Veronica Samuels

Planning to visit Arizona in the winter? Unlike many other states in the US, winter is the best season to explore the Grand Canyon State. 

No wonder Arizona receives one of the highest footfalls in the United States annually during the winter.

Excellent temperatures with pleasant sunshine, stunning landscapes(with some regions even witnessing snow in Arizona), plenty of outdoor activities, family-friendly winter sports, colorful AZ Christmas towns, and shopping in full swing – do you need more fantastic reasons to visit Arizona in the winter?

Ever since I moved to this gorgeous state, I almost always spend my winter in Arizona unless I am abroad.

With every passing year, I discover something new, whether another fabulous trail or one of the best AZ hot springs to cool off or a hidden small town in AZ in the winter.

So whether you are planning a winter getaway in Arizona with your kids this year or want a unique experience in the rugged desert state for your winter holiday, in this guide, pick your destination for a fantastic winter holiday in Arizona.


Arizona, located along the southwestern border of the United States, is scorching hot in the summertime, but after brilliant fall foliage in AZ, the temperature cools down quite a bit in most parts of the state, providing the perfect weather for outdoor explorations.

Arizona in the winter receives the highest number of visitors, nicknamed snowbirds as hundreds of thousands of “snowbirds” make their way to Arizona every year.

Plus, due to its diverse vegetation and varying altitudes, you can choose between different fantastic experiences while visiting Arizona in the winter, from sunny deserts to ski resorts and everything in between.


What is the winter weather in Arizona like? Well, depending on where you plan to go and what you like to experience, expect varying temperatures in different parts of the state.

If you want to visit the Grand Canyon in the winter or other famous natural monuments in northern AZ, the temperatures are cooler, with some places experiencing magical snowfall.

If you want snow, go up in the north. In less than a few hours, you can be up in Arizona’s mountains skiing among evergreen forests.

If you go to Phoenix in winter, or anywhere in southern AZ, expect pleasant sunny days, ideal for outdoors, swimming, or exploring the top sights.

But no matter where you go to experience Arizona in the winter, the temperatures change dramatically when you least expect, from sunny noons to chilly desert nights and splashes of rain in between.

So it is best to bring layers along with your summer clothes.


Driving in Arizona in Winter is not a problem at all, especially if you plan to keep your itinerary in southern Arizona.

Expect extra traffic from tourists and snowbirds hitting the road, though and keep buffer time or leave early to navigate traffic in and around Phoenix.

If you plan to explore northern Arizona in winter, check the weather reports before driving as most roads get blocked due to frequent snowfall.

You may need chains on your tires when driving through the snow in the mountains.

Avoid driving on dangerous icy roads, especially in the mountains as the roads can be slippery.

I like Discover Cars and believe me, as a frequent traveler regularly renting cars from them, I recommend them for easy and quick online booking.

Thanks to their long list of car rental companies, you can easily compare the car types and prices before picking. They also sometimes offer pick up as well.

Check prices and book your car here at Discover Cars.


Arizona in the winter is surprisingly an expensive time to visit, which most people often overlook, especially southern Arizona, which is the most expensive and crowded.

The hotels and rental cars are usually booked, with their rates at their peak, especially on holiday weekends, so it’s best to plan your trip well ahead for holiday deals. 

Arizona in the winter can be dry, with single-digit temperatures, and if you are here for the first time, it is best to keep moisturiser, lip balm and sunscreen, too. 

Although most National Parks, National Monuments, State Parks, and reserve areas are open to hiking and camping, some routes or sections can get closed.

Also, many need prior permits/reservations, so check online before you plan your Arizona winter trip.

If you are hiking or doing lots of outdoor activities, it is best to stay hydrated. Carry electrolyte drinks and snacks if you need them.

Road closures and blockages are expected in Arizona in the winter, and sometimes, unfortunately, you may have to spend overnight in your vehicle too, if unexpected snow storms occur. So carry spare blankets and layers to stay comfortable.

In the winter, you will likely need several layers of clothing throughout the day, so be sure to pack some moisture-wicking fabrics for outdoor activities as well as a good hat or two and lots of sunscreen.

If you are doing hikes around sunrise or sunset, check out the time required and the sun timings as the days are relatively shorter and it is not recommended to hike in the dark.

The weather will get freezing at night in Northern and Southern Arizona, although some places in the south can even be sunny during the day.

So carry hiking gear, sturdy walking shoes, sufficient layers, and only camp if you are used to very cold temperatures and have prior camping experience.



One of the top destinations for experiencing winter in Arizona is Flagstaff.

It is one of the most popular snow destinations in Arizona for adventure seekers, and it is no surprise.

Located at 7,000 feet and surrounded by the stunning San Francisco Peaks, the area receives more than a hundred inches of snow yearly, making it one of the snowiest cities in the United States.

You can see snow in Flagstaff from October through late April-early May.

January and February are the most popular months for guaranteed Flagstaff outdoor experiences.

Sledding is very popular in Flagstaff, along with snowboarding, and skiing, fun to do in Flagstaff in winter, and perfect for a romantic or action-packed winter holiday with your kids.

Flagstaff is home to several ski resorts, and one of the top winter attractions in Flagstaff is Jay Lively Activity Center, the famous public ice-skating rink.

Here, you can enjoy skate sessions, open hockey, sticks and pucks, and adult-only skating. 

Another popular place is Flagstaff Snow Park in Fort Tuthill Country Park.


From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 to reach Flagstaff in 2 hours. 


There are plenty of accommodation options available in all budget ranges. Here are some of my favourites:

Unwind in the Pines & a Huge Playhouse! Near NAU

Beautiful Mountain Retreat

High Country Motor Lodge

Little America Hotel Flagstaff

Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort


The second best place to visit in Arizona in the winter is Williams, which is not only the best spot for seeing snow in Arizona, but also it is a fantastic town to kick off winter sports on your holiday.

At 7,000 feet, the city typically receives a few feet of snow each year, less than 50 inches, between November through April.

does it snow in phoenix arizona

January has the most snow while December is typically the coldest month.

You can indulge in skiing, ice hockey, and snowshoeing. Head to Kaibab National Forest for winter hikes.

This is the jumping-off spot for the heritage train trips to the Grand Canyon. 

So you can combine this epic train journey from Williams and a trip to the national park when exploring Williams.

As the vintage railcars of the Grand Canyon Railway take you to one of America’s most treasured landmarks, you feel transported back in time in the ancient coaches, especially the Pullman Class carriage from 1923.

The 2-hour-and-15-minute train ride takes you past the cattle ranches and you will learn about the Old West through live music by musicians wearing cowboy attire.

Grand Canyon Railway Adventure Package(5/5 1000+ reviews🤩) Journey across the Northern Arizona countryside on a full-day journey aboard the Grand Canyon Railway.

