Arizona Road Trip

How to Plan an Epic Arizona Road Trip

Are you planning an Arizona road trip? You probably have a couple of places in mind you’d like to visit. But if you’ve started researching an Arizona itinerary, you’ve certainly discovered just how many things there are to see and do in a state with everything from deserts to Ponderosa Pine forests to epic outdoor adventures and top-notch foodie experiences. How do you fit it all in?!

In this Arizona road trip itinerary guide, you’ll find expert travel advice to help you plan:

  • THE ultimate road trip route guaranteed to check off everything on your Arizona bucket list, 
  • alternative road trip ideas if your time is limited or you want to do an Arizona Utah road trip, and
  • tips to navigate Arizona roads with maps and tips for a successful trip.
Planning an Arizona Road Trip? Use this guide to plan your Arizona road trip itinerary with maps, ideas for things to do and places to see, expert travel tips, where to stay, and more! Check off your Arizona bucket list from the Grand Canyon to Tuscon to Horseshoe Bend and Sedona! #travel #Arizona #usa
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How to Plan an Epic Arizona Road Trip

Planning a trip to Arizona comes with an endless number of variations depending on how much time you have, what you want to see and whether you choose to fly or drive to Arizona. For the purpose of this Arizona trip planner resource, I’ve used the 2 closest airports, Phoenix and Las Vegas, to bookend the itinerary. 

As you use this guide to plan, you’ll see it’s easy to do this Arizona trip itinerary in reverse. You can also use parts of this mega route to plan the best road trip in Arizona for your travel plans.

Fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

There are a variety of car rental companies from which to rent a car for your trip. I always research rental car costs on Kayak because they compare prices from a variety of websites at the same time.

Your rental car doesn’t have to blow the trip budget to bits, either. Save money on your car rental by using my car rental hacks before your trip starts. 

Part 1: Southern Arizona Swing

Arizona is one of the states with an endless number of places to see and explore. You can easily plan an itinerary from 5 to 14 days and still not see everything!

But that doesn’t mean you need to skip the beauty of southern Arizona in order to see the Grand Canyon or Horseshoe Bend.

Even if you have one week in Arizona, it’s possible to spend a few days exploring the cities and parks that call the Sonoran Desert home before heading north. 

Start your Arizona road trip fun in Tempe.

Arizona road trip

Tempe is full of surprises(!) which makes it the perfect base to explore the Phoenix-Tempe-Scottsdale area. It has a walkable downtown with shops, a delicious food scene, outdoor activities, and ASU cultural offerings like art galleries and science exhibitions.

From downtown, you can hike A-Mountain, kayak in Tempe Town Lake, or rent an electric scooter to explore the public art around town.

It’s also just a few miles to the Desert Botanical Garden with its amazing display of cactus varieties and to the popular Papago Park where you can hike, bike, and catch a pink-orange-hued Arizona sunset.

Located in the Sonoran Desert also gives Tempe unique access to horseback riding and off-roading desert experiences.

Tempe also hosts a full calendar of events all year long, be it music festivals, Broadway-caliber theater, Ironman Arizona, ASU football, or Cactus League Spring Training Baseball. Check out the Tempe Tourism calendar if you’d like to time your road trip with a specific event.

Best of all, Tempe’s college town vibe comes with affordable hotel choices and easy access to places like the Heard Museum in Phoenix and a day trip to Scottsdale.

Hike Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale.

planning a trip to Arizona
Photo Credit: Outside Suburbia

Pinnacle Peak, towering at 600 feet (183 m.) above the desert floor is hard to miss and beckons you to explore the Sonoran desert. Located less than 1 mile from popular hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak Park is open daily from dawn through dusk.

It features 150 acres (60 hectares) of adventure options including a 3.5-mile (5.6 km.) roundtrip trail for hiking and horseback riding. 

Three rock climbing areas provide a variety of routes for thrill-seekers of all skill levels. You can see desert plant life, including banana yuccas and jojoba plants.  The fauna here includes mountain lions, coyotes and Gila monsters, poisonous 2-foot (0.6 m.) orange and black lizards – not that we saw any says Priya from Outside Suburbia

You can hear the cactus wren foraging in the morning sun. These guys live in holes dug out in the cacti  For a real treat, go for a sunset hike up the Peak to view the desert landscape at its very best.

Don’t leave without exploring Old Town Scottsdale. 

Arizona road trip

Old Town Scottsdale deserves a stop on your Arizona road trip, recommends Jerome Shaw of Travel Boldly. Scottsdale’s historic core was once known as Orangedale and was home to citrus groves planted by the Scott brothers on their 640-acre farm.

