Phoenix is a warm, desert climate with access to nearly all of the Southwest. If you are staying in Phoenix, there are plenty of day trips that you can take to fill your exploration. Here are some of the best day trips from Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix is one of the best cities to spend quality time with your loved ones in a warm, sun-kissed atmosphere all year round.
If your stay in Phoenix is longer than a few days, or you simply want to explore places outside the city, a day trip can be ideal to spend a memorable time.
Looking for some adventure to relish your stay, but can’t afford a lot of traveling time? A day trip to some of the best places around Phoenix can change the way you look at the city.
Phoenix is known for the sunshine, good weather, and good vibes. Few people realize the many variations of terrain and exploration that surround Phoenix.
You can ski one day and then hike nothing but desert sunshine the next day.
The only thing to consider is finding the true gem of road trips from downtown Phoenix.
Table of Contents
- Map of Phoenix, Arizona
- Best Day Trips from Phoenix and Surrounding Metro
- Saguaro National Park
- Page, Arizona
- Horseshoe Bend
- Antelope Canyon
- Saguaro Lake
- Lake Powell, Arizona
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- Montezuma Castle National Monument
- Grand Canyon National Park (3 hours 20 minutes)
- Sonoran Desert (50 minutes)
- Tuscon, Arizona (2.5 hours)
- Tucson Mountain Park
- Jerome, Arizona
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Final Thoughts: Best Day Trips from Phoenix
- What is a good day trip from Phoenix?
- What is a good day trip in Arizona?
- What can you do in an hour of Phoenix?
Map of Phoenix, Arizona
Before we get into the day trips from Phoenix, let’s get oriented with a map of Phoenix and the surrounding area.
I used a few of my favorite travel credit cards to book a few trips to Phoenix and Scottsdale to explore the surrounding areas as well as the inner cities.
If you’re not sure which way to head, we have the best recommendations for you.
Best Day Trips from Phoenix and Surrounding Metro
Here are some of the top day trip locations from Phoenix, Arizona.
Another easy day trip from Phoenix is to the mesmerizing town of Sedona, 2 hours away from the city. The town is surrounded by red mountains, cut through by Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock State Park.
Make sure you take the Red Rock Scenic Byway on your approach to Sedona along the Coconino National Forest to get the best views on your way in.
The main street of this picturesque town is occupied by shops and restaurants. Another attraction of the streets is the unique crystal shops and fortune-tellers.
If you want to take a tour inside this magnificent town, you can book a tour to explore the prominent sites such as the rock wall art.
Hiking is another great option for tourists who seek excitement and adventure so make sure you visit Red Rock State Park and Slide Rock State Park for some of the best hiking in Arizona.
One of the most popular hikes for day trip travelers is the Devil Bridge Trail. It is a fairly easy and defined hike path but it can get pretty crowded throughout the day.
We recommend you reach the place early in the morning. There is plenty of exploring to do. You can even book a Red Rock Range Jeep Tour or even a Hummer!
It’s a great way to explore efficiently when you are limited on time. There are plenty of other tours to be able to check out Sedona in one day, so book it now and have a full touring experience.
If you want to learn more about the city, check out our full Sedona itinerary to make the most of your trip.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is located in the Tucson Mountains on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. The park is divided into two districts: the Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District.
Saguaro National Park is best known for its cactus forest, which includes the saguaro cactus. The saguaro cactus is the emblem of Arizona and is also a vital part of the state’s economy.
There are a number of different things that you can do in Saguaro National Park. Some of the best activities include hiking, biking, and bird watching. The park is also home to several different animal species, including javelinas, coyotes, and mountain lions.
Given the easy access from Phoenix and the variety of activities, this is one of the best day trips from Phoenix for the outdoor enthusiast.
Located in the extreme north-central part of the state, Page, Arizona, is a desert town about a two-hour drive from Flagstaff and a four-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Driving there, one may get the impression that the town is in the middle of nowhere, yet Page is home to some of the most breathtaking natural features in the Southwest that have made it a draw for Millennial adventure-seekers and photographers.
In and around Page, travelers can see Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Lake Powell.
Just outside Page, the Colorado River makes a hairpin turn, cutting through deep rock to create a stunning view known as Horseshoe Bend. Travelers will be delighted to learn that it is free to visit Horseshoe Bend.
A large sign-off of US Route 89 directs people into a large parking lot. Like what you are hearing? check out these best hotels in Page, Arizona to make the most of your trip.
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From there, it is a short, one-and-a-half-mile hike to the lookout point of Horseshoe Bend where travelers and photographers are treated to a spectacular panorama of rocky cliffs with a sparkling loop of the Colorado River forming the signature horseshoe shape. With beauty comes danger.
There are no fences or guardrails at Horseshoe Bend that will obstruct a photographer’s view but that means that visitors are beckoned to the very edge of the cliff.
