The city of Phoenix is located right in the middle of Arizona, making it a pretty wonderful place to base yourself in order to explore a ton of incredible places in the state in a day.
If you’re currently looking for ways to get away from the bustle and hustle of the city, you’ve got plenty of options on your menu. Ranging from stunning desert landscapes to places where you can unravel millions of years of geological history, here are some of the most amazing day trips you can take from Phoenix!
10 Fabulous Day Trips From Phoenix
1. Montezuma Castle National Monument, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 94 miles – via I-17 (1 hour 30 minutes)
If you’re a history buff or just find yourself in the mood to explore archeological wonders, Montezuma Castle is a perfect day trip to take from Phoenix.
Home to the best-conserved cliff dwellings in North America, Montezuma Castle National Monument will take you on a trip back through time to the era of the Sinagua people, providing a pretty good glimpse into the way they once lived as you gaze at their homes located atop a 15,000 feet cliff!
2. Prescott, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles ~ via I-17/ SR69 (1 hour 40 minutes)
Less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix you will find Prescott, a city where Western heritage reigns supreme while still allowing space for the modern to blossom.
Prescott is famed for its live music venues, sprawling bars, and historic Whiskey Road, perfect for a day spent enjoying cocktails. If you love history, you’ll also find tons of museums where you can learn all about the city’s past.
Nature is also big here, with tons of amazing hiking trails, lakeside adventures, and famous natural landmarks located just a stone’s throw away, including a few must-sees on any Arizona bucket list, such as Granite Basin, Waston Lake, and Granite Dells!
3. Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 203 miles ~ via AZ-87/AZ-260 (3 hours 30 minutes)
Thanks to its relatively small size, exploring one of the most alluring national parks in Arizona can easily be done as a day trip from Phoenix.
Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most interesting places worldwide. While here, you’ll get to gawk at a sea of sparkly colorful tree logs, which were brought here hundreds of millions of years ago by heavy floods and were later crystallized by volcanic ash.
A day is enough to explore some of the park’s main highlights, including checking out the rainbow-like landscape at Painted Desert, hiking the Giant Logs Trail to spot the biggest logs in the park, and getting lost in Crystal Forest, where you’ll feel as though you were transported into an entirely different planet!
4. Scottsdale, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 19 miles ~ via AZ-202 (20 minutes)
If you’re in the mood for a day trip filled with luxury, look no further than Scottsdale, which is located a mere 19 miles from Phoenix!
A visit to Scottsdale is all about fine dining, golfing, shopping, and exploring art galleries, all while being surrounded by picture-perfect desert scenery and Instagrammable architecture.
If you’re more the outdoorsy type, you’ll find plenty of options to get away from town, be it by choosing a few of the nearby hiking trails, seeing the desert from up above on a hot air balloon, or biking your way through the outskirts!
5. Tucson, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 113 miles ~ via I-10 (1 hour 45 minutes)
Providing a perfect mix of Southwestern culture, modern amenities, and desert scenery, Tucson is one of the most exciting cities to visit in Arizona. A perfect day trip to take from Scottsdale if you want to spend a day exploring a city with a completely different ambiance.
Because Tucson is located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, you’ll see tons of desert-inspired scenery all over, including streets lined by enormous saguaro trees, which makes them look as photogenic as they can get!
A few must-dos in Tucson include visiting museums to take a step back in time into the Old West, checking out historical sites, or leaving the city all together in order to explore the surrounding desert.
6. Winslow, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 185 miles ~ via I-17/AZ-87 (3 hours)
A famous stop along Arizona’s section of Route 66, Winslow was actually put on the map when the Eagles featured it in their famous ‘Take It Easy’ song.
Even though Winslow’s golden era is in the past now, rock and roll enthusiasts still love visiting this charming town to see the exact corner mentioned in the song, where you can actually find a Glenn Frey statue to pay tribute to this musical icon!
Other interesting things to do at Winslow include strolling its downtown, dotted with historic sites, and checking out petroglyph sites and the best-preserved meteor site in the world just outside of town.
7. Sedona, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 115 miles ~ via I-17 (2 hours)
If a day spent in the desert is what you’re after, Sedona is guaranteed to please.
While here, you’ll get to experience Arizona’s desert magic in its full splendor, with numerous state parks and destinations perfect for spending a day exploring the Mars-like landscape Sedona is famous for.
Even though a day is not nearly enough for exploring everything this region of Arizona has to offer, it’s still enough to check out a few of its highlights, including hitting a few trails, scenic driving in search of looming desert spires, walking amid labyrinths of red rock formations, or simply exploring the town’s unbeatable arts scene!
8. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 145 miles ~ via AZ-85 (2 hours 20 minutes)
Dotted by monumental organ pipe cacti, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is one of the most photogenic places to visit in Arizona, especially if striking desert scenery is what you’re after.
Tucked away in the heart of the alluring Sonoran Desert, this 517 square mile park is famed for homing gigantic organ pipe cacti, which are known to grow up to 26 feet in height!
Besides hiking and scenic driving amid these desert giants, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is also a wonderful place to delve into history, with many archeological sites scattered throughout. Moreover, wildlife spotting is a treat here, with lots of unique fauna being easy to spot, including bats, desert Bighorn, Javelina, and more!
9. McDowell Sonoran Preserve, AZ
Distance from Phoenix: 29 miles ~ via AZ-51 (30 minutes)
Located just only 29 miles away from Phoenix, McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the forefront of the Sonoran Desert and an effortless day trip to take if a day spent exploring the desert sounds like your jam.
Home to beautiful desert landscapes, cacti forests, and a wide array of wildlife, the main activity to do at McDowell Sonoran Preserve is hiking. Approximately 200 miles of trails are available for any experience level, ranging from wheel-chair accessible ones to challenging ascents such as the Granite Ballroom.
10. Joshua Tree National Park, NV/CA
Distance from Phoenix: 222 Miles ~ via I-10 (3 hours 20 minutes)
Even though Joshua Tree National Park is located in California, it’s still close enough to Phoenix for a day trip!
Thanks to the fact that Joshua Tree is located on the exact spot where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet, the combination of two ecosystems creates a pretty amazing landscape unlike anywhere else in the world.
Of course, seeing Joshua trees is the highlight of a visit to this national park. Still, there’s plenty more on its menu if a little adventure is what you’re after. Choose from a day spent hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, or scenic driving!
More Tips For Road Tipping in Arizona
- Find more inspiration for the most interesting places to visit in Arizona and where to find the most incredible natural wonders in Arizona (beyond the Grand Canyon!)
- Get behind the wheel and discover the most interesting places to discover by road in our guide to the most scenic drives in Arizona
- Combine the best of Arizona with the best of Utah with this desert magic road trip itinerary.
- Do be mindful of timezones when traveling through Arizona! Arizona observes MST (Mountain Standard Time) year-round, whereas neighboring Utah (and Navajo Nation) move to MST (Mountain Daylight Time) from mid-March to Mid-November.
- First time driving in the desert? Especially if you’ll be traveling in Arizona over the hottest summer months make sure you check out our desert driving safety tips before you set out.
- Never forget an important road trip essential again! Download our family road trip checklist to help you pack for your next big adventure.
Have you ever been to any of these day trips from Phoenix? If so, what was your experience like? We’d love to read all about your time there, so feel free to tell us all about it in the comment section below!
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