Arizona might be known for its epic landscapes and enticing year-round weather, but there’s more to discover just beneath the surface—literally. Dig deeper into Arizona’s history by exploring ancient pueblos, haunted caves, and renowned modern museums on your next trip to the Grand Canyon State.
This content was created in partnership with Visit Arizona.
Sightsee in Canyon de Chelly National Monument
With its towering sandstone cliffs, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is one of the most iconic locations in the Navajo Nation. Although not as easily recognizable as its counterpart to the north, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Canyon de Chelly has held significant cultural meaning for centuries. Here and in the surrounding area, Anasazi ruins dating back to 350 AD coexist with today’s modern Navajo homes and farms—making it one of the longest continually inhabited places in North America. For visitors today, the highlight of the canyon is undoubtedly Spider Rock, a piercing monolith that rises more than 700 feet from the floor of the canyon. Named after Spider Woman, a key figure in Navajo culture, this sacred spot makes for a truly gorgeous vista during any visit to Canyon de Chelly (with a Navajo guide, of course).
Look for Ghosts in an Apache Death Cave
Road trippers singing along to The Eagles might pass through the outskirts of Winslow, Arizona all too soon. Those who slow down along Route 66 in between Flagstaff and Winslow have the chance to explore the Apache Death Cave in the ghost town of Two Guns. This haunting ruin is the place where, in 1878, a local Navajo band massacred more than 40 Apache Indians. Not for the faint of heart, this completely unregulated ruin requires great care when descending. Some say it is both cursed and haunted. If you ask us, this Arizona pitstop is more interesting than any true crime podcast!
Discover Arizona’s Largest Freestanding Pueblo: Wupatki National Monument
Northern Arizona travelers with an appetite for history won’t want to miss Wupatki National Monument. Located on the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks just outside of Flagstaff, there lies an astounding series of ancient citadels. Made of orange hued Moenkopi sandstone, these remarkable sites were once home to the ancestors of contemporary Pueblo communities. One can only imagine what this center for trade and culture must have been like, teeming with daily life and drama only 900 short years ago. Spend an afternoon hiking numerous trails and learning more about this unique archaeological site in the visitors center.
See History Being Uncovered at Homolovi State Park
If your journey through Arizona doesn’t quite reach Flagstaff, step back in time at Homolovi State Park just outside of Winslow. Originally a network of villages settled by the Hisat’sinom people in the 1300s, this 4,000 acre park protects what remains of a bustling ancient community. Today, archaeologists continue to excavate the historic sites obscured by wind and sand beneath the high desert floor. Aside from viewing these rediscovered structures, visitors with a keen eye can observe pottery shards, petroglyphs, and more. Homolovi State Park continues to be a place of importance for the Hopi people today.
Explore World-Class Museums in Phoenix
Natural history lovers who find themselves in Phoenix for a weekend–or a full week–need not despair! There is much more to this urban hub than delicious modern dining and amenities. Consider a self-guided museum tour through some of the best natural history destinations in the Grand Canyon State. With a focus on Native American art and heritage, The Heard Museum enjoys international recognition for its world-class exhibitions, collections, and events. Also not to miss is the Pueblo Grande Museum, a 1,500-year-old archaeological site once inhabited by the Hohokam culture. Kids will enjoy hands-on exhibits, and the hiking trail that winds through the partially excavated village is the ultimate juxtaposition to life in the city today.
Pack a Picnic Lunch at Amerind Museum
For those whose travels take them to the southern portion of the state, the Amerind Museum outside of Tucson is non-negotiable. Set amongst giant boulders in Texas Canyon, this 1,600-acre campus is in the heart of the ancestral homeland of the Chiricahua Apache. Part museum, part art gallery, and part living research center, there is never a dull moment at Amerind. Plan your visit around a festival or event (including mountain bike rides and trail runs on the property) and stay for the entire day. Picnic tables tucked beneath shaded trees provide the perfect spot for lunch, and a pond beckons birds and other wildlife to create an oasis of history and nature in the desert.