Turn off the car, set the parking brake and keep your foot off the brake pedal – other drivers may think you’re a car in motion.
Pay attention to hazard signs and roadblocks. If you see a sign that says "Do Not Cross When Flooded", take it seriously and find another way. Section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, commonly known as the "Stupid Motorist Law" , states that any motorist who drives around barricades into a flooded stretch of roadway may be charged for the cost of his or her rescue.
Don’t cross rain-swollen washes. You could get caught in a flash flood. That guy out there who seems to be only ankle-deep in water may be standing on the roof of his pickup truck.
Most of these summer monsoon rain storms are accompanied by lightning. Take proper precautions.
In the event of an emergency, dial 911. For non-emergency police or fire assistance, contact the local police or fire department directly.
Summer temperatures in some areas of Arizona nearly can 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 & 47C) have been approached with greater regularity in recent years. Frequent hydration is extremely important.
Rest frequently in shady areas so that the body's temperature has a chance to recover.
If unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, gradually increase the pace and limit exercise or work time.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing; sunglasses to protect the eyes; and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep the head cool.
Take special precaution with infants and young children by dressing them in loose, cool clothing and shading their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella. Protect their feet with shoes.
Avoid heat-related illness:
Never leave infants, children or pets inside a parked vehicle.
Increase fluid intake, regardless of activity level. Don't wait until thirsty to drink fluids; drink more liquid than one's thirst indicates.
Avoid "heat hangover." Continue to drink fluids even after strenuous activity. This will enable the body to maintain optimum hydration, and help prevent the after effects of heat exposure such as headaches and fatigue.
Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar as they dehydrate the body.
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.
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.
Four Corners Monument is where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet at right angles. Take US Hwy 89 east of the Grand Canyon, and turn onto US Hwy 160 going to New Mexico. Just across the state boundary, turn left at New Mexico Hwy 597. About 225 miles (360 km) from either Flagstaff or Grand Canyon Village.
This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!