Arizona Road Trips: Planning the Ultimate Itinerary

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions when you click links and make purchases at no extra cost to you. View details here. By purchasing items through the included links, you help me (Sam) keep this site running. Thank you for your support!

From booming cities like Phoenix and Tucson to breathtaking national parks and the historic Route 66, I’m not sure there’s a better state to explore than Arizona. Between the desert scenery, southwest culture, and Old West history, this state has something for road-trippers of all kinds. 

In this post, I’ve listed all of the major sites to visit in Arizona, making it easy to choose your favorites and create your own Arizona Road Trip itinerary.  I’ve also given itinerary suggestions from 5 days to 14 days at the end of the post. You’ll need at least ten days to see the major sights (two weeks is better), but you could easily spend an entire month exploring Arizona with all of its hiking trails, unique towns, gorgeous red rocks, National Parks, and desert scenery. 

Without further adieu, here are some of the best stops on an Arizona road trip.

The Best Stops on an Arizona Road Trip  

Phoenix (2-3 days)

Phoenix, the vibrant capital of Arizona, has plenty of attractions and things to do, and it has one of the largest airports in the country, making it a convenient area to explore on an Arizona road trip. Explore the Desert Botanical Garden to witness the unique flora of the region – which includes plenty of cacti. This garden is also home to a butterfly garden, a Chihuly display, and a cute cafe with delicious prickly pear iced tea.

You can also visit the Heard Museum to delve into Native American art and culture or to check out the Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera display. Hike up Camelback Mountain for breathtaking views of the city – it’s about a 2 to 3-hour hike, and it can get steep, so make sure you wear the right shoes and avoid hiking in mid-day; the sun is intense! 

If you’re a music lover, visiting the Musical Instrument Museum is a must-do on any Arizona road trip. With a collection of over 15,000 musical instruments, this is the largest museum of its kind in the world!

Don’t forget to check out Old Town Scottsdale while you’re in the area. This pedestrian-friendly area is lined with art galleries, local shops, and fantastic restaurants – spending an entire afternoon here is easy!

The Phoenix area also boasts a thriving culinary scene – sit down for a pizza or pasta dinner at CIBO, which has one of the cutest patios in Phoenix. Of course, you can’t go to Phoenix without enjoying some Mexican food – check out Asi Es La Vida Restaurant, which serves several regional specialties. 

Whether it’s enjoying outdoor activities, cultural experiences, or simply basking in the desert sun, Phoenix has something for everyone. 

Tortilla Flat (2 hours)

Nestled along the southern edge of the Tonto National Forest, about 53 miles east of Phoenix, Tortilla Flat is an old western ghost town that is the perfect pit stop on an Arizona road trip. This quirky destination is known for its Old West ambiance and the scenic beauty of the Superstition Mountains – and it has served as a way station within these mountains for over 1,000 years! 

While you’re here, browse the Tortilla Flat General Store, check out the Mercantile and Gift Shop, step inside the museum, grab a meal at the legendary Superstition Saloon, and end with dessert at the ice cream shop.

Saguaro National Park (1 day)

Saguaro National Park is split into two districts on either side of Tucson and is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts on a road trip through Arizona. Renowned for its namesake saguaro cacti, the largest cacti in North America, this park has numerous hiking trails and scenic drives to marvel at the diverse desert landscapes. 

The Rincon Mountain District is known for its higher elevation and lush vegetation, while the Tucson Mountain District showcases the classic Sonoran Desert scenery. The Freeman Homestead Trail in the Rincon Mountain District is one of the best quick hikes in this park, just a mile long. If you’re in the Tucson Mountain District, be sure to check out the 1.8-mile Wild Dog Trail. 

To fully appreciate the park, plan for at least a day to explore its trails, attend ranger-led programs, and enjoy a sunset over the cacti-dotted horizon.

x

Tucson (2-3 days)

Tucson, surrounded by mountain ranges, is a fun stop on an Arizona road trip – and there’s so much to do you might even want to stick around for a few days. 

Explore the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac, wander through the eclectic neighborhoods like 4th Avenue, or venture into the nearby Catalina State Park for hiking and bird watching. Tucson is also known for its astronomical observatories, making it an excellent destination for stargazing. 

Before you leave, get a picture with the iconic “Greetings from” Mural, located in the Historic 4th Avenue District next to Miller’s Surplus. However, this isn’t the only mural in Tucson – there are over 100 throughout the rest of the city!

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (1 day)

A road trip through Arizona wouldn’t be complete without visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Located on the United States-Mexico border, this park is known for its unique organ pipe cacti and diverse desert flora. This is the only place in the United States where large areas of organ pipe cacti grow naturally.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking trails like the Desert View Trail or take the Ajo Mountain Drive for a scenic tour. Birdwatching is also popular, as this park is home to hundreds of species, including verdin, cactus wrens, and phainopeplas.

