As the weather heats up, plan your summertime escape to Northern Arizona and the incredible state parks! Whether you have all summer or just want a weekend adventure, there are plenty of amazing outdoor spaces that will create lasting family memories.
First, head to Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park and set up camp. This park has rustic (air-conditioned) cabins as well as RV and tent camping spaces, and the shady cottonwood trees will cool you off and set the stage for fun. You can go kayaking, horseback riding, hiking or biking, plus try out other fun water activities. Casting a line from shore at the relatively shallow lagoons is a perfect way to get your fishing skills up to par, or catch your own dinner!
Next, escape to the cool pines in Payson, where you can visit Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. This park hosts the world’s largest natural travertine bridge – and you won’t believe your eyes. Hike one of the four trails to get a closer view and cool your feet in Pine Creek, or just picnic at the top, where the views are still impressive. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of one of the javelinas that call the park home.
In St. Johns, Lyman Lake State Park is a hidden gem that meets all the summer vacation requirements. Boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking and hiking will fill your days, and you can choose an RV site, pitch your tent, or bunk down in one of the lakeside cabins. The Petroglyph Trail will transport you back in time, and the dark skies will showcase the vastness of the universe. Plus, the park has plenty of great summer events and programs!
For those willing to drive a bit to escape the heat, a trip to Homolovi State Park near Winslow, Arizona is the perfect spot. The cool temps and the wide-open spaces will give you plenty of space to run and play. Learn about the ancient Hopi people with hikes through cultural sites or peer through the telescopes at the Winslow Homolovi Observatory for a great view of the amazing night sky.
Arizona State Parks and Trails has more than 30 parks around the state, each offering a different experience and a great way to learn about Arizona’s history. There are parks within a couple hours or a day’s drive that you can check out. Plus, kids can get involved in the Junior Ranger program and learn more about being responsible stewards of our land, all while having fun. Collect the activity sheet at each of our park’s visitor centers, complete the activities during your visit, and bring it to a park ranger when complete. When the park ranger sees your kiddo’s hard work, they’ll take the pledge to be sworn in as our newest Junior Ranger, and will be given a Junior Ranger button.
Learn more about Arizona’s state parks and plan for your visits at AZStateParks.com, or try out one of our road trip itineraries.