Arizona, also known as the Grand Canyon State, is located in the American Southwest. Admitted as the 48th State of the Union in 1912, Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon as well as a variety of terrain, climates and cultures. To the west are California and Nevada, to the north is Utah, to the east is New Mexico, to the northeast is Colorado, and to the south is the Mexican state of Sonora. It is one of the Four Corners states.
|Eastern Arizona |
High desert lands, Wild West history galore and small towns near the border.
|Greater Phoenix |
The Southwest's biggest metropolitan area has artsy urban communities, ritzy resorts, the country's largest university and resulting college town, beautiful desert wilderness on the outskirts and miles upon miles of suburban sprawl.
|Northern Arizona |
Including Grand Canyon and the "Arizona Strip." The Navajo Nation and numerous beautiful deserts and forests populate the region.
|South Central Arizona |
The corridor from Tucson to the biggest port of entry into Arizona, Nogales, has some beautiful high desert, interesting cities and sparse wilderness.
|Western Arizona |
Mostly high desert and irrigated farmland, especially off the Colorado River along the border with California, on the western edge. Includes Yuma in the southwest, Arizona's third most populous metro region after Phoenix and Tucson.
- 1 Phoenix — The capital of Arizona has a vibrant downtown, active Latino communities in South Phoenix, artsy and young Roosevelt Street and the upscale Biltmore area.
- 2 Flagstaff — Home of the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, Flagstaff is the gateway to the northern reaches of the state with most people headed to the Grand Canyon's South Rim passing through Flagstaff.
- 3 Mesa — Home of the Arizona Mormon Temple, and home to a burgeoning Asian community that brings along with it an international culinary flavor.
- 4 Prescott — Home to the world's oldest rodeo.
- 5 Sedona — Gorgeous red rock canyons and New Age folks dominate one of the most beautiful areas of Arizona.
- 6 Scottsdale — If golfing, shopping and the spa lifestyle are what you're into you'll be right at home in Scottsdale. In addition, there are great desert biking and hiking trails in the McDowell Mountains and an active greenbelt.
- 7 Tempe — Home to the largest university in the United States, Tempe knows how to party and is bursting with youthful energy.
- 8 Tucson — Culinary delights and beautiful mountains occupy Arizona's "second city" of Tucson, nicknamed "The Old Pueblo" & "Baja Arizona".
- 9 Yuma — A nice town to pass through, and gateway to the desert dunes of southern California along the way to San Diego, California.
Other cities of are listed in their regions that they are located in.
- 1 Canyon de Chelly — A gorgeous canyon dotted with ancient ruins.
- 2 Four Corners Monument — Where four states meet at one point.
- 3 Grand Canyon National Park — A UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the natural wonders of the world, and the world's most famous canyon.
- 4 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- 5 Meteor Crater — A prehistoric impact crater that was once used for training astronauts for their moon landings.
- 6 Monument Valley — An iconic desertscape used in countless films and television series.
- 7 Petrified Forest National Park — Filled with beautifully colored mineralized trees.
- 8 Saguaro National Park — National Park dedicated to preserving the iconic giant Saguaro cacti.
- 9 Santa Catalina Mountains — A 'sky island' with dramatic flora, fauna and climate from the desert valley below.
Arizona covers 113,909 square miles (29,502,000 ha; 295,020 km2), with about 350 square miles (91,000 ha; 910 km2) of water surface including Lake Havasu, Lake Powell, Lake Mead and the Colorado River. The state consists of three primary topographical features: a high plateau in the northeast of the state, averaging between 5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500 to 2,100 m) in elevation; a mountainous region which runs from the southeast to the northwest with peak elevations between 9,000 to 12,000 feet (2,700 to 3,700 m); and low mountain ranges and desert valleys in the southwestern of the state.
The state is defined by the Grand Canyon in the north, the Mogollon Rim (pronounced MUG-ee-own) in the central mountainous region and the Sonoran Desert to the south. Scattered among these regions, features such as the red rocks of Sedona, the tall, wind-swept towers of Monument Valley and the saguaro-filled desert valleys around Phoenix and Tucson add depth and character to the landscape of Arizona.
