Cactus at sunset in the Arizona desert

10 Incredibly Scenic Drives in Arizona

Arizona’s dramatic landscapes that range from deep canyons, expansive deserts, and volcanic mountain ranges make it one of the most beautiful places in the entire world to hit the road.

Thanks to its humongous size, scenic driving is an absolute treat here in Arizona, with tons of back roads and highways to choose from guaranteed to provide an entirely different experience from the last.

From short Sunday jaunts to longer day trips with lots of stops worth making, here are some of the most scenic drives in Arizona you’ve got to place on your bucket list!

The Most Scenic Drives in Arizona

1. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Red Rock Scenic Byway (Highway 179)

  • Distance: 15 miles

While the Red Rock Scenic Byway is pretty short at just under 15 miles, it sure makes up for its lack of length with insanely dramatic scenery and tons of wonderful stops worth making.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives Red Rock Scenic Byway

This scenic byway connects Interstate 17 with Sedona, which pretty much guarantees striking desert vistas every mile of the way. As you make your way to Sedona, you’ll be treated to gawk-inspiring views of desert spires, whacky-looking rock formations, and several unique landmarks including a cathedral built atop red rocks.

Aside from its unbeatable desert scenery, you’ll also get the chance to make a stop at Tlaquepaque, a historical Spanish village you can explore for a few hours. Moreover, there are several hiking trailheads along the road, which provide a perfect excuse to park your car.

2. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Desert View Drive (SR 64)

  • Distance: 23 miles

If you want to see as much of the Grand Canyon as possible without having to make much effort, the Desert View Drive is perfect for that.

This drive will take you to some of the most popular viewpoints of America’s most famous natural landmark, all while providing gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon along the way.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Nevajo Point

A few stops worth making include Moran Point, Navajo Point, Lipan Point as well as the Tusayan Pueblo and Museum, where you can learn more about the canyon. Moreover, there are a few trailheads scattered along the road in case you want to explore further afield on foot.

As a tip, keep in mind this is one of the most popular scenic drives in Arizona, so expect lots of crowds, especially during the summer months.

3. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Apache Trail Scenic Byway (Highway 88)

  • Distance: 44 miles

Once utilized by the Apache people to cross the mountains, the Apache Trail Scenic Byway is a 44-mile scenic drive that will take you across the northern section of Superstition Mountain.

Gorgeous views are guaranteed every mile of the way. A few of the landscapes you’ll get to see include canyons, mountains, and deserts. There are several lookout points scattered around the byway, so plan a few stops along the way to fully take in the views!

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Apache Trail

Keep in mind that the only community you’ll find along this byway is Tortilla Flat, which boasts a total population of 6 people! It does have a small coffee shop in case you want to stop for a break, though.

Past Tortilla Flat, the road starts getting pretty narrow, so moving past this point is not recommended for large RVs.

Top Tip: Check the USDA Forest Service website for closure information before you set off as parts of the trail have been closed indefinitely since the Woodbury Fire in 2019

4. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Catalina Highway (Sky Island Scenic Byway)

  • Distance: 27 miles

Taking you all the way to Mount Lemmon, Catalina Highway begins in Tucson and is the perfect scenic drive to take if a little variety in the landscape is what you’re after.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Catalina Mountains

Along its 27 miles, the scenery changes dramatically, with mountain forests, plunging desert canyons, and rockscapes being just a few of the terrains you’ll get to cross as you move through the alluring Catalina Mountains.

Aside from getting to experience surprising changes in scenery every few minutes, this drive is also great for wildlife aficionados, campers, and hikers.

Did you know it SNOWS in Arizona?! Yup, Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is the southernmost ski destination in the USA, getting up to 4.6 meters of annual snowfall! Check road conditions before setting out in winter as there can be occasional closures.

5. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Monument Valley Scenic Drive (Highway 163)

  • Distance: 17 miles

Want to feel like you’re driving inside a Wild West Movie? It’s not exactly a secret that Monument Valley is one of the most quintessential landmarks of the Southwest. Exploring it from the comfort of your car is a guaranteed way to see as much of it as possible.