The streets where Scottsdale originated now thrive with art galleries, shops, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Old Town Scottsdale is home to the cultural district along with some of the best restaurants in the state.  

Scottsdale, located just 5 miles from Tempe and 12 miles from downtown Phoenix, with a population of over 250,000 is the sixth-largest city in Arizona. It’s made up of four areas: South Scottsdale, Old Town (Downtown), Central Scottsdale and North Scottsdale.

The beauty of the Sonoran Desert is also part of Scottsdale, with the Tonto National Forest just north of town. 

Should you chose to base yourself in Old Town Scottsdale, the Bespoke Inn is a bed and breakfast within walking distance of Old Town’s art galleries and museums.

A stay here includes the use of one of their British Pashley bicycles and the attached Virtu Honest Craft, an elegant restaurant voted one of the Best Restaurants in America by Esquire Magazine.

The restaurant’s chef, Gio Osso, has been nominated for several James Beard Awards. Nearby eateries and craft beer breweries like Sel and Two Brothers add to the reasons why Old Town Scottsdale makes a great stop on your Arizona trip.

Day trip to Tortilla Flat.

Arizona roads
Photo Credit: Luxe Adventure Traveler

A remnant of an Arizona Ghost Town, Tortilla Flat is the last remaining stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail. Nestled in the Superstition Mountains, Tortilla Flat makes a great day trip from the Phoenix-Tempe-Scottsdale area at just an hour away by car.

The tiny town that was once for sale on eBay and is a favorite of Jennifer and Tim of Luxe Adventure Traveler. Former residents of Phoenix, a road trip out to Tortilla Flat was one of their favorite things to do in Arizona. 

Tortilla Flat has a population of just six people, but every weekend a line stretches out the door of the ghost town’s Superstition Restaurant & Saloon. Their chili is world famous and well worth the wait for a table. 

Don’t miss poking around the Country Store, which carries all sorts of local specialties of the Southwest. They also serve up scoops of Tortilla Flat prickly pear gelato, make from the fruit that grows on the prickly pear cactus that dots the landscape.

You can even send a postcard to family and friends back home from the still-functioning Tortilla Flat Post Office, which was established in 1927 and has served the residents of the ghost town ever since.

Drive south to Tucson.

Arizona Road Trip

Many of Arizona’s main features are found in the northern part of the state, but Arizona has so much to offer throughout the state.

Drive south to Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, which shouldn’t be missed. An easy two-hour drive south of Phoenix, Tucson has its own personality and plenty of amazing things to do.

The downtown area hosts many of the well-known restaurants, including one of the oldest El Charro Cafe which sports some authentic and delicious Arizonan-Mexican food.

Corinne Vail of Roving Vails recommends any of their handmade tamales! Tucson is a fantastic place to road trip for all ages and Tucson is one to add to your must-see city itineraries of the region. 

Some great museums are also found in the Tucson area, including the Arizona-Sonoma Desert Museum. It’s primarily outdoors, and it highlights the desert animals and plants in the area. It’s informative and fun for kids of all ages. 

The Pima Science and Space Museum, which houses planes from all eras of American history, is another favorite! The highlight here is taking the bus tour through the Air Force Boneyard, where retired military aircraft go to die. 

Just 30 minutes away from Tucson, you can also visit the Saguaro National Park, which is one of the best places to really enjoy the tall saguaro cactus vistas.

If you plan to visit a few national parks or national monuments along your road trip through Arizona and the American Southwest, save money on entrance fees with the America the Beautiful Pass.

Part 2: The Arizona Desert Meets Ponderosa Pine Forests

If you imagine tall saguaro cacti and hot, open desert when you think of Arizona, this part of the drive will challenge that very notion!

Here you’ll actually see the transformation from cacti and desert red rocks to evergreen trees and snowcapped mountain peaks the further you climb in elevation. It’s one of the most scenic drives in Arizona and while driving it, I couldn’t help but reminisce over my Oregon Coast road trip!

For practical planning purposes, you could drive from the south and stay a night in Prescott or even Sedona.

But for the Grand Canyon and other nearby sights, Flagstaff offers the most bang for your time and buck. Its location is only outdone by all the things there are to see and do in and around Flagstaff.

Circle back north to discover Prescott.

driving in Arizona

You probably haven’t heard of Prescott, Arizona, but that’s exactly the point. Just an hour north of Phoenix, it’s an easy trip full of natural wonders and charm.

Appointed by President Lincoln to be the first territorial capital of the Southwest before Arizona was even a state, Prescott is a classic Old West town with the world’s oldest rodeo!