The pics from this vantage point can be dazzling and dramatic, but photographers should be aware of their surroundings.
It is a thousand-foot drop off the ledge straight down to the river below. While Horseshoe Bend is awe-inspiring any time of the day, it is notably remarkable at sunrise when the play of light shines from behind the bend and creates dramatic shadows and colors in the canyon.
Trying to shoot pics at Horseshoe Bend at sunset presents obstacles for both professional and amateur photographers.
The scenery is backlit and the photos are too dark to highlight the depth and texture of the rocks. Photos taken at Horseshoe Bend as a storm approaches are powerful, especially if you are lucky enough to capture a lightning strike, but this can also be a risky venture.
There are currently no shelters at the overlook and visitors can be exposed to lightning themselves. To capture the expanse of Horseshoe Bend, try setting your camera to panoramic mode.
If one is brave enough to sit on the edge with their legs dangling off – and many Instagrammers are – a selfie stick is a great tool to show the thousand-foot drop to the river, as well as the rugged canyon surrounding the bend.
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While in Page, book a tour at Antelope Canyon, an otherworldly slot canyon with stunning, swirled orange walls.
When you Google images of Antelope Canyon, it might be tempting to assume that all the pics you see were shot by professional photographers using expensive equipment.
It is possible to capture impressive pics of Antelope Canyon with just an iPhone, as long as it is in the right setting.
Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo-owned land and visitors are only allowed in as part of a tour group. There are a few tour companies that escort groups through and you should reserve your tour ahead of time.
During the summer months when more people are traveling, the tours can book up quickly. Fewer people visit the area in the wintertime. The slot canyons were carved out by wind and rushing floodwaters which formed terra-cotta-colored juts of rock.
Quartz crystals in the Navajo sandstone reflect the Arizona sunlight to create the glowing orange color palette.
This is by far one of the best day trips from Phoenix if you can make the timing of the drive work for you.
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Upper Antelope Canyon vs Lower Antelope Canyon
There are two canyons, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.
Lower Antelope Canyon is a bit more physically challenging, but it only sees about twenty percent of the number of visitors that go through Upper Antelope Canyon.
Upper Antelope Canyon is narrower at the top with more room at the floor of the canyon…the opposite of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is more open at the top.
Additionally, Lower Antelope Canyon is a one-way walk so visitors don’t have to crowd to one side to let another tour pass. These last two points are important considerations for visitors who can be claustrophobic.
The tour groups can run into each other in the canyons so it is often difficult to take photos without random strangers in the background.
And because the guides are trying to usher through as many visitors as possible, they don’t allow you to stop and set up a tripod. Avid travel photographers can pay extra to book a photo tour of Antelope Canyon.
Inside Antelope Canyon, you will feel like you landed on Mars or journeyed to the center of the Earth. Other-worldly doesn’t begin to describe it.
Sunlight from the slot opening at the top turned the water-sculpted canyon walls into a glowing terra-cotta wonderland with swirling, jutting spires and turrets.
A different magical view awaited around each corner, with plenty of photo ops.
Arizona can be hot in the summer…really hot. Although the canyon is much-cooler than the surrounding desert, you may have to wait in the heat for your group’s turn to descend into the canyon.
Bring along plenty of water and stay hydrated.
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Saguaro Lake, one of the best tourist attractions in Arizona, is located on the Salt River, about 40 miles from Phoenix. The scenic tropical mountains and lush green forest enclose the deep blue lake.
It’s a splendid place to spend time with your family on the water. The shoreline extends to at least 22 miles on which you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, hiking trails, and much more. You can easily rent a boat, including a paddleboat, fishing boat, pontoon boat, and more, to enjoy the lake.
The opposite side of Salt River holds Saguaro del Norte Recreation, where you can find restaurants and rent a cabin to relax and enjoy the wildlife and other activities around the river.
Also, the landscape is ought to be photographed, so don’t forget your cameras.
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Lake Powell, Arizona
The last stop in Page, Arizona of Northern Arizona, should be Lake Powell, where you can spend a day on the water…in the middle of a desert.
Lake Powell is not a natural lake; it is a large reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam that flooded Glen Canyon.
In fact, there are 96 water-filled side canyons edging the lake, giving it an irregular, spidery shape.
The numerous ins and outs mean Lake Powell’s shoreline measures nearly 2,000 miles, almost the equivalent of the entire west coast of the United States.
The steep canyon walls and the stone arches featured along Lake Powell make it a favorite among boaters, jet skiers, and photographers. In fact, it’s been used as the setting for several movies.
The overhead midday sun can create harsh shadows in photographs so you should plan your photoshoots for mid-morning or later in the afternoon.
