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18 of the Best Scenic Drives in Phoenix

18 of the Best Scenic Drives in Phoenix

You know how some days you just want to drop everything, clear your head, and drive aimlessly with no destination in mind? Yup, we sometimes feel that way, too.

Fortunately, we live in Phoenix, a city that’s abundant in things to do – including hiking, swimming, and yes, scenic drives for a perfect road trip. 

The Valley of the Sun truly does have it all when it comes to outdoor adventures. The year-round sunny weather is a big bonus, too.

The next time you feel the need to get in your car and enjoy a scenic drive, come back to this article. Mother Nature awaits, so we’ve laid the groundwork to guide you towards the most stunning road views in and around Phoenix.

The Best Scenic Drives In and Around Phoenix

Whether you’re looking for a quick drive or a full-on roadtrip, we got you! Read on for our summarized guide of the most scenic roads in and around Phoenix.

RoadLength in MilesAverage Drive Time
Apache Trail42 miles3-4 hours
Dobbins Lookout5 miles15 minutes
Desert Foothills Scenic Drive6 miles30 minutes
Agua Caliente Road43 miles4-6 hours
Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway10.5 miles2-3 hours
Gila-Pinal Scenic Road26 miles2-3 hours
State Road 89A30 miles1 hour
Salt River Canyon15 miles1 hour
Bartlett Lake Scenic Road14 miles30 minutes
US Route 8072 miles3-4 hours
Red Rock Scenic Byway7.5 miles30 minutes
Swift Trail35 miles3-4 hours
Coronado Trail Scenic Byway123 miles4-5 hours
Tall Pines Scenic Road76 miles4-5 hours
Joshua Forest Scenic Road57 miles1-2 hours
Mogollon Rim Road Scenic Drive43 miles2-3 hours
Sky Island Scenic Byway27.2 miles3-4 hours
Schnebly Hill Road12 miles1-2 hours

Keep on reading for everything you need to know about each drive.

1. Apache Trail

Apache Trail

Image Source: Management via

How To Get There: Drive for around 50 minutes east from downtown Phoenix to Apache Junction. Head towards the end of the Apache Trail and east to AZ 188.

Length in Miles: 42 miles

Average Drive Time: 3-4 hours

We can’t write about scenic drives and not include the Apache Trail. Officially referred to as Arizona State Route 88, it stretches 40 miles from the Apache Junction to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

We consider this road to be an excellent escape to the wilderness. You’ll be passing through the Superstition Mountains, beautiful lakes, and will be treated to desert views all throughout.

The roads are winding with lots of switchbacks and sharp turns, so take caution and stay alert. This isn’t the place for first-time drivers so it’s best to have someone more experienced get behind the wheel.

The road draws a lot of tourists in, so you might encounter a few crowds at viewing points and turn-offs. This isn’t to discourage you from stopping and taking in the view, though; by all means, snap a few pics and let nature take your breath away!

The road is open year-round, but our pro tip is to come during spring. This is when you’ll find the prettiest and most colorful wildflowers in full-bloom.

2. Dobbins Lookout

Dobbins Lookout

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How To Get There: Drive along Central Avenue towards Summit Road, the entrance to South Mountain Park. 

Length in Miles: 5 miles

Average Drive Time: 15 minutes

Dobbins Lookout is known to provide hikers 360-degree views of the city. But if you want to just drive up, you absolutely can.

From the base of the South Mountain Park, the road up ahead is winding and teeming with blind curves and hidden bends. Stay cautious, too, as you’ll most likely encounter a lot of cyclists and hikers.

The road itself provides a stunning view of the Phoenix cityscape. We love coming here right around sunset when everything is golden and almost solemn – trust us, it’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

It’s an easy 15-minute drive. The lookout sits at around 2,330-feet and will give you an even better panoramic view of the valley.

Our advice is to come on a weekday, as there’s usually heavy traffic on weekends. The park is open from 5AM to 7PM daily.

3. Desert Foothills Scenic Drive

Desert Foothills Scenic Drive

Image Source: Murray 123 via

How To Get There: Drive north of downtown Scottsdale towards the intersection between Scottsdale Road and Happy Valley Road.

Length in Miles: 6 miles

Average Drive Time: 30 minutes 

If you have just enough time for a quick detour, the Desert Foothills Scenic Drive is one of your best bets. It’s a relatively short 6-mile drive along Scottsdale Road where you’ll get a glimpse of Pinnacle Peak and Lone Mountain.

