Arizona; Landscape Like No Other

Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon state, and with good reason. Grand Canyon National Park is a world-renowned geographical wonder. But Arizona isn’t just the Grand Canyon, there is so much more to this remarkable state, and this itinerary is going to show you where to find these untraveled gems.

#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States: 
Arizona

Start/End: 
Phoenix, Arizona

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days: 
At least 16

Type: 
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, history buffs

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

This route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. In other words, you will get to experience a true American road trip that includes old western towns, intriguing American culture and unimaginable scenery. You will begin by arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. We have no doubt that you are going to want to spend a few days in this city of 1.6 million. But…save it for the end of the trip, when you have a chance to unwind and relax after your epic southwestern road trip. On this trip many of the drives between towns will be relatively short, but when you get to the eastern part of the state, the drives will stretch out a bit, so be prepared for this. Through the course of this trip you be travelling through true Native America. This trip will take you through the reservations of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Tohono O’Odham Nation, The Fort Apache and San Carlos Apache Reservations, and the Navajo and Hopi Nations. This will be a trip of a lifetime, so get in, buckle up and shift that car into drive. You are about to experience some of the best the United States has to offer

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 16 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the higher elevations. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world

DAY 1: land in Phoenix, travel to Wickenburg

1 hours/60 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into Phoenix and renting your car from the airport and setting out west toward your first stop, Wickenburg. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. 

To read more about Wickenburg, click here.

Best Hike-that comes with a certificate of completion:

Vulture Peak

Best museum:

Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Best place to watch the sunset:

Hassayapa River Preserve

Best place to shop local:

Gramma Lizards

Can’t Miss It:

Vulture City

Best place for dinner:

Anita’s Cocina

DAY 2: The Prescott Valley

1 hour 19 minutes/60 miles

From Wickenburg it’s a short drive to Prescott, but before you head out of town, we would recommend grabbing breakfast at Cowboy Cookin. It’s a fun place and has one of the best breakfasts you can get in the southwest. Once you get to Prescott, the opportunities are endless. Downtown, historic Whiskey Row is known for its bars and live music venues. The Sharlot Hall Museum documents the region’s pioneer-era history. The Smoki Museum exhibits artifacts from indigenous peoples of the Southwest. To the northeast, Watson Lake is home to hundreds of bird species, and a circuit of trails runs among the granite boulders dotting its shore.

To read more about Prescott, click here.

Best short hike:

Thumb Butte Trail

Can’t miss it:

Bashford Courts Atrium Mall

See some wildlife:

Heritage Park Zoo

Best place to stretch your legs:

Historic Downtown Prescott

Best place for dinner:

The Palace

Best place to grab a drink:

Superstition Meadery

DAY 3: The Regenerative power of Sedona

1.5 hours/67 miles

Sedona is a quirky town and we mean that in the very best way. Surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its mild climate and vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with New Age shops, spas and art galleries. On the town’s outskirts, numerous trailheads access Red Rock State Park, which offers bird-watching, hiking and picnicking spots. Sedona is also internationally known for the uplifting power of its Vortex meditation sites. Not so much into vortexes? No problem. Sedona is full of things to do for any lifestyle. One thing we would recommend however, is to get a room at the Oak Creek Lodge. It’s a great little place.

Best hike:

The Devil’s Bridge

Best scenic drive: 

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Can’t miss it:

Visit a Vortex

Most eclectic shopping:

Son Silver West Gallery

Best place for dinner

Pumphouse Station

Best place to unwind with a cocktail:

View 180

DAY 4: Williams and Grand Country Country

1 hour/60 miles

Today’s route will take you through Flagstaff. Don’t stop. Not because Flagstaff isn’t worth a stop, it totally is, it’s just that you are going to enjoy all there is to do here at the end of your trip. So have patience. One more thing, we know we said this trip was going to be more about finding the Arizona that exists outside Grand Canyon National Park…however…we do truly understand if you decide that you aren’t coming all the way to Arizona and skipping one of the most unique canyon systems in the world. So if you decide to take a detour outside of Williams for a day or two, that is just fine with us. Here is some information for you. But once you have scratched your Grand Canyon itch, head back to Williams. When you get into town, the first place to go would be Wild West Junction. It’s a one-of-a-kind place to stay.

To Read more about Williams, click here.

Visit the second biggest canyon in Arizona:

Sycamore Canyon

Must see:

Planes of Fame Air Museum

Best scenic drive:

Bull Basin Road

Best historical selfie:

Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station

Best Taco:

Francisco’s

Best Local Beer:

Grand Canyon Brewery

DAY 5: Route 66 to Kingman

1.5 hours/77 miles

There are two ways to get to Kingman, but without a doubt, the best way is take Historic Route 66. Leaving North out of Williams, this route will take you through some beautiful country on one of America’s most celebrated roads. Once you pull into Kingman, you will see the impact the route has had on the town. The historic road’s role in American history is celebrated at the Route 66 Museum, set inside the Powerhouse Visitors Center. Murals, dioramas and a library at the Mohave Museum of History and Arts trace local history. Locomotive Park, featuring a 1928 steam engine, and the Kingman Railroad Museum document the city’s past as a 20th-century railway hub. One place we would definitely recommend staying the night is the fantastic El Trovatore Motel. They have legendary Hollywood icon themed rooms a la Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and many more.

