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Fun Day Trips from Phoenix

Fun Day Trips from Phoenix

So, you find yourself in the scorching embrace of Phoenix, and the question is, what’s next? Here, I’ve embarked on a mission to uncover the coolest, quirkiest, and downright fun day trips around this fiery city.

From charming small towns to breathtaking natural wonders, these are the perfect recipe for a memorable day out. Let’s uncover the magic together with these unique day trips from Phoenix!

1. Sedona

Media: Sedona, Arizona

Location: desert town near Flagstaff

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours

Nestled in Oak Creek Canyon’s red sandstone cliffs, Sedona is a cultural haven for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The red-rock buttes provide a captivating backdrop to galleries featuring authentic Native American and Southwestern crafts.

Here, you can explore Tlaquepaque, a shopping village named after a Mexican town renowned for crafts and glassware. Sedona, often hailed as one of America’s most striking landscapes, is a magnet for artists and a cinematic canvas for blockbuster hits.

Pro tip:
You can embrace the local flavors at one of the charming cafes along Highway 89A. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the backdrop of the canyon make for a delightful breakfast experience.

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Location: northwestern Arizona

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 3.5 hours

The Grand Canyon National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the vigilant care of the National Park Service. This geological marvel beckons around 4 million visitors annually, each leaving in awe of its red and orange splendor.

The South Rim, home to the bustling Grand Canyon Village and the popular Bright Angel Trail, attracts sightseers and hikers alike. For a quieter escape, you can venture to the North Rim which is ideal for backwoods camping and serious hiking enthusiasts.

Pro tip:
You can opt for the park’s shuttle service to navigate between viewpoints. While parking can be a hassle, the shuttle allows you to enjoy the scenery without stressing about the road.

3. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Address: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ


Contact Details: +1 928-567-3322

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8 AM–4:45 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1.5 hours

With a trip to Montezuma Castle National Monument, you’ll dive into a day of culture and outdoor exploration. Carved by the Sinagua Native American tribe over 600 years ago, the captivating cave dwelling offers a glimpse into ancient history.

Here, you’ll explore the pueblo ruins and archaeological sites, embark on scenic hikes around Montezuma Well, and engage with ranger talks. You’ll also discover the rich heritage of the Sinagua people as you wander through this well-preserved monument.

Pro tip:
You can take the extra time to explore Montezuma Well, just a short drive away. The well showcases fascinating geological features, and the Sinagua artifacts around the area provide a deeper insight into their daily lives.

4. Prescott

Location: north-central Arizona, within Yavapai County

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours

Prescott is a city where the Arizona sun illuminates the vibrant activities around Watson Lake. Here, you can engage in boating, kayaking, and fishing against the backdrop of striking blue waters, granite boulders, and inviting hiking trails.

Post-lake adventures await in downtown Prescott, where historic charm seamlessly coexists with contemporary delights, from quaint breweries to inviting eateries. Historical treasures include the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Yavapai County Courthouse.

Pro tip:
You can engage with the locals at downtown Prescott’s Whiskey Row. You might uncover hidden gems and insider recommendations for your visit.

5. Flagstaff

Location: northern Arizona, within Coconino County

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

Flagstaff is nestled amid the shadows of the San Francisco Peaks and embraced by ponderosa pine forests. This city exudes a laid-back, outdoorsy charm that extends from the locals who embrace biking, skiing, and hiking.

Flagstaff is a hidden gem often overlooked in the rush between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. It invites you to indulge in outdoor excursions, savor local eats, and explore natural attractions like Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Pro tip:
If time allows, venture a bit beyond Flagstaff to explore Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It’s a unique geological site worth the extra drive, providing a deeper appreciation for the region’s natural wonders.

6. Petrified Forest National Park

Location: northeastern Arizona, in Navajo and Apache counties

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 3.5 hours

Another remarkable day trip is from Phoenix to Petrified Forest National Park, located about a three-and-a-half-hour drive northeast. Spanning 200,000 acres, the park boasts one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrified wood.

Beyond the unique geological wonders, you can explore the mesmerizing landscapes of the Painted Desert and venture along scenic trails for an immersive experience. You’ll also gain insights into the park’s geography at the Rainbow Forest Museum.

Pro tip:
Respect the park’s guidelines on collecting petrified wood. While it’s tempting to take a piece as a souvenir, leave them as you found them to preserve the unique ecosystem for future visitors.

