Arizona is a huge state. It’s often uncharted territory for many travelers. Whether you’re on a cross-country trip or just attempting to see more of Arizona alone, it’s impossible to ignore how beautiful, scenic, and romantic this southwestern state is. If you’re looking to get a little taste of everything–see the majesticness of the Grand Canyon, experience the energetic powers of Sedona, and wine and dine in Scottsdale–there’s no better way to do it than with a good ol’ road trip through Arizona.
A road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon serves up some serious doses of scenery, hiking, culture, and history. Who knew you could experience saguaro cacti, falling snow, red rocks, and never-ending canyons all in one road trip? It’s truly one of the most spectacular road trips I’ve been on.
Wondering where to go and what to see on your Arizona road trip? I’ve got you covered. Here’s an epic 4-day Arizona road trip itinerary, taking you from Phoenix to Scottsdale, Sedona to Grand Canyon National Park, and much more.
I took this exact road trip in 2017 and have been itching for more since then. Enjoy!
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4-DAY ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: OVERVIEW
Before we dive into the meat of what we did, it’s important to first layout the structure of the trip. Since we were all from California, it made the most sense to fly into an airport either in or closer to the state of Arizona.
We started our road trip from Pheonix, Arizona and planned to explore the state of Arizona, with the final destination being Las Vegas, Nevada. From Vegas, we would then fly back to California.
Starting from Pheonix, we had planned to hit up the following spots (all of which we’d never been to before, other than Vegas): Pheonix, Scottsdale, Sedona, Jerome, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and ultimately, Las Vegas where we would end the trip!
Start: Phoenix, Arizona
End: Las Vegas, Nevada
WHY THIS ARIZONA ROAD TRIP IS AWESOME
With this 4-day road trip, you’ll really get a taste of everything Arizona has to offer. First, you’ll be treated with endless amounts of natural beauty at both Sedona and the Grand Canyon. You’ll get a taste of local culture by visiting towns like Pheonix and Flagstaff (and even get a taste of some luxury desert living in Scottsdale). Lastly, you’ll see living history in the form of the near-ghost town of Jerome!
NOTE: Looking back on it today, for only being a 4-day trip, this itinerary sure is jam-packed with fun and exciting things to do. I will say, though, if you can swing taking 5 to 7 days off for this road trip, that would be ideal. During this 4-day trip, I felt rushed in certain towns. In certain cases, we entered a town only to exit it in a matter of hours. There was just too much to see and do in Arizona!
All in all, our road trip provided us with a good introduction to what Arizona has to offer, but in hindsight, I would dedicate at least 5-7 days to this road trip.
So without further ado, let’s get right into it!
MAP OF THIS 4-DAY ARIZONA ROAD TRIP
ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: DAY 1 – PHEONIX / SCOTTSDALE
FLY/DRIVE INTO PHEONIX
After flying/driving into Pheonix, the first thing you’ll want to do is check in to your hotel or Airbnb, especially if you’re arriving later in the day.
As we all flew into PHX, we had arrived early in the morning and had a whole day to spare. After picking up our rental car, we headed straight into our first activities of the trip: getting a taste of some high-quality BBQ followed by visiting the Desert Botanical Garden, Rawhide Western Town, and Camelback Mountain.
LUNCH AT LITTLE MISS BBQ
Little Miss BBQ is out of this world, simply said. When in Pheonix, you really have no other comparable option when considering a BBQ meal.
The barbecue is served meat market style, where you can order as much or as little as you like, or for simplicity’s sake, you can order fixed plates and sandwiches. What you’ll find is that the line moves a little slower this way, but you’ll actually see the meat being sliced in front of you by people that want you to get the very best. Trust me, it’s totally worth the wait (and I’m not even a huge BBQ fan).
Everything we had here was fantastic but out of everything that we ate, it was the sliced brisket that really won our hearts over. By the time we were tapped out with bursting bellies, we still had a ton of food leftover. Naturally, we were all hit with massive meat comas.
DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Desert Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to see some of the best flora in Arizona. From the moment we arrived, we all absolutely fell in love with the landscaping and atmosphere of the place! Since we’d just had one of the heaviest (and most delicious) meals of our lives, our walking pace within the garden was slower than molasses. Nevertheless, we were soaking in the botanical garden’s beauty at every turn.
