WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS are pretty much guaranteed in much of the U.S. Average January high temperature in Chicago: 31 degrees. New York: 38. Minneapolis: 24. Even coastal Seattle: 47.

But move the needle southwest and you find the American locale that bucks the winter trend. You can expect highs in the upper 60s around Phoenix come January, and that number rises even more when you head farther south. Locals and those smart enough to vacation in Arizona during this time of year are getting out on the water, hiking in t-shirts, and exploring one of the truly unique American landscapes. This is what it looks like.


Superstition Mountains

The greenery sticks around into January in the Superstition Mountains, just east of Phoenix, contrasting nicely with the reds and oranges of the rock and the unmistakable profiles of cholla and saguaro cacti.
Photo: Scott Taylor


Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium

The inhabitants of this 95-acre zoo and aquarium in Glendale, in the Greater Phoenix area, don't mind the winter temps. Come February, the mercury's already rising into the 70s on a daily basis, with spikes as high as 90 degrees.
Photo: Kenneth Hagemeyer


Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most impressive creations of the Colorado River outside of the Grand Canyon. Despite its location in the far north of Arizona, near the city of Page, if you visit in late winter you won't even need a jacket.
Photo: Steve Lee


The red rocks of Sedona

Sedona's elevated position in the Verde Valley means a scarf and light jacket wouldn't be out of place on your hike up to that epic viewpoint. But the clear winter air will make sure you're seeing the painted rocks at their best.
Photo: Brett Booner


Antelope Canyon

The one-of-a-kind slot formations of Antelope Canyon are another Arizona locale that does tend to cool down in winter, but there's no mistaking what part of the country you're standing in. Find this incredible view in the Navajo Nation, just southeast of Page.
Photo: Steve Lee


Palm trees, Yuma

The February colors of this date farm in the southwestern city of Yuma defy the winter conditions covering most of the rest of the country. Dress for ideal conditions if you're visiting this time of year: 75 during the day, 50 at night.
Photo: cruiser girl


Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

The crisp, still winter air adds even more grandeur to the absolutely mind-bending rock formations found in and around Vermilion Cliffs. Keep in mind that the most popular areas, like Coyote Butte, require hiking permits no matter what time of year you visit.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management


Atop the Flatiron, Phoenix below

At 4,800 feet, the formation known as the Flatiron is the highest point in the Superstition Mountains and provides awesome views back out to Phoenix. The sweat you'll work up, plus the mild winter temps, means hiking in a t-shirt is entirely doable.
Photo: Alex Ballard


Eagletail Mountains Wilderness

The desert landscape comes alive in winter. Located just a couple hours west of Phoenix, the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness feels about as remote as you can get in this part of the world.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management


MLB Spring Training, Scottsdale

Major League Baseball's Spring Training technically starts in winter. Head to the Greater Phoenix area in February or March and you'll have the opportunity to see teams like the Giants, Royals, and Rangers go head to head in the Cactus League.
Photo: Chris Cameron


Lake Havasu City

The average high never dips below 60 in Lake Havasu City, located right on its namesake reservoir on the Colorado River. If that's still a bit too cold to go for a swim, you can check out London Bridge—yes, the London Bridge, shipped stone by stone to the Arizona desert in 1968, when the storied Thames spanner was last replaced.
Photo: Broderick Delaney


Winter hiking the Grand Canyon

Visitor numbers to the Grand Canyon in winter pale in comparison to those in summer...which means this might just be the best time to go. You'll run a much better chance of having the famous Bright Angel Trail, seen above, all to yourself.
Photo: Michael Quinn for Grand Canyon National Park


Sunset on the Salt River, Mesa

Note from the photographer on this image, captured February 23: "The weather is beautiful this time of year in Arizona. It was about 70 degrees. As I waited for the sun to go down I stood by the edge of the river and watched the fish swimming around."
Photo: ed ouimette


On the 18th green

It's not just the greens that remain green on Arizona's golf courses in the winter. This shot was taken at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale.
Photo: Jeff Shewan


Storm front over the Beeline Highway

I love the power of a winter or early spring thunderstorm in the Southwest, especially as seen from the car window on a road trip.
Photo: Jerry Ferguson


Arizona Snowbowl, Flagstaff

For those who require the more traditional winter pursuits, Arizona has them too. There are three downhill ski resorts in the state, stretching from Flagstaff in the north (Arizona Snowbowl) to, shockingly, the Tucson area in the far south (Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley).
Photo: sean hobson


Sonoran Desert

Nothing quite beats the beauty of the desert, and there's no better time than winter to explore these special environments. How does this view compare to the one out your window right now...?
Photo: Jeff Shewan