A lot of people come here as a quick daytime activity that even kids will enjoy. This is because the road is lined with dozens of informative signs about the flora and fauna surrounding it.

You’re allowed to pull over along some spots to take in the natural features of the area. There are lots of plants and cacti, too, which are all quite interesting to learn about.

The road gets more scenic as you get closer to Pinnacle Peak. You’ll notice an abundance of Sonoran plants and scenic setbacks amidst desert vistas.

4. Agua Caliente Road

Agua Caliente Road

Image Source: Sarah and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure

How To Get There: Exit at State Route 85 towards Gila Bend from I-10. Drive south onto Old Route 80. 

Follow the road passing through Palo Verde, Hassayampa, and Arlington. From here, drive about 14 miles south where you’ll find the sign for Agua Caliente Road.

Length in Miles: 43 miles

Average Drive Time: 4-6 hours

Agua Caliente Road is located about 57 miles southwest of Phoenix. It’s a long ways down the road (literally), but the views here are worth it.

It’s a maintained gravel road right at the heart of the Sonoran Desert that travels through the Eagletail and Gila Bend Mountains.

Once you reach the start of the route, you’ll notice lush desert vegetation with blooming ocotillos, brittlebush, and palo verdes. You’ll also pass by the Sundad ghost town, a mysterious abandoned site in the Gila Bend Mountains.

The road is quite hilly, so it’s recommended to drive a four-wheel vehicle. You’ll see a lot of volcanic landscapes here including the Black Butte, Fourth of July Butte, and more.

If you head south, you’ll be climbing towards the Sentinel Plain Lava Flow, which is the largest flow in the state, going up to 45-meters thick. There are also a handful of old mines along the route that might pique your interest. 

It’s generally not advisable to travel through this road from May to October, as the temperature gets too hot for comfort. 

5. Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway

Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway

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How To Get There: From I-10 west, get off at the Salome Road Exit. Make a right turn towards Eagle Eye Road. Turn right again and continue north towards the summit. 

Length in Miles: 10.5 miles

Average Drive Time: 2-3 hours

The Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway is not for the faint of heart; rather, it’s for the adventure-junkies who love taking the road less traveled.

Harquahala Mountain is the highest mountain in southwestern Arizona. As you might imagine, the road to the top may be steep and rocky, but you do get a nice view of the Kofa Mountains and the Lower Colorado River Valley.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot rare cacti and some desert bighorn sheep.

It’s required to use a 4×4 vehicle here as the road is rugged and steep. It’s especially rocky towards the top and the entirety of it is just a single-lane.

At the top is an abandoned astrophysical observatory which was built in the 1920s by the Smithsonian Institution. It’s actually on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.

The key to driving here is to be slow and steady. There are loose rocks on some areas and lots of switchbacks early on.

Be very careful as there are no guardrails. The last mile towards the top is the most challenging part because of the gradual ascent, but stay focused and you’ll eventually get there.

The best time to visit would be during the fall and spring seasons. It gets too hot during the summer time, and for obvious reasons, do not attempt to climb when it’s raining or snowing.

6. Gila-Pinal Scenic Road

Gila-Pinal Scenic Road

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How To Get There: From Phoenix, take the I-10 East towards I-60. Drive past Apache Junction and Gold Canyon to MP 214.5, east of Florence Junction. 

Length in Miles: 26 miles

Average Drive Time: 2-3 hours

The Arizona Department of Transportation officially designed the Gila-Pinal Road as a scenic one back in 1986. It’s a 26-mile long route that follows US Highway 60, climbing between the Pinal and Superstition Mountains. 

Because the road passes through the Sonoran Desert life zone, you’ll traverse through forests, creeks, and woodlands. Once you reach the mountains, you’ll find traces of large copper mines.

We love taking this route as it winds through several canyons. It’s such a scenic view and there’s even running water in some spots, which is probably why cottonwood, willow, and sycamore trees grow so tall here.

7. State Road 89A

State Road 89A

Image Source: PJAMM Cycling

How To Get There: Drive through Highway 89 and Highway 89A from Flagstaff. It’s a straightforward drive spanning over 200 miles.

Length in Miles: 30 miles

Average Drive Time: 1 hour

Arguably one of the most scenic drives you can, State Road 89A will have you passing through many historical sites, pine forests, the Vermillion Cliffs, Lake Powell, and more.

