This is What Makes Apache County, Arizona Surprisingly Wonderful

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Arizona is a popular place, and lots of people look to buy land there. I’m going to share with you a sweet spot in northern Arizona that boasts fantastic prices for vacant and undeveloped land. (If you’re looking for an Arizona land buying checklist, you can find one here:) )

This is What Makes Apache County, Arizona Surprisingly Wonderful

How Arizona got its Name

Let’s do a really quick overview of the state level, and then we’ll dive into Apache County! History can’t agree on how Arizona got its name. The Spanish who explored and settled the area called it ‘Arisona’ based on Native American words meaning ‘silver-bearing’ or ‘place of the small spring’.

Silver mining in Arizona was a powerful stimulus for growth and wealth. Mining for silver actually only makes up a small percentage of all silver. Most of it is a byproduct from mining of other resources such as copper, lead, zinc, and gold.

Apache County, Arizona

Apache County is located in the northeastern corridor of Arizona. This area of Arizona has a colorful history. Apache was originally inhabited by the Navajo and Apache tribes, a few Texas cattlemen, and New Mexico sheepherders. Founded in 1879, Apache was formed from Yavapai County, one of the four original counties of Arizona.

Shortly after that, it was involved in a range war between Texas cattlemen, who were new to the area, and Mexican and native American sheepmen. All the while, Apache and Navajo tribes continued to raid settlements. Not the most peaceful start, but it was ‘the wild west’.

Part of the county is allocated to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. It was mostly wild and empty country. Now the 27,733 square miles of Apache land and 11,197 square miles of Apache water is home to over 70,000 people and still contains much-untamed land and wildlife. The county seat is St. John’s.

Apache, Arizona Weather

Credit: Life Riding Shotgun
Credit: Life Riding Shotgun

Northern Arizona is known for its great weather and natural beauty. At an elevation of 6,500ft, you can expect low humidity year-round. This makes it a popular worldwide travel destination due to its promise of consistent sunshine and dry desert heat. Apache County will not let you down – you can expect over 270 days of sun, higher than the U.S. average. Summer temperatures average around 80°F!

This area of Arizona is relatively colder than the rest in winter. The temperature in January average 15°F, and 39in of snowfall! Apache may experience more snowfall than the rest of Arizona, but as an offsetting benefit, you can expect less rainfall the remainder of the year. The average rainfall per year is 13 inches.

Image Source
Image Source

This area of Arizona is popular with ‘snowbirds’ escaping the harsh winters. ‘Snowbird’ is a North American term for a person who migrates from the higher latitudes and colder climates of the northern United States and Canada in the southward direction in winter to warmer locales such as Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt and areas of the Caribbean.

Although snowbirds used to be associated with retired or older persons, snowbirds increasingly are of all ages. Many residents in the colder areas of the USA and Canada vacation in warmer southern locations to escape the winter weather. It’s not just the 8-month summer climate that draws people to Apache County, it’s the landscape!

The landscape in Apache County ranges from high desert flatlands to mountainous terrain, and some of the most enviable views in the state. Take in the land of colorful rock formations, haughty buttes, towering cliffs, and turquoise skies.

Watch the desert sunset playfully highlight mesas and canyons, and gradually turn into an unparalleled view of the night sky. Northeastern Arizona boasts some of the best stargazing in the country, where a view of the Milky Way will take your breath away.

Why Arizona is a Great Place to Live

If you’re looking to move to Arizona, Apache County may be the perfect place for you. There is a multitude of cities to choose from in Apache County. Larger cities include Chinle (population 10,965), Ganado (population: 7,829), Fort Defiance (population 6,471), Eager (population: 5,007), Window Rock (population: 4,850), and Saint Johns (population: 4,393).

Apache County Arizona
Apache County, Arizona

There are many shopping options in the county, from larger chain stores like Walmart, Home Depot, and Walgreens to more local and family-run businesses. Whatever your need, there’s a store nearby to support you and your family.

The cost of living here is 11% less than the U.S. average, and job growth is positive. The county cares about the wellness of its people, and publishes monthly e-bites, advising on good health and wellness practices. What keeps people here is the community.