Another prominent feature of the Arizona landscape, a Ponderosa Pine forest stretches across the state from the White Mountain region around Greer and Alpine across the Mogollon Rim to the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. This strip of pine also extends beyond the Grand Canyon onto the Kaibab Plateau and into Southern Utah.
Humphreys Peak, part of the San Francisco Peaks, is the highest point in Arizona with an elevation of 12,611 ft (3,844 m). Baldy Peak, located in the White Mountains, is the second highest point with an elevation of 11,490 ft (3,500 m). In the southwest of the state, the Sonoran Desert stretches out of Mexico and into Arizona with elevations as low as about 100 ft (30 m) above sea level in the Lower Colorado River Valley.
The Grand Canyon
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon dominates the Northern Arizona landscape. Stretching 277 mi (446 km) across the high plateaus and plunging 6,000 ft (1,800 m) down into the arid plateau, the canyon was shaped and carved by the constant motion of the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon features three or four eras of geological time as well as several layers of fossil records, several varieties of rock types, numerous caves and several major ecosystems.
What to wear
When visiting Arizona, pack accordingly depending on the time of year and where you are traveling. Throughout the state, dress is usually casual and comfortable, especially during the summer months. Very few restaurants require jackets and ties; however, if you are planning on attending a cultural event or dining at a finer restaurant, consider bringing business casual attire as well.
During the summer, shorts and sandals are standard wear during the day. You might even see some children barefoot in public. You can wear a light sweater or jacket during the evenings at higher elevations. In the cooler months, temperatures can differ greatly from day to night, so consider bringing a sweater or jacket if traveling in the desert areas. At higher elevations in the north of the state, a winter jacket is recommended.
Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen should be used year-round.
A primary reason for travelers to visit to Arizona, specifically in the low desert regions around Phoenix and Tucson, is the state's mild climate during the fall, winter and spring. The warm weather and low precipitation provide travelers with an enjoyable climate for numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, golf and sightseeing. At higher elevations during the winter, snowfall allows visitors to enjoy winter sports such as cross-country skiing.
During the summer months, temperatures in the low desert regions can reach well above 100 °F (38 °C), however the climate at higher elevations, as in Flagstaff, stays mild and allows for enjoyable outdoor activities as well as a break from the summer heat.
High temperatures in the summer months in the lower elevations reach into the "triple digits" of 100 °F (38 °C) and above, with 110 °F (43 °C) common and record highs above 120 °F (49 °C). At higher elevations, temperatures may still touch 100 °F (38 °C) at elevations like Prescott to 80 °F (27 °C) in Flagstaff.
During the winter, cold fronts can bring temperatures well below zero in the higher areas of central and northern Arizona, with lows averaging between 15 and 20 °F (−9 and −7 °C).
During drier portions of the year (traditionally the winter months), temperatures can differ greatly from day to night, sometimes as much as 40 to 50 °F (4 to 10 °C). In the low desert valleys during the winter, temperatures during the day could average 70 °F (21 °C), with night temperatures dropping to around 40 °F (4 °C). During the summer, the central portion of the state along with the lower elevations can experience temperature changes up to 30-40 °F from day to night.
Rainfall in Arizona is primarily determined by season and elevation. In the mountainous region, that runs from the southeast to the northwest, rainfall amounts will average between 25 and 30 inches (64 and 76 cm) (including melted snow) annually, while the low-lying desert region averages only 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) annually. The high plateau region in the northeast of the state averages 10 in (250 mm) of rainfall annually.
During winter months, November through March, storms occur regularly at the higher elevations in central and northern Arizona and can produce heavy snowfall. Summer months, particularly early July through mid-September, bring the monsoon season to the desert region. Monsoons are strong thunderstorms, typically lasting a short time in a certain area, that produce haboobs, powerful winds and brief periods of blowing dust prior to the storm's arrival. Almost all of these storms occur roughly between mid-afternoon and the middle of the night.