Tombstone (1 day)

Tombstone, known as “The Town Too Tough to Die,” is the perfect stop on an Arizona road trip for history buffs and fans of the Old West – it’s about an hour and a half from Tucson. Famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, visitors can witness reenactments of this iconic event and explore historic sites like the Bird Cage Theatre

Stroll down East Allen Street to experience the atmosphere of an authentic Western town and visit Boothill Graveyard for a glimpse into the past. If you get thirsty, make a pit stop at Tombstone Brewing Company and order a flight of cold beers. 

Bisbee (½ day)

Nestled in the Mule Mountains, Bisbee is a free-spirited, artsy town with a rich mining history. This Arizona road trip stop is ideal for those seeking a blend of culture, art, and small-town charm. 

Visitors can explore the historic mining district, take a tour of the Queen Mine, and wander through the colorful streets filled with art galleries and unique shops. 

Bisbee’s relaxed atmosphere and scenic surroundings make it a great overnight stop, allowing you to take your time exploring the town and maybe even attend one of the local events or music festivals.

Petrified Forest National Park (1 day)

Petrified Forest National Park, the only national park housing a portion of Route 66, showcases an extensive collection of fossilized logs and colorful badlands. A road trip through Arizona would be incomplete without experiencing the mesmerizing landscapes of this park. 

While here, hike among the petrified wood, explore the Painted Desert, and marvel at the ancient petroglyphs. The park also boasts scenic drives like the Petrified Forest Loop Road, starting at the visitor center and showcasing several scenic overlooks. 

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (2-4 hours)

Canyon de Chelly, located on Navajo Nation land in northern Arizona, is home to stunning red rock canyons and ancient cliff dwellings. Indigenous people have dwelled in this canyon for over 5,000 years, so there’s as much history as there is beauty on this land. 

While you’re here, take a guided tour led by Navajo guides to explore the canyon’s archaeological sites, including the White House Ruin – most tours last around 2 hours. 

The South Rim Drive and North Rim Drive provide panoramic canyon views. The North Rim Drive offers the best views in the morning hours, while the South Rim Drive is best for afternoon picture-taking.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (1 day)

Home to the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley, with its iconic red mesas and buttes, is a cinematic landscape that has graced several Western films – and it’s actually one of the most photographed places in the world. Stopping here on an Arizona road trip will give you the opportunity to drive the scenic 17-mile loop through the valley or take a guided tour led by Navajo guides. 

Famous formations like the Mitten Buttes and Merrick Buttes are must-see landmarks. Sunset and sunrise are particularly magical times to witness the play of light and shadows on the rock formations. While you can easily explore Monument Valley in a day, consider staying overnight to fully appreciate the serene beauty of the starry desert sky.

Four Corners Monument (1 hour)

Located about 1.5 hours east of Monument Valley, the Four Corners Monument is the only point in the United States where the boundaries of four states—Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah—meet. You can stand on the marker and be in four states at the same time! The site also features Native American artisan stalls offering handmade crafts. While the visit itself may only take an hour or two, the novelty of being in four states at once makes for the perfect photo op!

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument (1 day)

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is one of the most beautiful places to stop on a northern Arizona road trip, showcasing layered rock formations and unique geology. The Coyote Buttes and The Wave, a surreal sandstone formation, attract photographers and hikers from around the world. 

Visiting this monument is a chance to witness the raw beauty of untouched wilderness. Exploring the area’s hiking trails and photographing the vivid landscapes can easily fill a day. If you want to turn this into an even longer trip, you can explore Paria Canyon on a 3 to 5-day wilderness backpacking experience. Due to this park’s relatively isolated location, plan for a longer detour than usual! 

d
Horseshoe Bend

Lake Powell (1-2 days)

Lake Powell, situated on the Colorado River, is a stunning lake set against the gorgeous backdrop of red rock canyons. An Arizona road trip stop here is fantastic during the summer – you can cool off with water activities like boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

Located near Page, Arizona, this area will also allow you to explore the narrow side canyons, visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument, or simply relax on the shores and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The numerous marinas along the lake provide opportunities for boat rentals and guided tours. While you could stop at this lake for an afternoon pit stop, it’s also an excellent weekend getaway. 

Horseshoe Bend (2 hours)

Horseshoe Bend, which is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River, is a breathtaking natural wonder just south of Lake Powell, near Page, Arizona. A short hike from the parking area will lead you to an overlook with panoramic views of the meandering river below. 

The iconic horseshoe shape, carved into the sandstone, makes for an incredible photo opportunity, especially during sunrise or sunset. You can experience Horseshoe Bend in just a few hours, so it’s an ideal quick stop on a road trip. The short hike and awe-inspiring views make it accessible to everyone, regardless of hiking experience. There is a $10 parking fee for each passenger vehicle.

