The National Parks Experience

The Ultimate Road Trip to Arizona’s National Parks and Monuments

By: Author Bram Reusen

Posted on Last updated: January 2, 2024

There are no fewer than 24 National Park Service (NPS) units in Arizona, including 3 national parks and 12 national monuments , and a number of other Arizona national monuments managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Collectively, they protect a wide variety of landscapes and sites, ranging from massive canyons and imposing rock formations to unique biotopes, ancient cliff dwellings and Native American pueblos.

While Arizona’s best known for its desert scenery and Wild West history, let’s not forget that people have called this region home for many thousands of years.

The state’s wild, ancient and mysterious landscapes inspired Native Americans to create some of the most fascinating legends and myths in North America.

You can discover and learn about these centuries-old cultures by visiting one or more of the various tribal lands in the state.

The most popular and convenient one to visit is the Navajo Nation , which is very tourist-friendly and manages a number of parks in Arizona. We’ll talk about two specific tribal areas in the Arizona national parks road trip itinerary below.

Road in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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In this Arizona national parks and monuments road trip itinerary, I’ll focus more on the natural landscapes that make Arizona such a fantastic destination, rather than man-made and cultural sites.

A road trip in Arizona is virtually impossible without stumbling upon a ruin or historic site every once in a while anyway. Even when prioritizing natural parks in Arizona, there are always historic places present, or at least situated in the near vicinity.

This is an itinerary for adventurous people who’d like to do some scenic driving , hiking, camping and wildlife watching, with the occasional historic site thrown in for good measure.

When you follow the itinerary outlined below, you’ll drive from the iconic deserts of the south, via ancient Native American sites, to the massive canyons and iconic valleys in the north.

You’ll literally see what makes every Arizonan proud, according to the state’s license plates, which depict saguaro cacti and the state’s nickname, the “Grand Canyon State.”

You can start this epic Arizona drive in each of the state’s three major cities— Phoenix , Flagstaff or Tucson . This particular route passes by or through all of them, so you can start and end your road trip wherever suits you best.

The following Arizona national parks road trip itinerary takes in no fewer than eight amazing parks and runs in a counterclockwise direction.

This leaves the arguably best national park in Arizona, if not in the entire United States, for last, ending your road trip with a bang. You are, of course, free to do it the other way around, too, or to start in the middle. In this case, we’ll start in Phoenix and head south first.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona - Photo credit NPS

An International Biosphere Reserve, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument may not be the most famous of all national monuments in Arizona, but it has more than enough to offer to make this a worthy start of your road trip in Arizona.

Located in the far south of the state, bordering Mexico, it’s quite a drive from Phoenix to get there. But no worries, there’s plenty of time to stretch your legs in the park once you’re there.

What sets this park apart from literally any other park in the USA is that this is the only place in the country where organ pipe cacti grow in the wild. And there are countless of them.

Similar to other desert parks in Arizona, as you’ll see later in this post, the most popular things to do in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument are scenic drives, hiking and camping, and horseback riding.

There are a number of amazing (gravel) roads through the park, while a variety of hiking trails let people of all ages and abilities enjoy the wonderful desert scenery.

  • Spend at least: 2 days / 2 nights
  • Do this: scenic driving, mountain biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding
  • Stay here: Twin Peaks Campground
  • More information:

Saguaro at sunrise in Saguaro National Park, Arizona

The first American national park ever to be named after a plant, photogenic Saguaro National Park protects two sections of the Sonoran Desert home to millions of saguaro cacti.

This particular type of cactus dominates this part of the state in such numbers that references to “saguaro forests” are quite common.

Symbols of the American West, saguaros can grow up to 40-50 feet (12-15 meters) tall and reach an age of 150 years. They are the star attractions of Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona.

The park, in fact, is split up into two different districts—the Tucson Mountain District (TMD) and the Rincon Mountain District (RMD), situated respectively on the west and east side of Tucson.

If you’re looking for the best Arizona national parks near Tucson, this is the obvious choice. You should spend at least two full days here, one day minimum in each district.

I suggest starting in the TMD for the perfect introduction to this extraordinary landscape. There, just outside the park boundaries, is also where you’ll find the Gilbert Ray Campground , arguably the best campground near Saguaro National Park .

