If you’re looking for the ultimate Arizona road trip itinerary, we’ve got you covered with famous sights like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and some incredible national parks.
Arizona is one of the best places in the American Southwest for a road trip!
From Phoenix, you can drive to some truly breathtaking locations, including the famous Grand Canyon and all its glory. Arizona isn’t nicknamed “The Grand Canyon State” for no reason!
But you can also see so much more than the Grand Canyon on an Arizona road trip, including ancient cliff dwellings, unique rock formations, charming mountain towns, and more.
You can visit Monument Valley and marvel at the high canyon walls and iconic buttes. Or go on some hiking adventures in Sedona or see the Painted Desert in the magnificent Petrified Forest.
Here is everything you may want to know about planning an incredible road trip through Arizona!
Find more amazing places to visit in Arizona if you have more time.
Table of Contents
- The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
Where to begin this Arizona road trip?
This Arizona road trip itinerary starts and ends in Phoenix. As the capital city of Arizona, Phoenix is the easiest place to find flights and a rental car.
Spend a few days enjoying the city before hopping in your car and embarking on your road trip!
Road trips in Arizona can go a number of ways, but this one is a loop that covers the highlights of the central and northern parts of the state.
From Phoenix, head north and pass through Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon, on your way to landmarks in the north such as Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon.
From Antelope Canyon, head east through the northern part of Arizona and explore Monument Valley. Then you’ll start heading south and pass through Petrified Forest National Park as you loop back around to 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.
How long is this Arizona road trip?
This particular Arizona road trip itinerary covers around 900 miles and includes roughly 16 hours of driving. You can break that up however you want, though we’ve included driving times between all the destinations on this road trip.
We’ve also included the recommended amount of time to spend in each destination. This can, of course, be modified to suit your schedule. With the Arizona road trip we’ve provided, you could do it in a minimum of 10 days. A better amount of time would be 2 weeks so you have a few days to spend in each location.
But there is no right or wrong way to tackle road trips in Arizona! This state is massive, and there is so much to see and do here.
At the end of the itinerary, we’ll include some suggestions for ways to modify future Arizona road trips. If you have more time, you can include other cool destinations that aren’t on the route we described, such as Saguaro National Park. If you have less time, you can cut down on days in places like the Grand Canyon or Sedona.
Read next: 40 Amazing Things To Do In Sedona
The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
From driving through the incredible rock formations of Monument Valley Tribal Park, to hiking through multiple national parks throughout the state, here are the best stops to include in your Arizona itinerary.
Before you hit the road, spend at least 3 days in Phoenix! Arizona’s capital city is full of amazing attractions. Known for its relentless sun, Phoenix boasts an arid climate and a stunning backdrop of rugged mountains, including Camelback Mountain and South Mountain.
The city has grown exponentially, transforming into a sprawling urban center with a dynamic cultural scene, world-class resorts, and a diverse culinary landscape.
Phoenix is also a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an extensive network of hiking and biking trails, golf courses, and desert parks where residents and visitors alike can explore the unique flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.
Beyond its natural attractions, Phoenix is a cultural and economic powerhouse, with a thriving arts community, major sports teams, and a burgeoning technology sector.
The Desert Botanical Garden, Heard Museum, and Phoenix Art Museum contribute to the city’s cultural richness, while professional sports teams like the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks bring an energetic sports culture to the area.
Take your adventures outside downtown by exploring Old Town Scottsdale or experiencing the old mining town of Goldfield. No matter what you choose to do, Phoenix is a city that has something for everyone. After enjoying the city, head north and let the road trip begin!
Looking for more adventures? Here are some of the best day trips from Phoenix!
Montezuma Castle National Monument
- Distance from Phoenix: 95 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: A few hours
Montezuma Castle National Monument, located in central Arizona, is a captivating archaeological site that preserves a remarkable cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua people around 1100 AD. Built into a limestone cliff recess about 100 feet above the valley floor, the structure consists of five stories and approximately 20 rooms.
Despite its name, Montezuma Castle has no direct connection to the Aztec emperor Montezuma; rather, it was so named in the 1860s due to a mistaken belief that the Aztecs were its builders. The monument is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Sinagua, who used simple tools to carve out the dwelling from the limestone, creating a well-preserved marvel that has withstood the test of time.
Visitors to Montezuma Castle National Monument can explore the site through a self-guided tour, marveling at the impressive architecture and gaining insight into the daily lives of the Sinagua people.
The surrounding landscape adds to the allure of the monument, with the lush vegetation along Beaver Creek providing a striking contrast to the arid surroundings.
The site is not only a window into the past but also serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness between human civilizations and the environment. It’s an important relic of Native American history that makes a great addition to any Arizona itinerary.
