There are many fantastic small towns in Arizona if you wish to go beyond bigger cities like Tucson or Phoenix.
You must add these beautiful Arizona small towns to your itineraries for diverse experiences, ranging from desert and red rock country to forest-covered mountains and alpine lakes, and even the gold rush towns that are now some of the top ghost towns of AZ.
Also, since these small towns in Arizona are conveniently sprinkled across major landmarks and popular road trip routes, you can easily plan a trip for over a week, maybe something like a spectacular spring road trip across the Grand Canyon state.
In this post, I share with you the best small towns in Arizona you can include, whether you are planning a family weekend getaway or a girl’s road trip!
BEST SMALL TOWNS IN ARIZONA
One of the most popular small towns in Arizona is Sedona, located amidst Coconino and Yavapai, known for the spectacular red rock sandstone formations.
Sedona, discovered by two Spanish mining prospectors in 1583, was originally a ranching and farming settlement.
Sedona is one of the beautiful hotspots if you love biking, hiking, and stunning sunrise and sunsets, and no wonder it is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure-seekers.
From being a hidden gem, Sedona has grown to be also known as one of the most spiritual towns in Arizona thanks to the discovery of the Sedona vortex, hotspots of healing energy forces attracting peace-seeking souls.
Whether you want to spend a weekend with your kids outdoors hiking the iconic landmarks of AZ like Cathedral Rock and Boynton Canyon or experience its rich arts and culture and enjoy shopping at the renowned Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village, Sedona has interesting things in store for everyone.
If you love driving, you can choose from the many scenic drives in Sedona, including the beautiful drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway.
To cool off, explore the many swimming holes near Sedona, including the famous natural water slide at nearby Slide Rock State Park in Oak Canyon.
There are many places to enjoy fabulous sunrise in Sedona, including the splendid Airport Mesa.
If you are not a morning bird, don’t worry, there are plenty of gorgeous sunset spots in Sedona.
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?
Jeep tours around the vortexes and the famous energy spots in Sedona are also one of the top activities you must sign up.
HOW TO REACH?
If you are arriving from Phoenix, follow the I-17 to exit 298 and continue 14 miles west, past the Village of Oak Creek.
WHERE TO STAY?
Sedona is home to many amazing cabin rentals, apartments and B&Bs. Here are my best recommendations.
Known for being one of the prominent gold mining towns in the state with a rich history of the old Wild West, Bisbee, located in Cochise County, is also known for the pleasant weather all year round.
Located southeast of Tucson, Bisbee, nestled in the rolling mountains, does not exude the typical charm of any Arizona ghost town, as the town is home to over 4000 residents.
But the rich past of Bisbee and its excellent location and all-year-round pleasant weather make it one of my favourite Arizona mining towns.
Bisbee was accidentally discovered in 1877 by a group of US Army scouts and cavalrymen who stumbled upon significant amounts of lead, copper, and silver.
The word soon spread, resulting in many migrants looking to make the most of these minerals.
In a few years, Bisbee became known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps,” with a mining settlement for over 20,000 miners, prospectors, and their families.
Bisbee became one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing gold, copper, silver, and zinc, producing almost a quarter of the world’s copper.
It was the largest town in the Southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco.
Recommended – 25 Best Things To Do In Bisbee, Arizona With Your Family
After a century of prosperous run, the mines gave away as the mineral reserves depleted, with the last mine being shut forever in 1975.
Today, most of the rich historic past of Bisbee is well-preserved, thanks to the efforts of the residents, offering its visitors plenty of attractions and activities to give peeks into the golden past of Brisbee.
Walking through the old-fashioned downtown lined with whimsical art galleries, bustling shops, unique museums, cute cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Tour the museums of Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum and Bisbee Restoration Museum to get an in-depth look into the lives of miners and settlers back in the day.
Or, better, join the world-famous Queen Mine Tour, which takes you 1,500 feet underground to explore one of the abandoned mines.
Here you will get your hands dirty wearing mining hats and slickers and riding the train deep underground to search for precious metals.
Stop at Central School and Lavender Pit, and for some spooky experiences, you can visit the Bisbee Seance Room, a Victoria parlour for the paranormal.
Join the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour strolling amidst ancient buildings and listening to the gory tales sending a chill down your spine.
Or spend overnight at the historic Copper Queen Hotel, dating back to 1902, which is rumoured to be haunted as well.
Halloween is one of the most popular times to visit Bisbee, as the whole town comes alive with many themed parties, haunted tours, and markets.
