Are you seeking a unique adventure on your next Phoenix trip? A little road trip to the Grand Canyon is a fantastic addition to any Phoenix vacation!
Only 230 miles from Phoenix and 280 miles from Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon is where you can experience mother nature in all its desert glory. The drive to the Canyon is a picturesque journey, peppered with breathtaking cacti and desert views that morph into sanctuaries of pine forests and red terrain.
It takes 3-4 hours of driving time to reach the Grand Canyon from Phoenix on a good day; traffic and the weather can make it longer. You can turn the four-hour drive into 2.5 or 3 if you bypass the Red Rock Scenic Byway. However, we don’t recommend this because you would miss out on some of the ride’s most stunning sights.
Instead of cramming the journey in one day, break it up over two to three days. Our road trip itinerary will guide you through the best spots on the route, with an overnight stopover in the mystical Sedona.
All settled in your Arizona rental? Perfect.
Let’s plan your perfect Grand Canyon road trip!
SOURCE: Google Maps
Best Places to Stop Along the Way
Rather than driving straight to the Grand Canyon National Park on a day trip, make it a two-day escapade. Follow our guide and tick off bucket-list-worthy places along the way.
Sedona sits approximately midway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. We suggest splitting your road trip into two days with a night of rest in one of our luxury rentals in Sedona.
From Phoenix, follow the I-17 N to Arcosanti Rd. Stop for an hour and wander around Arcosanti, an experimental town in Yavapai County, Arizona.
This urban lab fuses ideologies of architecture with ecology (arcology). People of Arcosanti work towards environmental welfare, innovation, and community building.
Since its conception in 1970 by architect Paolo Soleri, 7,000 volunteers have worked tirelessly to build this utopia’s structures. Some people live and work here full-time, while visitors come to admire art and learn about life in Arcosanti.
Arcosanti generates most of its revenue from selling Arizona-famous bronze bells.
- Notable features: Experimental town; architectural beauty; famous hand-cast bells
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 1 hr, 70 miles
2. Prescott, Arizona
Less than an hour from Arcosanti is Prescott, a place frozen in time. Prescott, one of Arizona’s smallest towns, takes great pride in its cowboy culture. Its “Wild Wild West” vibe is evident from its swinging tavern doors, store signage, and old-school saloons. In fact, Prescott’s intriguing saloons date back to the Gold Rush period.
The town prohibits commercial development around its immediate proximity. The vast expanse of space around Prescott only adds to its retro feel.
Take a walk around the historic downtown before heading to Whisky Row street. Are you the designated driver? Maybe skip the tempting bars. Instead, stop by the Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art. Before leaving, grab a bite at the legendary Palace Restaurant and Saloon.
End your time in Prescott with a walk inside the Museum of Indigenous People. It houses fascinating relics belonging to the indigenous tribes of the region.
- Notable sites: Vintage Saloons, Museums, Bars, and iconic Palace Restaurant
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 1.5-2.5 hrs, 100 miles
3. Jerome, Arizona
Jerome, the “Wickedest Town in the West,” is now predominantly vacant with less than 500 residents. Many of them are artists who moved here from bigger cities for solitude and inspiration. It’s considered a ghost town because of its small population and the many apparition incidents.
Stretch your legs and take a walk around the historic center of this former mining town. Art lovers will particularly enjoy gallery hopping. Zen Mountain Gallery, Raku Gallery, and the Artist Coop are worth visiting.
Where to Eat in Jerome
The town’s history and folklore inspire the eateries. Just want takeaway for the road? Pick up breakfast quesadillas, egg sandwiches, and coffee at Flatiron.
For a delightful sit-down lunch, go to the Haunted Hamburger. Besides juicy hamburgers, the restaurant is famous for its supernatural history. Snap a few pictures while you’re there; if you’re (un)lucky, you may glimpse the ghostly woman supposedly haunting the restaurant.
And if you’re a skeptic? The stunning sight of Verde Valley serves as a lovely background as you gobble on your burger. You’ll feel relaxed and ready to get back on the road.
- Notable sites: Art Galleries, Wineries, Restaurants Flatiron & Haunted Hamburger
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 1.5-2.5 hrs, 111 miles
4. Montezuma Castle National Monument
Established in 1906, the iconic Montezuma Castle is a monument of significance in Arizona’s Native American heritage. This castle, carved inside a limestone cliff, comprises multiple cave dwellings.
Today, it serves as a reminder of the trials and tribulations faced by the Sinagua people who lived in the arid Arizonian land.
During its discovery in the 19th century, the Europeans mistook the castle to be the home of the Aztecs. So they named it Montezuma after the famed Aztec king.
Park your car and follow the short paved path to get a closer look at the dwellings. It will take about 45 minutes to stroll to it unless you stop to admire the gorgeous sycamore trees.
- Notable sites: Ancient monument; home of Sinagua people
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 1.5 hrs, 93 miles
Sedona is Arizona’s second most visited destination — preceded only by the Grand Canyon in popularity. Recently, the town has gained global attention and become a mecca of all things New Age.
With its red rock landscapes, supposedly healing vortexes, and delectable eateries, Sedona is the perfect town to spend a night or two in.
The spectacular sights of dark green scenery and red rock formations juxtaposed with the backdrop of blue skies evoke magical intrigue. No wonder millions of tourists flock here annually.
