When thinking of taking a road trip through Arizona, many people might imagine a long and boring drive through desert terrain. But they couldn’t be more wrong. For those who have taken a road trip in AZ before or are native to the state, you know that Arizona has a lot of unique beauty to offer.
Besides all the fun and interesting stops that you can experience along the way, an Arizona road trip can prove to be refreshing, enlightening, and wonderous. If you live in Phoenix and are itching to get on the road, we got you covered. Here is a list of things to consider and places to visit in the beautiful state of Arizona.
First of all, if you’re starting your road trip in Phoenix and haven’t explored Phoenix itself, then you’re in a great starting place. We highly suggest visiting Papago Park before heading to the other places on our list. Papago Park is a hiking haven with incredible scenic views and even a zoo nearby. The trail opens at 5 a.m., so it would be a fantastic first stop in the crack of dawn to enjoy the sunset. Next, we suggest making your way down towards Tucson.
To save time before you start, make sure you consider traffic in this area before taking off down the highway. Rush hour on the highway towards Tucson can put a real damper on your trip if you don’t time it correctly. Consider grabbing a new book on tape and drive a fuel-efficient car to ensure that you don’t have to stop for gas too often.
Taking I-10 Southbound and catching the 347 will take you straight to the Sonoran Desert National Monument. This desert is one of the most biologically diverse deserts in all of North America, and is definitely worth the drive. With three different main mountain ranges, this monument has vast desert plant-life to witness, an extensive Saguaro cactus forest, and an unlimited amount of fresh mountain air. With over 487,000 acres of Sonoran Desert Landscape, you can easily spend a day or two exploring this unique area.
Heading over towards Tucson, make sure to drive through the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway, and make a visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, a Catholic mission from 1692 that is now a National Historic Landmark. This architectural building is great for taking some instagram-worthy photos and enjoying the in-person awe it gives off. If you’re looking for a stop to have some nighttime fun, we suggest heading over to Fourth Avenue. On Fourth Avenue you will find many funky shops to buy road trip trinkets, and nightclubs along the way for some spontaneous dancing. The great thing about Tucson is that there are so many unique sights to see and really fun things to do. You will never be bored! Other sights and stops can include the Rattlesnake Bridge, the Vista Sun Wheel, and the El Rio Neighborhood Center Murals.
Making your way back up North towards Flagstaff, you have the opportunity to visit three other huge Landmarks: The Tonto National Forest, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and the Coconino National Forest. These stops will call for some adventurous hiking, desert plant-life discoveries, and of course many gorgeous views.
One thing to consider while heading towards Flagstaff, however, is that you may hit some major traffic along the way. Road trips are mostly all fun and games, but traffic isn’t fun for anyone. The I-17 can get pretty congested during rush hour, so if you’re traveling on the Interstate during those busy times, it would be a great opportunity to stop and grab some lunch or spend a little extra time at the National Forest of your choosing. Or, take a more scenic route - you are on a road trip, after all! Having a large truck with plenty of trunk space also proves to be a huge plus when taking a long road trip, so choose wisely!
The big kahuna of landmarks in Arizona, The Grand Canyon, is quite possibly the biggest attraction area in the entire state. With its layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history, the Grand Canyon National Park gets hundreds of thousands of visitors every single year. This National Park covers an overwhelming amount of land, and there are plenty of fun things to do there such as backcountry camping, river trip opportunities, walking breathtaking trails and more. Make sure to witness either a sunrise or sunset when visiting here; it is a magical experience.
Arizona is nature’s finest museum. The Grand Canyon alone is worth a thousand mile road trip, but there are also thousands of other stops along the way that will help make your trip unforgettable. Go hiking through the many different national forests, visit some nifty and unique shops while driving through smaller towns, and soak in all the views throughout your time on the road itself. Arizona is a gorgeous state for a 7-10 day road trip, so get in your car and head to these wonderful places that will sit in your memory for years to come.