The deep-cut canyon walls mean you may not be able to get sunset-over-the-water pics unless you are in the right place at the right time.
Regardless, there are countless other Instagram-worthy spots for one-of-a-kind photos.
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Flagstaff, Arizona is a city located in Coconino County, in the north-central part of the U.S. state of Arizona. The population was 65,870 at the 2010 census.
Flagstaff is the county seat of Coconino County. It is home to Northern Arizona University.
Flagstaff sits at an elevation of 6,933 feet (2,113 m). Flagstaff experiences a dry climate with four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and dry while winters are cold and snowy. Spring and fall are mild with little precipitation.
It’s best to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), then rent a car and drive two hours north to Flagstaff. You can also drive directly from Phoenix, but expect it to take about four hours making it an ambitious day trip from Phoenix.
Some of the most well-known hikes in Flagstaff are Oak Creek Canyon, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, and anything near Petrified Forest National Park.
Walnut Canyon National Monument is best known for the cliff dwellings that are found at the top of a limestone mountain. The site was used by ancient people in the 13th century. The dwellings are best seen when you hike up to them, but you can also see them from overlooks two-thirds of the way up the canyon wall.
The best time to visit this national monument is in March-April or September-October. During these months, it’s not too hot, which makes hiking much nicer.
Sunset Crater National Monument is best known for the highly explosive volcanic eruption that happened 1,000 years ago. The best way to see it is by driving up to the crater rim which is a 10-mile round trip from the visitor center.
You can also take a 4-mile round-trip hike to an overlook of the crater. It’s best to go during May-October as it’s not too hot during this time and there are fewer bugs.
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Montezuma Castle National Monument
The Montezuma Castle is a part of the National Monument that preserves a set of houses built by people of the pre-Columbian era. The Sinagua people built the main structure up the limestone cliff over three centuries.
The site is located about 1.5 hours north of Phoenix. The Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole with a few ancient dwellings, lies about five miles north of Montezuma Castle. The site is also not too far from the majestic town of Sedona.
A trip to the National Monument will not take you more than a day. If you are interested in visiting ancient monuments and got a day or two to spare, you don’t want to miss these historic attractions.
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Grand Canyon National Park (3 hours 20 minutes)
Phoenix is a wonderful place to spend a day or two, but if you want to explore the best of Arizona, you’ll need to take a day trip to one of the state’s best National Parks.
Grand Canyon National Park is only a few hours away from Phoenix and is home to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.
There’s something for everyone at the Grand Canyon, so be sure to bring your camera and hiking boots.
There are plenty of places to hike on the North Rim including many day hikes that are about 3-5 miles roundtrip with scenic stops along the way. If you’re looking for something more challenging, there are also longer hikes that are up to 10 miles roundtrip.
Not just one but two Grand Canyons (North Rim and South Rim) are what you’ll find at the best national park in Arizona. You can explore either of them on foot or by car. The best thing about exploring these two sides of the national park is that they each have their own unique set of sites so you won’t be bored by the sites and hiking opportunities.
The best place for photography at Grand Canyon is Mather Point on the South Rim. You’ll get a spectacular view of both rims from this observation point, so be sure to have your camera ready.
Given how there are so many things to do in Grand Canyon, you may want to consider making this into a weekend trip rather than just a fun day trip.
Sonoran Desert (50 minutes)
The Sonoran Desert is a lovely and interesting destination for both children and adults in Arizona’s southern section. The 100,000-square-kilometer region incorporates California, Navajo Bay, and northern Mexico, with a spectacular variety of terrains and ecosystems.
The desert is home to the biosphere as a whole, including tundras, deserts,
If you make the trek into the desert, make sure you stop at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden that showcases the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert.
The museum is located in Tucson, Arizona, and was founded in 1952. The museum has more than 21,000 plants on display, as well as more than 200 animals. The exhibits are designed to show how the plants and animals interact with one another and the environment.
Tuscon, Arizona (2.5 hours)
Tucson, located in Southern Arizona, is a very popular destination for desert residents and tourists and has a lot to offer in terms of culture, arts, and events. Outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or wildlife viewing are best in the morning or afternoon since the sun is too bright during the day. There is an abundance of restaurants which can be a great way to bask in the sunshine.
Tucson is best for nature enthusiasts and sports fans because of the many different outdoor activities. The city itself also offers plenty in terms of culture, arts, and events.
Outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or wildlife viewing are best done early morning or late afternoon because it gets too late if you need to make it back to Phoenix before dark.
Tucson Mountain Park
Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre park that offers a variety of outdoor activities, making it one of the best day trips from Phoenix for the outdoor enthusiast. The 62 miles of trails in the Tucson Mountain Park offer hiking, biking, and horseback riding for any outdoor enthusiast.
The best place to camp would be at GilberRay Campground where 130 spaces are available with electric connections.
