Arizona is the 6th largest state in the US. It is found in the Southwest and shares borders with Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
The Southern border of Arizona is shared with South America. It is a landlocked state, and the conditions are desert-like. It is a fascinating state to visit, with rich history and varied culture.
If you want to visit and explore Arizona, a road trip could be a great idea. There is so much to see and a lot of ground to cover – a road trip would allow you to visit the biggest attractions and also take in the scenery as you travel from place to place.
10 days is an ideal length of time, as you won’t feel too rushed but you will still have enough time to see the most important sights.
Planning a road trip can be overwhelming – it is difficult to choose where to go and decide on the best route. We have made it a lot easier for you by putting together this itinerary for a 10 day road trip to Arizona.
We have selected the best attractions and sights, planned a route, and included helpful advice to ensure you get the most out of your road trip.
If you want to know more about the best itinerary for a 10 day road trip in Arizona, then keep reading.
When To Visit Arizona
Arizona gets very hot in the summer, so the best time to visit is the Spring or the Fall. March and April will be quiet, but May is when the flowers are in full bloom. October and November tend to be quiet months if you want to avoid the crowds.
Where To Stay
You can use a car for your road trip and stay in hotels, motels, and holiday rentals. Alternatively, you can rent a camper van (or use your own). This is usually the cheaper option.
Make sure you reserve campsites in advance as some of them will fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. You can also look into dispersed camping, as there are lots of suitable spots in Arizona.
Remember, this means that there will be no facilities. You will need to prepare and pack everything you need, but it does give you more freedom.
Where To Start
There are lots of potential starting points for your road trip, but one of the best ones has to be Tucson. It was the most populated city in Arizona until 1920, and it has a rich culture.
There are lots of flights in and out of Tucson which makes it a convenient starting place for your road trip.
We recommend arriving in Tucson the day before you plan to hit the road so you have a chance to look around. You could visit the African American Museum Of Southern Arizona or the Tucson Museum Of Art.
Check out the Tucson Botanical Gardens or take a ride on the Sun Link Streetcar to get around the city.
10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
If you stay overnight in or around Tucson then you will be ready to start your road trip bright and early on Day one. This road trip can also be done in reverse.
Make sure you book attractions and campsites in advance to ensure that you won’t be left disappointed. Check out our suggested itinerary for your Arizona road trip.
Day One – Saguaro National Park & Tombstone
Grab a coffee and then hit the road for a short 30 minute drive from Tucson to the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center on the East side of Saguaro National Park.
You will need to purchase your park pass, and then you are free to explore the 143 square miles of land.
The desert landscape is dotted with saguaro cacti, large plants that only grow in the state of Arizona. Explore the trails and stop at one of the designated picnic areas to eat some lunch.
After lunch, get back in the car and head to the city of Tombstone. It takes just over an hour, or an hour and a half if you want to take the scenic route through the Santa Rita foothills. You can stop at Helvetia lookout to take some photographs of the landscape.
The historic city of Tombstone has a Wild West feel that comes to life on Allen Street. Make sure you visit Wyatt Earp’s House that has been turned into a museum.
You can also take a guided ghost walk through the city to learn more about its previous inhabitants. You might also want to plan a visit to Tombstone Brewing Co to taste their craft beers.
There are lots of restaurants and saloons to choose from for your evening meal, all with that classic cowboy feel to complete your experience.
When it is time to turn in, you can choose from a range of available lodging options from motels to B&Bs to RV parks and campgrounds.
Day Two – Phoenix & Sedona
Get up nice and early on day two of the road trip to drive the three hour trip from Tombstone to Phoenix. Phoenix is the most populated city in the state of Arizona so you will want to spend plenty of time here.
Check out the Musical Instrument Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden. While you are in the area you might want to check out Taliesin West, a historical landmark designed by late architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Phoenix also has its own zoo, with lots of different species of animals to learn about. You might also want to have a look at Chase Field BallPark, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
To give yourself as much exploring time as possible, we recommend grabbing lunch from one of the amazing Food Trucks dotted around the city.
There are so many types of cuisine to try – Mexican, Mediterranean, American BBQ food, wood fired pizzas, specialty sandwiches and many more.
There are also lots of delicious sweet treats like cookies, flavored snow, churros, ice cream, donuts and pretzels.
Staying overnight in and around Phoenix can be expensive, so when you are ready you should hop back in the car and head to Sedona. It takes about two hours, and there are plenty of options when it comes to where to stay.
The Sedona food scene is varied and exciting, so try and get there in time to grab a bite to eat and soak up some of the nightlife.
Day Three – Sedona To Holbrook And The Petrified Forest National Park
Day three of the road trip has a slower start. Grab a nice coffee and take some time to wander around some of the 80 art galleries woven into the city. The Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village is a great place to start.
You can then take the two and a half hour drive to the Petrified Forest National Park. You can explore the park in your vehicle via the road system, or park up and hit the trails. You will see interesting geology, archaeology, natural features and stunning views.
