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6 Best Road Trips

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon Road Trip

There’s a gorgeous corner of Arizona that’s packed with secret lakes, vibrant vineyards bursting with locally made wine and a town nestled amongst red rocks so magnificent they are believed to radiate energy.

If you were to do a road trip from the Phoenix area to the Grand Canyon on I-40, you’d miss out on so much beauty. From majestic saguaros in Lost Dutchman State Park near Gilbert, take Hwy. 89A instead for a stunning drive that beckons you to explore. In Wickenburg, cowboy culture awaits. In Cottonwood, find amazing vineyard experiences. And in Sedona, red rock magic beckons. From there, you’ll drive up the gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff, a vibrant university town with incredible night skies and an observatory where you can see the rings of Saturn on a clear night.

While this part of the Southwest is a bucket-list destination for many, human impact is threatening what we love most about it. From sustainable tourism to giving back to the trails you hike on to learning to identify living soil, you’ll find tips to stay and play responsibly in these pages.

As you drive from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon National Park, the soil turns red, hinting at what’s to come. Read on to start building the best Southwest road-trip itinerary ever.

Map

Start: Phoenix, Arizona

Get to know the cosmopolitan side of Arizona in Phoenix where there is an activity for every interest. Here are the top seven things to do.

Gilbert’s Farm to Table to Trail Oasis

Shaded trail through Gilbert's Riparian Preserve
Shaded trail through Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve (Photo: by Chris Barr courtesy of Discover Gilbert)

In the heart of Arizona’s Sonoran desert you’ll find a vibrant farm-to-table dining scene, gorgeous green spaces and more in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

A Taste of the Old West in Wickenburg

Three cowboys in the desert near Rancho de los Caballeros Guest Ranch
Three cowboys in the desert near Rancho de los Caballeros Guest Ranch (Photo: Courtesy Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce)

Known as the “Team Roping Capital of the World,” this desert town offers guest ranches, off-road fun and Western art.

Prescott and Chino Valley

Paddleboarding and boating on Watson Lake near Prescott, Ariz.
Paddleboarding and boating on Watson Lake near Prescott, Ariz. (Photo: Courtesy Prescott Tourism)

Perfect Prescott
From great hiking and kayaking to a fun downtown scene, here are the top 5 reasons to explore Prescott.

Desert Fun in Chino Valley
The Peavine Trail follows the route of the old Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railroad in broken segments all the way from Chino Valley to Watson Lake and Prescott. Hike or bike the section through Chino Valley to see a sweeping ranchlands and views of the surrounding mountains.

Unexpected Oasis at Cottonwood

Wine tasting on the deck at Page Springs Cellars in Cottonwood, Arizona
Wine tasting on the deck at Page Springs Cellars in Cottonwood, Arizona (Photo: Courtesy Page Springs Cellars)

Take a stroll through this charming historic downtown packed with wine tasting rooms and restaurants before heading to a rare solitude-fueled national monument.

Sustainably Sedona

Hiker on Schuerman Mountain Trail in Sedona
Hiker on Schuerman Mountain Trail in Sedona (Photo: Courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau)

Transform from a tourist to conscientious traveler by traveling off-season or choosing to hike a collection of stunningly beautiful trails with all the solitude but none of the traffic of the vortexes.

Bring the Gypsy Guide App to Sedona
Enjoy the freedom of driving your own car while traveling with an entertaining guide that doesn’t take up space. Learn more at gypsyguide.com/tour/sedona/.

Slide Rock State Park
Wear your jeans to slide down a slick natural water chute or put on your bathing suit to wade in a sparkling creek at Slide Rock State Park seven miles north of Sedona. Plus 9 more Arizona State Parks near the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff

Star party at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Star party at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Ariz. (Photo: Courtesy Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition and Discover Flagstaff)

Surrounded by the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, Flagstaff’s uncrowded trails offer solitude among aspen, deep, dark skies for stargazing and outstanding views. Here are seven things to do including visiting a national monument with cliff dwellings.

Starry Nights at Lowell Observatory
Visit a legendary landmark where Pluto was discovered and scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Best Eco-Friendly Flagstaff + Grand Canyon Vacation Itinerary
Experience the best of the Grand Canyon while eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodging and hiking on gorgeous trails.

Route 66, Bears and the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams

Cruisers Cafe on Historic Route 66 in Williams, Arizona
Cruisers Cafe on Historic Route 66 in Williams, Arizona (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

A wildlife park and a scenic train ride are waiting for you in this Grand Canyon gateway town full of Route 66 flavor.

Bearizona Drive-thru Wildlife Park
See bears, wolves, buffalo and more in this drive through park among the pine forests of north Arizona.

Take the Grand Canyon Railway to the National Park
Park your car in Williams and take a scenic ride on the Grand Canyon Railway into the heart of the park. Riders are immersed in history and culture as they travel to the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park

Hiker at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon
Hiker at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Stop at Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Hidden secrets await in Tusayan.

Bring the Gypsy Guide App
Enjoy the freedom of driving your own car while traveling with an entertaining guide that doesn’t take up space. Learn more at gypsyguide.com/tour/grand-canyon-south-rim/

48 Hours in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Get ready for adventure. Here are some of our favorite things to do while at the South Rim from biking in solitude to exploring some of the rim’s most historic treasures.

Fly Above the Grand Canyon with Maverick Helicopters
Take a helicopter tour of some of Grand Canyon South Rim’s most popular sights. View Marble Canyon and Point Imperial as you fly through the canyon and climb above the North Rim. Learn more at www.maverickhelicopter.com

A Grander Stay at Yavapai Lodge
Sleep well and sustainably about a mile from the rim. The Yavapai Lodge’s restaurant, tavern and nearby market and shuttle stop make navigating the rim easy.

Tori Peglar's family hiking down the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon
A family hiking down the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand CanyonTori Peglar

Into the Deep
Read a family’s story about hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and discovering there’s more than meets the eye.


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