The average number of days with measurable rainfall per year ranges from around 70 days in the northern part of the state to 15 days in the desert regions. The air is usually dry and clear, with low relative humidity and a high percentage of sunshine. April, May, and June usually produce the most clear days, while July and August (in lower elevations), as well as December, January and February (in higher elevations) have the cloudiest weather due to thunderstorms. Humidity is low in comparison to other states, however it is typically higher during the monsoon season.
Despite the common perception of Arizona as a warm state, snowfall does occur annually in high altitude areas such as Flagstaff.
Native American culture
Arizona is home to 22 Native American tribes that contribute to the history, culture and economy of the state. While most tribes welcome visitors to experience their proud history and culture, each tribe does have its own guidelines for visitors. In addition, the 22 reservations operate under their own governmental structure. Tribal laws should be viewed in the same manner as U.S. laws and regulations. Before visiting a tribe, you should consult or contact the individual tribe for additional visitor information.
When visiting a Native American tribe or reservation, you should be aware that:
- Each reservation operates under its own government and its own rules for visitors.
- Photography and painting may not be allowed. Check with the individual tribe before taking photographs.
- Dances are typically part of religious ceremonies. Think of these events as you would if you were visiting a holy site, such as a church. Also, be mindful that applause may not be welcome after a dance.
- Do not climb walls or structures.
- Sacred areas and graveyards are not usually open to visitors.
- Reservations and villages should be treated with respect. While most reservations are open to visitors, individual homes are private and should be entered only by invitation.
- Some arts and crafts sold around reservations may not be authentic. Consult the Indian Arts and Crafts Association for more information about purchasing authentic Native American arts and crafts.
Arizona is always on Mountain Standard Time (UTC -7) and does not observe daylight saving time. The exception is for the Navajo Nation, located in the northeastern corner of the state, and extending into New Mexico and Utah (which also observe daylight savings). Note the large Hopi reservation is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, but is on standard time like the rest of Arizona.
During the summer months, the state is an hour behind the rest of the Mountain Time Zone (or equivalent to the Pacific Time Zone). This causes confusion as daylight savings now runs roughly from March through early November, so time in most of Arizona is effectively the same as Pacific Time for two-thirds of the year. During the winter months Arizona has the same time as the rest of the Mountain Time Zone. An easy way to remember this rule is: Colorado in wintertime, California in summertime. This does not affect the hour in which most TV programs are viewed for the local over-the-air networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, etc. The exception is for nationwide live programming, and all cable-only channels.
Arizona observes all the federal holidays, and has no additional ones.
As with all states in the U.S., the primary spoken language in Arizona is English. A large population base speaks Spanish. Due to the state's history and its proximity to Mexico, Arizona is home to a large population of Mexican-Americans as well as populations from several other Hispanic countries who typically speak the Spanish language (with some Hispanic cultures using a country-specific dialect) in addition to or instead of English.
Arizona is home to several Native American reservations, with the Navajo Nation being the largest in the state and nationwide. Most of the Native American tribes have their own distinct language, though just about all members of those tribes are fluent in English.
When To Go
Generally, the peak season in the desert areas (southern Arizona) lasts from January through March with the next most popular season is from April to May and September through December and the season when visitors can find the greatest values is June through August.
Peak and value seasons in the mountainous regions (northern Arizona) are the opposite of the desert areas. Generally, peak season is from June through August, shoulder season is April to May and September through December, and value season is January through March.
Peak season in some mid-climate areas of the state, such as Sedona, is from March to May and September through October, with shoulder season from January to February.
Arizona's main entry point by air is 1 Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX IATA). Located between downtown Phoenix and Tempe, Sky Harbor is served by most major airlines and provides non-stop service to over 100 cities in the U.S., Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Mexico and Costa Rica. It is a hub & focus city for American Airlines/American Eagle and Southwest Airlines. Additional direct international connections to/from Phoenix are through Dallas Ft Worth International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport or through another city depending on the airline(s). From Phoenix Sky Harbor most travelers rent cars and drive to their destinations in Arizona.