At the early part of the trail, you’ll encounter lush pine forest along the Black Hills. It’s a refreshing change of pace, having been accustomed to Arizona cacti. 

You’ll then go through sharp and winding curves with sprawling views of the lowlands. Again, we advise you to be cautious as the road gets pretty narrow.

The real breathtaking part, at least in our opinion, is the descent from Oak Creek Canyon. It’s an absolutely stunning view of the vast, open horizon.

8. Salt River Canyon

Salt River Canyon

Image Source: Melinda B. via

How To Get There: From the Apache Junction, drive east along Highway 60 through Superior and Globe. Then head northeast, following the signs leading to the White Mountain.

Length in Miles: 15 miles

Average Drive Time: 1 hour

The Salt River Canyon is the road that gets one from Phoenix to the White Mountains, and vice versa. Unlike other scenic drives, it really isn’t a destination on its own, but it is quite the experience.

Along this road, you’ll be treated to a gorgeous view of the canton below and the Salt River. You’ll even hear the water below at some points of the road!

If you want to, you can go down to the river and fish, but you need a reservation fishing license for it. Still, it’s nice to go down the water and just take in nature at its finest. 

It’s a fairly easy drive, but we can see why some find it downright terrifying. There are a couple of sharp turns and blind curves, so just drive steady and follow the speed limit.

9. Bartlett Lake Scenic Road

Bartlett Lake Scenic Road

Image Source: Citychik

How To Get There: From Carefree, drive through the Cave Creek Road or Forest Road 24 towards Bartlett Road.

Length in Miles: 14 miles

Average Drive Time: 30 minutes

Bartlett Lake is an oasis amidst the Arizona desert. It’s the second largest lake in the Phoenix metro and is often a go-to for people looking to have a fun day in the water.

The road leading to it is a beautiful, winding 13-mile stretch lined with desert foliage, jagged mountains, and lush trees. You’ll often spot some teddy bear cholla, ocotillos, and mesquite trees on the side of the road.

Because it passes through the wilderness of the Tonto National Forest, you might even encounter some javelinas, bald eagles, and bighorn sheep. 

In the spring, pretty wildflowers bloom all throughout the route and it’s quite a sight to take in, especially when the sun dips on the horizon. 

10. US Route 80

US Route 80

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How To Get There: From Yuma, follow the road leading up to the Gila River then to Buckeye and Phoenix. Head east of the valley towards the Florence Junction, then go south towards Florence. 

Continue driving southeast to Tucson, then head east towards Benson and southeast to Bisbee and Douglas. From here, head northeast towards Lordsburg.

Length in Miles: 72 miles

Average Drive Time: 3-4 hours

US Route 80 is a historic road designated through a unanimous vote by the Arizona State Transportation Board in September 2018. It’s a beautiful 72-mile long highway that leads to Southern Arizona from Savannah, Georgia, and San Diego. 

Its history dates back to 1926 when it was known as the first ocean-to-ocean highway in the United States. It’s also considered to be one of the earliest roads built in Arizona.

Along the way, there are several tourist spots that one can visit. A few of which are the Ruins of Dome, Gillespie Dam, and the Tom Mix Memorial.

Admittedly, it’s not the prettiest drive on this list, but we do think it’s worth taking a walk – or a drive, rather – down memory lane. Besides, it’s an open road with vast scenery that’ll have you blasting your favorite songs and actually enjoying the easy drive.

11. Red Rock Scenic Byway

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Image Source: Management via

How To Get There: From AZ 179, drive north for about two-tenths of a mile passing by Mile Marker 310. 

Length in Miles: 7.5 miles

Average Drive Time: 30 minutes

One of our favorite roads to take is the Red Rock Scenic Byway. This is because you’ll be greeted by stunning views of the red rock formations almost anywhere you look!

In 2005, the byway was chosen by the United States Department of Transportation to be the first All-American Road in Arizona. And today, it’s celebrated as a national “destination unto itself”.

The 7.5-mile route is often called the “museum without walls” as you’ll get to see nearly the entirety of the red rock formations. It’s a beautiful entryway towards Sedona and is just a few hours away from the Grand Canyon.

Traffic is usually moderately heavy from tourists passing by, but you wouldn’t mind the slow pace. Along the way, there’s a village where you can stop by and eat, shop, or just look around.

