As a curious traveler exploring Arizona, I found myself in the vibrant and scorching city of Phoenix. With a population of 1.66 million people, Phoenix offers a plethora of attractions and experiences that are bound to captivate any visitor.
During my stay in Phoenix, I immersed myself in the wonders this city has to offer. I spent my days exploring the majestic Camelback Mountain, marveling at the diverse and fascinating animals at Phoenix Zoo, and taking leisurely strolls through the enchanting Desert Botanical Garden. The city presents endless opportunities to stay entertained and engaged.
However, the adventure doesn’t end within the city limits. Beyond Phoenix, there are numerous captivating day trips that await exploration. These day trips promise to keep me on my toes, offering new experiences and breathtaking sights that showcase the diversity of Arizona’s landscapes.
So, let’s delve into 15 remarkable day trips from Phoenix that will undoubtedly leave you in awe of this beautiful state and its surrounding wonders.
1. Grand Canyon
Stretching as far as the eye can see, the Grand Canyon is a vast and magnificent spectacle. Its breathtaking beauty captivates the soul, reminding us of the sheer grandeur and power of nature.
To truly appreciate the splendor of the Grand Canyon, I made my way to two of the best viewpoints: Mather Point and the Mary Colter Lookout Studio. From these vantage points, I was treated to awe-inspiring panoramas that showcase the sheer magnitude and awe-inspiring beauty of this natural wonder.
One of the most popular viewpoints, Lipon Point, offers unforgettable vistas of the Grand Canyon itself, with the meandering Colorado River flowing gracefully below. The views from here are truly breathtaking, leaving me in a state of wonder and amazement.
For the most incredible and unforgettable experiences, I made it a point to witness the Grand Canyon at sunrise and sunset. The soft hues of the rising or setting sun cast a magical glow upon the canyon, creating a surreal and unforgettable ambiance. These moments are truly priceless, etching themselves into my memory as the pinnacle of my Grand Canyon adventure.
2. Las Vegas
Everyone should visit Las Vegas, also known as Sin City, at least once in their lifetime. It is a captivating place filled with casinos, extravagant hotels, mesmerizing cabaret shows, and countless other forms of entertainment. All of this is set against the backdrop of the Nevada desert, making it a truly unique wonderland.
In contrast to the steady pace of life in Phoenix, Las Vegas offers an exhilarating and enchanting experience. However, it can be a little overwhelming if you stay for too long. Therefore, I recommend experiencing Las Vegas in a short and sweet manner, allowing yourself to fully immerse in its vibrant atmosphere without getting too consumed.
If you happen to be traveling with your lover, why not embrace the cliché and make a visit to the Graceland Wedding Chapel? After all, when in Vegas, why not seize the opportunity to indulge in a bit of spontaneity and romance?
3. Los Angeles
Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood superstars, sports heroes, and business gods, is a place that I highly recommend exploring, even if it’s just for a day. There are so many exciting things to do and see in this vibrant city.
One of the must-visit attractions in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Take a leisurely stroll down this iconic street and pose with the stars dedicated to your idols. It’s a great way to feel connected to the rich history of the entertainment industry.
For a more adventurous experience, head up to the hills and walk beneath the world-famous Hollywood sign. This iconic symbol of the city offers a picturesque backdrop for your exploration. It’s a fantastic opportunity to capture some stunning photos and create lasting memories.
Another highlight of any visit to Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory. This breathtaking art-deco building not only provides a magnificent view of the cityscape but also offers a chance to peek through the telescopes and marvel at the wonders of the universe. It’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
And let’s not forget about Disneyland! This magical place is not just for kids; it has something for everyone. Regardless of your taste in film or your age, Disneyland guarantees fun and unforgettable memories. So why not embrace your inner child and immerse yourself in the enchantment of this iconic theme park?
4. Tucson Mountain Park
If you’re eager to embark on a day trip from Phoenix, let me tell you about the wonders of Tucson Mountain Park. It’s the perfect place to discover the breathtaking Arizona landscape.
