The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in Arizona

From intriguing artists’ colonies and former ghost towns to historical centers and mountain communities, Arizona’s best small towns never fail to impress

Arizona is filled with incredibly beautiful places. The Grand Canyon remains the most majestic and well-known natural phenomenon in the state or, arguably, the entire country. You’ll also find towering San Francisco Peaks, ponderosa pine forests, Saguaro National Park, and the Sonoran Desert. Maricopa County has the vibrant cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale while Tucson offers the University of Arizona and breathtaking gardens teaming with an array of cacti species. You can even see snow as well as ski and snowboarding at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff.

Outside the major metropolitan areas are a slew of charming small towns, creative communities, and former mining hubs. Of course, you’re familiar with Sedona. Though, many travelers haven’t heard of Bisbee, Carefree, and Holbrook. That’s why I’ve rounded up 12 tiny and mid-size treasures across the Grand Canyon State that should be on your radar.

Use this list to plan an upcoming winter getaway or save it for inspiration later down the line.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona

Without question, the most famous town in all of Arizona, Sedona—which you might remember from my article, RV Travel Bucket List—is an enchanting spot with photogenic red rocks, world-class hiking, and a deeply spiritual side. Test your fitness on the popular 3.9-mile Devil’s Bridge Trail, take a pilgrimage to an energy vortex, book a stress-melting massage, and shop for crystals at the New Age shops downtown.

Where to stay: Dead Horse Ranch State Park or Verde Valley RV and Camping Resort

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee

A close second to Sedona in the natural beauty department (though, in fairness, some firmly believe Bisbee deserves the coveted top slot), this picturesque former mining town in the Mule Mountains of southern Arizona brims with 19th-century architecture including colorful Victorian houses and creative flair. Step back into the past at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. Since numerous artists call present-day Bisbee home, there are galleries and hip boutiques galore.

Where to stay: Desert Oasis RV Park and Campground

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome

The gold, silver, and copper boom of the 1920s turned Jerome into a rather debaucherous place—hence its moniker “the Wickedest City in the West”—with bars, bordellos, and unscrupulous behavior. Like so many mining towns, it was later abandoned. Then in 1967, Jerome earned National Historic Landmark status. Today, tourists flock to this notoriously haunted destination to visit spooky sights. Feeling brave enough for a ghost tour?

Where to stay: Rain Spirit RV Resort

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone

A trip to Tombstone is sort of like stepping into a Wild West-era live-action play where characters wearing period costumes walk the dirt roads and talk in all sorts of old-timey jargon. Add to that you’ll find shops that sell frontier memorabilia, western-themed restaurants, and saloons. Staged brawls and duels are also part of the shtick. Speaking of, be sure to stop by the O.K. Corral to watch a reenactment of the famous 1881 shootout.

Where to stay: Tombstone RV Park and Campground

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams

Set along the iconic Route 66, Williams is a great home base for road trippers and travelers keen to explore the wonders of the Grand Canyon (the Grand Canyon Railway departs from the historic Williams Depot). The town itself has a wonderfully retro feel with motor lodges, classic cars, diners, soda fountains, shops selling all manner of nostalgic Americana items and a gas station museum.

Where to stay: Grand Canyon RV Park

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac

An easy 45-minute drive south of Tucson, the small community of Tubac entices shoppers with the promise of southwestern decor—especially colorful pottery—as well as jewelry, art, and leather goods. If you want to bring a piece of Arizona back home with you, this is the place to buy it. Famished with browsing the more than 100 shops and galleries? Chow down delicious local fare. And don’t leave without visiting the oldest Spanish fort in the state.

Where to stay: De Anza RV Resort

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carefree

Sometimes a name says it all. Such is the case with Carefree. We genuinely can’t think of a better place to kick back. Situated just over 30 minutes north of Scottsdale, this Maricopa County town with a population of 3,360 people has an endearingly relaxed vibe and tons of leisure activities, from hitting the links and tennis to spa sessions and strolling along Easy Street. Carefree also lays claim to the largest sundial in the U.S. Be sure to bring your walking shoes so you can hike at Cave Creek Regional Park or head out to Bartlett Lake

Where to stay: Cave Creek Regional Park

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp Verde

A tight-knit community of friendly locals who welcome visitors like old friends, Camp Verde, located 86 miles north of Phoenix in Yavapai County, is an ideal destination for those seeking outdoor adventure. It’s a super laid-back spot with rural charm where you can truly unwind. Pastoral pastimes include farm tours, horseback riding, hiking, biking, birdwatching, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Camp Verde even hosts an annual corn festival in July. Don’t forget to visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

Where to stay: Distant Drum RV Resort, Verde Ranch RV Resort, or Verde River RV Resort and Cottages

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cottonwood

Part river town, part wine trail, and part historic hub: Cottonwood offers a fun and lively scene that sets it apart from the arid desert to the south and the soaring mountains to the north. Although it might be best known as a gateway to the nearby red rocks of Sedona, Cottonwood has plenty of charms of its own.

 They start with the quaint Old Town district and branch out to the banks of the lushly green Verde River. Because the Old Town area is relatively small and compact, the restaurants and tasting rooms are wonderfully walkable. On-street parking is available and convenient parking lots are sprinkled throughout the area.

Where to stay: Dead Horse Ranch State Park or Verde Valley RV and Camping Resort

Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott

The former territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott is one of those little out-the-way places that are a one-third resort town, one-third hipster getaway, and one-third small town Americana. Cozy yet adventurous, Prescott offers coffee shops and eateries, arts and crafts, and abundant nature you might not expect in Arizona. The desert atmosphere remains, but things are green and growing.

