Where to see Arizona's most spectacular scenery

man standing on edge of grand canyon
Must-see: no trip to Arizona is complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon Credit: Getty

Your boots were made for walking through some of Arizona's most awe-inspiring scenery, says Tracey Davies

As Winnie-the-Pooh once wisely said: “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an adventure is going to happen.” Whether it’s hiking through the Catskills, horseriding in Wyoming or climbing in the Rocky Mountains, follow the thoughtful bear’s sage advice and pack your biggest, comfiest boots for a real American adventure.

With year-round sunshine and breathtaking scenery, Arizona is widely considered one of the best places to start. From the epic chasm of the Grand Canyon and the giant Saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert to the magnificent monoliths that make up Monument Valley, Arizona is the red-hued epicentre of America’s adventure scene.

Of course, one of the biggest draws is the Grand Canyon. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it welcomes more than six million visitors each year. However, only one per cent of these stray further than the South Rim viewing platforms, which means the rest are missing a trick.

Hike the seven-mile-long South Kaibab Trail down to the canyon floor, stopping for a breather at the appropriately named Ooh-Aah Point. If you can, visit Havasu Canyon, within the Grand Canyon but accessible separately and not from the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s on land owned by the Havasupai tribes and is renowned for its bluey-green swimming holes and waterfalls.

If that has whetted your appetite, zip over to Peach Springs and navigate Class II- and III-level rapids on a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River. But if time is limited, thrill seekers can still get their kicks on an aerial tour of the South Rim, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam on a pleasure flight by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters or Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines.

However, Mother Nature has blessed Arizona with more than just the Grand Canyon. A hundred miles north, on the Colorado plateau, is the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument – striped waves of coloured sandstone rippling through an arid landscape. The best way to experience it is to grab a hiking permit from the visitors’ centre and explore the towering stone cliffs and deep, ruddy canyons on foot as condors glide overhead.

Like much of America, Arizona’s landscape differs greatly from north to south. A hundred miles south of the Grand Canyon is Sedona, a charming, artsy little enclave famous for its huge sandstone formations, which blaze brilliant reds and fiery oranges. It makes a great base for an adventure trip with everything from mountain biking through Red Rock State Park and wild swimming in Oak Creek to sunset hikes around Cathedral Rock.

Further south still is Scottsdale, just east of Phoenix, which also draws a loyal mountain-biking crowd. It offers moderate to advanced trails through this rugged corner of the Sonoran Desert, across Granite Mountain and the McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

This is the red-hued epicentre of America's adventure scene

Down in the southernmost flanks of Arizona is Tucson, a high desert city sheltered by the Santa Catalina Mountains. It’s worth holing up here for a few days to explore the Saguaro National Park, home of the giant Saguaro cacti. An iconic emblem of South-west America, these spiky beasts can grow to more than 50ft tall.

Take a hike up to the 9,000ft summit of Mount Lemmon and spend the evening at the Mount Lemmon Observatory, a prime spot for stargazing. Alternatively, head north to Oracle and zip-line through the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Finally, 100 miles east of Tucson is the Chiricahua National Monument, an ethereal landscape scattered with ancient rock spires. There are 17 miles of hiking trails, each winding through the giant and amazingly balanced boulders, where you’ll follow in the dusty footsteps of the early pioneers of American adventure.

For more features, go to visittheusa.co.uk