First things first, make sure you put on your trusty hiking boots and pack plenty of water. Remember, we’re in the desert, so staying hydrated is essential. Once you’re prepared, set off on one of the many captivating hiking trails that Tucson Mountain Park has to offer. The diverse trails cater to various fitness levels, ensuring there’s something suitable for everyone to enjoy.
For those seeking a more exhilarating adventure, consider grabbing a set of wheels and exploring the park by mountain bike. Tucson Mountain Park presents an exciting opportunity to challenge yourself with its gnarly ascents and thrilling terrains. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a novice, there’s a trail that will cater to your skill level.
The park not only provides stunning scenic lookout points but also offers an accessible experience for those with minimal fitness levels. It’s a fantastic place to soak in the natural beauty of the surroundings without pushing yourself too hard. However, if you’re up for a challenge, the park has plenty of thrilling opportunities waiting for you.
5. Saguaro Lake Marina
I highly recommend taking a relaxing and peaceful day trip from Phoenix to Saguaro Lake Marina. It’s a perfect opportunity to connect with the beautiful scenic landscape and immerse yourself in nature.
Located off State Route 87, between the intriguing ghost-town of Sunflower and the bustling city of Phoenix, Saguaro Lake Marina is easily accessible. You won’t have to worry about a long and tiring journey to reach this tranquil oasis.
The lake itself is a haven for fishing enthusiasts, as it is home to a wide variety of fish species. From Rainbow Trout to Yellow Bass and Channel Catfish, there’s a chance to reel in a memorable catch. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner looking for a new adventure, Saguaro Lake Marina provides an ideal fishing spot.
It’s worth noting that Saguaro Lake is a man-made reservoir created by the Stewart Mountain Dam. The impressive engineering behind this structure adds to the allure of the area and provides a fascinating backdrop for your day trip.
During your visit, there are numerous activities to enjoy. You can opt for a serene kayaking excursion, feel the rush of water skiing, or simply take a refreshing swim in the cool waters of the lake. There’s something for everyone, ensuring a day filled with excitement and relaxation.
6. Joshua Tree National Park
Venturing into California, I highly recommend a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. This rugged and raw landscape is not only highly photogenic but also offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
Spanning across 3,200 km², the park is home to thousands of twisted and spiny Joshua Trees, which give the area its unique and captivating beauty. Situated between the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, Joshua Tree National Park is a hiker’s paradise, especially if you enjoy the thrill of leaping from boulder to boulder.
For those seeking true adventure, this national park is just a little over a three-hour drive from central Phoenix. It’s a journey that’s definitely worth taking to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery and embrace the spirit of exploration.
While you’re there, be sure to make time to visit Keys View. This vantage point offers a spectacular view over the Coachella Valley, providing a mesmerizing vista that will leave you in awe. It’s the perfect spot to soak in the natural beauty and appreciate the vastness of the surrounding landscapes.
7. Lake Mead
Lake Mead, officially the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of capacity, stretches across the states of Nevada and Arizona. As a designated National Recreation Area, Lake Mead offers a plethora of opportunities for exploration and exciting adventures.
There are countless ways to enjoy the area. Many people opt to explore the perimeters of Lake Mead on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), immersing themselves in the rugged surroundings. Others prefer the tranquility of fishing or embark on a relaxing boat tour, allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the water from a different perspective. No matter what your outdoor interests are, Lake Mead has something to offer that will surely please you.
This remarkable lake was formed as a result of the impressive Hoover Dam. If you’re up for a jam-packed day trip from Phoenix, you can even combine a visit to Lake Mead with a tour of the dam. It’s an opportunity to witness two iconic sites in a single excursion, provided you’re prepared for a day filled with adventure and exploration.
Bisbee is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends history, natural beauty, and unique experiences. This small city nestled in the Mule Mountains of southeastern Arizona, is steeped in rich mining history. Once a bustling copper mining town, Bisbee has transformed into a captivating destination of its own.
