15 Best Phoenix Road Trips: Weekend Getaways & Day Trips

Phoenix is surrounded by areas of natural beauty. Arizona is home to a range of landscapes, from deserts to forests, natural pools, and caves. Phoenix sits at the epicenter of it all. It’s no wonder that road trips and getaways are so popular around Phoenix as there is so much to see and explore. 

But, with so much ground to cover, it can be difficult to know where to go and what each place has to offer especially if you only have a day or a weekend available. 

To help you make the most of your free time, we’ve put together a handy guide of the best destinations to visit around Phoenix, whether it’s for the day, for a weekend or you’re stopping off on a road trip.

Sedona

Sedona is a fantastic destination to stopover on a road trip. Located only 2 hours from Phoenix you could even make it into a day trip. Sedona is an Arizona desert town surrounded by steep rock canyon walls and alpine forests.

Sedona is widely famous for its red rock formation. If you’re feeling active or need a break from the drive, why not experience taking in the stunning view of the rocky formation by hiking to Cathedral Rock. If this trail is too steep, you could always attempt the Devil’s Bridge trail, equally as beautiful but easier to hike. This hike is steep and is a great place to get a bird’s eye view of the stunning natural scenery. This is also a great place to stop if you’re a keen bird watcher.

If you feel like taking a break after your hike, uptown Sedona offers a multitude of quaint shops, spas, and galleries. This is a great place to stop over for a little rest. 

This destination offers:

  • Hiking and walking trails for different levels 
  • Stunning natural view of red rock formation
  • Leisure and entertainment 

Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert covering parts of Arizona. California and Mexico. This subtropical desert is home to a diverse variety of plants and animals. It is located right on Phoenix’s doorstep, taking only 50 minutes to travel there. 

This destination offers everything a thrill-seeking adventurer desires. If you’re looking for an active way to get up close and personal to the stunning natural surroundings of the Sonoran Desert, why not take a hike up one of the many trails available. The trails available lead to paths climbing to the summit of mountains. If you’re not a fan of hiking, biking trails are also available. 

If you’re not quite in the mood for venturing out on your own, there are a variety of guided tours available. Some guided tours are offered in a jeep to take you off-road to witness more natural beauty.

If you don’t fancy traveling by foot, horseback, waterboard or hot air balloon is an option. This destination provides an opportunity to get in touch with your wild side. This is a great destination for a day trip. 

This destination offers:

  • A range of outdoor activities
  • Astonishing views 
  • Close distance 

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Park Monument is a great place to visit for the day or to stop over on a road trip as it is only 1 hour and 30 minutes from Phoenix. 

On visiting Montezuma Castle you’ll be led by a self-guided trail that takes you on a historical tour that tells the story of the Sinagua culture. Along the trail, there is plenty of information about how the land was used. 

This national park is open all year round for continuous exploration. The best time to visit is March when the weather is warm but not too hot. Whilst there are no fish in the surrounding water there is a species of scorpion that resides there. These scorpions can’t be found anywhere else in the world. If you’re fascinated by nature, this is the right place for you to visit. 

Montezuma Castle National Monument boasts a wealth of cultural and historical significance. It is a great place for anyone interested in its history. If you don’t have a hike, it’s a great spot to sit and have a picnic if you’re looking at stopping over on your road trip. 

This destination offers:

  • A historical and cultural experience 
  • Hiking trails 
  • Unique wildlife experience

Meteor Crater

The Meteor Crater Natural Landmark is the world’s best-preserved and largest meteorite impact site on the Earth. Located 2 hours and 45 minutes from Phoenix, this is a great place to venture on a day trip. It offers an opportunity to get close to the crate via trail access. 

There is also a Meteor Crater & Barringer Space museum if you don’t feel like hiking and would rather get up close with artifacts and exhibits. 

This destination offers:

  • Access to a trail leading to the crater 
  • Outstanding natural views 
  • Meteor Crater & Barringer Space museum

Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park boasts astonishing views and teeming with wildlife. This destination is ideal for anyone looking for an outdoor adventure. This destination is an explorer’s heaven. Numerous trails are available and open to hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. There are trails available for a wide variety of experiences, some easier for beginners and others more difficult for advanced activity.

As it is only 1 hour 50 minutes from Phoenix, it’s a convenient place to visit for a day trip or to stop over on a road trip. However, there are plenty of campgrounds and picnic areas available with restrooms and water making this a great place to stay for an active weekend away. 

This destination offers:

  • Variety of trails open to all
  • Stunning landscape
  • Camping grounds 

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro is named after the large saguaro cactus native to the desert. This national treasure is an iconic southwestern landscape that offers astounding natural views. Only 2 hours and 30 minutes from Phoenix, this is a great place to stop over for the day. 

This destination offers self-guided nature trails to allow you to immerse yourself in the natural environment of the desert surroundings. Different trails are available for different abilities, each leads to a stunning view. 

There is also a museum (Arizona Sonora Desert Museum) available for anyone who likes to learn. This is a great way of entertaining kids if they are not up for hiking. The museum offers animal exhibits, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. 

This destination offers:

  • A desert experience 
  • Variety of hiking trails 
  • Arizona Sonora Desert Museum 

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park offers a breathtaking natural landscape with unimaginable views. It’s no wonder it’s classed as one of the natural wonders of the world. The Grand Canyon is located 3 hours and 20 minutes from Phoenix, though a little longer in distance, it’s still worth making it as a day trip or stopping over on a road trip. 