Once you have explored the park, take a short 25 minute drive to Holbrook. This small but charming city is a lovely place to spend the evening and makes a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Tucson and Phoenix.
Make sure you check out the Navajo County Historical Society building with a Museum inside, and the Painted Desert Indian Center. If you are looking for somewhere a little different to stay, book into the Wigwam Hotel.
Grab a bite to eat at Empty Pockets Saloon which has been very highly rated by customers.
The drive between The Petrified Forest and Holbrook will take you along Route 66 – if you want to do a bit more driving you can continue along route 66 and stop at some of the points of interest along the way.
A lot of people stop to take photos of Meteor Crater, or to visit the Route 66 Museum. It has lots of fun and imaginative displays to engage you in the local history of the area.
Day Four – Coconino National Forest & Monument Valley
Day four of the road trip has a lot of driving, but the routes are scenic and there are lots of places to stop along the way if you need to stretch your legs or get some fresh air. You can stop at whichever places catch your eye.
Head West from Holbrook into the Coconino National Forest with beautiful woodland to explore. On the way, you might want to stop in Winslow, a lovely town, for a spot of breakfast.
Continue on to the Montezuma Castle National Monument which is an important site of Native American culture and history. From here it is a 3-4 hour drive to monument valley, depending on traffic and how often you stop.
You will pass through the city of Flagstaff which is a good place to stop for a comfort break and to grab some tasty food.
Monument Valley has unique and breathtaking landscapes. There is a 17 mile dirt loop that you can drive to get a good look at the natural features, or you can hike the 3 mile loop if you want to get closer and soak up the atmosphere.
There is a hotel you can stay in within the valley, or you can camp if you get the necessary backcountry permit. If you are looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat, check out this list of restaurants.
If you want a once in a lifetime dining experience then head to The View Restaurant, with panoramic views over the valley.
Day Five – Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend & Lake Powell
On day five you will drive around two hours from Monument valley to Antelope Canyon. Make sure you book in advance for a tour of this stunning geological feature, which is also known as corkscrew canyon due to its interesting shape.
There are 5 separate slots to view called Upper Antelope Canyon, RattleSnake Canyon, Owl Canyon, Mountain Sheep Canyon, and Lower Antelope Canyon.
The canyon is protected by the Navajo Parks and Recreation and is only accessible via a tour with an authorized company. Tours fill up quickly so don’t leave it too late to book.
From Antelope Canyon it’s a 10 minute drive to Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
This stunning horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River is located on the East rim of the Grand Canyon and is a must-see spot on your road trip. There is a 1.5 mile hike which is perfect for getting the best views of horseshoe bend.
The bright blue water curves around the red rocks, with a giant formation sticking up like an island. It is a breathtaking spot, and a great place to sit and take in your surroundings.
Another 12 minutes along the road is Lake Powell. With warm waters and serene shorelines it is the ideal place to wind down after your sightseeing. There are different types of lodging available including a campground or houseboat experiences.
You can fish or swim in the lake, or you can relax by the water. There are 5 different waterside restaurants as well as a dinner cruise experience, so you will be able to find something delicious to eat.
Day 6 – The Grand Canyon
You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn on Day 6 because you are sticking to the nearby area. From Lake Powell, you are already in the perfect area to explore the Grand Canyon.
The structure of your day will depend on which areas of the Grand Canyon you want to see and how much hiking you would like to do.
You could also rent a bike if you want to make the most of your time and cover more ground, but make sure you wear the necessary safety equipment. Don’t forget you can also take a scenic drive to explore the area if you need to rest your legs.
We recommend heading to the historic Grand Canyon Village to look around the historic buildings. It is a fantastic place to learn more about the Grand Canyon and the history of the local area.
You can go to the visitor center, the railway depot, the lookout studio, the Buckley O’Neill Cabin, and many more sites of interest. There are various restaurants in the village which are perfect for grabbing a bite to eat before you continue exploring.
There are lots of different spots to camp in the Grand Canyon National Park, so you will be able to find a campground that suits your needs.
Make sure you check which campgrounds allow generators and RVs etc, as some of them might be tent only. There are also several lodging areas, hotels and resorts if you want a night of luxury.
Remember to take some time to look up at the night sky – the stars are bright around the Grand Canyon, and it’s very atmospheric.
Day 7 – Hopi Reservation
Around a 2 to 3 hours drive East of the Grand Canyon is the Hopi Reservation. The Hopi tribe encourages visitors to their land, as long as they are respectful of their laws.
You can find out everything you need to know to prepare for your visit on the Hopi Tribe website. The Welpi village offers guided tours of the area which include lots of fascinating information about the Native tribes and the history of the land.
You can also visit the Hopi Cultural Center, where there is a restaurant that serves traditional Hopi food. Various events are held at the center, such as art exhibitions.
If you want to learn more about the arts and crafts of the Hopi tribe then you should follow the Hopi Arts Trail.
From basket weaving, doll carving, pottery, to silversmithing, you will be able to visit the Hopi artists in their workshops to learn more about what they do and the history of their skill.
