California to the Grand Canyon Road Trip

Discover the best of Arizona along this awe-inspiring 1,870-mile road trip.
By Tori Peglar ,

Cathedral Rock reflection in Sedona, Ariz.

Deposit Photos

From surf to saguaros, this spectacular adventure starts in San Diego where you can sink your feet into palm tree-lined beaches, explore the Gaslamp District’s boutiques and trendy restaurants and visit 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 lie towns like Jerome and Cottonwood where neat rows of deep green grapevines race up and down dry, rolling hills. Discover Arizona wines at one of the inviting tasting rooms there. 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.

Then stop in Flagstaff, a vibrant university town where Pluto was discovered and great food awaits. As you drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, the soil turns to red, hinting at what's to come. With so much to see on this road trip, discover our top picks below.

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

Map

Start: San Diego, California

Evening lights at Balboa Park in San Diego, California

Adobe Stock

If you have a day to spend in the city before you head out on the road, don't miss 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.

It's home to more than 3,700 animals, including snow leopards, elephants and giant pandas. A vocal lion left behind in a small zoo exhibit after the 1915-16 Panama California Exposition played a large role in the zoo's start. When local doctor Harry Wegeforth heard the lion roar as he drove past the park, it sparked his imagination. Within months, the zoo began to take shape and, as they say, the rest is history.

Located minutes from downtown San Diego. balboapark.org

Foodie Stop in Yuma, Ariz.

Yuma Farm Dinner

Courtesy Visit Yuma

Field to Feast
In a land where 90 percent of the nation's vegetables are grown in winter, Yuma provides a surprising number of unique culinary experiences.

The Best of Tucson and Saguaro National Park

Catalina State Park bordering Tucson, Ariz.

Adobe Stock

Starry Nights in Tucson's Catalina State Park
Explore the great outdoors at Catalina State Park, a museum that is 85% outside, and Biosphere 2, an enormous glass terrarium. Read more.

Saguaro National Park's Giant Succulents
Located in the Sonoran desert, Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of giant saguaro cactus.

Artfully Authentic Copper Towns of Arizona
South of Tucson are three historic towns that make up a fantastic scenic loop. Each offers a unique experience and a glimpse into Arizona’s vibrant history.

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort
In the heart of the Foothills, experience the authenticity of the Desert Southwest, where historic elegance meets modern and relaxed luxury. haciendadelsol.com

A Local's Tips
Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort assistant general manager Geoffrey Campbell shares his favorite Tucson attractions.

Rising Phoenix and Fun-Loving Glendale

Colorful peacocks roam the Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.

Courtesy Visit Glendale

Top 7 Things to Do in Phoenix
Watch Spring Training, tour a botanical garden, climb Camelback Mountain, visit museums, and more. Read more.

The Unexpected Glendale 
If Glendale was a person, she would be a fun-loving woman who effortlessly throws the most elaborate of parties but can get downright sporty hosting a Super Bowl. 

Get Centererd in Sedona, Ariz.

Biking on a trail through Sedona's red rock formations.

Photo by Lear Miller courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

Sedona's Seven Secrets 
Sedona is just a 2-hour drive from the Grand Canyon's South Rim. Hike or bike 100 red rock trails, visit a spiritual vortex in the mountains, or browse one of 40 art galleries. Read about four gems plus three places to refuel.

Phenomenal Flagstaff

Overlooking downtown Flagstaff from the balcony of the Weatherford Hotel

Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau

6 Stops in Flagstaff
Two hours from six national monuments and Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff is a thriving university town with a charming historic downtown. Here are six things to do.

One Giant Leap
Fifty years ago, Americans landed on the moon. Few know the important role the Grand Canyon area played in helping them achieve this seemingly impossible goal. Read more.  

Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim

Sunset at Desert View Point in Grand Canyon National Park

Deposit Photos

Open 365 days a year, the South Rim offers plenty of activities, restaurants and, of course, gorgeous views. View our top things to do in 48 hours.

GyPSy Guide South Rim Driving Tour App
Feel like you're touring with a local in your car. The Gypsy Guide app uses your phone or tablet’s location to play commentary about attractions as you drive. Learn more at gypsyguide.com/tour/grand-canyon-south-rim/

Leave Your Car When You Stay at Yavapai Lodge
Sleep in a forest of ponderosa pine trees near Grand Canyon's South
Rim. The Yavapai Lodge's restaurant, tavern and nearby market and shuttle stop make navigating the rim easy.