At the garden, visitors can stroll through five thematic trails to explore the fascinating beauty of the Sonoran Desert, from cacti and succulents to wildflowers and trees. The garden also provides opportunities to learn more about desert landscaping, nature art, cooking and wellness, and more through various adult and children’s classes. Before you visit, be sure to take a peek at the garden’s calendar to see if there are any festive events or exhibitions that fall on the day of your visit.
RAWHIDE WESTERN TOWN
Rawhide Western Town is as good as it gets if you are looking for that authentic (okay, maybe a little kitschy too) old western town experience. It’s actually Arizona’s largest Western-themed attraction, built as an authentic replica of an 1880’s town complete with a Main Street, gunfights, stagecoach and train rides, burro rides, a climbing wall, gold panning, and even a shooting gallery. They have a fun saloon, a famous steakhouse, a jail (believe it or not), and many shops to peruse through.
Rawhide is a must-see attraction for any traveler, but especially if you’re traveling with children (or are obsessed with western towns yourself, just like me). Admission to Rawhide is free, which is amazing!
Located just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is one of Phoenix’s best hikes and most popular attractions. Camelback is part of the Pheonix Mountains Preserve and gets its name from its two rock formations that make it look like the head and back of a camel.
If you’re up for it, take on the two difficult trails that ascend 1,420 feet and be rewarded 360-degree views of the surrounding city!
Though this was on our itinerary, we ended up not having the time or the energy for it (darn you, meat coma). Regardless, Camelback Mountain remains on my to-do list for the next time I return to Pheonix!
HEAD TO SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
At this point, a good amount of our afternoon was spent. From Pheonix, we drove to Scottsdale, Arizona and had just enough time for dinner and nightlife before calling it a night.
This place is such a quaint destination and it’s a shame that I hadn’t discovered it earlier! Scottsdale is a vibrant vacation town filled with luxury resorts, fine dining, and exciting outdoor adventures. Though it may sometimes carry the stigma of being a posh destination for older, more mature travelers, Scottsdale has a lot more to offer than just spas and golf courses. They’ve got something for everyone–art, food, outdoor adventure, and a very cool vibe that is definitely suited for anyone.
In terms of food and drink, their culinary scene is booming, with lots of great independent restaurants and even a wine trail of their own to explore! I also learned that nature is big here, with hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve being a super popular activity.
My favorite destination within Scottsdale? Hands down, Old Town Scottsdale. In case you missed it earlier, I’m obsessed with western towns and reenactment periods. The Wild West vibe of Old Town is unlike any other! Not only is the architecture so quintessentially ‘Arizona’, but it’s also just so darn photogenic.
Pro Tip: Honestly, after seeing Scottsdale and discovering all of the fun things to do there, I would recommend spending an extra day or two here if you’re able to extend your vacation. I actually went back to Scottsdale as part of a separate Arizona trip and had a blast walking through all of the various shops and experiencing their lively brunch events on the weekends.
ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: DAY 2 – SEDONA
Day 2 began with an early awakening in order to drive to Sedona, Arizona. Our second day was going to be completely dedicated to hiking and exploring all the ins and outs of this mystical and beautiful destination.
RED ROCK SCENIC BYWAY
From Scottsdale, we hopped on the road to drive to Sedona. But listen up, this isn’t any old road. We intentionally woke up at the crack of dawn to take the Red Rock Scenic Byway!
The Red Rock Scenic Byway is the gateway to the world-famous Red Rock Country of Sedona, Arizona. It’s located just 110 miles north of Phoenix (or about 40 miles south of Flagstaff). This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway begins shortly after you exit #298 off Interstate 17 and has earned the distinction of being Arizona’s First ‘All-American Road’. This prestigious designation means it’s a national destination in itself!
Although the Scenic Byway is only 7.5 miles, it sure packs a heavy punch of drop-dead gorgeousness. Trust me when I say this was such a beautiful drive! We had planned to be on the road while the sun was rising, just so we could catch the early morning rays touch the epic rock formations for the first time in the day. Such a sight to see! This scenic drive was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Pro Tip: If you are also planning to drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway during sunrise, be sure to look up the sunrise time the night before and plan to be in the area at the appropriate time.
HIKE BELL ROCK / COURTHOUSE BUTTE
Upon reaching Sedona, we had our sights set on doing the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. I had read really great things about this hike while throwing our Arizona road trip itinerary together, so I just had to experience it for myself.