Hear folklore and stories from the crew and witness authentic characters and musicians who bring the Old West to life on this scenic adventure. Book the tour here.

does it snow in phoenix arizona

Admire the stunning views as the landscapes change magnificently out your window, listening to the tales and munching snacks. It is one of the most fun day trips you can plan.

Once the train arrives on the South Rim of the canyon, take a guided tour along the rim trails and overlooks. 

If you want to enjoy sledging for free, head to Oakhill Snow Play Area near Williams.


Grand Canyon Hotel is the preferred hotel to stay in Williams if you are looking to stay in a fantastic heritage hotel.

Located in Williams, Grand Canyon Hotel features a shared lounge and each room at Grand Canyon Hotel is individually themed. Find details to book here.

Red Garter Inn is another fantastic heritage stay I highly recommend, especially for couples. Located on Route 66, this inn is a restored 1897 saloon and bordello. Grand Canyon National Park is 55 minutes’ drive from the property.

The Grand Canyon Railway departs daily across the street from the Red Garter Inn. Check out the reviews and prices here.

Hampton Inn By Hilton Williams is one of the best places to stay in Williams in Arizona, and loved by families and couples alike.

They have spacious rooms with superior amenities besides their excellent location. Find details to book here.

La Quinta by Wyndham Williams Set in Williams, La Quinta by Wyndham Williams-Grand Canyon Area features a bar, shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property.

This 3-star hotel offers ticket service and luggage storage space. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness centre and a 24-hour front desk. Check details here.

Best Western Plus Inn of Williams is known for their excellent location, and amazing steakhouse apart from their spacious rooms ideal for families. Check out more details here.


If you are looking for a cosy cabin stay in Williams, check out ✅ Inn History Grand Canyon Themed Cabin.

The holiday home also features free WiFi, and free private parking. Guests at the holiday home will be able to enjoy activities in and around Williams, like hiking. Find more here.


If you are fond of winter sports, one of the best places to visit to see snow in Arizona is Prescott.

Snow lasts from December to April in Prescott. January receives the most snow at about 3 inches.

Plus, Prescott is one of the top Christmas destinations in Arizona as it is the official Christmas City of the state. 

does it snow in Sedona

Compared to other cities, Prescott receives about an inch of snow, but the fantastic Christmas light display is one of the reasons why you should visit Prescott besides other winter activities.

Prescott’s top highlights are the colourful light displays as the whole town glows with Christmas lights, decorations and displays.

Each year, Prescott kicks off the season on the first Saturday of December with a spectacular lighting display at the beautiful Yavapai Courthouse at the Courthouse Plaza on Cortez.

This is a tradition doing back over 66 years, which is followed by a lovely Christmas Parade and lighting on Gurley Street, adjacent Whiskey Row commercial area, and other neighbourhoods in the evening.

The Christmas parade starts at the courthouse featuring floats of all shapes and sizes, singing, dances, and Santa.

how often does it snow in Arizona

Head to the Prescott Resort and Conference Center to see a large gingerbread village display.

Attend the Frontier Christmas event at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Return to experience traditional Christmas celebrations held in Prescott in 1864 at luminary-lined pathways and decorations. 

You’ll also find a large gingerbread village at Prescott Resort and Conference Centre.

If you like attending a gala, watch Christmas City Charity Ball enjoy live music and tasty food or dance to Christmas numbers.

You can join one of the many night tours in Prescott that will take you through its eerie past as you explore many haunted neighbourhoods filled with landmarks home to ghosts and grim tales.


Hampton Inn Prescott – Hampton Inn Prescott is minutes from Buckey Casino and historic Prescott town centre.

Popular attractions, including Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument are within driving distance of the Prescott Hampton Inn. This hotel has hundreds of excellent reviews. Find more details here to book.


The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy Arizona in the winter. 

With the south rim at an elevation of 7,000 feet, and winter storms and winds racing as over 5 inches of snow accumulate, not many know that the national park is one of the coldest places in Arizona.

Grand Canyon in winter

The beauty of the Grand Canyon at any of the year is fantastic but with fresh blankets adorning the colourful red, yellow and brown rocks, the landscapes become even more magical.

Also, winter is a great time to spot Grand Canyon wildlife as many animals move around at this time, including elk.

There are many advantages of visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter, from easy parking to fewer crowds and the possibility of driving around to enjoy stunning Canyon views.

Grand Canyon Village receives over 50 inches of snow between November to March with December being the coldest month.

Grand Canyon in winter

While the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is typically closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall, the South Rim is open.

Indulge in a helicopter tour (like this one) to soak in blissful views of the canyon from the sky.

Make sure to wear warm clothes and good, sturdy walking shoes.

Check this guide to plan a winter trip to the Grand Canyon.


There are six places to stay at Canyon Village. All of them are elegant, offering stunning views and excellent amenities for comfortable stays.

Grand Canyon in the winter
  • El Tovar Hotel – It is one of the best historic National Park lodges in the US, and come here during winter to enjoy your stay at this elegant place
  • Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins – One of the best cabins known for its rustic vibes.
  • Kachina Lodge – A pretty modern-day hotel surrounded by fantastic views
  • Thunderbird Lodge – Stay here if you want to be close to the centre of Grand Canyon Village.
  • Yavapai Lodge – Also located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village.
  • Maswik Lodge – Surrounded by wooden forests, it is a unique stay close to shops and restaurants.


Sedona, one of the most visited destinations in recent years in the Copper State, is known for its gorgeous scenery, with red rock mesas and dense Ponderosa pine tree forests. 

Sedona in winter is splendid as the crowds are lesser, and the temperatures are cooler with even chances of snow.

The red rock mountainous landscapes offer many beautiful trails making it the best time to enjoy hiking.

Check out the famous Soldier Pass Trail that takes you to gorgeous caves, or the beautiful Seven Sacred Pools. 

There are many easy cave hikes in Sedona like the Birthing Cave overlooking stunning panoramas.

Here are some of my recommendations for top tours that you should join while in Sedona for a fabulous experience!

Sedona Stargazing Tour(5/5 400+ reviews🤩) Led by professional astronomers, the tour includes an introduction to the solar system using a high-powered laser pointer.

Use specialized telescopes to see close-up views of planets, galaxies, star clusters, and nebula. Read more here.

Sedona Helicopter Tour: Wild West Tour(5/5 200+ reviews🤩) Experience the magical red rock landscape of Sedona from the air during this helicopter tour of the greater Sedona area.

Along the way, take in spectacular desert views of canyons, rivers and the windswept rock formations. Check out more here.

Sedona Vortex Tour by Jeep(5/5 1000+ reviews🤩) – With more than a thousand reviews, this is the best jeep tour that covers the best of Sedona Vortexes. Check out more here.

Absorb the healing energy of Sedona’s vortexes.

