The perfect Arizona road trip itinerary

  • Post last modified:October 18, 2021
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The Arizona road trip is a journey to some of the best natural attractions in the American Southwest. When you drive through the beautiful desert landscape in Arizona you find one stunning sight after another. Grand Canyon is the state’s crown jewel but Arizona has so much more to offer. Impressive nature, pleasant urban experiences and even the iconic Route 66 await you on the perfect Arizona road trip itinerary.

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Arizona road trip guide

Highlights on the road trip in Arizona are listed below. For even more great Arizona road trip destinations you also find additional stops along the way.

  • Total distance: 1031 mi / 1659 km
  • Total driving time: 19 h

Phoenix, AZ – The perfect Arizona road trip begins

Phoenix is a paradise for sun-lovers who like to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a big city that offers all the comfort you want on your trip to Arizona. The biggest city in the Sonoran desert is the perfect gateway to the Arizona road trip adventure.

Logistically if you fly in from another region Phoenix has a large airport with both national and international flights. And you find all the car rental companies you need for the Arizona drive in the city too.

But no matter from where or how you travel to Phoenix the area also offers some high-class resorts and spas to take advantage of. Some lazy time by the pool in its mountainous desert setting is certainly a great way to start an Arizona trip.

If you want a taste of the outdoors you in Phoenix also find the perfect spot to visit before you begin the tour of Arizona. Camelback Mountain is one of the most beloved attractions in the city. The mountain and landmark that resembles a camel’s back offers panoramic views and spectacular hiking before you take off on the Arizona road trip.

View over Camelback Mountain as you begin the Arizona road trip in Phoenix
View over Camelback Mountain from Phoenix.

Additional stop: On the way from Phoenix to Saguaro National Park you pass by Picacho Peak State Park. The highlight in the park is the eye-catching Picacho Peak. You can see the peak from the interstate but the park is the perfect stop to break up the first drive on the Arizona road trip itinerary.

The Picacho Peak in Picacho Peak State Park, AZ
The Picacho Peak at night.

Saguaro National Park, AZ – Blue skies and towering cacti on the AZ trip

  • Driving distance: 104 mi / 167 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

The destination on the Arizona itinerary that is located furthest south is Saguaro National Park. Saguaro received its national park status in 1994 and the environment in the park that surrounds the city Tucson is nothing less than stunning.

Most visitors come to Saguaro National Park to see the towering saguaro cactus in its native environment. Some of the cacti become more than 50 feet (15 m) tall and biologists claim that they can reach 200 years of age.

Saguaro National Park is divided into two separate park districts. You find Rincon Mountain District to the east of Tucson and Tucson Mountain District to the west. Both districts contain the majestic saguaro cactus.

To really make the most of a visit a good idea is to also stop by at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The creative museum is mostly outdoors and a visit is a great way to learn more about the desert on the Arizona road trip.

Where to stay

In Tucson you find many great places to stay near Saguaro National Park. The city with a good selection of lodging is literally surrounded by the saguaro rich desert.

Cactus pointing towards the sky in Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, AZ.

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ – Fossils and Arizona road trip nostalgia

  • Driving distance: 249 mi / 401 km
  • Driving time: 5 h

It’s a five hour drive from Saguaro National Park to Petrified Forest National Park. But it would be a shame to let that scare you off as Petrified Forest is one of the most interesting Arizona road trip stops.

Petrified Forest is a mind-blowing destination on the Arizona road trip itinerary. Above all the park contains one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the entire world.

The petrified logs in the park are fossils that are more than 200 million years old. Some of them look so real that it’s easy to believe that it’s actual wood. To see and inspect them is certainly a special experience.

But the park is much more than just a place with renowned petrified logs. In the park in the Painted Desert area you also get the chance to enjoy badlands, buttes and ancient petroglyphs as you visit on the Arizona road trip.

As a bonus the park also prouds itself as the only national park containing a stretch of Historic Route 66. When you visit the park you can see traces of the old Route 66 roadbed. No road trip through Arizona is complete without some Route 66 nostalgia. The best Arizona road trips certainly must include the Mother Road.

Where to stay

The small Route 66 town Holbrook offers places to stay near Petrified Forest National Park. From Holbrook you reach the national park in not more than 20 minutes.

