Top 8 Destinations to Visit on an Arizona Road Trip
The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip
Wide open roads, beautiful scenery and tons of interesting sites to see along the way — all of these are some of the main reasons why Arizona is one of the best places to take a road trip.
Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon, perhaps the most famous tourist destination in the southwestern United States. But it is also home to many lesser-known attractions and beautiful places that lie a bit more off the beaten path. If you take an Arizona road trip you will not be disappointed! It’s a great way to experience the diversity and beauty that this southwestern state has to offer.
Now, let’s see where to stop on an Arizona road trip:
Most people who choose to arrive by plane to Arizona will fly into Phoenix, as it has a large international airport. Therefore, your Arizona road trip is likely to kick off from Phoenix. Thankfully, it is a worthy launching point! Spend a few days exploring the area before heading out, as there are plenty of fun things to do around Arizona’s bustling and vibrant capital city. The weather in Phoenix is sunny and warm year-round and it rarely rains. It is home to numerous museums, such as the Phoenix Art Museum and the Arizona Science Center. Other highlights include the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Zoo and OdySea Aquarium.
2. Grand Canyon
If there was only one stop planned for your Arizona road trip, it would probably be the Grand Canyon, and for good reason! It’s easily the most popular tourist destination in Arizona.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, this massive and impressive canyon certainly lives up to the hype. The Grand Canyon can be seen on a day trip from Phoenix but is better enjoyed on an overnight trip, as there are many things to do around the canyon rims.
There are a number of popular hiking trails that traverse along the rim of the canyon and even down to the Colorado River where you can spend a night at the base of the canyon at Phantom Ranch (but be sure to book this one in advance). While at the Grand Canyon, you might want to consider making the trip to see Havasu Falls. Havasu Falls is a breathtaking waterfall located within the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The trip to see the waterfall requires a permit and the falls are reached by a strenuous hike, so you must prepare well in advance for this one. But if you make it, it will be well worth the trouble.
Sedona is a town in Arizona’s desert, not far from the city of Flagstaff. It’s surrounded by incredibly beautiful nature: red stone bluffs, steep canyons and pine forests. The town has a vibrant art scene and interesting shops. There’s also a number of well-regarded spas in town, so it is a good place to stop on your road trip when you need a bit of recovery and relaxation. There’s hiking trails and jeep tours available for exploring the area surrounding the city and a fabulous food scene and cultural calendar for those who prefer to stick around town.
4. Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park near Tucson is a must-stop destination on your Arizona road trip. Here, you will marvel at massive saguaro cacti (the nation’s largest) towering against incredible blue skies and amazing sunsets. To see the best of the park, travel by car along Cactus Forest Drive, which is a loop road that offers amazing scenic vistas, or hike the Signal Hill Trail which features ancient petroglyphs. Leave plenty of time to take photos and stay for the sunset if you can!
Tucson is a worthwhile destination in its own right. It’s colorful and vibrant with a culinary scene that warrants a few dinners out. While you are in the Tucson area, you can also hike to the top of Mount Lemmon, the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The views from the top are amazing. Other popular attractions in Tucson include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Pima Air & Space Museum, the Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Reid Park Zoo.
6. Petrified Forest
The Petrified Forest is a unique stop that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It is located about almost two hours from Flagstaff or almost four hours from Phoenix. It’s known for its fossilized fallen trees and other interesting, fossilized plants and reptiles. There are plenty of hiking trails that will take you all throughout the fossils and give you a close-up view.
While in the area, make sure you drive through the Painted Desert. It’s an area of badlands that runs through part of the Petrified Forest National Park, but looks strikingly different from most of the Petrified Forest and the rest of the topography around Flagstaff. It is quite similar to visiting the Badlands in South Dakota and is a great place to see on your Arizona Road trip.
7. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a magnificent slot canyon located on Navajo land outside of Page, Arizona. The canyon features tall winding walls, with colorful, wavy layers of sandstone. There are two sections to the canyon, aptly named Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Visiting Antelope Canyon requires a good bit of pre-planning, as it is located on protected land and can only be visited as a part of an authorized tour.
8. Arizona Meteor Crater
The Arizona Meteor Crater, also known as the Barringer Crater is not as well-known as some of the spots on our list but is an interesting attraction all the same. It’s located in between Flagstaff and the town of Winslow, and is home to the famous corner in Winslow, Arizona from the Eagles song. The crater is about 3,900 feet in diameter and 560 feet deep. It is privately owned but is a popular tourist attraction, with an admission fee charged to view the crater. There is a visitor center on the north rim with exhibits about meteorites and outer space, as well as a gift shop and observation areas.