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The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

Arizona took us by surprise. We knew Arizona had cool destinations but we were always turned off by the heat. But now with us living in a van, it was time for an Arizona road trip.

We decided to spend a good portion of our winter in this warm state. Like many, there was a time when we thought the entire state was just one big flat desert. 

But Arizona is much more than just desert. It’s home to endless mountains, world-renowned canyons, lakes, rivers, and many unique cities and towns.

Arizona Road Trip

This Arizona road trip will likely take longer than a week because there are beautiful destinations in nearly every corner of the state. So, depending on your time frame, maybe pick your favorite spots listed below and save some of the other destinations for another time! 

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Soldier’s Pass: Sedona, AZ

Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

Phoenix, AZ

  • Camelback Mountain
  • Explore Downtown
  • Celebrate @ one of the many breweries downtown
  • Camp: Old Air Strip BLM

Lake Havasu City

  • Rent a boat or kayak
  • Mudshark Brewery
  • Camp: Standard Wash

The Grand Canyon 

  • Havasupai (Plan in advance) if you score permits, then plan this trip around those dates
  • South Rim of The Grand Canyon
  • Camp: Kaibab National Forest

Page, AZ

  • Lake Powell
  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Antelope Canyon
  • The Wave 
  • Camp: Lone Rock Beach

Flagstaff, AZ

  • Explore Downtown
  • Firecreek Coffee
  • Camp: Forest Road 353

Sedona, AZ

  • Firecreek Coffee
  • West Fork 
  • Devil’s Bridge
  • Fay Canyon 
  • Soldiers Pass
  • Birthing Cave
  • Camp: Forest Road 525

Whiteriver, AZ

  • Cibecue Falls

San Simeon, AZ

  • Chiricahua National Monument
  • Camp: Coronado National Forest 

Bisbee, AZ

  • Explore Downtown
  • Bathtub Coffee Shop
  • Hike Chihuahua Hill
  • Camp: The Shrine

Tucson, AZ

  • Tanque Verde Falls Hike
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Camp: Coronado National Forest/Reddington Pass

Honorable Mention

  • Slide Rock State Park
  • Aravaipa Canyon 
  • Monument Valley
  • The Wave
  • Petrified National Park
  • Superstition Mountains 
  • Jug Trail #61

NOTES

You will need PERMITS and RESERVATIONS for some of these activities/accommodations.  So be sure that you plan ahead so that you don’t miss out.

We recommend lots of slot canyon hikes, which can become dangerous if there’s flash flooding. If there’s precipitation anywhere nearby in the forecast, then slot canyons should be avoided. It’s best to check with visitor centers or local ranger stations for the best information about trail safety conditions.

This road trip is very much designed around camping, and lots of primitive camping too (e.i. no facilities, bathrooms, water, electricity, etc).  This is how we prefer to travel because it saves hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.  And you really get to enjoy the natural beauty of Arizona. We will provide a campsite we personally stayed at or another valid option. But if you prefer to find your own campsites or the ones we provide are full, check out our article: 3 Great Websites For Free Camping

Or if tent camping isn’t your style, a great option is to rent an RV, van or overland vehicle. Our favorite website to find RVs, vans, or overland vehicles for rent is outdoorsy.com.

But if you’re more comfortable in hotel rooms or vacation rentals, please feel free to modify the trip. We suggest using Kayak or VRBO to find the best deals on hotel rooms or rental cars. 

Vrbo

Phoenix, AZ

Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash

First Stop is Phoenix, AZ. If you are flying in for this Arizona road trip, then Phoenix will most likely be your best option. We always compare prices on flights via Kayak, Hopper, or the Capital One Travel portal. Things to do there are:

Explore Downtown Phoenix:

One fun thing to do in Phoenix is explore downtown. Celebrate with a beer to kickstart a great road trip at one of the many breweries in Phoenix! One of our favorite breweries is San Tan Brewing. And if you love hazy IPA’s, Juicy Jack Hazy IPA is Emily’s favorite beer! 🙂

Camelback Mountain:

Camelback Mountain: Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

A fun hike in Phoenix is Camelback Mountain. There are two different trails you can choose from: Echo Canyon Trail (2.4mi & 1423ft elevation change) or Cholla Trail (2.6mi & 1161ft elevation change). Both hikes are similar in length, elevation gain and view. Also, both are very popular, so plan to get to the trailhead early if you want to secure a spot. 