Shop for unique hand-made souvenirs, oh, and try hot air ballooning over the splendid landscapes.

If you are here during the Christmas festivities, shop at the famous Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village.

Did you know? Sedona is one of the best places in the US for stargazing.

Join one of these tours for a star-studded night surrounded by stunning night landscapes.

Or better, how about camping overnight?


Adobe Village Villa with Private Patio – Sunset Villa – Boasting air-conditioned accommodation with a patio, Adobe Village Villa with Private Patio – Sunset villa offers access to a balcony and free private parking.

It is one of my favourite recommendations for its rich exteriors and comfortable villas. Check out rooms and the latest prices here.


Surrounded by the Catalina Mountains and Mount Lemmon at over 9000 feet, one of the best destinations to enjoy Arizona in the winter is Tucson.

Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular activities here.

Tucson is colder than Phoenix and has received snow rarely in recent years. 

The Santa Catalina mountains and Mount Lemmon are the nearest places to catch definite snow near Tucson.

You will be treated to beautiful views of giant pine trees draped with white snow.

Plan a trip between mid-December to mid-April for the best chances of seeing snow in Tuscon.

Rose Canyon is another spot to witness snow.

Also, stop by the Kitt Peak National Observatory, enjoy a round of golf or two, or go on one of the many beautiful winter hikes near Tucson.


If you want a small-town experience of enjoying snow season in Arizona, head to Payson, about 90 minutes north of Phoenix, from November through March.

At the foot of the Mogollon Rim in Rim County at an elevation of 5000 feet, Payson receives heavy snowfall, with roadblocks and closures a common occurrence.

hiking in payson az

With craggy rock outcroppings, tall Ponderosa pine trees, and burbling brooks blanketed in snow, it is a splendid sight to behold.

The coldest month of the year in Payson is December while the month with the highest snowfall is February.

If the roads are good, plan a road trio along the Mogollon Rim.



Ronnie’s Resort is one of the most popular stay options loved by families and couples, known for its excellent location and spacious rooms. Check out more here.

Luxurious Bungalow in Payson is one of the new Payson cabins with top reviews for its excellent location, top-notch amenities and a perfect getaway for families and couples on West Sherwood Drive.

You can rent the entire property for yourself, a three-bedroom villa featuring a pretty patio, views of the city that you can admire from the terrace, a garden, barbecue facilities, free WiFi and free private parking.

Luxurious Bungalow in Payson offers a hot tub, a perfect retreat in the winter. You can enjoy skiing nearby.


Williams az to Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Hotel is the preferred hotel to stay in Williams if you are looking to stay in a fantastic heritage hotel.

Located in Williams, Grand Canyon Hotel features a shared lounge and each room at Grand Canyon Hotel is individually themed. Find details to book here.

Red Garter Inn is another fantastic heritage stay I highly recommend, especially for couples. Located on Route 66, this inn is a restored 1897 saloon and bordello. Grand Canyon National Park is 55 minutes’ drive from the property.

The Grand Canyon Railway departs daily across the street from the Red Garter Inn. Check out the reviews and prices here.

Hampton Inn By Hilton Williams is one of the best places to stay in Williams in Arizona, and loved by families and couples alike.

They have spacious rooms with superior amenities besides their excellent location. Find details to book here.

La Quinta by Wyndham Williams Set in Williams, La Quinta by Wyndham Williams-Grand Canyon Area features a bar, shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property.

This 3-star hotel offers ticket service and luggage storage space. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness centre and a 24-hour front desk. Check details here.

Best Western Plus Inn of Williams is known for their excellent location, and amazing steakhouse apart from their spacious rooms ideal for families. Check out more details here.


If you are looking for a cosy cabin stay in Williams, check out Inn History Grand Canyon Themed Cabin.

The holiday home also features free WiFi, and free private parking. Guests at the holiday home will be able to enjoy activities in and around Williams, like hiking. Find more here.

Check out this list of the 15 Best Cabin Rentals In Payson Arizona, to experience a relaxing stay amidst gorgeous locations.


One of the most visited landmarks in Arizona, Lake Havasu, nicknamed the state’s playground, is one of the best lakes in Arizona and a bucket list attraction you need to visit at least once.

Due to the mild winter weather, it is the best time to enjoy mountain biking, hiking in Lake Havasu in Arizona in the winter.

Lake Havasu City, dubbed “Arizona’s West Coast,” is located on the northwestern part of the Sonoran Desert and features 60 miles of navigable waterways along Arizona’s northwest border with California. 

The lake is the heart of Lake Havasu City that surrounds this massive lake stretching along over 400 miles of shoreline. 

There are plenty of amazing things to do in Lake Havasu City, apart from all the tons of activities to enjoy in the lake itself.

No wonder it is one of the top spring break destinations for families, outdoor adventure seekers and water sports lovers that crowd Lake Havasu.

I highly recommend keeping a day or two to explore the many attractions around Lake Havasu, also home to another magnificent attraction London Bridge.

There are plenty of fantastic beaches at Lake Havasu State Park, where you can enjoy picnics, camping, swimming, and sunbathing. 

Lake Havasu is one of the state’s best boating lakes and the top lake for bass fishing in the U.S. 

Since it is the Mecca for anglers, you will find many anglers trying to catch largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass.

All types of boating are allowed in Lake Havasu, so whether you want to enjoy jet skis or rent pontoon boats or wakeboard boats, you can have fun with all of these on your summer days.

Water skiing, tubing, kayaking, SUP, canoeing and swimming are also fun activities in Lake Havasu.

You can also rent a houseboat, book a cabin in Lake Havasu State Park or camp under the stars at a campsite. There’s beachfront and RV camping.

One of the romantic things to do in Lake Havasu is join one of the beautiful sunset cruises that also include dinner and music. 

Admire the beautiful views of the setting sun, painting the skies in hues of orange, yellow, red, and blue.

Arizona winter 2023

For hikers, there are many pretty desert trails nearby, including the famous Mohave Sunset Trail winding through the brush and trees near the shoreline.

Visit the Lake Havasu Museum of History to learn about the construction of the Parker Dam that created the Lake.


One of the most popular lakes in Arizona is Lake Powell, one of the iconic natural landmarks and among the top-visited attractions, with over 2 million people visiting the lake every year.

Lake Powell is the second-largest artificial lake in America, spanning 186 miles long, offering 2000 miles of shoreline with over 90 side canyons, many of which are over 25 miles deep. 

Lake Powell is an artificial reservoir formed by the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam. 

Since it is so huge, it is better to plan a weekend getaway, as there are so many fantastic things to do in Lake Powell.

The northern part of the lake lies in Utah. At the same time, the bottom and the Glen Canyon Dam are part of northern Arizona.

Surrounding the lake is splendid landscapes of the Navajo Indian Reservation gleaming against deep blue crystal waters. 