To delve into the city’s fascinating past, I highly recommend visiting the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. This museum offers a treasure trove of insights into the abundant history of the area. Additionally, the Muheim Heritage House provides a vivid glimpse into the daily lives of locals in the 19th century, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the heritage of Bisbee.
For a scenic and immersive experience, take a leisurely walk up Tombstone Canyon. As you wander, you’ll come across the homes that were once inhabited by hardworking mining families, providing a glimpse into the city’s bygone era.
If you’re not claustrophobic, an underground adventure awaits you at Queen Mine. Descend into the depths of Bisbee and explore the fascinating underworld. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to witness firsthand the challenging conditions faced by miners and gain a deeper appreciation for the mining legacy of the city.
9. Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle, one of Arizona’s oldest and most fascinating historical sites, is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts like myself. Montezuma Castle is not only a historical gem but also an important link to our heritage. It allows us to appreciate the rich tapestry of human history and the ingenuity of those who came before us.
Located in the red rocks of Yavapai County, Montezuma Castle is situated within the well-preserved village of Camp Verde. It’s here that you’ll discover the awe-inspiring Montezuma Castle itself, which was created by the native Sinagua Indians over 600 years ago. This remarkable structure stands as one of the best-preserved prehistoric dwellings in the entire United States.
As I stood before the impressive Montezuma Castle, towering five storeys high, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder. The cliff dwelling, built into the rocks of Beaver Creek Canyon, is a sight that must be seen to be believed. With its twenty rooms, it serves as a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Sinagua people. Exploring the national monument offers a unique opportunity to connect with our past and gain a deeper understanding of the ancient cultures that once thrived in the region.
10. Saguaro National Park
As an avid lover of the great outdoors, I highly recommend embarking on a day trip from Phoenix to the magnificent Saguaro National Park. This national park is a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a perfect blend of preservation and accessibility. With a multitude of hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, Saguaro National Park provides ample opportunities to explore the stunning desert landscape.
One trail that stands out is the Signal Hill Trail, located in the Tucson Mountain District of the park. Along this trail, you can discover ancient petroglyphs created by the Hohokam people, offering a fascinating glimpse into the rich history of the area.
If you have a passion for botany, the Cactus Forest Drive in the Rincon Mountain District is an absolute must-see. This scenic route takes you through the heart of Saguaro National Park, allowing you to witness the famous giant cacti of Arizona and the stark beauty of the desert landscapes. It’s an ideal choice for budding botanists and those seeking to immerse themselves in the unique flora of the region.
Saguaro National Park is a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts, providing an array of experiences that cater to different interests. Whether you’re exploring ancient petroglyphs, marveling at towering saguaro cacti, or simply taking in the breathtaking desert scenery, this national park has something special to offer.
Sedona, with its breathtaking steep canyon walls and towering pine forests, is a truly remarkable destination that I highly recommend visiting. Located at the intersection of Yavapai and Coconino counties, Sedona is a haven of natural beauty. It boasts an abundance of stunning attractions, including the iconic Red Rock State Park, the refreshing Slide Rock State Park, and the awe-inspiring Oak Creek Canyon. Exploring these remarkable natural wonders is just the beginning of the Sedona experience.
One unique gem that stands out in Sedona is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This modern marvel contrasts beautifully with the surrounding natural landscapes. Nestled into the vibrant red rocks of Sedona, this quaint chapel offers a serene place of worship and a breathtaking viewpoint to admire the mesmerizing scenery.
Visitors flock from all corners of the globe to witness the striking and dazzling red sandstone formations that encircle Sedona. These formations create a mesmerizing backdrop that captivates the imagination and leaves a lasting impression.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a serene escape, Sedona offers an array of unforgettable experiences. From exploring the majestic parks to visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross, every corner of this town is steeped in natural beauty and wonder.
