Border to Border: Visit Arizona State Parks from California to New Mexico
Traveler, writer, editor
Arizona State Parks from California to New Mexico
Start / End
918 miles (1,477 km)
We recommend Flagstaff as your launching point and final stop for this itinerary. togive you a “full-circle” perspective on Arizona’s parks.
DAY 1: FLAGSTAFF
Flagstaff is a great place to start your Arizona road trip. Less crowded than Phoenix, it also gets you to parks and outdoor fun fast. You’ll find three national monuments all within 30 minutes of downtown. Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and Walnut Canyon national monuments complement the thriving downtown scene, getting you in vacation mode, fast. Stop by Riordan Mansion State Historic Park while you’re there, and learn more about the history of the area. We recommend flying into Flagstaff, renting a car, and spending a full day in the area before heading west.
DAY 2: LAKE HAVASU STATE PARK
3 HOURS – 204 MILES/238 KM
Your first park on the California border is Lake Havasu State Park. Grab breakfast in Flagstaff and hit the road on I-40 West. When you need to stretch your legs, we can recommend a few things to do in Williams and Kingman. Once you arrive at Lake Havasu State Park, settle into your RV or tent campsite or cabin. Then head straight to the shore. Take the 1.75-mile Mojave Sunset Trail to get familiar with the area, then spend the rest of the day diving from shore to picnic area or cruising Lake Havasu in a boat.
DAY 3: CATTAIL COVE STATE PARK
25 MINUTES – 18 MILES/29 KM
Just down the road—or the lake—you’ll reach Cattail Cove State Park. One thing we love about this state park is its boat-in campsites. If you’ve rented a boat or brought your own, you can stake out your piece of the shoreline and embrace the feel of an island vacation where Arizona meets California. If your mode of transportation has wheels or boots, find your RV or tent campsite, then head out to hike or fish the day away and then watch the sun set over California.
DAY 4: RIVER ISLAND STATE PARK
DAY 5: BUCKSKIN MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
2 MINUTES – 1.5 MILES/2.5 KM
You can actually hike from River Island State Park to Buckskin Mountain State Park! But it might be easier to relocate your RV if you take the road. Larger than many people realize, this Arizona state park has an extensive trail network into the mountains to pair with all your lake and river time.
DAY 6: PHOENIX
2 HOURS, 45 MINUTES – 165 MILES/270 KM
It’s a long drive from California to New Mexico across Arizona, but the eastern Arizona State Parks are worth it, and this is a beautiful state to soak up views on a road trip. We recommend breaking up the miles and overnighting in Phoenix or Apache Junction. Both are lively Arizona destinations with unique downtown experiences—which can be a welcome change after a week of camping and sandy toes!
DAY 7: ROPER LAKE STATE PARK
3 HOURS – 170 MILES/375 KM
After a night in a real bed and a shower at a hotel or Airbnb, point the car or RV east toward Roper Lake State Park. You can either take the Tortilla Flat route or the more direct road with a stop in the up-and-coming Superior. Either way, you’ll find yourself following the Gila River into Roper Lake State Park. Not only will you discover great fishing and camping on Roper Lake, you’ll also get unparalleled birding opportunities at the neighboring Dankworth Pond. Whether you stay in our own portable home or in one of the cabins, this will feel like the ideal getaway from the big city.
DAY 8: LYMAN LAKE STATE PARK
3 HOURS – 170 MILES/375 KM
Watch the sunrise over Roper Lake, then enjoy the scenic Coronado Trail (Hwy 191) north to Lyman Lake State Park. Stop along the way to take in the beautiful vistas or go for a hike. Lyman Lake awaits as an oasis and final destination on your coast-to-Arizona-coast trip. This park offers it all, so if you decide to stick around for another day before heading home, we won’t blame you. Hike, find petroglyphs, boat, bird and wildlife watch, or fish to your heart’s content.
DAY 9: FLAGSTAFF & HOME
2 HOURS, 30 MINUTES – 160 MILES/250 KM
The return drive to Flagstaff completes your loop in a couple of hours, so enjoy a leisurely morning in your sixth Arizona state park before returning to Flagstaff for an incredible meal and your scheduled departure time.