Exploring Arizona’s Hidden Gems: Top 20 Mountain Towns

Nestled between the vast deserts and iconic canyons, the state of Arizona is also home to numerous picturesque mountain towns. Each town comes with its unique blend of history, culture, scenic beauty, and outdoor activities.

If you’re in search of an off-the-beaten-path adventure, then this guide to ‘Arizona mountain towns’ is for you.

What Exactly is a Mountain Town?

A mountain town, at its most basic, is a town or community located in or near mountainous terrain. But the essence of a mountain town extends beyond mere geography; it’s intertwined with the culture, lifestyle, and very spirit of the place and its people. Let’s delve into the specifics of what makes a mountain town, especially within the context of Arizona:

1. Geographical Setting:

Mountain towns are, of course, set in or around mountainous regions. They can be nestled in valleys, perched on ridges, or settled at the base of mountain ranges. In Arizona, this includes towns within proximity to ranges such as the San Francisco Peaks, the White Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains, and many others.

2. Climate and Elevation:

Due to their elevation, Arizona’s mountain towns typically have a much cooler climate than the desert lowlands of the state. This means they can experience snowy winters and cooler summers, offering a respite from the scorching temperatures prevalent in much of Arizona.

3. Cultural and Historical Significance:

Mountain towns in Arizona often have deep-rooted histories connected to Native American cultures, early pioneers, mining booms, and more. This history is frequently celebrated in local museums, festivals, and town architecture.

4. Outdoor Recreation:

The natural surroundings of mountain towns make them hubs for outdoor activities. From skiing and snowboarding in winter to hiking, mountain biking, and fishing in the warmer months, these towns attract outdoor enthusiasts year-round.

5. Economic Dependency:

Many of Arizona’s mountain towns once depended on industries like mining. However, as industries shifted, so did the economies of these towns. Today, many are heavily reliant on tourism, especially outdoor and adventure tourism, as well as retirees seeking a cooler climate.

6. Architectural and Urban Design:

The architecture in Arizona’s mountain towns often reflects both the historical era in which the town was developed and the materials available locally. This can lead to charming town centers with a mix of preserved historical buildings and newer structures.

7. Close-knit Communities:

Given their often-remote locations and smaller populations, mountain towns can foster tight-knit communities where everyone knows each other. Community events, parades, festivals, and local gatherings play a significant role in the life of these towns.

8. Unique Flora and Fauna:

Mountain towns in Arizona are home to different plants and animals than you’d find in the lower desert regions. Pine, fir, and aspen trees, along with species like elk, deer, and various birds, can be commonly spotted.

9. Environmental Stewardship:

Given their proximity to natural beauty and resources, many mountain towns place a strong emphasis on conservation and environmental stewardship, working to protect the landscapes that define them.

In the context of Arizona, mountain towns stand out as unique contrasts to the state’s vast deserts and sprawling urban areas.

The Top Mountain Towns in Arizona

Let’s dive into 20 of these enchanting locations, with details on fun things to do and useful tidbits.

1. Flagstaff

  • Cool Things to Do: Ski or snowboard at the Arizona Snowbowl, visit the Lowell Observatory, and hike the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
  • Useful Information: Located at an elevation of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is known for its cool climate and rich cultural scene.
  • Town Website: Flagstaff’s Official Website

2. Sedona

  • Cool Things to Do: Explore the stunning red rock formations, enjoy a jeep tour, and visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
  • Useful Information: Known for its vibrant arts scene and spiritual retreats.
  • Town Website: Visit Sedona

3. Prescott

  • Cool Things to Do: Walk around the historic Whiskey Row, hike in the Granite Dells, and visit the Sharlot Hall Museum.
  • Useful Information: Prescott is renowned for its Victorian architecture and old-world charm.
  • Town Website: City of Prescott

4. Jerome

  • Cool Things to Do: Tour the Jerome State Historic Park, visit the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town, and enjoy local art galleries.
  • Useful Information: Once a thriving mining town, Jerome is now a lively ghost town with a vibrant art community.
  • Town Website: Jerome’s Official Site

5. Bisbee

  • Cool Things to Do: Explore the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, stroll through its historic downtown, and visit the Queen Mine.
  • Useful Information: This charming town is famous for its mining history and architectural marvels.
  • Town Website: Discover Bisbee

