Southern Arizona Travel Guide - Introduction
Phoenix, Tucson, and Year-Round Destinations
by Joseph A. Sprince - Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Southern Arizona Travel Guide is a resource for those planning a road trip or vacation to the region. The southern half of Arizona, including the metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson areas, is within the Sonoran Desert. While the region is extremely warm during the summer, mild, dry, and sunny weather is the rule from mid-autumn through mid-spring. A wide variety of outdoor winter recreation is available, ranging from golf to hiking to horseback riding to water sports. There are also spectactor sports, cultural venues, and many special events.
This guide also covers the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. This unspoiled high country provides an escape from summer heat with all manner of outdoor recreation. It is also a popular winter sports destination. For the popular destinations of northern Arizona, such as Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, and the Painted Desert, see our Northern Arizona Travel Guide.
This guide offers descriptions of many points of interest, links to many references, travel itineraries, and suggested visit times. See below for more introductory material and the complete Index for this guide.
Central/Western Arizona |
White Mountains |
Southeastern Arizona |
Travel Itinerary - Trip Planner |
Introduction to Southern Arizona
This guide is divided into five sections: Metropolitan Phoenix, Metropolitan Tucson, Central and Western Arizona, Southeastern Arizona, Arizona's White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim. Phoenix, Tucson and southwestern Arizona lie in the Sonoran Desert with its very hot summers and excellent recreational opportunities during the winter, actually from mid-October to mid-April. Southeastern Arizona offers numerous cultural, historic, and recreation opportunities on a year-round basis. Due to a high elevation, generally around 5,000 feet, summers are a bit cooler than in the desert. The White Mountains which reach over 10,000 feet in elevation have cold, sometimes snowy winters, and cool summers with a thunderstorm season. The mountains are a popular summer getaway for desert dwellers but offer winter recreation, too.
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- Metropolitan Phoenix
The metropolitan area includes the large cities Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Glendale. The region is noted for its many winter resorts; lots of golf, especially in Scottsdale; ideal weather; and plenty of recreation. Teams in the four major professional sports are located here, as well as Arizona State University. Major League Baseball's spring training takes place here in February and March. In recent year's the region's dining, entertainment, and cultural options have increased enormously. The metro region boasts a system of municipal and regional parks perhaps without equal in size and number. These parks are largely preserves of unspoiled and scenic desert and mountains with wonderful opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, or just enjoying peace and quiet.
- Metropolitan Tucson
Tucson sits at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains which reach a peak at 9,000+ feet Mt. Lemmon. The mountains provide outstanding year-round recreational opportunities (winter skiing when there's enough snow); the mountains' runoff produces lush well-watered desert lands. Beautiful saguaro "forests" predominate the desert landscape outside of town, especially at Saguaro National Park and Catalina State Park. The University of Arizona brings collegiate sports and culture to Tucson. Old Tucson brings western-style entertainment to visitors, and the adjacent Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the nation's finest. The nation's most beautiful early spanish mission can be seen at Mission San Xavier del Bac. The combination of desert and mountains makes Tucson a year-round destination.
- Central and Western Arizona
The desert regions of central and western Arizona offer excellent winter recreation, ranging from the lowlands along the Colorado River in western Arizona to the rugged Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. The Apache Trail, one of America's finest scenic routes, passes by the scenic reservoirs which bring water to Phoenix and through jagged desert mountain ranges surreal in their stark beauty. Remains of ancient civilizations can be viewed at Tonto National Monument and Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Spectacular desert scenery can be found at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Popular rock, gem, and craft shows are held every year in the town of Quartzite.
- Southeastern Arizona
The high range country of Southeastern Arizona offers slightly cooler summer than the deserts. The most notable attraction is the historic western town of Tombstone with the famous copper mining town of Bisbee nearby. Reminders of the Apache wars can be seen at Fort Bowie and Cochise Stronghold. Enjoy great scenery, hiking, and camping at Chiricahua National Monument. Many visitors walk across the border at Nogales, Arizona to sample the adjacent town of Nogales, Mexico. Arizona's fledging wine industry is centered around the villages of Elgin and Sonoita. Several small wineries offer tasting and other events. Southeast Arizona also features one of Arizona's great new attractions, Kartchner Caverns, perhaps the most pristine limestone caverns in America accessible by the public.
- The White Mountains & Mogollon Rim
The White Mountains and Mogollon Rim stretch across the central and eastern part of Arizona. The high elevation and lush forests offer desert dwellers a cool escape from the summer heat. The mountains also feature snow skiing and other winter sports. The higher elevations - above 8,500 feet - in far eastern Arizona offer a true alpine experience with plentiful camping, hiking trails and lakes and streams for fishing. The Coronado Trail is one of the state's finest scenic drives.
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Index to the Southern Arizona Travel Guide
Travel Guides to Nearby Destinations
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The Sonoran Desert encompasses the southern half of Arizona. Most destinations
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