California to the Grand Canyon Road Trip

Sunset in Saguaro National Park

Sunset in Saguaro National Park

Explore America’s Southwest hot spots along this awe-inspiring 1,870-mile road trip.

Trip Overview

From surf to saguaros, this incredible adventure starts in San Diego where you can sink your feet into palm tree-lined beaches, peruse the Gaslamp District’s boutiques and trendy restaurants and explore the San Diego Zoo.

Then leave the Pacific Ocean behind in your rearview mirror as you hit the open road to the gateway to the Southwest—Yuma, Ariz. Hailed the sunniest city in the world by Guinness Book of World Records, Yuma offers farm tours and incredible kayaking and tubing down the Colorado River.

Continue east to Saguaro National Park in Tucson to stroll among the Southwest’s iconic saguaros, some of which stretch 50 feet into the desert sky. Two hours north, get your city fix by exploring the incredible museums, shops and sporting events in Phoenix and Glendale, Ariz.

Farther north lies the Verde Valley where neat rows of deep green grapevines race up and down dry, rolling hills. Discover Arizona wines at one of the inviting tasting rooms lining the historic streets in Jerome, Cottonwood, Cornville and Clarkdale. In the distance, you’ll see the red rocks of Sedona, some of which are believed to have special energy fields. Hike to one of these vortexes in Sedona en route to the breathtaking Grand Canyon.

As you return to San Diego, take the road to Prescott, a classic western town with a lively, family-friendly downtown and the oldest saloon in Arizona. With so much to see on this road trip, discover our top picks as you read on.

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Tip: Every year California goes to Daylight Savings time, but Arizona does not. Remember this one-hour difference as you travel between the two states.


Road Trip Itinerary

Start: San Diego, Calif.

Evening lights at Balboa Park in San Diego, California

Evening lights at Balboa Park in San Diego, California

Before you leave town, stop in Balboa Park. Spanning 1,200 acres, the park is patched together by nine gardens, 17 museums, a miniature railroad, a carousel and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
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Stop 1: Yuma, Ariz., the Real Farm to Table

Participants in a Field to Feast tour start their morning by harvesting the produce that will be turned into their lunch by culinary students at the local college in Yuma, Arizona.

Participants in a Field to Feast tour start their morning by harvesting the produce that will be turned into their lunch by culinary students at the local college in Yuma, Arizona.

Yuma produces 90 percent of North America’s leafy vegetables during the winter. Pick them yourself, then eat the culinary-student-prepared meal.
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Stop 2: Tucson, Ariz.

Catalina State Park bordering Tucson, Ariz.

Catalina State Park bordering Tucson, Ariz.

Explore the great outdoors at Catalina State Park, a museum that is 85% outside, and Biosphere 2, an enormous glass terrarium.
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Side trips from Tucson: Saguaro National Park; Copper Town Loop

Stop 3: Phoenix, Ariz.

View of Phoenix from Camelback Mountain

View of Phoenix from Camelback Mountain

Our top 13 things to do in Phoenix include watching Spring Training, touring a botanical garden, climbing Camelback Mountain, visiting museums, and more.
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Top must see: Musical Instrument Museum

Stop 4: Glendale, Ariz.

Sahuaro Ranch House in Glendale, Ariz. Photo by John Penic courtesy of City of Glendale

Sahuaro Ranch House in Glendale, Ariz. Photo by John Penic courtesy of City of Glendale

Home to one of the nation’s finest sports & entertainment districts, voted as best shopping, plus outdoor recreation in a desert fairy tale.
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Stop 5: A Toast to Verde Valley, Arizona’s Wine Country

Eric Glomski, winemaker and owner of Page Springs Cellars. Courtesy photo

Eric Glomski, winemaker and owner of Page Springs Cellars. Courtesy photo

Winemakers in Verde Valley between Sedona, Cottonwood and Jerome, pour their passion into their work. Read about Glomski’s and Predmore’s path to winemaking.
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Stop 6: Sedona, Ariz.

Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Lear Miller courtesy of Visit Sedona.

Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Lear Miller courtesy of Visit Sedona.

Sedona is just a 2-hour drive from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Hike or bike 100 red rocks trails, visit a spiritual vortex in the mountains, or browse one of 40 art galleries.
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Stop 7: Flagstaff, Ariz.

Downtown Flagstaff, Ariz. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Downtown Flagstaff, Ariz. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

This lively gateway community comes with a historic downtown. Take the self-guided walking tour, dare to climb the ropes at Flagstaff Extreme or do the Ale Trail.
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Stop 8: Williams, Ariz.

Main street in Williams, Ariz. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Main street in Williams, Ariz. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Ride the train to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway, get up close to animals at Bearizona, a drive-through wildlife park, savor locally-made beer at the Grand Canyon Brewery, and experience a thrilling zipline adventure in Williams.
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Stop 9: Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim

Sunset at Desert View Point in Grand Canyon National Park

Sunset at Desert View Point in Grand Canyon National Park

Open 365 days a year, the South Rim offers plenty of activities, restaurants and, of course, gorgeous views.
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Stop 10: Prescott, Ariz.

The Palace Restaurant and Saloon on Whiskey Row in Prescott, Ariz. Photo by Kenneth Hagemeyer via Flickr

The Palace Restaurant and Saloon on Whiskey Row in Prescott, Ariz. Photo by Kenneth Hagemeyer via Flickr

Experience the Old West in Prescott. Stop at America’s oldest saloon, The Palace Saloon in Prescott. Wander Whiskey Row, then stay the night at comfy hotels.
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End: San Diego, Calif.