NewsPress Release

Arizona National Forests offer beautiful scenic options for outdoor activities

During the coronavirus outbreak, many are taking to hiking and biking to keep physically and mentally healthy. Others prefer fishing to help relax. Just remember to practice “social distancing.” While some may want to venture to more enticing spots for these, Arizona’s national forests are closing certain areas. Its best to be aware before you travel. Additionally, the forest service is advising against high-risk activities like rock climbing because search and rescue operations might be limited.

The Tonto National Forest is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona. In addition, it is the fifth largest national forest in the United States. Their website has announced some closures. That includes all developed recreation sites forest wide in Cave Creek, Globe, Mesa, Payson, Pleasant Valley and Tonto Basin districts.

Apache-Sitegraves National Forests in eastern Arizona began closing certain campgrounds, restrooms and recreation facilities this week. Their closures will remain in effect until May 1 and will be reevaluated as needed. The Sitgreaves section includes the Mogollon Rim near Heber and Show Low, a region of pine forests, lakes, rivers, valleys and sandstone cliffs. Highway 191 (the Coronado Trail) crosses right through the White Mountains that make up most of this area, and is one of the most scenic drives in the state.

Cathedral rock

Coconino National Forest is the third largest national forest in Arizona. Scenic areas include the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, the adjacent San Francisco volcanic field, Oak Creek Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona and several forested lakes of which the largest is Mormon Lake, south of Flagstaff. The vast majority are still open. Furthermore, visitors who want to spend time outdoors are welcomed, but cautioned that day-use sites, group campgrounds, heritage sites, rental cabins and single-use family campgrounds are closed. The visitor centers at Red Rock Ranger Station and Oak Creek are closed as well.

Coronado National Forest is home to several species of wildlife. It is located in southeast Arizona. Visitors should be aware the Sabino Canyon recreation area visitor center and lower parking area are closed. They’ve also closed the Cactus Picnic group site. The forest added they’re closing seven rental cabins indefinitely.

Elk are among the big-game species, along with bison and mule deer, that hunters can go off-road in their vehicles to retrieve in Kaibab National Forest, under rules upheld by a federal court. (Photo by Michael Quinn/National Park Service)

Kaibab National Forest, in northern Arizona, boasts rarely seen viewpoints and tributaries of the Grand Canyon, including Kanab Creek and Snake Gulch. The forest has closed a handful of day-use sites in addition to its rental cabins. Developed campgrounds never opened for overnight camping season.

Prescott National Forest closed all developed recreation facilities including campgrounds, restrooms and cabins.

While all of these spots would make great day trips, it is essential to practice “social distancing” while taking advantage of the many opportunities to connect with nature. Additionally, restrooms may not be open in some areas, so plan ahead.

Visitors who made reservations for a national forest campground will be notified about refunds soon.

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Jeff Kode

Jeff Kode has previously written articles for The Arizona Republic ALT section, as well as other publications including Echo Magazine and IONAZ Magazine. He is an enthusiastic movie lover, and enjoys discovering new music. He was previously on air middays with his own show The Sugar Rush, and can now be heard 6-9am on The Morning Beat with Steve and Jeff at 88.7 The Pulse.