The Best Northern Arizona Road Trip in a Week

Fine we'll say it: northern Arizona is underrated! With the world’s largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest, easy access to Grand Canyon National Park, historic Route 66, a myriad of ancient Native American pueblo sites, unique shopping, temperate weather, and darn good food…northern Arizona is the perfect destination for a family road trip. 
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This week-long northern Arizona road trip features the towns of Flagstaff, Williams, and Prescott. The best part of this loop route is that while there is a lot to see and do, the driving is minimal. We recommend flying into and out of the regional airport in Flagstaff, rather than dealing with the business of the major airport in Phoenix. Rent a car at the Flagstaff airport, drive into town, and begin your journey there!

This story was created in partnership with Discover Flagstaff, Experience Williams, and Visit Prescott

northern arizona road trip

Day 1: Travel and Arrive in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is known as the “City of Seven Wonders” because of its close proximity to seven incredible parks, monuments, and forest—Grand Canyon National Park included, which you’ll visit later. After traveling to Flagstaff, we recommend spending the rest of the day getting as much sunshine and leg-stretching in as possible. The best way to do that is by visiting the three National Monuments that are all within a 30-minute drive of downtown Flagstaff. If you need lodging recommendations, we love Little America Hotel for its easy access location and its outdoor spaces. 

Afternoon

national monuments arizona

Sunset Crater National Monument

Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument are both accessed from a 35-mile loop road off of Highway 89. Stop first at the Sunset Crater Visitor Center to meet the rangers and choose your hike! Sunset Crater is the site of a volcanic eruption that happened just 1,000 years ago. Slowly, plants and wildlife have begun to return and the stark contrast between life and cinder dunes is an incredible sight. 

Wupatki National Monument

Next up, stop at the Wupatki Visitor Center to learn about the many ancient dwellings of Puebloan people spread amongst the 56 square miles of desert land. Our favorite hike is to the Lomaki and Box Canyon pueblos! 

Walnut Canyon National Monument 

If you liked Wupatki National Monument, you’ll love Walnut Canyon. While the dwellings at Wupatki are more spread out, the ones in Walnut Canyon are more like an ancient subdivision or neighborhood. Hike the Island Trail one-mile loop to get access to 25 cliff dwellings, with a view of many more across the canyon. 

Day 2: Flagstaff

Morning

Fill yourself up with a delicious local breakfast before heading out for a day of extreme adventure—for real! If you’re looking for a Mexican-style breakfast, try MartAnne’s Burrito Palace. For artisan coffee and something quicker, go down the street to Macy’s European Coffee House

Give yourself some time to digest breakfast before heading over to Flagstaff Extreme, where they offer an obstacle course and zip line course—oh boy! In addition to the more than 30 zip lines, you may also find suspended bridges, scramble nets, swinging logs, and more!

flagstaff extreme

Afternoon

If you’re up for it after a morning on the obstacle course, we recommend doing a short hike at Lake Mary, Flagstaff’s local reservoir (and don’t forget about lunch—so many options in Flagstaff)! Hike around the lake and maybe even bring a fishing pole to catch some trout. 

Finally, we can’t let you leave Flagstaff without visiting the famous Lowell Observatory. Just a mile up “Mars Hill Road” from downtown Flagstaff, the historic Lowell Observatory offers nighttime stargazing tours, where you’ll have the chance to look through massive telescopes at stars, galaxies, and planets. Did you know that Pluto was discovered right there in Flagstaff?!

lowell observatory

Day 3: Flagstaff to Williams

Morning

Enjoy a new spot for breakfast, like the Toasted Owl, before moving on to the next town along Route 66—Williams! Once arriving in Williams, we recommend checking in to your hotel, and then walking through town to get a lay of the land. You might be skeptical of how a town this small and remote could possibly be lively, but trust us! 

