Arizona unites country swagger and vast wilderness areas in equal measure. Take the slow route and savour this dramatic nature-blessed US state on our ultimate six-day Arizona road trip.
Think Arizona, and images go straight to cacti and canyons. But there’s much more to this southwestern US state than the 445-kilometre-long Grand Canyon – although there is that, too. Tick off legendary sights and then explore forests and towns all while enjoying western hospitality and unwavering warm weather. Here is our guide to the ultimate six-day Arizona road trip.
Arizona road trip Day One – Phoenix to Sedona
Land in Arizona’s capital, Phoenix, pick up a rental car and hit the road north. Make your first stop Sedona, a sacred place to Native Americans, where towering, rust-coloured rock formations envelop the city.
Bounce around in a Jeep among the rocky landscape with Pink Adventure Tours, taking you to sights only locals know.
Lunch is at The Hudson, famed for its contemporary American comfort food. Think corn chowder with fire-roasted peppers followed by barbecue braised pork tacos and chocolate peanut butter pie. All with views of those dramatic red rocks.
Stay: L’Auberge de Sedona, creekside and under a canopy of sycamore trees.
Day Two – Flagstaff, Arizona
Hit Route 66 and make your way to the pretty city of Flagstaff, 45 minutes north, home to Arizona’s tallest mountain and endless swathes of aspen and pine forests – life here is all about the great outdoors.
Up the adrenaline by challenging yourself on a zipline and adventure course among the lush green forest of Fort Tuthill County Park, where there are 80 obstacles to tackle. Once you’re back on terra firma, take a walking tour of Route 66 – with a cheeky beverage along the way at Mother Road Brewing Company.
Or stay overnight and try a few of these craft brews knowing a percentage of proceeds from the sale of every can goes towards helping protect the state’s 800 species. Cheers to that!
Stay: Little America Flagstaff, set across 200 hectares of ponderosa pine forest is the ultimate Arizona road trip stay.
Day Three – Williams and Grand Canyon
Spend a leisurely morning in Flagstaff and then drive the short distance to Williams. Leave the car behind and board the Grand Canyon Railway, which has been taking travellers into the canyon for more than a century.
Along the way, you’ll be serenaded by Western musicians and cowboy characters – after all, this is cowboy country. You can charter your own private cart, or the entire train for additional exclusivity, and select your own live entertainment.
When you reach the Grand Canyon, lunch at the Arizona Room on southwestern style-fare sourced from local farmers. Time to stretch your legs on a hike. Choose the three-kilometre Ooh Aah Point route (no prize for guessing what the views are like), or the full-day Bright Angel Trail where the summits of The Battleship and Cheops Pyramid loom around you.
Whatever you do, as the sun goes down, watch the rocks turn a dramatic deep crimson under a peachy sky. Sunset will never be the same again.
Stay: The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, channelling a bygone era in design and with niceties like open fires and a hot tub.
Day Four – Grand Canyon to Lake Powell
Nothing gives perspective like height. Drive one hour from Williams to meet a charter helicopter to get the true scale of the 445-kilometre-long Grand Canyon. Few sights will make you feel so humble.
Afterwards, head on to Lake Powell, roughly three hours north. Lace-up your walking shoes for the short hike around Horseshoe Bend – where the glistening emerald-green waters of the Colorado River wend around an orange boulder in the shape of a horseshoe.
Rent a kayak and paddle around the dramatic waterway and its butte. From here, head to the Lower Antelope Canyon, where you can meander through the narrow-curved chasm that glows in purple, red and orange as the sun strikes as if it is a living artwork.
Stay: Lake Powell Resort comes with two swimming pools, a hot tub and firepits. Sign up for the dinner cruise across its eponymous waterway.
Arizona road trip Day Five – Lake Powell
Spend the fifth day of your Arizona road trip exploring Lake Powell, the second-largest man-made lake in America. As with everything in the US, it’s big – 300 kilometres long with more than 96 side canyons, some up to 40 kilometres deep.
Glide along the river on a boat tour, rent a kayak to explore the many canyons and spend the evening along the shore stargazing, or roasting marshmallows in front of a bonfire (yes, they’re allowed here).
Without light pollution, this is the ultimate place to gaze at the galaxy. Or hire a kayak, giving twitchers the chance to spot the myriad of birdlife including owls, herons and eagles.
Then, simply sit on the banks with a drink in hand and listen to nothing but the gentle lap of water against the shore. Does life get any better?
Day Six of your Arizona road trip
Take your time heading back the way you came. Not ready to return? The rest of Route 66 is waiting…
For more information, head to the Visit Arizona website.
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