7. Tucson

Media: Ryan

Location: southern Arizona, in the county seat of Pima County

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1.5 to 2 hours

Tucson is an oasis of sunshine surrounded by mountains and boasting over 340 days of annual sun. Dubbed as the “Old Pueblo,” it’s a testament to its Hispanic heritage, offering a tapestry of historic and cultural attractions beyond its winter retreat charm.

Recognized as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Tucson celebrates its rich agricultural history and vibrant food traditions, particularly in its spicy Mexican cuisine. You can also explore the buildings in El Presidio Historic District and the allure of Catalina Foothills.

Pro tip:
You can venture into Barrio Viejo and discover hidden cafes tucked away in historic adobe buildings. These cozy spots offer a taste of Tucson’s local coffee scene and a chance to chat with friendly locals.

8. Mogollon Rim

Media: Visit Arizona

Location: northern Arizona, roughly following the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours

The Mogollon Rim is a geological masterpiece named after Governor Jean Ignacio Flores Mogollon. This colossal fault, renowned for its vibrant rock face adorned with pine, manzanita, and shrub oak, is a testament to the Earth’s ancient shifts.

Immortalized by Zane Grey in his novels, the rim beckons with tales of hunting and fishing escapades in its breathtaking landscapes. The adventure begins with a scenic route along Highway 87 to Payson, then continues on an unpaved forest highway.

Pro tip:
You can pack a picnic basket with local goodies from Phoenix and enjoy a leisurely lunch at Tonto Creek. Just find a shaded spot, savor the serene surroundings, and fuel up for the rest of your journey.

9. Apache Trail

Media: Bransen Lou

Location: central Arizona, winding through the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1.5 to 2 hours

The world-famous Apache Trail is a historic route once utilized by Apache Indians. This scenic drive near Phoenix winds through the back of the Superstition Mountains, revealing volcanic landscapes, cliff-sided canyons, and shimmering lakes.

You’ll traverse unpaved stretches on this day trip but still accessible to most vehicles. Highlights along the trail include the ghost town of Goldfield, the Old Western town of Tortilla Flat, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and the Tonto National Monument.

Pro tip:
Don’t miss the Weavers Needle Lookout for panoramic views. It’s a breathtaking vantage point that provides a sense of the vastness of the landscape.

10. White Mountains

Media: Arizona White Mountains

Location: eastern Arizona, near the border with New Mexico

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 4 hours

Situated at a lofty 9,000 feet, Arizona’s White Mountains offer a stark contrast to the desert heat, providing a haven for diverse outdoor activities. As the summer sun graces the landscape, you can enjoy golf, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and hiking.

When winter arrives, a serene transformation blankets the White Mountains in pristine snow. The Sunrise Ski Resort beckons winter enthusiasts with its pristine ski runs and a playground for snowmobiling, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing.

Pro tip:
For a blend of entertainment and local culture, don’t miss the vibrant atmosphere of the Hon-Dah Casino. Also, stay updated on the local calendar for exciting events or festivals occurring during your visit.

11. Kartchner Caverns State Park

Location: 2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602


Contact Details: +1 520-586-4100

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

You can embark on an adventure reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie with a day trip to Kartchner Caverns State Park. Whether opting for a 1.5-hour guided tour or venturing solo, you’ll witness the mesmerizing beauty of the world’s longest stalactite formation.

You can explore the cave’s delicate ecosystem and witness the ongoing development of stalactites and stalagmites on a guided tour. The Discovery Center’s interactive exhibits also detail the cave’s history, from ancient dwellers to its current bat population.

Pro tip:
Always be mindful of the delicate ecosystem by staying on designated paths. Also, avoid touching cave formations, as the oils from your skin can hinder their growth.

12. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Location: northern Arizona, near Flagstaff


Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

For an adventure that’s more mesmerizing than menacing, take a day trip to Sunset Crater, a volcanic wonder in northern Arizona. Here, the region’s volcanic history unfolds before you, showcasing cinder cones and hardened lava flows.

While often confused with Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater is distinct—a cinder cone crowned with iron-rich cinders that glow in shades of red. Rising 1,000 feet with a hidden 300-foot-deep crater at its peak, it’s a sight to behold.

Pro tip:
You may consider taking the Sunset Crater-Wupatki Loop Road. It’s a bit longer but totally worth it, especially if you’re into scenic drives.

