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My Top Picks for Weekend Getaways as a Workday Professional from Phoenix

You know the feeling when Friday finally rolls around, and all you can think about is escaping the hustle and bustle of the week? That’s me, every week. Phoenix is great and all, but sometimes a nine-to-fiver just needs a change of scenery.

So, I decided to hunt down the best weekend getaways from Phoenix, and it’s like finding hidden treasure in the desert. I stumbled upon quirky towns, breathtaking landscapes, and even a place where you can see the stars like never before.

Ever tried stargazing after a day of wine tasting? Spoiler: it’s as magical as it sounds. So, let’s dive into some of these awesome escapes that’ll make your weekends unforgettable.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

Media: Christy Williams

Location: northern Arizona


Contact Details: +1 928-638-7888

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: Open 24 hours

Driving Time from Phoenix: 3.5 hours

Grand Canyon National Park is a great option for a weekend retreat from Phoenix. It promises boundless hiking opportunities, breathtaking panoramas, and a range of camping options and lodgings for all preferences.

Given its immense scale, some planning beforehand is recommended. The South Rim, being the closest and most accessible from Phoenix, draws the most visitors and offers convenient shuttle services to key viewpoints, alleviating parking concerns.

Cycling to Hermit’s Rest at the South Rim is also a popular activity, offering a serene biking experience with minimal traffic. Many choose to load bikes onto the shuttle and pedal downhill from Hermit’s Rest for a more enjoyable ride.

Additionally, the rim features a scenic walking and biking trail with captivating views, inviting frequent stops. You can also tackle the 1.5-mile segment of Bright Angel’s Trail to the first rest house for breathtaking vistas with moderate effort.

For the adventurous, you can embark on a challenging 9.5-mile trek to the Colorado River. Many camp at the base over two days, with backcountry camping permits available through a lottery system or last-minute options at Bright Angel Campground.

Pro tip:
Don’t miss out on the ranger-led programs and talks. They offer valuable insights into the geology, history, and wildlife of the canyon, making your visit more enriching.

2. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park


Location: Arizona-Utah border


Contact Details: +1 435-727-5870

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

Driving Time from Phoenix: 4-5 hours to complete the loop

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a quintessential symbol of the Wild West and immortalized in scenes like Forrest Gump’s epic run. It’s nestled on the Utah-Arizona border and a fantastic choice for a weekend escape from Phoenix.

Managed by the Navajo Tribe, Monument Valley offers an immersive experience into the rich culture and history of the Navajo people. The $8 entry fee per person grants access to a 17-mile loop drive showcasing awe-inspiring vistas.

You can have ample time to savor the panoramic views along the loop drive. A stop at the visitor center adds depth to your experience, providing insights into the park’s heritage, geology, and environment.

You can also delve into various activities such as guided hiking tours, stargazing expeditions, horseback rides, or river trips, offered by numerous tour operators in the region. If venturing off the beaten path, securing a backcountry permit is a must.

Despite its cinematic fame and Instagram allure, Monument Valley often remains underrated. Its signature red sandstone formations sculpted by nature’s forces create a surreal landscape that captivates visitors.

Pro tip:
If you’re a fan of camping, you may consider staying at one of the campsites within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Waking up to the iconic buttes and mesas right outside your tent is an experience like no other.

3. Tucson

Media: City of Tucson

Location: southeast of Phoenix


Driving Time from Phoenix: less than 2 hours

Nestled in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson boasts a unique blend of Saguaro cacti-studded landscapes and vibrant Mexican-American culture. Here, you can explore the Saguaro National Park beyond the city for hiking and wildlife spotting.

Tucson’s culinary scene is a standout feature, particularly renowned for its authentic Mexican cuisine. From street tacos to fine dining establishments, the city offers a delectable array of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.

Downtown Tucson is a treasure trove of experiences. You can browse the eclectic shops at Old Town Artisans village or immerse yourself in aviation history at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

If you want to delve into Tucson’s rich history, try to visit the historic San Xavier del Bac Mission. It’s a testament to the area’s cultural heritage dating back to the 18th century.

On the other hand, nature enthusiasts will find solace in the Tucson Botanical Gardens. You’ll find diverse plant species that thrive amidst desert landscapes, offering a peaceful retreat within the city limits.

Pro tip:
For an immersive learning experience about the Sonoran Desert’s ecosystem, schedule a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a combination of a zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum.

