Design your own Arizona road trip with Backroad Planet’s suggested destinations, activities, scenic drives & heritage railways, plus our exclusive planning resources.
Table of Contents
- 1 Design Your Own Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
- 2 Arizona Time Zones
- 3 Things to Do on a Drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff
- 4 Take the Train to Grand Canyon National Park
- 5 Tour Flagstaff Attractions on Your Own
- 6 Three Magnificent Flagstaff National Monuments
- 7 Tons of Fun Things to Do in Winslow, Arizona
- 8 Drive the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National Park
- 9 Three Stunning Sedona Scenic Drives
- 10 Amazing Attractions in Arizona’s Verde Valley
- 11 Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad
- 12 Geological & Cultural Diversity of Southeast Arizona
- 13 Happy Trails! An Arizona Road Trip
- 14 Arizona Highways and Scenic Roads
- 15 Backroad Planet Road Trip Planning Resources
- 16 Other Backroad Planet State and Regional Roundups
- 17 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 18 Pin this Post!
Design Your Own Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
If you appreciate destinations with stunning natural beauty and rich history like we do, then Arizona is a state you must explore.
Backroad Planet’s “Design Your Own Road Trip” series is a way of showcasing our extensive archive of state and regional posts. We believe linking all of our Arizona destination content and road trip planning resources from this post will help readers easily locate the information they need to create road trip itineraries of their own.
The guides, stories, and articles published on Backroad Planet are authentically-based on our visits to those locations or the first-hand travels of our guest contributors. All photos and videos included in our posts were captured during our travels, unless otherwise credited.
As you read, click on the featured images or blue-links to access resources for destinations and activities in the state of Arizona that match your interests.
Whether you are planning a day trip, weekend getaway, or extended journey, the resources in this post will help you design an Arizona road trip tailored to your personal interests and thirst for adventure.
Arizona Time Zones
Arizona time zones can be tricky, but even though we thought we understood them, there was one caveat no one warned us about.
So here’s what you need to know: The state of Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time, but the Navajo Nation does.
If you use an analog watch, you should have no problem. However, if you rely on your mobile device or vehicle dashboard clocks, you will want to exercise caution.
Here is what happened to us while touring Sunset Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments.
The main road through the monuments does not cross tribal lands, but apparently we came close enough to the adjacent Navajo reservation that the GPS in our rental pinged it and moved the dashboard clock ahead one hour.
When we saw the time, we rushed out of the park so we would not be late for the next stop on our itinerary. Only later, when our clock reverted to the correct time, did we realize what had happened.
Things to Do on a Drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff
Whether you live in Arizona, drive from a neighboring state, or do a fly-drive, it’s pretty safe to say the 2.5-hour drive between Phoenix and Flagstaff will be a part of your road trip itinerary. It’s a given. Greater Phoenix is the largest metro area and Flagstaff is the gateway to virtually every attraction in northern Arizona.
If you make a day of it, you can turn your interstate drive into an adventure by stopping at a legendary pie place, touring an experimental town, and exploring two national monuments.
You also have the option of taking a detour through Sedona along two scenic byways and still reach your destination on time.
Navigate to the links below to learn more about things to do on a drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff
- Rock Springs Café
- Montezuma Castle National Monument
- Montezuma Well
- Agua Fria National Monument
Take the Train to Grand Canyon National Park
If you are a fan of heritage rail travel, you may want to book a round-trip ticket from the town of Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Backroad Planet’s guide to the Grand Canyon Railway details the adventure from start to finish so you can tailor your experience to your schedule and budget.
The town of Williams is also home to Route 66 and the wildlife park Bearizona.
- Take the Train to Grand Canyon National Park
- The Historic Grand Canyon Railway
- The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
- The Williams Depot
- Exploring the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on Your Own
- The City of Williams and Route 66
Tour Flagstaff Attractions on Your Own
In addition to its strategic location as gateway to destinations across northern Arizona, the city of Flagstaff is a destination in its own right, with dozens of attractions to enjoy.
While in Flagstaff, visit the Museum of Northern Arizona, explore the cosmos at the world-renowned Lowell Observatory, and embark on a variety of themed self-guided walking and driving tours around town.
- Tour Flagstaff Attractions
- Flagstaff Visitor Center
- Flagstaff Self-Guided Tours
Three Magnificent Flagstaff National Monuments
You can’t honestly tour Flagstaff without also exploring the outskirts of town. That is where you will discover three of Flagstaff’s most scenic, cultural, and historical attractions.