It is one of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona, offering splendid views of the canyons amidst which kayaking and canoeing are very popular.

Soak in the blissful views of Spires, buttes, mesas, and canyon walls above the Colorado River, forming lakeside cliffs enjoying all types of water adventure sports, hiking, biking and camping at Lake Powell over a weekend.

Arizona vacations in February

It is one of the best lakes in Arizona for tubing, waterskiing, parasailing, speed boating, sailing, jet skiing and more.

One of the romantic things to do in Lake Powell, especially around sunset, is going on a cruise tour, which lasts for about 3 to 4 hours, depending on the time, and takes you through stunning formations of canyons.

Houseboats are very popular on Lake Powell, and you can rent them and enjoy a cruise, fishing, and admire the views of the magnificent Lake Powell.


Jerome is a perfect winter escape from harsher weather and snow and a unique destination in Arizona in the winter.

Located south of Flagstaff and in the dense Black Hills mountains within the Verde Valley at over 5000 feet, Jerome is one of the top old-west towns in Arizona. 

Winter is a beautiful time to explore this hilly town with winter temperatures reaching highs of in the low 50s and just a few days of light rainfall. 

Jerome az things to do

Nicknamed the most vertical city, Jerome is also the largest ghost town in the United States.

If you want to be introduced to the culture of Arizona ghost towns, Jerome is the best place to be as it is one of the best mining towns symbolising the Old Wild West.

Founded in 1876 with the discovery of gold and copper deposits in the area, Jerome attracted large numbers of migrants from everywhere, mainly miners, gamblers, and old-west bad boys. 

This large-scale migration brought a wide boom, leading to the construction of many saloons and brothels.

The mines near Jerome were rich in copper rather than silver, with the mines producing 3 million pounds of copper per month, and during its peak time, the town inhabited over 15000 people.

Jerome got rightly nicknamed ‘The Billion Dollar Copper Camp’. 

Arizona in January

It grew into one of the wealthiest cities in the US at this time, and over 70 years, these copper mines in Jerome generated over a billion dollars worth of precious metal.

Eventually, in the 1950s, the mines began drying up. As expected, the town’s population dwindled to less than a hundred, Jerome was designated a National Historic District in 1967, and artists began to flock to the town in the 60s and 70s. 

Today, Jerome is home to 450 residents, making it the largest populated ghost town. 

It is a vibrant community with old buildings of the 1800s renovated into art galleries, museums, coffee shops, antique shops, craft stores, gift and curios shops, and wine bars.

Join one of the guided tours to cover the highlights of Jerome, where you will also hear many eerie and exciting tales of this mining town and its past inhabitants.

Do you know? Jerome is also one of the most haunted towns in Arizona. There are many popular ghost tours, and if you are here for the first time, I recommend you join one.

Some of the most haunted places with bizarre and sad histories include the Ghost City Inn, Mile High Grill & Inn, a former brothel, and the Conner Hotel. 

The tour guides will tell unbelievable stories and grim events in these spots.

If you are daring, stay overnight at the Jerome Grand Hotel, also rumoured to be haunted by the spirits of patients, dead miners, and staff.

Even if you’re not into the paranormal, there are many attractions worth visiting in Jerome.

Start from downtown Jerome, home to some galleries, restaurants and tasting rooms — and the famous “Haunted Hamburger” restaurant, worth stopping for lunch or dinner.

Visit the Jerome State Historic Park, home to Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 by a mining magnate.

Check out the unique Sliding Jail, a historic building and a museum constructed in the 1920s. Over the years, the building has slid down the hill about 200 feet to where it rests now.

The mining museum contains many excellent artefacts, photographs, and ancient equipment belonging to the miners, giving glimpses of the past of the mining town.

If you are with kids, head to the nearby Audrey Head Frame Park to admire stunning views of the mountainous landscapes.

Flagstaff in winter


Jerome is a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, and one of the best weekend trips from Phoenix you can plan!


Top recommendations for families and couples:

Connor Hotel is one of my favourites for couples and families. Featuring a bar on site, this historic inn is 20 minutes’ walk from Jerome State Historic Park.

All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen cable TV with satellite channels. Free WiFi is available. Check prices here.

The Clinkscale – Another historic hotel favoured by couples, within 40 km of Cliff Castle Casino, The Clinkscale has a bar, non-smoking rooms, and free WiFi.

At the hotel, you will find a restaurant serving American cuisine. 

Vegetarian, dairy-free and vegan options can also be requested. Check reviews and photos to book here.


One of the popular small towns in ArizonaTombstone is a pretty town close to Bisbee in Cochise County and shares a common past of the Wild West and origins, with Tombstone also being discovered in the 1880s.

The weather is excellent here making it one of the best places to visit in Arizona in the winter for a bit of small-town feels, history and fun.

Tombstone, famously nicknamed the “town too tough to die,” was one of the leading silver mines during the era.

Phoenix to Tombstone

Within two years of establishment, Tombstone became one of the primarily populated towns and was home to more than a hundred saloons, over a dozen gambling halls, a bowling alley, many brothels, four churches, theatres, and large public office buildings.

Tombstone was a haven for lawless gunslingers, smugglers, cowboys, miners, and immigrants. 

It was abandoned in 1892 when the mines dried up.

Today, Tombstone is one of the most famous ghost towns in Arizona, receiving 400,000 tourists visiting each year.

Another thing that made Tombstone attract tourists happened after being the filming venue showcasing the infamous gunfight at O.K. Corral in the 1993 movie Tombstone

You can experience the old west architecture in Tombstone on one of the excellent guided tours. Or hop on a horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach.

Admire the old-time saloons, restaurants, and shops lining the old town area, especially around East Allen Street, lined with boutique gift shops and eateries. 

Theatre enthusiasts should visit Schieffelin Hall. 

You can also attend one of the underground mining tours. 

Join mysterious tours to feel spooky at Boothill Cemetery. 

Check out the iconic Bird Cage Theatre on Allen Street, a raucous saloon littered with bullet holes thanks to the infamous fight, where they regularly reenact the gunfight.

If you plan to stay overnight, I highly recommend staying at Tombstone Monument Ranch.


For one of the most fantastic destinations in Arizona in the winter, head to the southwest to reach Yuma.

Winter’s the perfect time to visit Yuma as the temperatures are pleasant in otherwise sunny areas.

Located on the banks of the Colorado River, the World’s Sunniest City as mentioned on the Guinness World Records is Yuma, one of the pretty small towns in Arizona.

Arizona in winter

Yuma is packed with a great mix of history, greenery, arts, culture, and shopping, making it a family-friendly small town in Arizona.

Explore the well-kept Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens. 

Plan a day or two at the massive Imperial National Wildlife Refuge home to mountains, wetlands, deserts, and plenty of hiking trails and camping opportunities for outdoor lovers.