The Courthouse Butte Loop Trail is a 3.9-mile moderate hike that’s perfect for the whole family. While many come to simply play on Bell Rock without actually hiking anywhere, they are missing out on the best part of the area. The real treat? Hike the entire loop and you’ll find out! As you loop around the eastern and northern side of the butte, you will unveil some of the most scenic and majestic views of the entire Sedona area.
Pro Tip: Get here early if you plan on doing this hike; the parking situation can get pretty hairy later in the mornings/afternoons.
HIKE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL
Cathedral Rock trail features more cool rock formations! This is a totally doable addition to your hiking itinerary since it’s only 1.5 miles out-and-back (for more experienced hikers). Though it is short, it is steep and consists of some scrambling on your hands and knees. With all of that said, the views just get better and better the higher you go!
Pro Tip: I would not recommend this hike if it’s rained or snowed recently. It’ll be challenging with wet/slick rocks.
HIKE THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE TRAIL
Devil’s Bridge is one of the most scenic hikes ever. I mean, look at that photo. It’s absolutely gorgeous!
For those of you who’ve never heard of Devil’s Bridge before, this geological wonder stands as one of the greatest and most beautiful formations in Sedona Red Rock County. This 4.2-mile hike definitely tops the “must do” hikes in Sedona.
When we hiked this, we extended our adventure by hiking the 1.2 miles via Chuck Wagon Trail to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. This winding trail takes you through a peaceful low growth forest and is a great warmup before you feast your eyes on the spectacular Devil’s Bridge. Altogether, this is an unforgettable 5.7-mile hike.
Pro Tip: Similar to the above, try to do this hike as early as possible. Once you get to the bridge, you will likely have to wait in line for that epic photo op on the bridge! People are very nice and respectful and will wait their turn.
SEDONA JEEP TOUR
At this point, our legs needed a break from all the amazing walks we had just completed. The Sedona Jeep Tour we took right after our jam-packed morning of hiking was yet another epic adventure that we all loved.
This Jeep tour of Sedona will take you through the rugged terrain of the popular Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona in a 4WD vehicle. And it’s not slowly chugging along–it really is quite an adventure! You’ll be bouncing along and hanging on to your seats, all while your guide is telling you stories, pointing out important landmarks, and taking you to various vistas / photo ops among the red rock formations.
What I loved about this Jeep tour was that it wasn’t solely about the landmarks we encountered. Our guide also did a really good job telling us about the longstanding history, New Age culture, and vortex significance of Sedona. More on vortexes below!
Pro Tip: Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothing. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and drinking water, but make sure to empty your bladder before you embark on the tour! The last thing you want is a full bladder sloshing around with each bump, twist, and turn the Jeep makes. (Yeah, having to worry about holding it in? That made for a less enjoyable tour.)
LEARN ABOUT THE VORTEXES
Sedona has long been regarded as a place that’s both sacred and powerful due to its vortex phenomenon. Vortexes. for those of you unfamiliar, are ‘swirls’ of energy that come directly from the earth (and can even be physically felt by some people). This energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although some magnetism can be measured in spots where they’re the strongest.
These vortexes are represented by the uniquely shaped rock formations believed to emit energy. The four best-known Sedona vortexes are found at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon. (I’ve marked these in red on the map above.)
So how does this have anything to do with Sedona? Well, some believe these vortexes have healing power and are conducive to meditation and self-exploration. People go to Sedona from all over the world to experience this. As such, Sedona’s tourism and culture really reflect this.
If you’re curious and want to learn more, just ask any of the local shop owners or tour guides for more info. Many of the New Age shops and boutiques in town are happy to provide you with more details and even offer up free vortex maps!
All vortex sites are easily accessible and maps and directions are available at the visitor center. Check a few out for yourself and see if you can feel their power!
OVERNIGHT STAY IN SEDONA
After the exhilarating Jeep tour, we spent a few hours exploring the various shops, cafes, and restaurants in Uptown Sedona (or the Main Street District). It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat followed by dessert before hitting the sack.
Don’t miss some of my personal favorite spots: Hideaway House (best pizza in the area), Pump House Urban Eatery and Market (grab brunch here if you can), Berry Divine Acai Bowls, and Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village (a beautiful shopping center home to lots of unique shops and restaurants).
Up next? Catching a quick sunrise in Sedona before heading off to Jerome for a healthy dose of mining history!
ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: DAY 3 – JEROME / FLAGSTAFF
With such a jam-packed day yesterday, Day 3 was going to be all about taking it slow and learning more about some of Arizona’s most important historical moments. What better way to do that than by visiting a town that’s quite literally living history? Off to Jerome, Arizona we go!
Jerome makes a great off-the-beaten-path town to visit, especially after experiencing the more touristy towns that play host to expensive galleries, spas, and cafés. Not only is Jerome fun and quirky, but it also offers a healthy dose of culture and history. If you’re looking for a ghost town-like experience in Arizona, you’ll get pretty close with Jerome (though it’s not actually an abandoned town).
If you’re looking for an unconventional adventure, Jerome is perfect for you. This town has a fascinating history and is even known for potentially haunted buildings (so much so that many ghost tours are offered).
Today, Jerome has been revitalized as an arts community, featuring multiple art studios and galleries and even a monthly Art Walk. Here, you’ll find a wide selection of wine tasting rooms, unique specialty shops, restaurants, hotels and B&B’s.
LEARN ABOUT JEROME’S HISTORY
Jerome was once home to the wealthiest mine in the world. In the 1920’s, Jerome was the largest producer of copper, gold, and silver in Arizona. At its peak, it was the third-largest town in Arizona, consisting of 37 bars, 13 bordellos, and four churches. The mines closed in 1953, became a near ghost town of 50 inhabitants for many years, and was eventually declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967.
If you want to learn more about the significant history of the town, head to Jerome State Historic Park. Here at the Douglas Mansion (named after James S. Douglas, a big-time mining baron back in the day), you can learn all about turn-of-the-century mining and lifestyle. While there is an exhibit on the Douglas family, most of the rooms and the outside area contain cool mining artifacts from the past. Be sure to see the fluorescent rock exhibit!
Additionally, the Mine Museum of Jerome Historical Society provides fascinating displays depicting the timeline of Jerome’s past to its present. You’ll find items such as old miners’ equipment to remains of gambling in saloons. Admission $2 for adults, $1 for seniors, and free for children under 12.
GOLD KING MINE AND GHOST TOWN
Looking for something to do with the entire family? Step back in time at the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town! Just outside the town of Jerome, lies the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town (once a gold mine in the early 1900s) which is now basically a huge and eclectic open-air museum established by husband and wife Don and Terry Robertson.
Dons’ dream was to share with the world some of the most unique and important items of the industrial revolution. Today, the property is filled with over 180 vintage cars, trucks & motorcycles. You’ll find a vast array of mining equipment, historic buildings, and even a stamp mill that was used for crushing ore. You will also find a working sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, and even an entire gas station.
For the kids, there is gold panning and even a petting zoo. The photo ops are seriously endless. Plan on spending a few hours here and definitely don’t forget your cameras!
The cost of admission is $7 for adults, $5 for kids, $6 for seniors, and free if you’re 80 or over (or 5 and under).
EXPLORE MAIN STREET JEROME
Don’t leave town without exploring Main Street, where you’ll find most of the galleries and unique shops in Jerome. Among the quirky storefronts, you’ll find a Christmas store, rock shop, leather goods store, and various art galleries–all housed within historical buildings.
JEROME GHOST TOUR
When night fell in Jerome, we began our walking ghost tour of Jerome.
Why are ghosts a thing in Jerome, you might ask? This has to do with deaths related to mining. The United Verde Mining Company believed that investigations into the deaths would waste time and cut into profits. With that, they swept some of them under the rug. It’s now believed that a few of Jerome’s buildings are haunted by the spirits of those who never got justice for their deaths.
On our tour, we ended up “hunting” for ghosts and visiting a few spots only the locals knew about. All in all, this experience was okay. I was hoping to learn more about the history of Jerome and its inhabitants rather than spending the bulk of the tour using ghost hunting devices and wandering around in the cold.
Pro Tip: If you’re more interested in learning more about the mining culture, opt for a history tour instead.
Other tours of Jerome to check out:
DRIVE TO FLAGSTAFF
What’s Flagstaff all about? Jam-packed with culture, beauty, history, and recreational activities, Flagstaff is a diverse town perfect for any type of traveler. The city of Flagstaff was named the world’s first “International Dark Sky City”, which is a designation awarded by the International Dark Sky Association. This means that due to its extremely low-light pollution, it’s perfect for nighttime stargazing. If you’re a history buff, this place is for you–there are tons of museums and national monuments in the Flagstaff area!