This unique landmark is right on the way from Phoenix to Sedona, so it’s a convenient stop that doesn’t have to take up too much time on your Arizona road trip itinerary.
- Distance from Montezuma Castle National Monument: 25 miles
- Driving time: 30 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: 1-3 days
Arriving in Sedona, you’ll find there are so many things to do in this gorgeous town. If you don’t have much time for your Arizona road trip, just spend one day and tackle a few short hikes such as Cathedral Rock.
If you are able to spare a few days in Sedona, it will be absolutely worth it. This stunning town is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, including unique rock formations, towering canyons, and red buttes.
The area is known for its amazing hiking trails. Some are short and can be done in a few hours, such as the Cathedral Rock hike and the Devil’s Bridge hike which take you right up close to some of the rich red rock spires and arches. Other hikes are more ambitious and can take a full day, such as the Oak Creek Canyon trail or Soldier Pass Trail.
Sedona’s charm extends beyond its hikes, as the town has gained a reputation as a spiritual and metaphysical destination. Many believe that Sedona is home to powerful energy vortexes, areas where the Earth’s energy is thought to be magnified, creating a unique and uplifting experience.
This has led to the town becoming a haven for those seeking spiritual rejuvenation and holistic wellness. You can even combine spirituality with fitness on a vortex yoga hiking tour!
The vibrant arts community, with numerous galleries and studios, further enhances Sedona’s appeal, making it a destination where natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and a spiritual atmosphere converge to create a truly enchanting experience for visitors.
- Distance from Sedona: 30 miles
- Driving time: 25 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: 1 day
Flagstaff could simply be a stopping point on your way from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, as it’s only a 30-minute drive from Sedona. You may want to just skip it and head straight for the Grand Canyon!
Many travelers use this town as a base for booking tours to the Grand Canyon. So you could just stay here for a few days and book day trips into the canyon. But if you have your own vehicle on an Arizona road trip, you’re better off really exploring the Grand Canyon National Park in depth and driving around as much as you can.
So on your way to the famous canyon, spend a day in Flagstaff! Flagstaff, situated in the high country of northern Arizona, is a city surrounded by ponderosa pine forests and characterized by its cool mountain air.
Home to the historic Route 66, Flagstaff blends a rich tapestry of natural wonders and cultural heritage. The city is punctuated by the iconic San Francisco Peaks, including the towering Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona. If you’re completing your Arizona itinerary in winter, you can even ski and snowboard in Flagstaff!
Flagstaff’s allure lies not only in its proximity to outdoor wonders but also in its charming downtown, where visitors can explore a mix of historic buildings, eclectic shops, and a thriving culinary scene.
Known for its commitment to dark sky preservation, Flagstaff is an International Dark Sky City, making it an ideal spot for stargazing and astronomy enthusiasts. This combination of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and cultural richness makes Flagstaff a captivating destination in the heart of Arizona.
Grand Canyon National Park
- Distance from Flagstaff: 80 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: 2-4 days
Now you’ve arrived at the most popular destination for any Arizona itinerary: Grand Canyon National Park. Carved over millions of years by the mighty Colorado River, the Grand Canyon spans over 275 miles in length and plunges to depths of more than a mile, revealing a mesmerizing display of layered rock formations that tell the story of Earth’s geological history.
The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and is one of the main reasons why travelers visit Arizona! So of course it’s going to have a place on this Arizona road trip itinerary. Though you could visit the Grand Canyon on a day trip, or you could stay for a week or more, the sweet spot is around 2-4 days of exploring.
On your road trip, the most convenient place to start is Grand Canyon village near the South Rim. The Grand Canyon South Rim is the most visited section of the Grand Canyon and offers breathtaking panoramic views from places like Mather Point, Hopi Point, and Yavapai Observation Station.
The Grand Canyon North Rim presents a more remote and less frequented perspective of the iconic canyon. Situated at an average elevation of over 8,000 feet, the North Rim provides visitors with spectacular vistas, featuring a rich tapestry of layered rock formations, deep canyons, and expansive plateaus. Trails like the North Kaibab Trail offer hikers the opportunity to descend into the canyon and get up close to the Colorado River.
You can visit both the North Rim and the South Rim, though it is a 4-hour drive in between the two since you have to go around the canyon. Depending on your time restrictions, you could spend a few days in each place or you could just pick one side.
A great way to make the most of your time at the Grand Canyon is with a scenic flight! That way you can cover more ground and not have to drive around as much. This scenic flight departs from the South Rim and shows views of the Zuni Corridor, Imperial Point, Confluence of the Colorado & Little Colorado Rivers, Kaibab National Forest & Kaibab Plateau.
Once you’ve finished exploring the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon, continue north towards Horseshoe Bend!
