There is a good reason that tourism in Phoenix peaks during the winter months. While the rest of the country deals with ice storms and snow, Phoenix remains a mild weather paradise! Make the most of your Arizona winter by mapping out a bucket list of activities to check off your list in the next few months.
Ski at Mount Lemmon
Want to experience skiing at the southernmost ski destination in the United States? That’s right, Mount Lemmon holds that official title, and is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains right outside of Tucson. The ski season for Mount Lemmon usually lasts from mid-December through April, so you have plenty of time to plan a trip in the new year. For those who like to ski but don’t enjoy the sub arctic temperatures, Mount Lemmon usually has more mild skiing weather, and sometimes it’s warm enough to just ski in jeans and a sweater!
Participate in Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona
If you vowed to run more in the new year, this is the perfect opportunity to fulfill that promise to yourself! The Rock ‘n’ Roll race in Arizona is always an incredibly fun community event to kick off the new year by running a flat and fast race route that winds through Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. The event takes place on January 15th and 16th, but even if you are not up to running a half or full marathon, they also offer several shorter race options that you can still sign up to run! The course takes you through beautiful scenic mountain passes, downtown Scottsdale, all against a backdrop of a great musical soundtrack.
Hike Devil’s Bridge in Sedona
One of the most incredible views of the red rocks in Sedona is at the end of Devil’s Bridge, where you have a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. It’s a bucket list item because it requires some gumption to walk out onto the bridge with sheer vertical drops on each side, but capturing a photo on the bridge is a rite of passage for all Arizonians! While the trail can be crowded, the winter is the off season in Sedona, which means less people and more opportunities to experience the peacefulness of nature.
You will need a Red Rock Pass in order to hike Devil’s Bridge, which costs $5 a day or $15 for a week, which is worth it if you plan to do additional hikes during your time in Sedona. It’s around a four mile hike, and usually takes hikers somewhere between an hour and three hours to hike the entire route. You should note that there is often a line of people waiting to take their photos on the bridge, so be prepared to wait at the top!
Go Snowshoeing in Flagstaff
In the winter, Flagstaff is the best place to go to truly experience a winter wonderland. If you want to diversify your winter activities, try snowshoeing this year! Visit Flagstaff Nordic Center, which has miles of snowshoeing trails that are open to the public. Snowshoeing allows you to go at a slower pace than skiing and really soak in the winter scenery around you, which you will want to do in the scenic Coconino National Forest.
There are two main snowshoeing trails with trailheads at the Nordic Center Lodge. The Aspen trail is shorter, with a two mile snowshoeing loop, and is considered an easy trail. If you are looking for a more advanced option, take the Lava Trail, which is four miles long and is considered a strenuous trail. You can rent your gear at the Arizona Nordic Village, and the snowshoe package includes snowshoes and poles for $12 a person.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
One of Arizona’s less well known gems is Kartchner Caverns State Park located to the south of Tucson. It’s a secret underground cave formation that allows you to see an incredible landscape of limestone and helictites. The caves are home to bats that have lived there for thousands of years. To make the most of your visit, you can take a headlamp tour to experience the caves in their truest form. There are tons of animals that live in the caverns, so make it a point to do some wildlife viewing while you are there and look for gila monsters, coyotes, and whitetail deer!
The incredible Kartchner Caverns were discovered back in 1974, and after extensive work by the Arizona State Parks organization, the upper caverns have been open to the public since 1999. It’s a destination unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!
Hike Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain is by far the most well known hike in the Valley because of the incredible 360 degree views of Phoenix when you reach the top. Know before you set out that Camelback Mountain is not a hike for the faint of heart! Currently only the western trail called Echo Canyon is open to the public. This is a two mile advanced trail with some steep climbs and sheer cliffs. It’s a rewarding hike that adventure seekers need to have on their bucket list! The winter is the best time to hike, as the weather is much more mild and pleasant, and there are less rattlesnakes out on the trails. If you have never done it, make it a point to get out and try conquering Camelback for yourself this year.
Visit the Biosphere
If you love science and learning about ecosystems, Biosphere 2 is one of the coolest places you can visit in the state. Originally, a group of eight people were sealed into Biosphere 2 for two years as a research project to learn if a new biosphere could be created in a manufactured ecosystem.
Currently Biosphere 2 serves as a research facility that is used as a controlled environment where scientists can learn more about the impact of climate change. It’s a 3.14 acre laboratory with different environmental habitats, ranging from a rainforest, to the desert, to a savanna. This is a truly unique destination that gives you an opportunity to take an hour-long tour and learn a lot about conversation, and the science behind the world around us.
Visit the Chihuly Exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden
Artist Dale Chihuly’s stunning glass installations are back at the Desert Botanical Garden this year! His artwork is perfectly incorporated into the gardens, set against a backdrop of desert plants. There is also an indoor gallery exhibit in Torrance Hall that takes visitors on a one-of-a-kind walkthrough of his art depicting the four seasons. While Dale Chihuly’s art can be found in various exhibits across the country, there is something truly special about seeing it paired against the desert landscape! This exhibit will be at the Desert Botanical Gardens until June 19th, 2022.
We all need fun activities to look forward to at the beginning of a new year, especially during the month of January. Luckily for Arizona residents, this is one of the best times to be in the state! Whether you want to stay in Southern Arizona, or head up north to get your own taste of a winter wonderland, it’s a magical time of year to be in the Grand Canyon state.