There are many famous breweries in Yuma waiting to be explored downtown, the best way to cool off after a day of wandering outdoors. 

Yuma deserves a weekend, and you will love visiting this charming town. 

Check out 35 Best Things To Do In Yuma On a Weekend for all you need to know.


Cottonwood, a small town between Sedona and Jerome in Northern Arizona, is the perfect destination in Arizona in the winter.

Winter is the ideal time to visit Cottonwood as the summer temperatures cool making outdoors pleasant.

Nicknamed the Heart of the Verde Valley and the heart of Arizona wine country, Cottonwood located east of Jerome and Woodchute Mountain is one of the beautiful weekend trips from Phoenix worth planning.

Arizona winter

Home to beautiful state parks, vineyards, and stunning trails winding alongside the Verde River, Cottonwood has retained its small-town charm despite getting popular and growing.

Wine lovers can experience the best specialities of Arizona wineries by hopping wine and spirit-tasting rooms on the Verde Valley Wine Trail.

At the same time, shoppers have plenty of boutiques, galleries, and antique shops.


Phoenix, the capital city, is one of the best places to visit in Arizona in the winter.

Thanks to its excellent winter weather Phoenix is a fantastic spot to escape the cold while enjoying outdoor adventures and exploring the many fantastic Phoenix things to do.

Sedona in winter

Phoenix in Winter is also a great time to visit as the city hosts many exciting festivals for arts and music lovers, including the Phoenix Festival for the Arts. 

Check out this complete guide to visiting Phoenix in the winter.



By far the most famous slot canyons in Arizona, and one of the iconic landmarks in the world is Antelope Canyon, located in the Navajo Nation east of Page.

It is so large that it is split into two distinct canyons: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope.

Upper Antelope is the most famous and visited, while Lower Antelope is slightly more challenging to see and receives fewer tourists.

Flagstaff winter activities

You can only access Antelope Canyons on a guided tour, which remains full throughout the year, thanks to its immense popularity.

It is best to book the tours in months if you want to explore during peak seasons.

While both canyons are relatively short and offer a slightly different experience, both are incredible slot canyons comprising unique and impressive formations on the tall Navajo sandstone walls.

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These striking wonders are millions of years old, formed due to the consistent work of flash floods, carving their famous rugged edges, creating deep and narrow winding fissures through the soft, red sandstone rock.

Upper Antelope Canyon, also known as the place where water runs through rocks, is the most crowded of the slot canyons near Page. 

Upper Antelope Canyon, spanning 200 meters long, has the largest caverns, with the entire canyon at ground level and no climbing, giving it easy access and attracting millions of visitors yearly. 

Arizona in the winter

It is narrow and has more twists and turns than Lower Antelope Canyon. 

Upper Antelope Canyons is also easily accessible from Horseshoe Bend and the Glen Canyon Dam. 

One of the biggest draws of the Upper Antelope Canyon is its higher location at over 4000 feet; the directions and effects of sunlight filtering through the narrow and deep walls create fascinating illuminations of reds and oranges, changing position throughout the year, and create fabulous views.


If you only have time to visit one of Page’s famous slot canyons, it should be Lower Antelope Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon is known for its spectacular spiral rock arches amidst narrow passages and shallow water on the ground.

Since the lower canyon is v-shaped, the light shines from above onto the canyon floor instead of through specific openings like the a-shaped upper canyon bringing more light into the canyon and offering splendid photo-capturing options.

Although it is only a quarter-mile long and twice as long as the Upper Antelope, it is home to some of the most iconic undulating formations in the rock walls, along with fantastic lighting and colouring, making it one of the top landmarks in Arizona and a bucket list destination for hikers, outdoor lovers and photographers.

On your guided tour, you will pass through a series of fantastic passageways where you can see the floors and the walls illuminated by sunlight pouring in, creating beautiful views.

You’ll have to scale some ladders to access Lower Canyon, but it is worth the extra effort.

As this is one of the most popular canyons, tours for Lower Antelope Canyon can fill up fast, and booking your trip in advance is best.


About an hour from the city, Arizona Snowbowl is one of the most popular resorts skiing in Arizona, located atop mountains formed by an eroded volcano millions of years ago.

It is a popular option for a day trip from Flagstaff and Phoenix, and one of the highly recommended fun things to do in Arizona in winter with kids.

The Snowbowl is one of the best places to visit during Christmas in Sedona to enjoy winter sports with your kids.

best places to visit in Arizona in December

Nestled in the majestic San Francisco Peaks, Arizona Snowbowl is known for its magnificent views of Humphreys Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona.

The weather at Snowbowl is pleasantly sunny, even during the winter. 

But notorious, unexpected snow storms lead to heavy snow quickly piling up.

Because of the cool weather and traces of snow still remaining, spring is also a popular time for skiing at Snowbowl.

The Snowbowl is also home to the only gondola in Arizona.

Also called Telemix, this lift combines eight-passenger gondolas, whipping you up 2,000 feet in just 7 minutes.

From the top, you will be treated to fantastic views of the valley below blanketed in snow.

From here, you can access the bowl area, glades, and all the intermediate runs.

Arizona in the winter

Note that Weekends and powder days are generally crowded, and long queues for the lifts are standard.

You can also hike along the diamond trails in the Upper Bowl.

With 777 acres of skiable terrain, this is the destination in the state you should visit if you’re serious about skiing in Arizona.

Considered by many to be the premier Arizona ski resort, its location at 11,500 feet makes for an epic ski experience since it boasts the best ski slopes in Arizona.

With five lifts serving 32 runs ranging from easy to complex, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the most challenging ski areas in the West.

If you are a beginner or families with small children, head to the Hart Prairie Chair to enjoy a gentle slope with many wide-open spaces.

If you are a seasoned skier looking to up your game, head near the Humphreys Peak chair, the Grand Canyon Express or Sunset Chairs. 

After you’ve made it up and down, head to the beautiful outdoor patio area, The Hart Prairie Lodge patio to relax.

Have your favourite drink amidst new fire pits, in your perfect lounging spot, soaking up the sun.

Arizona in the winter

If you are serious about learning skiing, Arizona Snowbowl has an excellent ski school and is a perfect place to learn. 

If you are over 13 years of age and new to skiing, Arizona Snowbowl has programs that will provide you with free or deeply discounted lessons. 

Open to both skiers and snowboarders, Snowbowl also boasts a Terrain Park with rails and spines.

There are two mountain day lodges nearby with restaurants and lounges.

Usually on the weekends, the area becomes more bustling as ski races happen and live music and DJs play the latest hits, making it a fun holiday getaway.

Opening Months – Mid-November to Late May

winter Arizona


The nearest airport is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport about 20 miles away. 

If you are flying to Phoenix(Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl. Airport), renting a car is the best option. 

It will take around 3 hours on Interstate 17 and you will be treated to stunning views. 