Located in northern Gila County in central Arizona, Payson is one of the best small towns in Arizona for outdoor lovers.
Nicknamed the official centre of Arizona for its stunning location amidst the Tonto National Forest, Payson is one of the best places to visit in the state with your kids.
Payson becomes the hotspot for outdoor activities of all kinds in spring, from hiking, biking, and horseback, to boating and fishing.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to a beautiful waterfall and the world’s largest known travertine natural bridge, is just over a 20-minute drive away.
There are many other fantastic things to do in Payson Arizona with something for every type of traveler visiting throughout the year.
You can enjoy fishing, kayaking or swimming in the Payson lakes around the Mogollon Rim.
I recommend camping around the Rim Lakes Recreation Area if you have more time, and hiking through the American Gulch Trail or the Goat Camp Trail if you are here only for a few days and want to add a trail or two.
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.
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.
Jerome town, nestled in Yavapai County in the Black Hills, is a historic copper mining town established in the 1800s, located on Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley between Sedona and Prescott.
Today this National Historic Landmark is one of the best small towns in Arizona you should check out for its history and unique location.
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’. It grew into one of the richest 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 interesting 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 Headframe Park to admire stunning views of the mountainous landscapes from the glass viewing platform over a 1918 mine shaft.
One of the popular small towns in Arizona, Tombstone 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.
Tombstone, famously nicknamed the “town too tough to die,” was one of the leading silver mines during the era.
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 popular 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.
With a perfect blend of history and the charms of a small town, Globe, located in the foothills between the Apache and Pinal mountains along Pinal Creek, is a unique town worth visiting.
Globe, nestling amidst the dense Tonto Forest Region, is one of the former mining towns in Gila County.
Globe has a rich and dark past of the Wild West, with the townhome to robberies, Apache raids, cowboys, and outlaws.
Stroll through downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980s.
Stop at the Drift Inn Saloon, one of the iconic landmarks here that were a former brothel, also rumoured to be haunted.
Take a tour of the Gila County Courthouse and Jail, also home to the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts.
Visit the Gila County Historical Museum, the Old Dominion Historic Mine Park, and the Besh-Ba-Gowa Archeological Park and Museum to learn about Globe’s history dating back over 900 years.
You can combine your visit to Globe by adding a stop at Payson, also in the Tonto National Forest with many campground options if you wish to explore further.
Among the top activities enjoyed by families include driving to Salt River Canyon Scenic Drive which takes you through stunning landscapes around the town.
Patagonia is one of the day trips from Tucson you can plan, but it is worth exploring over a weekend for a charming small-town experience in Santa Cruz County.
Patagonia is known for its stunning natural beauty and is the hub of Mexican, Native American and Western American cultures.
Spend a day or two in the famous Patagonia Lake State Park, home to Patagonia Lake, one of the most beautiful Arizona lakes where you can enjoy boating, fishing, birdwatching, canoeing, and hiking.
Visit Patagonia Museum to learn more about the local history, and Metamorphosis Art Gallery housing some interesting contemporary art collections.
One of the hidden gems in the Grand Canyon State, not many know that Harshaw is one of the ghost towns.
This abandoned town is one of the best small towns in Arizona where you can experience the past of a typical mining town.
This mining town, established in the 1900s, was a thriving mining centre with thousands of inhabitants settling there.
Today you can explore the ruins of the historic old town comprising a post office, a school, old houses, cemeteries and saloons. It is near Patagonia, and worth including for a quick stop.
Located near Flagstaff and the famous Grand Canyon National Park on Route 66, Williams is one of the best small towns in Arizona.
Williams is also the town nearest to the main entrance of Grand Canyon National Park located about 50 miles due north.
It is a popular AZ small town loved by families and explorers that base here to explore the national park and the surrounding Kaibab National Forest, thanks to plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and fishing.
Williams was founded in 1881 as a cattle town named after William Sherley Williams, a famous trader and trapper.
Since the construction of the railway, Williams became a popular hub for commercial trade and ranches later.
Today, Williams is the best destination if you are looking for small towns in Arizona with a perfect blend of history and plenty of outdoor activities, ranging from hiking to fishing and camping.
The town centre, with its diners, motels, and shops, is a designated National Historic District. The town is also home to the Grand Canyon Historic Railway and Hotel.
Stop by the Williams Depot to see a steam train. Walk the historic district with landmark buildings, including the famous Pete’s Gas Station Museum and the Route 66 Cafe.
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 small towns in Arizona worth visiting.
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.
Located in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, one of the least-populated small towns in Arizona is Oatman, surrounded by spectacular views and many attractions.
