Day Trips From Phoenix
Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and there’s a wide range of attractions and activities for residents and visitors.
There are also a number of interesting destinations close by that you can easily visit in one day. Options include historic towns and stunning natural landscapes.
As you plan your trip out of town, here are our recommendations for the 15 best day trips from Phoenix.
1. Sedona, Arizona
Recommended as one of the best day trips from Phoenix. Located around 115 miles north, Sedona is considered one of the most beautiful places in the country, with stunning red rock mountains.
Drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway to easily sightsee. There are more than 100 hiking trails in the area. Popular options include Cathedral Rock Trail and Airport Mesa Loop. A number of tours. Including jeep and helicopter, make it easy to see all the highlights. Some tours even focus on the energy vortexes that are said to be in the region.
Afterwards, spend some time exploring the town itself. With a vibrant arts community, there are no shortages of galleries here. New age shops and luxurious spas are also plentiful.
2. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the best day trips from Phoenix for natural beauty. Although it makes for a long day, it’s totally worth it to see the largest canyon in the world.
The Grand Canyon is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And you really have to see it in person to fully appreciate the scale and grandeur of the place. Walk along the Rim Trail and take in the incredible views at various lookouts. Yavapai Point offers one of the best views.
There are also a number of great hiking trails that head down into the canyon itself. A good option is the Bright Angel Trail. Guided tours are available. Before leaving, stop by the Grand Canyon Historic Village to pick up some food and souvenirs.
Enjoy a day of history, beautiful scenery and the outdoors in Prescott. Located around 100 miles away from Phoenix, the weather is always mild and pleasant here.
The city is surrounded by mountains, lakes and meadows, and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, boating and more. Afterwards, spend some time in Prescott’s historic downtown area, filled with Victorian homes and other historic buildings. There are plenty of shopping and dining options.
For families with kids, there’s a small zoo and a children’s museum. For the adults, there are numerous breweries where you can sample the local brew.
4. Tucson, Arizona
Located around 110 miles southeast of Phoenix, Tucson offers a range of natural, historic and cultural highlights.
Learn about desert life at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Or explore the hiking trails and swimming holes of Sabino Canyon. Alternatively, take the Sabino Canyon Tram for easy sightseeing. See more than 350 aircraft and spacecraft at the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Get artsy at the Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block. Then pay a visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, a National Historic Landmark. Enjoy a stroll around the charming El Presidio Historic District or the Barrio Historico, and try some delicious Mexican cuisine.
5. Jerome, Az
Located around 100 miles north of Phoenix, Jerome is one of the largest ghost towns in the country. Situated on top of Cleopatra Hill at an elevation of 5,200 feet, Jerome was once a prosperous copper mining town.
The copper dried up in the 1960s but tourism helped revive Jerome. Today, there are a number of small shops and restaurants. There’s also a thriving arts community here. Wander around the small town and explore the many historic buildings. Learn more about the history at the old copper mine, the Mine Museum and the Jerome Historical Park.
Before leaving, take in the views of the valley and the distant mountains.
6. Flagstaff, Arizona
This beautiful city is only around 145 miles away from Phoenix. But it offers a completely different landscape. Situated at an elevation of 6.900 feet, Flagstaff is surrounded by the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world.
Outdoor activities are plentiful here. In the winter, enjoy skiing and snowboarding at Arizona Snowbowl Resort. Hike through Walnut Canyon National Monument or explore Sunset Crater National Monument.
Afterwards, head to downtown Flagstaff, which includes a section of the historic Route 66. Admire historic buildings, browse the shops and galleries, or grab a bite and wash it down with some local craft beer. Guided tours are available to take the guesswork out.
7. Meteor Crater
See where a large meteorite crashed into the planet 50,000 years ago at Arizona Meteor Crater. Located less than 40 miles east Phoenix, the site is one of the best preserved and easily accessible terrestrial impact sites in the world.
The crater is around 4,000 feet wide and around 500 feet deep. You can explore the rim of the crater on your own or opt for a guided tour. There’s also a discovery center on-site. Inside, there are more than 20 interactive exhibits that provide information on the stars, meteors and more.
Before leaving, browse the on-site gift shop and rock shop and pick up some unique gifts.
