15 must-see places for an Arizona road trip

Experience AZ | 6 Aug |

Arizona is well-known for its beautiful landscapes and scenery. These beautiful, must-experience places are bucket-list worthy; some are well-known, while others are hidden gems you might not have known about. From national landmarks to historical towns and breathtaking outdoor landscapes, here are 15 places to visit on your next Arizona road trip.

Bisbee

What seems to be one of Arizona’s best kept secrets, is the interesting town of Bisbee. The former mining town is a small, unique community that sits high in the mountains, right near the Mexican border and in the far southeast corner of Arizona. With plenty of things to do, activities, events and festivals, shops, galleries and night-life, plus birdwatching, gallery-gazing, dining or pub-crawling, Bisbee will offer you a plethora of choices to keep you entertained.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff’s small-town feel is similar to Prescott with it’s historic downtown areas, scenic nature and photo-worthy seasons; there are still subtle differences that are definitely worth seeing. Home to Northern Arizona University, this lively town is full of many things to do, such as taking a stroll down the Historic Downtown with the historic (and haunted) Hotel Monte Vista, plus restaurants such as, Fat Olives, Brix Restaurant Wine and Bar, Agave Mexican Restaurant and so much more. Along with some local shopping, yummy bakeries and desserts, and outdoor recreation including hiking, biking and camping.

Close to 5 million tourists, like these, visited the Grand Canyon National Park last year. (Photo by Sophia Kunthara/Cronkite News)

Grand Canyon

The most obvious landmark and Arizona road trip (and the most breathtaking of them all) is the Grand Canyon. If you have never experienced the sight of this outstanding view, you absolutely have to add this to your bucket list. You can check into El Tovar Hotel, which is a historic property that opened its doors in 1905 and has entertained celebrities and presidents for over 100 years. Just steps away from the Grand Canyon’s edge, El Tovar has breathtaking views from every window and the resort’s dining room is as close to the canyon as you can get, with cuisine that’s almost as memorable as the views, as well as several hiking trails that will leave you speechless. Plus many photo opportunities!

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Home to Lake Powell, The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a stunning region of blue water with desert landscape and dramatic stone walls. One of the largest manmade lakes in the United States, this area is known for both land-based and water-based recreational activities. This gorgeous lake is located in northern Arizona and stretches up into southern Utah and is part of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. You can enjoy a summer’s day with perfect weather, cool water, amazing scenery and endless sunshine. This is the perfect place to escape to and rent a houseboat, stay at the campground or enjoy lodging and hop aboard a guided expedition.

Havasu Falls

With gorgeous, blue-green tinted water, Havasu Falls is near Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, and is forked so it appears that there are two falls when the river is flowing heavily. In this paradise haven, the Havasu have created a number of waterfalls and carved out basins in the travertine rock which form attractive bathing pools, however, day hiking is not allowed here. You need to make reservations, obtain a permit and pay a fee. Access is via a long hike, horseback or mule or helicopter. Although that seems to be quite a bit of effort, it is well worth it! You can make a reservation on Havasu Falls Reservations. They are currently closed due to COVID-19, however, this a must on your bucket list for the future.

Hoover Dam

Linking Arizona and Nevada, Hoover Dam is one of America’s great engineering marvels to date and a fantastic Arizona road trip. Completed in 1935, this massive and hard to miss structure crosses the Colorado River and sits at a total of 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long. You are able to drive or walk across the dam for free or take a tour of the dam. The visitor center provides information on the tours and has a café where you can stop for some basic grub. They are currently closed due to COVID-19, but this landmark is a definite must-see in the future.

Jerome

An old mining town-turned ghost town-turned tourist attraction, Jerome sits on a mountainside just above the desert floor. Jerome is unique and quirky to say the least, with the Sliding Jail in Jerome that was originally built around 1928, and was built on a clay slick, it soon began to slide and now sits 2,500 feet from its original location. While you’re there, you can visit the town’s most appreciated historical landmarks including the Gold King Mine Museum and the Jerome State Historic Park.

Lake Havasu

Known as “Arizona’s Playground,” with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Lake Havasu is one of Arizona’s premier destinations for boating, water skiing, fishing and swimming. This must-experience playground also features hidden coves accessible by kayak and the eye-catching London Bridge. After spending some time on the lake, head ashore to Lake Havasu City, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, campgrounds and hiking trails.

Monument Valley

Along a 17-mile self-drive route along a one-way gravel road, you will find the heart of the valley, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. While visiting this area, which straddles the border between Arizona and Utah, you’ll experience the true Arizona desert feel with miles and miles of beautiful landscape and scenery of mesas and buttes, shrubs and trees, and windblown sand, creating all the wonderful and majestic colors of the Valley.

Prescott

With its small-city feel and defined seasons, Prescott has tall Ponderosa pine trees, lakes and the occasional sprinkle of snow. This charming town has many things to offer, including the old courthouse, Elks Theatre and many other tourist attractions. You can grab a bite to eat at one of the downtown restaurants or spend a night at one of the beautifully restored bed and breakfasts or hotels.

Saguaro National Park

One of Tucson’s most popular attractions is Saguaro National Park, which is a great place to experience the desert landscape around this well-known town and see the famous saguaro cacti up close. With an east and west portion, the park has two sections, approximately 30 minutes apart. Both sections of the park offer great opportunities to experience the desert and enjoy hiking trails.

Tombstone

You can’t come to the Wild West and not truly experience the Wild West, with staged gunfights in the streets and characters walking through town in period costumes to recreate the glory days of this small Arizona town that is great as an Arizona road trip. With their top-rated town attractions such as OK Corral, Allen Street, Boothill Graveyard/Gift Shop, Courthouse State Historic Park and many other fun activities, every shop, restaurant and attraction is designed with tourists in mind and give you the chance to see and soak in the town’s history. You can also stop in Barking Iron Photography and take an old time photo with your friends and family to capture the history of this unique town.

Tucson

Surrounded by mountains, Tucson is a beautiful city set in the Sonoran Desert and is the second-largest city in Arizona. With many historic sites and cultural attractions, Tucson is a place to unwind and explore. Highlights include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, El Presidio Historic District and Old Tucson Studios. You will also discover hiking trails, and afterwards, you can find a bite to eat at one of the many wonderful restaurants Tucson has to offer.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

This sherbert-colored dream world is filled with mesmerizing swirls of slickrock that draw hikers in from around the world. With these can’t-miss landmarks, The Wave in Coyote Buttes North and White Pocket Trailhead, this amazing rock formation bumps up against the Arizona and Utah border. As well as the Paria River that cuts across the northeast corner of the monument, offering a true wilderness experience for those wanting to take and Arizona road trip and explore.

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