The south rim of the canyon is accessible all year and offers smoother terrain making hiking a little easier. The north rim is less accessible and it only opens for a couple of months of the year. This is a great place to visit if you enjoy exploring and spending time outdoors. The inner canyon is the ideal place to visit for anyone who is looking for an adventurous break as there are many opportunities for hiking, backpacking, horse riding, or river running. Lodges, restaurants, and facilities are available for anyone who wants to stay longer than a day to get the full canyon experience. 

This destination offers:

  • An area of natural beauty 
  • Outdoor activities 
  • Accommodation and facilities 

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is a preserved group of Hohokam structures dating to the Classic period. These structures were considered to be sacred with spiritual meaning for Native American Tribes. This destination offers a wealth of history and culture. If you are a history fanatic or interested in archeology, then this is an ideal destination stop for you. 

The ancient ruins are what have been left behind from ruins of villages, canals, and artifacts. These prehistoric structures offer a cultural and historical insight into the past. There is information available around the site on the history of the structures. 

Hiking trails are also available to use around the site to enable further exploration. Located only an hour from Phoenix, this is a great destination to visit for the day.

This destination offers:

  • Unique prehistoric structures 
  • A historical and cultural experience 
  • Walking trails 

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is located in Tonto National Forest. The majestic lake is set in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by canyon walls.

This destination is an area of stunning natural beauty. Saguaro is located only 50 minutes from Phoenix making it an ideal destination to visit for the day or to stop over on a road trip, especially during the summer months. 

Saguaro Lake offers a refreshing retreat from everyday life. There are plenty of opportunities for people to take part in outdoor activities on the water including kayaking, sailing, and skiing in the winter months. 

This destination is an ideal place to stop for keen fishers as it is considered a popular fishing hole for bass, car, rainbow trout and so much more. 

This is also a great location for those keen to be active and present outdoors. There are many hiking trails available for a variety of skill levels. 

This destination offers:

  • Water activities 
  • Hiking and fishing 
  • Stunning views 

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park is located in southern Arizona. The beautiful limestone caves are an outstanding feature made from minerals. If you’re interested in geology, then this is the destination stop for you. Located 2 hours and 30 minutes from Phoenix, this destination would make a great day trip or would make an ideal activity to experience on a road trip. 

On offer is a guided tour of the underground world. The tour allows you to explore the delicate ecosystem and to witness the natural beauty. You can also learn about the bat population living in the caverns and the history of the fossils. 

If you would rather extend your time at this destination, there are hotels, lodging, and camping grounds available.

This destination offers:

  • Cave experience 
  • Historical and geological experience 

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified is an interesting destination. The forest is home to petrified logs, fossils, wildlife, broad species of flowers, and ancient petroglyphs. 

Offering a range of hiking trails, this is a fantastic destination to explore to your heart’s content as there are more than 100 miles of forest to discover. If you plan on staying for longer than a day, there are opportunities to go off the beaten path and go backpacking in the park Wilderness Area. 

If you are planning on traveling with kids, you can visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Centre or the paleontological exhibits.

This destination offers:

  • Exploration of the wilderness area
  • Hiking trails 
  • Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Centre

Slide Rock State Park

Slide Rock State Park is considered one of the top 10 natural swimming holes in the US and a must-see location in Sedona. The park is famous for its red rock formations with crystal clear water running through. 

Only 2 hours from Phoenix, this is a great place to visit especially if you have kids. There are several activities on offer, from swimming to hiking and fishing. The rock formation creates a natural chute into the pools below for people to slide down.

This is an awesome natural water park that offers a fun-packed trip away. If you’re looking to visit for longer than a day or if you are stopping over as part of a road trip, there are hotels, lodging, and camping grounds available 

This destination offers:

  • Natural waterpark
  • Outdoor activities 
  • Accommodation

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument offers a stunning geological formation. This destination offers a historical overview of the volcano’s activity.

On offer is a mile-long hiking trail that allows you to walk through the Bonita Lava Flow, showing you the destruction of its flow. The trail shows features of the volcano’s eruption. Another hiking trail will take you to the bowl of the cinder cone so you can see how the volcano was formed and experience the magnitude of its power. 

This destination is a great spot for any wildlife lovers as this location is a wilderness hotspot. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot prairie dogs, mule, deer, elk, pronghorn, and a range of birds such as the golden eagle. 

This destination is 2 hours 30 minutes from Phoenix and so it would make a great trip for a day out. But if you wanted to stay longer or if you’re stopping over on a road trip, there are camping grounds on the lava flow. 

This destination offers:

  • Volcanic experience 
  • Hiking 
  • Accommodation 

Coconino National Forest 

Coconino National Forest stretches from the Verde River to Sunset Crater National Monument. It offers a diverse landscape of red rocks, desert, Ponderosa pine forest, and alpine tundra. This is a destination that offers esteemed natural beauty and offers the opportunity to explore a broad range of landscapes. 

There are plenty of opportunities to explore as well as activities available such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and camping. This is a popular destination for people to travel to for a weekend break to get away from everyday life. 

With a great opportunity to adventure, you’ll have the chance to walk up trails that offer magnificent views, cool yourself down in pristine waters, or discover river caves. 

This destination offers:

  • Range of activities
  • Camping 
  • Beautiful natural landscapes

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination. Surrounded by Sedona desert, holding crystal waters, this lake is an ideal spot to visit to relax. 

There is a range of activities on offer from kayaking to fishing and scuba diving. This destination is great for anyone who loves being active and being outdoors. If you’re looking to stay for longer than a day. There are campgrounds available with evening activities such as stargazing and dinner cruises. 

With the range of activities this destination offers, there is something for everyone. Located only 45 minutes from Phoenix, this is a great place you can keep coming back to. 

This destination offers:

  • A range of activities
  • Scenic views 
  • Camping