8. Apache Trail
Sometimes, the journey is more important than the destination. Such is the case with the Apache Trail, the oldest highway in Arizona. Also known as AZ 88, the Apache Trail was once used by the Apache Indians.
Starting at Apache Junction, part of the greater Phoenix area, the trail stretches for around 40 miles. Along the way it winds its way through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. Parts of the trail can be very steep and winding, and unpaved.
There are many scenic lookouts along the way so be sure to take your time and really enjoy the journey and surrounding landscape. Guided tours are available if you want to leave the driving to someone else.
9. Petrified Forest National Park
Located just over 200 miles northeast of Phoenix, Petrified Forest National Park makes for a long but unique day trip from Phoenix.
The park is home to one of the world’s largest collections of petrified wood, or wood that has been turned into rock. Start at the Rainbow Forest Museum to plan your visit and to check out its many educational exhibits. Y
ou can drive through the park and stop at the many lookouts, or hike a trail or two. Highlights include Crystal Forest, Puerco Pueblo, the Painted Desert Rim Trail and the Blue Mesa Trail. Before leaving, find the old Studabaker car on a stretch of Route 66 that cuts through the park.
Go back in time and get a taste of Old West on a day trip from Phoenix to Tombstone. Located around 180 miles from Phoenix, Tombstone was the site of the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881.
You can watch a reenactment of this famous gunfight at the OK Corral itself. Many of the original buildings have been preserved and are open to visitors. Find many of them on the main Allen Street, where you will often find staged gunfights and brawls by costumed actors and locals.
Other highlights include the Bird Cage Theatre, the Tombstone Courthouse Historical Park, the Goodenough Mine Tours and the Boot Hill Cemetery. For a totally hassle-free experience, booked a guided tour from Phoenix that includes round-trip transportation.
11. Montezuma Castle National Park
Located around 95 miles north of Phoenix, Montezuma Castle National Park is an important cultural and historic site. Created by the Sinagua Indians in the 12th century, it’s one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the country.
The dwelling features 20 rooms carved into the cliff face, and stretches for five storeys. Although you cannot enter the dwelling itself, trails will take you very close for a great view. There’s also a visitor center and a museum on-site that display artifacts and relics found here.
Afterwards, stop by the Montezuma Well National Well nearby. There’s a small lake and several nice walking trails around the site.
12. Saguaro National Park
This National Park in Arizona is recommended as one of the best day trips from Phoenix to explore the desert landscape and see saguaro cactuses. The park is located around 100 miles southeast of Phoenix and is easily accessible.
Several scenic drives around the park allow you to appreciate the beauty of the landscape with minimum effort. A great option is the Cactus Forest Drive, which allows you to see the giant saguaro cactus.
There are also a number of great hiking trails that allow you to get closer to the vegetation and wildlife. To see petroglyphs left by the Hohokam people, hike the Signal Hill Trail in the Tucson Mountain area of the park.
13. Slide Rock State Park
Enjoy a day of fun in the water at Slide Rock State Park. Located around 120 miles north of Phoenix, Slide Rock is considered one of the top swimming holes in the country.
The highlight is a natural rock water slide. The area was originally developed by homesteader Frank Pendley, who developed an irrigation system for his apple trees and livestock. Over time, that irrigation system turned into a popular swimming hole. The area is now a state park where you can find other creeks and interesting rock formations, as well as fishing areas, picnic areas and hiking trails.
14. Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Southwest Arizona may be largely desert, but there are several nice lake options as well.
Enjoy a day on the water at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, located around 45 from Phoenix. Spanning 23,000 acres, the park is home to Lake Pleasant, a reservoir for the central and southern part of Arizona. Enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, scuba diving and other water activities. Besides the lake, there are also nice picnic spots, hiking trails and a Nature Center.
Learn about the area’s history, people and wildlife through interpretive exhibits. Or join a ranger-led program to discover more. Don’t miss the great views from the balcony of the Nature Center.
15. Kartchner Caverns State Park
Located around 165 miles southeast of Phoenix, Kartchner Caverns State Park contains a large cave system that you can explore.
The cavern contains some incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations. Enjoy guided tours of the Rotunda, Throne Room or the Big Room. There’s also a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the cave system, as well as the resident bats and other wildlife.
Afterwards, walk around or enjoy a picnic in the Hummingbird Garden area. Or hike the trails of the Whetstone Mountain above the caves.