To read more about Kingman, click here.

Best place for a hike:

Hualapai Mountain Park

Can’t miss it:

Giganticus Headicus

Best place to shop local:

Kingman Farmhouse

Best photo op:

Alpacas of the Soutwest

Eat some cowboy cuisine:

Danbar Steakhouse

Best night out:

Black Bridge Brewery

DAY 6: To Parker and the Colorado River

1 hour 45 minutes/95 miles

Parker sits on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, and is a River Rat’s paradise. There are plebty of waterborne activities in this town, but Parker is so much more than that too. Historically, Parker was the site of Parker’s Landing, where goods and supplies would be offloaded and delivered to the Colorado River Reservation. And speaking of the Colorado River Reservation, a great side trip would be to Poston, the most populated town on the reservation and the site of the Poston War Relocation Center, where Japanese-American were interred for the duration of World War II.

Best place for a hike:

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Best photo op:

Parker Dam

Best museum:

Colorado River Tribes Museum

Learn to wakeboard:

Wakeboard Island

Can’t miss it:

Club Roadrunner

Best night out:

Nellie E Saloon and Desert Bar

DAY 7: Yuma!

2 hours/117 miles

Yuma is a great town and one of the gems of the Southwest. The history of the area is as rich as the scenery and within the city limits Yuma contains the historical Yuma Territorial Prison, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage area. Yuma is an Arizona Main Street City, and for good reason. A stroll through its Historic Downtown is a great way to shop and dine. The first thing we would recommend doing when you get into town is to head to the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel. It’s a fun place and easy on the pocketbook. After dropping off your bags, get ready to head out on the town.

Best place for wildlife:

Mittry Lake Wildlife Refuge

Best hike to a scenic view:

Jester’s Trail

Best scenic drive:

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Best way to see Yuma/Ghosts:

Haunted Yuma Walking Tour

Best place to shop:

Arizona Marketplace

Can’t miss dinner:

River City Grill

DAY 8: Gila Bend and the Sonoran Desert National Monument

2 hours/120 miles

Today your drive is straight and level into the Gila River Valley and the Mariscopa Mountains and the great little southwest hamlet of Gila Bend. Hugging the banks of the Gila River, where it takes a sharp 90 degree turn, this little town on the edge of the Sonoran Desert is going to charm you with its heritage, culture and classic Southwest feel. Situated as it on the western edge of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, it’s a great base for exploring this unique American landscape.  Just outside the town is the San Lucy district of the Tohono O’odham Nation, with a small settlement, San Lucy bordering the town itself.  Once you get into town, head immediately to the Space Age Lodge for a room for the night. Just trust us, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

Best photo op:

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

Best taco in town:

Humberto’s

Best cowboy bar:

The Desert Rose

DAY 9: Tuscon and Saguaro National Park

2 hours/122 miles

The Sunshine Factory is an interesting choice for a nickname, unless of course, you happen to be Tuscon, Arizona. With about 200 days of sunshine a year, it’s a great place to spend a little time. With a population of a half a million, it will have plenty of opportunities to stock up on any gear or supplies or city-life you might need before you head to the western part of the state. The only place to do this would be Main Gate Square. It’s the premier commercial district in the city. One of the first stops you should make when you get into Tuscon, would be to the Tuscon Visitor’s Center. They can send you on your way to enjoying all that Tuscon has to offer. One thing that can’t be missed, is a visit to the Saguaro National Park. A great place to start your foray into this epic desert landscape would be the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Located right on the border of the park, it’s an amazing educational experience into what makes this region so unique. 

Can’t miss it:

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Best outdoor recreation:

Sabino Canyon

Great place to take a stroll:

Historic Downtown Tucson

Most eclectic museum:

Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art

Best place to shop local:

Fourth Avenue

Best Place to people watch:

The University of Arizona-Old Main

DAY 10: Through Tombstone to Bisbee.

3 hours 45 minutes/244 miles

You aren’t going to come all the way to Arizona and not visit one of the most famous towns in all of the lore of the Wolly and Wild West, right? We didn’t think so. That’s why today, with your ultimate goal being Bisbee, you are going to take a trip into Tombstone and those lawless days of gunslingers, lawmen and of course, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. If you aren’t quite sure what place this has in American legend, brush up on your history here. For the rest of you, Tombstone is everything you think it will be. Fun, kitschy, interesting and well worth the side trip. For everything Tombstone, click here. From Tombstone, it’s down south to the border and one of the most unique towns in America, Bisbee. Bisbee got it start as a mining town, and that past still lives on at the Queen Mine, where you can learn all about its rich history. Today, Bisbee is known as a culturally rich community that includes an active and varied population. Bisbee retains its welcoming spirit, offering visitors a rich mix of art, music, history, architecture, outdoor activities, dining and nightlife. One of the first things we would recommend when you get into town, is to seek out the Silver King Hotel. It’s a fun stay and boasts having “the smallest bar in Arizona.”