Oatman is one of the few towns in the Wild West that joined the extensive list of mining towns in 1915, much later than the other towns, when more than ten million of gold was discovered.
This boom and the subsequent expansion of Oatman continued for the next fifty years, with hundreds of prospectors and mining families calling the town their home.
Situated along the old Route 66, Oatman is now a living ghost town with many residents and one of the most-visited Arizona ghost towns, with nearly half a million visitors visiting to relive the golden days yearly.
Oatman is known for exuding the Wild West vibes on its dusty streets and wooden sidewalks laden with historical buildings, antique shops, museums, and more.
Another notable feature of Oatman is the friendly wild burros wandering the streets.
Among the top attractions you should visit is the Oatman Hotel, a two-storey adobe hotel which survived the fire of 1921 and is also believed to be haunted. There is a restaurant, saloon, and gift shop on the premises.
Located in Cochise County, in the Sulphur Springs Valley, and halfway between Phoenix and El Paso on the I-10, Willcox is one of the unique small towns in Arizona that will surprise you.
Surrounded by the Pinaleño Mountains and the Chiricahua Mountains, this agricultural town is the best base to explore the many pretty seasonal lakes where you can enjoy water activities and a nice picnic with your family.
There are many vegetable and fruit U-pick farms that offer picking and tours along with fun seasonal events and activities.
Enjoy the best varieties of wine as Willcox is home to many vineyards, especially award-winning family wineries.
Catch the latest hit at the historic Willcox Historic Theater, built in the 1930s known for its quirky art decor.
I also recommend planning a short trip to one of the iconic national monuments in Arizona, the Chiricahua National Monument, famous for the giant towering rocky mountains in the valley.
OFFBEAT SMALL TOWNS IN ARIZONA
If you want to return to the days of gold mining, head to Wickenburg on the Colorado River on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert.
Established in 1863 as a mining town following the discovery of gold nearby, Wickenburg today is a small tourist town and one of the best places to experience the old Wild West culture and heritage.
Stroll the historic Pioneer Street checking out the many saloons, historic buildings, bars, restaurants, and boutique shops amidst the old preserved buildings.
Explore the area of Hassayampa River, known for its mining history, lined with heritage buildings today surrounded by the flowing river amidst several hiking trails available for outdoor lovers.
Do you know? the Hassayampa River Preserve is known for its abundant landscapes that attract wildlife, especially unique desert animals, and is a fantastic spot for birdwatching.
Located in Bush Valley and an unincorporated community in Apache County, Alpine is one of the pretty small towns in Arizona to get away from tourist destinations.
Nestled in the eastern end of the White Mountains and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Alpine is one of the favourites among outdoor lovers.
It is one of the best AZ small towns if you want to enjoy fishing, hunting, and camping along the pretty San Francisco River.
Located in Northeast Arizona, right near the Utah border, Page is one of the best family-friendly places to visit in the state.
With the magnificent Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell only a short drive away, Page is one of the small towns in Arizona that offers plenty of things to do and activities with something in store for everyone.
Head south of Page to explore the stunning Horseshoe Bend, one of the iconic Arizona landmarks where the Colorado River carves out a giant U shape in the surrounding countryside.
Lake Powell is one of the best lakes in Arizona to enjoy all sorts of water adventures, from boating to canoeing, kayaking, and more. You can even rent a houseboat and spend a few days cruising the lake, admiring the gorgeous views along the Canyons.
There are also many top national monuments of Arizona near Page, including the famous Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which can be explored on a short drive.
The views along this route are spectacular, and this is one of the many reasons why you should add Page to your bucket list.
Cave Creek, located in Maricopa County in the Sonoran Desert, about 30 minutes northeast of Phoenix is one of the popular weekend getaways for families exploring Phoenix.
This old mining town gets its name from a cave next to the creek upon which it was built.
For the Old West experience, Cave Creek is the best town as you get transported back in time strolling amidst streets filled with Western architecture in the iconic Frontier Town.
You can easily spend a few hours exploring the many hiking trails, picnic areas, or horseback riding at Cave Creek Regional Park. Go John Trail and Slater Trail are the popular trails in this park.
One of the popular day trips from Phoenix, Tubac, located only about 45 minutes from Tucson, is worth visiting over a weekend as this pretty town on the Santa Cruz River offers plenty of things.
In Santa Cruz County, Tubac was originally the first Spanish colonial garrison in Arizona before the O’odham Uprising.
After the Spanish era, Tubac became home to miners, farmers and ranchers. Today it is one of the havens for artists and has retained its small-town charm and distinct and rich history.