If you have some extra time, there are several outdoor activities in the surrounding area. Because Horseshoe Bend is situated within the 1.25-million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, there’s no shortage of hiking, camping, and water activities.

Antelope Canyon (½ day)

Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon carved by wind and water, is renowned for its mesmerizing play of light and shadows on the narrow sandstone walls. Divided into Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, guided tours are the only way to explore this otherworldly landscape. 

So, what’s the difference between the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon? The upper canyon is the most popular of the two – likely because it’s only 100 yards long and mostly flat. The lower canyon is just as beautiful, but it can present some challenges for those with mobility issues since some parts of the canyon are pretty steep, with several narrow ladders. 

No matter which canyon you choose, you’ll be treated to an ever-changing display of colors and textures as sunlight filters through the narrow openings above. Due to the popularity and limited access, booking guided tours in advance is a good idea. Tours last about an hour and cost $60-$100+ per person. Book a tour in the middle of the day, in summer, to get the best light rays.

Grand Canyon National Park (2-3 days)

Visiting the Grand Canyon, one of the most iconic natural wonders on the planet, is an easy must-do on an Arizona road trip. It is one of the most popular national parks in the United States adn for good reason. Carved over the course of thousands of years by the Colorado River, this is one of the most impressive displays of erosion anywhere in the world.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited section and offers stunning vistas, hiking trails, and ranger-led programs. If you stay in this area, there are several food options, hotels, and shuttle bus services, so it’s the more convenient option when visiting the Grand Canyon.

For a more secluded experience, the North Rim provides a quieter atmosphere and equally breathtaking views at an elevation of 8,000 feet. In this section of the park, you can take short walks along the rim or long and challenging hikes into the canyon. 

To fully appreciate the Grand Canyon’s grandeur, plan for at least two days. Don’t forget to watch a sunrise or sunset over the canyon; this is one of the best times to snap a few photos.

Flagstaff (1-2 days)

Flagstaff, surrounded by ponderosa pine forests and nestled at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, is an excellent stop on an Arizona road trip, located on historic Route 66. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the hiking and biking trails in the Coconino National Forest or take a scenic drive along the Arizona Snowbowl Skyride for panoramic views. 

The Lowell Observatory offers a chance for stargazing and astronomical exploration. History buffs can visit the Museum of Northern Arizona to learn about the region’s Native American cultures and natural history. 

Flagstaff’s charming downtown, with its shops, restaurants, and breweries, is another great area worth exploring for a few hours.

Walnut Canyon National Monument (½ day)

Walnut Canyon National Monument, located just southeast of Flagstaff, is one of the best places to explore ancient cliff dwellings. The Island Trail allows visitors to descend into the canyon, passing by the well-preserved ruins of ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings. This loop provides both a close-up look at the dwellings and stunning views of the surrounding canyon. With programs by park rangers, you can learn more about the lives of the people who once inhabited this unique environment.

Jerome (½ day)

Perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill in central Arizona, Jerome is a historic mining town turned artsy enclave and also a ghost town. A visit here offers a step back in time as visitors explore the narrow streets lined with galleries, shops, and restaurants – it’s one of the best Arizona road trips stops between Flagstaff and Sedona.

The Jerome State Historic Park is a great place to learn about the town’s mining history, and the Jerome Grand Hotel, once a hospital, offers a glimpse into its haunted past. This town’s elevation provides stunning views of the Verde Valley, so be sure to bring your camera!

Sedona (2-3 days) 

Known for its incredible red rock formations, Sedona is a must-stop destination on an Arizona road trip. The town is surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Oak Creek Canyon and offers a variety of outdoor activities, like hiking, mountain biking, and jeep tours. Sedona is also famous for its vortex sites, which some believe to have healing and spiritual energy. Just outside of Sedona is Slide Rock Park another popular place to explore on an Arizona road trip. Known for its beautiful red rock scenery and multiple natural waterfall slides, it makes a fun day trip from Sedona. Reservations are required. 

Historic Route 66 Arizona Destinations (1-2 hours per town)

Embark on a nostalgic journey through the heart of Arizona, enjoying the country’s most well-preserved Route 66 towns, each brimming with charm, history, and the iconic spirit of the Mother Road.