- Distance from Grand Canyon National Park: 120 miles
- Driving time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: A few hours
Whether you’re coming from the North or South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s around a 2.5 hour drive to the famous Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend is a natural marvel that captivates visitors with its unique and stunning geological formations. Carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River, this horseshoe-shaped meander has created a striking 1,000-foot-deep canyon with sheer sandstone cliffs that showcase a mesmerizing interplay of colors.
The bend gets its name from the way the river bends around the rock, forming a shape reminiscent of a horseshoe. Visitors can stand at the edge of the steep cliffs and peer down into the deep, winding canyon below, providing a breathtaking vista of the river as it gracefully curves around the sculpted sandstone.
Accessible via a relatively short hike from the parking area, the viewpoint offers an unobstructed panorama that reveals the power of erosion and the beauty of the Colorado River’s geological artistry.
The ever-changing play of light on the canyon walls, especially during sunrise or sunset, adds an extra layer of magic to the experience, making Horseshoe Bend a must-visit destination for those on an Arizona road trip.
Once you’ve admired the scenery of this iconic spot, continue up to the town of Page and the nearby Lake Powell. You can head right to the lake for exploring, or you can find accommodation in Page for the night and continue adventures tomorrow.
- Distance from Horseshoe Bend: 10 miles
- Driving time: 20 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: A few hours
Another top destination on an Arizona road trip itinerary is Lake Powell, a colossal reservoir straddling the border between Utah and Arizona.
Created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, Lake Powell stretches over 180 miles and boasts nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, making it the second-largest artificial reservoir in the United States.
The lake’s deep blue waters wind through intricate canyons, red rock formations, and sandstone cliffs, creating a mesmerizing contrast between the vivid colors of the landscape and the reflective surface of the water.
Lake Powell’s vast expanse offers a playground for water-based recreation, including boating, fishing, kayaking, and houseboating, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers to explore its numerous hidden coves and side canyons.
Beyond its recreational appeal, Lake Powell is surrounded by the scenic splendor of the Glen Canyon Dam National Recreation Area. The area features iconic sites such as Antelope Canyon and Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which you can further explore on your Arizona road trip!
Whether cruising along the lake’s expansive waters or hiking through the narrow slot canyons, Lake Powell provides a diverse and unforgettable backdrop for those seeking both adventure and tranquility amid the striking landscapes of the American Southwest.
Read next: The Perfect 3-Day Phoenix Itinerary
- Distance from Lake Powell: 13 miles
- Driving time: 23 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: 1 day
Antelope Canyon, a geological wonder located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona, is a slot canyon renowned for its ethereal beauty and unique rock formations.
Comprised of two distinct sections, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon, both canyons were formed by the erosion of Navajo sandstone over thousands of years, resulting in narrow passageways with smooth, flowing curves and stunning play of light and shadow.
The narrow, twisting walls of the canyon reveal a palette of colors, ranging from rich reds to soft pastels, as sunlight filters through openings at the top and creates a breathtaking display of natural art.
Upper Antelope Canyon, in particular, is famous for the phenomenon known as “the light beams,” where shafts of sunlight pierce through the narrow openings in the canyon, creating a surreal and almost spiritual ambiance.
Access to Antelope Canyon is typically guided, so you’ll want to book a day tour in advance. Visitors are led through the sculpted passages, marveling at the intricate shapes and patterns created by wind and water.
Photographers, in particular, are drawn to Antelope Canyon for its otherworldly beauty, capturing the interplay of light and rock with every twist and turn.
Despite its popularity, Antelope Canyon remains a sacred place for the Navajo people, who offer guided tours and share the cultural significance of this natural masterpiece with visitors. The canyon’s exquisite beauty and spiritual resonance make it one of the most sought-after destinations for those on an Arizona road trip.
- Distance from Antelope Canyon: 115 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
- Recommended time to spend here: 1 day
Monument Valley, located on the Arizona-Utah border within the Navajo Nation, is a visually stunning and iconic landscape that epitomizes the American West.
Characterized by its vast red-sand desert punctuated by towering sandstone buttes and mesas, Monument Valley has become synonymous with the classic imagery of the American frontier.
The geological formations in Monument Valley, sculpted by wind and water erosion over millions of years, create a surreal and majestic panorama that has served as the backdrop for numerous Western films and advertisements, contributing to its global recognition.
The towering monoliths of Monument Valley, such as the Mittens and Merrick Butte, create a striking contrast against the expansive desert floor. Visitors can explore the Monument Valley through guided tours led by Navajo guides who provide insights into the cultural and historical significance of the area.
The ever-changing light conditions throughout the day add a dynamic quality to the landscape, with hues of red and orange intensifying during sunrise and sunset. Monument Valley is not merely a geological marvel but also holds deep cultural importance for the Navajo people, and its surreal beauty continues to captivate travelers, photographers, and admirers of the American Southwest.