Flagstaff, nestled amidst towering pine forests, steep mountains, and the vast desert, serves as the gateway to the majestic San Francisco Peaks. As an enthusiastic skier or snowboarder, Flagstaff has always held a prominent place on my must-visit list. Flagstaff offers a remarkable blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and cultural exploration. From exhilarating winter sports at the Arizona Snowbowl to immersing oneself in the rich Native American history preserved at Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Park, this vibrant city has something for everyone.
The Arizona Snowbowl is a haven for snow sports enthusiasts, offering a relaxed and laid-back mountain resort experience throughout the year. Whether you’re seeking thrilling downhill adventures or serene cross-country skiing, the Snowbowl has it all, making it a must-visit destination for snow sports enthusiasts like me.
For those interested in delving into Native American history, a visit to the Wupatki National Monument is a fantastic addition to a day trip in Flagstaff. This extraordinary site showcases remarkably preserved Pueblo sites, offering a captivating insight into the ancestral heritage of the region.
Another notable attraction in Flagstaff is the Walnut Canyon National Park, where cliff dwellings take center stage. Exploring these ancient dwellings is a truly mesmerizing experience, allowing you to step back in time and witness the ingenuity and resilience of the people who once called this place home.
13. Apache Trail
The Apache Trail, also known as State Route 88, offers a fantastic day trip from Phoenix, even though it entails spending a significant portion of the day in the car. As Arizona’s oldest highway, the Apache Trail presents numerous scenic lookout points and stops along the way. It allows us to trace the footsteps of our ancestors, as it was originally designed for stagecoaches to traverse through the Apache Indian country.
Driving along the Apache Trail grants us the opportunity to traverse the state while soaking in the breathtaking views of the Superstition Mountains of the Lost Dutchman and the stunning landscapes of the Tonto National Forest.
Remarkably, the Apache Trail has remained true to its original form, with minimal improvements made since its inception. It provides an authentic and immersive experience, allowing us to connect with the history and ruggedness of the trail.
While smaller vehicles fare better on the trail, it’s important to note that larger RVs and trucks may face some challenges due to the road’s narrow and winding nature.
Jerome, another captivating copper mining town in Arizona, has an intriguing past that earned it the reputation of being the wildest and most sinful town in the Wild West. Its notorious “prostitution row” contributed to this reputation. However, with the depletion of copper resources, Jerome has undergone a transformation, now attracting more tourists than permanent residents.
Today, Jerome stands as a ghost town, offering visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the history of the once-thriving copper mining industry in Arizona. Exploring this town is like stepping into a living museum, where remnants of its mining past are preserved and shared, providing valuable insights and captivating stories.
While in Jerome, I recommend coupling your visit with a trip to the Tuzigoot National Monument. This archaeological site is home to a remarkably well-preserved ancient pueblo hilltop settlement. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ancient inhabitants who thrived in the region centuries ago. Adding Tuzigoot to your itinerary will enhance your understanding of Arizona’s rich history and complement the experience of exploring Jerome.
15. Meteor Crater
Just a short distance of under 40 miles east of Flagstaff, lies the awe-inspiring Meteor Crater of Arizona.
Renowned as the best-preserved terrestrial impact site on the planet, the Meteor Crater continues to be a subject of ongoing research and exploration.
Stretching an incredible 1.1km in diameter, standing at the edge of the Meteor Crater is an experience that defies words and must be witnessed firsthand to truly grasp its magnitude.
Scientists believe that this crater was formed over 50,000 years ago, when a colossal meteorite collided with the Earth’s surface, leaving behind this monumental scar.
In addition to marveling at the crater itself, visitors can immerse themselves in the wonders of space by exploring the Discovery Center. Here, interactive exhibits offer a chance to expand one’s knowledge of stars, rocks, and the vast mysteries of the cosmos.
A trip to the Meteor Crater promises an unforgettable experience, as you stand on the edge of an ancient testament to the powerful forces of the universe. It’s an opportunity to connect with the marvels of our planet’s history and gain a deeper understanding of the vastness and beauty of outer space.