The Monument Valley Scenic Highway or Highway 163 will take you on a true adventure through Navajo Land (which is partially into Utah), with striking desert scenery keeping you company every second of the way, including towering desert spires, strange rock formations, and red rock scenery as far as the eye can see.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Monument Valley

Aside from getting to feel as though you’re driving on Mars, this scenic drive will also have you making a stop at a peculiar-named village called Mexican Hat as well as a suspension bridge over the San Juan River.

Important to Note: Entry to the scenic drive, is not available on America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, you are entering the Navajo Tribal Park. Entry is $20 per vehicle on a first-come, first-served basis; open daily but some annual holiday dates apply.

6. Scenic Drives in Arizona: ​​Ajo Mountain Drive

  • Distance: 21 miles

The Ajo Mountain Drive is a loop track that cuts right through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, giving you the unique opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful sections of the Sonoran Desert.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Ajo Mountain Drive

Enchanting views are guaranteed every mile of the way as you make your way to the top of the alluring Ajo Mountains. Along the road, you’ll get to see volcanic mountains draped in desert flora as well as expansive cactus plains and, of course, tons of organ pipe cacti!

If you’re up for a hike, two trails start by the road: The Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop and a short trail to a natural arch.

7. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Swift Trail Parkway

  • Distance: 33 miles

Taking you all the way from the desert Gila Valley to 10,000 feet at the summit of Mount Graham, the Swift Trail Parkway is king when it comes to quick changes in scenery and picture-perfect bird-eye views.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Riggs Flat Lake

Most of the highway is twisty as it winds its way up through the mountains. You’ll get to see desert grassland, cross oak-sage chaparrals, and drive through stands of Podenora pine, firs, aspen, and spruce.

Almost at the very end of the road and right before you reach the summit of Mount Graham, you’ll stumble across the beautiful Riggs Flat Lake, where you can picnic, boat, and even camp if you feel like making a stop before finishing the drive.

8. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Wupatki National Monument to Sunset Crater

  • Distance: 35 miles

Located north of the town of Flagstaff, this 35-mile scenic loop connects two national monuments in Arizona – Wupatki and Sunset Crater.

Along the route, you’ll get to see the colorful landscapes of the Painted Desert far off in the distance, beautiful red rock walls, and striking desert scenery all over.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Wupatki

The two highlights of this route are, of course, the national monuments, so plan two major stops along the way.

Wupatki is all about taking a step back in time to a thousand years ago and exploring what life for Pueblo communities was like when the area was a major trading center, while Sunset Crater homes a striking volcano nestled among a landscape of trees!

9. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Dinétah Scenic Road

  • Distance: 100-miles

Providing drivers with the chance to experience Navajoland beyond the popular spots like Monument Valley, Dinétah scenic road is a 100-mile highway that will take you from the alluring Canyon De Chelly to Window Rock, which is considered the capital of Navajo Nation.

USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Canyon De Chelly

Along the way, you’ll get to explore a variety of Ancestral Pueblo ruins, cross the Lukachukai Mountains, and get to know Canyon de Chelly, the only national monument in the state where Navajo people continue to reside in. Once you get to Window Rock, make sure you pay the Navajo Nation Museum a visit, where you’ll get to learn more about the rich culture of the Navajos.

10. Scenic Drives in Arizona: Historic Route 66

  • Distance: 401-miles
  • OK, so while you might not be driving the full length of the state along the original Route 66, you will still find many fascinating stops punctuate the I-40 and are well worthy of a mention in our round-up of scenic drives in Arizona!

    USA Arizona Scenic Drives - Route 66

    Starting from Kingman Arizona and heading east to Lupton and the New Mexico border, Nostalgia buffs get set; from the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook (the inspiration for the Cozy Cone motel in Cars!) to “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” you’ll find yourself humming along to the beat in this northern Arizona scenic drive.

    For nature lovers in Arizona, Holbrook is a great spot to base yourself for the Petrified Forest National Park and witnessing the Painted Desert. Find the windiest mountain section of Historic Route 66 near Cool Springs and stop off for a lime soda and souvenirs at Williams to complete this classic American road trip through Arizona.

    Are you currently planning to drive through Arizona? If so, which of these scenic drives are you looking forward to driving the most? We’d love to know all about your plans in the Grand Canyon State, so feel free to tell us all about them in the comment section below!

    More Tips For Road Tripping in Arizona

    • 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.

    © Family Road Trip 2024

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