Petrified Forest National Park
- Distance from Monument Valley: 186 miles
- Driving time: 3 hours
- Recommended time to spend here: 2 days
From Monument Valley, you’ll start heading back down south and cover a decent amount of ground. Drive about 3 hours south through eastern Arizona until you get to Petrified Forest National Park.
As one of the coolest national parks in the state, Petrified Forest National Park showcases prehistoric landscapes and the geological forces that have shaped the region over millions of years.
The park is renowned for its extensive deposits of petrified wood, where ancient trees from the Late Triassic period (about 225 million years ago) have transformed into brilliantly colored, mineralized fossils. These petrified logs, scattered across the arid badlands of Petrified Forest National Park, reveal intricate details of the tree’s cellular structure and are often adorned with vibrant hues, ranging from rich reds and oranges to subtle purples and blues.
The park’s landscape also features eroded badlands, painted deserts, and unique formations like the Tepees, adding to the diverse and otherworldly beauty of the area.
Aside from its petrified wood, Petrified Forest National Park is home to archaeological sites, including ancient Puebloan petroglyphs and the remnants of the historic Route 66. The Blue Mesa Trail offers a fascinating hike through vibrant, multicolored badlands, while the Painted Desert Visitor Center provides insight into the area’s natural and cultural history.
Petrified Forest National Park serves as a living museum that is one of the most fascinating things to see on an Arizona road trip. After spending a day or two taking on the hiking trails and admiring the views, it’s time to continue your road trip south towards Phoenix with one more stop before you reach the city!
Find more fun activities on our list of the best things to do in Arizona.
Tonto National Forest
- Distance from Petrified Forest National Park: 60 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour
- Recommended time to spend here: 1-2 days
Tonto National Forest, located in central Arizona, is a vast and diverse expanse of public land that encompasses nearly 3 million acres. Named after the Tonto Basin, the forest stretches from the rugged Superstition Mountains to the high plateaus of the Mogollon Rim, offering a rich tapestry of landscapes that include deserts, canyons, pine-covered mountains, and pristine lakes.
The Salt River, which meanders through the forest, adds to its scenic beauty, providing opportunities for water-based recreation and wildlife habitat. Spending a day or two in this area allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Go kayaking or paddleboarding, or try some land adventures.
Tonto National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an extensive network of trails for hiking, horseback riding, ATV-driving, and mountain biking, as well as opportunities for camping, fishing, and birdwatching.
One of the notable features within Tonto National Forest is the iconic Apache Trail, a historic route that winds through rugged terrain and offers breathtaking views of canyons, desert landscapes, and the picturesque Apache Lake.
The forest is also home to diverse flora and fauna, including saguaro cacti in the lower elevations and ponderosa pines in the higher elevations.
At just over an hour away from Phoenix, this will be the last adventure on your Arizona road trip itinerary. Whenever you’re ready, head back to the city and return your rental car!
Return to Phoenix
Your Arizona road trip has come to a close! You’ve explored famous national parks, ventured into remote canyons, and tackled some hiking trails.
There are lots of amazing ways to plan road trips in Arizona as this state is truly packed with so much beauty. But this Arizona road trip itinerary is an easy and straightforward way to see lots of the highlights in around 2 weeks.
If you have less time…
You can still have memorable road trips in Arizona in less than 10 days! If you’re short on time, there are convenient ways to modify this Arizona road trip itinerary.
From Monument Valley, you could skip Petrified Forest National Park and Tonto National Forest and just drive straight back to Phoenix in 5 hours. This would cut about 100 miles or 2 hours off your road trip!
Or you can simply spend less time in each place. Visit only one side of the Grand Canyon instead of trying to see both the North and South Rims.
Read next: 21 Best Things To Do In Tucson
If you have more time…
If you have extra time for your Arizona road trip, consider heading south of Phoenix to Saguaro National Park! Located near Tuscon, Saguaro National Park is definitely one of the best places to visit in Arizona. However, it’s about a 2-hour drive south of Phoenix, so it doesn’t nicely fit into the loop itinerary outlined in this article.
But if you have time to spend a couple of days in Tuscon and Saguaro National Park, it’s totally worth it! Saguaro National Park is split into two distinct districts, each with its own natural wonders. The Rincon Mountain District makes up Saguaro National Park East, whereas the Tucson Mountain District makes up Saguaro National Park West.
Epic trails meander through the park, providing visitors with opportunities to explore the unique Sonoran Desert ecosystem, while scenic drives offer panoramic views of the rugged terrain and distant mountain ranges.
Another option for extending your road trip is adding the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is renowned for its breathtaking and vibrant vermilion-colored sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, and unique geological formations that include the famous Wave rock formation.
You could also just lengthen your time at any of the destinations and further explore the state. Either way, any Arizona road trip is sure to be a rewarding one!
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