Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Located in the northeast corner near the Utah border, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is home to beautiful red mesas and stunning sandstone towers. Opt for a self-guided tour or go with a guide by foot, vehicle, or even horseback. Near the visitor's center, you'll find roadside stands operated by members of the Navajo nation, where they sell art, handmade goods, souvenirs, and Navajo food.
When you hear Sedona you may think spas and resorts, but the landscape is the real attraction. The town is tucked into 1.8 million acres of national forests, and there are stunning vistas every which way you turn. (Cathedral Rock is one of the most iconic.) You could easily spend an entire vacation in this charming enclave -- whether you crave an action-packed adventure (hiking, biking, hot air-balloon riding) or taking in the sights at a more leisurely pace.
Petrified Forest National Park
It could be considered Mother Nature's amusement park because it packs so many attractions into one location. From the namesake forest to the Painted Desert (we'll get back to that), this is another place you could spend days. If you're feeling daring, take one of the backcountry routes through the park. To gain a little knowledge, pay a visit to the Petrified Forest Institute, which offers classes on everything from paleontology and geology to art.
Although it's located within the Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert is worthy of its own spot on the list. Formed by years of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other natural events, the desert is beautiful any time of the day, but especially at sunset -- which is not to be missed.
Located about 27 miles outside of Tucson, Colossal Cave is not just a cave tour. Yes, you can explore the crystal-encrusted caves, but don't miss the opportunity to take a horseback ride in the park, have a picnic, or even camp out. P.S.: Secure your spot before you go. The park offers online tour reservations.
Lava River Cave: Formed by, you guessed it -- lava -- the mile-long cave is for experienced adventurers. Check out the USDA's National Forest site for a guide on how to navigate the cave.
Coronado Trail: For a less intense, yet equally beautiful experience, take a drive on the Coronado Trail (aka US Route 191). The 123 miles of paved road stretches from Clifton to Springville, along the New Mexico border.
Oak Creek Canyon: Although it doesn't match "The" canyon in size, it certainly goes toe-to-toe in beauty. Colorful rocks and one-of-a-kind formations are Oak Creek's trademarks. And there's plenty to do besides sightseeing. Fish, swim, and of course, hike in this area just north of Sedona.
Superstition Mountains: Located outside of Phoenix, the mountains are a sight to see, but they also have a compelling story. Visit the Superstition Mountain Museum to learn about the Lost Dutchman legend and the history of the area.