4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Location: 10 Lakeshore Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005


Contact Details: +1 702-293-8990

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: Open 24 hours

Driving Time from Phoenix: 4-5 hours

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is located just east of Las Vegas. As the largest national recreation area in the U.S., it offers a stunning array of landscapes including mountains, canyons, valleys, and beaches.

This area is most popular just north of the Hoover Dam, where visitors can relax on the beach and swim in the refreshing waters of Lake Mead. Renting a boat to explore the canyons and hidden coves is another fantastic way to spend the day.

Fishing, hiking, and cycling are abundant activities around Lake Mead, providing plenty of outdoor fun for everyone. A visit to the Hoover Dam is a must to learn about its history and the significant changes it brought to the Colorado River since its construction in 1936.

For a unique experience, try kayaking beneath the Hoover Dam, navigating the bright green waters of its numerous coves. The contrast between the water and the rugged desert landscape makes for an unforgettable adventure.

Scenic drives and overlooks throughout the area offer breathtaking views that are perfect for photography enthusiasts. Hiking trails, such as the Red Stone Hiking Trail, provide excellent opportunities to explore red-rock formations and sand dunes.

Pro tip:
If you’re into fishing, bring your gear and check the local regulations. Lake Mead is known for its striped bass, and fishing from the shore or a rented boat can be a relaxing way to spend the day.

5. Sedona

Media: visitsedona

Location: northern part of Arizona, near Flagstaff

Driving Time from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

Sedona is a magical desert oasis in central Arizona that features jagged cliffs and striking crimson rocks. It’s a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with its stunning red-rock formations and numerous adventure activities.

Hiking is the best way to explore Sedona’s red rocks. Popular trails include Cathedral Rock, known for its fun, steep rock scramble, Subway Cave via Boynton Canyon, which leads to a natural cave, and Devil’s Bridge, a trail that ends at a stunning natural bridge.

Off-roading is another top activity in Sedona, and taking a 4×4 vehicle to explore the dusty red-dirt backroads or booking a Pink Jeep Tour can enhance the adventure. Schnebly Hill, Soldier Pass, and Broken Arrow are among the best off-road trails.

Catching one of Sedona’s breathtaking cotton candy sunsets is a must. Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Doe Mountain offer some of the best sunset spots, providing unforgettable views as the desert skies light up.

Sedona is also renowned for its spiritual healing energies, especially at “vortex” sites in the surrounding mountains. You can explore these vortexes through guided tours or on your own, particularly at Cathedral Rock.

Pro tip:
Dinner at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill is a must. The food is fantastic, and the views from the patio during sunset create a dining experience that’s hard to beat. Reservations are recommended to snag a good spot.

6. Saguaro National Park

Location: southern Arizona


Contact Details: +1 520-733-5153

Driving Time from Phoenix: 2.5 hours

Saguaro National Park, featuring the largest cacti in the USA, offers a unique weekend getaway from Phoenix with its towering saguaros and stunning desert landscapes. The park is divided into East and West sides, each offering a day’s worth of exploration.

On the East side, you can start your day at the visitor center, then embark on a scenic drive with stops at breathtaking overlooks like Javelina Rocks. Don’t miss out on hikes like Mica View and Bridal Wreath Falls, showcasing the park’s natural beauty.

The West side of Saguaro National Park also promises adventure, beginning at the visitor center, and then venturing onto dirt roads for a rugged experience. Hiking trails like Valley View, Signal Hill, Desert Discovery, and Gould Mine offer diverse landscapes.

Despite being less known than some other parks, Saguaro National Park is a hidden gem. Its vast expanse is home to approximately two million saguaro cacti, creating a unique desert ecosystem worth exploring.

Photography enthusiasts will love capturing the iconic saguaros against the backdrop of rolling hills and vibrant sunsets. The park’s serene ambiance makes it an ideal spot for hiking, soaking in desert sunsets, and cycling along the desert ecology trail.

Pro tip:
If you’re into stargazing, bring along a telescope or binoculars. Saguaro National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, making it an excellent spot for observing the night sky and celestial events.

7. Flagstaff

Location: northern Arizona

Driving Time from Phoenix: 2 hours

Flagstaff is a fantastic weekend getaway with its refreshing elevation of 8,000 feet. With this, it offers cooler temperatures, especially welcoming during scorching summer days in Phoenix.

