Arizona is a place of spectacular natural beauty and desert landscapes that eagerly awaits your visit. While most people associate the Grand Canyon with Arizona, and we admit that it is breathtakingly beautiful, there is so much more in this state begging to be discovered. Rich in Native American history, Wild West stories and so much more, Arizona has many hidden gem small towns that are ideal for a quick getaway.
Check out our list of the best small towns to visit in Arizona:
1. Tombstone, Arizona
Located in Cochise County, Tombstone is a notorious, historic, western town and actually was one of the last frontier boomtowns in the American Old West! Originally a mining hotspot, Tombstone was the largest productive silver district in Arizona. However, since that was long ago tapped dry, Tombstone mostly relies on tourism now and capitalizes on its fame for being the site of the Gunfight at the O.K Corral: a showdown between famous lawmen including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and an infamous organized group of outlaws, the Cowboys.
Take a trip back to the Wild West and come to Tombstone to see the historic downtown and visit some of their saloons, immerse yourself in this frontier town and really picture what it was like to live here during the showdown. East Allen Street is worth exploring: its boardwalks are lined with shops, saloons and restaurants. Visit the Cochise County Courthouse and gallows yard, which is now a museum. Finally, don’t forget to check out the O.K Corral reenactment or attend the Helldorado Days festival. Bring those cowboy boots and hat and take a trip out of the city and back in time in Tombstone.
2. Globe, Arizona
Originally founded as a mining camp, Globe is located in Gila County, Arizona. Its Downtown area was added to the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980s, and still mining still holds a significant role in the local economy to this day, along with tourism, of course! Come to Globe to experience a frontier-town feel – in the past, its relative isolation preserved this environment for a long time and you can definitely see the authenticity.
Globe boasts a fascinating, authentic Wild West history: murders, stagecoach robberies, outlaws and Apache raids abound in the town stories. Visit to see the town where the Clanton brothers hid after O.K. Corral, and take a walk through the Gila County Courthouse and Jail, which today is the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. Don’t forget to have a cool drink at the Drift Inn Saloon, which has been in business since 1902 and spend some time walking back in time to crazy cowboys and Wild West showdowns!
3. Greer, Arizona
Located in Apache County, Greer is an unincorporated community in the White Mountains. Surrounded by the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, this town has a colorful background: It was founded by Mormon settlers from Utah in 1879! Greer has a much milder climate due to its proximity to the lakes in the valley of the Little Colorado River, and is a true haven for nature lovers. Escape extreme weather and sneak away to Greer!
Come up in the winter and spend a few days hitting the slopes at Sunrise Park Resort, a popular skiing resort. Enjoy the mountains in the snow and snap some photos. Or, if the cold isn’t your favorite, Greer is also a popular summer vacation destination in Arizona as the heat isn’t nearly as oppressive here as in the desert. If you are here in the summer, spend some time hiking the West Baldy Trail, the beauty and quiet calm will make you glad that you came!
4. Jerome, Arizona
Jerome is built on Cleopatra Hill, which overlooks the Verde Valley in the Black Hills. Originally a mining town that struck it rich with copper, the population dropped off after the heyday of mining was over. Jerome began to rise again when it became a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s and the tourism breathed some life back into this town.
Come enjoy the revitalized town and browse its art galleries before discussing the local art over coffee at one of the many coffee houses. Or, take a tour of the wineries such as the Bitter Creek Winery and stop in for a meal at a local restaurant. You can always walk off whatever you eat and drink at the Jerome State Historic Park, or if you’re a history buff, while browsing the local Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum. Visit a real life ghost town at Gold King Mine and Museum before heading back into town to shake off the eerie vibes.
5. Sedona, Arizona
Caught in between the county lines of Coconino and Yavapai counties, Sedona stands firm in its own identity in the northern Verde Valley. With a gorgeous backdrop of red sandstone formations, which appear to almost glow in reds and oranges during sunrise and sunset, Sedona is a perfect destination for photographers or outdoorsy people alike.
Even if you are not religious, take in the majestic views from the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built on a 1,000 foot red rock cliff. Hike out to Cathedral Rock or check out the Red Rock Scenic Byway. You can always do an off-roading ATV tour at Red Rock Jeep Tours if you are feeling adventurous, or hike out along the West Fork Oak Creek Trail. You can head back in and unwind at Arizona Winery Tours or relax at Sedona’s New Day Spa.
6. 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 true claim to the charm of the name.
Feel like you’ve gotten away from the city without driving for hours, and spend some time here. The Full Circle Ranch Bed and Breakfast Inn is a lovely oasis awaiting your arrival. Make sure you bring your walking shoes so you can hike at Cave Creek Regional Park or take a horseback ride at Cave Creek Trail Rides. Work up an appetite and head over to Tonto Bar and Grill for some great food out on the patio! Enjoy getting back to nature without feeling like you’ve spent half your vacation in travel.
7. Alpine, Arizona
Alpine is located in Bush Valley and is an unincorporated community in Apache County. First settled by Anderson Bush in the late 19th century, the first building was a log cabin known as “Fort Bush” and was a local stronghold for the settlers in the surrounding areas. He later sold his holdings to Mormon settlers who turned Alpine into a Mormon community.
Nowadays, people come to Alpine less for the religion and more for the nature: nestled in the eastern end of the White Mountains and in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Alpine is a great destination for hunters, fishers and camping enthusiasts. Go to the San Francisco River and don’t forget your camping gear! Of course, you could always stay at the Deer Dancer Cabins if camping isn’t your style. Just bring some hiking boots and get back in touch with Mother Nature.
