23 Best Day Trips From Phoenix, Arizona (2024 Guide)

Make the most of your time in the Valley of the Sun with this guide to the most incredible day trips from Phoenix!

Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, is a vibrant metropolis known for its warm weather and abundant sunshine.

With a rich cultural heritage, thriving arts and culinary scenes, and proximity to stunning natural landscapes, Phoenix offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to visitors and residents alike.

But once you’ve experienced all the wonders of the city itself, consider taking one of these day trips from Phoenix!

In the surrounding area outside this desert city, you can find national parks, state parks, lakes, rivers, canyons, forests, and more. Whether you want outdoor adventures or journeys through history, take the opportunity to explore more of Arizona on these epic day trips.

Visit the college town of Tucson and hike in Tucson mountain park or visit the impressive Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Dive into the wild west in the small town of Goldfield, or hike the historic Apache trail near Canyon Lake.

Or embark on a mission up to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon!

No matter what type of adventure you want, these day trips from Phoenix are sure to provide you with some insight into the nature, history, and culture of Arizona.

Check out our 3 days in Phoenix itinerary for ideas while you’re in town!

23 Best Day Trips From Phoenix, Arizona

From hiking or rock climbing in the incredible landscapes of Saguaro National Park, to wine tasting in Verde Valley, there are so many amazing day trips from Phoenix.

Arizona is a huge state, and many attractions are spread out across the desert. So the best way to embark on these day trips from Phoenix is with your own car!

You can rent a car in downtown Phoenix easily, or you can search for a guided tour. However, only a few of the best Phoenix day trips have guided tours available and we’ll mention them when possible. But your best option is renting a car!

So whether you want to take on mountain biking trails, explore the ghost towns of the wild west, kayak down the Salt River, or venture all the way up to the majestic Grand Canyon, here are the best day trips from Phoenix!

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Saguaro National Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 105 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Saguaro National Park is one of the best day trips from Phoenix for those who want to explore the Sonoran Desert. This breathtaking desert oasis showcases the iconic saguaro cactus in all its glory.

Spanning over 91,000 acres, Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections: the Tucson Mountain District to the west and the Rincon Mountain District to the east.

This unique desert landscape offers visitors a mesmerizing blend of rugged mountains, vast expanses of the Sonoran Desert, and an abundance of saguaro cacti, which can reach heights of up to 50 feet.

The park’s picturesque trails allow hikers and nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and discover the diverse flora and fauna that call this arid region home.

Saguaro National Park is not only a sanctuary for the majestic saguaro cactus but also a haven for outdoor adventure and exploration. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a birdwatcher, or a stargazer, this national park has something for everyone.

The well-maintained trails in Saguaro National Park offer opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and scenic drives, allowing visitors to witness stunning panoramic views and get up close to these towering desert giants.

Bird lovers will be delighted by the park’s avian diversity, as more than 200 species inhabit the area, including the colorful Vermilion Flycatcher and the elusive Elf Owl. As night falls, the park’s remote location and minimal light pollution make it an ideal spot for stargazing, providing a captivating display of the night sky that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Saguaro National Park is a true gem of the Southwest, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the rugged beauty and unique ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro National Park
See the otherworldly desert scenery up close in Saguaro National Park.

2. Montezuma Castle National Monument

  • Distance from Phoenix: 94 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Nestled within the picturesque Verde Valley of Arizona, Montezuma Castle National Monument stands as a testament to the remarkable engineering and cultural legacy of the ancient Sinagua people. It’s only about 1.5 hours north of Phoenix, making it a convenient day trip.

Montezuma Castle National Monument showcases a five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling that was built into a limestone cliff around 900 years ago.

This well-preserved structure, perched high above the valley floor, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Native American inhabitants who once called this place home.

Visitors to Montezuma Castle can marvel at the architectural ingenuity of the Sinagua, as they explore the visitor center and gift shop, hike along the trail that offers panoramic views of the monument, and learn about the rich history and cultural significance of this unique archaeological site.

Beyond its architectural wonders, Montezuma Castle National Monument is also surrounded by a stunning natural landscape that enhances the visitor experience. Lush vegetation, including towering sycamore and cottonwood trees, line the banks of the nearby Beaver Creek, providing a refreshing contrast to the arid desert surroundings.

