8 free and amazing places you should add to your Arizona Bucket List right now

When the Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal was published in October 2019, it spotlighted 50 must-see natural wonders in the Grand Canyon State.

Many of the places require pricey permits or passes that you need to reserve in advance. But these eight places stand out because they require no fee at all.

No fee to experience these amazing places in Arizona:

  • Arizona Hot Springs
  • Betatakin Ruins
  • Blue Ridge Reservoir
  • Canyon de Chelly
  • Chiricahua National Monument
  • Joshua Forest Parkway
  • Kaiser Hot Spring
  • Keet Seel Canyon

Arizona Hot Springs

Hikers soak in Ringbolt Hot Springs aka Arizona Hot Springs.
Hikers soak in Ringbolt Hot Springs aka Arizona Hot Springs. Photo by Heath Turnbell

Ringbolt (Arizona) Hot Springs are a series of shallow pools that get progressively warmer as you move from one to the next. Since they’re located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, they’re often referred to as Arizona Hot Springs. Nevada is across the river.

Betatakin Ruins

Betatakin Ruins viewed from Sandal Trail overlook in Navajo National Monument

Betatakin Ruins in Navajo National Monument is one of the best preserved cliff dwelling sites in Arizona. Join a challenging 5-mile hike led and narrated by a National Parks Service volunteer to learn how the earliest inhabitants did life here. Check out the exhibits in the visitor center and camp overnight in either Sunset View or Canyon View campground. You’ll be amazed by the clarity and brilliance of the stars at night.

Blue Ridge Reservoir

Panoramic view of Blue Ridge Reservoir in Arizona
Panoramic view of Blue Ridge Reservoir

Blue Ridge Reservoir is a favorite for people who love to kayak, camp and fish. This narrow, winding body of water looks more like a mountainous river than a lake. Nestled between steep forested banks, it’s a tranquil getaway in a secluded setting.

Blue Ridge Reservoir is best experienced by paddling out on the calm waters in a kayak or canoe. If you work up a sweat, look for a spot along the shore where you can jump of a rock into the refreshing water.

Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock is one of many intriguing sights you’ll see at Canyon de Chelly

A stop in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced ‘de-shay’) is a visit to a land of ancients. You can gaze into the vast expanse from one of several lookout points or follow a guide on a hike through the depths of the canyon floor. You’re bound to feel the presence of spirits from generations past.

Build in time to take the 2.7-mile round-trip hike to White House Ruin or book a canyon Jeep tour with a local outfitter. Sunset viewing and photography are spectacular at Junction Overlook where you have unobstructed views of both the eastern and western horizons and the canyon in between.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is described on the National Parks website as a “Wonderland of Rocks.” But they’re not just any rocks. Some people call these mind-blowing columns of eroded rock “hoodoos.” Others just call them amazing.

For closeup views of the rocks, pick up a trail map at the visitor center and set foot on one or more of the marked trails. A free hiker shuttle operates September to May, taking hikers to various trailheads. From there, you can hike back to your car.

Joshua Forest Parkway

Joshua Forest Scenic Parkway is an easy one to check off your bucket list. If you ever drive Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman, you’ll cruise right through it.
As the sunrise begins to illuminate the landscape, a calming red glow provides a stunning backdrop on the mountains to the west.

Kaiser Hot Spring

Kaiser Hot Spring is good medicine for anyone in need of a mental health day in beautiful surroundings and the soothing sounds of nature. This scenic, moderate 2-mile round trip hike is close enough to Phoenix  to do as a day trip. Bonus: There’s a mineral-rich hot spring to soak in, so wear clothes you can get wet in and bring a towel.

Keet Seel Canyon

Wood ladder leads up into a cliff dwelling in Keet Seel Canyon
Ladders like this one were used by the ancients to move around the dwellings.

The Keet Seel Canyon experience consistently earns high marks from hikers. Pronounced Kįtsʼiil, the Navajo translation is “broken pottery scattered around.” Thanks to the dry climate and protection from the elements in an alcove, the site’s ruins and artifacts have stood the test of time. The highlight of this difficult 17-mile round-trip hike with multiple creek crossings is a guided tour of well-preserved cliff dwellings.

Know before you go

Although each of the places above is free to visit, some require that you obtain a permit in advance. For details, click the blog post links provided.

Better yet, order a copy of Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal to get details on permits, best time to go and how to get there. Start planning your quest today.


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