Lake Havasu City

Next up on this Arizona road trip, is Lake Havasu City which is a unique lake town in western Arizona. Some fun this to do in Lake Havasu City are:

Rent A Boat:

Lake Havasu Boat Rental In December

We highly suggest either renting a boat or if you are on a budget, renting some kayaks to venture out on the water! Because the best part about Lake Havasu City is definitely the lake. It’s known for it’s spring break, but the lake gets super congested with fellow boaters. 

We highly suggest trying to visit during the off-season. During off-season you 

A. get a better price on a boat rental &

B. avoid the crowds and dangerous scenes of multiple boats on the water where heavy drinking is involved.

But if you must visit during the “busy season” which is March through August, be extra cautious out on the lake. It’s best to visit in late winter, when you might be able to catch a few days in the 70s/80s or after everyone is back in school around September or October. 

The winter is very mild in Lake Havasu City, so if you don’t mind bundling up on the boat ride (like we did) then that’s the perfect time to visit. You might also get lucky with some days in the upper 60s with sunshine!

Sara Crack Trail:

If you are looking for a beautiful hike to do in the area, we suggest Sara Crack Trail. The hike is 3.4 mi with a 308ft elevation change. It’s an easy hike where you hike between a slot canyon. Do bring lots of water because a large portion of this hike is unshaded. (Bring extra water if you hike during the hot summer months)

Mudshark Brewery:

Another must, if you like beer, is visiting the Mudshark Brewery. Jake and I spilt a flight and every single beer we had, was great! Plus their craft beer is powered by the sun with solar! 

Camping Near Lake Havasu City:

We camped right off Hwy 95 on BLM land at Standard Wash. This place is pretty busy all year round since the weather is very mild in winter. I can’t say it was our favorite place, but it gave us a place to rest our heads. You will basically be camping right near others unless you go deeper down the road which can be rough if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle. 


The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is obviously a must if you are doing an Arizona road trip. It’s literally what the state is most known for, and the views obviously don’t disappoint. Some must-do things in the Grand Canyon are:

Havasupai Falls

Havasu Falls

First off, if you are planning this trip before February 1st, then set your calendar to apply for Havasupai Falls. Permits go extremely quickly and sell out in less than an hour. In our opinion, it is one of the most majestic places Arizona has to offer, if not in the whole world. Therefore, you are gonna want to apply for permits if you can and plan your trip around your permit dates for that trip! 

Havasupai is one of the Grand Canyon’s prized possessions! For more details on Havasupai check out our article: How To Plan A Havasupai Trip

South Rim Of The Grand Canyon

South Rim Grand Canyon

Following that, you are still going to want to visit The Grand Canyon’s main entrance either before or after your trip to Havasu Falls. You can either dive deep and do strenuous hikes down to the canyon floor or get a great view from above at many of the Grand Canyon pull-offs. 

Jake and I visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and can highly recommend it because the views are simply awe-inspiring. Most people choose to visit the South Rim because it’s closer to civilization.  But the North Rim has equally spectacular views.  You probably won’t do both, because it takes over 4 hours to drive from one side to the other!

Most hikes in Grand Canyon National Park are “all or nothing”.  Either it’s a grueling decent and climb into the canyon, or it’s a mild walk along the Rim Trail.  Though you can always start one of the harder trails into the canyon, and just turn around when you feel comfortable.