Nature enthusiasts can embark on a leisurely walk along the Montezuma Castle Loop Trail, which winds through a peaceful riparian area and offers opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply seeking tranquility in nature, Montezuma Castle National Monument offers a captivating blend of archaeological significance and natural beauty that is the perfect day trip from Phoenix.

Combine your day trip to Montezuma Castle National Monument with Sedona and Jerome Ghost Town on this epic tour!

3. Oak Creek Canyon

  • Distance from Phoenix: 120 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Another amazing Phoenix day trip for nature lovers is Oak Creek Canyon. Located in the heart of Arizona’s majestic red rock country, Oak Creek Canyon is a breathtaking natural wonder that entices visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty.

This scenic canyon stretches for 12 miles and is often referred to as a miniature version of the iconic Grand Canyon. So if you don’t have time to make the trek up to the famous Grand Canyon, consider visiting Oak Creek Canyon which is only 1 hour from Phoenix!

Towering cliffs adorned in vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold rise dramatically on both sides of the canyon, while the tranquil Oak Creek meanders through the valley floor. The canyon’s diverse landscape offers a plethora of outdoor activities, from hiking and camping to picnicking and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the creek.

As visitors wind along the scenic highway that traverses the canyon, they are treated to panoramic vistas that showcase the harmonious blend of rugged cliffs, hiking trails, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls, creating a truly enchanting destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Read Next: While you’re in the area, check out great things to do in Sedona!

4. Jerome

  • Distance from Phoenix: 112 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours

Perched high on the slopes of Mingus Mountain in Arizona, Jerome is a historic town with a rich mining heritage. Once a bustling mining town known as the “Wickedest Town in the West,” Jerome has transformed into an eclectic artistic community that attracts visitors from around the world.

The town’s narrow, winding streets are lined with charming shops, art galleries, and vibrant eateries, offering a delightful blend of local crafts, pottery, jewelry, and unique artwork.

Strolling through Jerome’s steep streets, visitors can immerse themselves in its vibrant atmosphere, admire the preserved historic buildings, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding Verde Valley.

Beyond its artistic charm, Jerome is also known for its intriguing history as a former copper mining town in the late 19th century. Remnants of its mining past can still be seen in the form of old mine shafts and abandoned buildings.

The Jerome State Historic Park and the Mine Museum provide insights into the town’s mining era, showcasing mining artifacts and sharing stories of the hardships and triumphs of the miners who once inhabited the area.

Ghost tours are a popular attraction in Jerome, as the town’s colorful past has given rise to tales of hauntings and paranormal activity. With its blend of art, history, and captivating scenery, Jerome offers a one-of-a-kind experience that transports visitors to another era while embracing its vibrant present.

This old mining town is one of the more unique day trips from Phoenix, perfect for those looking for something other than just hiking trails and desert scenery!

Read Next: Find out more incredible places to visit in Arizona!

5. Verde Valley Wine Trail

  • Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Explore the best of Arizona wine country on the Verde Valley Wine Trail! Stretching along the banks of the Verde River, this wine trail encompasses a collection of boutique wineries and vineyards that showcase the winemaking expertise of the area.

As visitors meander through the scenic valley, they have the opportunity to explore an array of tasting rooms, sample a diverse selection of wines, and engage with passionate winemakers who are eager to share their knowledge and passion for their craft.

From robust reds to crisp whites, the Verde Valley Wine Trail offers a diverse range of varietals that thrive in the high-desert climate, providing a true taste of Arizona’s wine-growing potential.

In addition to the wine tasting, the Verde Valley Wine Trail also treats visitors to stunning vistas and a serene ambiance. The vineyards are often nestled among rolling hills, framed by the majestic backdrop of red rock formations which is quite different than other wine countries around the world.

Beyond the vineyards, the region is known for its charming small towns, historic sites, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Visitors can explore the quaint shops and art galleries, take in the scenic beauty of nearby national forests, or embark on adventures such as kayaking, hiking, or hot air balloon rides.

The Verde Valley Wine Trail offers a delightful fusion of wine, scenery, and hospitality. So if wine tasting is right up your alley, this is one of the best Phoenix day trips to try!

Find more ideas around the state with our list of the best things to do in Arizona!

6. Sedona

  • Distance from Phoenix: 115 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours

Situated amidst the stunning red rock formations of northern Arizona, Sedona is a captivating town renowned for its natural beauty, spiritual energy, and artistic charm. Surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs, Sedona’s landscape is a masterpiece of vibrant hues, with the rocks ranging from deep reds and oranges to soft pastel pinks.