But note that the drive-up can be challenging on snowy days if you are driving. The road is filled with bends and steep, and chains are frequently required.

If you are driving from Sedona to Arizona Snowbowl, on Highway 89A up Oak Creek Canyon can be challenging on snowy days. 

This journey takes around 1.5 hours(longer if conditions are tricky).


If you are visiting during January and February, on the weekends, a free shuttle runs from downtown Flagstaff every 20 minutes from two locations in town.


If you want a closer stay, check out the base camp at Snowbowl, on the way up to the ski resort.

There are 18 cabins and six hotel-style rooms, Basecamp at Snowbowl is pet-friendly for a modest charge, and the on-site restaurant serves up hearty fare guaranteed to keep you going no matter how deep the snow.


Among the top waterfall hikes in Arizona is Havasu Falls, the iconic landmark and the most popular Arizona Waterfall.

Havasu Falls is located in Havasupai Reservation, a remote area of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and one of the top things to do in Arizona in the winter.

It is known for its spectacular thunder and roar as it plunges amidst rocky canyons forming splendid blue-green pools below.

It is no wonder that Havasu Falls is one of the top destinations on the Arizona Bucket List for millions of people worldwide. 

hikes in Arizona with waterfalls

The challenge in getting here and the fantastic beauty of the falls make this a once-in-a-lifetime hike.

The magnificent colours of the falls are due to the dissolved calcium carbonate and magnesium, resulting in stunning turquoise blue water at Havasu Falls.

Due to its immense popularity, getting a permit to do this hike is more challenging than the trail itself, so you need to plan for this epic waterfall hike in Arizona.

Although Havasu Falls is the main highlight for those that hike into Havasu Canyon, the whole Canyon is full of waterfalls that you will encounter along the way, including the nearby 200-foot Mooney Falls, the cascading pools of Beaver Falls, Navajo Falls, and many other waterfalls waiting to be explored.

The Havasupai Trailhead is in the Hualapai Hilltop parking area.

Although it is just a short walk of over a mile from the Havasu Campgrounds, you have to hike a total of 11+ miles just to get to the campgrounds, and reservations require a minimum of 3 nights’ stay. 

The trail starts at Hualapai Hilltop, at an elevation of about 5200 feet.

The trail drops 2,000 feet from here as you make your way through switchbacks down to the canyon floor, passing through narrow slot canyons, boulder crossings and hopping the rocks before reaching the village of Supai. 

water hikes in Arizona

From the campground, complete the last mile to check this off your bucket list and be truly rewarded by the glowing oasis in the desert.

Havasu Falls plunges from hundred feet canyons towering over the landscapes with a thunderous noise as it bounces off the tall red rock cliff faces. It is a sight to behold. 

The water is cold throughout the year. You can swim, relax and enjoy picnics after the challenging hike.


Early Spring or late Fall seasons, between March to May and September to November, are the best months to explore Havasu Falls.


A Christmas Adventure of a Lifetime, the North Pole Experience is probably among the top Flagstaff Christmas events.

If you are traveling to Arizona in the winter with your children, I highly recommend adding this experience to your itinerary.

Named Trolley Launch Station, it is located on Hotel Little America’s 500 acres of beautiful forest, decorated with more than a million Christmas lights, making it the perfect backdrop for this epic adventure.

what to do in Arizona in December

Join your kids on a trolley ride through the magic portal to Santa’s massive workshop in the middle of the forest. 

Once you arrive, you will attend a workshop with Santa!

Santa’s Workshop is a complete, hands-on experience for children and parents. 

With the elves beside you, learn building toys and Santa’s Workshop secrets at this 8500-square-foot workshop.

Take a tour of Santa’s main factory floor, Santa’s Toy Hall of Fame, attend Elf University and visit with Mrs Claus.

Head to Santa’s Bakery for hot cocoa, snowman soup and cookies.

Arizona winters

Don’t forget Santa’s mailroom and his top-secret “Area 47” Sleigh Hangar, featuring his famous sleigh, mission control centre, radar systems, and more. 

End this 2 hours long thrilling adventure with a private family visit with Santa himself.

Opening dates – November 12 – December 24 


If you want to go beyond resorts for skiing in Arizona, Arizona Nordic Village is one of the famous places loved by outdoor enthusiasts. 

It is one of the best things to do in Arizona in winter.

Spending a night or two is the best way to experience a magical Flagstaff Christmas with your loved ones.

Located in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona Nordic Village features over 40 miles of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoeing trails.

places to visit in Arizona in december

You can even stay overnight at the yurt village overlooking stunning views of the surrounding forest.

The Arizona Nordic Village, with 40 kilometres of trails, is best known for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snow-biking.

Note that reservations for equipment rentals must be made by 3 PM three days before your visit.

Opening hours – 9 AM to 4 PM and 6 PM to 9 PM Fridays if conditions allow.


Based on the adventures of the classic children’s book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, the Grand Canyon Railway will take you on a journey to the North Pole.

Whether you are into fairytales or not, this is one of the epic experiences worth adding to your itinerary in Arizona in the winter.

Flagstaff Christmas lights

Only 40 minutes drive away, it is one of the best Flagstaff Christmas things to do, especially if you are with kids.

Every winter the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express comes to life on a journey from the nighttime wilderness of Williams in Arizona, to the enchanted beauty of “the North Pole, Grand Canyon South Rim depot.

Here you will have Santa Claus and his reindeer waiting with a keepsake present. 

Enjoy hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies while listening to this timeless story.

Christmas in Sedona AZ

The ride lasts slightly over an hour, with the train leaving each night at 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM.

Tickets begin at $57 for adults and $38 for children if you book early, but worth getting on the trail for a unique family holiday spirit to enjoy a memorable winter holiday in the Grand Canyon. Find out more details to book here.

TOTAL ROUND-TRIP TIME: Approximately 90 minutes.


One of the top things to do in Phoenix, The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the iconic Arizona landmarks home to diverse, vast varieties of desert vegetation and distinct wildlife.

Arizona in the winter is extraordinary, and so is strolling in this fantastic rugged garden.

Because every holiday season in December, the venue hosts Las Noches de la Luminarias, a Southwestern-inspired tradition, creating a desert wonderland. 

Stroll in the garden amidst thousands of stunning luminarias and twinkling holiday lights lighting the paths, basking in the glow of lights.

Plus, musical performances, entertainment and holiday delights line the Garden’s iconic trails.

You can also see sculptures adorning the landscapes, created by talented artists.

You can build an enchanted winter village at Webster Auditorium.


Opening months – Winter season – Jan to March

If you are looking for skiing in Arizona near Tucson, Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is the best.

Tucked up in Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains, the resort is only 25 miles north of Tucson AZ.

Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is the southernmost ski resort in the USA. 