  • Kingman: Kingman boasts a rich history with vintage diners, antique shops, and the iconic Powerhouse Visitor Center. Visitors can explore the Historic Route 66 Museum and the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum for a nostalgic journey through the Mother Road’s past.
  • Seligman: Known as the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66,” Seligman is filled with colorful storefronts, murals, and quirky roadside attractions. It embraces its Route 66 heritage with iconic spots like the Snow Cap Drive-In, capturing the essence of the American road trip experience.
  • Williams: A gateway to the Grand Canyon, Williams is a cute town with well-preserved historic architecture and a vibrant Wild West atmosphere. The Grand Canyon Railway departs from Williams, providing a scenic route to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. 
  • Oatman: Nestled in the Black Mountains, Oatman is a living ghost town known for its wild burros that roam freely through the streets. Visitors can experience an old-western atmosphere, explore historic buildings, and witness daily gunfight reenactments on its narrow streets.
  • Winslow: Famous for its “Standin’ on the Corner” Park, Winslow pays homage to the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.” This town features a mural and a statue commemorating the lyrics, attracting fans of the classic rock band. Winslow’s historic district offers a glimpse into the Route 66 era with its charming architecture and the famous La Posada Hotel.

Arizona Road Trip Itinerary Suggestions

These itineraries can be altered to fit your interests and length of time. Most are loop routes (or pretty close to it) from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the largest airport in the state. 

The best time to go on a road trip through Arizona is in the fall or spring to avoid the intense heat and extreme cold. I’ve done a few Arizona road trips in winter, although the snow is beautiful, the icy roads and trails makes it more challenging to drive, hike and enjoy the sites. If hiking in cold weather, bring spikes for your shoes, wear warm base layers and make sure to give yourself a few extra days in case a storm hits and roads and parks are closed. 

Option 1: 14-Day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary (Icons and then some)

This route includes all the major cities, 4 National Parks and Monuments, Route 66, and Page in northern Arizona.

Total Drive Time: About 22 hours; 1,345 miles

  • Day 1: Fly into Phoenix (3 nights)
  • Day 2 & 3: Phoenix (day trips from Phoenix)
    • Saguaro NP (in Tuscon) 
    • Tuscon
    • Scottsdale
    • Tortilla Flat
    • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • Day 4: Sedona (3 nights) (2 hours from Phoenix)
  • Day 5: Sedona
  • Day 6: Sedona
  • Day 7: Grand Canyon (2 nights) (2 hours from Sedona)
  • Day 8: Grand Canyon 
  • Day 9: Page (2 nights) (3.5 hours from the Grand Canyon)
    • Horseshoe Bend
    • Antelope Canyon
    • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
    • Lake Powell
  • Day 10: Page
  • Day 11: Monument Valley (2 hours from Page) to Holbrook for the night
    • Canyon de Chelly Nat Monument (allow 2 hours to explore)
    • Petrified Forest (if you have time, the park closes around 5 p.m on most days)
    • Overnight in Holbrook (1 night) (3 hours from Monument Valley)
  • Day 12: Petrified Forest (25 mins from Holbrook) + Route 66
    • Winslow
    • Flagstaff (1 night) (1h 20 mins from Holbrook)
  • Day 13: Route 66
    • Flagstaff
    • Williams
    • Seligman
    • Kingmam 
    • Phoenix (5h 15 mins from Flagstaff along Route 66 (I-40 to 93) )
  • Day 14: Fly home 

To alter the above to include two of the best small towns in Arizona, Tombstone and Bisbee (and skip Route 66), it makes more sense to do this route as a loop from Phoenix going east:

  • Phoenix
  • Tuscon (Saguaro NP)
  • Tombstone
  • ​Bisbee
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Canyon de Chelly
  • Monument Valley
  • Page
  • Grand Canyon
  • Flagstaff
  • Sedona
  • Phoenix

You’ll skip the smaller Route 66 towns along I-40 as they require backtracking. 

Option 2: 10-day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary (Icons Only)

This route includes 3 National Parks and iconic towns like Sedona and Page.

Total Drive Time: 18 hours; 1,040 miles

  • Day 1: Tuscon (2 nights)
  • Day 2: Saguaro National Park 
  • Day 3: Petrified Forest National Park + Holbrook (1 night)
  • Day 4: Monument Valley + Page (2 nights)
  • Day 5: Page 
  • Day 6: Grand Canyon (2 nights)
  • Day 7: Grand Canyon 
  • Day 8: Sedona (2 nights)
  • Day 9: Sedona
  • Day 10: Fly out

Option 3: 5-Day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary (North or South Route)

For 5 days or less in Arizona, I recommend staying in Phoenix for the southern sights, or Page to explore northern Arizona, and taking day trips from there. You could also stay a week in the Grand Canyon if you love to hike. 2-3 days is plenty, but there are some longer hikes that require more time. 

***

No matter what road trip route you choose, you are sure to have a blast seeing the best of Arizona!

Shop Travel Gear

Shop all my current obsessions and travel essentials I can’t live without. I only recommend products I’ve actually tried and loved!

Sam wearing backpack and hat walking through town.

The Best Travel Apps

Want To Travel Easier?

Get my Free Guide to the Best Travel Apps straight to your inbox

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Similar Posts