In addition to Phoenix Sky Harbor, several regional airports are located throughout Arizona including:
- 2 Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. (AZA IATA) in the east Phoenix metro valley (formerly Williams Gateway Airport) which is served by Allegiant Airlines, Swoop and Westjet. All other airlines serving the area are at Phoenix Sky Harbor.
- 3 Tucson International Airport. (TUS IATA) located south of downtown Tucson, it is Arizona's second busiest airport. It is served by several major airlines, with non-stop service to 20 cities in the U.S. from Tucson.
- 4 Harry Reid International Airport. (LAS IATA) in Las Vegas, Nevada, not in Arizona, serves as the nearest major international airport to northern/northwestern Arizona with multiple commercial airlines. Most travelers would fly to either Las Vegas or Phoenix, rent a car and drive to Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu, Laughlin/Bullhead City and/or anywhere in northern/northwestern Arizona.
- 5 Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. (FLG IATA) south of Flagstaff. It is served by American Eagle and United Express.
- 6 Lake Havasu City Airport. (HII IATA) north of Lake Havasu City along SR-95. No commercial flights, only available for general aviation and VIP flights.
- 7 Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport. (IFP IATA), in Bullhead City. It is served by Swift Air and Sun Country.
- 8 Page Municipal Airport. (PGA IATA) serves as a general aviation airport located on the northeastern edge of Page, AZ. Commercially it is only served by Contour Airlines from Phoenix.
- 9 Yuma International Airport. (YUM IATA) in Yuma served only by American Eagle from Dallas/Ft Worth and Phoenix Sky Harbor.
All parts of Arizona are accessible by federal or state highways as well as 22 'Ports of Entry' from surrounding states and Sonora, Mexico. The speed limit on most rural interstate freeways is 75 miles per hour, which typically drops to 65 or 55 miles per hour near metropolitan areas. The speed limit on most state highways and U.S. routes in rural Arizona is 65 miles per hour.
Arizona law does require that each front-seat occupant wear a seat belt in a car is designed to carry ten or fewer passengers (i.e. not a bus). In addition, children under the age of five must be properly restrained as well.
- & (I-8) runs east to west, running from I-10 to Yuma. I-8 splits from I-10 south of Phoenix (by Casa Grande) and provides the quickest access to Yuma as well as San Diego, California. However, in the other direction, it does not go to Phoenix directly. At Gila Bend, Hwy 85 connects I-8 with I-10, for travel to the west side of Phoenix and downtown (or Phoenix to San Diego). For the eastern suburbs, I-8 merges with I-10, and it's possible to reverse direction going from I-8 east to I-10 west (exit #178B) or vice versa (I-10 exit #199). Despite the signs, I-10 goes mostly north-south between Tucson and Phoenix, and backtracking is very minimal.
- (I-10) runs east to west across southern Arizona and connects travelers with the major cities of Tucson and Phoenix. I-10 originates out of the east from Las Cruces, New Mexico and out of the west, from Palm Springs, California and Los Angeles. I-10 is a major interstate and does carry a large amount of car and truck traffic. During the week, portions of I-10 can experience very heavy traffic, usually around the Tucson and Phoenix metropolitan areas.
- (I-15) runs through the northwestern corner of Arizona, going through the Virgin River Gorge between Mesquite and St George. Take U.S. 89 from Salt Lake City and points north.
- (I-19) runs south to north in south central Arizona and provides access from Tucson to Nogales as well as entry into Sonora, Mexico. I-19 splits from I-10 just south of downtown Tucson. Because I-19 is a major route to and from Mexico, border patrol checkpoints are common along the interstate; however these checkpoints typically do not take long to pass through. The border crossing at Nogales can be a busy entry and exit point; be patient while waiting to cross the border and have proper documentation ready to present. See 'Stay safe' for additional information.
- (I-40) runs east to west across northern Arizona and connects travelers with the cities of Kingman, Flagstaff, and Williams. I-40 comes into Arizona from the east after passing through Albuquerque, New Mexico and from the west after passing through Barstow and Needles, California. I-40 is positioned above the Mogollon Rim in elevation and is affected by heavy snowfall during winter months.
