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 is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When visiting a Native American Tribe or reservation, you should be aware that:
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.
As with all states in the U.S., the primary spoken language in Arizona is English. However, due to the state's 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.
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 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.
Visitors can reach Arizona by rail via two Amtrak routes:
More information, including reservations, can be found by visiting the Amtrak Wikipedia pages, Amtrak.com  or by calling 1800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). (From inside the US)
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.
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 / 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, a minority of travelers due 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
Drivers in Arizona should follow the same rules and regulations that apply throughout the U.S.
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.
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:
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:
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 can reach triple digits and visitors should take extra precautions while visiting the state.
Avoid heat-related illness:
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.