Once you’ve pitched your tent or parked your RV, head out for some amazing hiking , scenic driving, and sunrise and sunset watching.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, too. This may be a desert park, but life thrives here. Don’t be surprised to come across a tortoise, rattlesnake, coyote or javelina.

  • Do this: scenic driving, hiking, camping, sunrise and sunset watching, stargazing, wildlife spotting
  • Stay here: Gilbert Ray Campground
  • More information:

Petrified wood in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Red-colored badlands, blue-banded rock formations, historic Route 66, Native American sites and fossilized trees make up the remarkably varied landscape of Petrified Forest National Park , a half-day drive northeast of Tucson.

Named for its huge density of petrified logs, this is one of the world’s best places to see fossils from the Late Triassic, which was basically the dawn of the dinosaurs. That’s how old this place is.

Petrified Forest National Park allows you to walk where dinosaurs roamed and to stand where ancient forests fell.

You’ll explore an ancient river system that would’ve put every other river in the world today to shame. These arid landscapes may seem desolate and empty, but a closer look reveals an age-old geological and natural experiment that’s still ongoing to this day.

There is only one road through this Arizona national park, conveniently leading you past all its major attractions.

Absolute Petrified Forest National Park highlights are the Crystal Forest and Long Logs Trails , the Blue Mesa, Puerco Pueblo and camping in the Painted Desert wilderness.

Additionally, Petrified Forest is the only national park that preserves a section of Historic Route 66 , another major attraction.

  • Spend at least: 2 days / 1 night
  • Do this: cultural exploration, (wilderness) hiking, horseback riding
  • Stay here: overnight backpacking trip in the Painted Desert
  • More information:

Aerial view of Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona - Photo credit NPS

There are plenty of cliff dwellings all over the Colorado Plateau , from Chaco Canyon to Mesa Verde , but nowhere have people live for as long as they have in Canyon de Chelly.

For almost 5,000 years, people have called this canyon home, from the Ancestral Puebloans to the Najavo who still raise livestock and grow crops in the canyon.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument lies only about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Petrified Forest National Park. They’re both among the best northern Arizona national parks.

The park protects three major Arizona canyons and, as one of the lands that are part of the Navajo Nation, is one of the best places in Arizona to immerse yourself in Native American history.

  • Do this: hiking, canyon touring with a Navajo guide
  • Stay here: Thunderbird Lodge
  • More information:

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park - Arizona Parks Road Trip

Another hour and a half north of Canyon de Chelly lies Monument Valley, arguably the most iconic place in the entire American West.

Although this is technically not one of the American national parks , it is a designated Navajo Tribal Park, which is essentially the Navajo Nation equivalent of a national park.

Thing is, though, that there’s no way I could leave Monument Valley out of a national parks of Arizona road trip itinerary, especially if the route would take you within two hours from this magnificent valley.

Located on the Arizona-Utah border, Monument Valley’s landscapes are renowned around the world, made famous by Hollywood Westerns. This wide valley dotted with buttes, rock formations and sandstone towers is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Spend a day hiking, join a 4WD tour with a Navajo guide or explore the area on horseback. I mean, if there ever was a place to go horseback riding, this is it. Make sure to stick around for a night, too—the night skies are sensational.

  • Spend at least: 1 day / 1 night
  • Do this: hiking, scenic drives, guided tours, horseback riding, stargazing
  • Stay here: The View Hotel
  • More information:

Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona - Arizona National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

A huge area of federal lands, comprising everything from lakes to canyons, deserts, geological formations and cliffs, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is one of Arizona’s most varied and popular holiday destinations.

The number of highlights is immense in this wonderful region, which is so large that it borders Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park , Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Canyonlands National Park in the north, and Arizona’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park (see both below) in the south.

It also shares a border with the Navajo Nation. This region is absolute heaven for a Utah and Arizona national parks enthusiast.

The main feature of Glen Canyon is Lake Powell, a man-made lake created by the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. This winding lake with countless arms is literally a flooded canyon and has almost 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) of shoreline.

I don’t have to tell you that fishing and boating are a tremendously popular pastime in this national recreation area, one of the main purposes of which is just that—recreation.

You’ll also like to know that the very southern tip of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is where you’ll find Horseshoe Bend, a world-famous bend in the Colorado River.

