An Arizona road trip itinerary has always been a great things to plan. With the way things are these days, however, there’s never been a better time.
I’m not just talking about all the amazing places to visit in Arizona, either—destinations like the Grand Canyon and Havasu Falls are timeless. I mean, is there a better place in America (or the world) for social distancing than amid Arizona’s vast expanses of Saguaro cactuses?
Below, I’ll help you not only with the specifics of putting your trip together, but also with more existential questions, including the ever-popular “is Arizona worth visiting?”. (Spoiler alert: It absolutely is!)
Arizona Practical Matters
Before I get into the particulars of the road trip, let’s talk about practical matters. The first and perhaps most obvious one is Arizona car rental. In general, I’d recommend getting one at the airport in Phoenix. Even if you plan to spend some time in the city before hitting the open road, you’ll need your own set of wheels on account of questionable public transportation. All major outlets—Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Enterprise—operate at the airport; pick your favorite.
Another important part of your Arizona itinerary is the places you stay—or is it? Don’t get me wrong. Properties such as Enchantment Resort in Sedona and Canyons Boutique Hotel near the Grand Canyon are fabulous, but an Arizona road trip (for me, anyway) is less about sleeping and more about being present in the moment. If you’re a fit traveler, meanwhile, keep in mind that since some hotels don’t have fitness facilities, you may need to scout for gyms in Arizona before your trip.
Where to Go on Your Arizona Road Trip
What is so special about Sedona? That’s difficult to explain in a paragraph, but it’s probably the combination of its visual beauty (a rocky desert that’s almost prismatic, especially at sunset, and flecked with prickly cacti) and an infamous spiritual energy, although I wouldn’t call myself a new age type. Personally, I’m more of a fan of hiking in nearby Red Rock State Park than doing yoga or having a reiki session.
The Grand Canyon
No Arizona road trip (or any trip to Arizona, for that matter) is complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon. However, while America’s most famous natural attraction is often reduced to a post card, this place is…how do I put it?…Grand! You don’t necessarily need to spend multiple days here, of course, though I would recommend taking a few hikes (the Bright Angel Trail is long, but fulfilling) after you get your own postcard-perfect shot at the rim.
How difficult is the hike to Havasupai Falls? To be honest, the terrain is not insanely difficult. However, the hike is long (about 10 miles each way) and the weather can be hot, to say nothing of the creatures that can inhabit the route—I’ll let you use your imagination. Although it is technically possible to get there and back in a day, you do need to make a booking at Havasu Falls Campground to hike. (NOTE: As of February 2021, Havasu Falls is closed due to Covid-19. I’ll update this page when that changes!)
Have you ever wondered where Arizona’s infamous “Wave” is located? That would be the city of Page, in Antelope Canyon a short drive from town. Another famous attraction near Page is Horseshoe Bend. The “bend” you see beneath you is of the Colorado River; Horseshoe Bend is sometimes known as the “East Grand Canyon,” as a result of this fact. Other Page attractions include Glen Canyon and Lake Powell.
As much a part of an Arizona road trip itinerary as a Utah one, Monument Valley Tribal Park straddles the border between the two states. The park, which belongs to Navajo Nation, boasts towering buttes that are among Arizona’s most ubiquitous scenery. As is the case with Havasu Falls, Monument Valley is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which I hope will have abated somewhat by the time you read this.
Saguaro National Park
Which side of Saguaro National Park is better? There are arguments to be made for both the hillier, more expansive eastern flank, and the flat, densely-cactuses western side. Likewise, backpacking is only permitted in the east (which takes longer to explore, anyway, on account of its size); if you don’t have long to spare, you’re better visiting the western half, taking a few pictures and moseying along, as they say ’round these parts.
How Long Should Your Trip to Arizona Last?
How many days do you need in Arizona? It’s a question almost everyone asks, but to which there is not set answer. For the road trip I’ve recommended, assuming you don’t spend any time in Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff, you should expect to spend a minimum of 5-7 days. This will not only allow you time to drive between each destination, but to see each on more than a touch-and-go basis.
On the other hand, your Arizona road trip itinerary can easily last two weeks or even longer, depending upon how extensively you want to explore the Grand Canyon State. This is especially true if you plan to spend a few days in any of Arizona’s awesome cities, or if you’re a camper (or simply an intrepid hiker) and intend to spend more than a day at most or all the stops I’ve mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.
Arizona Road Trip itinerary FAQ
How long does it take to drive from Phoenix to Page, Arizona?
A straight shot from Phoenix to Page takes about 5 hours. However, since you’re likely to stop at both the Grand Canyon (and potentially Sedona, depending upon how you structure your trip) if you follow the advice in this article, it’ll take a while longer. Relax and be patient!
What is the best month to travel to Arizona?
The topic of when to visit Arizona depends on where you’re coming from and where you want. Having spent much of my 30s so far in tropical Asia, visiting in the summer (when high temperatures can exceed 110ºF/40ºC) sounds like a nightmare—I would much prefer to visit in months like March or November, with warm days and cool nights.
What is the prettiest place in Arizona?
Again, this is somewhat subjective. However, if you’re asking for my opinion (and are willing to limit the range to places to go in Arizona that are contained within this article), I would say that…ah, crap. I was going to say Page and “the Wave,” but now that I think of it Sedona is pretty beautiful too. Then there’s the Ponderosa pines of Flagstaff and…ugh, just no.
The Bottom Line
Whether you use this post as a complete itinerary for your Arizona road trip itinerary, or simply pick and choose what you need and do your own thing, I have a feeling you’re a lot more confident now than you were when you arrived. The Grand Canyon State is a magnificent place to explore in the best of times, but is one of the best places in the country (and maybe on the planet) to get some social distance. If you’ve follow my advice on your latest trip around Arizona, I hope you’ll feel free to share your impressions in a comment below. Which place in Arizona was your favorite?