Arizona in the Winter: 10 Amazing Places to Explore

Looking for a winter getaway?  With a dynamic range of adventures, ranging from hiking through forests of 50-foot cacti to shredding some sick ski slopes, Arizona may just be the perfect destination for you. Here are 10 incredible places to visit in Arizona in the winter, whether you’re looking to work on your tan or to explore a snowy wonderland. 

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Why Should I Plan to Visit Arizona in the Winter?

Arizona, located along the southwestern border of the United States, is scorching hot in the summertime, with certain parts of the state seeing temperatures in excess of 120° (I’m looking at you, Phoenix!)! 

But come November, the temperature cools down quite a bit, providing the perfect weather for outdoor explorations- or for just escaping more frigid temperatures. It’s no surprise, then, that there are hundreds of thousands of snow birds that make their way to Arizona in winter every year!

It’s also one of the largest states, with a dazzling amount of deserts, canyons, and mountains in its 113,998 square mile footprint. Given its expansiveness and the incredibly diverse topography, you’ll be able to find everything from sunny, warm deserts to a ski resort that boasts a six month season. 

So with that, let’s get into where you should actually go!

 

Best Places to Visit in Arizona in the Winter

1. Sedona

Sedona is known for its gorgeous scenery, with red rock mesas and dense Ponderosa pine tree forests. 

This tiny town, home to 10,000 residents, has become quite the hotspot with travelers, with an eye-popping three MILLION visitors annually flocking to soak in its incredible views. During winter, you’ll experience the least amount of crowds here, while still experiencing its perfect hiking weather. In fact, daytime highs are usually in the 60s!

One of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is to explore any of the amazing hikes in Sedona. For example, the Soldier Pass Trail is one of the most popular hikes in town, taking you past secret caves, enormous sinkholes (with the very metal-sounding name “Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole”), and the picturesque Seven Sacred Pools. 

If you’re, instead looking for an easy hike in Sedona, one of the best options is the Birthing Cave, which will lead you to one of the most stunning vistas of the surrounding red rock formations after just a short and flat one-mile hike. If you have your heart set on hiking during your trip, I’d recommend visiting Sedona in December, when there’s the lowest precipitation and least chance of snow on the trails.

Snow or no snow, be sure to carve out some time to explore Sedona’s quirky downtown, with a plethora of art galleries, crystal shops, reiki healers, and lots of New Age-y vibes. After you have your chakras cleansed, pop by the Sedona Beer Company, for an ever-rotating lineup of fun and inventive brews, like a mango green tea IPA.

How to get to Sedona: Sedona is two hours north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Where to stay in Sedona: With incredible views of the surrounding red rocks and cozy amenities, like a hot tub and firepit, the Sedona Real Inn and Suites is the perfect place to stay in Sedona in winter.

 

2. Jerome

Jerome is a former copper mining town that's been transformed into a quaint and artsy getaway that boasts saloons, Victorian facades and plenty of Wild West history. With mild temperatures, cozy restaurants and winding hillsides, it's a perfect winter escape from harsher weather and snow. 

Once filled with rowdy bars and treasure hunters looking to make their fortunes, Jerome nearly became a ghost town when the mining industry withered away. The last mines closed after the Great Depression and Jerome almost disappeared off the map. But its residents and artists saved this Northern Arizona town from oblivion. Today, Jerome's winding streets are lined with restored buildings, quirky boutiques with local handicrafts, wineries, and saloons. 

Winter is a wonderful time to explore this hilly town - those upward climbs are a lot more doable on a mild, sunny day. Jerome has winter temperatures that reach highs of in the low 50s and just a few days of light rainfall each month. 

While you’re in town, shop for some local art at Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, and warm up with drinks and lunch at The Mine Cafe, a cozy eatery that does lots of great vegetarian and vegan dishes. 

Explore the town's past at Jerome State Historic Park, a museum housed inside a 1916 mansion filled with displays about Jerome's underground mines and stories about the town’s more scandalous aspects (bordellos, saloons, and gun fights- oh my!). If you want even more history, head to the Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town to stroll through a dizzying collection of antique trucks and old mining equipment. 

How to get to Jerome: Just a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, Jerome is one of the best day trips from Phoenix or, alternatively, can be a perfect weekend getaway to soak up its small town charm. 

