Geography of Navajo County, Arizona

Navajo County, located in northeastern Arizona, is a diverse region known for its varied geography, rich cultural heritage, and stunning natural landscapes. Encompassing an area of approximately 9,960 square miles, Navajo County is one of the largest counties in Arizona, spanning from the high desert plains to the towering peaks of the White Mountains. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other significant features of Navajo County. Check homethodology to learn more about the state of Arizona.


Navajo County is characterized by its diverse terrain, ranging from arid desert lowlands to mountainous forests. The county is bordered by Apache County to the east, Coconino County to the north, Gila County to the south, and the state of New Mexico to the east. The landscape is dominated by the Colorado Plateau, with elevations ranging from around 3,000 feet in the desert valleys to over 11,000 feet in the White Mountains.


The climate of Navajo County varies depending on elevation and location within the county. Generally, the region experiences a semi-arid to arid climate, with hot summers and mild winters. However, the higher elevations in the White Mountains receive more precipitation and cooler temperatures compared to the lower-lying desert areas.

In the desert regions of Navajo County, summers are hot and dry, with average high temperatures reaching the 90s°F and occasionally exceeding 100°F. Winters are relatively mild, with average lows in the 30s°F to 40s°F range. Precipitation is sparse in the lowlands, with most rainfall occurring during the summer monsoon season, typically from July to September.

In the White Mountains, the climate is cooler and more temperate due to higher elevations. Summers are mild and pleasant, with average high temperatures in the 70s°F to 80s°F range. Winters are colder and snowier, with average lows in the 20s°F to 30s°F range. The higher elevations receive more precipitation, including snowfall during the winter months, making the White Mountains a popular destination for skiing and winter recreation.


Navajo County is crisscrossed by several rivers and waterways, many of which play a vital role in the region’s ecosystem and economy. Some of the notable rivers in the county include:

  1. Little Colorado River: The Little Colorado River flows through the northeastern part of Navajo County, meandering through scenic canyons and valleys. It is a tributary of the Colorado River and serves as a major water source for communities and agricultural activities in the region.
  2. Salt River: The Salt River originates in the White Mountains of eastern Navajo County and flows westward through the Tonto National Forest. It provides water for irrigation, recreation, and hydroelectric power generation, supporting diverse ecosystems along its course.
  3. Black River: The Black River is a tributary of the Salt River, originating in the White Mountains and flowing through Navajo County before joining the Salt River near the community of Fort Apache. It is known for its clear waters, scenic beauty, and recreational opportunities, including fishing and kayaking.


Navajo County is home to several lakes and reservoirs, offering opportunities for fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation. Some of the notable lakes in the county include:

  1. White Mountain Lakes: The White Mountains of Navajo County are dotted with numerous lakes and reservoirs, including Big Lake, Luna Lake, and Fool Hollow Lake. These lakes are popular destinations for fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing, attracting visitors from across the state.
  2. Show Low Lake: Show Low Lake is a reservoir located near the city of Show Low in central Navajo County. It offers fishing, boating, and picnicking opportunities, as well as a scenic backdrop of pine forests and mountains.
  3. Woodland Lake: Woodland Lake is a small reservoir located near the town of Pinetop-Lakeside in eastern Navajo County. It is surrounded by a scenic forested area and provides a tranquil setting for fishing, kayaking, and nature walks.

Natural Features:

Navajo County boasts a variety of natural features, including mountains, forests, and canyons, that contribute to its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. Some of the notable natural features in the county include:

  1. White Mountains: The White Mountains are a prominent mountain range in eastern Navajo County, known for their rugged beauty and diverse ecosystems. The range is home to the highest peak in Arizona, Mount Baldy, as well as numerous hiking trails, campgrounds, and ski resorts.
  2. Painted Desert: The Painted Desert is a colorful and otherworldly landscape located in the northeastern part of Navajo County. It is characterized by its vibrant hues of red, orange, and purple, caused by the presence of various minerals in the soil.
  3. Petrified Forest National Park: Part of Navajo County lies within Petrified Forest National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its fossilized trees, colorful badlands, and ancient petroglyphs. The park offers opportunities for hiking, photography, and geological exploration.


In conclusion, Navajo County, Arizona, is a region of remarkable diversity and natural beauty, from its arid desert plains to its towering mountain peaks. With its rich cultural heritage, scenic landscapes, and abundant recreational opportunities, Navajo County offers something for everyone, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking to explore the wonders of the American Southwest.