Afternoon

As one of the original towns along Route 66, Williams is a road trip destination for many. Pop into the shops, art galleries, and even stay for some wine tasting. Walk over to the historic Grand Canyon Railway and check out what you’ll be taking to the Grand Canyon the following morning! Before dinner, drive a few miles out of town to Kaibab Lake, the best spot to watch the sunset in the area. If you have a fishing pole or a kayak, you’re in luck! After sunset, enjoy the neon lights of Route 66 in town, and check to see if there’s any live music happening at the outdoor amphitheater near the Williams Visitor Center. 

Day 4: Williams & Grand Canyon National Park 

All Day

Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel has been taking visitors on the stunning journey to one of the seven wonders of the world. Take a trip back in time and hop aboard the train to see Grand Canyon National Park in the best way possible. Once at the Grand Canyon, spend some time taking in the views on the rim, maybe hike one of the trails that drops into the canyon, and attend a ranger talk to learn more about the geology! 

williams arizona

After a long day out, you’ll probably be hungry for some classic American food—lucky you’re in Williams! Enjoy pizza and a cold drink on a patio at Historic Brewing Company. Bonus: If there’s live music happening, you’ll hear it from the patio!

Day 5: Williams to Prescott

Morning

If you’re someone who loves to watch a good sunrise, or even have coffee with a good view after sunrise, drive out to Cataract Lake on your way out of Williams. It’s beautiful, just a few minutes away, and in the direction of your next stop on your northern Arizona road trip: Prescott

Prescott, Arizona is just an hour south of Williams, located at 5,400 in the Bradshaw Mountains surrounded by lush Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests, clear lakes, and tons of granite rock. Dubbed “Everybody’s Hometown,” Prescott has a way of making visitors feel at home, whether you’re out on the trails or soaking up the good vibes downtown. Check in to your hotel or set up camp, then head downtown!

Afternoon

Prescott’s downtown area is known by the locals as “the square,” because the streets make a square around the Yavapai County Courthouse, where you’ll find lovely green spaces for picnics and walks. Whiskey Row is a well-known historic downtown block that was developed after a fire in 1900 destroyed the entire block. It was rebuilt and included a large number of saloons. Today, the block includes some of the historic saloons, art galleries, hotels, shops, and more. Downtown Prescott is the best place to find good food, craft beer or mead, and antique shops if you’re into that! 

prescott arizona

Day 6: Prescott

Morning

After filling up on breakfast, head just out of town to the Salida Gulch Trailhead, where you’ll find a trail fit for your hiking shoes or your mountain bike tires! The Salida Gulch Trail makes a 4.5-mile loop through gorgeous terrain. Added bonus: just a half-mile in you’ll find incredible petroglyphs on the rocks just off of the trail. 

Afternoon

Head back downtown for lunch and a tasting at the local meadery. On Gurley Street, just across from the county courthouse, you’ll find a three-story building that hosts a restaurant upstairs, a shop and bakery on the main level, and a speakeasy-style meadery in the basement. After browsing the colorful assortment of spices at the Spice Traveler, head upstairs to the County Seat for a healthy lunch with views of town square. Finally, travel downstairs to Superstition Meadery, and take your tastebuds back in time as you try the oldest alcoholic beverage known to humankind!

Best spot for sunset, you ask… Remember those clear lakes and tons of granite we talked about? Put them together and you get Watson Lake and the Granite Dells, one of the best spots in Prescott for sunset. Plus, kayak rentals are available on-site from Born to Be Wild Adventures!

Day 7: Prescott & Travel Home

Morning

Before heading out for a day of travel back to wherever you call home, end your trip on a high note by hiking out at Constellation Park. Early morning is the best time to be there—relaxing sounds of chirping birds, soft light on the unique granite formations, and blooming wildflowers. 

Lucky for you, this region is a year-round destination spot. With mild summer temperatures and fun, snowy adventures available in the winter, we love this northern Arizona road trip in both March, September, and everything in between!

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