This unique setting has earned Sedona a reputation as a spiritual and healing destination, attracting visitors seeking a serene and transformative experience.

From the famous Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock to the mystical vortex sites, Sedona’s natural wonders inspire awe and provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and breathtaking photography. The Devil’s Bridge Trail is one of the state’s most famous hiking trails!

The town itself exudes a relaxed and bohemian atmosphere, with its thriving art galleries, New Age shops, and holistic wellness centers offering a wealth of opportunities for exploration and self-discovery.

Aside from its natural and spiritual allure, Sedona also boasts a vibrant arts and cultural scene that adds to its allure. The town is home to numerous art galleries showcasing a diverse range of artistic styles, from Native American and Southwestern-inspired works to contemporary and abstract creations.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the artistic atmosphere by exploring the Sedona Arts Center, attending the Sedona International Film Festival, or enjoying live music performances at various venues.

Additionally, Sedona’s culinary scene offers a delightful fusion of flavors, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and Southwestern cuisine.

From quaint cafés to upscale restaurants, there is no shortage of delectable dining options to satisfy every palate. With its stunning landscapes, spiritual ambiance, and artistic flair, Sedona is one of the best day trips from Phoenix. Join a guided small group tour to Sedona from Phoenix if you want to make the most of your day trip!

Sedona Hiking
The Devil’s Bridge Trail is a breathtaking hiking spot!

7. Estrella Mountain Regional Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 23 miles
  • Driving time: 30 minutes

Located right on the western outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, Estrella Mountain Regional Park is a picturesque desert oasis that offers a diverse array of outdoor recreational opportunities.

Spanning over 20,000 acres, the park is characterized by its rugged mountain ranges, unique landscapes, and abundant wildlife. Hiking enthusiasts can explore the extensive network of hiking trails that wind through the park, providing panoramic views of the surrounding Sonoran Desert and the iconic Estrella Mountains.

The park also boasts opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area.

With its stunning vistas, abundant wildlife, and a range of outdoor activities, Estrella Mountain Regional Park serves as a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike, providing a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

If you’re looking for quick and easy day trips from Phoenix where you can immerse yourself in nature without having to travel far, this is an excellent option!

8. Lake Pleasant Regional Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 40 miles
  • Driving time: 50 minutes

Another one of the best day trips from Phoenix is Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Spanning over 23,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, the park centers around the expansive Lake Pleasant, a sparkling reservoir surrounded by majestic desert landscapes and rugged mountains.

The lake beckons water enthusiasts with its crystal-clear waters, perfect for boating, fishing, swimming, and water sports.

Boaters can cruise along the lake’s scenic coves and inlets, while anglers can cast their lines in search of a variety of fish species, including bass and catfish. Try kayaking at sunrise or sunset for a unique take on the majestic scenery of the area!

The park’s sandy beaches provide ideal spots for picnicking, sunbathing, and beach volleyball, while the hiking and biking trails offer opportunities to explore the park’s diverse desert flora and fauna.

Beyond its aquatic activities, Lake Pleasant Regional Park also offers a range of land-based recreational opportunities. Nature lovers can embark on scenic hikes through the park’s desert trails, which showcase stunning vistas and the unique vegetation of the Sonoran Desert.

The park features numerous campsites and RV facilities, allowing visitors to extend their stay if desired. So if you need a respite from Arizona’s famous heat, a dip in Lake Pleasant is an amazing idea for a day trip!

9. Canyon Lake

  • Distance from Phoenix: 50 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Another one of the top Phoenix day trips for escaping the heat is a visit to Canyon Lake! Situated amidst the striking Sonoran Desert, Canyon Lake is a captivating reservoir surrounded by rugged canyons, towering cliffs, and majestic saguaro cacti.

The lake’s deep blue waters stretch for miles, providing ample opportunities for boating, kayaking, and jet skiing. Visitors can rent watercraft or join guided tours to explore the picturesque coves, hidden beaches, and dramatic rock formations that adorn the lake’s shoreline.

Fishing enthusiasts will find an abundance of largemouth bass, trout, and catfish, making Canyon Lake a popular spot for anglers seeking a rewarding catch.

There also fun things to do near Canyon Lake outside the water. Hiking trails in the surrounding Superstition Mountains provide awe-inspiring vistas of the lake and its surroundings.