From Jerome, make the drive to Flagstaff via Oak Creek Canyon (1 hr 30 min). Since we left for Flagstaff after our ghost tour, we ended up getting in pretty late. Unfortunately, it began to snow pretty severely, so our opportunity to explore was severely limited. This ended up being fine because we ended up just cozying up in our Airbnb watching Christmas movies all night! Sometimes, you just gotta appreciate the little things in life…even while traveling!
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA
Though we didn’t get to fully explore Flagstaff due to the snowy conditions, below are a few highlights that make Flagstaff worth visiting.
- Dark and clear skies? You have to go stargazing. Visit the Lowell Observatory, a research center that offers tours to the public and night sky viewings from a huge telescope.
- If you’re traveling in the wintertime, Flagstaff is a true winter wonderland. The Arizona Snowbowl is the best ski resort in all of Arizona.
- In the spring, beautiful flower blooms take over!
- Walk around Historic Downtown Flagstaff. This 12-block area hosts an assortment of interesting boutiques, restaurants, and gift shops.
- Check out the ruins at Walnut Canyon National Monument, where you’ll find ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings lining the steep canyon walls.
- If you’ve ever wanted to walk on a volcano, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is the place to go.
- Wupatki National Monument is home to some very fascinating and well-preserved American Indian ruins. (pictured below)
- Curious about the history of Flagstaff? The Pioneer Museum features the history of Flagstaff from 1880 to 1960. You can find various exhibits on the logging and ranching history of the area, with rooms dedicated to each decade.
- Looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity? Head to Extreme Adventures Flagstaff where you can take on a treetop adventure course with more than 70 obstacles or go ziplining on the largest zipline course in the Western United States!
- Explore the Museum of Northern Arizona to celebrate the Colorado Plateau.
- Enjoy award-winning brews on the Flagstaff Brewery Trail.
- Try some Native American frybread at the historic Weatherford Hotel (it’s one of the most iconic hotels in Flagstaff, with three pubs & grills).
ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: DAY 4 – GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK / LAS VEGAS
It’s Day 4, which means it’s time to start making our way back westward towards Las Vegas. First stop of the day? Grand Canyon National Park. And when we say day, we mean way early in the day.
Since we were traveling in the wintertime, our day trip to the Grand Canyon was limited by the winter closures of the North Rim. Because of this, we were only able to explore the South Rim. As we were limited on time and had to make it back to Las Vegas by nightfall, this ended up being okay. (Note to self: explore North Rim on the next trip to The Grand Canyon.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: North Rim roads are usually closed to all vehicles between December 1st and May 15th, and no visitor services are available. Be sure to check road closures before your trip.
SUNRISE AT THE GRAND CANYON
Prior to our trip, I had read from multiple sources that the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places in the world to see the sunrise. After having seen it for ourselves, we couldn’t agree more.
The best spots to catch a sunrise at the Grand Canyon are The Grand Canyon South Rim, along with Mather Point, Hopi Point, and Maricopa Point.
Pro Tip: For sunrise arrive 30 minutes before the sun clears the horizon and stay an hour or longer after. Dress warmly no matter the season; even summer dawns can be quite chilly.
DRIVE FROM VIEWPOINT TO VIEWPOINT
The Grand Canyon is huge, so choose a few notable viewpoints and plan your drive westward. During our trip, we just winged it and turned in to viewpoint parking lots whenever we felt like it. It was still quite early in the morning, so we almost had the park all to ourselves! All of the stops we went to were equally as beautiful. Here are a few iconic spots to check out:
Mather Point is usually the go-to iconic viewpoint. It’s a great introduction to the vastness of the Grand Canyon. The most peaceful time to visit is during sunrise or just before sunset.
Hopi Point is along the South Rim’s Rim Trail and is famous for being one of the best sunset-viewing locations (you’ll be able to see the Colorado River cutting into the canyon to the west).
Ooh Ah Point is located just .9 miles from the South Kaibab Trailhead. All in all, it’s going to be a 1.8-mile roundtrip hike. Though you will have to descend pretty steeply to get to the point (I probably wouldn’t recommend this to those with a fear of heights), your efforts will pay off when you see those epic panoramic views of the inner canyon.
Pack a picnic and eat it while soaking in endless views of the canyon, or, if you’re feeling a bit fancier, grab lunch at the El Tovar Dining Room (featuring quite the exquisite ambiance as most tables overlook the Southern Rim).