If you are not staying at the hotel in the Hopi Cultural Center, then you will still be able to find a hotel outside of the reservation grounds. You can also look for dispersed camping areas nearby.
If you want a shorter drive the next morning, try to pick a spot that is in a Southern direction from the Hopi Reservation.
Day 7 of the road trip offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the native history of Arizona, and to honor the people who made it their home before any settlers came over from Europe.
Day 8 – Snowflake & Sitgreaves National Forest
On the morning of Day 8 you will need to drive around 2-2.5 hours to your next destination, depending on where you choose to stay near the Hopi Reservation. You will arrive at Snowflake, a small town in the foothills of the White Mountains.
Snowflake was founded in 1878 and many of the buildings in the quaint town have been restored to their original style. There are around 100 historic homes in Snowflake, so walking around the town is a peaceful and relaxing way to soak up the local history.
Snowflake is the perfect base to explore Sitgreaves National Forest which stretches over 70,000 acres. With mountains, lakes, and woodland, there is a rich variety of landscapes to explore and diverse wildlife to spot.
Some of the many species living in the park include wild horses, jumping mice, and Mexican Spotted Owls. There are plenty of outdoor activities to get involved in – hiking, biking, fishing, horse riding, swimming and boating.
You might want to stay in Snowflake overnight, or choose one of the campgrounds within the national forest. There are options for dispersed camping, group camping, tent camping, RV camping and cabin rentals.
If you are primitive camping in an area with no facilities, it is vital that you leave the land just as you found it. Take all of your trash with you, check the rules around lighting campfires, and try not to disturb the wildlife.
Day 9 – Black Canyon City & Phoenix
It takes around 3 hours to get from Snowflake to Black Canyon City. The journey will be shorter if you stayed overnight in the National Forest.
The activities around Black Canyon City are the main draw – you can go on an off road adventure to explore the desert, go hiking around Black Canyon Creek, or take part in water activities on Black Canyon Lake.
Black Canyon City is just under an hour outside of Phoenix. This means it is easy to pop back into the city to do anything you didn’t get time for on Day 2 of the road trip.
It gives you another chance to sample some of the amazing restaurants, watch some live music and soak up the nightlife.
Phoenix is a great place to visit, and coming back a second time gives you the perfect chance to take things a little slower and really get a feel for the city.
In terms of accommodation, you can either find a campground around Phoenix or treat yourself to a night of luxury in one of the many hotels.
This could be a great opportunity to check out one of the many amazing hiking routes in and around Phoenix. The trails range in distance and difficulty, and they are a great way to explore the area and take in some of the breathtaking views.
Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and take plenty of water with you. If you get a chance to speak to the locals, see if they can recommend any lesser known hiking trails or sites of interest that will take you away from the crowds of tourists.
Day 10 – Quartzsite & Tucson
On the final day of the road trip you will head West out of Phoenix for just over 2 hours until you reach Quartzite. This town is not far from the border of Arizona and California and is a rock collector’s paradise.
It is known for its amazing shopping, with a large gemstone and mineral market that attracts thousands of visitors. Quartzsite is also a fantastic place for hiking, and is on the Arizona Peace Trail.
You will be able to see views of the Colorado River Reservation.
From Quartzsite, take a 2 hour drive South to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. This large area has been preserved for wildlife and is a great place to spot native species. It is a popular area for hiking, fishing, and hunting.
You can camp within the wildlife refuge if you want to extend your trip by a night, or you would rather drive back to Tucson early in the morning.
To finish off your road trip, drive South East from the wildlife refuge back to Tucson. If you hired a vehicle then you will be back in time to drop it off.
You could stay overnight in Tucson before heading home the next day, which gives you another evening to try out one of the restaurants or soak up the culture.
Top Tips For Your Road Trip
If you want to make sure that your road trip goes as smoothly as possible, check out these top tips:
- Book ahead – There are a lot of attractions, campsites, restaurants etc that will require advance booking. You should try and book as much of your road as possible at least 6 months in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Prepare – Check the facilities are various campgrounds so that you can prepare for your trip. It is better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it!
- Research – If you are visiting a national park, state park, forest etc then you should check online before you go. Look for safety announcements, general advice, and check what rules and regulations are in place. Certain areas do not permit campfires, some are pet friendly and others aren’t, some have restroom facilities and others don’t. If you check in advance then you know what to expect.
- Relax – A lot of organizations are involved in putting together a great road trip. This can be stressful, but it is important that you remember to relax and enjoy yourself. You need to be present to make the most of your once in a lifetime experiences, and to make happy and exciting memories. If something goes wrong, don’t panic – just make the best out of the situation.
This itinerary is a great guide to planning a 10 day road trip in Arizona. We have picked out the most important areas of interest and planned a route with scenic views to take you from place to place.
We have organized the itinerary to cut down on necessary travel time so you can spend your road trip exploring and soaking up the culture of Arizona.
Feel free to use this itinerary as inspiration and make some changes to suit your personal preferences. You might want to spend longer in one place than another, or skip something that doesn’t interest you.
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