13. Jerome Ghost Town

Media: Dave Miller

Location: Jerome-Perkinsville Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331


Operating Hours: Monday: 9 AM–5 PM, Tuesday: Closed, Wednesday-Sunday: 9 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours

Nestled atop Cleopatra Hill, between Prescott and Flagstaff, Jerome was once infamous as the “wickedest town in the west.” It weathered the storm of the Great Depression, transforming into a ghost town before reawakening as a thriving tourist destination.

With a population now hovering around 450, Jerome has reinvented itself as an artistic haven. The silent mines echo with the vibrant buzz of tourists exploring its historical charm, shopping in quaint stores, and savoring delightful meals.

Pro tip:
Jerome sits at a high elevation, so bring a light jacket or sweater, even in the warmer months. The weather can surprise you, and you want to be comfortable as you explore.

14. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Media: Rich Heend

Location: Nf-583A, Pine, AZ 85544


Contact Details: +1 928-476-4202

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park beckons day-trippers from Phoenix to escape the scorching heat. Here, a refreshing getaway awaits, offering the perfect excuse to embrace the outdoors.

You can immerse yourself in the cool waters of Pine Creek, a welcome reprieve akin to a refreshing dip in an oasis. Beyond the water’s edge, the park unfolds with natural wonders waiting to be discovered, making it an ideal retreat for those seeking solace.

Pro tip:
You can grab a trail map or guide from the park’s information center. It’ll enhance your experience and help you discover hidden gems.

15. San Xavier Mission

Media: Sara Stover

Location: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746


Contact Details: +1 520-294-2624

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–4 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 50 minutes

For an intriguing cultural outing, consider a day trip to the San Xavier Mission near Phoenix. The Spanish-style church, a historical gem completed in 1797, showcases influences from Mexico, Spain, and the Tohono O’odham culture.

Often called the “white dove in the desert,” this mission dedicated to the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier offers a blend of artistry and history. It promises an enriching experience, making it an ideal for history enthusiasts and Instagram-worthy moments.

Pro tip:
As a place of worship, it’s respectful to dress modestly. You may consider wearing attire that covers shoulders and knees.

16. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Media: Sabine

Location: 1100 W Ruins Dr, Coolidge, AZ 85128


Contact Details: +1 520-723-3172

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–4 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour

The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is a testament to the resilience of the Ancient Sonoran Desert People. Though unassuming in photos, the Casa Grande is a colossal prehistoric structure, standing proudly for nearly two millennia.

This ancient site reveals an intricate irrigation system, providing insight into the lives of prehistoric Arizona farmers. The remarkable aspect that it remains standing today, providing us the opportunity to admire its presence, is truly awe-inspiring.

Pro tip:
You can engage with the on-site guides for a richer understanding of the Casa Grande’s history. They often share fascinating anecdotes that bring the ancient structure to life.

17. Verde Canyon Railroad

Location: 300 N Broadway, Clarkdale, AZ 86324


Contact Details: +1 800-293-7245, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 55 minutes

The Verde Canyon Railroad offers an opportunity to rediscover the charm of trains in the vast landscape of Arizona. You’ll depart on a four-hour expedition and delve into the historical tapestry of the region, transcending the conventional modes of transportation.

Winding through a grand canyon, the train reveals a breathtaking panorama. The trip features high-desert flora and fauna, historic trestles, dramatic geology, unique rock formations, and an exhilarating journey through a century-old, 734-foot tunnel.

Pro tip:
While the train offers complimentary appetizers, consider bringing some of your favorite snacks. Having a mix of sweet and savory treats will keep you satisfied throughout the journey.

18. Pima Air & Space Museum

Location: 6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756


Contact Details: +1 520-574-0462, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 50 minutes

A trip to the Pima Air & Space Museum offers a journey through the rich history of flight, both within the Earth’s atmosphere and beyond. This expansive museum, one of the largest in the world, houses an impressive collection of over 300 historical aircraft.

The museum sprawls across 80 acres and includes six indoor exhibit hangars, with three dedicated to the impactful era of World War II aviation. It offers free docent-led walking tours, providing insights into the fascinating stories behind the aircraft.

Pro tip:
You can grab a bite at the Flight Grill. This on-site restaurant is convenient for refueling and offers a chance to discuss your favorite exhibits over a meal.