Nestled among Ponderosa pine forests, Flagstaff provides a picturesque setting for relaxation or outdoor adventures. The iconic Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s highest at 12,633 feet, presents hiking challenges in summer and skiing opportunities in winter.

Its charming downtown is adorned with cafes, boutiques, and restaurants along the railroad tracks, perfect for leisurely strolls and exploration. There’s also a plethora of breweries to indulge in after a day of outdoor activities or sightseeing.

Don’t miss visiting Flagstaff’s notable attractions like the Lowell Observatory, which offers intriguing insights into astronomy. Meanwhile, the Museum of Northern Arizona showcases regional history and culture.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Flagstaff provides easy access to the Coconino National Forest and the San Francisco Mountains. These spots has endless hiking trails, secluded campsites, and winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.

Pro tip:
When exploring downtown Flagstaff, don’t miss Heritage Square. It’s a charming area with outdoor seating, live music at times, and a great spot for people-watching while enjoying a coffee or snack.

8. Zion National Park

Media: yolasnaps

Location: southwestern Utah


Contact Details: +1 435-772-3256

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: Open 24 hours

Driving Time from Phoenix: around 6.5 hours

The drive may be a bit longer to Zion National Park, but the towering red-rock cliffs and stunning vistas make it completely worth it. This is a great option especially if you can extend your weekend trip.

This park is a top favorite for adventure lovers, with adrenaline-pumping hiking trails and charming mountain towns nearby. Angel’s Landing, the most popular hike in Zion, offers an exhilarating challenge with its steep drop-offs and narrow paths.

Due to its popularity, permits are required for Angel’s Landing. Applications for permits can be made on two months in advance, or you can try for a next-day permit.

For those who prefer a less intense hike, the Lower Emerald Pool trail is a perfect choice. This easy 1.4-mile out-and-back trail leads to a beautiful alcove where water cascades into a serene pool.

Pro tip:
Zion’s shuttle system is fantastic for getting around. It’s free and stops at all major trailheads. Parking within the park can be challenging, so the shuttle is a stress-free alternative.

9. Page

Media: Visit Page Arizona

Location: northern Arizona, right near the Utah border

Driving Time from Phoenix: 4 hours

Page’s small-town charm, combined with its proximity to natural wonders, makes it an ideal weekend trip from Phoenix. This sleepy town near the Utah-Arizona border is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and unique geological formations.

One of the must-see sites in Page is Antelope Canyon, famous for its wavy, slot canyon walls. Taking a guided tour through Upper Antelope Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon, or Canyon X offers an unforgettable experience.

Booking your tour in advance is crucial due to its popularity. The crowds can be significant, but the mesmerizing beauty of the slot canyons makes it worthwhile.

Lake Powell is another highlight of Page, providing excellent recreational opportunities. Renting a kayak to explore the lake’s hidden slot canyons offers a different perspective of this beautiful area.

Just ten minutes from downtown Page, Horseshoe Bend offers one of the most iconic views in the Southwest. Watching the sunrise over this majestic gooseneck in the Colorado River is a serene start to your day.

Pro tip:
While Page is small, it has some great restaurants. Fiesta Mexicana is a favorite of many tourists for delicious and authentic Mexican food. For a good breakfast, try Ranch House Grille for hearty, homemade meals.

10. Las Vegas

Location: southern part of Nevada, northwest of Phoenix


Contact Details: (702) 229-6011

Driving Time from Phoenix: 4.5 hours

Las Vegas is one of the best weekend getaways from Phoenix, especially if you’re seeking entertainment, gambling, and vibrant nightlife. Even if you’ve been to Las Vegas before, there’s always something new to experience.

Live entertainment in Las Vegas is unmatched, featuring world-class singers, dancers, and performers. The Strip is also a haven for shopping and dining, with an array of options that cater to every taste.

Strolling through the themed casinos, you might feel like you’re traveling the world. Each resort offers a unique atmosphere, from the canals of Venice at The Venetian to the bustling streets of New York at New York-New York.

For those who need a break from the city lights, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just a short drive away. This scenic spot offers hiking trails, rock climbing, and breathtaking desert views.

Lake Mead is another nearby option for a relaxing day by the water. For more adventure, Valley of Fire State Park is only 45 minutes from downtown, offering stunning red rock formations and ancient petroglyphs.

Pro tip:
If you’re not much into gambling, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy. The Bellagio Fountains, the Mirage Volcano, and the LINQ Promenade are all great for non-gamblers.