Tons of Fun Things to Do in Winslow, Arizona
Winslow, Arizona, is more than just a lyric from an Eagles Top 40 radio single . . . although that connection is pretty cool, too.
Winslow has become my new favorite hometown destination, and I long to return to more fully explore its many attractions.
I guarantee that you will want to add Winslow to your Arizona road trip itinerary for the many reasons linked and listed below:
- Things to Do in Winslow Arizona
- Route 66
- Old Trails Museum
- La Posada Hotel
- Winslow Arts Trust Museum
- Snowdrift Art Space
- Day Trip Destinations
Drive the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert are less than an hour’s drive east of Winslow, Arizona.
These otherworldly landscapes defy description, and you will want to dedicate most of one day to exploring the park.
Be sure to read the travel tips near the end of our post to optimize your Painted Desert and Petrified Forest experience.
- Petrified Forest National Park
- The Painted Desert
- The Petrified Forest
- Painted Desert and Petrified Forest Travel Tips
Three Stunning Sedona Scenic Drives
Sedona is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in Arizona’s Verde Valley, but it can get overcrowded during peak times of the year.
If you want to enjoy Sedona without the crowds, check out these options for scenic drives along the Red Rock Scenic Byway and Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road. You may also want to consider taking a guided jeep adventure tour while in the area.
Although not covered in this post, the 19-mile Dry Creek Scenic Road between Cottonwood and Sedona is another lovely route.
- Sedona Scenic Drives
- Red Rock Ranger District
- Red Rock Scenic Byway
- Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road
- Pink Jeep Adventure Tours
Amazing Attractions in Arizona’s Verde Valley
The Verde Valley is a lush corridor that stretches across central Arizona.
It is a region that boasts Native American archaeological sites, national forests, national monuments, state parks, scenic byways, and historic towns, making it an ideal destination for travelers of every persuasion.
To learn more about this amazing region, check out the Verde Valley attractions listed below:
- The Verde River Greenway
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park
- Tuzigoot National Monument
- Gold King Mine & Ghost Town
Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad
One of the most exciting activities in Arizona’s Verde Valley is a scenic journey on a heritage railway.
It was such an incredible experience that we dedicated an entire post to the Verde Canyon Railroad.
This is one Verde Valley attraction you don’t want to miss!
Geological & Cultural Diversity of Southeast Arizona
Many of the lesser-known regions of Arizona are equally as enjoyable as the state’s heavily touristed destinations. In this guide, guest travel writer Adam Sawyer explores the geology and culture of Southeast Arizona.
If you like your road trips to take you off the beaten path, you may want to consider these obscure natural and cultural destinations for your Arizona road trip itinerary:
- Geological & Cultural Diversity of Southeast Arizona
Happy Trails! An Arizona Road Trip
Happy Trails! An Arizona Road Trip is a loop road trip itinerary through central and eastern regions of the state. To access specific segments of the route, navigate directly with the links below:
- Part 1: Phoenix to Tucson to Safford
- Part 2: Safford to Pinetop-Lakeside
- Part 3: Pinetop to Whiteriver to Greer
- Part 4: Pinetop to Salt River Canyon to Mesa
- Part 5: A Day Trip on the Arizona Apache Trail
Arizona Highways and Scenic Roads
Many years ago, a dear friend sent me a gift subscription to Arizona Highways magazine. The publication was filled with stunning photography, and I enjoyed it until the subscription expired.
Today, Arizona Highways—a subsidiary of the Arizona Department of Transportation—can also be found online. The publication’s website still features the state’s lovely landscapes and other resources for travelers.
A dedicated section of the website shares a searchable database and detailed information about scenic drives across the state.
The downloadable PDF map above displays historic routes, parkways, and scenic roads, making it a perfect resource for Arizona road trip planners.
Backroad Planet Road Trip Planning Resources
If this is your first time planning a road trip, or if you are curious to learn my personal road trip planning workflow, you may be interested in our 3-part series. Each post includes handy downloadable PDF forms to facilitate the planning process.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 1 Pre-planning helps road trip designers answer six key questions that will guide them through the task.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 2 Research suggests six general resources for finding destinations and routes.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 3 Itinerary details my method for designing an itinerary with activities, dining, and lodging, and also includes a hack for organizing travel documents.
A newer post tells How to Find Unique Sites for Your USA Road Trip Itinerary, such as hidden scenic views, secret swimming holes, abandoned historical sites, and the best off-the-beaten-path locations.
Other Backroad Planet State and Regional Roundups
When you navigate to any of the following links you will find a wealth of content to help you choose destinations you want to visit and design an itinerary tailor-made to your interests.
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever taken 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!