Camping Near The Grand Canyon:

We actually did The Grand Canyon in one day because it was a stop before our Havasupai trip. Therefore, simply with doing research, if we were to camp we probably would of stayed in Kaibab National Forest which is located 15 min outside The Grand Canyon south entrance. I would assume these campsites get busy from early Spring until late Fall, so plan accordingly!


Page, AZ

Get excited for this stop on this Arizona road trip because there are some epic things to do in this town. 

For all the best stops in Page, AZ, be sure to check out our post: Top 5 Things To Do In Page, AZ

Lake Powell:

Kayaking On Lake Powell: Photo By Kate Mahoney

This is obviously the main attraction to Page, AZ. This is where the Glen Canyon Dam is located at the bottom tip of Lake Powell. If your budget allows, we highly suggest renting a boat or jetski because it’s the best way to explore this enormous and unique lake. 

If you are on a budget then we highly suggest renting a kayak from Antelope Marina. You won’t be able to explore quite as much as a powerboat, but it will at least allow you to get out on the lake and check out one of the side canyons. Because trust us, you will regret not getting out on this beautiful lake and at least exploring it a little bit! 

Glen Canyon Dam:

Glen Canyon Dam: Photo by John Gibbons on Unsplash

This 700 foot hydroelectric dam was completed in 1966. You will drive right over the dam to get to Lone Rock Beach Campground, our favorite camping spot. There are pull-offs you can stop on either side of the dam so you can get a closer look from the bridge.

Horseshoe Bend:

horseshoe bend at sunset
Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most popular destinations in Page. The hike is a short 1.5mi with 242ft elevation change. The trail is wide, but it will most likely be congested with many other tourists. But the view at the end will all be worth it!  And it’s such a huge canyon that you will need a wide angle lens to capture the whole thing in one photo!

For more details on this hike, check out our post: Horseshoe Bend: Everything You Need To Know

Antelope Canyon:

Lower Antelope Canyon

Another awesome place to visit while in Page, AZ is either upper or lower Antelope Canyon. There are no self-guided tours for either locations, so be sure to book a reservation well in advance. 

Lower Antelope Canyon

If you need help choosing between the two check out our article: Choosing Between Upper And Lower Antelope Canyon.

The Wave:

The Wave

If you are in no rush on this road trip, then about an hour drive from Page is The Wave. This is one of the most picturesque spots in Arizona. The rock has formed into beautiful stripes of color that look like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

If you are planning this trip in advance, then you should apply for permits in the online lottery. But if you are coming across this road trip right before taking off, then there is still a chance you can get a walk-in permit in Kanab, Utah.

For more details on The Wave Hike check out our article: Hiking The Wave.  

Camp Near Page:

Lone Rock Beach Campground

Tonight you will be camping on the beach under the stars at Lone Rock Beach. This is one of our favorite spots in Page, AZ because what more can you ask for? There’s normally a line of RVs and other campers at the water’s edge.  But you can camp anywhere on the beach, so for a little more privacy, feel free to tuck yourself up into the dunes.

If you are looking for more fun things to do north of Page, AZ check out our article: The Ultimate Southern Utah Road Trip.


Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff is the highest city in Arizona. This means it actually experiences a “real” winter unlike much of the state of Arizona which thrives on mild weather. 

Firecreek Coffee Company:

One must-stop in Flagstaff is Firecreek Coffee. Emily might be biased because she worked with the company at their Sedona location for a couple of months, but the customers also rave about the coffee! They use all organic milk and their coffee is all micro-roasted in their Flagstaff location. So they keep it real fresh! 

If you are looking for a delicious breakfast sandwich in the area, try their Copland Sandwich. The sandwich is made to order on a freshly baked croissant or local bagel and comes with hand-crafted tomato jam and chimichurri. It’s pretty high on the list of best breakfast sandwiches we’ve ever eaten! 

They also have many fresh pastries with an assortment of gluten-free and vegan options. Also if you like your coffee a little sweeter, then try one of their hand-crafted syrups such as vegan caramel, vanilla or salted cardamon. 

