Arizona has some of the most amazing scenery in the United States and is home to three of our National Parks. If you are thinking about visiting The Grand Canyon State, a road trip is definitely the way to go. There are several routes you could take depending on time and I’ve put together a list of the best Arizona road trip stops you can’t miss.
If you start in Tucson, plan on spending at least a day or two in this culturally rich city. The food is some of the best the United States has to offer and it’s been designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Saguaro National Park is nearby and well worth visiting. For a one day itinerary in Saguaro, here’s my post to help you plan your trip!
Head up I-10 to Phoenix, which is under a two hour drive from Tucson. While you are there, be sure to visit the Desert Botanical Garden, Tovrea Castle, and head up to Dobbin’s Lookout for a fantastic view of the greater Phoenix area.
From there, head up I-17 to Sedona, which is just over two hours away from Phoenix. The landscapes will start to change and as you climb in elevation, the saguaro cactus fade away transitioning to red rocks and green sagebrush.
Sedona is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. Several famous hikes are right outside the town, including Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock. We spent half a day doing the Devil’s Bridge hike and it was a highlight of our time in Sedona. During warmer months, go earlier in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat and make sure you take plenty of water.
We parked at the Mescal Trailhead. It does require a permit, but if you have a National Park Pass, that works as well. From Mescal, it’s 4 miles round trip to the summit. The trail is fairy easy until the end where you will have to climb up some steep rock steps to get to the viewpoint. There are no handrails and this is probably where anyone with a fear of heights will turn around.
This hike is extremely popular, so expect to wait to get a photo on the bridge. I waited around 30 minutes for mine, but everyone in line was very friendly and someone will be glad to take your photo for you. Use caution when walking out onto the bridge – it is wider than it appears, but the drop is significant and two people have died (although only one fell from the bridge). I would not do this hike if there was snow on the ground, icy conditions or extreme wind.
From Sedona, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the next National Park to visit on your Arizona road trip stops. We stayed in Flagstaff, which is just 48 minutes away from Sedona and a great jumping off point for your Grand Canyon adventures. You could also build in an extra couple days and work in Petrified Forest National Park, which is also under two hours from Flagstaff. We did not have time to do that on this trip, but it’s close enough that you could spend a little more time in the area if it’s a must-see for you.
Whether you choose to hike the canyon, ride mules down and out or just leisurely stroll along the paved path close to the Visitor’s Center, you’ll be rewarded with views that has to been seen in person. Each time I visit, I am awe-struck and keep going back! The South Rim is open year-round, so you should be able to visit any season.
Once you have left the Visitor’s Center, take a scenic drive through the park and make sure you stop at different viewpoints on your way out. Every spot will look different and towards the end, you can see the Colorado River!
Next, we chose to head to Page, AZ, which is about 2 1/2 hours from the South Rim.
The drive to Page is fairly remote and on a state highway, so make sure you have enough fuel and stop in Cameron for some food. With Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and the Glenn Canyon Dam and National Recreation Area, Page is the gateway for many travelers passing through the area. There is ample lodging and food once you get there and it’s close proximity to Utah makes it a stopover for people coming from Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon or Monument Valley.
Page definitely needs to be a part of your Arizona road trip stops if you have time to drive the entire state. Horseshoe Bend is breathtaking and the slot canyon tours are unlike any other experience you will ever have.
It costs $10 to visit Horseshoe Bend and it’s just under a mile hike to the viewpoint. This is another place where people have fallen – there are no railings in some places, so you need to be very careful when getting close to the edge for a picture. I enjoyed sunset views, but any time of day would be pretty!
For our slot canyon tour, we chose Waterhole Canyon Experiences. Antelope Canyon – both upper and lower sell out incredibly fast and I could not get tickets to either of those. The slot canyons are all on Navajo Nation land and require Navajo guides to tour.
Our tour group was small and our guide knew all the places to stop for photos. We didn’t feel rushed at any time, which is something I have heard others say when visiting Antelope Canyon. For this tour, you will have to climb down and out using rung ladders and there’s a small part where you have to shimmy through a small opening to get to the rest of the canyon. The climb out of the canyon is the hardest part.
For more about our trip during April of 2022, be sure to check out my YouTube Vlog – you’ll get a little more behind the scenes from everything we did in Arizona!