8. Eagar, Arizona
Also located in Apache County, Eager is in the southern part of the county, north of the Apache National Forest and at the foot of the White Mountains. Eager is fortunate to have warm, but not hot summers: it has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate that is perfect for those needing an escape from the harsher desert climates.
Check out the quiet downtown area and have a coffee at the Wildfire Espresso and Smoothie Bar. Paula’s Kitchen is around the corner if you’re hungry. Spend a few days disconnecting at the White Mountain Escape Bed and Breakfast, and spend a few days exploring the Apache National Forest. Ideal for hikers, enjoy the relaxed pace Eager has to offer and use this time to catch up on relaxation and any hobbies.
9. 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. Seeing the fort can take you back a few hundred year to an exciting part of the nation’s history!
Come to Camp Verde to learn more about Native American history and the Apache Wars, or for any of the fun town festivals: the Corn Festival, The Pecan, Wine and Antiques Festival or the Crawdad Festival. Don’t forget to visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument or the Out of Africa Wildlife Park! You can even see if you’re feeling lucky and gamble at Cliff Castle Casino before heading back into town and relaxing at the Luna Vista Bed and Breakfast.
10. Munds Park, Arizona
A rural and unincorporated community in Coconino County, Munds Park is located in Northern Arizona. Leave your electronic devices at home and come out here to get away from the stress of everyday life. Munds Park offers spectacular nature and a large variety of recreational outdoors activities for the active person, or for the aspiring photographers. Whether you’re experiencing nature hands-on or observing it, take some time off the beaten path in Munds Park.
Visit Munds Park for the Munds Park Trail System: a collection of trails surrounding the town ideal for hiking, mountain biking or off-roading. You can also follow the Arizona Trail to the Mormon Lake, and camp out at Coconino National Forest. Bring your binoculars and be on the lookout for bird species such as bald eagles. If you prefer to stay in a less rural environment, you can check out the Pinewood Country Club and pamper yourself over a few holes of golf.
11. Payson, Arizona
Near the center of Arizona, Payson is located in northern Gila County. Often called “The Heart of Arizona”, it is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and is a mecca for outdoor activity enthusiasts. Come visit and enjoy the fun spirit of Payson; during Prohibition, the manufacture and sale of liquor was a common occurrence at their historic Bootleg Alley! They’ve continued in this same rebellious streak when it comes to modernization.
Since then, there have been efforts made to connect Payson more to the rest of Arizona, but we think that this isolation has preserved some of its charm. Come out here to hike in Tonto National Forest, or hunt and fish in the surrounding areas. You can even go horseback riding or spend some time at the Tonto Natural Bridge, the largest known travertine natural bridge in the world. Indulge your risk-taking side at the Mazatzal Casino and play some golf at the local country clubs.
12. Summerhaven, Arizona
North of Tucson, you’ll find Summerhaven, a small community on Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Pima County. A truly tiny town, in 2010 it had a permanent population of 40. Originally used as a defense against the Apache people, Summerhaven is deep in the mountains and surrounded by Pine Trees – you’ll find it almost 25 miles from the base of the mountains!
Come up here for a true mountain retreat away from city chaos. Rediscover small town charm at the Mount Lemmon General Store, a true blast from the past, and the Cookie Cabin, where homemade cookies and pizzas are sold. It’s also a lovely winter destination for those who love the mountains in the snow. Come up here to hike through the mountains and take photos, or fish and hunt. You could even ski at the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley or run the Mount Lemmon Marathon!
13. Williams, Arizona
West of Flagstaff and in the Coconino County, Williams is on the historic Route 66 and at the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Williams is named after a mountain man called William “Old Bill” Williams. A popular destination for tourists during the summer and holiday seasons, there are many fun activities to keep you entertained here in Williams.
Bring a car and see the historic Route 66 – Williams was the last town to have its section bypassed. Check out the Williams Depot and see a steam locomotive before wandering the historic Business District. Travel back in time and stay at the Lodge on Route 66 before heading over to South Rims Wine & Beer Garage. Stretch your legs at Bearizona Wildlife Park and don’t forget Pete’s Rt 66 Gas Station Museum! While Route 66 is no longer in use, its essence lives on here in Williams.
14. Tubac, Arizona
Located in Santa Cruz County, Arizona and situated on the Santa Cruz River, Tubac was originally the first Spanish colonial garrison in Arizona before the O’odham Uprising. After the Spanish, Tubac was later repopulated by miners, farmers and ranchers in the 1800s but is more currently known as being a converted artists’ colony.
Now, you can visit Tubac and experience the art colony created in the 1930s-1960s, where Dale Nichols opened an art school and restored some of the town’s historic buildings. The town founded Tubac Festival of the Arts in the 1960s. Explore the Spanish garrison at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and check out their art galleries and specialty shops. Save some time for the Flying Leap Tasting Room and Art Gallery – whether you’re inspired to pick up a paintbrush or a glass, you won’t be disappointed.
15. Winslow, Arizona
A town located in Navajo County, Winslow was one of the destination towns along US Route 66 until the construction of Interstate 40. More recently, it was made famous in the 70s in an Eagles song “Take it Easy”. Stop in to relax at the historic La Posada Hotel, popular with travelers for many decades, and have a drink at the Turquoise Room (we recommend the martini).
Drive out to the Meteor Crater and check out the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, all outside of the town but worth the drive. The desert location makes it perfect for snapping some gorgeous photos and building your portfolio. You can always relax at night at the “Standin on The Corner Park”, or catch the annual Winslow festival Standin’ On The Corner street festival, usually held in September. A little off the beaten paths we use nowadays, Winslow had maintained some good old-fashioned charm and hospitality.