Arizona Happy Trails is a themed road trip itinerary featuring the state’s Coronado Trail, Salsa Trail, Fresh Foodie Trail®, Apache Trail, and much more.
The Arizona Office of Tourism invited a group of international journalists on a 5-day loop road trip across several of the state’s scenic and themed trails, an itinerary that would highlight many off-the-beaten-path destinations in the southeastern part of the state.
The diverse group of journalists who joined the Arizona Happy Trails road trip included (L to R) Marjorie Magnusson (trip leader), Christian Ruf (Germany), Lu Yang (China), me (USA), Patrick Brennan (Canada), Cindy Agustín Flores (Mexico), Daniele Guido Gessa (Italy/UK), and Ernie Lozano (our driver, pictured below).
I was the only domestic journalist joining the group and the first blogger ever hosted by the Arizona state tourism board.
This post is a round-up that links to all five articles in the Arizona Road Trip series. The featured images and summaries below are listed sequentially in the order of our loop itinerary, but the direction could easily be reversed for an alternate route through the state.
A click on the images below will carry you to the article you seek.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Phoenix to Tucson to Safford
The first day of our Arizona Happy Trails road trip carried us from Phoenix to Tucson to Safford. The day’s packed schedule began with a Tucson Bike Tours excursion across the iconic Rattlesnake Bridge, through the colorful El Presidio neighborhood, past the offbeat El Tiradito Shrine, and to many other local sites of note. We stopped for lunch at the amazing Pizzeria Bianco, undoubtedly the best pizza I have ever had. Continuing our drive to Safford, we stopped by Coronado Vineyards for a wine tasting, and later dined at a couple of stops on the Salsa Trail.
Part 2: Safford to Pinetop-Lakeside
On day two, we drove from Safford to Pinetop-Lakeside. Before leaving town, we toured Discovery Park atEastern Arizona College, a science museum that features interactive experiences relating to astronomy, history, culture, and local environment. Next we headed north on the Coronado Trail, a National Scenic Byway also dubbed “The Devil’s Highway” due to its treacherous route and drastic changes in elevation. We stopped for a view of the vast Morenci Copper Mine, lunched at the cozy Hannagan Meadow Lodge, and toured the Casa Malpaís Archaeological Park.
Part 3: Pinetop to Whiteriver to Greer
A day trip from Pinetop to Whiteriver to Greer took us through the White Mountain Apache Reservation. During the morning, we visited the Fort Apache National Historic Landmark and toured the nearby Kinishba Ruins. Later, we took in the amazing views from the ski lift at the native-owned Sunrise Ski Park and finished the day with a hike and cookout at the White Mountain Nature Center.
That evening, our multi-national team gathered for another group photo. (L to R): Marjorie Magnusson (trip leader), Christian Ruf (Germany), Daniele Guido Gessa (Italy/UK), Cindy Agustín Flores (Mexico), Ernie Lozano (our driver), me (USA), Lu Yang (China), and Patrick Brennan (Canada/not pictured).
Part 4: Pinetop to Salt River Canyon to Mesa
Driving from Pinetop to Salt River Canyon to Mesa made for a long, but totally worth it day. The views of Salt River Canyon Wilderness were breathtaking, and I highly recommend dedicating some time to exploring the rest area environs. In Mesa, we embarked on the Fresh Foodie Trail®, with stops at Queen Creek Olive Mill, Schnepf Farms, and Agritopia®, all worthwhile farm-to-table destinations.
Part 5: The Apache Trail
A Day Trip on the Apache Trail is a perfect excursion when visiting the Phoenix metro area. On our final day in Arizona, we drove this route through the scenic Superstition Mountains. Along the way, we stopped to visit the Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town. Then, we ate lunch and visited the shops at Tortilla Flat before cruising Canyon Lake aboard the Dolly Steamboat.
The diverse themes, scenic routes, and fun activities on our Arizona Happy Trails road trip itinerary all conspired to make our brief visit forever memorable. When planning your Arizona road trip, be sure not to overlook these lesser-known, yet equally impressive backroad drives and destinations!
Design Your Own Arizona Road Trip
For more Arizona destination information and road trip planning resources, navigate to our Design Your Own Arizona Road Trip round-up post, or use the links below for direct access to additional stories and guides:
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We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever done an Arizona road trip ? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!