Most Scenic Towns in Arizona

Use this guide for a scenic road trip that will surely leave you amazed

From former mining town gems, to desert beauties, and mountain charmers, here are eight of the most beautiful towns in Arizona.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee

Established in 1880, Bisbee is a charming town with a mining history located in the Mule Mountains. Once known as “The Queen of the Copper Camps”, the town is home to artists and retired folk. Neighborhoods with Victorian and European-style homes sit on the steep hillsides, while many unique shops, art galleries, and cafés reside in redesigned former saloons. Attractions include the Queen Mine Tour and Old Bisbee Ghost Tour.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott

Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet amongst a large stand of ponderosa pine, Prescott’s perfect weather provides an average temperature of 70 degrees, with four distinct seasons, and breathtaking landscapes with mountains, lakes, streams, and meadows. Popular activities include horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, local breweries, restaurants, shopping, and a hometown feel.Once the territorial capital of the state, Prescott is rich with history embodied in its world famous Whiskey Row and abundant historical landmarks.

Old Presido, Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucson

Tucson is located in the Sonoran Desert, the only place in the world the majestic saguaro cactus grows. Saguaro National Park is situated on either side of the city. These tall and ancient cacti stand like silent sentinels in the shadows of the five mountain ranges which cradle the Tucson valley and are showered with sunshine over 300 days a year. The average winter temperature is 70.

Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge offer expansive hiking, camping, and birding places.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook

Several miles west of Petrified Forest National Park, Holbrook boasts pretty epic scenery. Backcountry hikes take you through the eponymous petrified logs and other archeological wonders. Park guides will show you the daylight sights, but you can also join a night adventure in the newly designated International Dark Sky Park.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome

Located near the top of Cleopatra Hill is the historic copper mining town of Jerome. Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Jerome was born a copper mining camp, growing from a settlement of tents into a roaring mining community. Today Jerome is a thriving tourist and artist hub with a population of around 450 people. Jerome resides above what was once the largest copper mine in Arizona which was producing an astonishing 3 million pounds of copper per month. Once a thriving mining camp full of miners, bootleggers, gamblers, and prostitutes, now a bustling tourist destination full of artists, musicians, and gift shop proprietors.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keneta

As synonymous with cinema Westerns as John Wayne, Monument Valley embodies the westward expansion more than any other American landscape. The noble spires, dusty red and orange, jut upward toward wide-open skies, which morph into fiery swaths of color come sunset. If you’ve ever had dreams of taking to open land on horseback, this beautiful Southwest spot is a must. Be sure to stay for sunset.

On the road to Patagonia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia

Spectacular scenery, Old West culture, mining history, and ghost towns meet art galleries and Arizona’s Wine Country vineyards. Patagonia is a renowned destination for birders attracted by the area’s spectacular array of exotic and unusual birds. The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and Patagonia Lake State Park are known for the 300 species of birds that migrate through or nest along their creeks and waterways. The Paton’s house is well known for its hospitality to hummingbirds and the people who like to watch them.

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I could have lived anywhere in the world, if I hadn’t seen the West.

—Joyce Woodson

Stay Warm This Winter in these Unique Towns in the American Southwest

Escape winter and stay warm this winter in the American Southwest

One of the perks about having a home-on-wheels is the freedom to head south for year-round sunshine.

The American Southwest draws in thousands of snowbirds every year for good reason: the daytime temperatures stay pleasantly warm all winter and there is tons to see and do.

Stay warm this winter in these unique towns across the southwestern U.S.

Ajo, Arizona

Ajo Historic Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo is less than an hour from the Mexican border in Southern Arizona. It’s also the closest town to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where you can see the unique organ pipe cactus with their many long, prickly arms.

Be sure to drive the 10.4-mile Ajo Scenic Loop through an historic section of Ajo, then through a wonderland of saguaro, organ pipe, and other diverse cacti and Sonoran Desert vegetation.

Driving the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo’s reason to be is the massive open-pit New Cornelia copper mine. This inactive mine just outside of the town measures about one and a half miles across at its widest point and 1,100 feet deep at the center. There is a lookout where you can stop and get views of the mine, as well as a museum where you can learn more about the history.