Winter in phoenix Arizona

Sitting high above the valley floor at over 9,000 feet, amidst the towering pine trees of Coronado National Forest, the slopes of Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley are ideal for beginners and experts alike.

22 runs are spread across 200 acres, with three lifts, open from mid-December to April, providing ideal space for large groups of crowds.

There are many expert trails for seasoned skiers looking for adventure in Mt. Lemmon.

With an annual snowfall of over 200 inches and a 950-foot vertical drop, Mt Lemmon Ski Valley is also a great place to learn skiing. 

arizona winter family vacation

The runs are gentle, and the lessons are cheap.

In addition to the main double chairlift, another smaller double chairlift and a surface tow are available as the base area for the bunny slopes.

There is no snow tubing here unlike the other places. 

After having fun, head to the Grub Stake Grill patio at the famous Iron Door Restaurant, to enjoy stunning views of snow-capped peaks above and the sandy desert below.

Opening hours – Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is open daily from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Passes are $69 for adults and $39 for children with special discounts for seniors. Note that you must buy tokens in person as online tickets are unavailable.


Tucson International Airport is the closest airport about 1.5 hours away.

things to do in Arizona in December

It is best to drive to Mount Lemmon’s Ski Valley along the windy roads through the Coronado National Forest from Tucson.

On the way up the Mount Lemmon Highway or Catalina Highway or Sky Island Scenic Byway, you’ll see the dramatic shift in the landscapes as the saguaro-studded Sonoran desert makes way to grasslands, junipers and oaks, pines, and finally leading to gorgeous conifer forests at over 9000 feet.

Check road conditions before planning your trip as heavy snowfall causes disruptions.


Under 2 hours drive from Phoenix, Saguaro National Park is one of the best places to experience Arizona in the winter.

Saguaro National Park, surrounding the western and eastern edges of Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, is the ideal place to hike in the rare desert snow. 

Saguaro National Park is home to vast forests of saguaro cacti, including America’s tallest and most iconic cactus species. 

The majestic saguaro recognized worldwide as a symbol of the desert and an iconic image of the American Southwest, only appears naturally in the Sonoran Desert—which stretches across the southwestern United States on either side of Tucson.

az national parks

It is not often that you see giant green cacti sprinkled with snow on the ground with ocotillo, cholla, and prickly pear cacti blanketed in white. 

Plan a trip to this beautiful national park in January for the best outdoor explorations, where you will encounter massive saguaros towering up to 50 feet high and many older than a hundred years.

The park, spanning a massive 143 square miles, is divided into two sections.

One is on either side of Tucson, named the Rincon Mountain District east of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain Unit west of Tucson, covering over 54000 acres.

Many short hiking trails are ideal for beginners to explore the national park, including the unpaved Bajada Loop Drive driveway.

The Rincon Mountain District, on the east side, is more remote and includes a large mountainous region with summits over 8,000 feet.

Rincon Mountain also features the park’s famous Cactus Forest Loop drive and offers stunning sunset and sunrise views.

There are many trails in the park of different difficulty levels for hiking and biking, which will take you across its dazzling and dramatic landscapes.

Although Saguaro National Park is a hiker’s paradise all year round, avoid the midday sun in the summer.

One of the most popular times to visit Saguaro National Park is late spring into early summer, the time of saguaro blooms with giant waxy white flowers, also an Arizona state symbol.

Hike the Hope Camp and Ridgeview Trails in spring for colourful wildflower displays and beautiful views.

arizona national parks road trip

Other Saguaro National Park attractions include Native American rock art and a 19th-century homestead. Check out the visitor centre for plant and animal exhibits. 

The national park is home to roadrunners, coyotes, Gila monsters, and many types of snakes, which you should watch out for while hiking.


Saguaro National Park is less than half an hour from Tucson International Airport.


Among the beautiful Arizona National Parks that draw visitors due to their magical landscapes is Petrified National Forest.

If you are a nature lover or an outdoor enthusiast, I highly recommend adding this stunning forest to your itinerary of Arizona in the winter.

Arizona winter vacation

Located less than 4 hours northeast of Phoenix in eastern Arizona, near the New Mexico border, this is one of America’s most underrated national parks.

This beautiful national park has been protected since 1906 and is heaven for exploring one of the most ancient landscapes in the world.

Petrified Forest National Park is known for its fossils and is a paradise for palaeontologists, historians and archaeologists, for it is home to vast acres of landscapes encompassing 225-million-years-old fossilized trees from the Late Triassic period, which was the dawn of the dinosaurs. 

You can hike on the lands where dinosaurs roamed and stand where ancient forests fell.

These ancient tree trunks are spectacular and have survived thanks to the minerals they absorbed after submerging in a riverbed nearly 200 million years ago.


These wooden logs have transformed into solid, sparkling quartz, including citrine, amethyst, and jasper.

Arizona in December vacations

This mineral-tinted landscape basks in colours in the sunlight, offering fantastic panoramic views.

Petrified National Forest is home to painted deserts, striated canyons, fossils of ancient creatures, and even dinosaurs. 

Check out the Crystal Forest and Long Logs Trails if you love hiking trails.

The red-coloured badlands, the blue-banded rock formations, Blue Mesa, and Puerco Pueblo are iconic landmarks in the forest explored on hikes and mountain biking.

Historic Route 66 and Native American sites are other attractions comprising Petrified Forest National Park.

Jasper Forest Trail is among the popular longer hiking trails known for its gorgeous views.

Check out the Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum, where you can learn about the area’s impressive history, geology, and nature.


One of the most popular day trips from Tucson, the Chiricahua National Monument is one of the best Arizona National Monuments known for its unique geological natural wonders, abundant wildlife and rugged landscapes.

Located in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, the monument was established in 1924 and is home to stunning volcanic rocks that form pinnacles, hoodoos and narrow canyons, unusual plant species, unique wildlife, beautiful drives and paved hiking trails.

If you love rocks, Chiricahua is your kind of place, and it is one of the best things to do in Arizona in the winter as the weather is perfect.

Arizona vacations in December

The large park spread over 12,025 acres of wilderness, with its two unofficial names, the Wonderland of Rocks and the Land of Standing Up Rocks, tell you why it’s one of Arizona’s most popular hiking destinations. 

Twenty-seven million years ago, ash from the volcanic eruption nearby Turkey Creek compacted into rock, creating a thick layer of rhyolite.

They got eroded and fissured, shaped and sculpted over the millennia by the wind and rain, forming fascinating rock formations into towering rock needles, with their stunning hoodoos making for spectacular sights.

These precariously balanced rock towers have colourful names today, like Grottoes, Wall Street, and Big Balanced Rock, accessed via many hiking trails and drives.

You can also find many excellent pinnacles and natural bridges beside balancing boulders and rugged volcanic rocks.


Once a haven for the Chiricahua Apaches, the monument is today’s paradise for hikers, outdoor lovers, adventure seekers and photographers. 