Seek Spirituality in Sedona
Spiritually inclined visitors will immediately fall in love with Sedona. Indulge in morning yoga, therapeutic massages, and chakra balancing exercises. It’s one of the few places in the USA where you can take a picture of your aura.
The reason for this spiritual explosion is due to the presence of several electromagnetic energy “vortex sites.” The famous ones are Boynton Canyon, Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, and Bell Rock. Stop by at least one of them to experience uplifting healing energy.
If the metaphysical plane isn’t up your alley, spend your time shopping in Uptown Sedona. There are boutique stores, souvenir shops, and a plethora of restaurants.
In the mood for some heavenly Mexican food? Get a table at Tii Gavo or Elote Cafe. For a more romantic affair, Cress on Oak Creek is ideal.
Remember to look up at the starry sky as you make your way to your luxury rentals to turn in for the night.
- Notable sites: Red Rocks of Sedona, Vortex Tours, Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, Crystal shops, Elote Cafe
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 2 – 2.5 hrs, 116 miles
6. Flagstaff, Arizona
After basking in the healing energies of Sedona overnight, kickstart the second half of your trip to the Grand Canyon early in the morning. In less than an hour, you’ll reach Flagstaff.
Visitors escape to this mountain town to unwind while students come from all over the nation to study at Northern Arizona University. You will know you entered Flagstaff when the temperatures drop to a breezy cool. Bid goodbye to the cacti green of the desert and navigate your way to the town’s center through a pathway of tall ponderosa pines.
This hip college town with dense nature is full of opportunities for hiking, biking, exploring, and even skiing in the winter. Glimpse into this culturally rich town’s history by spending an hour at the Museum of Northern Arizona.
Where to Eat in Flagstaff
Recently, Flagstaff has seen an influx of world-class restaurants with varied cuisines ranging from American diner food to special ethnic meals. The tantalizing food at Criollo Latin Kitchen is a direct portal to Latin America. We recommend poblano cheddar grits, sweet ancho chili sausage gravy, or huevos motuleños for a hearty lunch.
The bustling historic Route 66 downtown gets a neon makeover during the evenings. So if you’re there during twilight hours, follow the pink neon glow of the food trucks. They serve a variety of yummy items like burgers, fries, and tacos.
- Notable sites: Hip college town and foodie haven full of pine forests.
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 2-2.5 hrs, 144 miles
7. Sunset Crater & Wupatki National Monument
The last leg of your trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon has two stops at monuments on the outskirts of Flagstaff.
30 mins from Flagstaff lies the Sunset Crater National Monument. It’s an otherworldly cinder cone formed from volcanic eruptions 900 years ago.
How often can you say that you’ve been to the same place as astronauts from the Apollo mission? Sunset Crater’s alien terrain is where they trained before heading off to explore outer space.
Make your way to the visitor center and grab a trail map. We recommend an easy hikers’ walk to the Cinder Hills Overlook for panoramic viewpoints.
Wupatki National Monument
Sitting on US-89, 20 mins from the Sunset Crater, is Wupatki National Monument. This historically significant monument houses Native American ruins discovered in the desert. Any history buffs in your entourage? Those interested in ancient civilizations will particularly enjoy visiting this structure. Ancestors of present-day Zuni and Hopi people created the Wupatki Pueblos.
The monument consists of seven pueblos made up of limestone and sandstone. Explore them via four easy hiking trails, each about 0.5 miles roundtrip. Make sure you read the signs on the trails, revealing the stories of the Sinagua and Anasazi communities.
- Time & Distance from Phoenix: 2-3 hrs
8. Grand Canyon
Congrats! You made it to one of the Seven Natural Wonders on planet earth. Start your exploration from the Grand Canyon visitor center on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
And if you have a few dollars to splurge? Take a canyon helicopter tour for a bird’s eye view of the marvelous terrain.
What to Pack
- Pack a mix of healthy and sweet snacks. Pretzels, string cheese, baby carrots, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate bars are tasty road trip treats. Remember to pack water bottles and other refreshing drinks for you and your companions.
- Create a stellar playlist. A road trip with stunning cinematic vistas is incomplete without background beats. So queue some Desert Tunes as you cruise along the stretches of the open road.
- Remember your camera! This drive has superb photo opportunities. You might be lucky enough to see a herd of wild horses as you drive around Sedona.
Alternative Ways to Reach the Grand Canyon from Phoenix
If you desire complete flexibility, a car’s your best bet. Still, you have other options to reach your destination:
Take the Groome Shuttle Bus from the Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. It departs Phoenix airport at 10:30 am and gets to Flagstaff by about 2 pm. The company can arrange a customized connecting transfer from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon.
You could travel to the Grand Canyon on a Greyhound bus for as little as $30. Take the bus from Glendale at 11:40 am. It will drop you off at Flagstaff at approximately 1:30 pm. Then, take a shuttle bus and arrive at the Grand Canyon by 5:45 pm.
Take a flight from Phoenix heading to Flagstaff in the morning. Afterward, you could either take the shuttle bus to the Grand Canyon or rent a car and drive the rest of the way.
Get ready to fall in love with Arizona as you explore some of the best places in the region.
Need a place to stay? We’ll add even more “wow” to your experience with one of our luxury rentals. Hello, glamour with world-class amenities!
Relish Phoenix, Arizona, with a rental that feels like paradise.