Arizona is one of the most exciting places to go backpacking in the US. It’s known for its epic canyons, dazzling red rock formations, sunny climate, and lush, green mountains. Certain parts of the state are also known for their magical, healing qualities, as Arizona is home to twenty-seven native Indian tribes, with Indian reservations making up a quarter of the state.
Here are the best backpacking experiences in Arizona, from camping under the crystal clear skies at the Grand Canyon, through to relaxing in the spiritual town of Sedona:
1. Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and it’s the perfect place to start your Arizona trip. The Grand Canyon is an epic red rock canyon that was formed as a result of millions of years of geological changes and formations. It’s up to eighteen miles wide and one mile deep, and is a showcase of mighty mother nature at her finest. The Colorado River cuts through the canyon and you can hike down the canyon, go rafting in the river and visit some of the waterfalls. There are several different trails you can hike, with the most popular being the Bright Angel trail that takes you right to the bottom of the canyon.
The canyon is divided into four tourist zones, with the north rim being more wild and secluded, and the south rim home to a wider selection of activities, such as helicopter, jeep, and hiking tours. The east and west rims also offer activities and stunning viewpoints. There are campgrounds onsite at both the south and north rim, with the south being a more popular spot as it’s closer to the highway intersection. We recommend heading to the campgrounds at the north rim, which provide a more wild and secluded experience.
2. Havasu Falls
For an incredible backpacking experience, head to the Havasupai Reservation and backpack down to Havasu Falls, which are also located in the Grand Canyon. The waterfalls are an incredible turquoise color and the tumbling cascades have been formed by the creek that flows towards the Colorado River. The falls lie within the Havasupai Reservation, where the Havasupai Indians have been comfortably isolated from the modern world for centuries. It’s a ten-mile hike each way to the falls, so it’s not a walk for the faint-hearted. You’ll need to reserve a space at the campground with plenty of time in advance.
3. Unwind in the Spiritual Town of Sedona
After your incredible Grand Canyon experience, it’s time to unwind in the mystical nearby town of Sedona. The town, which oozes a spiritual, hippy vibe, is said to be home to the Sedona spiritual vortexes, which many believe are powerful and transformational energy centers, represented by the area’s many twisted trees. The town has delicious, healthy restaurants and cheap places to stay for the night.
4. Take Photos of Horseshoe Bend
Next stop, go to the town of Page before visiting the nearby Horseshoe Bend, a stunning, horseshoe-shaped turn in the Colorado River. Photographers from around the world travel to Horseshoe Bend to capture a perfect image of the incredible sight. You can reach the bend on a 1.5-mile hike. Remember to bring your camera fully charged!
5. Antelope Canyon
After visiting Horseshoe Bend, check out the nearby Antelope Canyon, which lies on Navajo land, east of Page. It’s a mysteriously beautiful spot where the canyon’s stones have been carved into wave-like formations.
When to go?
The best time of year to go backpacking in Arizona is during the May to October, when you have full access to the Grand Canyon’s northern rim. It’s generally hot year round, and the top sights get really busy during the summer months of July and August.