New Cornelia Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There are numerous RV parks and campgrounds in the Ajo area including the popular Ajo Heights RV Park. You can also dry camp at Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Numerous sites are suitable for big rigs.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Elephant Butte State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Truth or Consequences was originally named Hot Springs but was later renamed after the title of a popular game show. Despite the name change, the town is still a relaxing hot springs destination with thermal water that flows out of a rift along the Rio Grande River.

Riverbend Hot Springs is the only springs actually located along the river within the town’s hot springs district. They have lodging available or you can stay in one of the area’s many RV parks or nearby Elephant Butte State Park.

Yuma, Arizona

Historic Old Town Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Yuma in southwestern Arizona holds the record for the sunniest city on Earth. The town averages about 308 sunny days every year, compared the US average of only 205.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the most interesting things to do in town is tour the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. The first seven inmates in this former prison were locked into jail cells that they built for themselves.

You can now walk through the old cells, the solitary chamber, the guard tower, and around the grounds, as well as see photographs and exhibits on the prison’s history.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Yuma has a large number of RV parks and resorts, including many specifically for those 55 and older. Most parks are conveniently located along Interstate 8.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee is a quaint historic town in the Mule Mountains of southeastern Arizona. It was originally founded as a mining town, and still maintains many old buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town is filled with local shops, galleries, and several informative museums where you can learn more about the area’s mining history. There is also an historic mine that you can still tour underground in a hard hat, headlamp, and yellow slicker.

Queen Mine RV Park has full hookup RV sites within walking distance of the old mine tours. If you’re not bringing the RV, stay in one of Shady Dell’s uniquely decorated vintage trailers.

Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wherever you decide to escape winter, you’ll share one thing in common with all your neighbors. Every one of them has learned that suffering through cold seasons is optional. The endless summer is far more appealing—and doable in these popular winter RV destinations.

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our home in Alberta, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

A Small Town with a Big Back Yard

This is the place where the “Summer Spends the Winter”

“A Small Town With A Big Back Yard”, the tiny Arizona burg of Ajo (ahh-ho) is situated deep in the Sonoran Desert, 42 miles south of Gila Bend and 37 miles north of the Mexican border.

The Ajo Central Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A discovery worthy of Lewis and Clark, Ajo just might be the “best kept secret in Arizona.” This is the place where the “Summer spends the Winter”, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

For many snowbirds, as it was for us, Ajo is merely a stopping-off point on the way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For others, especially Spring Breakers, it’s a town to pass through on their way to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point).

The Old Train Depot northeast of the plaza dates from 1915 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo reflects its one time wealth to this day. Glistening white churches and a well-designed plaza are so inviting.

Ajo today is a retirement community and snowbird haven along with an increasing number of artists. Ajo’s gorgeous mountain views and charming Old World architecture are enchanting and we soon fell in love with this friendly community in southwestern Arizona.

Across the street from the Central Plaza through a high arch of the train depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo got its name from a poor Spanish translation of an Indian word. To make body paint, the local O’odham Indians used copper. Their word for paint was aau’auho, which sounded to the Spanish like the familiar word ajo, meaning garlic in their language. Later, the wild lily plants in the area were named ajo for the flavorful bulb at its roots.

The birthplace of copper mining in Arizona, copper has provided the sinew for this desert town for about 300 years. Ajo was the oldest-known mine site in the state, and until the 1980s Phelps Dodge ran a sizable copper mining operation out of here.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the ornate architectural style of the plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo is worth a good walkabout. Most of the town, and in particular the central plaza, was created by John Campbell Greenway to be a good place for his New Cornelia miners to raise their families. Visitors can pick up a walking tour map/brochure at the Visitor Center located at the old train depot.

Greenway, formerly a Rough Rider with Theodore Roosevelt, was the highly successful general manager and an owner of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company that included the Lavender Pit Mine at Bisbee and the New Cornelia Mine at Ajo. He was the second husband of Isabella who, following John’s death in 1926, founded the Arizona Inn in Tucson and became Arizona’s first U.S. Congresswoman.

The Ajo Federated Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For Ajo’s architecture, Greenway chose Spanish Colonial Revival, a Mediterranean style with Moorish influences: high arches, white stucco surfaces, tile roofs, and considerable decoration.

