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Last Updated on July 21, 2021
There’s something about Arizona’s clear blue skies and wide open spaces that make it perfect for a road trip. But what are the best road trips in Arizona? That really depends on you, and your own personal interests. We’ve driven all over the state–from corner to corner–and have put together 11 different road trips for you to try.
Some of these Arizona road trips are thematic, others are based on geographic areas. Most can be done in 2-3 days, which allows for plenty of time to visit the sights without simply stopping for a photo op. (Of course, you might want to linger for a few days at some magnificent parks and National Monuments!) Any of these Arizona road trip itineraries can be mixed and matched with another (or 2 . . . or 3!), so you can put together your own personalized best road trip in Arizona!
NOTE: Some National Park, State Park, and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.
Arizona Route 66 Road Trip
For many, driving along old Route 66 would be the best road trip in Arizona. It’s a mixture of the old west with plenty of mid-century kitsch . . . and even a couple of abandoned old sites just withering in the Arizona sun. Old Route 66 parallels (and in some cases overlaps) Interstate 40 across the state, so the route is pretty straightforward.
Stops along the way include Petrified Forest National Park, as well as the cool small towns such as Flagstaff, Willams and Winslow (yep, the town from the Eagles’ song Take it Easy!). See more in our Route 66 in Arizona post.
- Highlights: Petrified Forest National Park, Old Route 66 towns
- Total Miles: About 260
- Days: 2-3
- Connect with these itineraries: Grand Canyon, North Central, Northeast/Four Corners
- Where to stay: Any of these retro hotels and motels on Route 66
Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip
Anyone who loves classic cars will love Arizona: the whole state is a virtual outdoor car museum! The dry, sunny climate is perfect for old cars, and there are plenty of places in the state where you’ll be able to see them out there sunning themselves. If you love seeing classic cars in all forms, then this is one of the perfect road trips in Arizona for you.
This road trip through Arizona takes you along Route 66, then turns south, almost to the Mexican border. Spend a day in Tucson, where a unique mid-century marketing idea placed over 50 classic cars around town. Finish your journey in the Arizona small town of Bisbee; a street parked with old cars (and a really cool old bus!) looks like “the land that time forgot.”
Northwestern Arizona Road Trip: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is not just a magnificent destination on its own, it also makes a great anchor for road trips in Arizona. Begin (or end) this Arizona Journey at Las Vegas, just a short drive to Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel. Then make your way down to the town of Kingman, which will put you smack-dab in “Route 66” country. Be sure to check out the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, and the Arizona Route 66 Museum while you’re there.
Continue making your way east along Old Route 66–this stretch through Peach Springs and Seligman is said to be the inspiration for the fictitious town of “Radiator Springs” in the Disney movie Cars. Spend some time enjoying the Victorian and mid-century ambiance of Williams before heading north to Grand Canyon National Park.
North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim
This Arizona road trip passes through some well-known sites, but then veers off onto the road-less-taken. Begin at the charming town of Flagstaff, with its terrific downtown full of brewpubs and coffee shops. Explore the ancient indigenous dwellings at nearby Walnut Canyon and Waupatki National Monuments, then check out the geologic wonder of Sunset Crater National Monument.
Head north (be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post for some Native American Frybread!) toward the town of Page. From here you can take an excursion to the famous Horseshoe Bend, or go boating on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Head west, skirting the magnificent Vermillion Cliffs (or off-roading, if you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle) on your way to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Continue on toward Utah and Nevada, stopping to see the historic homestead at Pipe Spring National Monument, which still has a working farm.
This itinerary combines Native American history and culture with some wide-open spaces and some world-class geography geekiness! From Flagstaff, head northeast through the Navajo Nation. Be sure to stop into the Burger King in Kayenta, Arizona . . . not just for a Whopper; this is also the site of a museum commemorating the Navajo “Code Talkers” from World War II. Make your way to Monument Valley, home to incredible rock formations (and a whole passel of John Wayne movies!). From here, geography geeks (like us!) must make the short detour to Four Corners Monument–the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!
As road trips in Arizona go, this one really delves into Native American sites. From Monument Valley, head south through the more of the Navajo Nation. Visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000(!) years of civilization. Stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. Continue southward to connect up with old Route 66 near Petrified Forest National Park.
PRO TIP: The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOT; be sure to plan your schedule accordingly!
London Calling: Western Az & the Colorado River Road Trip
This is one of the lesser-known road trips in Arizona, but those seeking a to see a different side of the state will be well-rewarded. Head west from Phoenix to the small community of Quartzite, popular with RVers and van-dwellers, made famous in the recent Oscar-winning film Nomadland. From here, head northward, coming alongside the Colorado River. Get in some “beach time” (and camping if you like) along the Colorado at Cattail Cove and Lake Havasu State Parks. Be sure to visit the original London Bridge, which now proudly links the city of Lake Havasu with an island in the Colorado River.
This Arizona road trip continues northeast to Kingman, which will intersect with Route 66. Spend some time exploring the museums and memorabilia along Old Route 66 (see the Route 66 itinerary, above). Finally, head back toward Phoenix, stopping in at Wickenburg, an old west town that’s home to several dude ranches and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate.
Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip
This one of those road trips in Arizona that offers a little bit of everything: history, ancient native dwellings, stunning scenery and wonderful small towns. Head north out of Phoenix, stopping at Camp Verde to learn some local history at Fort Verde Historic Park before moving on to Montezuma Castle National Monument (and adjacent Montezuma Well) to see some ancient cliff dwellings. Pick up a map of local hiking trails at the Red Rock Visitor Center outside Sedona. Following a trek through Sedona’s jaw-dropping scenery, browse for crystals & new age goodies in the many shops lining route 89A, or explore the many other ways to enjoy Sedona in the Fall.
Continue on to explore the charming shops, restaurants–and wine tasting rooms–of Old Town Cottonwood. Lovers of ancient culture will enjoy a side trip to the ruins of Tuzigoot National Monument in nearby Clarkdale. Stroll the streets of Jerome, an old mining town clinging to the side of a mountain, before taking the mountain pass (best done in daylight!) southwest to Prescott. While there, stroll the picturesque town square or attend the World’s Oldest Rodeo (really!). Continue the Western theme with a mosey on down to Wickenburg (see the “London Calling” road trip itinerary above).
Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip
Those craving a little greenery when planning road trips in Arizona should head to the eastern part of the state. Here, the largest ponderosa pine forest in the US sits along the Mogollon Rim, a giant escarpment. At 8,000 feet, the climate is refreshingly cool in summer (and snowy in winter!). Begin by heading east from Phoenix to the town of Globe, with it’s charming courthouse. Explore the Besh Ba Gowah archeological ruins of the ancient Salado people, then head north to Tonto National Monument to see Salado cliff dwellings.
Continue on to Payson, the central point for much of the outdoor activity located amidst the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. From Payson, drive east along the Mogollon Rim itself as you catch glimpses of magnificent valley views 2,000 feet below. Stop by the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center, which provides interpretive exhibits and a photo op. Emerge from the forest and continue northeast to the Petrified Forest National Park and its Rainbow Forest Museum, which shows the type of “critters” used to live nearby. (Spoiler alert: they were BIGGG!)
3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Arizona Road Trip
On this road trip in Arizona head west from Phoenix via to explore some of the state’s rugged southwest terrain. Rockhounds will love collecting quartz at Crystal Hill in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Continue to the most southwestern corner of the state, to explore the many sights in the historic border town of Yuma, including its old Territorial Prison.
Head back eastward, turning south toward Ajo, a great stopover when visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where you can hike to the abandoned Victoria Mine amid majestic Organ Pipe cactus. Continue eastward and drive up Kitt Peak for a tour of the National Observatory, which will give you a new appreciation for those starry Arizona skies, before you head onward to Tucson.
South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders
Tucson makes a great starting point for many road trips in Arizona, especially those in the southern part of the state. After feasting on plenty of Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson, take a cooling stroll underground viewing the wonders at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Loop back south and west, stopping to sip some of the recent vintages at one of the 17(!) wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin region. Continue south to the funky little village of Patagonia, perhaps spending a few days at the Circle Z, Arizona’s oldest continually operating guest ranch.
From here, it’s just a few miles to the town of Nogales, which straddles the Mexican border. It’s fun to park your car on the Arizona side and walk across the border to the Mexican side of Nogales. Browse the streets for Mexican wares, perhaps stopping for lunch at Leo’s Cafe. Turn northward, and allow plenty of time to explore the multiple exhibits at Tumacocori National Historical Park. From here it’s just a short jaunt northward to the artsy community of Tubac (pottery, anyone?). Finish this road trip in Arizona by touring another underground wonder–this one of the man-made variety: the Titan Missile Museum.
Southeast Arizona Road Trip: Old West Immersion
Howdy, pardner! Feel like seeing a bit of the Old West? Then this might just be your favorite of road trips in Arizona. The southeastern part of the state is home to the town of Tombstone–home of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral.” From there you head south to Bisbee, and Douglas, which are old mining towns that are now cool and funky in a retro-sort of way.
Round this Arizona road trip by visiting two Arizona national parks and monuments: Chiracahua and Fort Bowie. At Chiracahua you’ll see stunning ancient rock formations, whereas at Fort Bowie you’ll learn of the stunning (and often grim) clash between the native Chiracahua Apache and the U.S. Army. If you’re into the history of the old west, these destinations are a must-do on a road trip in Arizona.
There you have it: 11 different road trips in Arizona. They’re like pieces of a puzzle–mix and match ’em up to make up YOUR perfect road trip in Arizona! Where will YOU go???
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COMPLETE LIST OF ARIZONA ROAD TRIPS
- Arizona Route 66 Road Trip
- Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip
- Northwestern Arizona: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip
- North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim
- Navajo Country: Four Corners & Monument Valley Road Trip
- London Calling: West central Arizona & the Colorado River Road Trip
- Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip
- Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip
- 3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Arizona Road Trip
- South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders
- Old West Immersion: Southeastern Arizona Road Trip