This is a post for those who may not have traveled extensively throughout Arizona. It will be a longer post, but its full of beautiful pictures! When most people think of Arizona, they either think of the Grand Canyon or that the entire state is a hot, miserable, desolate desert, like this picture.
I had this view of Arizona at one point, as well. However, a fellow adventurer, Meghan Duell (check out her blog), showed me that Arizona is so much more than a desert, and that the deserts of this state are definitely not desolate and miserable. Sure certain places can reach temperatures of 120+ degrees, but the Sonoran desert offers so much life and beauty that should not be overlooked! Here are a few pictures of what the deserts of Arizona actually look like, at various times throughout the year.
Now, like I said, Arizona is not only desert. In fact there are huge portions of the state that look nothing like desert. Arizona is full of mountains, mostly small isolated chains. For instance, the mountains in south-eastern Arizona form what are commonly referred to as the sky islands. They are named the sky islands, because these mountains seem to rise up out of a sea of desert or grassland – demonstrated by these pictures.
And yes, I said grasslands – there are large areas of grasslands in the southern parts of this state, like this picture depicts:
There are also some places in this state where you can go from a desert landscape to alpine forests in less than a 10 mile hike. That is an incredible transition! One of the most popular sky island chains is the Chiricahua Mountains. Here are some pictures of the Chiricahua National Monument and other places in the range.
In the northern and eastern parts of Arizona, there are more mountains, which are not necessarily surrounded by deserts or grasslands, such as the San Francisco Peaks and the White Mountains, which are surrounded by conifer or aspen forests. These ranges are all north of another interesting geological phenomenon in Arizona called the Mogollon Rim. The Rim, as it is more commonly referred to, is a huge cliff line that runs about 200 miles through the middle of the state, and marks the edge of the Colorado Plateau. As you ascend the pathways or roadways that go up the Rim, you can have over a 2000 ft gain in elevation. One of the best places to not only view the Rim, but also witness some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state is called Oak Creek Canyon. This is a canyon that cuts into the Mogollon Rim, and there is a road (highway 89A), which follows the canyon as it moves up to the top of the Rim. For anyone who lives in or visits Arizona, I HIGHLY recommend this drive and exploring this canyon. And here is why:
On either end of this spectacular drive, you have two other amazing places to visit. On the southern, lower end, you have red-rock country (around the city Sedona), where you can see magnificently colored rock formations and canyons, such as these:
The northern, higher end leads to Flagstaff and the San Francisco peaks. This is one of my favorite places to visit in the state, and I will talk much more about them in future posts. Here are some pictures to illustrate why I love these places.
Now I hope that you believe me when I say Arizona is much more than just a desert. This post is really only a small sampling of the spender that can be found in this state, and I will continue to post my own explorations here, especially as I start my quest to visit every wilderness area in the state. I also hope that you will find a way to explore many of these places and experience them for yourself!