When you’re in the area, definitely also take the time to visit Antelope Canyon , one of the world’s most beautiful slot canyons. It lies on Navajo land just east of the town of Page, the main hub in the region.

  • Spend at least:  3 days / 2 nights
  • Do this:  boating, fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking
  • Stay here:  Lake Powell Resort
  • More information:

The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona - Photo credit BLM

A quick and scenic drive west of Page lies Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, as opposed to the National Park Service, this remote and pristine area protects Paria Canyon and Paria Plateau, Coyote Buttes and Vermilion Cliffs.

Characterized by towering rock formations, impressive canyons and other geological curiosities, this is a superb destination for day hiking and multi-day desert treks.

If you’re planning a hike, remember to get a permit. You’ll need one for overnight trips in Paria Canyon and day hikes in Coyote Buttes South and Coyote Buttes North, which is the location of the area’s most well-known feature, The Wave.

When you go on a hike in these rugged lands, it’s critical that you’re aware of potential hazards and dangers, including overexertion, flash floods, extreme heat and wild animals.

Be aware of your surroundings, check the weather forecast, bring plenty of water and watch where you step.

  • Spend at least:  2 days / 1 night
  • Do this:  (wilderness) hiking, camping, wildlife watching, stargazing
  • Stay here:  Stateline Campground
  • More information:

Backpackers in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

As far as famous national parks in Arizona go, none are more revered and visited than Grand Canyon National Park.

Nothing can prepare you for your first view of the Grand Canyon. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen or documentaries you’ve watched, the immense scale of this place needs to be seen in 3D, not on paper or a screen.

Arizona’s nickname is “the Grand Canyon State” for a reason—it’s something to be proud of. This is the ultimate end of your once-in-a-lifetime Arizona national parks road trip.

The Grand Canyon overwhelms everyone. I can’t imagine anyone not being impressed by it. It’s spectacular, its dimensions are mind-boggling. Really, it’s almost impossible to grasp the sheer size of this thing.

This is a canyon that’s 277 river miles (446 kilometers) long, 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide at its widest point, and a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep.

It’s the obvious centerpiece of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park , which encompasses a section of the Colorado River and both the North and South Rims.

Often considered to be one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Grand Canyon National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which indicates its awesome significance to the world and humankind.

While many people spend only a day here, I think that’s just ridiculous. This is an enormous park and you should really do it justice by spending two or three days.

Beyond the many popular Grand Canyon overlooks , there’s plenty to see and do. Hike down into the canyon and along the South Rim—that’s two days right there —and spend day three driving the scenic Desert View Drive, one of America’s greatest national park roads .

  • Spend at least: 3 days / 2 nights
  • Do this: scenic driving, hiking, camping, stargazing, horseback riding, cycling, wildlife watching, river trips
  • Stay here: El Tovar Hotel
  • More information:

To properly visit all the three Arizona national parks and five other parks and national monuments of Arizona included in this attraction-packed itinerary, you will need at least three weeks .

The suggested number of days for each park is the absolute minimum to get a real sense of what they are all about.

Grand Canyon National Park, for example, deserves three days, while Monument Valley can be experienced in one day.

Adding it all up brings us to a total of 17 days just in the parks alone. Include the necessary driving time and travel days to and from Arizona, and you’ll see that three weeks is an appropriate amount of time for this Arizona national parks road trip.

If you have less time available, however, it’s possible to leave out a few parks and focus on the major ones. For a two-week road trip around Arizona, I suggest the following itinerary:

Saguaro National Park (2 days) – Petrified Forest National Park (2 days) – Monument Valley (1 day) – Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (3 days) – Grand Canyon National Park (3 days)

To summarize, this is a quick overview of all the national parks and monuments in Arizona mentioned in this itinerary, including how long I suggest you stay there.

  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument — 2 days / 2 nights
  • Saguaro National Park — 2 days / 2 nights
  • Petrified Forest National Park — 2 days / 1 night
  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument — 2 days / 1 night
  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park — 1 day / 1 night
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area — 3 days / 2 nights
  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument — 2 days / 1 night
  • Grand Canyon National Park —3 days / 2 nights

As mentioned earlier in this post, you can start (and end) this Arizona national parks road trip in the state’s three major cities, whichever one is more convenient for you. This will most likely depend on available and affordable flights.