Hoover Dam is located in Black Canyon, just minutes away from Las Vegas. Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam continues to draw crowds 80 years after its creation. For those of you who don’t yet understand the significance of Hoover Dam, it is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere, standing at more than 725 feet above the Colorado River. Additionally, it’s a National Historic Landmark.
The best way to enjoy it? Hop out of your car and walk around! While there are more than enough things to see and enjoy at Hoover Dam, visitors can even walk across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. The 1,905-foot-long man-made bridge connects both Nevada and Arizona roadways, so the fact that it’s named after two heroes from each state is quite fitting.
Premier dining, nightlife, shows, casinos, restaurants, shopping, and more! Welcome to Las Vegas.
Exploring Las Vegas requires a few days in itself. If you haven’t had the chance to explore, dine, and/or party in Las Vegas yet, then stay a while longer and live it up!
Our Arizona road trip ended here, sadly. But it was so fun while it lasted. From Vegas, we heading straight for the airport to catch our nighttime flights.
ARIZONA ROAD TRIP: ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST
Aside from the normal clothing and toiletries you’d pack for any regular trip, here are the things I’d recommend you not leave home without for your Arizona road trip:
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass | Grand Canyon National Park costs $35 for a 7-day pass. However, the national parks annual pass is a great way to save on entrance fees. If you intend to visit three or more NPS parks or sites in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will more than pay for itself. This pass can be purchased at the park entrances or online here. [Example: 3 National Parks x $30 parking each = $90. Savings with the annual pass = $10. Any more parks you go to thereafter = FREE! ]
- License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
- Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
- Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
- Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
- Flashlight | You never know when you’re going to be stranded on the road at night, out hiking late, or even exploring a dark cave. Leaving a flashlight in your car can really come in handy when you’re faced with unexpected situations.
- Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip, but especially on desert road trips. The desert is a hot, hot place. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more. If you’re looking for the best cooler technology out there, the Yeti Portable Cooler is top of the line, with ColdCell Insulation that offers superior cold-holding compared to other soft coolers.
- Swiss Army Knife | A multi-tool is great to have in any car, regardless of if you’re going on a road trip or not. It can be useful in so many situations! There have been so many instances where I’ve needed to cut something or open up hard-to-open packaging while away from home, and this has been a lifesaver.
- First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk! Note: This is not the same as the roadside emergency kit.
- Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
- Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
- Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any outdoor adventure. Desert nights can get cold, and you never know when rain may come. Since these weigh virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. Depending on the weather forecast and chance of precipitation, I’ll either go with a rain shell or a puffier windbreaker. Despite the options I have here, one thing is for sure— I’m never without some sort of outer layer. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
- Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the desert, which tends to get windy in certain areas. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
- Daypack | I’m a fan of the Deuter ACT Trail 30 Hiking Backpack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Sun protection is key for any desert destination. Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
- Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need when you’re hopping from the beach to a car or need to dry your feet off. This one here is a great option.
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike (or even after a walk outside on a scorching hot day) but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Headlamp / Flashlight | Being able to find your way through the desert wilderness in darkness is essential, so you should always carry a light source with you, even if you don’t plan on staying out past sunset. An LED headlamp allows you to hike hands-free and is my preferred source of light. FYI, the flashlight on your smartphone is not an adequate substitute– the light is not bright enough, plus it’ll drain your battery life, which may be critical in an emergency. Always carry extra batteries.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the funk roadside stops and eateries… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
Travel Adapter | If you’re traveling from abroad, a universal travel adapter is a necessity. This 5 in 1 travel adapter is perfect for travel use with cell phones, laptops & other devices anywhere in the world.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Medications | Motion sickness pills for those windy roads; painkillers, anti-inflammatories, etc.
OTHER ARIZONA LANDMARKS TO VISIT
From Phoenix: 4 hr 26 min (276.5 mi)
From Phoenix: 5 hr 9 min (322.0 mi)
From Phoenix: 4 hr 12 min (274.0 mi)
NOTE: Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and Horseshoe Bend can easily be done together in a separate trip through Northern Arizona. They are all relatively close to each other. Or, if you plan to extend this Arizona road trip, extend it to the north in order to hit these spots up.
5-hours from Phoenix and Las Vegas; about 3 hours from Flagstaff.
Havasu Falls only accessible by hiking in 10 miles or by helicopter at the end of the road above the village. Extensive research should be done before attempting to visit.