The iconic Apache Trail, a scenic byway that winds along the lake’s edge, offers a mesmerizing drive with panoramic views and opportunities for photography.

Wildlife enthusiasts can spot a variety of desert dwellers, including bighorn sheep, javelinas, and numerous bird species.

The peaceful ambiance and stunning natural beauty of Canyon Lake make it a popular day trip or weekend getaway destination, allowing visitors to reconnect with nature and experience the serenity of the desert oasis just outside of Phoenix.

Related: Add these places to your epic Arizona road trip itinerary!

10. Tucson

  • Distance from Phoenix: 113 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 40 minutes

Tucson is an incredible city in Southern Arizona city that offers a captivating blend of rich history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty. As the second-largest city in Arizona, Tucson is renowned for its warm climate, stunning sunsets, and breathtaking mountain vistas.

The city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing in the nearby Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains.

Tucson Mountain Park, located just west of the city, offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes and has an abundance of hiking trails and scenic lookouts.

In addition to the natural beauty of Tucson Mountain Park, you can learn more about the local flora and fauna at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

Tucson is also home to a thriving arts and culture scene, with a multitude of art galleries, museums, and theaters showcasing the region’s rich artistic heritage and vibrant creative community.

Tucson’s multicultural heritage is deeply ingrained in its vibrant cuisine, with a fusion of flavors inspired by Native American, Mexican, and Spanish influences. The city is renowned for its Sonoran-style cuisine, which includes mouthwatering dishes such as the iconic Sonoran hot dog and delicious carne asada.

Visitors can explore the bustling downtown district, known as “The Presidio,” where they can savor a wide range of culinary delights at local restaurants and cafes.

Tucson is also a popular college town. It’s home to the University of Arizona, bringing youthful energy and intellectual vibrancy to the city. From exploring Tuscon Mountain Park and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum to indulging in the culture and cuisine, Tuscon is one of the best day trips from Phoenix!

11. Coconino National Forest

  • Distance from Phoenix: 90 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres of diverse landscapes in northern Arizona, Coconino National Forest is a captivating wilderness that makes one of the best Phoenix day trips.

The forest’s breathtaking beauty is defined by its towering ponderosa pine forests, striking red rock formations, deep canyons, and serene alpine meadows.

Within its boundaries, visitors can explore an array of natural wonders, including the iconic Sedona red rocks and the majestic San Francisco Peaks.

Coconino National Forest offers a multitude of recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding, catering to outdoor enthusiasts of all levels.

With an extensive network of trails that wind through its landscapes, visitors can discover hidden gems, witness panoramic vistas, and immerse themselves in the tranquility of the wilderness.

The ecological diversity of Coconino National Forest is also a draw for nature lovers. The forest is home to a rich array of wildlife, including elk, mule deer, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

It is also renowned for its ancient archaeological sites, with remnants of ancient Native American cultures, such as cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, adding cultural significance to the natural wonders.

Whether visitors are seeking solitude in the peaceful wilderness, embarking on an adventurous hike, or simply admiring the stunning vistas, Coconino National Forest is a truly stunning place day trip from Phoenix.

Coconino National Forest
Arizona isn’t all deserts – Coconino National Forest is a lush place of natural beauty!

12. Walnut Canyon National Monument

  • Distance from Phoenix: 150 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

One of the most interesting Phoenix day trips for history lovers is Walnut Canyon National Monument, a captivating archaeological site that offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ancient Sinagua people.

Slightly less famous than its neighboring Montezuma Castle National Monument, this unique location that is about 1.5 hours north of Phoenix is just as fascinating.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is renowned for its cliff dwellings nestled within the rugged canyon walls. These remarkably preserved dwellings were constructed by the Sinagua over 700 years ago and showcase the ingenuity and resourcefulness of this ancient civilization.

Visitors can explore the well-maintained hiking trails that wind through the canyon, providing opportunities to view the cliff dwellings up close and marvel at the intricate stone masonry.

As visitors hike along the trails, they can also appreciate the breathtaking views of the surrounding canyon, filled with lush vegetation and the remnants of the Sinagua’s farming terraces.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is not only a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Sinagua people but also a picturesque destination that invites visitors to connect with the past and experience the natural beauty of this archaeological gem.

