What You Need to Know About Arizona's National Parks

Hiker on the Bright Angles Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA
Moritz Wolf / Getty Images

If you're an outdoor adventurer, Arizona is a great playground for you to explore. The state has 24 National Park Service units, including three major national parks and four national monuments where you can see natural wonders, get historical perspectives, visit a museum, boat, hike, picnic, or just relax. 

These parks and monuments are dotted all over Arizona. There are no federal parks in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located and where most Arizonans live. There are several, however, within a few hours from most Greater Phoenix locations—close enough for a day trip.

Be aware that the weather differs greatly in different parts of the state, as do the elevations of the parks. Dress accordingly, and be prepared for inclement weather in Northern Arizona during the winter and spring.

Saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) at sunset, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

National Parks and Monuments Within Two Hours of Phoenix

Whether you're off for a day trip or have a few days to spend exploring the area around Phoenix, you'll find amazing ancestral sites and a park filled with the iconic Saguaro cacti.

North of Phoenix

  • Tonto National Monument: Stop at the visitor center and museum, and see two Salado-style cliff dwellings.
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument: The impressive cliff dwellings are accessible to see via a short trail. There is a visitor center and museum which tells the story of the Sinagua people.
  • Tuzigoot National Monument: Visit the museum and visitors center and then take off on the trails which lead you through the ancestral structures in this Sinagua village.

South of Phoenix

  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument: The monument has of a museum and preserves a group of ancestral Puebloan Hohokam structures accessible by short trails.
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: You can drive through this UNESCO biosphere reserve located on the border with Mexico. The reserve is the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grows wild.
  • Saguaro National Park: The iconic Saguaro cactus is king at this National Park. Take a scenic drive, learn about desert plants at the visitor center or hike among the different types of desert plants and cacti.

Visiting a National Park in Arizona

Each Arizona national park, monument, and recreation area is unique, so check for detailed and up-to-date information at the U.S. National Park Service. In general, however, the following applies to national park areas:

  • Some national parks charge a per-person fee, some charge a per-vehicle fee, and some are free for everyone. Grand Canyon National Park charges by the vehicle, and the permit is good for seven days. Tours, boating, and other activities arranged at the parks with third parties have independent fees.
  • National parks that normally charge admission are usually free on the following dates: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (in January); first day of National Park Week (in April); National Public Lands Day (in September); and Veterans Day (in November). 
  • At the parks that permit camping, you can check availability and make reservations at Recreation.gov
  • Leashed pets (on leashes that are no more than 6-feet-long) are allowed at some national parks, but they may not be off the leash, tied up, or confined. Thus, if you are planning to spend more than an afternoon at a national park, you should probably leave your pet at home or at a hotel. Don't assume that you can take your dog on the hiking trails without checking first with the park.
  • Many parks have special events and activities during the year. Check the calendar. You'll find historical reenactments, star parties, archaeology programs, bird walks, guided tours, and more ways to enjoy Arizona's natural beauty.

How to Get a National Parks Pass

Purchase an annual pass at federal recreation sites or online

  • Military and dependents can get a free annual pass.
  • Seniors age 62 and older can get a lifetime access pass for a reasonable fee.
  • People with permanent disabilities can get a free pass.
  • Certain volunteers at federal agencies can get a free pass.

Proof of U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or disability may be required to obtain certain passes.

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