Logs in Petrified Forest National Park under blue sky
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Additional stop: In Winslow further west you find more fun and nostalgic Route 66 and Arizona road trip attractions. Highlights in Winslow are Meteor Crater and the roadside attraction Standin’ on the Corner Park that’s a tribute to the Eagles. They are together with Petrified Forest some of the best things to do on Route 66 in Arizona.

Additional stop: Canyon de Chelly National Monument is the perfect stop to break up the drive from Petrified Forest to Monument Valley. People have lived in the canyon for around 5,000 years and it’s considered one of North America’s oldest continously occupied sites. The canyon rewards travelers with both a wild landscape and rich Native American history. You find great Canyon de Chelly lodging in the park and the gateway town Chinle.

A cloudy day at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ

Monument Valley, AZ/UT – The Arizona road trip itinerary takes you to the Utah border

  • Driving distance: 188 mi / 303 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

From Petrified Forest the Arizona road trip continues north until you get to the Utah border. There on the border between Arizona and Utah you find the famous Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is like a different planet. Giant red rock formations, buttes, tower up towards the American sky. The breathtaking valley is located in Navajo Nation and it’s easy to access the highlights of Monument Valley when you drive the extremely scenic Valley Drive.

Not in the tribal park but not far away you also find the Forrest Gump Point. The point where Forrest Gump ended his run across the US is certainly one of the best photo opportunities on the Arizona drive.

Monument Valley on Arizona road trip
Monument Valley, AZ/UT.

Where to stay

There are places to stay in Monument Valley if you look for that special location with valley views. But in nearby towns you also find great options if you don’t want to break the bank.

Arizona road trip to Monument Valley
Arizona road trip to Monument Valley.

Additional stop: Continue slightly further north from Monument Valley if you want to get more taste of Utah on the Arizona road trip itinerary. Goosenecks State Park offers a more off the beaten path experience and is a fun addition to the road trip in Arizona.

Antelope Canyon, AZ – A gem further west on the Arizona itinerary

  • Driving distance: 115 mi / 185 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

Also near the Utah border but further west Antelope Canyon is located in the Page area. It’s one of the most photogenic stops on the Arizona road trip itinerary. The place is in fact known as the photographer’s dream.

The slot canyon is characterized by its wavy walls and light beams that sometimes reach through the openings of the canyon. It’s a unique spot that’s known as one of the pretties places in the US.

To see the light beams you need to go on the road trip in Arizona during the so called golden months. Because only if you visit from the second half of March to early October you have the chance of seeing them. And even then they only appear around midday when the sun is high on the sky.

But with or without the light beams Antelope Canyon is a very special Arizona road trip attraction. Just remember that you need to book a tour in advance if you plan to visit. No visitors are allowed to enter the slot canyon without a tour guide.

Where to stay

Page is the perfect base with places to stay near Antelope Canyon. From Page you’re just a short drive away from the photogenic Arizona slot canyon.

Wavy Canyon walls in Antelope Canyon, AZ
Wavy Canyon walls in Antelope Canyon.

Horseshoe Bend, AZ – Just a stone’s throw away on the road trip in Arizona

  • Driving distance: 10 mi / 16 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

The shortest drive on the Arizona road trip itinerary is the one from Antelope to Horseshoe Bend. It’s just 10 miles (16 km) between the two beautiful sights that both are located in the Page area.

Horseshoe Bend is a spectacular meander carved out by the Colorado River. From the overlook with its 1,000 feet (300 m) drop you get some of the best views in the American Southwest.

It’s often believed that the breathtaking meander is part of Grand Canyon National Park. That’s not the case even though it’s close. Grand Canyon National Park begins just a little over 5 miles (8 km away).

To visit is a great experience at any time of the day. But if you’re planning a romantic Arizona road trip a sunset at the spectacular Arizona bend is extremely hard to beat.

Where to stay

You certainly don’t need to get a new base when you visit Horseshoe Bend. The best places to stay near Horseshoe Bend are the same as for the previous Arizona road trip destination Antelope Canyon. From lodging in Page you have great access to both Antelope and the Colorado River bend.

Sunset at Horseshoe bend on road trip in Arizona
Sunset at Horseshoe Bend.

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ – The icing on the Arizona drive

  • Driving distance: 135 mi / 217 km
  • Driving time: 2.5 h

The Arizona drive itinerary is just packed with goodies to explore. But if you have to pick one that’s the icing on the cake it probably has to be the mighty Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is not only the most famous Arizona road trip destination but also one of the most celebrated natural wonders in the entire world. It’s so big that its size is hard to grasp.