Read next: The 21 Best Things To Do In Tucson, Arizona

13. Slide Rock State Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 123 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

One of the best day trips from Phoenix for escaping the desert heat is Slide Rock State Park, located about 2 hours north of the city. Slide Rock is a natural water park that promises a fun-filled adventure for visitors of all ages.

The park is named after the famous Slide Rock, a slippery natural water chute carved into the red sandstone bed of Oak Creek. Here, visitors can slide down the slick rocks and plunge into refreshing pools of water like a natural waterslide.

In addition to this amazing natural attraction, the park offers swimming areas, picnic spots, and scenic hiking trails that meander along the creek, providing stunning views of the surrounding canyon walls.

With its unique combination of natural beauty and thrilling water activities, Slide Rock State Park offers a refreshing escape and a memorable day of outdoor fun in the heart of Arizona’s scenic landscapes.

14. Tempe Town Lake

  • Distance from Phoenix: 12 miles
  • Driving time: 15 minutes

Though Tempe Town Lake is located right near downtown Phoenix, it could make a day trip because you’ll want to spend all day here! Sometimes it’s nice to take a day trip somewhere close by where you don’t have to travel far as well.

The vibrant urban oasis of Tempe Town Lake offers a myriad of recreational and cultural opportunities, so it can easily fill one whole day of your Phoenix itinerary. Spanning over 220 acres, this man-made lake is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.

Its scenic waterfront is lined with parks, trails, and green spaces, inviting outdoor activities such as jogging, biking, and picnicking. The lake itself provides a serene setting for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and sailing.

The iconic pedestrian bridge, aptly named the “Mill Avenue Bridge,” adds architectural charm to the area and serves as a gateway to the bustling downtown district of Tempe.

Throughout the year, Tempe Town Lake hosts a variety of events and festivals, including concerts, art exhibitions, and sporting events, which add vibrant energy to the area.

With its blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and cultural experiences, Tempe Town Lake is a beloved destination that showcases the dynamic spirit of Phoenix.

15. Petrified Forest National Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 212 miles
  • Driving time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Petrified Forest National Park, located in northeastern Arizona, is a captivating testament to ancient natural wonders and geological marvels. Spanning over 146 square miles, the park is renowned for its remarkable collection of petrified wood, which has been fossilized over millions of years.

Walking through the park, visitors are greeted by a surreal landscape adorned with countless logs transformed into vibrant, sparkling quartz crystals.

Beyond the petrified wood, the park is also home to stunning painted desert vistas, showcasing a kaleidoscope of colors and intricate rock formations.

Hiking trails wind through the park, offering opportunities to explore ancient Native American ruins, discover fossilized remains, and witness breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscapes.

In addition to its geological wonders, Petrified Forest National Park is steeped in rich cultural history. The park preserves ancient petroglyphs and archaeological sites that provide insights into the lives and cultures of the indigenous people who once inhabited the region.

Visitors can explore the fascinating ruins of Puerco Pueblo, a 700-year-old village, and learn about the diverse native cultures that thrived in the area. The park also serves as a haven for wildlife, with pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and a variety of bird species calling the park home.

With its unique blend of ancient fossils, stunning landscapes, and cultural heritage, Petrified Forest National Park offers a captivating journey through time, immersing visitors in the natural and cultural wonders of Arizona’s past. It’s one of the most mesmerizing day trips from Phoenix!

Petrified Forest National Park
Get ready for some mindblowing scenery in Petrified Forest National Park.

16. Salt River

  • Distance from Phoenix: 35 miles
  • Driving time: 40 minutes

A day trip from Phoenix to the Salt River promises a refreshing escape into nature’s embrace. Located just east of the city, the Salt River offers a scenic respite where visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of the desert oasis.

Adventure seekers can embark on a thrilling tubing or kayaking adventure down the river, navigating gentle rapids and enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding Tonto National Forest.

The crystal-clear waters of the Salt River also invite visitors to cool off with a refreshing swim or simply relax on its sandy shores, basking in the warmth of the Arizona sun. This is one of the best day trips from Phoenix for a hot, sunny day!

Travelers can also get a workout on the nearby trails, such as the Bulldog Canyon Trail, which winds through the stunning desert and offers glimpses of diverse wildlife, including wild horses and eagles. This day trip into nature is a convenient and fun-filled way to get out of Phoenix for a day.

17. Red Rock Scenic Byway

  • Distance from Phoenix: 105 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Red Rock Scenic Byway, also known as State Route 179, is a breathtaking stretch of road that winds through the stunning red rock formations of Sedona, Arizona.

