Scenic Phoenix, Arizona, is a fantastic vacation destination with a vibrant culture, a plethora of outdoor activities, and distinctive natural beauty. However, when it comes to Phoenix, location is critical—the city is a great spot to plan several road trips that make exploring the lovely Grand Canyon State a snap.
And perhaps one of the state’s best road trips is the journey between Phoenix and Sedona. Jam-packed with things to see and do, this road trip can be customized to be anything from a quick day trip getaway to a long weekend adventure. From its distinctive mountain and desert terrain to its Wild West towns and natural scenery, the trip from Phoenix to Sedona is a must for anyone looking to explore the best of Arizona.
Updated by Gabriel Kirellos, January 8th, 2022: Many people who take the road trip from Phoenix to Sedona describe it as one the prettiest in the world, and they are right for many reasons detailed in this article. This list was updated to include some additional stops worth witnessing along this iconic road trip in Arizona, such as the Agua Fria National Monument.
About The Trip
Sedona is just a short two-hour drive north of Phoenix—if you don't make any stops along the way. Even with stops, the trip can efficiently be completed in a single day; but to truly experience all of the sights along the way, it's probably best to stretch the journey to a weekend getaway (or a three-day weekend if you have more time to spare!)
The Scenic Beauty Of Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain is just outside the city of Phoenix, making it an ideal first stop on the road to Sedona. Not only is Camelback a great example of Arizona’s natural beauty, but it’s also a great place to explore the surrounding area by hiking the mountain’s two trails. The over 2,000-foot summit is also perfect for catching some of the area’s most spectacular panoramic views.
- Hike the Echo Canyon Trail, a strenuous 2-3 hour hike that culminates in amazing views from the summit of Camelback
- Keep an eye out for local wildlife including rattlesnakes, desert tortoises, and cottontail rabbits
- See the Sonora Desert’s famed saguaros and prickly pear cacti
- Grab a bite at The Phoenician, a nearby scenic resort with top-notch dining and views
The Beautiful Blues Of Lake Pleasant
If the trails at Camelback are too challenging, then head to scenic Lake Pleasant. A lovely park with several trails and walking paths, Lake Pleasant is also a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch and bask in the natural beauty of this sapphire lake in the middle of the desert.
- Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic at one of the lake’s picnic areas
- Take a stroll and enjoy the views by walking the easy, half-mile Discovery Center Trail
- Be on the lookout for wild burros, as they love to congregate by the shore
- Rent a kayak at Scorpion Bay Marina
Optional Stop: Black Canyon City
Black Canyon City is a former Wild West town a little less than an hour from Lake Pleasant—it’s also the perfect place to stop for the night before heading on to the next stop.
- Grab a bite at Chilleen’s on 17, a well-known local saloon known for its delicious ribs, juicy steaks, and tasty burgers
- Just outside of Black Canyon City is the historic Wrangler’s Roost, a former stagecoach stop that now boasts resort-style accommodations with Western flair
An Arizona Geological Wonder: Tonto Natural Bridge
Located in Pine, this Arizona spot is worth a stop for the views alone. Consisting of a 183-foot naturally formed bridge made of limestone, Tonto is a gloriously green oasis in the middle of the desert that has some of the region's most stunning views.
- There are several trails at Tonto; try the Waterfall Trail and the Gowan Trail, which leads to an observation deck in the creek bottom
- Check out the views from one of the park’s four viewpoints, accessible from the paved paths above
- Visit the park’s Historic Lodge to learn more about the bridge and the history of the surrounding area
Optional Stop: Arcosanti
Less than two hours from the Tonto Natural Bridge is Mayer, Arizona—home to the experimental community of Arcosanti. Dominated by distinctive architecture in a gorgeous desert setting, Arcosanti is a unique and slightly quirky attraction that is worth a stop if you have the time. There are also tours available for those who want to learn more about the site and its history that dates back almost 50 years.
A Castle In Arizona?
Believe it or not, there is a ‘castle’ in the Grand Canyon State—located in Camp Verde, the castle/cliff dwelling known as Montezuma Castle is almost 1,000 years old and is worth a visit if only to learn more about this unique attraction built by the native Sinagua people. Tickets required, $10/person.
Jerome, AZ: The Largest Ghost Town In America
The town of Jerome has a colorful history—once a booming mining town, it’s now a quaint hamlet of fewer than 1,000 people. But don’t let that fool you, Jerome has a charming downtown area that is worth exploring—in addition to spots that embrace its haunted reputation, such as the post office and the Sliding Jail.
- Stay the night at the haunted Jerome Grand Hotel, and don’t forget to take a ghost tour while you’re there!
- Explore the town’s mining history at the Gold King Museum and Ghost Town, or at Audrey Headframe Park
- See the largest adobe structure in the state, the Douglas Mansion
- Stay with the spooky town theme by dining at The Haunted Hamburger
The Final Destination: Sedona
Sedona is less than an hour from Jerome—and has plenty of attractions that make it a great spot to explore. Spend the day if you have the time, or simply take an hour or two to visit a couple of the city’s most popular attractions such as Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge—both known for amazing scenic beauty and stellar hiking adventures.
- Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross for some of the area’s most scenic views—visitors say sunset is one of the best times to go
- Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are both stunning geological marvels that are worth a stop
- Take a drive on the Red Rock Scenic Byway
- Have a bite at the Sedona favorite Elote Cafe—famous for its 14-hour smoked brisket enchiladas and traditional Mexican dishes with a twist
One of the best things about the road trip from Phoenix to Sedona is that it is fully customizable—want to take the scenic, four-hour round trip simply for the natural scenery along the way? Or would you instead pull out all the stops and make it a weekend getaway filled with natural attractions, quirky towns, and fun outdoor adventures? Whatever you decide, you’re in for a treat with this amazing Arizona adventure through the desert.
This National Monument To The North Of Black Canyon City Is Worth Visiting
A large natural preserve of more than 113 Square miles is located off interstate 17 and needs 20 minutes to reach from Black Canyon City, and is worth the stop during the road trip. This is the Agua Fria National Monument, where visitors can witness more than 450 Native American structures, such as petroglyphs and large pueblos. There are also 2 mesas there, and the Agua Fria River and canyon. Moreover, people hitting the natural preserve enjoy the abundance of wildlife, including mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, reptiles, birds, small critters, javelina, and more. Additionally, visitors can practice several activities, such as horseback riding, hiking, biking, and fishing. They can also try camping in the area and throw a picnic gathering.