Residents genuinely care about and respect one another, which is a quality that cannot be taken for granted. County officials take the sense and growth of community seriously, a top priority as shown in their vision statement:

We envision a future where residents are healthy and successful and where our communities are safe and vibrant. We will strive to meet and exceed expectations by engaging people and communities in developing innovative solutions to challenges. We will be a diverse learning organization. We will partner with others to enhance the quality of life in Apache County and the region.

This county displays open-mindedness that transcends to property ownership. How do you ask? The county allows you to do a multitude of activities and dwellings on your property. The options are quite generous and flexible compared to other counties in the state and the country. 

Apache County has an option for any living arrangement and style! For example, some properties allow for camping and RVs or mobile homes, others prefer tiny homes, container homes, manufactured or developed homes. Some properties you can use strictly for recreation, with no housing or dwelling at all. On the whole, compared to other counties, Arizona is pretty relaxed with its zoning ordinances.

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Two unconventional building constructions in Apache County are rammed earth and Earth ships. These are prohibited and out-of-scope by a lack of code references.

When looking at different options, it’s always advisable to check with the Planning and Zone Commission department, to double-check the less obvious restrictions like loads, size restrictions per acre, and potential hazards. It’s also important to check the property zoning to make sure you can use the lot for what you wish.

If you’re planning on building, the Building Safety Ordinance of Apache County can be found here. As described in the document, any development or construction site in Apache County must have the following:

  • Building Permit
  • Zoning Certificate (may be part of the Building Permit)
  • Plan and Building Specifications (two sets)

Apache, Arizona Things to Do

There are a ton of activities to do in Apache County! There are a lot of public lands in Arizona. Some areas are maintained for specific activities – such as hunting.

Hunting is a popular activity. Legal hunting is allowed on all public State Trust lands and BLM lands, however, access to these lands is not always guaranteed. Permits and a legal hunting license are required for the big game on public lands. Private lands are also okay to hunt on, permitting that the hunter has a license to hunt on private property. Any private land is okay to hunt on unless there is very clear signage stating “No Hunting” on that property.

Arizona isn’t really known for its fishing, but it is still a popular activity! You can check out the Arizona Hunting and Fishing Department, which issues licenses and has more information on the seasonal game.

One popular hunting and fishing destination in the area is White Mountain. Fishing is a year-round opportunity, and hunting seasons are scheduled by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

The following specimens can be found in White Mountain:

  • Fishing: Apache trout, brook, brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout, bass, crappie, arctic grayling, northern pike, and walleye!
  • Hunting: Elk, deer, antelope, javelin, bear, turkey, sheep, mountain lion, squirrel, and waterfowl
Credit: Summit Post
Credit: Summit Post

When you think Arizona, you normally think desert and not agriculture. But did you know that Apache has the highest number of farms in the state of Arizona, with an astounding 5,591 farms. The county is a hotspot for farming and agriculture!

Arizona contains some of the richest valleys in all of the U.S. Some of the most common crops are corn, wheat, barley, wild flax, and fine vegetables. Many farms have livestock including horses, cattle, and goats.

Aside from the obvious hunting, fishing, and agricultural hobbies, there are plenty of other activities and pastimes to discover in Apache County. A fun activity in this area is mountain biking.

Nearby White Mountain and Apache Sitgreaves National Forest has some trails that cater to varying levels of expertise. The area surrounding Petrified Forest National Park, which is easily accessible via Highway 40, has a ton of trails to choose from. Perfect for a weekend day. You will never run out of trails to explore! You can check out Single Tracks for details on nearby mountain biking trails and their difficulty level.

Hiking is also a great activity to get you outdoors and moving. Like mountain biking, you won’t be short on hiking trails to adventure on. White Mountain is perfect for an afternoon or morning stroll. You can visit All Trails to see nearby hiking trails, difficulty level, and whether or not you can bring your dog with you.