After you arrive in Arizona, you might want to rest up for a night before you kick off your road trip. Or vice versa, you might like to get a night’s sleep in first before hopping back on a plane afterward.

Here are some current deals on accommodation in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson.

  • Phoenix Accommodation Deals
  • Flagstaff Accommodation Deals
  • Tucson Accommodation Deals

Alternatively, many people choose Las Vegas as their Southwest road trip starting point.

Situated in the southern tip of Nevada, “Sin City” is not only a gambler’s and partier’s paradise, but there are also several major American national parks near Las Vegas , such as Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park .

If you decide to fly to Las Vegas and begin your Arizona national parks road trip there, here are some deals for you.

  • Las Vegas Accommodation Deals

Have You Ever Been on an Arizona National Parks Road Trip? Which Parks Did You Visit? Tell Us About It in the Comments Below!

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Sunday 3rd of May 2020

Dag Bram, we went on a group tour last year to visit Southwest States and I must say I have learned a lot about where we were through your blogposts. I recommend them for travellers looking for tips and knowledge. Dankjewel and blijf gezond ! Groeten, Judy

Thursday 29th of August 2019

Starting in Tucson, what is your suggestion for an ideal start date to avoid heat and crowds? Thanks for this cool itinerary!

Bram Reusen

Thursday 7th of November 2019

Hey Deb! I think the last weeks of winter would be a great period to start this road trip. Sometime in March should be ideal!

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National Parks of America

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Experience the grandeur of the American West as you explore five fantastic national parks on this exciting journey. In Arizona, contemplate the vast beauty of the Grand Canyon, and in Yellowstone, relish iconic sights like Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake. Marvel at the magnitude and color of Zion’s cliffs and the hoodoos and spires at Bryce Canyon. Enjoy 2-night stays in Springdale, Utah (Zion) and Jackson Hole. Drive through the incredible Bighorn Mountains and the great Sioux Nations Territory before seeing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument. Meet a local Lakota Native American at dinner and learn about their fascinating way of life, past and present. Gain new appreciation of the great outdoors on this journey that takes you from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and everywhere in between.

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Spend a night at the spectacular Grand Canyon.

Visit Yellowstone National Park, home to the famous Old Faithful Geyser.

  • See one of the country's most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore.

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Explore the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody.

Meet Native Americans and discuss their unique and colorful culture.

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Experience a chuck wagon dinner* and cowboy entertainment.

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If your interests stretch beyond the beauty of downtown Jackson Hole, we have a special treat for you! Swing your own paddle for a thrilling ride through the white waters of the Snake River. An experienced guide conducts the trip, and you provide the paddle power. This unforgettable addition to your vacation is an experience you will talk about for many years to come.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Snake River on a gentle float trip. Your guide will paddle while pointing out interesting sights along the way. The trip is a great way to see the beauty of the river and the geology that forms the Snake River. The river is home to a variety of waterfowl and native animals including moose, deer and river otters. It is also the nesting area of our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, as well as ospreys. You will enjoy an included picnic lunch.

See one of the country's most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore.


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arizona national parks tour

Arizona is a treasure trove of unique landscapes, rugged cliffs, and million-year-old fossils that draw in tourists from all over the US. It’s also home to 3 amazing US National Parks that need to be on your bucket list. And this Arizona National Parks road trip will take you through the best of all three parks and then some (in 4 days).

You’ll find 24 parks including monuments, memorials, and historic sites dotted all over Arizona.

That’s why as a local, I recommend that you make time to take on an Arizona road trip itinerary at least once in your life. And the one we’ll cover in this post is the perfect trip to start with!

In this guide, we unpack some of the best things to do and see at each of three Arizona national parks – Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Saguaro.

So pack your bags, and let’s explore The Grand Canyon State!