- runs southeast to northwest across northwest Arizona and connects travelers from [[Wickenburg] to I-40 and Kingman and onto Nevada and Las Vegas area. U.S. 93 is the route that the majority of local residents and tourists use to travel to and from Las Vegas and can become very busy on most weekends. The stretch northwest from Wickenburg to Kingman is deadly, as it is mixed two- and four-lane, with a lot of head-on collisions as drivers pull out to pass thinking they're in a two-lane stretch. U.S. 93 once ran across Hoover Dam on the Arizona / Nevada border, but the highway was rerouted in 2010 over a newly built bridge just downstream of the dam. (Incidentally, drivers on the new bridge cannot see the dam.) The old highway is still used by dam employees and visitors, but can no longer be accessed from the Arizona side of the river.
- runs (in a general) east to west across central Arizona, entering the state just south of I-40 from New Mexico. U.S. 60 runs through the White Mountains and the towns of Eagar and Springerville on its way to Globe and Phoenix. From Phoenix, it continues northwest to Wickenburg, then southwest to the route's western terminus at I-10.
- runs northeast to southwest across northern Arizona entering the state from Colorado and New Mexico near the Four Corners and ending by joining with U.S. 89 near Tuba City.
- runs north to south through northern Arizona and connects travelers from Utah with Page and Flagstaff. In addition, U.S. 89 is the main route for travelers to access the South Rim, North Rim (via Alt-U.S. 89) and the east entrance of the Grand Canyon.
- ALT (also, US 89A) runs through northern Arizona, starting near Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, and connects to U.S. 89 south of Page. Alt-U.S. 89 is the main route to access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Amtrak serves a couple of routes through Arizona. Phoenix, the principal city and capital, is not served by Amtrak trains instead the nearest station is 35 mi (56 km) south of Phoenix in the town of Maricopa and is connected to Phoenix, Tempe and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by an Amtrak Thruway Shuttle[dead link].
The following Amtrak routes serve Arizona: Amtrak, ☏ offer two routes through Arizona:
- The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles with stops in Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams and Kingman. For much of its route, the Southwest Chief follows historic Route 66, and offers an interesting perspective of the historic road and its surroundings.
- The Sunset Limited runs three times a week from New Orleans to Los Angeles via San Antonio and El Paso. Additionally, Amtrak's Texas Eagle service between San Antonio and Chicago incorporates the Sunset Limited to provide a direct connection to Los Angeles with the same stops as the Sunset Limited between San Antonio and Los Angeles. Both trains stop in Benson, Tucson, Maricopa and Yuma.
As with most western states, the easiest way to get around Arizona is via car. The federal and state highway system offers travelers easy access around Arizona whether you are driving your personal car or a rental car. While most major cities in Arizona do offer public transportation, including Greater Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona, state-wide public transportation is very limited.
Nearly all major attractions and tourist destinations in Arizona are accessible via car.
- (I-17) runs south to north across central Arizona and connects travelers with the major cities of Phoenix and Flagstaff. I-17 is the main route north from Phoenix to Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. It provides easy access to Sedona via AZ 179 as well as Prescott, Jerome and Montezuma Castle National Monument. Because I-17 is the major route north, it carries a large amount of car and truck traffic, especially during busy weekends and holidays. It can get shut down due to accidents, weather and forest fires. During the week, portions of I-17 can experience very heavy traffic due to commuters. Additionally, because the road crosses the Mogollon Rim, its northern section is frequently affected by heavy snowfall during the winter months.
- The Apache Trail (Hwy. 88) is a 42-mile (68 km) long scenic drive through the Sonoran Desert. It goes out to Theodore Roosevelt Lake (usually called just Roosevelt Lake) and the mining town of Globe. Along the way are ample views of yuccas, saguaros and desert lakes.
Renting a car
Renting a car in Arizona is very similar to any other state. Rental cars are available at most major airports, especially the main entry points of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Tucson International Airport.
Information on transit can be found from APTA.