19. Red Rock Scenic Byway

Location: northern Arizona, passing through the red rock formations near Sedona


Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 40 minutes

This road trip is tailor-made for those who revel in the simple pleasure of driving with the windows down, accompanied by their favorite tunes. The Red Rock Scenic Byway is a gateway to the renowned Red Rock Country of Sedona.

This scenic drive showcases the breathtaking beauty of iron-infused red rocks and captivating geological formations such as hoodoos, natural bridges, and canyons. This short journey is also a mere few hours south of the Grand Canyon.

Pro tip:
You may consider taking a hot air balloon ride over the Red Rock Country. The panoramic views from above provide a unique perspective on the landscape, adding an extra layer of awe to your adventure.

20. Titan Missile Museum

Location: 1580 W Duval Mine Rd, Green Valley, AZ 85614


Contact Details: +1 520-625-7736, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:45 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: hours

You can embark on a unique journey into the pages of Cold War history with a day trip to the Titan Missile Museum. This iconic museum serves as evidence to an era marked by geopolitical tensions and nuclear standoff.

Upon arrival, visitors are treated to a guided tour, delving into the intricacies of the Titan II missile, a formidable force during the Cold War. The experience culminates with a simulated missile launch, offering a glimpse into the tension-laden moments of the past.

Pro tip:
You can check ahead for any special events or demonstrations happening at the museum during your visit. Some days might feature unique activities, guest speakers, or hands-on exhibits that add an extra layer to your experience.

21. Old Tombstone Western Theme Park

Location: 339 S 4th St, Tombstone, AZ 85638


Contact Details: +1 520-955-3090

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10 AM–4:30 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours and 50 minutes

Tombstone is an iconic town known for legendary events like the shootout at the O.K. Corral. The Old Tombstone Western Theme Park, nestled within this historic enclave, invites you to step back in time and offers a glimpse into the Wild West’s past.

Amidst the rustic Cantina and the Wild West Stunt Show by the “Tombstone Cowboys,” every corner tells frontier tales. You can also engage in gold panning, try the Shoot’n Gallery, or enjoy a round of mini-golf for added excitement in this historic spot.

Pro tip:
For an extra dose of excitement, you can opt for the Ghost Tour after sunset. The dimly lit streets and tales of the supernatural add a thrilling twist to Tombstone’s already rich history.

22. Bearizona Wildlife Park

Location: 1500 E Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046


Contact Details: +1 928-635-2289

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–4 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours and 40 minutes

A day trip from Phoenix to Bearizona Wildlife Park is more than just a visit. This captivating destination offers an immersive experience where you can encounter North American wildlife in their natural habitats.

Here, you’ll observe various spacious enclosures, marvel at bears, wolves, bison, and other animals, all while gaining insight into their behaviors and habitats. Moreover, Bearizona is a perfect complement to a Grand Canyon adventure.

Pro tip:
You can extend your day trip by exploring Williams. The town has charming shops and restaurants, making it a perfect pitstop on your way back to Phoenix.

23. Meteor Crater National Landmark

Media: Tyson Rayl

Location: near Winslow in Northern Arizona


Contact Details: +1 928-289-5898, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8 AM–5 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours and 45 minutes

The Meteor Crater National Landmark is a proof of a cosmic collision that left its mark 50,000 years ago. You’ll uncover the mysteries behind the colossal crater through 24 interactive exhibits, each shedding light on this cataclysmic event.

The Meteor Crater Visitor Center, perched on the crater’s rim, offers an immersive experience. It has an 80-seat widescreen theater, indoor crater viewing, and the Interactive Discovery Center.

Pro tip:
The gift shop offers more than just trinkets. You can look for educational souvenirs that can enhance your understanding of meteorites and impact events.

24. Sonoran Desert

Media: Tanner Wilson

Location: southern and western parts of Arizona

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 50 minutes

When the vacation budget is tight, and the sizzling Arizona summer hits, a day trip to the Sonoran Desert becomes a budget-friendly escape for Phoenix locals. With its proximity to Mexico, it offers a taste of adventure without breaking the bank.

You can stroll along well-maintained paths to immerse yourself in the desert’s natural beauty, or opt for a drive if the heat becomes a bit too intense. It’s an accessible getaway for those craving a touch of wilderness without straying too far from Phoenix.

Pro tip:
The desert heat can be intense, so bring more water than you think you’ll need. A reusable water bottle is your best friend.