Home to 600 historically preserved buildings, you can get lost on Whisky Row, drink at the oldest saloon in the state, visit a meadery, and even stay at a converted brothel.

If history’s not your jam, there are plenty of open places to play. Boasting over 450 miles of trails, Granite Gardens or Thumb Butte are the best places to catch the sunset, but it’s Watson Lake’s 6-billion-year-old rainbow rock formations that’ll really take your breath away.

It makes for one of the best northern Arizona photo-ops, says Lauren Monitz of the DownLO. You can explore by hiking, biking, kayaking or SUPing or by simply meandering the desert-scape.

If you come in the summer, Prescott is home to the largest free bluegrass festival in the U.S., but in the winter it’s Arizona’s official Christmas city so there’s really no bad time to visit. They’ve even been known to get a dusting of snow every now and again. 😉

See Jerome, a former mining ghost town reborn.

Arizona itinerary
Photo Credit: Passions and Places

The American West is littered with ghost towns, where men (and sometimes women) traveled from near and far to strike their fortunes, only to leave disappointed. A few of these towns have taken on new lives as artists move in to take advantage of the low cost of living and fascinating history. 

Jerome, just 40 minutes from Sedona and 2 hours from Phoenix, is one of these intriguing locales, say Jen and Ryan of Passions and Places. 

The town’s best-known attraction is probably the Gold King Mine, which is a photographer’s paradise. Once a working gold mine (the headframe is still intact), it has been transformed into an automobile enthusiast’s dream.

Hundreds of cars, motorcycles, farm implements, and pieces of mining machinery litter the grounds in varying states of disrepair. While there’s not much information about any one piece, it’s fun to just wander, snap photos, and take in the owner’s eclectic vision. 

If you’re a history buff, you’ll also enjoy Audrey Headframe State Park, which surrounds the eponymous mine shaft. The mine’s vertical shaft is covered in glass, allowing curious visitors to ponder the vast network of tunnels lying beneath their feet.  

Jerome State Historic Park is adjacent and preserves the Douglas Mansion, a luxury hotel built for investors and businessmen visiting the mine. This is the best place to learn about Jerome’s boomtown days and its decline.  

Jerome also has some interesting shopping if you’re in the market for the strange and mysterious. The Newstate Shops Center towards the end of Main Street is home to several unique stores selling clothing, paintings, and odd knickknacks. 

Maynard James Keenan, the elusive frontman of the bands Perfect Circle and Tool, is now a resident of Jerome and has become an accomplished vintner in Arizona. Pick up a bottle of his wine at the Caduceus Cellars, and check out his Puscifer record store just around the corner from the Newstate shops. 

Stop to see stunning Sedona.

Arizona trip planner
Photo Credit: We Go With Kids

Sedona is a resort town in Arizona known for its stunning red rock canyon and spiritual vortexes. USA Weekend has rated it as the most beautiful place in America. 

Located at the mouth of the Oak Creek Canyon about two hours from both the Grand Canyon and the Tempe-Phoenix area, Sedona is considered Arizona’s second most popular tourist attraction behind the Grand Canyon.  

Its climate is often cooler than Phoenix and warmer than the Grand Canyon, making it often the perfect medium. Its beautiful landscapes have been the setting for many Western movies, not to mention all the fantastic hiking opportunities.

Catherine D’Cruz from We Go With Kids spent an idyllic weekend visiting Sedona and recommends it as a perfect stop on an Arizona road trip. 

Favorite Sedona activities include watching the sunset at Airport Mesa, hiking Fay Canyon trail, and visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross. You can really explore desert plant life and geology while enjoying brilliant views of a red rock canyon which are quite different from the nearby Grand Canyon. 

Seven vortexes, cosmic energy fields believed to exude high-octane spiritual energy ideal for facilitating prayer, meditation, and healing, have also been identified in the area. 

As a result, Sedona has become a new age mecca and is also known for stargazing and spa retreats.  

ProTip: Depending on your route between Prescott and Sedona, you’ll see Montezuma Castle National Monument. These preserved Native American dwellings make for an interesting short historical stop. With even just an hour, you can walk the loop trail and learn about the Sinagua people. Entry is free with an America the Beautiful National Park Pass.

Use Flagstaff as your northern Arizona base and Grand Canyon gateway.

Flagstaff Lodging

Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon South Rim is just 90 minutes, which is why 5 of the 6 million people who visit the Grand Canyon every year make Flagstaff their base while in the area.