Where to stay in Jerome: Stay at The Connor Hotel for an unforgettable Old West experience. This gorgeous redbrick hotel has been in operation since 1898, with charming rooms full of antiques and period details.

Recommended by Dee of Vanilla Papers

 

3. Saguaro National Park

If you are hoping to both escape the cold weather and find epic hikes, head to Saguaro National Park. With average winter temperatures in the high 60s, it’s one of the best places to visit in Arizona in January to warm up and enjoy some outdoor adventures. 

Once in the park you’ll find yourself marveling at the massive saguaros everywhere you look, which can tower up to 50 feet high and can live up to 125 years! 

The park is massive- covering 143 square miles- and is divided into two sections. East Saguaro is known for being mountainous with more hiking and backpacking trails, while the West side has a denser Saguaro forest.

For an easy trail with plentiful cacti and prickly pear, the 0.8-mile Valley View Overlook trail ends with a spectacular vista of the park. Or if you’re a history buff, check out the Signal Hill Petroglyphs, an easy trail leading to a nice viewpoint of Tuscon’s mountains, as well as several petroglyphs left by the Hohokam people over 800 years ago.

How to get to Saguaro National Park: Saguaro National Park is conveniently located less than half an hour from Tucson International Airport. It’s worth mentioning that the city of Tucson actually separates the east and west sections of the park, taking approximately an hour to drive between them.

Where to stay in Saguaro National Park: White Stallion Ranch is an excellent option for families, with cheeky Western-themed rooms, an outdoor pool with mountain views, and a hot tub and spa if you want to relax those sore muscles after all of that hiking. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit more romantic, consider Casa Tierra Adobe, the cutest bed & breakfast. You will be greeted by a beautifully landscaped yard, cozy rooms, and a welcoming host.

Recommended by The Homebody Tourist

 

4. Grand Canyon National Park

If you want to see a unique perspective of one of the United States’ most epic natural wonders, visit the Grand Canyon in winter, when its famous red rock walls are dusted with snow and ice.

The Grand Canyon is situated at 7,000 feet above sea level and the winter weather reflects that, with temperatures ranging from the high 30s to the mid 60s. So long as you pack along a puffy coat (I love this one for men and this one for women), this can be spectacular hiking weather!

The park is comprised of two sections, the North and the South Rim. The North Rim is actually closed during the winter, but luckily, the South Rim stays open year round- and conveniently located within an easy drive of Phoenix!

There are plenty of activities and viewpoints in the Grand Canyon to help you enjoy this incredible natural wonder. For example, consider splurging on a helicopter scenic tour (like this one), where you’ll have a stunning eagle eye view into the canyon, whose walls stretch over 6,000 feet high!

Alternatively, the South Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail are two popular hikes that run from the rim of the canyon down to its bottom, which you’ll likely have all to yourself in the wintertime. Just be sure to bring along shoes with good traction (I swear by these boots and my husband has the men’s equivalent) and microspikes for some additional traction in case you run into any icy spots along the trail.

How to get to the Grand Canyon National Park: To reach the South Rim, fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and make the three and a half hour drive north to the South Rim.

Where to stay in the Grand Canyon National Park: If staying along the literal rim of the Grand Canyon sounds up your alley (I know it’s right up mine!), consider a stay at the Bright Angel Lodge, a historic lodge just steps away from the Bright Angel trailhead.

Recommended by Kenny of Knycx Journeying

 

5. Flagstaff

There are so many things to do in Flagstaff year round, but, come late November, the city transforms into a winter wonderland. 

When you imagine Arizona, you may not picture snow, but Flagstaff actually receives over 100 inches per year, and even more in the surrounding mountains. The weather is chilly, but nice enough to still enjoy outdoor adventures with a few extra layers, usually ranging between the 20s and 40s.

With all that snow, it’s probably no surprise that Flagstaff is one of the best (and, okay, only) places in Arizona where you can actually hit the slopes with skis or a snowboard! The main resort in the area, the Arizona Snow Bowl, boasts over 777 acres of ski-able area, 55 runs and 8 lifts. And with 260 inches of average snowfall, the Arizona Snow Bowl enjoys a long season, lasting from late November all the way through spring.