Mother Road Brewery:

One must-stop place along this Arizona road trip is Mother Road Brewery. If you love IPAs, look into their tower IPA. Jake and I really found a liking to this and heard great things about this brewery. 


Sedona, AZ

Sedona is probably our favorite town in Arizona. We decided to settle down here for a bit in the winter while traveling in our van to save up money. But, there really is too many amazing things to do here, that you could easily spend more than a week without even scratching the surface.

Some of our favorite hikes are West Fork, Fay Canyon, Soldiers Pass, and Birthing Cave. 


Check out our posts: 

25 Fun Things To Do In Sedona, AZ for all the tops adventures in the area & 15 Best Breathtaking Hikes In Sedona, AZ to find the best hikes for you!


Whiteriver, AZ

Cibecue Falls:

We unfortunately didn’t have time for this hike on our Arizona road trip, but we’ve got it on our bucket-list because it looks EPIC. It is a hike to a beautiful 30-foot waterfall, where you must cross through the creek a handful of times. 

A permit is required for this hike. You can either pick one up at the pay station in the parking lot or at the Sinclair Gas Station (Carrizo C-Store). The permit cost is $30 per person. 

Because we don’t have personal experience from this hike, this is based on our research from fellow hikers. The trail is dog-friendly, but many people advise that it isn’t the best option for dogs. Also, the road out to the trailhead is a bit sketchy, as it is narrow with a sheer cliff to one side. So if you do decide to do this hike, be extra cautious! 

There is also no swimming allowed. It has been said that many people do it anyway, but please be respectful and refrain from swimming. Also, please follow Leave No Trace principles. 

 We think you will enjoy this hike if you love adventure!

San Simeon, AZ

Chiricahua National Monument is a hidden gem of Arizona.  It kind of flies under the radar, maybe because it’s tucked way down in the southeast corner of the state.  But we think its was just such a uniquely beautiful landscape.  

Grottoes

Chiricahua National Monument took us by surprise. We had never heard of this beautiful destination, until visiting the state.

We did Echo Canyon/Sarah Deming Canyon Loop which is 8 mi with 1745ft elevation change. The hike truly went through different viewpoints along this hike, each being stunning in their own way.

You start on top of this canyon with stunning views, and quickly find yourself winding through the tall rock formations, and then descend into the lush valley.  And then make your way back up the other side to find more stunning rock formations.

Balanced Rock

Our favorite part of the hike is “The Grottoes”, so if you’re looking for a shorter hike you can do Ed Riggs, Hailstone, and Echo Canyon Loop. But it was truly amazing walking under huge boulders, almost feeling like you were in a maze.

Continuing along the trail passing by hoodoos and views of the beautiful valley in the distance. We highly suggest visiting this place as even just the drive through the park is stunning.

Camping Near Chiricahua National Monument:

We camped in Coronado National Forest. There are a handful of dispersed campsites along the road. Some of the campsites are along the creek and are surrounded by wilderness. It is about a 15+min drive to the entrance of Chiricahua National Monument.


Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee is located on the border of Arizona and Mexico and is by far one of the funkiest towns we have ever come across. It’s an interesting hybrid of an artsy mountain town and rough around the edges old western mining town. It’s somehow cute and gritty at the same time.

We stopped at a coffee shop called the Bathtub, which quite literally had a bathtub you could sit in to enjoy your coffee (clothed & without water of course). We also noticed many of the locals had their own unique style. Some fun things we enjoyed in this down were:

Downtown Bisbee

Explore Downtown Bisbee:

Bisbee Oil & Vinegar

Bisbee has an assortment of cool shops downtown. We highly suggest popping in some of the unique and artsy shops. One of our favorite stores was Bisbee Oil & Vinegar.