- 5 Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- 6 Grand Canyon National Park - UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most internationally recognized topographical features.
- 7 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- 8 Petrified Forest National Park
- 9 Saguaro National Park - National Park dedicated to preserving the iconic giant Saguaro cacti.
- 10 Canyon de Chelly National Monument
- 11 Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
- 12 Chiricahua National Monument
- 13 Four Corners Monument
- 14 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
- 15 Agua Fria National Monument
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest – primarily located in the Mogollon Rim area
- Tonto National Forest – located just north of Greater Phoenix
- Coronado National Forest – spread across South Central Arizona, Southeast Arizona, and Eastern Arizona
- Coconino National Forest – located in the north of the state, near Flagstaff
The Arizona State Parks offer an array of options for outdoor enthusiasts:
- Historic Route 66 – Historic Route 66 runs east-west across northern Arizona.
- Coronado Trail Scenic Byway (U.S. 191) – An Arizona Scenic Route and National Scenic Byway, US 191 travels north-south through the Apache–Sitgreaves National Forest, running all the way from the Mexico border near Douglas to the Utah state line near Mexican Water. Between Morenci and Hannagan Meadow the road is dangerous with no shoulders and many hairpin turns along steep mountainsides. Also called the "Devil's Highway", as US 191 formerly was US 666 as the 6th numbered spur from US 66, but also fitting for the deadly stretch between Morenci and Hannagan Meadow.
Although, like most large metro areas, Phoenix is home to a wide variety of eateries of myriad ethic and cultural influences, Arizona is best known for its great Southwestern style food, including great traditional Mexican cuisine, particularly of the northern or Sonoran variety, upscale Mexican fusion eateries, and working neighborhood catering trucks and street-side burrito stands.
On the wilder side, cactus is also edible and can be eaten fried or in salads.
Large amounts of water are a necessity during the summer months. The amount of water suggested varies from person to person, but dehydration or exhaustion can occur if one is not vigilant; especially in areas without air-conditioning. Summer days can be so warm that most convenience stores sell fountain drink cups in sizes up to a half gallon.
The official currency of Arizona is the U.S. Dollar (USD).
Credit cards are widely accepted in Arizona, as are debit cards. It is advisable however to avoid paying with credit cards in restaurants and bars in rural areas (pretty much anywhere outside Phoenix and Flagstaff) because many venues are not yet equipped with proper pin pad card readers. They rely only on the magnetic strip to make the transaction, which is an insecure legacy method that exposes you to a range of scams, including fraudulent copying of your card. When in doubt, ask your server if they have a card reader with pin pad in advance, and pay in cash if they don't. Supermarkets and chain restaurants, as well as major hotels, are almost always equipped with a pin pad card reader, so it's safe to pay by card there.
In the most rural areas, you may encounter situations in restaurants or bars where the bill is brought to you, and your server takes your card away to "unlock" your account using the magnetic strip. You will then be asked to sign the bill indicating the amount to be paid. This is obviously dangerous, as you won't be able to verify which amount you're actually being charged, nor will you be able to confirm it by entering your pin. Again, if confronted with such a situation, demand your card back from your server and pay cash.
Be aware that ATMs found outside banks often charge substantial fees to withdraw cash in Arizona, as much as $8 - $15 fixed fee per withdrawal irrespective of the amount, plus a currency conversion fee when withdrawing cash from an account in EUR or other foreign currency. Carefully check the overview presented by the ATM before committing to the transaction.
Like many western states, Arizona has had cases of hantaviral pulmonary syndrome, 62 confirmed cases in the state since 1993. Realistically, however, hantavirus is of very little concern to the traveler; but sensible precautions should be applied. Do NOT venture in a wild animal's den or handle any dead animals; particularly rodents, as rodents seem to be the primary vector of the illness. There is no cure for the disease; treatment mainly consists of supportive therapies. The main defense against the virus is prevention.
For more information on prevention and transmission, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on hantaviruses.
Cases of Bubonic plague have been reported among animals in portions of Northern Arizona. Like hantavirus, it is of little concern to the traveler; but the sensible precautions listed above should be applied as well.
