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Five Best State Parks to Enjoy in Arizona

1. Catalina State Park. Located on the western slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains, 9 miles north of Tucson, and adjacent to the Coronado National Forest, this 5,493-acre desert park includes foothills, canyons, and streams -- and is a great place for hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, picnicking, and bird-watching. Besides the miles of trails within the park, some also connect with trails in the Coronado National Forest, leading all the way up to Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in the range at 9,157 feet. Consider Romero Ruins Interpretative Trail (.75 mile loop), which features the remains from a Hohokam village dating back to 500 AD; Canyon Loop Trail (2.3-mile), an easy hike through the foothills; or the more strenuous Romero Canyon Trail (7.2 miles one way), with an elevation gain of 3,300 feet up to Romero Pass. Camping includes 120 RV sites (with water, electric hookups), modern restrooms with hot showers. The park also features an equestrian center and camping. While in the area, check out the Oro Valley Heirloom Farmers Market, as well as the Saguaro national Park and Oracle and Picacho Peak State Parks. Learn more: Catalina State Park.

2. Lake Havasu State Park. Located in western-central Arizona, right on the border with California, about 200 miles northwest of Phoenix, this 928-acre park offers beaches, boat ramps, camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and an interpretive garden. Commonly seen wildlife include quail, roadrunners, great blue heron, red trail hawk, great horned owl, and turkey vultures, as well as coyote, bobcat, desert cottontail, kangaroo rates, and ground squirrels. The campground is open year-round, and all 47 camp sites have electric and water hookups, with access to showers/restrooms, and a dump station. The Mohave Sunset Trail (1.75-miles one-way) is an easy trail that winds its way through the park. While in the area, visit the old London Bridge (built in the 1830s for the River Thames and now in Lake Havasu City) and/or Bill Williams and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges. Nearby state parks include Buckskin Mountain State Park and Cattail Cove State Park, as well as the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park. Learn more: Lake Havasu State Park.

3. Kartchner Caverns State Park. Located in southeastern Arizona, adjacent to the Coronado National Forest on the east flank of the Whetstone Mountains, about 9 miles south of Benson, 51 miles southeast of Tucson, this park offers guided cave tours of a limestone show cave with 2.4 miles of passages. Amazingly, the caverns were only discovered in 1974, with the park opening in 1999 after the state took major steps to preserve the cave. Above the surface, the park offers a visitor center (with restrooms, exhibits, amphitheater, food, and a gift shop), camping, and several hiking trails (including the Hummingbird Garden Trail, Foothills Loop Trail, and the Guindani Trail. Nearby state parks include: Tombstone Courthouse State Historical Park, Patagonia Lake State Park, Sonoita Creek State natural Area, and Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Other places nearby include the towns of Benson, Sierra Vista, Tombstone, and Bisbee. Another attraction is Fort Huachuca. Learn more: Kartchner Caverns State Park.

4. Red Rock State Park. This day-use only park is located just south of Sedona, in central Arizona, is a 286-acre nature preserve designed to protect the riparian habitat along Oak Creek, but offering visitors vistas of a red sandstone canyon, with views of Cathedral Rock and the Mogollon Rim. The park includes a visitor center with movie theater, exhibits, restrooms, and gift shop. Several picnic facilities are available. If you are a romantic, don't forget to stop at the Wedding Tree. A 5-mile network of interconnecting loop trails lead visitors to vistas of red rock and down along the lush greenery of Oak Creek. For more adventure, take the 15-mile Lime Kiln Trail, which connects to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and follows a portion of the historic Lime Kiln Wagon Road. Other nearby state parks include Slide Rock State Park, Jerome State Historical Park, Verde River Greenway State Natural Area, Riordan Mansion State Historical Park, and Fort Verde State Historical Park. Of course, also nearby are the vast Coconino and Prescott National Forests and Montezuma's Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments. Learn more: Red Rock State Park.

5. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Located in central Arizona, south of Pine, in the Tonto national Forest, about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix, this 161-acre day-use park holds an amazing geological formation. The main feature is the namesake bridge, believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, standing over a 400-foot-long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point and reaches a height of 183 feet. Beneath the arch of the bridge are several caves. The park includes several short but strenuous trails: Pine Creek, Waterfall, Gowan, and Anna Mae. It also includes the historic Goodfellow Lodge (built in 1927), which includes interpretative exhibits and store. Nearby state parks include: Fort Verde State Historic Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Verde River Greenway State natural Area, Jerome State Historic Park, Red Rock State Park, and Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area. Go for a drive up SR 87 and see some of the most beautiful desert and mountain landscapes while visiting the town of Payson and communities of Pine and Strawberry -- or push on up to Winslow. Learn more: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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