But, Flagstaff is blessed with its own things to see and do making it a must-visit destination all on its own.

Flagstaff is a former railroad and lumber mountain town sitting at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet! This 4-season northern Arizona destination surrounded by Ponderosa Pine forests has outdoor adventures ranging from hiking and biking to skiing and snowshoeing depending what time of year you visit.

It’s home to the world-famous Lowell Observatory and 3 spectacular National Monuments including Wupatki, Sunset Crater, and Walnut Canyon.

Historic downtown Flagstaff is home to artsy boutiques, incredible public art, and a top-notch, super-trendy food scene making it a great spot to stroll and recharge after a day of outdoor adventure.

Oh, and did I mention, Flagstaff sits along 14 miles of Historic Route 66 and is just 28 miles north of Sedona?! 

Depending on your timing, booking a Flagstaff hotel will give you the opportunity to stay in the area for a few days while you take advantage of some of the best Arizona day trips in the state.

Check the Grand Canyon off your bucket list.

distance from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon

Spending the day at the Grand Canyon is simple to do from Flagstaff, especially with your own car.

Flagstaff to the South Rim is just 90 minutes. The Grand Canyon is not just one of the most visited U.S. National Parks but it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national treasure.

You can stroll along the rim trail for the perfect Grand Canyon photo-op, venture into the Grand Canyon for a day hike, or use the park shuttle’s and/or your own car to visit the prettiest viewpoints along the South Rim.

The National Park offers free ranger-led programs and makes for an unforgettable place to watch the sunrise or the sunset. At night, you can even stay to stargaze over the vast dark canyon sky.

Remember to have your America the Beautiful Pass to save money especially if you plan to include any of the nearby national parks on your Arizona road trip, including the national parks in Utah.

Take it easy in Winslow.

arizona itinerary
Photo Credit: ManTripping

Route 66 is THE iconic American road trip route with a history dating back to 1926. It was the first major road to connect many of the towns across the Southwestern United States, including Winslow, Arizona. 

It makes a great stopping point on your road trip through Northern Arizona including for fantastic Father and Son trips, suggests James Hills of ManTripping.

While there are many towns along this route that boast quirky roadside attractions or natural wonders, Winslow is different. Instead, it was immortalized by the Eagles in 1972 just five years before the I-40 bypass of the town was approved.

As a result, Winslow’s fame is focused specifically on the song “Take it Easy” by the Eagles as the town’s primary attraction. Residents have embraced it with a great park that has a life-size bronze statue of Glenn Frey, a flatbed Ford, and a mural with the reflection of that truck and that girl taking a look at him.

Of course, there’s also a giant Route 66 graphic at the intersection and some great souvenir shops to get your “Standin’ On The Corner” memorabilia.

ProTip: On the way from Flagstaff to Winslow, make a stop at Meteor Crater National Monument. It’s one of the best-proven impact sites on the globe! Both Winslow and Meteor Crater are just about an hour from Flagstaff.

Visit Petrified Forest National Park.

Driving in Arizona
Photo Credit: National Park Obsessed

Petrified Forest National Park is an interesting national park, about an hour and a half from Flagstaff.  Despite the name, Petrified Forest doesn’t have a living forest. Instead, the park gets its name from the millions of fossilized trees found in the area.

Around 225 million years ago, Petrified Forest had an amazing sub-tropical forest. Over the years, the trees fell and were preserved.  Today, millions of fossilized logs can be found throughout the park. 

Located just off I-40, Petrified Forest National Park is part of the Historical Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. The park has one road which starts at I-40 exit 311 and then runs 28 miles to U.S. 180. The road takes about an hour to drive without any stops and is only open from 8 am to 5 pm. This is done to help prevent theft.

Sadly, every year about 2 tons of petrified wood is stolen from the park, which is illegal. Every piece that’s removed is one less piece for future generations to view.

Arizona itinerary
Photo Credit: National Park Obsessed

Your Petrified Forest adventure starts in the northern section of the park. This region is called the Painted Desert, a wilderness area with very few marked hiking trails.

Heading down the park road yields more scenic views of the Painted Desert. Stop and visit the historic Painted Desert Inn.

Check out Newspaper Rock and a few of the park’s petroglyphs. Be sure to take the short hikes out to Blue Forest and Crystal Forest. Both of these trails are well-marked and take you past the famed fossils.    

There are no accommodations in the park unless you want to backcountry camp. Otherwise, it makes sense to keep Flagstaff as your base or Chinle, Arizona if you also plan to visit Canyon de Chelly.