Coccidioidomycosis, known locally as "Valley Fever", is a fungus-caused illness that is endemic to parts of the state. It is caused by fungus that grows in the soil, and infections can occur when the soil is disturbed, such as during the dust storms that parts of the state experiences during the summer months. People can reduce their exposure to the fungus by avoiding blowing dust or dirt, and if possible, wear face masks.
Arizona / Mexico border
Due to Arizona's proximity to the International Boundary with Mexico, visitors should be cautious while in areas near the border.
- Know where you are at all times, follow good safety procedures and use common sense when making decisions.
- Do not pick-up hitch hikers.
- Keep valuables, including spare change, out of sight and lock your vehicle.
- Avoid traveling in well-marked but unofficial "trails."
- Avoid hiking or camping in areas of major border activity. If you are visiting a national or state park, consult park staff to help plan backcountry travel in safer areas.
- Report any suspicious behavior to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Crossing the border
Thousands of U.S citizens visit the state of Sonora, Mexico from Arizona every year with the majority of travelers returning from an enjoyable experience. However, Sonora can be very dangerous for travelers, and the U.S. State Department encourages travelers to limit travel to the main roads during daylight hours. Before traveling to Mexico, ensure that you have the proper documentation and are familiar with the recommendations for foreign travel from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs[dead link] and with the current Mexico travel warnings[dead link].
A large portion of Arizona's land area consists of extensive desert landscapes, many of which are very remote and can easily become disorienting to a tourist who is unfamiliar with these locations. It is not at all uncommon for temperatures in the Arizona desert to reach 115-120°F (45-50°C) during the summer months, which have the potential to impose deadly consequences to anyone who should become lost or stranded in these areas.
If you are planning on traveling or hiking into these locations, follow desert survival guidelines. Be sure to take plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day), sunscreen and wear light clothing. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to get return.
Also, it is best to hike during the earlier part of the day, as thunderstorms tend to develop suddenly during the afternoon. In the event you encounter inclement weather conditions, seek high ground immediately! Thunderstorms can cause flash flooding in canyons and other low laying areas, even if it is not raining in the immediate vicinity.
Drivers in Arizona should follow the same rules and regulations that apply throughout the U.S.
For information on road conditions or traffic information dial *511 from any phone. Road conditions and traffic information is also available online from the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration.
Be aware that Arizona Highway Patrol can and do close I-17, I-40 and other major roads due to high winds or severe snowstorms. During extremely severe weather, it may not be possible to send traffic back to a town, so travelers should plan accordingly.
Dust storms, called haboobs, are caused by high winds blowing dust onto highways and into metropolitan areas. Usually brief, dust storms should be taken seriously because they can quickly decrease visibility. Haboobs can be up to a mile tall, a mile deep, and 40 miles long. Similar as with blizzard "whiteout conditions", multiple-car collisions are unfortunately a rather common occurrence in dust storm "brownout conditions" in the southwest. I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is notorious for multi-car pile-ups, some including 70+ vehicles. Variable speed limits have been introduced along some portions.
If you see a dust storm while driving:
- Turn on your headlights and slow to an appropriate speed.
- If you can safely avoid it, do not enter the dust storm.
- If you need to pull off the road, get as far to the right as possible, going even beyond the shoulder into the ditch if possible.
- Turn off the car, headlights and parking lights, set the parking brake, and keep your foot off the brake pedal - go dark, otherwise other drivers may think you're a car in motion and likely rear-end you.
Rain and flash floods
In the summer, typically central and southern Arizona does experience heavy rainstorms, called monsoons. While these storms are usually brief, the heavy rain can cause flooding in low-lying areas. If you find yourself driving during one of these storms:
- Slow down: road surfaces are slick from the water, but also the oils especially if it's the first rain of the season.
- If you need to pull off the road, get as far to the right as possible. Turn off the car, headlights and parking lights, set the parking brake, and keep your foot off the brake pedal - go dark, otherwise other drivers may think you're a car in motion.