11. Prescott

Media: visitprescott

Location: central Arizona

Driving Time from Phoenix: 2 hours

Prescott is renowned for its historic mining and cowboy past, offering a charming blend of old and new. Whiskey Row, with its numerous saloons dating back to the late 1800s, is a highlight of its historic downtown.

Nestled in a ponderosa pine tree forest, Prescott’s higher elevation provides a refreshing escape from Phoenix’s heat in the summertime. The downtown area is filled with unique shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes, offering an inviting atmosphere.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do just outside of town. Prescott is a haven for hiking, mountain biking, swimming, and climbing, with numerous trails and natural areas to explore.

Watson Lake and the Granite Dells are perfect spots to relax and take in the stunning rock formations. The lakes are great for a day of kayaking, fishing, or simply picnicking by the water.

Prescott’s historical significance is evident in its well-preserved architecture and vibrant downtown scene. Beyond Whiskey Row, visitors can enjoy art galleries, breweries, and wineries.

Pro tip:
You may consider staying in a historic hotel like the Hassayampa Inn. It’s right in the heart of downtown, so you can walk to most attractions. Plus, it has a lot of charm and stories from the past.

12. Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (Rocky Point)

Media: victoriaarichelle

Location: northwestern part of Mexico in the state of Sonora, southwest of Phoenix

Driving Time from Phoenix: 4-6 hours

Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is located just about 4 hours away from Phoenix without traffic. Nestled on the Sea of Cortes, it provides a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

Despite its proximity to the U.S., it retains a charming Mexican atmosphere, allowing visitors to experience a touch of Mexican culture. Its blend of accessibility and charm makes it a top choice for Phoenix residents seeking a quick and enjoyable getaway.

While the town is fairly Americanized, making it easy for non-Spanish speakers to get by, the border crossing can be a bit of a hassle. Crowded conditions are common on Friday afternoons and Sunday evenings, potentially extending the drive time.

Originally a small fishing village, Puerto Peñasco has evolved into a bustling vacation destination. Its transformation has made it a hotspot for visitors seeking sun, sand, and sea, without venturing too far from home.

The city’s proximity to Phoenix has earned it the nickname “Arizona’s beach,” highlighting its convenience for Arizonans looking for a quick beach getaway. With its beautiful beaches and vibrant local scene, it promises a refreshing weekend retreat.

Pro tip:
You may consider exchanging some currency beforehand or withdrawing Mexican pesos from ATMs in Puerto Peñasco for smoother transactions during your stay.

13. Petrified Forest National Park

Location: northeastern Arizona


Contact Details: +1 928-524-6228

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

Driving Time from Phoenix: 3.5 hours

Petrified Forest National Park is surrounded by colorful badlands, boasting an array of geological wonders. These include the iconic petrified wood and Triassic fossils of ancient species.

The petrified wood found here exhibits vibrant hues like yellows, reds, oranges, and greens, forming mesmerizing marble patterns. This geological feature is a major draw for visitors to the park, offering a glimpse into ancient landscapes and natural history.

Exploring Petrified Forest National Park involves driving along a single road that showcases various hiking opportunities. Along the way, you can explore the park’s diverse landscapes and fascinating attractions.

One of the must-visit spots is the Painted Desert Visitor Center. It provides insights into the park’s highlights such as the Crystal Forest, Blue Mesa, the Painted Desert, the Tepees, and the Giant Logs Trail.

Pro tip:
As you enter the park, be sure to stop by the visitor center first. It’s not only a great place to gather information about the park’s attractions but also to pick up maps and get recommendations from the friendly park rangers.

14. Lake Havasu City

Location: western Arizona


Driving Time from Phoenix: 3.5 hours

Lake Havasu City is situated on the Arizona-California border along the Colorado River. Its appeal lies in a blend of outdoor activities, historical charm, and culinary delights.

Here, visitors can marvel at the iconic London Bridge, shipped from London and reassembled in Lake Havasu City. The bridge’s history adds a unique touch to the city’s character and offers a picturesque backdrop for leisurely walks.

For those seeking outdoor adventures, there are opportunities for kayaking, beach lounging, and soaking up the sun. Jet boat tours on the Colorado River and visits to local breweries also add a dash of excitement to your weekend getaway.

Pro tip:
Plan a visit to the Havasu 95 Speedway if you’re a motorsport enthusiast. It’s a thrilling experience to watch races or even participate in some of the track’s events if you’re up for it.
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