If you happen to visit around the holidays and have kiddos in tow, consider making a stop at the North Pole Experience, housed in the mom-and-pop Little America Hotel, where you’re welcome to explore Santa’s workshops, Mrs. Claus’s bakery, and even meeting an elf or two. The experience feels a bit more magical at night, when the hotel is festooned with countless twinkling lights, so I’d suggest booking an evening tour and staying the night at the hotel!

How to get to Flagstaff: Flagstaff has its own teeny airport you can fly into or you may get a better deal flying into Phoenix and making the two hour and 20 minute drive north to the city.

Where to stay in Flagstaff: If you’re not visiting Santa in the North Pole and perhaps looking for more of a romantic getaway, consider, instead, the Starlight Pines Bed and Breakfast, where you’ll be treated to gourmet breakfast every morning, in room fireplaces, and fresh cookies (my kinda romance!).

Recommended by Maria of San Diego Explorer

 

6. Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is a seriously underrated hidden gem in the northeastern corner of Arizona. While it perhaps does not provide as dramatic of landscapes as Sedona or Grand Canyon, its scenery is still incredibly beautiful, with colorful badlands, endless desert landscapes stretching to the horizon, and literal forests of ancient crystallized wood. 

The park can offer cool, yet pleasant hiking conditions in the wintertime, with daytime temperature usually warming up to the 40s or 50s. Occasionally, a light dusting of snow will blanket the park’s colorful hills, making the vibrant bentonite clay pop against the white powder. 

One of the best things to do in the park is explore its incredible hikes, like the Blue Mesa trail. Here, you’ll wind your way down below the rim of a mesa and weave your way between indigo-colored badlands, towering overhead. 

But beyond just hitting the trails, there’s truly something for everyone at this park. 

Are you a history buff? Check out Newspaper Rock, which has over 650 petroglyphs, some of which date back to over 2,000 years ago. 

More into geology? Walk along the Crystal Forest trail, where you’ll see countless pieces of fossilized wood, from millions of years ago, littering the rolling hills as far as the eye can see. 

Into Americana? Petrified Forest is the only national park in the country to retain part of the historic Route 66.

No matter what your interests are, Petrified Forest is a fabulous place to explore in the wintertime.

How to get to Petrified Forest National Park: You can either fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (a 1 hour and 48 minute drive) or Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (a 3 hour and 23 minute drive).
Where to stay in Petrified Forest National Park: The nearby town of Holbrook is full of kitschy dinosaur statues and nostalgic Americana memorabilia. For some Route 66-themed rooms and friendly service, check out Brad’s Desert Inn.

 

7. Chiricahua National Monument

 If you’re looking for a hidden gem in Arizona, the Chiricahua National Monument should definitely be added to your bucket list.

 This small park boasts enormous volcanic pinnacles that tower overhead, which are remnants of a volcanic eruption that took place millions of years ago. Additionally, there are massive boulders littering the ground- some of which are bigger than literal houses!- covered in vibrant and green lichen.

It’s awesome to visit this part of Arizona in the winter, thanks to its mild weather.  In fact, the average winter temperature is about 60 degrees, with clear skies, providing ideal hiking conditions. Comparatively, given the limited shade along the hiking trails and the extreme heat in the summertime (often soaring into the high 90s!), exploring the park’s incredible landscape from May through October can be ruined, due to the brutal heat

The monument is fairly remote, so you’ll want to be prepared before visiting. Stock up on gas and bring extra snacks and water to be on the safe side. Cell service is spotty, at best, so I’d recommend downloading offline maps on Google Maps and AllTrails before starting your drive.

 How to get to the Chiricahua National Monument: Fly into Tucson International Airport and make the drive, which is a bit under two hours east, to the park.

Where to stay for the Chiricahua National Monument: Stay in the tiny town of Willcox, about 40 minutes northwest of the park. The Arizona Sunset Inn offers clean and comfortable rooms, a sweet resident dog, and hot breakfast every morning, made to order. After you explore Chiricahua, make sure to check out some of the wineries surrounding Willcox!

Recommended by Chantelle of Flannels or Flip Flops

 

 8. Phoenix

Thanks to its awesome winter weather (with daytime temperatures in the 60s or 70s and clear skies), Phoenix is an awesome spot to escape the cold and have an incredible mix of city and outdoor adventures.

There are so many things to do in Phoenix in the wintertime. For example, if you’re looking to get outside, there are plenty of gorgeous hiking trails that snake through the mountains surrounding the city, like the famed Camelback Mountain or Dobbins Lookout.