As one of the most scenic drives in the United States, this 7.5-mile byway offers visitors an unforgettable visual feast of vibrant sandstone cliffs, towering buttes, and panoramic views that showcase the natural beauty of the region.

You could combine this with a day trip to Sedona, or you can head up here just for the scenic drive. Either way, a magnificent drive up here makes for an epic day trip!

As travelers navigate the winding road, they are treated to a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun illuminates the rock formations, creating a captivating display of reds, oranges, and earthy tones.

The byway also provides access to numerous trailheads, allowing visitors to venture into the heart of the red rocks and explore hiking paths that lead to hidden gems and breathtaking vistas.

Beyond its visual splendor, Red Rock Scenic Byway is imbued with a sense of serenity and spirituality, drawing visitors seeking rejuvenation and a connection with nature. The area is known for its vortex sites, believed to be places of concentrated energy that promote healing and spiritual experiences.

Travelers can stop at designated viewpoints along the byway to soak in the majestic beauty and bask in the peaceful ambiance that permeates the region.

Whether it’s a leisurely drive to admire the dramatic landscapes or a journey of self-discovery, Red Rock Scenic Byway offers a transformative experience that lingers in the hearts and minds of those who traverse its enchanting path.

Read next: 40 Best Things To Do In Sedona, Arizona

18. Sunset Crater National Monument

  • Distance from Phoenix: 163 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Sunset Crater National Monument, located in northern Arizona, is a captivating testament to the volcanic history of the region. The monument is centered around the striking Sunset Crater, a volcanic cone that was formed by an eruption over 900 years ago.

The cinder cone’s vivid colors, ranging from black and red to orange and yellow, create a mesmerizing landscape that stands in stark contrast to the surrounding forests and meadows.

Visitors can explore the park’s trails, allowing them to get an up-close look at the volcanic features and the hardened lava flows that stretch across the terrain.

Along the way, informative signs provide insights into the geological processes that shaped the area. Sunset Crater National Monument offers a unique opportunity to witness the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and gain a deeper appreciation for the powerful forces that shape our planet.

If you’re looking for unique and educational day trips from Phoenix, Sunset Crater National Monument is a great choice!

19. Goldfield Ghost Town

  • Distance from Phoenix: 40 miles
  • Driving time: 43 minutes

Goldfield Ghost Town, located near Apache Junction, Arizona, is a captivating historical attraction that takes visitors back in time to the era of the Wild West. If you’re looking to experience an authentic old west town, this is one of the best day trips from Phoenix.

This meticulously reconstructed ghost town captures the essence of a bustling mining town from the late 1800s, complete with wooden buildings, saloons, and mining equipment. As visitors stroll through the town’s streets, they can immerse themselves in the rich history and lore of this old west town.

The town offers a variety of activities, including gold panning, where visitors can try their luck in finding real gold nuggets, and guided mine tours that provide insights into the area’s rich mining heritage.

The town’s historic buildings house unique shops, museums, and a rustic restaurant, offering a glimpse into the daily life of a bygone era.

Beyond its historical charm, Goldfield Ghost Town is surrounded by the stunning Superstition Mountains, providing a picturesque backdrop for exploration. Visitors can embark on scenic hikes or horseback rides, allowing them to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding desert landscapes.

The Superstition Mountains are also home to legends of hidden gold mines and the infamous Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, adding to the intrigue and mystique of the area.

Goldfield Ghost Town transports visitors to a time when prospectors and cowboys roamed the rugged frontier of the American West, and it’s one of the coolest day trips from Phoenix.

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20. Watson Lake

  • Distance from Phoenix: 103 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Watson Lake, located in Prescott, Arizona, is a scenic destination that makes a fun day trip from Phoenix. This stunning reservoir is nestled amidst the Granite Dells, a unique geological formation of massive granite boulders that create a picturesque backdrop.

Visitors can spend the day exploring the lake’s tranquil waters by kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding rugged cliffs and rock formations.

Fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines in search of bass and catfish, while hikers can venture along the lakeside trails that wind through the captivating landscape, offering glimpses of diverse wildlife and wildflowers.

Watson Lake also offers ample opportunities for picnicking and relaxation. The park features shaded picnic areas with barbecue grills, providing the perfect setting for a leisurely lunch amidst the natural beauty.

