It’s been said that a million miracles begin at sunrise while every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn. Which helps explain the revelations that abound when watching Mother Nature streak her paintbrush across the skies of Arizona.
Fortunately, when gallivanting through Arizona’s beguiling scenery, there’s zero obligation to choose one over the other. Whether you and your sweetheart are road tripping through the Grand Canyon State, camping, trekking, or find yourself there by happenstance, there are plenty of places to enjoy daybreak and nightfall.
Although it’s a whole bunch of fun, chasing sunsets is all about science. The real beauty usually happens after the sun disappears from sight and nature’s hues undulate among the clouds, putting forth colorific displays to inspire the masses. Science says that’s because the drier air creates vivid colors as a result of fewer ambient particles present in the airflow.
Grab your GPS and plot these not-to-be-missed sunrise and sunset spots in Arizona.
Sunrise Destinations Around Arizona
Early birds will be rewarded for grabbing their gear and getting outside when the stars are still in the sky. Wherever you are in the 48th state, there are endless opportunities to enjoy the beginning of a new day.
As the capital of Arizona, Phoenix offers various locations for viewing sunrises: South Mountain Park, Wrigley Mansion, and Papago Park, are just a few examples. Be sure to consider Camelback Mountain, too. At roughly 2,700 feet (825 meters), the peak is the perfect place to watch dawn break over the Valley of the Sun with your loved one.
The boutique town of Queen Creek lies just east of the hustle and bustle of Phoenix. Here, you can appreciate the dawning of a new day over a warm cup of joe before indulging in breakfast at the Queen Creek Olive Mill or Schnepf Farms. Better yet, stay over near Saguaro Lake—a desert oasis that’s perfect for a romantic escape—and wake up early to watch daybreak at the water’s edge.
Speaking of Saguaro, the eponymous National Park in Tucson is another prime spot for superb sunrises. The native cacti cast gigantic ghostly silhouettes against the vibrant sky, telling a haunting story of the desert ecosystem.
Northward, ascend the flat-topped Doe Mountain just outside of showboating Sedona for 360-degree panoramas. Or head south to Red Rock Crossing and perch yourself on a cliff’s edge to capture nature’s magnificence at dawn.
Regardless of which rim you’re visiting (there are three), witnessing the beauty of a sunrise or sunset at the Grand Canyon is compulsory. Whether it be the beginning or end of a day, the changing sunlight plays off the walls of the canyon revealing magnificent hues of red and purple.
Places To See the Sunset in Arizona
After a full day of adventure, there’s no better way to wind down into the evening than with the drama of a desert sunset. The hinterland transforms when the sun goes down, bringing the day full circle. Think of it as a wanderer’s right of passage. Best of all, the Grand Canyon National Park allows adventure enthusiasts to soak in the natural wonder at both daybreak and dusk.
Venture off the beaten path with your companion and head to picture-perfect Page to find the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Horseshoe Bend, a popular meander in the Colorado River. Or travel south towards Gates Pass in Tucson for panoramic views of Saguaro cacti being bathed in the final light of the day as the sun slips beneath the western horizon. This sunset is sure to satisfy any nature aficionado.
The San Tan National Park in Mesa is another worthy backdrop for capturing memorable sunsets in Arizona. At more than 10,000 acres, this park offers more than enough space to roam to secure the best angle for a sunrise or sunset photograph.
If you find yourself in Scottsdale, there are plenty of places to catch the sunset too. Besides being able to watch the sun sink below the horizon from some of Arizona’s best spas and wellness centers, you can toast to the end of a day well spent with a cocktail at Jade Bar at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. Wanting to linger longer? El Chorro in Paradise Valley offers el fresco dining and stunning views of the desert surroundings.
For those looking for a more adventurous option, try a sunset hot-air balloon ride or head out on horseback to experience the end of the day like generations of cowboys have done before. Not to worry if there’s a little less leeway in the budget. Pack a picnic basket, grab a blanket, and head to the LOVE sculpture at Civic Center Park for a fantastic time.
A Desert Perspective
Sunrises and sunsets in the Copper State attract folks from all over the United States (and sometimes the world) for their soul-stirring beauty. But when you and your paramour have adventured into the wilderness to see dawn and dusk destinations in Arizona, there are a few things to remember:
- Tripod: A steady base for your camera is a must in low-light settings.
- Extra batteries: Don’t miss the shot because your battery died after a long day of hiking.
- Warm clothing: Without the sun, temperatures in the desert can drop quickly.
- Mapped out destinations: Know which destinations offer the best views.
- Patience: The best images come just before or after the sun rises or sets, so stay ready.