Can’t miss it:

Erie Street

Best museum:

Bisbee Restoration Museum

Best place to stock up on supplies:

High Desert Market

Buy some vintage duds:

Redbone

Best place for a stroll:

Historic Downtown Bisbee

Best place to find amazing food:

Old Bisbee Brewing Company

DAY 11: Through Western Arizona to Globe

3 hours 45 minutes/200 miles

Today is going to be a drive. But that’s okay, because you are going to see some of the most staggeringly beautiful landscape in the world. Your route will take you through the Coronado National ForestChiricahua National Monument, the Galiuro Mountains, the Pinaleno Mountains, the Gila Mountains, and your final destination on the edge of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. Globe should definitely be used to as your base to explore the surrounding country, particularly the reservation’s main administrative, cultural and commercial hub, San Carlos. You will no doubt be a touch peckish after your drive, so the first thing you should do when you arrive in Globe, is to head to Nurd Burger and re-fuel. You’ll see why when you get there.

Best scenic drive:

Salt River Canyon

Best museum:

Besh Ba Gowah

Best hike:

Round Mountain Park

Best shopping experience:

The Pickle Barrell

Can’t miss it:

Historic Downtown Globe

Best place to find amazing food and craft beer:

Farley’s Irish Pub

DAY 12: Winslow and Petrified National Forest

4 hours /219 miles

Do you like 70’s feel-good rock band The Eagles? Because if you do, then you probably know they once sang in one of their classic songs, “Take It Easy” ; “Well I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, its such a fine sight to see.” Love ’em or hate ’em, we think you will agree. But one stop you need to make before you get there is one of the United States’ smallest national parks, Petrified Forest National Park. When you get to the park, stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum. It will have everything you need to make the most of your visit, including access to numerous trail heads. From here, its a short drive into Winslow, and its historic location on Route 66. First thing? Head to StandingOnTheCorner Park. Yup.

To read more about Winslow, click here.

Cant miss it:

Meteor Crater

One of a kind experience:

Apache Death Cave

Best hike:

Rock Art Ranch

Best place to catch the sunset:

Little Painted Desert County Park

Can’t miss it:

La Posada Hotel

Best place for dinner:

Mi Pueblo

DAY 13: To Chinle and Canyon De Chelly National Monument

2.5 hours /150 miles

Today you will be driving through the Navajo Nation and to the unparalleled Canyon De Chelly. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a vast park in northeastern Arizona, on Navajo tribal lands. Its prominent features include Spider Rock spire, about 800-feet tall, and towering sandstone cliffs surrounding a green and tree-lined canyon. Inhabited by several Native American peoples for millennia, the area is dotted with petroglyphs. The White House Ruins and Mummy Cave are fantastic examples of  ancient Pueblo villages. Plan on spending most of your day, as it is worth it. For the night, head back to Chinle, and enjoy the culture of the Navajo People.

Best way to see the Canyon:

Justin’s Horse Tours

Best Scenic Drive:

The North Rim

Best photo art:

Hope Arch

Best museum:

Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center

Best place to shop local:

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

Best place to try traditional Navajo cuisine:

Thunderbird Lodge

DAY 14: Through Monument Valley to Flagstaff

4 hours /250 miles

Your route today will take you north to the village of Mexican Water and down through the Monument Valley and the Painted Desert. This is going to be a beautiful drive, but make sure you have plenty of gas and water. There will be many opportunities for stops and photos throughout the day, and as a result, you may want to consider making this drive your whole day’s agenda, and spending the next day enjoying all there is to do in Flagstaff. And speaking of Flagstaff, we told you to be patient and we would get you there. We have kept our word. Flagstaff, at nearly 7,000 feet, is a different climate than anything you been traveling through so far, It is also a hip outdoor town with a great vibe.

To read more about Flagstaff, click here.

Get underground:

Lava River Cave

Best way to see Flagstaff:

Historic Downtown Tour

Best hike:

Lockett Meadow Loop

Best cultural experience:

Picture Canyon Cultural Preserve

Best place to shop local:

Old Town Shops

Where the locals go for dinner:

Criollo Latin Kitchen

DAY 15 through 16:

2 hours 15 minutes /144 miles

Like the mythical bird its named after, Phoenix rises from the desert in epic proportions. With nearly 1.7 million people calling this city home, Phoenix is full of adventure. The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is known for its year-round sun and warm temperatures. As a result it anchors a sprawling, multi-city metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun. It’s known for high-end spa resorts, Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses and vibrant nightclubs. But it’s also a city of history, culture and amazing sights. As with any big city, to really get the most of your experience, your first stop should be to the Downtown Phoenix Visitor Center. One recommendation we would have is to leave Phoenix proper, and head to the charming town of Chandler. Located on the southeastern edge of the greater metropolitan area, Chandler is a city of parks and family fun.

To read more about Chandler, click here.’

Iconic mountain hike:

Camelback Mountain

Best way to see Phoenix:

Historic Downtown Tour

Most unique experience:

The Mystery Mansion

Best desert experience:

Desert Botanical Garden

Best shopping experience:

Tempe Marketplace

Best night out:

City Scape