Home to over a hundred galleries, you can find plenty of cute souvenirs to take home, from ceramics to fine sculpture, décor, innovative jewellery, paintings, and leather items.
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is one of the top attractions in the town you should check out.
If you love museums, drive to The Titan Missile Museum, about 20 minutes north of Tubac, known for its artefacts of the cold war.
You can relax by the Santa Cruz River, whether hiking along the trails or joining boating or guided tours at Mission Tumacácori National Park, located on the banks of the Santa Cruz River.
If you are a fan of the arts, attend the famous Tubac Festival of the Arts.
Winkelman is one of the prettiest towns in the state, and a perfect day trip from Phoenix if you want to explore the stunning natural beauty.
Home to nearby Gila and San Pedro rivers, you have plenty of fun activities waiting to be discovered.
There may not be much to do in the town itself but you can enjoy hiking in the Aravaipa Wilderness Preserve home to the Aravaipa Canyon, or drive the Copper Corridor Road, or camp overnight in one of the many nearby campsites.
Known for its spectacular snow-capped mountains and excellent weather at an elevation of 6400 feet, Show Low, nestled amidst forested mountains home to gorgeous lakes and streams, is one of my favourite small towns in Arizona.
It is one of the best spots for outdoor adventure lovers, as you can easily spend at least a few days enjoying all the activities.
You can enjoy fishing bass, walleye, crappie, and trout in the lakes. In spring and fall, you have many trails of all difficulty levels, offering splendid views of wildflowers and even wildlife.
Among the must-places to add to your itinerary is Pintail Lake Wildlife Area home to a wide variety of local and migratory birds. Mountain biking and horse riding are other popular things you can enjoy.
In the winter, Show Low is a fantastic place for skiing, snowshoeing and other activities. About 30 minutes from Show Low, you can visit one of the largest ski areas at Sunrise Ski Park Resort. The hill is located 34 miles from town.
Greer is located in the White Mountains in Apache County, one of the pretty small towns in Arizona surrounded by the gorgeous Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
Founded by Mormon settlers during the 1880s around the time of the gold rush, Greer has been a hotspot for outdoor adventure seekers and nature lovers for many years.
Greer boasts of excellent weather, especially during the summer as the weather remains pleasant due to its proximity to the mountains.
Plus, there are many stunning lakes in the valley of the Little Colorado River near Greer where you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and boat trips, or enjoy relaxing picnics admiring the blissful views.
While you can also enjoy hiking(try the West Baldy trail if you want a beautiful hike), camping and mountain biking besides the water adventure activities in spring and summer, come winter, Greer transforms into a magical ski holiday destination.
I highly recommend hitting the slopes at Sunrise Park Resort, especially if you want snowy destinations for a winter holiday in Arizona with your kids. You can enjoy splendid views of the white mountains, skiing, snow-shoeing, and more.
Another gem in Apache County, Eager, north of the Apache National Forest is one of the ancient homes of
the Apache people.
Located at the foot of the White Mountains, Eagar is a perfect stop if you want to move away from the crowds to enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, and scenic drives in the Apache National Forest Area.
Another offbeat small town in Arizona is located in Yavapai County. Arcosanti is a unique experimental town under development since 1970, and one of the best Instagram-worthy towns.
Arcosanti is all about arcology, urban planning, art and design, focusing on urban architectural implementation without impacting the environment.
MORE SMALL TOWNS IN ARIZONA
One of the best places for wine lovers, Camp Verde is one of the romantic small towns in Arizona for a weekend surrounded by rolling hills, delicious restaurants and stunning views.
This town in the Verde Valley wine country boasts historic wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms that you can explore via customized tasting tours.
There are many things to do in Camp Verde besides all things wine.
Plan a half-day trip to the popular Montezuma Castle and the Montezuma Well, a distinct Arizona National Monument known for ancient cliff houses built by the Sinagua people.
If you want to cool off in the water, head to the Fossil Creek Wilderness for a swim. If you are with kids, check out the fun-themed park Africa Wildlife Park.
Summerhaven, a small community on Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Pima County is one of the least populated small towns in Arizona.
Home to the Apache people for hundreds of years, Summerhaven is the perfect stop if you want to enjoy a secluded retreat, also one of the best winter getaways in the state if you are looking for snow in Arizona.
You can hike in one of the many trails for enjoying stunning panoramic views, and fish, or go mountain biking in spring and summer.
Apart from soaking in the views, ski at the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley and taste the homemade cookies and pizzas in the small town.