Winter is also a great time to explore some of Phoenix’s cultural side, including attending one of the many seasonal festivals, like the Phoenix Festival for the Arts, and the Pueblo Grande Museum Indian Market. If you happen to visit around the holidays, head on over to the Desert Botanical Garden. This 140 acre park, with every kind of desert tree, cacti, and succulent you can imagine, is lit up at night by thousands of Luminaria bags for the holidays, with plenty of live music and holiday cheer to boot.

How to get to Phoenix: By now, you probably realize that Phoenix offers the largest airport in the state. Pretty easy, huh?

Where to stay in Phoenix: For a fun place to stay in the heart of everything, check out the Clarendon Hotel, a retro boutique hotel within walking distance of some of the best restaurants in the city.

Recommended by Sam of My Flying Leap

 

 9. Page

 Thanks to the famed Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona has made its way on many travelers’ bucket lists. Come winter, though, you can visit Antelope Canyon and the other natural wonders in this area without the crowds! 

 The Arizona winter can get quite chilly in Page (ranging from the low 30s to mid 50s), and you may even run into some snow from December through February. That being said, seeing the bright red and orange rocks of the American Southwest with a dusting of snow can actually highlight the majestic beauty of this landscape.

Just be sure to pack a warm winter jacket, gloves, and a warm hat, in addition to waterproof boots (like these for men or these for women) for your outdoor adventures in Page.

 One of the best things to do here is to visit some of the gorgeous slot canyons in the area. 

As mentioned above, Antelope Canyon, with its swirling striated walls and light rays, gets all the attention- and it’s absolutely worth a visit! You’ll need a guide to explore the canyon- check out this one with a local Navajo guide.

 That being said, there are a ton of other incredible slot canyons in the area as well. For a similar experience to Antelope but with fewer crowds, consider checking out Cardiac Canyon, or Waterholes Canyon, or Canyon X (here’s a great tour option). 

 Another thing to not miss while visiting Page is the Horseshoe Bend, a horse-shoe shaped bend where the Colorado River has carved a canyon 1,000 feet deep into the sandstone. Keep your fingers crossed for snow- this place looks incredible with a light dusting!

 How to get to Page: Both Las Vegas International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are both 4.5 hours away from the city.

Where to stay in Page: The Wingate by Wyndham offers clean, spacious rooms and free hot breakfast to fuel you up for all of your slot canyon explorations!

Recommended by Jessica of Unearth the Voyage

 

10. Prescott

When it comes to winter destinations in Arizona, there isn’t a city more festive, cozy, and fun than Prescott, Arizona! 

Prescott can get a bit chilly in the wintertime, While the average highs are in the low 50s, it’s not uncommon to see snow dusting the ground here. Although some of the town’s outdoor adventures will be inaccessible due to the winter weather, like kayaking and hiking, you can still enjoy some of the best things to do in Prescott, come winter!

Specifically looking for things to do in Arizona in December? Prescott is known as “Arizona’s Christmas City,” so if you’re visiting during the holiday season, you’re in for a treat. On the first Saturday of December, the city of Prescott lights up over 100 Christmas trees at its annual Courthouse Lighting & Christmas Parade. 

Throughout the holiday season, the city is decorated with colorful lights and festive décor that will fill you with all the Christmas cheer. If you’re visiting for the holiday events, though, be sure to book your trip early—hotels tend to sell out months in advance as Prescott is known to be one of the best places to visit in Arizona in December! 

Even if you aren’t visiting during the holidays, there are lots of other winter activities to enjoy in Prescott, with plenty of cute coffee shops, saloons, and boutiques in the downtown area to explore. Alternatively, consider hiking the 0.9 mile Wolf Creek Falls trail, which will lead you to a waterfall that might just be frozen solid in the wintertime!

How to get to Prescott: Prescott is approximately two hours north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. 

Where to stay in Prescott: The Prescott Resort & Conference Center is the perfect place to stay, with excellent amenities, like a spa and heated swimming pool, and close proximity to Prescott’s charming downtown.

Recommended by Brittany of Travel by Brit


Phew- I hope you’ve added a few destinations in Arizona to your bucket list! Do you have any questions about visiting Arizona in the winter? Let me know in the comments below!

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