Considered the capital of Arizona’s White Mountains region, St. Johns is a high-level destination for those who wish to experience nature, marvel at the stunning geology, and visit some truly uniquely American natural and historic sites altitude destination.
The town prides itself on its friendly nature and sense of community, and many feel lost in most other towns that have not stayed true to their roots.
Just a half-day drive from Phoenix, St. Johns is like another world in many ways. Once discovered, it’s a gem you might want to keep to yourself.
Here are 14 things you want to do in St. John’s.
1. Apache County Historical Society Museum
As you might expect, Apache County in Arizona has a rich history dating back to pre-pioneer times, when the area was populated by many Native Americans — including the famous and fearless Apache.
The Apache County Historical Society Museum is dedicated to preserving this fascinating past, now nothing more than a faded memory from a different era.
The museum also includes exhibits on the region’s prehistoric wildlife, geology, and Spanish conquistadors who scoured the Southwest for the lost city of gold.
Check their website for tour information, times and entry fees.
2. Lyman Lake State Park
Lyman Lake, just outside the nearby town of Springerville, is the largest in the region. The surrounding parks provide amenities for campers, fishermen and all-around nature lovers.
Located within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the park is a particular favorite for anglers who come in search of game fish such as bass, walleye and catfish.
With a surface area of nearly 1,500 acres and an elevation of more than a mile, the lake is a refreshing change from much of the baking Arizona desert.
Consider taking a trip in the fall or winter, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to experience the magic of fishing when it’s snowing.
3. Pioneer era
Snowflake was founded in the 1870s by Mormons looking west for the freedom to practice their religion, which was despised by more sophisticated people in the east.
The two-day event includes a traditional rodeo, parade, dance, art fair and fireworks — just to name a few.
If you’re looking for quaintness and charm you won’t find anywhere else, Pioneer Days is a must-see event that will take you back in time.
The event has been active since 1994 and was held for three days in July.
4. Apache County Fairgrounds
County and state fairs are a great place to familiarize yourself with the area you’re visiting. They were full of fun activities, delicious food, and lots of locals cheering.
The Apache County Fair has been a 75-year tradition and shows no signs of going out of style.
It takes place for four days in September, when northern Arizona’s climate is usually at its best.
With rodeos, live entertainment, and many traditional foods like corn dogs and french fries, the show also showcases many Native American foods like fried bread and fried corn, which you won’t find anywhere else.
5. Petrified Forest National Park
Arizona has one of the largest undisturbed areas of petrified wood in the world.
The park also includes Native American archaeological sites, historic buildings, and prehistoric fossils—many of which are hundreds of millions of years old.
The climate in the area was very different then, as you can see when you look at the fossils on display.
There is also a particularly fascinating remains of a Native American public dwelling, which contains nearly 100 rooms and is thought to be nearly 1,000 years old.
Park tickets are relatively cheap considering everything you’ll see.
6. Painted Desert
With nearly 100,000 acres of the most beautiful and colorful landscape you could possibly see, the Painted Desert is an absolutely one-of-a-kind Arizona treasure not to be missed.
Known for its amazing range of colors – usually most vibrant in the morning or afternoon – you’d be surprised how many shades of pink, orange and purple are found naturally, especially in rocks.
Named by Spanish explorers who came here more than 400 years ago, the area is now part of the Navajo Nation, one of the largest reservations in the United States.
7. Hopi reservations
In Hopi legend, the three mesas surrounding their ancestral homeland are sacred, and although they are relatively close to each other, each was inhabited by a different group with unique arts and customs.
Artisans in the area include pottery makers, basket weavers and jewellery makers, who use sterling and turquoise for their products.
The Hopi tribe is also known for their Kachina dolls, which are complex images of the Hopi gods they believe are responsible for the food provided by the earth and for delivering babies to pregnant mothers.
Reservations are available by car, no charge to enter.
Arizona Crater, located on historic Route 66, was the massive impact site where a giant meteor struck Earth nearly 50,000 years ago.
Some scientists claim that the explosion and the debris forced into the atmosphere largely caused a huge cooling period, as the shattering Earth blocked a large portion of the sun’s rays.
The Crater and Museum is located near Winslow and features a theater, interactive areas, tons of exhibits, and even a place to view the crater indoors.
If you want to get out and stretch your legs, there are also some walking trails that will give you a better look.
9. Sunrise Park Resort
You might be surprised to hear that Arizona has ski resorts. After all, it’s one of the hottest states in the country.
But due to its elevation above Denver, Arizona’s White Mountains offer some great winter weather, and they also get a lot of snow each year.
Sunrise Park Resort has nearly 70 runs for skiers of all abilities – including snowboard and cross-country skiing areas.
If you are visiting in summer, you will enjoy cycling, hiking, horseback riding and fishing.
There are other great activities at the resort and nearby, such as ziplining, golf and disc golf.
10. Cherry Canyon
The Four Corners region of Arizona is home to a staggering number of Native American groups who live near the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
In the Arizona portion of the Navajo Reservation, Canyon de Chelly is one of the most visited and historic areas of Native American sites and history.
The site includes petroglyphs and ruins of the Navajo people who inhabited the area centuries ago.
Some areas of the canyon are accessible by private vehicle, but others can only be seen on official tours, which must be booked in advance due to park restrictions and their popularity.
11. Butterfly Hut
Inspired by the myriad butterflies that frequent the fields near their Arizona home, those who built the Butterfly Cabin in nearby Greer probably never dreamed that it would become a hunter’s cabin and a home for a reclusive writer and artist.
It has had quite a few interesting characters over the years, and you’ll learn more if you decide to visit.
The inn has been a museum for nearly 20 years and is a great place to learn about local history and some truly unique Arizona characters.
Check their website for hours of operation, room and museum prices.
12. Madonna of the Trail
One of 12 identical monuments to the nation’s stout pioneering women, the Our Lady of the Trails Monument was commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution and placed on the National Old Trails, beginning in Cumberland, Maryland, Ends in Highlands, California.
Consecrated and placed in the late 1920s, these statues symbolize the contributions of American women to the building and progress of the nation.
One of the Madonnas is located in Springerville, Arizona, not far from St. Johns.
It’s free to visit and a great way to get out and explore local and national history.
13. Renee Cushman Art Collection
If it happens to be on another planet, Springerville, Arizona is a far cry from a traditional European art center.
So it might come as a bit of a surprise to discover that it is actually home to an amazing collection of European art that has somehow been found all over the country and ended up here.
The museum is located at the Springerville Heritage Center; the collection was donated by a woman who lived in the area during World War II.
Her collection was relatively unknown until her death, when it was discovered that it was truly unique and needed to be preserved and displayed.
14. Casa Malpais Archaeological Park and Museum
Most holidays are very expensive. Gas, food and lodging can add up quickly, so it’s important to find free things to do here.
Located in the Springerville Heritage Center, Casa Malpais Archaeological Park and Museum is a wonderful gathering place for Native American arts, crafts, tools and jewelry, telling fascinating stories of the region’s Indian culture.
The area was awarded National Historic Site status in the 1960s, but was not developed as a tourist attraction until the 1990s, with state funding and many volunteers dedicated to protecting and promoting it.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in St. John, Arizona
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