The scenic overlooks and peaceful nature trails invite visitors to unwind and soak in the serenity of the surroundings. As the sun sets, the golden hues cast a warm glow on the granite boulders, creating a magical ambiance.

With its natural beauty, recreational activities, and tranquil atmosphere, Watson Lake is an idyllic day trip destination from Phoenix, offering a refreshing escape and a chance to reconnect with nature in the heart of Arizona.

Watson Lake
Soak in the serenity at Watson Lake.

21. Kartchner Caverns State Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 167 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Another fascinating day trip from Phoenix is Kartchner Caverns State Park, a massive cave system located in southern Arizona.

The park is home to two remarkable limestone caves, known as the Rotunda/Throne Room and the Big Room, which are meticulously preserved to protect their natural beauty and delicate formations.

Visitors to Kartchner Caverns are treated to awe-inspiring sights as they venture into the depths of these underground wonders. Stalactites, stalagmites, and delicate formations such as soda straws and helictites adorn the cave walls, creating a mesmerizing display of geological artistry.

Guided tours provide a fascinating narrative of the caves’ formation and history, highlighting the careful conservation efforts that have kept these caves in pristine condition.

Beyond the caverns, Kartchner Caverns State Park offers a range of outdoor activities and amenities. The park features well-maintained walking trails that wind through the desert landscapes, providing opportunities to observe native flora and fauna. Picnic areas and campgrounds invite visitors to relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the park.

Additionally, the Discovery Center offers interactive exhibits and educational displays that delve into the natural and cultural history of the region.

Kartchner Caverns State Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a unique underground adventure, offering a memorable experience that unveils the hidden wonders of the subterranean world.

22. Tonto National Forest

  • Distance from Phoenix: 61 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Another one of the best day trips from Phoenix is Tonto National Forest, a vast and diverse natural wonderland that encompasses over 2.9 million acres of breathtaking landscapes.

As one of the largest national forests in the United States, Tonto offers a rich tapestry of environments, including lush desert canyons, tall pine trees, majestic mountain ranges, and tranquil lakes and rivers.

Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the forest’s extensive trail system, which winds through diverse ecosystems and provides opportunities for all the outdoor activities you could possible dream of.

The forest is home to iconic natural attractions such as the Superstition Mountains, the Salt River, and Roosevelt Lake, offering a myriad of recreational activities including boating, fishing, and water sports.

Wildlife enthusiasts can spot a wide range of species, from desert bighorn sheep to bald eagles, as they immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the forest.

Tonto National Forest also has a rich cultural history, with evidence of Native American occupation dating back thousands of years. Visitors can discover ancient cliff dwellings, rock wall art, petroglyphs, and archaeological sites, providing glimpses into the lives and traditions of the region’s indigenous people.

The forest also boasts historical attractions such as the Roosevelt Dam and the historic mining town of Globe, adding a touch of Arizona’s frontier history to the diverse offerings of the forest.

23. Grand Canyon National Park

  • Distance from Phoenix: 230 miles
  • Driving time: 3 hours and 45 minutes

Last but not least on our list of the best day trips from Phoenix is the world-famous Grand Canyon National Park.

The iconic Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona, almost 4 hours north of Phoenix. So visiting the canyon in one day is a bit of a stretch, and most travellers would prefer to spend at least a few days here.

However, if you only have one day to spare and you’re ready to make the most of it, day trips from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon can be done!

Carved by the mighty Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon stretches for 277 miles, revealing layers of ancient rock formations that tell a story of Earth’s geological history.

The scale and grandeur of the canyon are truly humbling, as visitors stand on the rim and gaze into the vast expanse, marveling at its immensity and the intricate beauty of its sculpted walls.

Whether hiking along the rim, embarking on a thrilling rafting adventure in the river below, or simply standing in awe at the viewpoint, the Grand Canyon offers an unforgettable experience that leaves a lasting impression on all who witness its majestic splendor.

If you’re not sure how to approach this massive day trip, joining a guided tour ensures your day will be optimized because you’ll have a local guide to show you the highlights.

Or if you’re going without a tour, consider booking a helicopter flight from South Rim so you can see more of the landscape in your short time frame! The South Rim is the closest part of the canyon to Phoenix, so on a day trip you’ll probably want to spend your time exploring here.

Grand Canyon
You’ll never regret a visit to the famous Grand Canyon National Park!

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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