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4 day arizona national parks road trip

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Table of Contents

Planning Your Arizona National Parks Road Trip

  • When to Go : The most ideal times for you to visit these national parks are winter, which runs from December to February, and spring, from March through May.
  • Trip Length : 4 days is enough time for you to explore Arizona’s national parks and some of its stunning monuments.
  • Fly : For the best flight tickets, check out KAYAK .
  • Rental Car : KAYAK is a great platform for you to find cheap rental cars as well.
  • Rental Campervan : If you like camping, you’ll probably want to rent a campervan. Check out Outdoorsy for great prices.
  • Stay : We’ll discuss your accommodation options at each national park a little later.
  • Park Fees : Standard entrance fees typically range between $20 and $35 per vehicle. But you can avoid paying this fee at each park by getting yourself an “ America The Beautiful Pass ”, an annual permit for all US national parks, which costs about $80.

Where to Start Your Arizona National Parks Road Trip

Now that you’re all clued up on all the planning you need to do for this Arizona road trip, let’s dive into nitty gritty details, like where to start your adventure. 

Here are a few options of cities you can fly into:

  • Phoenix, AZ (recommended) — This route takes about 11 hours and 10 minutes (one-way) without counting extra stops. Your first stop on this route is Grand Canyon National Park. 
  • Las Vegas, NV (great alternative) — If you take this route, you’ll drive for about 12 hours (one-way) without the extra stops. The first stop from Las Vegas is also the Grand Canyon.
  • Salt Lake City, UT — On this route, you’ll be driving for longer, about 15 hours and 30 minutes (one-way), with no extra stops. But on the flip side, this route gives you the perfect opportunity to explore the stunning Southwest with an Arizona-Utah road trip .

Note: For this Arizona road trip itinerary, you’ll land at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. From there, start driving towards the Grand Canyon, stopping in Sedona and Flagstaff.

female hiker walking down south rim trail in grand canyon national park az

Arizona National Parks Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1 – Land in Phoenix and drive to Grand Canyon
  • Day 2 – Explore Grand Canyon National Park
  • Day 3 – Visit the Petrified Forest National Park
  • Day 4 – Drive to Tucson and explore Saguaro National Park

This ultimate road trip to Arizona’s national parks covers the best of the state’s rugged, colorful landscapes.

You’ll be starting this road trip through Arizona at the Grand Canyon and ending it at Saguaro National Park, where you can take a domestic flight from Tucson International Airport.

Click here for a live version of the map!

arizona national parks road trip map

4-Day Arizona National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 — phoenix to grand canyon national park.

  • Phoenix, AZ to Grand Canyon: ~ 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • Time in Exploring: 2 days (Day 1 of 2)
  • Stay: Little America Hotel , La Quinta by Wyndham , Hotel Elev8  
  • Eat: Fat Olives, The Northern Pines Restaurant, Josephine’s Restaurant
  • Fees: Park entry ($35), Red Rock Pass, or America The Beautiful Pass

Once you’ve landed in Phoenix , pick up your rental car and get ready to hit the road. If you’re not running short on time, feel free to stop at one or two of the most Instagrammable places in Phoenix for a quick photo-op.

female on portland ave in phoenix az looking at the palm trees

Morning — Arrive in Sedona

After hours of driving, you’ll appreciate this much-needed stop in Arizona’s Red Rock County. There are plenty of things for you to do in Sedona . You’ll find many New Age shops, art galleries, meditation retreats, and even a few easy hikes in Sedona you can quickly do.

The city has local eateries that you’ll love, as well as a number of Sedona boutique hotels that offer all the mod-cons you’ll find in bigger cities. Before heading off, make a few quick stops at some of the most Instagrammable places in Sedona to snap some epic photos for your feed. 

female hiker watching sunset from secret slickrock trail in sedona az

Afternoon — Check-In at Your Hotel in Flagstaff and Drive to the Grand Canyon

About 45 minutes after leaving Sedona, you’ll arrive in the town of Flagstaff. This quaint city is often used as the base camp for visitors to the Grand Canyon, and it’s not hard to see why. 

In addition to having several hotels, Flagstaff is also an International Dark Sky City , making it the perfect place for star-gazing. If you have some time, explore some of the best things to do in Flagstaff , like wandering through the Historic Downtown or sampling a muffin at Macy’s.

male and female looking at mt humphreys from Flagstaff SP Crater

Evening — Arrive in Grand Canyon National Park

The first day of your Arizona itinerary ends with a mesmerizing evening drive through the Grand Canyon. The Desert View Drive is a scenic road that runs along the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. You’ll begin your drive at Grand Canyon Village and head towards Route 64.