The road also makes the Cathedral butte, the Bell rock, and the Courthouse accessible. 

At certain times of the day, the sun hits just right and makes the rock formations seemingly glow. It’s difficult not to be in awe. 

12. Swift Trail

Swift Trail

Image Source: Ron McEwan via

How To Get There: Take the I-10 and get off at Exit 352. Drive about half an hour towards Riggs Lake and Riggs Flat Campground.

Length in Miles: 35 miles

Average Drive Time: 3-4 hours

The Swift Trail is a long road located in the southeastern part of Arizona. It climbs up into the mountains towards the top ridge of the Pinalenos Mountains, which is roughly about 9,000-feet high.

Because of the high elevation, the weather can be fickle and it’s common to encounter scattered thunderstorms. If it does rain, be on the lookout for flash floods or rock slides.

It’s generally an easy drive, though. You’ll pass by five biotic communities and see all sorts of fauna, including desert scrubs and conifer forests.

We love coming here during the fall season when the leaves change in color. Note that since this is a remote area, there won’t be any stores or restrooms around.

We suggest bringing a picnic basket, as there are a lot of lovely spots to relax at. There’s even a day-use campground you can hang around in.

It’s a relatively easy, paved road to drive on. But if you plan on heading all the way up to Riggs Flat Lake, an SUV or a 4×4 might be better to use.

13. Coronado Trail Scenic Byway

Coronado Trail Scenic Byway

Image Source: Federal Highway Administration

How To Get There: From the junction of US Highway 1919 and Burro Alley, drive north towards Alpine. Continue north to E. Main Street in Springerville, then head west to US Highway 180/S Mountain Avenue.

Length in Miles: 123 miles

Average Drive Time: 4-5 hours 

The Coronado Trail Scenic Byway is one that often makes it to the “best driving road” lists for several magazines. It’s a long loop that’s relatively difficult to traverse, mainly because of the steep and narrow roads with hairpin curves.

The thing about this route is that it’s laced with mystery and intrigue. It’s been the subject of many stories regarding strange encounters with mad truckers, demon dogs, and even ghosts.

This is why the officials changed the name of it to US 191. However, the name didn’t really stick and it’s still commonly known as the Coronado Trail.

But if you’re up for an adventure, then this trip is right up your alley. There are no shoulders here – just blind curves and hairpins, all within a narrow road.

The rugged mountain terrain adds a bit of thrill and becomes even more challenging during the winter months.

The upside is, it’s the most beautiful season to drive through. Snow-capped mountains amidst the vast valley will primarily be your view.

Wildlife encounters are also common. If you’re lucky, you might spot some elk, mule deers, and even black bears since there’s plenty of them here at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Another thing to note is that this trail is uninhabited. There are no establishments around, so pack your meals and bring a ton of water.

14. Tall Pines Scenic Road

Tall Pines Scenic Road

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How To Get There: From State Route 188 near Roosevelt Lake, head to State Route 288. It ends at the town of Young south of State Route 260.

Length in Miles: 76 miles

Average Drive Time: 4-5 hours

A quick escape from the Phoenix hustle and bustle would be the Tall Pines Scenic Road. It’s a short drive away from the city, but one that offers beautiful wilderness views.

Formally known as Arizona’s State Route 288, this road will take you through dense ponderosa pine forests to sprawling grasslands all the way to the Sierra Ancha. It’s home to a lot of wildlife creatures, so be on the lookout for them!

Once you get to the Salt River Mountains, you’ll begin your ascent where you’ll have gorgeous views of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. 

If you’re driving a 4×4, you can take a slight detour towards Forest Road 487 where you’ll pass by Workman Creek and get a glimpse of the waterfalls. This is also the location of Aztec Peak, the highest point of the Sierra Ancha.

And if you’d like to be spontaneous and turn the road trip into an overnight trip, there are a couple of inns you can stay at at the nearby town of Young.

15. Joshua Forest Scenic Road

Joshua Forest Scenic Road

Image Source: Arizona Highways

How To Get There: Traverse through Highway 60 towards Highway 93 in Wickenburg. Continue northwest towards Kingman. 

After about 15 miles, you’ll find the intersection of Highway 71. Follow the signage leading to Joshua Forest Parkway of Arizona.

