Apache County is located in the northeast corner of the state of Arizona. Part of the county is allocated to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Founded in 1879, Apache was formed from Yavapai county, one of the four original counties of Arizona. Apache was originally inhabited by the Navajo and Apache tribes, a few Texas cattlemen, and New Mexico sheepherders. 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.
Northern Arizona is known for its great weather and natural beauty. You can expect over 270 days of sun, higher than the U.S. average. Summer temperatures average around 80°F, and dry desert heat. At an elevation of 6,500ft, you can expect low humidity year-round. This area of Arizona is relatively colder than the rest in winter. 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 weather is a serious draw for snowbirds, and great living conditions for people with arthritis or allergies to pollen and plants found in other parts of the country.
Aside from fantastic weather, Apache County offers a diverse landscape. It ranges from high desert flat lands 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.
If you’re looking to move to Arizona, Apache County may be the perfect place for you. There are 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). St Johns is the seat for Apache County. 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:
This county displays open-mindedness that transcends to property ownership. How, 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. Two unconventional building constructions in Apache County are rammed earth and Earth ships. These are prohibited and out-of-scope by 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 (we talk about this in our eBook – more info here).
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:
Zoning Certificate (may be part of the Building Permit)
Plan and Building Specifications (two sets)
As previously mentioned, Apache County is flexible with land use, but it’s still important to check with the county. This is the same for public lands in Arizona, and there’s lots of it! Some areas are maintained for specific activities – such as hunting.
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 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.
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 water fowl
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.
There are a multitude of outdoor recreational activities available in Apache County. Aside from hunting, fishing, and farming, some of the more common activities are:
Hiking (especially throughout the White Mountains!)
Recreational mountain biking (miles of trails through White Mountain and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest)
Golf (Hidden Cove, Snowflake Municipal, Pine Meadows Country Club, among many!
Pioneer home tours
Museums (Show Low Historical Society, Apache County Historical, Little House)
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)
Petrified Forest National Park! In its south, the Rainbow Forest is full of colorful petrified wood. This park is quite unique in that it doesn’t allow bikes on trails (except between Long Logs and Agate House). 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!
Monument Valley is a popular red-sand desert region on the Arizona-Utah border, in the north of Apache County, and now in your backyard! It may in fact be the most enduring image of the American West. Get out and enjoy 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. There’s another fishing opportunity here, with many of the species mentioned above swimming around. Other popular areas include Blue Range Primitive Area, Escudilla Wilderness, Bear Wallow Wilderness, and Fool Hollow Lake recreation and campground.
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.