Discover State Parks in the Heart of Arizona

From wildlife to wildflowers and cactus blooms, late winter and spring is when the desert comes alive. Take a trip through the heart of the Sonoran Desert by way of Arizona State Parks.
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Ask any Arizonan how they can manage the summer heat, and they’ll invariably tell you they live there for the gloriously mild and sunny winter and spring months. There’s no better time to get out and explore Arizona’s state parks, whether you’re looking for all-day hikes, historic sites, camping, or water activities.

This story was created in partnership with Arizona State Parks and Trails.

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Clouds over Buckskin Mountain State Park

Nestled on the bank of the Colorado River’s Parker Strip, this park is a water enthusiast’s paradise. Beachside camp spots offer unparalleled opportunities for boating, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, and bird-watching, while the surrounding mountains offer excellent hiking opportunities. The half-mile Lightning Bolt Trail is well-known for its springtime wildflower blooms as it climbs steeply above the river, providing sweeping views of the river and beyond. Along the Copper Mines and Lamb Springs trails, hikers can get a glimpse into the area’s mining history as the trails wind past a smattering of abandoned mines while enjoying the scenery.

Alamo Lake State Park

Person shore fishing at Alamo Lake State Park

Alamo Lake is well-known among bass fishermen and bird watchers, but what sets this park apart is its remoteness. Nearly 40 miles from the nearest town (and city lights), this is the perfect place for amateur astronomers and stargazers to roll out a blanket and look up at the night skies. Feel free to fall asleep under the stars, but if you want a warm bed, call it a night and retire to one of the cozy lakeside cabins.

Jerome State Historic Park

Jerome State Historic Park 2023

Perched at the top of Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is one of Arizona’s most iconic ghost towns. During its copper mining heyday, this was the fourth largest city in the state, though now is home to just around 450 (living) people. Learn about the town’s boom and eventual bust within the walls of the landmark Douglas Mansion, which is now a museum dedicated to educating visitors about the town’s rich mining history. Shops, artists’ studios, and wineries have replaced the speakeasies and brothels in the town above, which you can explore on foot while taking in dramatic views of the Verde Valley and Kachina Peaks to the north.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Hikers under Tonto Natural Bridge

The handiwork of over 5,000 years of erosion, Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, standing at 183 feet tall. This easily accessible site offers visitors opportunities to hike down to the 400 foot-long tunnel or see it in all its glory from viewpoints above. The area is day use only, but makes for a picturesque stop for a picnic lunch.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park desert plants

It should come as no surprise that some of the West’s most colorful lore comes from the Superstition Mountains. You’d be a fool to believe half of it, lest you meet the same fate as Jacob Waltz, the park’s namesake “Lost Dutchman”. He met his end (as did many others) searching these rugged mountains for gold. Though he claimed to have found the “lost” mine, his tale is nearly as tall as the towering rock formations, which are the real treasure. For an easy stroll in the shadow of the impending Superstition Peak, learn about the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert on the Native Plant Trail. Hikers looking for a more difficult hike won’t want to miss out on the Siphon Draw Trail, a 4-mile out and back trail that ends in a giant rock amphitheater. Serious hikers (who are seriously prepared) can continue past Siphon Draw on an extremely steep, strenuous, unmarked route leading to the top of The Flatiron, where you’ll find the best views anywhere in the Valley of the Sun.

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Photo courtesy of @Ronakp967 via Instagram.


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