The park’s wilderness area is divided into 5 backcountry zones, which you must get a permit for from the rangers. Jennifer Melroy of National Park Obsessed says, “My favorite section to backcountry camp and visit is the Black Forest.” 

Part 3: Welcome to the Navajo Nation

This northeastern corner of Arizona combines some of the most classic southwest U.S. landscapes with sacred Navajo Tribal lands. Exploring each of the stops on this segment of your Arizona road trip doesn’t require many days.

However, sights, gas stations, and full-service towns are far and few between in this area. Keep reading for more tips about driving in Arizona, but prepare for this part of the drive with a full tank of gas, water, snacks, and a physical paper map of Arizona as phone signals are not always reliable for navigation in this remote part of the State.

Discover Native American traditions at Canyon de Chelly.

Arizona Road Trip
Photo Credit: Wayfaring Views

Canyon de Chelly represents the living history of human habitation in the American West. People have lived in the canyon for nearly 5,000 years, longer than anywhere else on the Colorado Plateau. The canyon is characterized by dramatic 600 vertical feet of red rock looming over a narrow valley floor.

Carol Guttery of Wayfaring Views recounts how she went for the landscape but really loved Canyon de Chelly for the cultural history. You can find great red rocks and Anasazi petroglyphs elsewhere in Arizona (like near Sedona).

However, the Canyon de Chelly is unique because it is fully managed by the Tribal trust of the Navajo Nation. So, while it’s part of the National Park system, you’re there as a guest of the Navajo.

This means access to the valley floor is restricted to visitors who take a tour with an authorized Navajo guide or park ranger. The tour is worth it because you’ll learn a great deal from your guide about their respect for the Anasazi Navajo traditions and modern farming and ranching life in the canyon.  

In addition to touring the bottom of the canyon, you can also drive along the upper cliffs visiting some of the ten overlooks available.

The canyon is about three hours drive northeast of Flagstaff. You can make a loop of Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and the Petrified Forest too.

There’s a campground on-site at the National Park and a few hotel/motels in nearby Chinle. Staying one night is plenty, as long as you give yourself a full day to visit the canyon floor and the overlooks above. 

Be in four states at the same time at Four Corners Monument.

Arizona roads
Photo Credit: The Round the World Guys

If you are looking at a map of America’s lower 48 states, your eyes may be drawn to one particular spot in the southwest corner of the map.

Four Corners, as it’s called, is a unique spot in the USA where Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet at a pinpoint.

Want to visit? You’ll need a car, as this spot is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Four Corners Monument was built as a tourist destination, hoping to attract visitors who wanted to be able to be in four different states at one time!

The typical photo in Four Corners involves contorting yourself so that each hand and foot is in a different state. (By the way, there’s some controversy about the actual state boundaries, but they’re generally accepted as being at least mostly correct!)

Be mindful that Four Corners is located quite far from other tourist destinations. There’s no close airport or convenient public transportation. It’s in the Navajo Nation, and visitors there can also learn about Navajo culture and way of life from locals who staff the park.

There’s a small visitors center to focus on this, as well as small food and souvenir stalls around the monument. Mobile phone connections are extremely limited, so be prepared to not get a good signal for a while…a.k.a. Take your Instagram photos and upload them later. 😉

In addition, Halef and Michael of The Round the World Guys advise, if you’re visiting during the summer months, it can get very hot here. You’re in the desert, after all. Don’t forget to drink lots of water, bring food, and fill up the gas tank before you go.

Don’t miss the iconic mesas and buttes in Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley.

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley

Monument Valley sits along the Arizona Utah border within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation Reservation. The orange sandstone rock formations are THE images that spring to mind when imagining the American Southwest. 

The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park allows visitors to do a self-guided drive along the main road through the park to see the most famous buttes and mesas. The road is not paved and quite bumpy in certain sections, but if you take it slow, a regular vehicle can manage it.

If you’d like to go beyond the main road to hike or horseback ride, you’ll need a Navajo guide to take you. 

Plan to stay 1 night in the area either the day before or the day of your visit. There are a few Monument Valley hotels but otherwise, the area is remote with few services.

Meals are typically available at your accommodations. Gas up on the drive to and before leaving Monument Valley. Gas stations are few and far between.

ProTip: Leaving Monument Valley and on the way to Page, stop to see the cliff-dwellings of the Pueblo people at the “hidden gem” Navajo National Monument.

Part 4: Natural Beauty Beyond the Grand Canyon

Along with the Grand Canyon, photos of the rock formations and canyons in and around Page, Arizona are what inspires travel to this northernmost pocket of the state.