Archery shooting ranges and rifle shooting fields are also located in the park.
An urban park located north of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the best place to hike would be Tucson Mountain Park which offers an assortment of recreation and hiking opportunities.
See Related: The Ultimate Scottsdale Itinerary
Jerome, Arizona is a city in the state of Arizona, which was founded in 1883. It is best known as the self-proclaimed “ghost town”. This is a former copper mining town and old west town that features a ton of history and historic buildings from back in the wild west.
The best way to experience Jerome is on the daily Ghost Town Walking tour. The tour consists of a one-mile, leisurely walk through the historic district visiting many of the best-preserved buildings in town.
You will also hear about Jerome’s wild-west history, which includes bank robberies, murders, and other crimes. There are plenty of other activities to do here including riding around on horseback, exploring the ruins of old mines, or even ghost hunting!
The town’s motto is “Population 4” because it has an average annual population of only 20 people.
The few residents who do live there are mostly artists and musicians.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is an American national park located in southeastern California just outside of Palm Springs, California. It features two deserts: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms lie near this park.
The park is named for the Joshua trees that are native to the area. Joshua Tree National Park was designated as a national monument in 1936, and it was elevated to national park status in 1994.
The park covers a total area of 792,510 acres (3,236 km²). It is managed by the National Park Service.
If you’re traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, you can simply drive to Joshua Tree National Park by taking Highway 10 westbound nearly the entire way. It’s a long day trip to do from Phoenix but can be done for the ambitious road warrior.
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Final Thoughts: Best Day Trips from Phoenix
To get the most out of your trip or your limited vacations in Phoenix, a day trip is a must. It will not only make your time more memorable but is likely to give you the peace of mind you need.
What is a good day trip from Phoenix?
Tempe Town Lake is a man-made lake in the city of Tempe. It was artificially created by damming up the usually dry Salt River bed near Apache Boulevard, just north of Tempe Town Hall, to provide flood control and help irrigate nearby agricultural lands. There are plenty of concerts, festivals, and other events held at this recreation area along with water sports including boating and swimming.
If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, you need to cross Grand Canyon National Park off your bucket list. For closer outdoor activities, Saguaro National Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument are some of the best day trips from Phoenix you can possibly get.
What is a good day trip in Arizona?
Day trips are best suited for families with young children, business travelers, or anyone looking to experience different types of attractions in a single day. Many great day trips can be taken from Phoenix, Arizona. Some of the best include a trip to Sedona, a visit to the Grand Canyon, or a drive to Jerome.
Sedona is located about an hour northwest of central Phoenix and is known for its beautiful red rock scenery. Families with young children will enjoy the many hiking trails and picnic areas, while business travelers can take advantage of the city’s many art galleries and shops.
You can see picturesque red cliffs towering over paisley-colored canyons, majestic oak trees clinging to brittle slopes, and an endless field of prickly pear cactus growing up out of black lava boulder fields, and so much more.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States and is located about two hours north of Phoenix. Visitors can explore the canyon on foot, by bike, or by car. There are also helicopter and airplane tours available.
Day trippers from Phoenix need to take a visit to the Old Town of Jerome, an old mining town that was built into the side of a mountain. The Main Street area is full of antiques, restaurants, and art galleries. The best way to get there is by car or bike.
What can you do in an hour of Phoenix?
There are a lot of things to do in Phoenix that won’t take up too much of your time while still providing you with the best of what Arizona has to offer.
Visit the Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Gardens are located in the Papago Park area located in Tempe, Arizona on the Phoenix and Scottsdale borders. It’s best to go through this garden during springtime, where you will experience an explosion of color as these plants bloom with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows. The best time of year to visit is early February.
Visit Taliesin West
If architecture interests you, then visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. The site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Taliesin West is not only a tourist destination because of its architecture, but also because it is the birthplace of the organic architecture movement. The buildings and landscapes were designed to be in harmony with the environment.
Visit South Mountain Park and Preserve
For awesome hiking trails and breathtaking views of the valley, take a quick day trip to South Mountain Park. With vast desert landscapes, this fantastic park is perfect for all kinds of picnics and hikes.
The best part? With almost 16,000 acres of pure natural beauty, this park is perfect for the whole family.
South Mountain Park is situated 45 minutes southeast of Phoenix, found in the town of Guadalupe. The best way to get there is to take 7th Street Highway southeast to Gilbert Road.
Take Gilbert Road all the way south until it runs into Warner Road where you’ll take a left. Follow Warner Road until it ends at Pinnacle Peak Rd. Take a right on Pinnacle Peak Rd then another right at South Mountain Park.
The park has entrances on both the north and south side, but you’re best off taking Pinnacle Peak Rd because it’s also where the best hiking trails are too.
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