25. Saguaro Lake

Media: anna cureton

Location: Tonto National Forest near the city of Mesa

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 50 minutes

Saguaro Lake is a scenic reservoir nestled in the embrace of the Tonto National Forest. It offers a variety of activities for nature enthusiasts, from leisurely dips in the water to adventurous cliff jumps.

Saguaro Lake has over 22 miles of shoreline, surrounded by striking rock formations and sprawling cacti-filled landscapes. The lake, named after the iconic Saguaro cactus, is a haven for boating, fishing, jet skiing, hiking, camping, and more.

Pro tip:
For the ultimate lakeside feast, pack a cooler with your favorite snacks and drinks. You can then throw in a comfy blanket and a Bluetooth speaker for a soundtrack that complements the serene waters of this lake.

26. Mount Lemmon

Location: Santa Catalina Mountains, northeast of Tucson

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 3 hours

You can escape the desert heat with a day trip to Mount Lemmon, offering some of Arizona’s most breathtaking panoramas. It’s a haven for adventure enthusiasts, providing opportunities for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Meanwhile, you can explore the nearby town of Summerhaven for a delightful bite to eat and a taste of local charm. Known as Babad Do’ag, or Frog Mountain, to the Tohono O’odham Nation, Mount Lemmon is a diverse playground for outdoor activities.

Pro tip:
You can start your journey early in the day to catch the stunning sunrise at Mount Lemmon. The sun gradually bathing the mountains in warm hues is a soul-soothing spectacle that’s well worth the early rise.

27. Devil’s Bridge Trail

Media: Explore Arizona

Location: near the town of Sedona in Coconino National Forest

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours and 10 minutes

A day trip to the enchanting Devil’s Bridge Trail is a perfect choice for both novice and seasoned hikers. The trail offers a balanced challenge, not too strenuous yet rewarding, especially when you navigate across the iconic ‘Devil’s Bridge’ for breathtaking views.

Despite its ominous name, Devil’s Bridge is Sedona’s largest natural sandstone arch, showcasing the heavenly beauty of the region. With a trailhead elevation of 4,600 feet and a modest 400-foot climb, the hike is approachable for various skill levels.

Pro tip:
Before heading out, take a few moments to check the current trail conditions. A quick online search or a visit to the local visitor center can provide valuable insights, allowing you to anticipate challenges and make the most of your visit.

28. Coconino National Forest

Media: Kara + Rocco

Location: Lake Mary Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001


Contact Details: +1 928-527-3600

Operating Hours: Monday-Friday: 8 AM–4 PM

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

The Coconino National Forest is an expansive two-million-acre haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. It offers not just a tranquil escape, but a plethora of activities ranging from hiking and horseback riding to fishing and boating.

With accessible routes like US 89 and US 89A, it promises a diverse and immersive experience. Some of its stunning features are the vibrant red and pink sandstone cliffs of Oak Creek Canyon and the pinnacle of Mount Humphreys, at 12,633 feet tall.

Pro tip:
You can uncover the forest’s history by exploring historical sites like the Palatki Heritage Site. It’s the location of ancient Native American cliff dwellings that unveil the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

29. Oak Creek Canyon

Media: MarceFitness

Location: northern Arizona, between Flagstaff and Sedona

Hours of travel from Phoenix: 2 hours and 10 minutes

A day trip to Oak Creek Canyon offers a day of sun-soaked relaxation and refreshing swims. As you drive, you’ll witness the majestic transformation from towering red cliffs to serene forested canyons.

The options are as diverse as the landscape itself. You can cool off in natural swimming holes, engage in some fishing, embark on the popular West Fork trail, experience the thrill of a jeep or ATV ride, or soar above the canyon with a hot air balloon adventure.

Pro tip:
Whether you’re hiking the trails or just wandering around, wear comfortable shoes. You never know when you might find that perfect hidden spot to sit and take it all in.

30. Tucson Mountain Park

Location: 8451 W McCain Loop, Tucson, AZ 85735


Hours of travel from Phoenix: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Amidst the hustle of daily life, you can find solace in a day trip to Tucson Mountain Park from Phoenix. With over 62 miles of trails, the park can be a sanctuary for those seeking a peaceful retreat.

Whether you choose to wander the paths on foot or bike through the scenic landscapes, the journey promises a serene escape. Don’t forget your camera – the park unfolds with captivating vistas that beckon to be captured and cherished.

Pro tip:
Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife. Binoculars can enhance your experience, allowing you to observe the desert’s inhabitants from a respectful distance.
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