If you didn’t have time for the road trip segment to Monument Valley mentioned above, it’s easy to go from Flagstaff to Page in just about 2 hours.

In addition, if you’d like to connect a Utah Arizona road trip, it’s as little as 2 hours beyond Page to Zion National Park and the other spectacular Utah National Parks. 

Think Arizona can’t get any more beautiful? Plan a stop in Page!

driving in Arizona
Photo Credit: The Wandering Queen

Page, Arizona is one of the top spots for your ultimate Arizona road trip. The city of Page is located about 4 1/2 hours north of Phoenix. The small city is filled with world-class destinations such as Lower and Upper Antelope Canyons and Horseshoe Bend. 

Two of the most Instagrammable spots in Page, Arizona are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons.

Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular of the two canyons. The reason for this is due to the canyon’s easy access. People of all ages can easily walk through the canyon. 

Lower Antelope Canyon is located below ground so you have to climb down to get into the canyon. But, the advantage of Lower Antelope, says Michelle Stelly of The Wandering Queen, is substantially more light.

Lower Antelope Canyon has a larger opening at the top compared to Upper Antelope Canyon. Because of this, photographing Lower Antelope Canyon can be much easier.

In order to view any of the two canyons, you must book a guided tour. There are no self-guided tours. 

You can also now visit Canyon X, a more recently opened and somewhat less known slot canyon at the Antelope Canyon site. It was created over millions of years with the help of water erosion.

No visit to Page is complete without seeing Horseshoe Bend.

Arizona Road Trip
Photo Credit: Be My Travel Muse

“I can’t remember the number of times I’ve seen a photo of the Horseshoe Bend in Arizona and wondered if it truly could look as amazing in person as it does in photos,” said Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse.

“So when I planned for an epic American Southwest road trip, Horseshoe Bend was naturally included as one of the must-stops in my itinerary.”

It really is as amazing as what you see all over Instagram. Maybe better! 

Horseshoe Bend is about 3 hours drive away from the Grand Canyon.

Drive along Highway 89 until you see a sign for Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Turn in, and you should find the parking lot within a short drive. The lookout point is a super easy and quick walk from the parking lot. 

Horseshoe Bend is perfect for sunset. Just be sure to get there about an hour early if you want to stake out a good spot.

There are plenty of boulders on the cliff edge that you can perch on until the sun sets. Not sure there are many better places to hang out, either!

Just make sure to be careful when taking photos. Horseshoe Bend is 300 meters tall and every year, fatal accidents are reported. No selfie is worth your life!

If you want an experience with less of a crowd, you can also visit Horseshoe bend for sunrise.

Take in the water views at Lake Powell.

Arizona road trip itinerary
Photo Credit: Unearth the Voyage

Lake Powell is the 2nd largest manmade lake in the United States and a reservoir of the Colorado River. It’s a must-see on any Arizona road trip, particularly while you’re near Page and Antelope Canyon. 

Even though most of Lake Powell is in Utah, there are beautiful parts to see on the Arizona side. 

One of the greatest places to observe the beauty of Lake Powell is at Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas. The Lake Powell Resort is the only lodging on the entirety of the lake and is absolutely gorgeous.

Stop by to have lunch or dinner with a view or rent a houseboat from this marina for an awesome trip spent on the lake. Make sure to also stop at the Wahweap Overlook where you can see an amazing (almost 360° view) of the river and the marina. 

If you’re into camping, there’s a great campground close to the Lake Powell Resorts and Marina called Wahweap Campground. Don’t forget to also check out Antelope Point Marina, where you can rent all different types of boats, as well as kayaks, waterskis, and wakeboards! 

Also, to get anywhere to see Lake Powell you’ll have to cross over the enormous Glen Canyon Dam, which is a sight to see in itself! 

Go off the grid at White Pocket.

Arizona Road Trip
Photo Credit: Travel Addicts

Our pick for the most adventurous Arizona road trip destination is White Pocket and the Paria Canyon Wilderness Area in Northern Arizona,” recommend Lance and Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts.

But it’s more like the ultimate end of the road trip because you can’t go any further than this!

About 10 years ago, Microsoft included a photograph of a wavy rock formation in its Windows operating system and suddenly the world went gaga for it. Known as “The Wave,” it started a flood of tourists to the Paria Canyon Wilderness Area and visitors to the region.

However, not far away, where the road comes to an end, there may be an even more impressive set of formations:  White Pocket.

Sitting right on the Arizona-Utah border, White Pocket is a 2 ½ drive from anywhere. The last hour and a half require a 4×4 vehicle and experience driving on tricky sand.

