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Northern Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Route 66, and landscapes like Monument Valley

Monument Valley is in the very north-eastern corner of Arizona
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Northern Arizona is a surprise to many who think that this state is completely made up of desert. Here you will find not only winter skiing but large forested areas too. It's true that the Sonoran Desert which covers large parts of southern Arizona does stretch into the northern half of the state too, and in the north-east you will find the majestic and wide-open western landscapes of Monument Valley, but there are many surprises in store too.


In fact, if you are planning to visit in winter, you may not get to see the Grand Canyon at all. Winter snowstorms can close the access road to the South Rim of the canyon. The South Rim is 7000ft (2134m) in elevation, and the North Rim is 1000ft (305m) higher, so you should expect bad weather in winter, and extreme weather all-year-round. Flagstaff is about the same height above sea level as the South Rim, so also cold in winter, but Monument Valley sees average summer temperatures of over 90F (32C).


While everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon, which is the number one site in Northern Arizona, fewer people from outside Arizona have heard of the Canyon de Chelly, in the north-eastern part of the state. Apart from its spectacular natural beauty, the canyon is also an important historical site. It has long been home to several Native American tribes, and the remains of their homes can still be seen. Some Native Americans still live there as the Canyon is part of the territory of the Navajo Nations, and access is controlled, so check where and how you can visit before going.


Even visiting the Grand Canyon isn't straightforward. Some accommodation - and even restaurant tables - will be booked up months in advance. So too will mule rides, which are a popular way of getting down to the Canyon floor and back, so always check everything well ahead of a visit.


Other highlights of northern Arizona include the very different towns of Sedona and Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a very down-to-earth town on Route 66, a former logging and railroad town, now with a large student population and a very lively atmosphere. Sedona, in contrast, is much smaller, and has become a more sophisticated artistic community. It appeals to a lot of New Age enthusiasts, and has several luxurious resorts which make the most of its unusual Red Rock scenery.


With so much historic interest, and so much natural beauty, Northern Arizona deserves as much of a visitor's time as possible


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