When you vacation in AZ this year, don’t forget to bring your appreciation for nature – and then drink your fill at one of our great national parks. The practice of setting aside land for national parks began in 1871, and it was such a popular move that American presidents just kept on doing it. Jackson started it, Lincoln ran with it and Roosevelt was a champion of the cause. Wallace Stegner, the famous environmentalist and writer, called the act of preserving America’s natural beauty for future generations one of the best ideas that we, as a nation, ever had. Been to one lately? Or ever? Here are four parks that you can visit while you vacation in AZ.

  • Grand Canyon National Park. One of the most breathtaking sights you’ll see in your entire life, the Grand Canyon is truly worth the trip. Hiking, backpacking and rafting excursions are available, so you can travel down the Colorado River or stretch your spirit at Tuweep Overlook. There’s way more than one way to enjoy America’s most impressive natural attraction.
  • Saguaro National Park. The saguaro cactus is the symbol of the American Southwest, yet these cacti can only be found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Don’t be discouraged, though, because you’ll find over one million of them at Saguaro National Park. You can visit the Tucson Mountain District or the Rincon Mountain District, but either way, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty.
  • Tumacácori National Historical Park. This park was founded in 1990 to protect the ruins of three 17th century Jesuit missions – Tumacácori, Calabazas and Guevavi. A self-guided walking tour of these missions, which were established by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, is both educational and fun.
  • Petrified Forest National Park. The petrified trees in this park lived, grew and died 225 million years ago during the Triassic period. Over time, the fallen trees absorbed silica, which crystallized into quartz and turned them to stone. Much later, they were at last uncovered – forced to the surface by natural processes along with the fossilized remains of other ancient organisms, including dinosaurs.

When you visit one of these amazing national parks, you’ll truly appreciate the work of those who fought to preserve these natural spaces so that we could celebrate their wild beauty even today. A day away from your luxury vacation rental while on your vacation in AZ is all it takes. So head out to see the many breathtaking wonders that nature has wrought for you, and catch up on your history while you’re at it. It’s what Arizona is all about.