There’s nothing quite like the freedom of getting in a car and going on a road trip, especially in the summer time. And when the mercury starts to hit the triple-digits in Phoenix, it’s time to pack up and feel the cool breeze of the open road. Here are our picks for some of the best Arizona road trips, with Phoenix as the point of departure.
Explore Central Arizona on Highway 89. For the serious road trip enthusiast, Highway 89 has it all: steep grades, narrow winding roads, and breathtaking scenery. For the most scenic route, leave the city via the Carefree Highway, which will take you past the New Waddell Dam, Lake Pleasant, and some of the most scenic Saguaro-dotted landscape in central Arizona. Highway 89 passes through Wickenburg, a tourist-friendly high desert town with a main strip overflowing with Western-themed shops and restaurants. Next, follow the road through miles of gorgeous horse country, and enjoy the steep change in elevation as you climb the Weaver Mountains. Wind through acres of forest until you reach Prescott, famous for its Ponderosa Pines, and explore the historic shops and restaurants on downtown’s Whiskey Row. For an unforgettable ride featuring some of the best hairpin turns in the state, follow 89A from Prescott to the mountain arts colony of Jerome.
The Apache Trail. This is one of the most exhilarating drives you’ll find around the Metro Phoenix area. The historic Apache Trail features 40 miles of steep, winding, mostly unpaved road that winds around some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in central Arizona. From Phoenix, take U.S. 60 all the way to Apache Junction, then AZ 88. AZ 88 will turn into the Apache Trail, the historic stagecoach trail that carried miners and ranchers across the Superstition Mountains east of Mesa. Stop at Goldfield, a ghost town-turned-tourist town filled with shops, restaurants, and Old West-themed attractions, then proceed along the winding trail, which takes you past three man-made lakes, dense forests, and the Roosevelt Dam, before finally reaching the mining town of Globe.
North to the Red Rocks of Sedona. This is one of the most popular routes for Arizona road-trippers, and for good reason. The road north to Sedona means a welcome escape from the heat of the lower deserts, not to mention an eyeful of red rock scenery. For an unforgettable and quintessential Arizona road trip, take Interstate 17 north, then Arizona 179 to Sedona. You’ll know you’re in red rock country when the dirt turns brick-red and you catch your first glimpse of red spires in the distance.