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Arizona Regions

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Phoenix, Scottsdale & the Valley of the Sun

— This region encompasses the sprawling metropolitan Phoenix area, which covers more than 400 square miles and includes more than 20 cities and communities surrounded by several distinct mountain ranges. It’s the economic and population center of the state, and is Arizona’s main winter and spring vacation destination. It is here that you’ll find the greatest concentrations of resorts and golf courses. It is also where you’ll find the worst traffic congestion and highest resort rates.

Central Arizona

— This region lies between Phoenix and the high country of northern Arizona and includes the red-rock country around the town of Sedona, which is one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations. The rugged scenery around Sedona played many a role in old Western movies and has long attracted artists. Today, Sedona abounds in art galleries, recreational opportunities, and excellent lodging choices. Also within this region are historic Prescott (the former territorial capital of Arizona); the old mining town of Jerome, now an artists’ community; and several Native American ruins and petroglyph sites that are open to the public.

The Grand Canyon & Northern Arizona

— Home to the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, northern Arizona is a vast and sparsely populated region comprised primarily of public lands and Indian reservations. Because Grand Canyon National Park attracts millions of visitors each year, the city of Flagstaff and the towns of Williams and Tusayan abound in accommodations and restaurants catering to canyon-bound travelers. North of the Grand Canyon and bordering on southern Utah lies a region known as the Arizona Strip. This is the most remote and untraveled region of the state. The Grand Canyon acts as a natural boundary between the Arizona Strip and the rest of the state, and the lack of paved roads and towns keeps away all but the most dedicated explorers. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is at the eastern end of the Arizona Strip, and the inaccessible Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument lies at the western end.

The Four Corners

— The point where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico come together is the only place in the U.S. where four states share a common boundary. The region is also almost entirely composed of Hopi and Navajo reservation land. This region of spectacular canyons and towering mesas and buttes includes Canyon de Chelly, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, and Monument Valley.

Eastern Arizona’s High Country

— This area, which comprises the Mogollon Rim region and the White Mountains, is a summertime escape for residents of the lowland desert areas, and abounds with mountain cabins and summer homes. Most of this high country is covered with ponderosa pine forests, laced with trout streams, and dotted with fishing lakes. Although this region comes into its own in summer, it also sees some winter visitation because it has the best ski area in the state: Sunrise Park Resort, on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. Because the area lacks national parks, monuments, and other major geographical attractions, it is not much of a destination for out-of-state visitors.

Tucson

— Located a bit more than 100 miles south of Phoenix, Tucson is Arizona’s second-most populous metropolitan area and is home to numerous resorts and golf courses. The main attractions include Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. With mountain ranges rising in all directions, this city seems more in touch with its natural surroundings than Phoenix, though traffic congestion and sprawl also plague Tucson. If you prefer Boston to New York, San Francisco to Los Angeles, or Portland to Seattle, you’ll likely prefer Tucson to Phoenix.

Southern Arizona

— Southern Arizona is a region of great contrasts, from desert lowlands to mountain “islands” to vast grassy plains. Mile-high elevations also account for southeastern Arizona having one of the most temperate climates in the world. The mild climate has attracted lots of retirees, and it also brings in rare birds (and birders) and helps support a small wine industry. The western part of southern Arizona is lower in elevation and much hotter than the southeastern corner of the state and, because much of this area is a U.S. Air Force bombing range, is one of the least-visited corners of the state. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, wedged between the vast Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, preserves some of the most spectacular desert scenery in this region. Other than the Tucson metropolitan area, there are few communities of any size. However, a couple of interesting historic towns — Bisbee and Tubac — have become artists’ communities.

Western Arizona

— Although Arizona is a landlocked state, its western region is bordered by hundreds of miles of lakeshore that were created by the damming of the Colorado River. Consequently, the area has come to be known as Arizona’s West Coast. Despite the fact that the low-lying lands of this region are among the hottest places in the state during the summer (and the warmest in winter), Arizona’s West Coast is a popular summer destination for budget-conscious desert denizens. College students and families visit for the water-skiing, fishing, and other watersports.

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