Overlooking the picturesque Bisbee, Arizona.

The Most Picturesque Small Towns in Arizona

A hub of the Western United States, the “Grand Canyon State” of Arizona has long been a favorite vacation spot for those seeking to find astounding American beauty. From stunning geographic features like the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert to plenty of cultural and historical allure, Arizona is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

While cities like Tucson and Phoenix may spring to mind first, this desert State also has loads of picturesque and equally alluring smaller towns that showcase the very best of the land outside the big metropolises. So come see another side of the beautiful State of Arizona through an exploration of some of its smaller, picturesque towns, that bring the Western US vividly to life!


Street scene in Williams, Arizona.
Downtown street in Williams, Arizona. Image credit Jordi C via Shutterstock.com

Also known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” the charming town of Williams is a wonderful destination for anyone in North Central Arizona. Located along the famous highway Route 66, this colorful community of just over 3,000 inhabitants can trace its modern history to the 1880s. Tour the historic Downtown District and marvel at several 19th and early 20th century edifices, while such special attractions like the Route 66 Gas Station Museum and the Williams Depot Train Station truly delight all ages of visitor.

Hop on the Grand Canyon Railway and experience the nearby Grand Canyon Village, or simply take in the majestic sights of the desert along the way. There is never a shortage of picturesque things to see here.


Old fashioned imitation water tower with the town name and Est 1863 is on top of a building on Tegner Street, Wickenburg, Arizona.
Old fashioned imitation water tower in Wickenburg, Arizona. Image credit Rosemarie Mosteller via Shutterstock

Wickenburg was established in the 1860s as a mining town, and was named after a local German prospector. Today, home to just under 8,000 residents, this self-styled “Dude Ranch Capital" is a great place to appreciate the days of the Wild West under the hot desert sun. Explore a number of historic properties in the Downtown District, like the Garcia School (1905) and the Santa Fe Railroad Depot (1895), amongst many more on the National Register of Historic Places, and get a feeling of the Old West lifestyle.

Meanwhile, the nearby Vulture Gold Mine and the Jail Tree (where dangerous outlaws were publicly arrested) remind visitors of the often treacherous daily life of the 1800s. With plenty of hot sun, panoramic desert surroundings, and great opportunities for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding, visiting Wickenburg will create a great set of Arizona memories.


Overlooking Bisbee, Arizona.
Overlooking Bisbee, Arizona. Image credit Manuela Durson via Shutterstock

Seat of Cochise County, the town of Bisbee is beautifully situated in the Mule Mountains near the border with Mexico. Founded in the 1880s as a mining town, today a modest population of just under 5,000 residents call this wonderful southern Arizona community home. With hot and arid summers and warm and dry winters, spending time outdoors in Bisbee is always a popular activity, and camping, biking, and hiking in the surrounding area attract tourists from across the country. Meanwhile strolling through the historic downtown and its assortment of Victorian style architecture, brings one back to the bustling days of the Old West.

Visit such sites liked the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, the Cochise County Courthouse, and several defunct mines offering fascinating tours into this once soaring industry. Finally for the truly athletic tourist, the rigorous 1,000 Stair Climb challenges runners to run a four mile course through Bisbee. In the process, one will pass by over 1,035 stairs, making for quite the memorable and sweat inducing workout!


View of the Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.
Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.

Surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, the Gila County town of Payson is affectionately known as the "Heart of Arizona." Established in the 1880s and with a modern population of just over 16,000, Payson is an outdoor haven where visitors will truly find some of Arizona’s finest geographic wonders. With easy access to Tonto National Forest, great opportunities for camping, cycling, hiking, and rock climbing await, in a climate that features hot summer and warm winter temperatures.

Meanwhile, a number of historic landmarks can still be observed in town, including the Sidles Mud House (1882) and the Ox Bow Inn and Saloon (1933), amongst several more listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These serve to create a living tribute to the Old Wild West, and together with the scenic natural surroundings, visiting Payson will definitely leave any guest wanting to return.

Camp Verde

Fort Verde State Park sign at the white fence during Fort Verde Days celebration, Camp Verde, Arizona.
Fort Verde State Park sign, Camp Verde, Arizona. Image credit Michael Vi via Shutterstock

An outdoors lovers haven, the beautiful town of Camp Verde offers some of the best of the Arizona desert. Home to just over 12,000 residents, this Yavapai County town is an awesome place to enjoy such activities like camping, hiking, biking, fishing, rock climbing, and even horseback riding across several park spaces and natural landmarks, including the Prescott National Forest.

In addition, historic attractions like the Fort Verde State Historic Park, the Montezuma Castle National Monument, and the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, provides fascinating insights into the Indigenous history of Arizona and the emergence of the modern State. From the hot sun and arid desert to intriguing episodes of America’s past, Camp Verde is a truly picturesque, and underrated town to explore on anyone’s Arizona travels.


Historic adobe style buildings featured in the Tubac Plaza in Tubac, Arizona.
Historic adobe style buildings featured in the Tubac Plaza in Tubac, Arizona. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock.com

Located in Santa Cruz County in southern Arizona, the humble town of Tubac can trace its modern history way back to the 1750s. Founded as a Spanish Presidio Fort, today just under 1,600 people call this community home. A short 45 minute drive from the city of Tucson, guests can visit Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, which recreates daily life in the Spanish colonial settlement and often features costumed interpreters. Other historic landmarks to explore here include the Presidio Captains Quarters and the Tubac Schoolhouse (1885).

Modern Tubac is also known for its lively local arts scene, and southwestern design creations are never far from sight. Browse through more than 100 shops, galleries, and boutiques, selling everything from handmade jewelry, decorative items, and even fine leather products.


Cityscape view of Jerome, Arizona.
Cityscape view of Jerome, Arizona. Image credit Nick Fox via Shutterstock.com

Situated in the Black Hills mountain range in central Arizona, the town of Jerome is located over 5,000 feet above sea level. Once a hotspot for the mining industry, it was once satirically called the “Wickedest Town in the West”, but today just under 500 permanent residents call this largely abandoned center home. After the bust period following the Great Depression, Jerome began to gradually shrink in size, yet it remains a most fascinating place to explore for any tourist in Arizona.

The town which was listed in its entirety as a National Historic Landmark, is a most special tourist attraction and visitors can explore a number of abandoned (and spooky) mines and even take a ghost tour or two! Stop by the famous Sliding Jail Building and then enjoy a meal at any of a number of special mining, old West themed diners.

From stunning desert landscapes to cultural attractions, the "Grand Canyon State" of Arizona is an undoubted jewel of the Western United States. Here an amazing holiday experience awaits travelers of any age, and an exploration of the State’s smaller, picturesque, and often underappreciated towns will surely make one’s appreciation of Arizona grow.

From the former mining town of Jerome to the mountainous landscape of Bisbee, these and other awesome Arizona towns showcase another side of the State that can be lost in big urban centers like Phoenix. So when visiting the “Grand Canyon State” consider stopping in these welcoming and fun communities, where the best of the West is highlighted ready to create memories that will surely last a lifetime.

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