7 Scenic Arizona Road Trips

Gas up the car, grab some road food and sodas, make that perfect highway mix for the stereo (pick songs that go well with long, empty views), and hit the road on one of these scenic road trip routes around Arizona.

The Desert

Route 66 highway through the Arizona desert
Route 66 in Arizona. Photo © HHLtDave5/iStock.

Open spaces and strange scenery abound on these routes through the hot, rocky deserts of western Arizona.

  • Historic Route 66: Drive the remains of the Mother Road on the dry northwestern plains, where you can jump back to a slower time, passing through Kingman, stopping at the Historic Route 66 Museum, and spending some time in Seligman, the center of a Route 66 cultural rebirth.
  • Joshua Tree Forest Parkway: Take Highway 60 northwest from Phoenix through Wickenburg and keep going when it turns to Highway 93, known for its stands of Joshua trees.

The Forest

Salt River winding through the Arizona landscape
Arizona’s Salt River Canyon. Photo © tonda/iStock.

You’ll be driving uphill on these scenic drives; watch as the vegetation changes from desert to a transitional bushy scrub to highland evergreen forests, all while you sit comfortably behind the wheel.

  • U.S. 60 to the Salt River Canyon: The forest comes on pretty quick as you leave the central scrublands around Globe and rise along a twisty highway into the White Mountains. Make sure to stop for a photo op at majestic Salt River Canyon.
  • Highway 89A from Prescott to Jerome: Take Highway 89A up over forested Mingus Mountain, stopping to enjoy a sweeping view of the Verde River Valley below when you reach the pass at the top of the hill. A little farther on and you’re in the old copper mining town of Jerome, now home to boutiques and restaurants.
  • Swift Trail Parkway: Negotiate a twisting forest road from the desert Gila Valley to the top of Mount Graham at over 10,000 feet, the highest of Southern Arizona’s sky islands—it’s the equivalent of driving from Mexico to Canada in about an hour.

The Plateau

Highway 89a South sign with a view of the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona
The Fredonia-Vermilion Cliffs Scenic Road. Photo © Goodygreen/iStock.

The vast, sparsely populated Colorado Plateau has many lonely, scenic roads. On some of them, the traffic is so thin that you could take a nap on the center stripe.

  • The Vermilion Cliffs Highway: Perhaps the loneliest of Arizona’s lonely routes, this scenic road snakes across the Arizona Strip in northwestern Arizona, just below the border with Utah, and passes towering red-rock cliffs and vast bunchgrass plains.
  • Kayenta to Monument Valley: The short drive from Kayenta to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Navajo Reservation is almost as scenic as the famous Valley itself, with strangely eroded sandstone monuments rising from the sweeping red-dirt plains.

Tim Hull

About the Author

A resident of Arizona for more than 40 years, Tim Hull has hiked its trails and driven its backroads from the deserts to the mountains to the wondrous depths of the Grand Canyon. As a news reporter and freelance writer for the past 20 years, Hull has written about the history, politics, environment and culture of Arizona and the Southwest for newspapers, magazines and websites. His family's roots in the state run deep, beginning in the 1870s when his maternal great-great-grandfather opened a doctor's office in Prescott, a mountain town in the state's central pinelands. In his spare time Hull travels the world with his wife and writes fiction. He is also the author of Moon Grand CanyonMoon Tucson, and Moon Southwest Road Trip.

Learn more about this author

Pin For Later

Arizona Road Trips Pinterest graphic