But at the end of the road, White Pocket is like no other place on earth. You’ll see wavy rock formations, beautiful colored striations in the rock, and formations that look like they’ve come from another planet. It is spectacular!

Nearby Page, Arizona makes a great base to explore White Pocket and the Paria Canyon. If your travels take you anywhere near Page, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, or Lake Powell, you’re already in the neighborhood

Part 5: Finish in Sin City

If you’d like to drive this epic Arizona road trip from start to finish, plan on (at least) 2 weeks so you have plenty of time to enjoy everything Arizona has to offer. The drive from Page to Las Vegas, NV is about 4 and a half hours. 

And during this last part of the drive, you’ll be so close to Utah’s natural beauty you could easily connect your Arizona road trip and venture into Utah in order to see places like Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks.

Last stop! Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.

Arizona trip planner
Photo Credit: Sling Adventures

Hoover Dam looms large on many a southwest road trip itinerary, advises Warren Dobe of Sling Adventures. Wedged in between the steep rocky walls of Black Canyon, it holds back the mighty Colorado River creating Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the USA.

Hoover Dam became operational in 1933 and was the largest concrete structure ever built at the time of construction. It provides both a source of irrigation and hydroelectric power for Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Originally named Boulder Dam, it was renamed Hoover Dam in 1947 in honor of the 31st U.S. President, Herbert Hoover.

Over 1 million visitors a year arrive at Hoover Dam to walk across the dam and take the power plant tour held deep within the dam wall. Tickets are sold on a first come first served basis and can only be purchased on the day at the visitor’s center.

Apart from taking in the imposing dam wall, power plant tour, and impressive Black Canyon, nearby Lake Mead National Park makes a trip to this remote north-eastern corner of Arizona all the more worthwhile.

Boating, camping, hiking, and fishing are all notable pursuits in what is considered one of the USA’s most diverse wilderness areas. In particular, there’s plenty of birdlife such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon to spot soaring overhead.

UPDATE: Sadly, Lake Mead’s water levels are dangerously low. Please check current conditions there before planning any water activities in the area.

Hoover Dam is also only 40 miles from Las Vegas McCarran Airport and makes sense as the last stop on your Arizona road trip. That is unless you’d like to spend a couple of days celebrating your epic Arizona road trip in Sin City!

Tips for Driving in Arizona

Driving in Arizona and throughout the Southwestern U.S. is not like driving in a lot of other states. Yes, there are major highways and well-traveled routes through cities and towns with any amenities a traveler might need. 

But, there are also remote roads with few services and spotty (at best) cell phone signals. Lucky for you, I’ve made plenty of road trip mistakes so you don’t have to.

  • Keep water and snacks in the car. Plenty of areas will have services for road trippers, but when you’re driving along without these road trip essentials without a place to stop, the road will feel endless!
  • Always keep your gas tank full. For the same reasons as above and even if you don’t really need it, the next gas station could be hours (and hours) away. 
  • Have an Arizona paper map for when your cell phone signal drops out…and it will drop out.
  • Know who to call if your car breaks down. Have your rental car roadside emergency number handy and ask any questions about this service before leaving the car rental office. 
  • If you’re road tripping in the summer, make sure your vehicle’s AC is functional before driving off the car rental lot.
  • If your road trip is during the winter, remember northern Arizona locations like Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon experience winter. Be sure you have what you need to clean off your car and drive in the snow.
  • Lastly, search for the best prices on your car rental using a site like Kayak that pulls in prices from different sites at the same so you can compare your options.

So, what are your questions about planning an Arizona road trip?

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17 thoughts on “How to Plan an Epic Arizona Road Trip”

  1. Hi Jackie

    I am planning 3 days trip to AZ to see Antelope canyon. I am flying in to Las Vegas on next Wednesday 10 AM, staying 3 nights in Page planning to drive from Vegas and going back to Las Vegas to catch flight on Saturday @ 3 PM.

    Besides Antelope what would you recommend to add to my trip.

    Jiten

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Jiten,

      Thanks for reading. You have so many options from Page. Monument Valley, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon are all about 2 hours from Page. Grand Escalante in Utah is just a half hour and if you were even more ambitious, Zion NP is just 2 1/2 hours by car. It’s just a matter of what’s most interesting for you or what you haven’t seen yet.