6. Show Low

  • Cool Things to Do: Fish at Fool Hollow Lake, play golf at Torreon, and enjoy scenic views from Show Low Bluff Trail.
  • Useful Information: The city got its quirky name from a poker game where the stakes were the ownership of the town!
  • Town Website: Show Low City Website

7. Pinetop-Lakeside

  • Cool Things to Do: Skiing at Sunrise Park Resort, hike in the White Mountains, and explore the Woodland Lake Park.
  • Useful Information: A fusion of two towns, this area is renowned for its outdoor recreational activities.
  • Town Website: Pinetop-Lakeside Official Site

8. Springerville

  • Cool Things to Do: Visit the Casa Malpais Archaeological Park, explore the Springerville Volcanic Field, and learn at the White Mountain Historical Society.
  • Useful Information: Springerville is often called “Gateway to the White Mountains.”
  • Town Website: Springerville Town Website

9. Globe

  • Cool Things to Do: Explore the Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park, visit the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, and tour the Old Dominion Historic Mine Park.
  • Useful Information: Globe has a rich history centered on silver mining.
  • Town Website: City of Globe

10. Superior

  • Cool Things to Do: Hike in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, explore the abandoned Belmont Tunnel, and photograph the Queen Creek Canyon.
  • Useful Information: Superior acts as the gateway to the eastern side of the Superstition Mountains.
  • Town Website: Superior Arizona

11. Oracle

  • Cool Things to Do: Visit the Biosphere 2, hike in the Oracle State Park, and enjoy local arts and crafts.
  • Useful Information: This small town boasts a charming arts scene and hosts numerous festivals throughout the year.
  • Town Website: Oracle Town Information

12. Mount Lemmon

  • Cool Things to Do: Ski or snowboard at the Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, hike in the Santa Catalina Mountains, and enjoy a picnic at Rose Canyon Lake.
  • Useful Information: With its towering pine trees, this town offers a cool refuge from the Arizona heat.
  • Town Website: Unfortunately, no official website at the time of writing.

13. Munds Park

  • Cool Things to Do: Golf at the Pinewood Country Club, hike in the Coconino National Forest, and enjoy ATV trails.
  • Useful Information: Munds Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with a plethora of activities year-round.
  • Town Website: No official website available.

14. Sierra Vista

  • Cool Things to Do: Visit the Fort Huachuca Museum, bird watch in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, and hike the Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
  • Useful Information: Known as the “Hummingbird Capital of the U.S.”, this town is a must-visit for nature lovers.
  • Town Website: City of Sierra Vista

15. Christopher Creek

  • Cool Things to Do: Fish in Christopher Creek, hike the See Canyon Trail, and enjoy the seasonal fall colors.
  • Useful Information: A small hamlet under Payson, it offers a perfect getaway with serene creekside cabins.
  • Town Website: No official website available.

16. Pine

  • Cool Things to Do: Explore the Tonto Natural Bridge, shop for antiques, and enjoy local breweries.
  • Useful Information: Pine is a gateway to the Mogollon Rim, offering a refreshing alpine environment.
  • Town Website: Unfortunately, no official website at the time of writing.

17. Strawberry

  • Cool Things to Do: Visit the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona and hike the Fossil Springs Trail.
  • Useful Information: Strawberry is closely connected with its neighboring town Pine and shares its rich history.
  • Town Website: No official website available.

18. Alpine

  • Cool Things to Do: Fishing in Luna Lake, wildlife spotting, and enjoying seasonal hunting.
  • Useful Information: Alpine is one of Arizona’s highest towns at an elevation of 8,000 feet.
  • Town Website: Alpine Area Information

19. Payson

  • Cool Things to Do: Explore the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, hike the Mogollon Rim, and fish in Green Valley Park.
  • Useful Information: Often called “The Heart of Arizona”, Payson hosts the famous World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
  • Town Website: Payson’s Official Website

20. Greer

  • Cool Things to Do: Trout fishing in Greer Lakes, wildlife viewing in the White Mountains, and skiing in winter.
  • Useful Information: Greer offers a four-season climate and is a perfect retreat for nature lovers.
  • Town Website: Greer’s Community Info

What Have We Learned?

We’ve learned that Arizona is chock full of adventures, amazing landmarks, and some of the coolest places in the United States. Be sure to let us know if there’s anything we’re missing, as we’re always looking for new additions!

Be sure to check out the best day trips from Scottsdale, AZ and also get educated on the top Phoenix family resorts for when you and your family makes a trip out here!