They had such a huge selection of great olive oils for dressings, recipes, or simply dipping whatever you desire. And if you know us at all, then you know we obviously checked out Old Bisbee Brewing Company.  It’s a modest little brewery with a good local vibe, tasty beers, and free popcorn!

Chihuahua Hill:

Chihuahua Hill

A cool hike in the area is Chihuahua Hill which is only 1.6mi with 570ft elevation change. You get a sweet panoramic view of the town, old mine and valley views for miles. You can even see to Mexico! 

Camp Near Bisbee:

We visited Bisbee when we were living in our campervan, so we just slept in a parking lot in town.  We stayed here for two nights with no issues and fellow van lifers in the parking lot as well. But if you are traveling in a tent, I would try a spot called The Shrine which is 10 minutes north of Bisbee. 


Tucson, AZ

Tucson, AZ

We aren’t big city people but, Tucson is a pretty neat area. If you are looking for some great authentic mexican food, Tucson is your place! 

Street Tacos and Beer Company:

Street Tacos & Beer Company: Tucson, AZ

I’m sure there are a ton of great taco places in Tucson, but this is the place Jake and I decided to go because who doesn’t love tacos and beer?! Also, the prices didn’t disappoint, 3 tacos with free chips and salsa were under $10 which usually has us sold.

But we did splurge for their tasty margaritas!  We liked it so much, that we decided to go a second time, haha.

Tanque Verde Falls Hike:

Tanque Verde Falls

This hike was a bit more challenging than we thought. Be prepared to get wet and climb up some slippery rocks on this hike. It is 1.8mi with 436ft elevation change. It’s a great spot to cool off in the hotter months. The hike down to the river is beautiful as you are passing through tall saguaro cacti. 

Saguaro National Park:

We found Saguaro National Park to be underwhelming, personally. Just because at this point of the trip, we had already seen many different cacti. Before visiting Arizona, we assumed that Saguaro NP was the only place to see Saguaros.  But in reality, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE in the southern half of the state.  But there are still some nice trails in the park, so if you like checking National Parks off your bucket-list then definitely check it out.  

Camping Near Tucson:

Campsite In Cornado National Forest

We camped at Cornado National Forest/ Reddington Pass which has a handful of beautiful campsites that look down over the valley. Not to mention you are surrounded by tall saguaros. This camping area is very close to Tanque Verde Falls, so if you plan to do that hike you will have very easy access to the trailhead! You are also fairly close to the east entrance of Saguaro National Park.


Honorable Mention For An Arizona Road Trip

Honorable mention is for all the places that didn’t quite make the list for ultimate places in Arizona. Yet, they are all very cool things to do in Arizona. So if you are looking for more fun things to do in the state of Arizona, check these out!

Slide Rock State Park:

Slide Rock State Park

Slide Rock State Park is located between Flagstaff and Sedona. It didn’t quite make the list because we personally think there are cooler things to do in the area. But it is definitely still a neat spot to stop (especially with young kids).

 If you go during the hotter months then it’s a great spot to cool off, as many people quite literally slide down the rocks. So if you’re exhausted from hiking, it would be a good rest day to swim and sunbathe along the river.

Aravaipa Canyon:

Aravaipa Canyon is a unique hike that provides a true wilderness adventure. There are two trailheads to explore this canyon: East and West. We will primarily be talking about the west entrance because that is the route we took, and it’s a lot easier to get to.

This hike is definitely not for all ability levels. It is a 9.6mi+ hike with 649ft elevation change. And there isn’t a maintained trail, so it requires lots of hiking in the river, and navigating un-tamed wilderness. A permit is required for this hike which you can get HERE. The permits are $5/person and a $6 non-refundable fee per transaction.

Backpacking is allowed in the canyon. And honestly, we would encourage it, because then you can explore further into the canyon. There are black bears in the area, so plan for that. With only a day hike, we felt like there was much more that we missed out on.  Until next time…

Monument Valley:

The only reason Monument Valley didn’t make the list is because it would add 2 hours roundtrip to the road trip. But if you are in no hurry, then it is definitely worth the stop. It is another very classic and picturesque stop in Arizona. You can also venture in Monument Valley Tribal Park. The cost is $20 per vehicle. There is a beautiful 17mile scenic loop throughout the park. 