Aside from hunting, fishing, and farming, some of the more common activities are:

  • ATV/UTV riding
  • Golf (Hidden Cove, Snowflake Municipal, Pine Meadows Country Club, among many!
  • Pioneer home tours
  • Museums (Show Low Historical Society, Apache County Historical, Little House)
  • Horseback riding
  • Boating
  • Community Events (Still Cruizin’ Car Show and Mountain Festival, Taylor Sweet Corn Festival, Chrome in the Dome Classic Car Show, ATV Outlaw Trail Jamboree, Native American Art Festival, Fall Artisans Festival)
  • Skiing/snowboarding (Sunrise Ski Resort in the White Mountains)

What is Arizona Known For?

Desert! Aside from the other great benefits and features we discussed, when you think of Arizona, you can’t help but think desert (and maybe a cactus). And you’re not wrong!

Petrified Forest National Park is a great desert landscape to explore. Petrified Forest National Park is located in both in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the fee area of the park covers about, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands. This park is quite unique in that it doesn’t allow bikes on trails (except between Long Logs and Agate House).

In the park’s south, the Rainbow Forest is full of colorful petrified wood, some of it over 200 million years old! If you’re looking for an awesome hiking loop that includes Rainbow Forest, check this out. Another must-see area of the park is Crystal Forest.

You can backpack your way into Red Basin and Martha’s Butte – areas only just recently opened to the public! Another popular backcountry hike is Devil’s Playground – not for the faint of heart!

Backcountry camping is allowed within the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area, requiring, at minimum, a 1-mile hike away from two designated parking spots. Permits are free and must be acquired in person at either the Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum on the first day of camping before the facility closes.

Credit: John Vilma
Credit: John Vilma

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a popular red-sand desert region located on the Navajo Nation—one of the largest American Indian tribes. This sandy preserve bathes the region between Arizona and Utah in rich red hues, adding to its reputation of having some of the most dramatic and mesmerizing light. The Valley is found on the Arizona-Utah border, in the north of Apache County.

The sandstone towers may in fact be the most enduring image of the American West. You can check them ourselves by enjoying the Valley Drive, a 17-mile dirt road that starts at Navajo Tribal Park visitor’s center and runs southwest amidst the cliffs and mesas. With 11 suggested stops at the most scenic places, the drive takes around 2 hours, and will surely leave you with some fantastic footage.

To continue your reacquaintance with nature, be sure to explore the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. One of the biggest attractions of this area is Big Lake. Camp at Big Lake Recreation Area to completely get away from it all and enjoy some simple living. This is a fantastic way to make family memories. Take the crew for a hike through the Big Lake, disconnect and relax and camp within the park. There’s another fishing opportunity here, with many of the species mentioned above swimming around. It will take many weekend trips to get bored with this gem!

Other popular areas include Blue Range Primitive Area, Escudilla Wilderness, Bear Wallow Wilderness, and Fool Hollow Lake recreation and campground.

Bottom Line

Apache County has a rich history, with roots stretching back to the days of the wild west. It’s perfect for those looking to relocate to Arizona, or who want to explore something other than big city life and take on exciting nature adventures.

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2 responses to “This is What Makes Apache County, Arizona Surprisingly Wonderful

  1. Hummm . . . Not to put too fine of a point on things but your declaration, “There are a ton of activities to do in Apache County!” lists, among other things: 3 golf courses – one which seems to have been closed for a few years and none of which are IN Apache Co., Taylor corn festival – Taylor in not in Apache Co. and neither is the Show Low museum, two car shows which are not in Apache Co., and the Outlaw Jamboree which isn’t even in Arizona but up in Utah. There night be more but I quit looking. Having lived in Phoenix I believe I want to move back to Arizona and I have been looking at farmland acreage in Apache Co. as a strong possibility, however you are not filling me with confidence in your outfit. I barely have enough money to move, I do not have the funds to make several trips to NE Arizona to double-check a land listing. Can you give me some firm reassurances that a parcel will be accurately and honestly described?

    1. Hi Myron! Thank you for the input, I’ll have to double-check some things.

      All of our properties are honestly and accurately described based on the information provided to us by the County. Our property listings have a lot of detail for you, including a map, coordinates, legal description, parcel number, zoning, etc. Also included on each listing are County office phone numbers in case you want to verify anything.

      Good luck with your search, let us know if we can help! 🙂

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