Its location and limited access mean that only a few people visit, so if you want to camp under the stars with fewer or no crowds, you will love your trip to Chiricahua.

The park, home to many wildlife and plant species only found in this monument, has 17 miles of hiking trails and an 8-mile paved scenic drive.

Drive through the national monument at a 6,500-ft high Massai Point, overlooking the gorgeous pinnacles, wildlife, plant species and rare cacti.

Popular hiking trails include Echo Canyon, the Upper and Lower Rhyolite canyons, and the Heart of Rocks Loop.

things to do in Arizona in January

The 3.3-mile Echo Canyon Loop trail is more straightforward and can be done in a few hours, taking you to the heart of the rock formations, including Wallstreet, the Grottoes, and Echo Park. 

If you are game for an adventurous and challenging hike, the 9.5-mile Big Loop covers all the main attractions, including the Echo Canyon, Upper Rhyolite Canyon, Sarah Deming, Heart of Rocks, Big Balanced Rock, Inspiration Point, and Ed Riggs trails.

If birdwatching or wildlife viewing interests you, get on the Bonita Creek Trail to spot deer, coatimundis, and migrating birds.

If you’d like to spend more time here, camping is one of the best options to explore more of Chiricahua National Monument and enjoy stunning stargazing. 

There is a campground with 25 sites and a group site surrounded by beautiful landscapes.

Visit Faraway Ranch Historic District on the east side of the park to join their weekend tours to learn about the pioneer life in this brutal landscape. 

The park is open year-round, and summer is bearable, although not the best time to be here. There is occasional snow in the winter. 


If you drive north of Interstate 40 towards Canyon de Chelly and continue passing through the lonely lands up South Rim Drive, you will arrive at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, one of the spectacular landmarks ideal for exploring while visiting Arizona in the winter.

Located in northeast Arizona and part of the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly National Monument encompasses magnificent red sandstone canyons created by Chinle Creek and its tributaries and ancient cliff dwellings high up in the walls along the ledges of the cliffs.

Places to visit in Arizona during winter

Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northern Arizona near the New Mexico border was established in the 1930s to conserve vulnerable archaeological sites and artefacts.

Although administered by the National Park Service (NPS), it is located entirely within the Navajo tribal homeland. 

Carved into the sandstone bedrock of north-eastern Arizona, near Chinle, the three spectacular canyons, De Chelly, Del Muerto, and Monument, lie at the centre of the Navajo Nation and the heart of many native legends.

There are over 800 ancient archaeological sites between Monument Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and Canyon del Muerto. 

These canyons have been occupied by Indigenous peoples for 5,000 years uninterrupted, more continuously than anywhere in North America; 

Before them, the sites were home to the Ancestral Puebloans, Anasazi, Hopi and Navajo around 2,500 BCE, as indicated by the remains of prehistoric petroglyphs and age-old edifices.

Forty families still live within the park’s boundaries even today. 

Winter getaways in Arizona

Since the Navajo still call Canyon De Chelly their home and a sacred site, you can only explore the monument on a guided Navajo tour with a native or National Park Service ranger.

Two panoramic drives run along the north and south rims of the canyon and have many overlooks.

You can opt for self-guided driving tours and stop at lookouts to cover many of the site’s attractions, including Mummy Cave, carved into the sheer cliff, and Antelope House, standing at the base of the canyon walls. 

Don’t miss the fabulous, towering tall spire of Spider Rock, an iconic sandstone spire that towers 230m above the canyon floor and, in Navajo legend, is the home of Spider Woman.

To see more, you’ll need to hire a native guide to escort you on either foot, 4×4 or horseback.

Half-day tours traverse the rough river bottom and are best to experience ancient ruins, caves, and petroglyphs up close. 

Arizona winter months

If you don’t have time for a tour and are up for a relatively challenging hike, do the only self-guided walk, the 3-mile White House Trail, going 600 feet down into the canyon to arrive at the spectacular White House ruins.

The trail begins six miles east of the visitor centre along South Rim Drive. 

In the 1800s, this canyon was the site of many massacres of Native Americans by the Spanish and US Armies.

Head to the Cottonwood campsite for tent and RV camping. 

You need to book guided tours in advance at the visitor centre. The park is open year-round, but access may be limited in the winter due to snow.


If you are looking for fantastic day trips from Flagstaff that you can easily access, head to Walnut Canyon National Monument, located east of the city.

It is one of the famous Arizona National Monuments known for its historic ancient cliff dwellings and many fabulous hiking trails, offering plenty of outdoor activities for adventure seekers.

A 600-foot-deep gorge is home to more than 300 gorgeous Sinagua Indian cliff dwelling ruins from 1120 AD. 

Arizona in December

These fascinating multi-room dwellings in protected alcoves high in the canyon walls are well-preserved examples of their marvellous engineering and architectural skills.

The site was abandoned, possibly due to drought or tribal warfare.

Walnut Canyon National Monument was established in 1915 to help protect the sites and conserve the cliff dwellings.

Walnut Canyon is known for its distinct and beautiful white Kaibab limestone formations, amidst which you will find many of these fantastic cliff dwellings, which were former family homes overhanging on the ledges of the canyons.

These single-family dwellings are visible from the Visitor Center, and hiking is the best way to experience the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument.

The Island Trail, a one-mile trail, beginning at the visitor centre, descending 185 feet into the canyon and comprising over 700 stairs, winds its way past 25 ancient dwellings.

From the foot of the stairs, follow the trail to one of the simple pueblos and step inside.

You will see the fantastic windows and doors of ancient dwellings tucked between uneven rock layers, examples of simple yet brilliant masonry skills.

Arizona in the winter weather

Look down to see the beautiful Walnut Creek, the water source for the residents, flowing to the east to join the Colorado River, which eventually flows through the Grand Canyon.

If you want a more accessible trail, the Rim Trail, a 0.7-mile round-trip flat trail, which passes by a partially rebuilt pueblo and a pit house, offers excellent views of the canyon and the ancient dwellings on the far side. 

Although the park is open year-round, it snows and gets colder in the winter.

Check out the museum on the premises to learn about the pre-Columbian culture and the Sinagua people.

There are no camping or lodging facilities within the park, but camping is available in the surrounding Kaibab and Coconino national forests.


If you love exploring outdoors on your trip to Arizona in the winter, just an hour east of Tucson lies Kartchner Caverns State Park.

The caverns, north of San Pedro River, are home to some of the world’s most fascinating and unique limestone formations, including stalactites and stalagmites spanning 2.4 miles of passages.

things to do in Arizona in the winter

Take a guided tour through these caves to explore the distinct landscapes, including various wildlife, such as bats, owls, and ringtails. 

Birdwatching is also a popular activity, and if you are up for it, I highly recommend checking out the caves at night and camping under the starry skies here!


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