Attractions on Arizona Tribal Land (That Aren’t Casinos)
Did you know that about 25% of Arizona is tribal land? Although Native influence is found throughout Arizona, these portions of the state have distinct cultures reflecting the diversity of 22 tribes who call Arizona home.
Many travelers associate tribal lands with casinos. However, the economies of tribal lands are sustained by a variety of industries, including tourism.
Looking for family-friendly attractions in Arizona? Support Native economy, experience culture, and have fun by visiting these destinations.
1. OdySea Aquarium: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
My family loves OdySea Aquarium! The largest aquarium in the Southwest, OdySea is located in an entertainment complex on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The aquarium is just outside of Phoenix. When you go, take a look at the outdoor water feature in the center of the complex. The courtyard is designed to reflect the culture and heritage of the native peoples who call this desert region home.
2. Sunrise Ski Park: Fort Apache Reservation
Sunrise Park Resort isn’t just for winter activities. In addition to skiing, you can also hike, ride horses, mountain bike, or take the ski lift any time of the year. My mom, who grew up on the Fort Apache Reservation, spent many summers camping in this beautiful wooded area.
You’ll find Sunrise Park in the pine forests of Northeastern Arizona. If you’re interested in learning about Apache history, make a visit to Fort Apache Historical Park while you’re in the area.
3. Havasu Falls: Havasupai Indian Reservation
The Havasupai, whose name means “people of the blue-green water,” is named for the magical Havasu Falls. Blue water tumbles over red rocks into a pool, and if you catch the light just right, you may see a rainbow.
This attraction is near Grand Canyon National Park. The Havasupai community has been able to preserve this natural wonder by limiting the number of visitors to the falls, so you must reserve your trip months in advance if you’d like to experience them for yourself.
4. Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks: Navajo Nation
You don’t have to go to a museum to see actual dinosaur tracks. If you visit the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona, you can see them fossilized right into the earth! As you stand in a dry, dusty footprint, try to imagine the wetlands that once housed gigantic dinos.
Head east of the Grand Canyon to walk where prehistoric monsters stomped. While the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks are free to see, it’s considered good etiquette to hire a Native guide to show you the tracks or purchase handmade Native crafts at the booths nearby.
5. Antelope Canyon: Navajo Nation
One of Arizona’s most stunning natural attractions, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon whose undulating red rock walls seem to be the work of a master sculptor. It’s close enough to the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell to make a great add-on to your Northern Arizona adventure.
In order to walk through the canyon, you’ll need to make a reservation for a tour. If you want to see angelic shafts of light streaming through the canyon and take jaw-dropping photos, be sure to choose the appropriate time of day for the sun to angle through the rock.
Arizona is a wealth of adventure and offbeat destinations. Many of this state’s best-kept secrets are found in the heart of Native lands, where you can immerse yourself in a cross-cultural experience without any need for a passport! On your next Arizona excursion, visit tribal lands to discover the rich cultural heritage of Arizona’s Native peoples.
Breana Johnson is an American expat living on the Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten. She surfs, snorkels, and spearfishes when she’s not tutoring local kids or writing. If she could have any job title in the world, it would be Professional Hummus Taste Tester. For now, she’s settling for freelance travel writer. You can catch up on Breana’s adventures at her blog, www.3rdCultureWife.com. PODCAST FEATURE Listen to Breana on St. Maarten Travels that Transformed Lives