With a length of 277 miles (446 km), width of up to 18 miles (29 km) and depth of more than a mile (1847 m) it’s hard not to admire the Arizona canyon. Still its size is just one of the reasons to have Grand Canyon as you favorite Arizona road trip destination.

Other reasons to love Grand Canyon are its calming silence, fresh air and iconic hikes. In short, Grand Canyon is a place that holds enormous natural beauty and needs to be visited to be fully understood.

When you visit Grand Canyon you have to pick between the North Rim and South Rim. The South Rim is the most visited and the one that’s open year-round. But both rims of the mighty canyon are certainly spectacular to explore.

Where to stay

There are many more places to stay near Grand Canyon at the South Rim than at the North Rim. At the South Rim of the Arizona wonder the best locations are Grand Canyon Village and the border town Tusayan.

The sun rises at Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ
Sunrise at Grand Canyon South Rim.

Additional stop: It’s a slight detour but Walnut Canyon National Monument is an appreciated addition to the Arizona itinerary. In Walnut Canyon you find fascinating cliff dwellings from the ancient times when it was inhabited. Along the popular Island Trail you can explore 25 of the park’s cliff dwelling rooms. Walnut Canyon is certainly one of the best Arizona road trip destinations for history buffs.

Sedona, AZ – One last inspiring stop on the tour of Arizona

  • Driving distance: 113 mi / 182 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

On the way back to Phoenix from Grand Canyon the city Sedona is located. It’s about 2 hours from Grand Canyon to Sedona and 2 more hours from Sedona to Phoenix. But the convenience is certainly not the only good reason to include Sedona on the perfect tour of Arizona.

Everywhere your eyes go in Sedona you are met by a beautiful red rock backdrop. The landscape is gorgeous and it’s easy to unplug and find inspiration in such a setting. Sedona is the perfect place to round unwind before you round off the Arizona road trip.

Just like the state Arizona the city Sedona is packed with fun natural road trip attractions to explore. The city even has two state parks in Red Rocks State Park and Slide Rock State Park.

But you don’t need to go to the state parks to enjoy some great Sedona hikes. Cathedral Rock Trail and Bell Rock Trail are two of the most popular hikes in Sedona and they both offer spectacular views. In Sedona you are always close to the magnificent Arizona nature.

Bell Rock in Sedona, AZ
Bell Rock in Sedona.

Finishing off the Arizona road trip

  • Driving distance: 117 mi / 188 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

After a perfect Arizona road trip it’s time to round off the journey. The last 117 miles (188 km) on the road completes the loop and takes you back to where the Arizona journey started, Phoenix.

Sedona views on the Arizona road trip
Sedona views on the Arizona trip.

Arizona itineraries with days

For the ultimate Arizona road trip it’s recommended to have 2 weeks or more. If you have less time you can either do a pacier road trip or break up the Arizona itinerary and focus on your favorite parts.

Ultimate Arizona road trip itinerary (2 weeks)

  • Day 1-2: Phoenix
  • Day 2-4: Saguaro NP
  • Day 4-6: Petrified Forest NP
  • Day 6-8: Monument Valley
  • Day 8-10: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon
  • Day 10-13: Grand Canyon NP
  • Day 13-14: Sedona

Pacy Arizona itinerary (1 week)

  • Day 1: Phoenix
  • Day 1-2: Saguaro NP
  • Day 2-3: Petrified Forest NP
  • Day 3-4: Monument Valley
  • Day 4-5: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon
  • Day 5-7: Grand Canyon NP
  • Day 7: Sedona
Red rock formations in Sedona on the perfect Arizona road trip itinerary.
The perfect road trip in Arizona.

Arizona road trip FAQ

You find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the Arizona road trip below.

How long does it take to drive the Arizona road trip?

The ultimate Arizona road trip is 1031 miles (1659 km) long. To drive it takes about 19 hours not including any stops along the way.

How many days do I need in Arizona?

For the ultimate Arizona road trip it’s recommended to have 2 weeks or more. But if you have less time you can do a pacier Arizona road trip or break it up to focus on certain parts.

When is the best time to do the Arizona road trip?

The Arizona road trip can be done at any time of the year. But the best times of the year for the Arizona road trip are generally regarded to be spring and autumn. Then the temperatures are more pleasant than during the extremely hot summer months. Be prepared that in the summer the temperature in Arizona frequently goes above 100°F (38°C).

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