Boasting beautiful untouched landscapes, unique wildlife and vegetation, and historic and cultural monuments, Arizona has plenty of amazing road trip destinations. Whether you’re with friends or family, or you’re going solo, you’ll have a great time exploring this fascinating state. In particular, Kartchner Caverns, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and the Canyon de Chelly are some of the best areas Arizona has to offer.
Home to 2.4 miles of fascinating and mysterious caves, Kartchner Caverns is a must-visit road trip destination. It’s roughly 50 miles southeast of Tucson and about a two and a half hour drive from Phoenix (via Interstate 10). If you pack snacks and drinks, you’ll only need to stop along the way for bathroom breaks and gas. It’s also important to set off with a safe and fuel-efficient car. Check expert reviews to find the best models currently available. Your chosen car should be both comfortable and reliable on long drives. Once you arrive at Kartchner Caverns, you can tour the underground limestone caverns dating back over 50,000 years. You can also visit the hummingbird gardens to see local plants, butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife. If you want to extend your stay, there’s a nearby campground with cabins and tent spaces.
The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest
Located in Northern Arizona, the Painted Desert spans roughly 146 square miles of multi-colored badland hills. Featuring a rainbow of colors from lavender and gray to red, orange and pink, it’s one of the state’s most stunning natural beauty spots. While you can drive the 28-mile road in roughly 45 minutes, at least a few hours is needed to enjoy all the park has to offer. In the southern area of the park, you can find the Petrified Forest, packed with interesting archaeological and historic sites and structures, as well as 200-million-year-old fossils. Near the visitor center, a number of hiking routes are available, which provide beautiful panoramic views of the desert. Keep in mind the park doesn’t permit overnight camping or parking, but there are a number of nearby hotels and camping spots in Flagstaff, Winslow and Holbrook.
Canyon de Chelly
Despite being lesser known, the Canyon de Chelly is just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. If you leave from Phoenix, this road trip will take roughly 300 miles and at least five or six hours of driving. The Canyon de Chelly spans 26 miles of sheer cliffs ranging anywhere from 30 to 1000 feet in length. Along the way, you’ll pass hundreds of Anasazi ruins and sites of Indian culture dating from 350 AD to 1300 AD. Spider Rock is one of the canyon’s most popular features — it’s a sandstone spire protruding 700 feet above the canyon floor.
Arizona has no shortage of road trip destinations, whether you’re looking for a simple day trip or weekend getaway. Kartchner Caverns, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and the Canyon de Chelly are some of the state’s best attractions.