Last Updated on January 27, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Planning an epic Arizona road trip? Here’s an amazing 2-week Arizona itinerary from Phoenix local, Samantha Glauser of My Flying Leap.
The American Southwest is made for road trips, thanks to its jaw-dropping natural sights and spectacular backcountry. Arizona is a lot more than just the Grand Canyon — it’s an incredibly diverse state made up of desert landscapes, saguaro cacti fields, and stunning red rock canyons.
Phoenix has been my home for over 15 years now, so I have had the pleasure of getting to explore many parts of the state. I have designed this Arizona itinerary for first-time visitors in mind, packing in many popular tourist areas as well as some lesser-traveled ones.
Table of Contents
- Arizona Road Trip Guide
- Current Arizona Travel Restrictions
- How to Get to Arizona
- How to Get Around Arizona
- Best Time to Go on an Arizona Road Trip
- Arizona Itinerary Days 1 – 3: Start in Phoenix
- Arizona Itinerary Days 4 – 5: Immerse in Red Rock Sedona
- Arizona Itinerary Day 6: Stop Over in Flagstaff
- Arizona Itinerary Days 7-9: Explore the Grand Canyon
- Arizona Itinerary Day 10: Hike in Monument Valley
- Arizona Itinerary Day 11: Explore Canyon de Chelly
- Arizona Itinerary Day 12-13: Kick Back in Tucson
- Where to Stay in Tucson
- Arizona Itinerary Day 14: Drive back to Phoenix!
- Enjoy Your Arizona Road Trip!
- About the Author: Samantha Glauser
Arizona Road Trip Guide
Current Arizona Travel Restrictions
Regardless of vaccination status, all air passengers entering the U.S. have to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three days of international departure. For those traveling to Arizona from other states, there are no current travel restrictions or quarantine mandates. Check the Arizona tourist board website for up-to-date info.
It’s important to have travel insurance for travel during the pandemic. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get to Arizona
The main gateway to Arizona is the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It serves as a hub for American Airlines and Southwest, and all major airlines fly through there. You can find cheap flights from New York to Phoenix for just $110 each way, and from Los Angeles to Phoenix for only $88 each way.
For those flying to Arizona from Europe, you can get pretty good deals from London to Phoenix for around $800 return with a stopover in Chicago.
How to Get Around Arizona
To do this Arizona road trip, you need to rent a car. A 2-week car rental in Arizona costs around US$420 which equates to $30/day (with pick-up and drop-off at the Phoenix Airport). I always book my car rental on Discover Cars as they’ve consistently given me the best rates and customer service.
Driving around Arizona is a breeze as the roads are generally well maintained and signposted. You will hit some stretches that may have a limited cell network, especially in the northeast areas. It’s a good idea to either print directions or download Google maps for offline use.
Best Time to Go on an Arizona Road Trip
The best time to travel Arizona is during the spring (March-May) or fall (September-November). Late spring offers moderate temperatures in Phoenix with gorgeous weather for traveling in the rest of the state. It’s also a great time as you avoid the summer crowds at popular places like Grand Canyon.
Arizona has pretty extreme temperatures in summer. The average summer temperature in Phoenix is around 105°F (nearly 41°C). Winters can be snowy and cold. Flagstaff averages over 100 inches of snow annually (2.5 meters) — it’s the eighth snowiest city in the United States!
Arizona Itinerary Days 1 – 3: Start in Phoenix
This Arizona road trip will start in Phoenix, the biggest city in the state. This low-desert area is in a valley surrounded by mountains. It’s nicknamed “Valley of the Sun” as it gets over 300 days of sunshine every year. In the summer, it feels like it’s two steps from the sun!
I recommend spending at least three days in Phoenix to soak it all up and get to know the city inside out. There are many fun things to do in Phoenix: from hiking mountain trails to visiting museums. Start with a visit to the Heard Museum, the foremost showcase of Native American art and culture in the U.S. Artists demonstrate their work during the week and musicians perform on most weekends. Foodies will also love the excellent restaurants in Phoenix, including the Wrigley Mansion.
Hike up Superstition Mountains
Make a daytrip to the Superstition Mountains if you have the time. It’s only an hour from the city center and this mountain range is striking with a number of fun hikes. You can also enjoy beautiful Canyon Lake on a paddleboat ride on the Dolly Steamboat. Be sure to stop at the Superstition Restaurant and Saloon, with a wild wild west setting and dollar bills everywhere! If you still have room after eating there, there is a small country store next door that serves prickly pear ice cream, a local treat.