Across the street from the plaza, the most prominent features are two white churches. The Federated Church, while visually interesting, has almost no ornamentation. The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the more ornate architectural style of the central plaza. Both are eminently photogenic.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaro along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A number of the buildings from the 1920s and before are still standing. Just beyond the churches,  the historic Curley School was constructed in 1919. The Train Depot directly northeast of the plaza dates from 1915. New Cornelia Hotel just east of Curley School was constructed in 1916.

A few miles further, past loads of cacti, long hills of white sediment and stretches of crushed stones in multi-colors line the highway, left by the New Cornelia Copper Mine.

Several boondockers along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

An easy scenic drive, the Ajo Ten-Mile Loop skirts the backside of the open pit New Cornelia Mine. Along the way you can stop at the overlook and little museum about the mine. Also, in the St. Catherine’s Indian Mission, the Ajo Historical Society has a small museum out here. To no surprise, it too is mostly about Ajo’s glory days sporting one of the world’s largest copper mines.

The New Cornelia Copper Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A large wildlife refuge, Cabeza Prieta spans Sonoran Desert wilderness. Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is home to 275 species of animals, including endangered big horn sheep and Sonoran pronghorn. Capable of 60 mph, pronghorns are the fastest land animals in North America.

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located 35 miles south of Ajo on Highway 85, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves a diverse and relatively undisturbed sample of the Sonoran Desert. Mountains surround the park on all sides, some near, some distant, with colors changing from one hour to the next. Ninety-five percent of the monument is designated as wilderness area, which makes this one of the best places to view the Sonoran Desert.

Worth Pondering…

The vast emptiness and overpowering silence of the desert and surrounding mountains sharpens your senses, enhancing self-contemplation, and stimulating creativity.

—Anon

Chasing the Sunshine in Warmer Destinations

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. Most of all, warm.

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season.

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

Based on our experiences living the snowbird lifestyle, we have identified locations across the US Sunbelt with pleasing, spring-like temperatures and their own unique allure.

St. Marys, Georgia

Average high in February: 65 F

If you’re looking to chase the sun this winter, venture to Georgia, and then go as far south as you possibly can. Once you’ve hit the southeastern-most tip of the state, you have arrived in beautiful St. Marys. This seaside village is the epitome of a winter retreat, where you can fool yourself into thinking its summer as you chow down on seafood at Lang’s Marina Restaurant with a view of the shrimp boats cruising in the marsh.

Snowbirds love to: Take the Cumberland Island Ferry from downtown St. Marys to Cumberland Island National Seashore. Here there are more than 50 miles of hiking trails through maritime forests, and the 1898 Plum Orchard is a fascinating stop along the way.

Ajo, Arizona

Average high in February: 70 F

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the sights and sounds at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument while you take a scenic drive, bike, hike, camp, take part in ranger programs, and bird watch. Thirty-one species of cactus flourish here including the park’s namesake and the giant saguaro.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Average high in February: 66 F

If you dream of spending the winter in a quaint seaside town, consider Bay St. Louis. In Old Town, wander the shops, galleries, and restaurants along Main Street, Second Street, and Beach Boulevard, and check out the municipal pier and harbor, which opened a few years ago. Or wander the L&N Train Depot which houses the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum.

Snowbirds love to: Tour the INFINITY Science Center, 72,000 square feet of space, earth science, engineering, and technology content. INFINITY also serves as the official NASA visitor center for Stennis Space Center, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.

Mount Dora, Florida

Average high in February: 70 F

Mount Dora is located on the shores of Lake Dora, part of the Harris Chain of Lakes boasting some of the world’s best Bass fishing and other outdoor activities. The town is noted for its crafts, antique shops, historical buildings, and beautiful scenery. Mount Dora enjoys a rich history as “The Festival City” hosting some of the oldest and largest annual events in Florida including art festivals, craft fairs, music and wine festivals.

Snowbirds love to: Take a Cat Boat Tour on Lake Dora and join a Taste of Our Town Tour to nosh on local grub while strolling around town.

Tucson, Arizona

Average high in January: 70 F

Tucson provides a stunning array of possibilities, satisfying culture seekers, outdoor adventurers, and fans of cowboys and cacti. This Southern Arizona city spreads throughout the Sonoran Desert in a valley surrounded by jagged mountain ranges that provide ample scenic backdrops.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the city’s many attractions including Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park, San Xavier del Bac (White Dove of the Desert), Catalina State Park, Kit Peak National Observatory, Tohono Chul Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, and Old Tucson Studios.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”