Snowbird destinations: Arizona

As we brace for winter’s grip, arctic winds and shortening days are speeding the departure of Snowbirds for the Sun Belt. To the south, warm temperatures and sunny skies beckon as we examine a sampling of southern destinations.

Saguaro cacti cover the rolling hills at Saguaro National Park near Tucson. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many Snowbirds from Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, winter means a migration to Arizona. The Grand Canyon State receives this attention due to its relatively close proximity and because the southern part of the state has a reputation for mild and dry winters. This doesn’t mean there will never be a cold day. The air can get a bit chilly, but cold snaps are usually of short duration. If you stay south of a line about 70 miles north of I-10, you will seldom be concerned with the temperature.

As a winter destination, there are few places more inviting than the Grand Canyon State.

Like many of the other western states, Arizona is a land of paradoxes. Deep canyons give way to rugged mountains. Ponderosa pine forests melt into arid deserts. Native American reservations dot a state with major metropolitan areas like Phoenix and Tucson. Oh, and did I mention the natural wonders scattered throughout the state?

Yes, Arizona has much to offer the RVing Snowbird.

Hollywood created perceptions for the movie-going public, and television continues to perpetuate them. Arizona has been portrayed as harsh, unfriendly terrain where John Wayne fought the Indians. Arizona was merely inhospitable desert—a land of sand dunes, tumbling tumbleweeds, and dry washes—between the Golden State and the Land of Enchantment.

Chiricahua National Park with its eerie rock formations is a hiker's delight. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My perception was little different when we first visited the state over twenty years ago. My initial reaction: How can anyone live in this dry God-forsaken wilderness?

Within days we fell in love with the Sonoran Desert and have since returned a dozen times, often in spring to witness the wildflowers as they flood the desert floor with broad swaths of yellow, green, and violet.

Arizona is a Snowbird destination like no other. From eroded red rock formations to large urban centers, from the Grand Canyon’s stunning vistas to small mountain towns, from Old West legends to Native American and Mexican culture, and from professional sporting events to world-class golf—Arizona has it all!

Along Arizona’s southernmost region lies the 91,000-acre Saguaro National Park. Here visitors get a firsthand look at the well-preserved Sonoran Desert, a vast expanse that takes up much of Arizona’s southern region. The rolling hills are covered with Saguaro cacti (Arizona’s official state flower), as well as a wide variety of other cacti, desert shrubs, and animals unique to the desert southwest.

Several hours to the southeast, unique rock formations and unusual landscapes can be explored at the Chiricahua National Monument. Eons ago, lava flows covered the region, creating a dense layer of lava rock. Over the years the rocks began to crack and wither away with moisture. The result is truly spectacular—startling rock formations that today make up the Chiricahua Mountains.

A Snowbird camping at Organ Pipe National Monument south of Ajo. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the state’s southern border lies Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which marks the northern range of its namesake. Amid the saguaro, ocotillo, cholla, and over 20 other cactus species, the organ pipes complete the desert landscape, like the firs that dot the Ponderosa forest in Arizona’s High Country.

And no trip to Arizona would be complete without a stop at Lake Havasu, with its more than 45 miles of shoreline. Here water enthusiasts of all kinds—canoeists, skiers, boaters, and anglers—bask in the area’s more than 300 days of sunshine per year.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.

Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.

Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”.

There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

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