The Wave:

The wave was listed above, but isn’t quite designed into the road trip because it will be a 2 hour round trip detour. So unless you secure permits, it might be a waste of time driving all the way. Because only 20 people are allowed on the hike per day. And walk-in permits are not guaranteed and are based upon luck. So you might have to try for multiple days in a row before you get lucky. 

But again if you are in no rush, then The Wave really is a must-see destination in Arizona. For more details check out our article: Hiking The Wave

Petrified Forest National Park:

If you are into history and prehistoric geology, then you most definitely should add Petrified Forest National Park to your Arizona road trip. It really is a unique sight to see because the wood is 225 million years old. It’s crazy to think the area was once a thriving rainforest and now it is a dry desert. The trees now exist as rock fossils that will challenge your understanding of geology.

Fossil Springs Trail:

The first time we were passing through Sedona, this hike was on our list, but we were hit with a big snowstorm around the same time, so we decided to skip it. But later we decided to settle down in Sedona for a couple of months and therefore added it back to the list.

It is a super cool hike, but definitely suggested to visit between late fall to early spring because the hike is exposed. They have to rescue about 250 people per year. 

We hiked this in February when the temperatures along the trail were in the 60’s and the temperature down by the falls with the sun beating down felt like upper 70’s.

We were in our swimsuits enjoying the water in February, so we can only imagine it getting extremely hot during the summer months. So be prepared with a lot of extra water, maybe even more to help out a fellow hiker who might of not have taken the preliminary precautions of the hot summer sun in Arizona! 

We thoroughly enjoyed this hike, but it will add an hour extra to the road trip and take you a different way to the Cibecue Falls. The hike is 8.3mi with 1505ft elevation change. It is rated as hard, but we found the climb up is gradual, so it is doable for your average hiker!

 Superstition Mountains:

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

The Superstition Mountains are a cool mountain range to the west of Phoenix. We didn’t get to explore around these mountains, but we wish we did. If you have time, we suggest exploring around the area.

One cool hike to check out in the area is Wave Cave, which is 3mi with an 846ft elevation change. 

Jug Trail #61:

This is yet another hike we didn’t get to do but wish we had time to. But, you need rappelling gear to do this hike. Therefore, making this a challenging hike for your average hiker. The hike 5.6 mi with a 906ft elevation change. If you have climbing experience, this would be a great hike to add to your Arizona road trip.

Jerome:

Jerome, AZ ghost town

Jerome is a little ghost town about 40 minutes southwest from Sedona. The main part of Jerome is actually pretty busy all year round and has many great restaurants, clothing shops and galleries.

If you are looking for some good barbecue be sure to stop at Bobby D’s. It is located in the historic English Kitchen Building which is the oldest dining facility in the state of Arizona. You won’t miss the smell as your walking downtown and the meats smoking outside on the grill. 

Jerome, AZ ghost town

But, the real “Ghost Town” of Jerome is another mile up Jerome-Perkinsville Rd which is called Gold King Mine & Ghost Town. It’s a funky town with old buildings, cars and tools. The cost is $7 to go into the historic ghost town and venture through some rich history. 


Takeaway For This Arizona Road Trip

We were surprised by Arizona’s beauty throughout the entire state. As you can see, it’s so much more than just desert and cacti.

Arizona has many unique and funky cities/towns that make the state a must-visit. From beautiful desert lands, mountain tops, and stunning blue waterfalls, there is sure to be something everyone can love about this thriving state.

And the warm weather makes Arizona a great destination for northerners trying to escape the cold. We hope you enjoy this Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary. 


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Monday 30th of March 2020

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Monday 30th of March 2020

Thank You! We appreciate the kind words :)