red rocks at dusk in arizona

Red rock formations loom in Arizona. (Photo: Getty Images)


All Hail Red Rocks, Buttes and Epic Scenery on These Road Trips From Phoenix

Home to red-rock formations, steep canyons, rushing rivers and a rich Indigenous American heritage, Arizona offers visitors seemingly endless natural beauty and history. Of course, in a state this extraordinary, it can be hard to decide where to begin exploring.

If you make your base in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas, you can hit the road for any one of these fun and easy day trips. As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Sedona and Montezuma Castle

phoenix road trip
Take a hike – literally – into the past. (Photo: Getty Images)

A two-hour drive from Phoenix, Sedona’s red rock buttes are home to some of Arizona’s best — and most dramatic — hikes, spread out across 1.8 million acres of national forest. Start your visit relaxing on on the patio at Elote Café for a flavorful Mexican lunch, then make your way to Montezuma Castle National Monument to see cliff-side dwellings of the Sinagua people that date back to the 12th century.

As you hike through the monument grounds, you can peer into the windows of this ancient structure, which served as a 20-room “high-rise apartment” building, tucked into a towering limestoen cliff.

Tucson and San Xavier del Bac Mission

Arizona’s oldest intact European structure sits just nine miles south of downtown Tucson (an hour and 45 minutes from Phoenix). The San Xavier Mission was founded in 1692, serving the Tohono O’odham tribe then and now.

The Spanish colonial church that draws more than 200,000 visitors a year for mass, or simply to admire one of the Southwest’s most historic buildings.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Drive two and a half hours from Phoenix to descend into the fascinating, subterranean world at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Discovered in 1974, these limestone caves showcase some of the world’s most intricate calcite formations, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Guided tours wind half a mile through the cavern, seven days a week.


Escape just three hours north of Phoenix to Flagstaff’s ponderosa pine forests for cooler temperatures and laid-back vibes.

For a serious hike (note: not for beginners), head to the top of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in the state at 12,633 feet. Fuel up afterwards at Pizzicletta, a downtown Flagstaff staple for wood-fired pizza just off Route 66, then throw back some cold ones at one of the many craft breweries.

Cottonwood and Jerome

Old mining towns dot the Arizonan landscape, but one of its most precious is Jerome. The Black Hills copper town, two hours outside Phoenix, overlooks Verde Valley and hosts a surprisingly large artistic community and historic haunts. Only a 15-minute drive east of Jerome, the tiny town of Cottonwood is the epicenter of the state’s burgeoning wine industry.