- Pay attention to hazard signs and roadblocks. If you see a sign that says "Do Not Cross When Flooded", take it seriously and find another way. Section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, commonly known as the "Stupid Motorist Law", states that any motorist who drives around barricades into a flooded stretch of roadway may be charged for the cost of his or her rescue.
- Don't cross rain-swollen washes. You could get caught in a flash flood, and you don't know what's under the water. That guy out there who seems to be only ankle-deep in water may be standing on the roof of his pickup truck.
- Most of these summer monsoon rainstorms are accompanied by lightning; some bring hail. Take proper precautions.
Border Patrol checkpoints
The US Border Patrol operate immigration checkpoints along highways near the border. Checkpoints are usually only in the northbound direction and south of Tucson, but legally can be anywhere within 100 miles of a land border or the coast of the USA. When checkpoints are staffed, you will have to pull over. You can get more information from the Arizona ACLU.
- US Citizens: Border Patrol can only ask questions needed to determine if you are a citizen. You do not need to provide any document, though if you do not speak English, showing documents may make your experience easier.
- If you are not a citizen: Border Patrol may ask for proof that you have permission to be in the United States (like a visa or work authorization card). They may also be allowed to ask other questions.
In the event of an emergency, dial 911. For non-emergency police or fire assistance, contact the local police or fire department directly.
Mobile cell phone coverage can be extremely spotty outside of urban areas, and while it's usually possible to use a cell phone from the interstate highways, this is nowhere close to universally true. However always try 911 in an emergency: it may connect to another carrier even if you have no signal.
Summer temperatures in some areas of Arizona routinely surpass 100°F (38°C) and visitors should take extra precautions while visiting the state. In Phoenix, daytime high record temperatures of 118 °F (48 °C) are more frequent. Regular hydration is extremely important.
- Rest frequently in shady areas so that the body's temperature has a chance to recover.
- If unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, gradually increase the pace and limit exercise or work time.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing; sunglasses to protect the eyes; and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep the head cool.
- Take special precaution with infants and young children by dressing them in loose, cool clothing and shading their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella. Protect their feet with shoes.
Avoid heat-related illness:
- Never leave infants, children or pets inside a parked vehicle.
- Increase fluid intake, regardless of activity level. Don't wait until thirsty to drink fluids; drink more liquid than one's thirst indicates.
- Avoid "heat hangover." Continue to drink fluids even after strenuous activity. This will enable the body to maintain optimum hydration, and help prevent the after effects of heat exposure such as headaches and fatigue.
- Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar as they dehydrate the body.
Abandoned mine shafts
These are very numerous in Arizona, and many remain unmarked. Many mine shafts are as deep as a skyscraper is tall, creating an extremely dangerous hazard. Do not travel along unknown trails and primitive dirt roads by ATV, motorcycle, horseback, etc. or deviate (even by a few feet) from existing well-used ones. For more information, including safety tips, visit the Arizona State Mine Inspector[dead link] website.
Arizona's geographic location and the interstate system allow easy access to California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado (via Utah or New Mexico) and the state of Sonora in Mexico.
- California — America's most populous state borders Arizona to the west, offering easy access to destinations such as Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego and Joshua Tree National Park.
- Nevada — Destinations that are easy day trips from Arizona's northwestern border include Henderson, Las Vegas and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
- Utah — Sharing similar climate and terrain, northern Arizona is close to St. George, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
- Colorado — Located to Arizona's northeast, the towns of Cortez and Durango are good day-trip options, as is Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. You must pass through a little of Utah or New Mexico to get to Colorado.
- New Mexico — The state's eastern neighbor puts the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe within easy driving distance for visitors.
- Sonora — For those willing to cross the border to the south into Mexico the towns of Hermosillo, Nogales and Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) make for interesting visits.
- Four Corners Monument — Where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet at right angles. Take US Hwy 89 east of the Grand Canyon, and turn onto US Hwy 160 going to New Mexico. Just across the state boundary, turn left at New Mexico Hwy 597. About 225 mi (362 km) from either Flagstaff or Grand Canyon Village.