Afternoon sunlight shines on the downtown art galleries and stores of historic Tubac, via Matt Gush /

7 Most Underrated Towns In Arizona To Take A Trip To

While popular travel destinations like Phoenix, Sedona, and the mighty Grand Canyon need no introduction, there are plenty of underrated small towns in the state of Arizona that are worth visiting yet fly under most people’s radar. Nicknamed “the Baby State” for having been the last state to enter the Union, something it achieved in 1912, these often overlooked and underrated communities offer unique experiences you simply won’t find in some of the better-known places to visit in Arizona.

To find out more about hidden gems like Flagstaff, Jerome, and Tubac, read through our list of seven of the most underrated towns in Arizona to take a trip to… and get packing!


Aerial view of Springerville, Arizona
Aerial view of Springerville, Arizona, By Midnight Believer - Vista of Springerville, Arizona, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Springerville is not only a fun place to visit, but it’s also set in a lovely scenic location at the base of the White Mountains on the state’s eastern border with New Mexico. Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers would do well to include Springerville on their Arizona itinerary, largely due to its association with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. This huge forest offers recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, with its diverse landscape of lush valleys and mountain peaks providing a stunning backdrop for outdoor fun.

The scenic drives around Springerville are another highlight. Winding through the White Mountains, these routes offer spectacular views with lookout points providing plenty of opportunity to pull over for a photo or two. In-town attractions worth seeing include Arizona's Madonna of the Trail statue, built in 1928 to honor women pioneers, and Casa Malpais Archaeological Park & Museum, set on an ancient native site that dates back to around 1260.


Aerial view of the historic town center of Tubac, Arizona
Aerial view of the historic town center of Tubac, Arizona

Tubac is located 48 miles south of Tucson and boasts a pleasant village-like vibe that’s all the more pleasing for its stunning mountain setting. Founded by Spanish settlers, the settlement was prior to this already a vital trading hub for Native Americans. Highlights of a visit today include exploring the historic Mission San José de Tumacácori, constructed in 1691 by Jesuit priests.

Another significant site is the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park with its well-preserved ruins and artifacts. Outdoor fun includes hiking, biking, and birdwatching in the surrounding forests, kayaking and fishing in the nearby lakes.


Main Street of Jerome
Main Street of Jerome. Image credit Nick Fox via Shutterstock

Located mid-way between Prescott and Sedona on Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is a former copper mining town that’s now known as "the vertical city" for its 30-degree incline. The result is a unique community with streets that snake their way up the mountain, only interrupted by flat tiers where homes have been built.

Highlights of a visit today include the chance to explore Jerome State Historic Park, home to the historic Douglas Mansion which provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s mining history and its early inhabitants. Tours of the old mines and abandoned buildings are available, and a self-guided walking tour through the town will take you past landmarks like Jerome Grand Hotel, a former hospital that now serves as a unique accommodations option; be sure to check out its rooftop patio for its excellent views.


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

Located smack-bang in the middle of the state and only a 90-minute drive northeast of Phoenix, Payson is an often-overlooked town of around 16,000 people that’s well worth visiting as an Arizona day trip. If you do, you’ll find yourself wanting to include the Mogollon Rim on your list of things to do in Payson. This 200-mile-long geological marvel stretches all the way to the state border with New Mexico. Hiking and biking are must-dos here and take your camera ready for the spectacular views.

In-town attractions include the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin, which features displays and artifacts relating to the area's history and heritage, while the Artists of The Rim Gallery showcases the works of local artists.


A train station along Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona.
A train station along Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Image credit Real Window Creative via Shutterstock

Flagstaff’s location at the base of the San Francisco Peaks makes it a great destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts and nature lovers to visit. Numerous hiking and biking trails connect the town to the surrounding mountains, with plenty of scenic overlooks offering spectacular views. Come winter, this same scenery appeals to skiers and snowboarders here to enjoy local resorts like Snowbowl.

In-town attractions in Flagstaff you’ll want to visit include the Wupatki National Monument, where you’ll see ruins of Ancestral Puebloan communities set on hilltop mesas and in secluded canyons. Flagstaff also makes for a great jumping-off point to explore the Grand Canyon, 80 miles to the north.


Downtown Bisbee located in the Mule Mountains, Arizona
Downtown Bisbee located in the Mule Mountains, Arizona, via Nick Fox /

Bisbee is another former copper mining town that’s worth exploring. Just 10 miles north of the US–Mexico border, the town’s remote location has led to its becoming popular among creative types, giving it a fun, laidback feel. Wander the downtown core and you’ll find yourself immersed in a lively hub of well-preserved early 20th-century architecture that’s home to numerous art studios and galleries, including the Pritchard Gallery and the SAM Poe Gallery.

Another must-see is the historic Queen Mine, where you’ll don a hard hat and venture into the old mine for a unique underground tour. Along the way, you’ll learn that Bisbee’s mines were responsible for producing over eight billion pounds of copper, making it once one of the world’s most important mines.

Window Rock

Window Rock Arizona.
Window Rock Arizona. Image credit jessica.kirsh via Shutterstock

Founded in 1936 and named after a large wind-eroded opening in the surrounding sandstone cliffs, Window Rock is a place of great cultural and historical significance. The capital of the Navajo Nation and just a stone’s throw from New Mexico, it’s here you’ll find the Navajo Nation Museum with its displays relating to the history, culture, and art of this Native people. Next door, the Navajo Nation Zoo focuses on native animals of the region.

Other sightseeing opportunities include Window Rock Tribal Park and Veterans Memorial, which honors Navajo veterans. If you do plan on visiting, try to time your arrival to coincide with the annual Navajo Nation Fair, a celebration of Navajo culture with traditional dances, music, and art held early each September.

The Final Word

For those willing to explore beyond the usual major tourist spots, Arizona’s small towns have plenty to offer. From the historic village of Tubac to the former copper mining towns of Jerome and Bisbee, these 7 most underrated towns In Arizona to take a trip to are well worth visiting for those seeking an authentic “Baby State” travel experience.


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