Phoenix, Arizona 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 is 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
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.
List of the 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 the Oak Creek.
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.
One of the most popular hikes for day trip travelers is on 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 in an efficient manner when you a 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.
Located in the extreme north-central part of the state, Page, Arizona, is 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 US Route 89 directs people into a large parking lot.
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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.
Setting your iPhone camera on the vivid warm setting will allow it to take photographs that showcase these colors and are true to the colors you see with the naked eye.
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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.
With the photography tour, there are fewer people per group and the groups are spaced out more, so there is time for photographers to set up tripods and capture the canyon sans people.
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, 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
A last stop in Page, 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 has been used as the setting for several movies.
The overhead midday sun can create harsh shadows in photographs so you should plan your photo shoots 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 countless other Instagram-worthy spots for one-of-a-kind photos.
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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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Conclusion on Day Trips from Phoenix
There are a bunch of beautiful places around the Valley of the Sun, and so much more to explore. Not just that, these places can be visited within a day, which means less traveling time.
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 do you consider to be your favorite day trips from Phoenix? Let us know in the comments below.
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