Length of Miles: 57 miles

Average Drive Time: 1-2 hours

The Joshua Forest Scenic Road is the meeting point of the Mojave Desert and the Sonoran Desert. It was designated as a scenic road by the Arizona Department of Transportation in April 1992.

On this route, you’ll be driving through rugged mountain ranges of the Hualapai Mountains and Aquarius Cliffs. It’s a winding road that passes by lots of rivers, creeks, and even a boulder field.

Once you enter Joshua Forest Parkway, the roads are beautifully-lined by Joshua trees of all sizes. There are also saguaros, ocotillos, and creosote bushes. 

If you continue north for a few more miles, you’ll find the black lava cliffs of the Arrastra Mountain Wilderness. You can turn back here, or continue east towards the rugged terrains of the Santa Maria Wash.

16. Mogollon Rim Road Scenic Drive

Mogollon Rim Road Scenic Drive

Image Source:

How To Get There: Head to State Route 260 and turn right upon reaching Black Canyon Lane. Continue straight for about 15 miles until you reach Forest 300 Road.

Length in Miles: 43 miles

Average Drive Time: 2-3 hours

The Rim Road a.k.a. Forest Road 300 stretches at about 45 miles from Arizona 260 to Arizona 87. It’s another scenic drive that’ll take you through thick forests, lakes, and sprawling views of the land.

This route will have you climbing up to 2,000-feet in a sudden vertical thrust. This is the best part, though, as it’s your first glimpse of the stunning landscape ahead. 

You’ll spot a couple of elks along the way. Also, be careful of cyclists and hikers.

It’s easy to navigate and even motorcycles can make it up. There are some narrow roads, but nothing you can’t handle.

The road is well-maintained, too, and well-marked. There are a lot of pull-outs and lookouts that you can take advantage of to really take in those views. 

All in all, this road is perfect if you’re looking for a chill road trip. The scenery will just have your troubles melting away.

17. Sky Island Scenic Byway

Sky Island Scenic Byway

Image Source:

How To Get There: Start your drive from the junction of E. Catalina Highway and N. Lemmon Short Road. Drive northeast to Summerhaven.

Length in Miles: 27.2 miles

Average Drive Time: 3-4 hours

The Sky Island Scenic Byway will take your breath away with gorgeous views of mountain forests, canyons, and desert vistas. It’s one of the only paved roads that leads to the top of Mt. Lemmon.

The road begins at the Lower Sonoran region and eventually climbs up towards the Canadian Zone forests. What makes this route great is that you get a unique chance to see all four seasons in a single trip.

It got its name simply because of the dramatic rise from the desert floor. The main attraction are the 12 widely-scattered “sky islands”, which is a term that refers to isolated mountains.

Along the way, you’ll pass by several vistas where you can rest and have a relaxing picnic. 

The road trip can also be a full-on vacation, as the Sky Island Parkway offers a ton of recreational activities. In the winter, Mt. Lemmon is even a ski destination.

It is said that the Tohono O’odham and the ancient Hohokam tribe were one of the first visitors of the mountain, long before the Spanish settlers. Isn’t it amazing how such a beautiful place holds so much history? 

18. Schnebly Hill Road

Schnebly Hill Road

Image Source: Darlene Y. via

How To Get There: From the roundabout of the intersection between Highway 89A and Highway 179, head south on 179 towards the next roundabout. Head northeast and follow the sign leading to Schnebly Hill Road.

Length in Miles: 12 miles

Average Drive Time: 1-2 hours

For a thrilling off-road experience, Schnebly Hill would be a great destination to visit. It’s a high-traffic trail so in case you need a bit of help, someone will most likely be around.

The great thing about this road is that there are fascinating views almost everywhere you look. 

Tall and towering red rock buttes amidst lush and green forests will serve as the backdrop of your drive – and believe us when we say that they’re absolutely stunning.

It’s the backcountry descent from Mogollon Rim to Sedona, but that doesn’t make it easier to navigate.

In fact, you’ll come across a lot of rocks and ditches. Even with a 4×4 or a vehicle that’s made for off-roading, it can be challenging for less experienced drivers.

The majority of the route consists of single-lanes, even if it’s a two-way road. There are no guard rails and lots of steep drop offs from the vista, so drive carefully.

If you’re afraid of heights, then this place might not be for you. However, we think it’s worth driving through at least, if only for the majestic views.

Ready to go on that road trip? Let us know below which scenic drives you’ll be taking on!

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