      Happy Road-Tripping! 🙂

  2. Hi Jackie

    Can you do this itinerary in a week? I have from April 28 until May 7 to visit what you mentioned in your guide. I am so excited for my first road trip in America!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Dominic. 1 week would be tough to do everything in this guide. I’d focus on either the northern or southern portion of the state to make sure you get the most out of your visit. Enjoy your first U.S. road trip! 🙂

  3. Can all of these places be seen in a two-week road trip of Arizona? If not what would be the most important places to focus upon in two weeks?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Gail. 2 weeks is a good timeframe for many of the places in this guide but all of them could be a tight squeeze. I’d focus on Tempe/Phoenix area and go north from there. Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona are all musts. Good luck and enjoy Arizona! It’s a great state for a road trip.

  4. Jackie need help for an itinerary feom vegas to do 5 days of roadtrip in Arizona includes sedona, other areas mostly we are looking to have plunge on natural swimming holes on the way especially in sedona and also wnated to inclide .monument valley.

    Wanted some suggestions or recommendations on ranch stays..we are group of 20 to 30 including kids

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Siju. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips on ranch stays. I would definitely include the Grand Canyon/Flagstaff/Sedona areas for your trip. There’s plenty to see and do without having to travel far distances in just 5 days. Have a great trip!

  5. David William Su

    Hi Jackie

    I will being needing some help for an 3 day itinerary from Dec 11-13. We are a party of three, one male and two females. What is going to be the best way to plan this trip. We are deciding to fly to either Flagstaff, Vegas or Phoenix. Which will be the most convenient airport (flying from LAX or LGB) . Our bucket lists are grand canyon south rims, horseshoe bend, and antelope canyon. Can you also recommend the hostels/restaurants as well?
    I also do noticed that during the winter it will be cold, what should be included in or items list.

    Thank you so much

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, David. You could possibly do a loop in and out of Las Vegas. It would be about an hour less driving overall if you flew into Phoenix and out of Las Vegas. Flagstaff is a very small airport and flights in and out are likely not ideal given your short window of time. Keep in mind from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas to the Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend area are roughly 4 1/2 hour drives. If starting and ending in Las Vegas, go to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend area first. Then visit the South Rim before returning to Las Vegas. From Phoenix, the South Rim would be first. Flagstaff is a great city for a night stay. There are lots of hotels and great eating. Check out this Flagstaff guide for more info. I stayed at the DoubleTree in Flagstaff and had a great stay. The weather will likely be chilly. I visited the Grand Canyon South Rim at the end of November and wore a fleece with a puffy vest and a winter knit hat. Hope you enjoy your time at these amazing sights!!

  6. David William Su

    Dear Jackie,

    I have planned first day arrive at Vegas, rent the car, head to White Pocket and stay at Page for the night.
    Second day, visit the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, head to Flagstaff for the night.
    Last day, head to Grand Canyon and head back to Vegas to catch the 8:30 flight.

    Is it too rush, or maybe I have some extra time to spend at other places. Also what are the websites for booking the tourist for those places?

    Thank you

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, David. Your timeline is a bit tight. The drive from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas is 4+ hours from the South Rim. I’d be nervous to time everything right to return the car rental and catch my flight on time. If you’re able, I’d definitely add some extra time. The Flagstaff area has so many amazing things to do, including some fantastic National Monuments in the area. That guide has information about hotels and activities so you can book. Have a great trip! 🙂

  7. Hello Jackie !

    At my opinon, Colorado and Arizona are really the two most beautiful states in the US, in fact, i considers some landscape of this states like “magic” (when i look documentary which take place in this regions my mind seem whisper “how its possible to nature to be so well made !”). I project to go in the US for a photo trip ( in the national parc), but there are so many natural sites to discover that an entire human life will not sufficient ! In particular, Monument Valley is a site which have a “soul”.

    I must say that’s you makes an excellent work with this blog and your head is surely full of amazing landscapes !

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Charly. Arizona and Colorado are just gorgeous states. I will have more information about Colorado soon. I hope you can do your National Park project! It will be the trip of a lifetime, for sure.

  8. Hi. I’m trying to plan a 5 day trip from Vegas to Gtand Canyon. We want to fish and horseback ride. I also want to visit Antelope and Horseshow. Any suggestions where to stay along the trip?

    1. And how many days to stay in each area? We are flying into Vegas on Sat, spend the night, then head out Sunday morning. Come back to Vegas on Friday then fly home Sat

    2. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Emily. For Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, I’d look at hotels in Page, AZ. I highly recommend the South Rim of the Grand Canyon if you can make it work. Flagstaff is the most popular base for the South Rim because it’s a destination in its own right with history (Route 66), great food, and shops. There are also other things to see and do in the Flagstaff area. It all depends on what you want to see and do. But it’s possible to do Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in 1 day leaving more time to explore the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.

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