As any Arizona resident will tell you, one of the best things about living in the desert state is the large variety of places to see and things to experience right in your own backyard.
In some states, adventures require a day or two of driving – sometimes even crossing state lines – but not so in Arizona. There are countless fun destinations within a short drive from the Phoenix metro area.
With the large number of enjoyable Arizona day trips that you can take with friends or family, you’ll never have a boring weekend.
Here is just a shortlist of the top seven best day trips in Arizona.
Red Rocks of Sedona
The amazing scenery around Sedona is unlike anything you’ve ever seen with towering rock formations in incredible red hues that look like something from of a movie set on the planet Mars.
Only a two-hour drive from West Phoenix, Sedona is nestled at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. With mild weather year-round, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities in Sedona. Scenic hiking, mountain biking, or even kayaking make Sedona one of the best places to find adventurous things to do in Arizona.
The small town of just more than 10,000 residents is packed with charming shops and great restaurants, so you can easily spend a day exploring the local businesses.
If you want to make sure you experience Sedona through the eyes of an expert, consider taking a tour. There are even options that leave straight from Phoenix, which is great for people who want to keep the planning work at a minimum. If you’re willing to link up with the tour guides once you get to Sedona on your own power, you can choose from things like Jeep tours of mystical energy vortex sites.
If you’re driving to Sedona yourself, it’s certainly short enough to complete without having to stop. You may want to schedule a short break at Montezuma Castle National Monument, though. This cliff dwelling from the 12th century is almost right on the way, and you can check it out with a short detour from Interstate 17, where it’s near Camp Verde. Just make sure you save plenty of time to see Enchantment Resort and their stunning pool while you’re in Sedona!
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Of all the day trips from Phoenix, Montezuma Castle offers one of the most interesting peeks into the state’s history. You’ll only need to drive about an hour and a half to be transported back in time forvv more than 600 years. Montezuma Castle is a Native American dwelling carved into a limestone cliff by the Sinagua tribe more than half a millennium ago. Set up almost like a modern-day apartment building, it is an incredible look into Arizona’s past and Native American history.
As mentioned above, this awe-inspiring monument is practically on the way to Sedona, so you can kill two birds with one stone if you want to. The monument grounds contain a visitor center where you can learn more about its history. It’s also a great place to have lunch– bring your own food to the picnic area and relax in the shade while you take in some natural beauty.
The Montezuma Well National Monument is also within a few minutes of this location. Take a stroll along their hiking trail and enjoy the view of a small lake. It’s fascinating to see how people used to live in Arizona, and it might also make you thankful for the modern accommodations in your own apartment.
City of Flagstaff
A favorite among Arizonans, Flagstaff is one of the most popular day trips; from Phoenix, it is just over a two-hour drive. Outdoor activities in the beautiful northern city are plentiful. You can explore the green pines of the surrounding high-country forests and feel like you are about a thousand miles from the cacti and rocks of the desert. Or you can explore the downtown area with its shopping, restaurants, galleries, and museums.
One of the best things about a day trip to Flagstaff is that it gives you a chance to experience a completely different environment. There’s snow in the winter, and you can even go snow skiing just outside of town. During the summer months, the high elevation can lift you right out of the desert’s oppressive heat. Check it out when you need a change of scenery without traveling too far!
Tucson Mountain Park
If you head south from Phoenix, you will arrive in the city of Tucson after a two-hour drive. During the cooler months, Tucson offers a variety of outdoor things to do. Tucson Mountain Park is 20,000 acres of gorgeous desert, offering trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are onsite archery and gun ranges, as well as a Desert Discovery Center where you can learn about desert wildlife.
If you’re a fan of classic Western movies, you absolutely have to check out Old Tucson Studios, which is right in the park. It was originally built in 1939 for the filming of Arizona, which was based on the novel with the same name and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Since then, the studio was used for hits like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, El Dorado, Rio Bravo, and Little House on the Prarie.
Soak up the rich cinematic history, then go out for a walk in the surrounding area. It might make you feel like you’ve stepped right into one of your favorite films. You’ll be able to rewatch them in a whole new light once you’ve stepped foot on the very ground where they originated.
Tonto Natural Bridge
Standing nearly 200 feet high, Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest natural travertine bridge on the planet. It is one of the most underrated Arizona day trips. With just a short hike, you can experience the awe-inspiring sight of the giant rock formation and even enjoy swimming just downstream from the bridge in the warmer months. Less than two hours northeast of Phoenix, the natural bridge is an easy drive to an incredible sight.
Spend less than an hour in the car and you will arrive at one of Phoenix residents’ favorite summer weekend destinations. Saguaro Lake has 22 miles of shoreline, perfect for spending a warm afternoon in the sun. You can swim, fish, kayak, boat, sail, and even water ski. The Saguaro Lake Marina offers boat rentals, so you don’t have to own your own watercraft to get the most out of the experience. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a bite at the Lakeshore Restaurant.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
About two and half hours from the Phoenix area, Kartchner Caverns is an impressive cave system with “live” limestone formations, which are still growing due to the dripping water. With guided tours offered 364 days of the year, you can experience the unbelievable collection of stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave, and even see the incredibly preserved footprints made by the explorers who first discovered the southern Arizona caverns.
With so much to do within just a short drive from the metro area, Phoenix is an incredible place to live. In the city and beyond, there are new experiences to be had every day. If you want to make this exciting desert lifestyle your own, check out one of Heers Management’s incredible communities in West Phoenix, which people from all over the country are happily calling home. Contact our office today for more information and start soaking up the Phoenix life today.
If you’re looking to take an educational field trip with the kids, Kartchner Caverns State Park is hard to beat. This site is home to the longest known soda straw stalactite on the planet, and seeing it in person might be enough to make science exciting. If you get the itch to learn more, go to the Discovery Center for exhibits about geology, paleontology, and bats.