Arizona's Counties Score Highly in National Scenery, Climate Rankings

Arizona is beautiful. We at Arizona Highways know that because we live here and get to experience the varied and exquisite beauty of the Grand Canyon State. We try our best to share that beauty with our readers, some of whom don't live in Arizona. But if you're still not convinced, maybe some cold, hard data will persuade you.

The Washington Post reported last week on a scale devised in the late 1990s by the federal Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. This "Natural Amenities Scale" attempts to rank each county in the contiguous United States based on the appeal of the counties' scenery and climate. The factors that comprised the final rankings were warm winters, winter sun, temperate summers, low summer humidity, topographic variation and water area.

Arizona's counties did very well in the national rankings, although the state's top-ranked county might not be the one you expect. It's Gila County, home of Fossil Creek, Roosevelt Lake and many other attractions. It ranked 24th out of 3,111 counties in the "Lower 48."

Not far behind was 32nd-ranked Cochise County, known for Chiricahua National Monument. Maricopa County, where most of Arizona's population resides, was ranked 139th — just behind 134th-ranked Coconino County, the home of most of the Grand Canyon and the San Francisco Peaks.

In fact, all of Arizona's 15 counties were in the top 500 of the rankings. And we can vouch for the beauty of every single one of them (we did, in fact, in our August issue).

In case you're wondering, Ventura County, California, took the top spot in the national poll. At the bottom was Red Lake County, Minnesota — a county from which, we assume, at least a few snowbirds flock to Arizona in the winter months.

Photo: Jodi McGrath Dougherty | Fossil Creek

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