Explore Old Town Scottsdale
If you’re looking for a fun place to stretch your legs without the commitment of hiking a mountain, head to Old Town Scottsdale which is just a 25-minute drive from Phoenix. Made up of nine walkable neighborhoods, Old Town Scottsdale has a great collection of shops, art galleries, contemporary public art installations, world-class museums and historic sites from the late 1880s.
Arizona Itinerary Days 4 – 5: Immerse in Red Rock Sedona
From Phoenix, it’s just a 2-hour drive to our next stop: the red rock town of Sedona, one of the best-known places in Arizona. The buttes all over town are a brilliant red color and they make for such a picturesque setting. Sedona is a popular place for artists, spiritualists, and nature lovers alike.
Spend a couple of days in this stunning oasis and go on adventurous hikes around Sedona. A fairly flat hike in a beautiful area is the West Fork Trail. For more adventurous hikes, check out Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon, and the impressive natural arch, Devil’s Bridge Trail.
Arizona Itinerary Day 6: Stop Over in Flagstaff
At just 45 minutes from Sedona, Flagstaff is small town that actually gets more visitors who are passing through than staying for the night. It’s just a 1.5-hour drive from Grand Canyon, and is used as a launchpad to the national park.
I recommend spending a night here before driving to the Grand Canyon, mainly to see the Wupatki, a Native American ruin complex. Wupatki means “tall house” in the Hopi language and it got this name for the Sinagua pueblo dwelling with over 100 rooms. It is believed to be the largest and tallest structure from this time. Wupatki National Monument is my favorite area in Arizona.
Take some time to wander the cute little historic downtown Flagstaff and enjoy the live music shows. Check out the Lowell Observatory established in 1894. Take a peek through their telescopes and watch a show in the planetarium.
Arizona Itinerary Days 7-9: Explore the Grand Canyon
Ready for the best part of this Arizona road trip? One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is unmatched in terms of its sheer scale and magnitude. It runs down to a mile (1.6 km) deep, and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. Layered bands of colorful rock reveal millions of years of geologic history. The canyon lights up in color with the shifting sun.
Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the US, so make sure to book your tickets in advance. The current rate is $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle for a seven day pass. Book your entrance pass here.
Visit the South Rim
From Flagstaff, it’s approximately a 2-hour drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Take the Desert View Drive and you’ll find several stunning panoramic points along the way. I highly recommend stopping at the less popular, lesser-known overlooks; they are often even more spectacular than their more popular counterparts.
Lipan Point is my favorite as you can get a great view of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, a unique rock strata visible to this extent from only a few places on the South Rim. You can also see the Unkar Delta, once home to ancestral Puebloan people.
The Desert View Point is another spectacular one. A short ¼-mile (402 m) walk from the parking area leads past historic buildings, to the rim. From here, you can see the Colorado River make a big bend to the west, as well as the Historic Desert View Watchtower.
See the Spectacular Horseshoe Bend
Head north towards Page, and you’ll find Arizona’s most iconic spots. Just a 2-hour drive from the South Rim, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed site in Grand Canyon. Get here early if you want a good spot for sunset photography.
Horsehoe Bend is pretty easy to get to, with a parking lot right near the overlook. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the overlook itself. There are no railings, so be careful on the edges.
Marvel at Antelope Canyon
Arguably the most famous slot canyon in the world, Antelope Canyon truly is unlike anywhere else on this Arizona itinerary. With its naturally stunning formation, it’s a testament to the works of Mother Nature.
There are actually two Antelope Canyons: Upper and Lower. Upper Antelope Canyon is more famous and also can be narrower, and Lower Antelope Canyon is a bit wider, though there are stairs to access it.
The canyon is located on Navajo land and the only way to get there is by joining a tour. It’s essential to book in advance, especially if you’re traveling Arizona during popular times of year (May through September). Book your tour here!
Arizona Itinerary Day 10: Hike in Monument Valley
Monument Valley is a little over three hours from Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Located in a Navajo Tribal Park, the valley sprawls across the border of Arizona and Utah within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation.
There is a 17-mile loop drive to take in the buttes and there are some hikes you can go on. Some of the most impressive sights include the famous West and East Mitten Buttes, John Ford Point, the Three Sisters, Sun’s Eye, North Window and Sleeping Dragon.
As with Canyon de Chelly, this is also Native American land so you’ll need to book a tour to explore it. I recommend this small-group Monument Valley tour with a local Navajo guide who will bring you to the backcountry and share his Navajo culture with you. If you’re looking for a unique experience, this sunset tour will let you experience the valley at the golden hour.