Modern Prescott has the advantage of not being very modern. Banners proclaim Prescott as “Everyone’s Home Town.” You won’t find high rises, but the downtown businesses clustered around the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse and its plaza are thriving. Holbrook

Where to stay: Point of Rocks RV Campground

Holbrook © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook

Located at the convergence of Interstate 40, U.S. Highway 180, and State Highway 77, this roadside town feels more like a real place than a ghost town like other destinations on the Mother Road. Wander out to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park for some gorgeous hiking and check out the Agate House, a ruin that demonstrates the ancient Puebloan practice of using petrified wood as a building material. Spend the night in the very cool Wigwam Motel. The motel is composed of fifteen individual concrete teepees. A big attraction is the gorgeous vintage cars that decorate the grounds.

Where to stay: OK RV Park

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Globe

In the foothills of the Pinal Mountains, sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park features stunning partially restored ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum. The historic downtown area is perfect for strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists.

Where to stay: Apache Gold RV Park

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

10 Authentic Arizona Small Towns to Visit

Ghost towns, artist enclaves, and wilderness havens—see why these 10 Arizona towns are luring visitors eager for adventure

Arizona just isn’t like any place on the planet. Where you have downright classic cowboy towns on one corner of the state, you’ll stumble upon magical small towns that are sprinkled with natural wonders and sunlit canyons dying to be explored on the other.

Check out our list of the best Arizona small towns to visit.

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave Creek, Arizona

Located in Maricopa County, Cave Creek is conveniently located 27 miles northeast of Phoenix so you’ll never be too far away from a big city even if you’d never know it by the relaxed pace of life here. Not to be confused with the Cave Creek town that is tucked away in the Chiricahua Mountains, this one is said to have been the original town of Cave Creek and therefore has a true claim to the charm of the name.

Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to bring your walking shoes so you can hike at Cave Creek Regional Park or head out to Bartlett Lake. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and fishing gear for Bartlett. Enjoy getting back to nature without feeling like you’ve spent forever in travel.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook, Arizona

Located at the convergence of Interstate 40, U.S. Highway 180, and State Highway 77, this roadside town feels more like a real place than a ghost town like other destinations on the Mother Road. Wander out to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park for some gorgeous hiking and check out the Agate House, a ruin that demonstrates the ancient Puebloan practice of using the petrified wood as a building material.

Related: Arizona’s Coolest Small Towns Are Filled with Cowboys, Wine, and Mysticism

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend the night in the very cool Wigwam Motel. The motel is composed of fifteen individual concrete teepees. A big attraction is the gorgeous vintage cars that decorate the grounds.

Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott, Arizona

The former territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott is one of those little out-the-way places that are one third resort town, one third hipster getaway, and one third small town Americana. Cozy yet adventurous, Prescott offers coffee shops and eateries, arts and crafts, and abundant nature you might not expect in Arizona. The desert atmosphere remains, but things are green and growing.

Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Modern Prescott has the advantage of not really being very modern. Banners proclaim Prescott as “Everyone’s Home Town.” You won’t find high rises, but the downtown businesses clustered around the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse and its plaza are thriving.

Patagonia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia, Arizona

At an elevation of over 4,000 feet between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Patagonia Mountains, lies the small town of Patagonia. Here, the South Pacific Railroad once hummed with cattle ranchers and prospectors who worked the nearby silver mine. Ranches still dot the hills and historic ghost towns have replaced thriving mining outposts.

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At first glance, Patagonia is a town that you pass through on the way to somewhere else. However, a second glance reveals a growing community of artists and craftspeople that have decided that this is a very desirable area to live and work in.

Related: Most Beautiful Towns in the Southwest

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp Verde, Arizona

Located in Yavapai County, Camp Verde is a small town known for its many annual festivals and the Fort Verde State Historic Park. This park preserves parts of the Fort Verde, an Apache-Wars era fort that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The fort provided protection to the former mining town and surrounding settlers from the local Native American raids. While need for the fort is now long past, what is left remains for those history lovers out there.

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t forget to visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willcox, Arizona

This southeastern Arizona town attracts visitors who come for its wineries and tasting rooms, to hike in Chiricahua National Monument, and to see the sandhill cranes. The majestic birds winter in the Sulphur Springs area.

Whitewater Draw © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thousands of cranes roost in Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a shallow lake that is a flurry activity at sunup and sundown when birds depart and return in a swirling cloud of feathers.

Related: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Spring

Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Globe, Arizona

In the foothills of the Pinal Mountains, sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park features stunning partially restored ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The historic downtown area is perfect for strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Page, Arizona

A small town in northern Arizona, Page is located on the southern shores of magnificent Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The location is ideal for exploring many of the American Southwest’s national parks and monuments and discovering the unique culture of the Navajo Nation.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marvel at the beauty of the slot canyons as you hike with a Navajo guide in Antelope Canyon. Enjoy the majesty of the lake and surrounding red rock desert. Explore hundreds of miles of shoreline by houseboat powerboat, or kayak.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cottonwood, Arizona

Part river town, part wine trail, and part historic hub: Cottonwood offers a fun and lively scene that sets it apart from the arid desert to the south and the soaring mountains to the north. Although it might be best known as a gateway to the nearby red rocks of Sedona, Cottonwood has plenty of charms of its own.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They start with the quaint Old Town district and branch out to the banks of the lushly green Verde River. Because the Old Town area is relatively small and compact, the restaurants and tasting rooms are wonderfully walkable. On-street parking is available and convenient parking lots are sprinkled throughout the area.

Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo, Arizona

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, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Step back in time at the Historic Plaza and railway Depot. Gaze at Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the downtown Historic District.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden