Arizona is known for the almost unbearable summer heat and for desert scenery. Arizona also has more landscapes than the desert. There are mountains, national forests (with real trees), and badlands.
This scenic diversity is spread throughout the state, which makes driving through Arizona a pleasure. While enjoying the drive, there are great places to stop for scenic views, historical sites, and natural wonders.
The next time you plan a road trip in Arizona, here are a few great roads to enjoy:
Monument Valley spans the Utah-Arizona border and is a part of the Navajo Nation Reservation. While you enjoy the variety of good hikes and drives in the area, you’ll appreciate the beautiful red rock.
There are fees to enter the park, so purchase admission in advance to avoid the line if you’re planning to visit during the peak season.
The Grand Canyon
While it takes some time to get to the Grand Canyon, it’s not something you want to miss. To drive around the Grand Canyon, you can take Highway 64, which goes through the Kaibab National Forest and then along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Parking areas allow you to stop and enjoy the view.
Highway 89A joins with Highway 67 further north. Following Highway 67 South will take you to the North Rim.
There is so much to see at the Grand Canyon, that it’s worth planning a longer trip to do some hiking and camping.
Highway 89 and Highway 89A
Highway 89 and Highway 89A go around the Grand Canyon and have some beautiful rock vistas north of the Grand Canyon.
If you want to take this road trip, make plans to see Antelope Canyon, which is just outside of Page, Arizona. Be sure to plan ahead so that you can book a tour to see it.
Be prepared when driving this far north. There are long stretches of road between small towns. Make sure that you have a full tank of gas and travel safely.
Highway 89 North of the Grand Canyon
Speaking of Highway 89, following the highway further north leads you through some great rock structures. Just make sure that you have your air conditioning on if you’re traveling through the summer.
Highway 89 South of the Grand Canyon
South of the Grand Canyon, Highway 89A goes through Sedona. Sedona is a popular vacation destination for Arizonans. The trees give a nice break from desert scenery. Sedona is also up in the mountains near Flagstaff, so the temperature is cooler, and there are beautiful scenic viewpoints.
Highway I-17 through Flagstaff
Taking Highway I-17 south through Flagstaff goes over mountains. Pullover areas along the road are the perfect spot to witness Arizona’s famous sunsets.
It’s a great place to stop on your way into Phoenix or heading south from seeing the Antelope Canyon.
If you’re going to drive through during the evening, it’s a good idea to avoid bad weather. (Yes, it does snow in Flagstaff.) Mountain driving at night can pose higher risks due to visibility changes. If you’re driving through bad weather, the risks are higher.
Arizona has a surprising number of national forests. The Coconino National Forest, Tonto National Forest, Prescott National Forest, and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest are great forests to drive through in eastern and northern Arizona. There is also the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona.
Further south is the Coronado National Forest and the Saguaro National Park. These are also great places to view nature.
While Arizona summers are known for the heat, the winter weather is lovely. Taking a drive or planning a road trip in the Arizona winter does not require all of the preparation that it does in places further north.
There are many beautiful roads to take through Arizona and natural wonders to visit on the way. Some of the best drives in central and northern Arizona are driving on Highways 89 and 89A. This route will take you through the Grand Canyon, in the Tonto National Forest, and through Monument Valley providing incredible views of Arizona’s diverse landscape. Flagstaff is also a great place to visit, especially to escape Phoenix’s summer heat or to enjoy some snow if you miss it during the winter.
Alice Stevens enjoyed Arizona winters and tried to avoid Phoenix summers for two years. She now manages content for BestCompany.com specializing in finance, insurance, and car warranty.