Arizona Itinerary Day 11: Explore Canyon de Chelly
Take the long way back to Phoenix and make your first stop (after 1.5 hours of driving) at the Canyon de Chelly. It’s not as large as the Grand Canyon, but it’s every bit as beautiful. And added bonus, no huge throngs of tourists!
Canyon de Chelly is located on Native American lands in a remote area in the northeastern part of Arizona. You need a local guide to tour the canyon. However, the hikes to the White House and Spider Rock Overlook – two of the park’s most famous spots – are accessible without a guide.
Wander around the Petrified Forest
For those who’d rather continue with this Arizona road trip, continue driving 1.5-hours south towards Phoenix, and you’ll reach the Petrified Forest National Park. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the park covers about 346 square miles (900 square kilometers), encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe and colorful badlands.
A good starting point is a drive through the park along the main park road that stretches 28 miles (45 km), with spurs and viewpoints along the way. Then hike the Painted Desert Rim Trail, a 1-mile route that winds through the rim woodland, offering spectacular views of the Painted Desert.
Drive Route 66
Take a drive down historic Route 66 and stop at the corner in Winslow, Arizona (an hour away). Yes, the one that the Eagles reference in their song. With petroglyphs, outdoor adventures, and the best-preserved meteor impact site on earth, Winslow is actually quite an interesting little spot for a short stopover.
Just outside Winslow, you’ll find the Arizona Meteor Crater, a crater created by a meteor almost 50,000 years ago. At the park, you will learn about the discovery of the site and the scientists who worked to find the final resting place of the meteor. Head to the lookout point for the best view of the 4,000 foot wide (1219 meter) crater.
Arizona Itinerary Day 12-13: Kick Back in Tucson
Next day, drive south for 4.5 hours to reach Tucson, the second biggest city in Arizona. With a small town feel, Tucson has a strong Mexican influence and a fun and funky artistic vibe. Tour the downtown area and don’t miss the Barrio Historico with its brightly-colored 19th-century adobe homes. By night, head to the Fourth Avenue for the best restaurants and bars.
Check out the Airplane Boneyard at the Pima Air and Space Museum and visit the Titan Missile Museum to see an inert nuclear weapon. Then, head to the picturesque Mission San Xavier del Bac, a Catholic mission built in 1692.
Explore Bisbee and Tombstone
Take a day trip to the old copper mining town of Bisbee. In this haven for artists and hippies, you’ll get to see the small-town charm of Arizona at its finest. Wander the town center and enjoy the beautifully renovated Victorian homes and the art Deco county courthouse.
Book a tour of the Copper Queen Mine and climb the 1,000 stairs meandering through the mountains overlooking the city. Check out the fun and heavily decorated “art cars.” They are a real trip!
On your way back to Tucson, stop in historic Tombstone, the location of the famous shoot-out at the OK Corral. They still do fun, albeit a bit campy, re-enactments several times a day. You’ll get a feel for the Old West during its thriving silver mining days.
Arizona Itinerary Day 14: Drive back to Phoenix!
From Tucson, it’s just a 1.5-hour drive back to Phoenix. I suggest driving back early to avoid the traffic and to catch your flight home. There are quite a few airport hotels in Phoenix in case you need one for an early morning flight.
Radisson Hotel Phoenix Airport is my hotel of choice here — it’s reasonably priced and rooms are on the top end. SureStay Hotel by Best Western Phoenix Airport is a budget hotel that is actually the nearest hotel to the airport. Check rates here.
Enjoy Your Arizona Road Trip!
There are so many epic places to visit in Arizona that it can be tough to choose which places to visit. I’ve designed this Arizona itinerary to include the best places this state has to offer: from outstanding national parks to Navajo land and cute charming towns.
If you’re interested in exploring more of the US, check out other articles I’ve written:
- California Road Trip Itinerary
- Utah Road Trip Itinerary
- Nevada Road Trip Itinerary
- Florida Road Trip Itinerary
- Weekend in Seattle
- Weekend in Los Angeles
- Weekend in San Francisco
- Weekend in Miami
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. I make a small commission when you purchase something through my links, at NO extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
About the Author: Samantha Glauser
Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover on a quest to create a life of travel with her dog. She loves learning new things, snuggling a dog, architecture, hiking, and bold red wine. Join her in creating a life to dream about at My Flying Leap!
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