By taking this scenic drive, you’ll get to see many of the best viewpoints in the park, like Lipan and Grand View Point, as well as attractions like the Desert View Watchtower.

Tip: You should get a Desert View Drive map to avoid missing any great viewing spots.

view of the sign from Ooh Aah Point in grand canyon national park az

Day 2 — Grand Canyon National Park

  • Flagstaff to Grand Canyon: ~ 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Time in Exploring: 2 days (Day 2 of 2)
  • Stay: El Tovar Hotel, Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim
  • Eat: Yavapai Tavern, El Tovar Dining Room, Arizona Steakhouse
  • Fees: Park entry ($35) or America The Beautiful Pass

Start your day bright and early so you have a full day to explore Grand Canyon National Park. There are a few lodges within the park, so you can spend the night there and save on the driving time from Flagstaff.

view of

Morning — Hike the Rim Trail

If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time , you’ll want to start your adventure by exploring one of the park’s best hiking trails.

Stretching 13 miles across the South Rim, from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest, this trail offers many of the best overlooks in the park. Take the park’s red route shuttle bus to explore the best of the Rim Trail with ease.

This route begins at Bright Angel Trailhead and stops nine times on the way to Hermits Rest. This portion of the Rim Trail has the best views and often fewer crowds.\

Read Next: Prettiest National Parks in The USA

view of south Grand Canyon National Park from rim trail

Afternoon — Helicopter Tour

Another fantastic way to explore the Grand Canyon is to see the majestic gorge from the sky. Take a scenic helicopter tour and get the most stunning panoramic views of the South and North rims.

You’ll also get glimpses of the ponderosa pine-filled Kaibab National Forest and the mighty Colorado River as it meanders through the canyon.

sunrise over the south kaibab trail in grand canyon national park arizona

Late Afternoon (Optional) — Kayaking on the Colorado River

If you’re keen on a thrilling outdoor adventure around the Grand Canyon, nothing beats kayaking between towering rugged cliffs along the Colorado River. 

You’ll find many tour outfitters that offer white river rafting tours around the Grand Canyon. These range from one-day to multi-day trips, as the river runs over 1,450 miles across many states. So, make sure to plan ahead if you’re interested in rafting along the Colorado River.

view of the colorado river at the bottom of bright angel trail grand canyon national park

Evening — Catch the Sunset

Wrap up your last day in the Grand Canyon with a stunning sunset over the expansive gorge. Many viewpoints along the South Rim, like Mather and Hopi points, offer great sunset views. 

Get a less-crowded sundown experience with an off-road sunset safari through the Grand Canyon. Or, opt for a sunset hiking adventure deep below the canyon for 360-degree views of the gorge, showered with bouncing lights of kaleidoscopic hues. 

sunset over the grand canyon south rim

Day 3 — Petrified Forest National Park

  • Grand Canyon to Petrified Forest National Park: ~ 3 hours
  • Time in Exploring: 1 day
  • Stay: Brad’s Desert Inn , Best Western Arizonian Inn , Days Inn by Wyndham  
  • Eat: Mesa Italiana Restaurant, Tom & Suzie’s Diner, Mr Maestas
  • Fees: Park entry ($25) or America The Beautiful Pass

The closest city to Petrified Forest National Park is the town of Holbrook, renowned for its Native American charm. This is the best place to eat and stay for this part of your road trip in Arizona.

sunny day over a trail in petrified forest national park arizona

Morning — The Colorful Hills of the Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park is simply divided into two parts. In the northern half, you’ll come across colorful badlands and a sea of blue-banded rock formations that will blow you away. 

Explore this section of the park by driving on the Petrified Forest Road, and taking short hikes along the Painted Desert Rim Trail. Make a few stops during your hike, like at Kachina Point and the Painted Desert Inn, a Pueblo Revival–style adobe museum dotted with Hopi murals.

painted desert petrified forest national park

Afternoon — The Petrified Logs

Spend your afternoon in the southern portion of Petrified Forest National Park, walking among ancient tree logs and wood. They’re preserved by minerals they absorbed after being submerged under the riverbed about 200 million years ago. 

Feel free to take on several of the best hiking trails in this part of the national park, like the Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest, Giant Logs, and Long Logs trails. These trails take you through hundreds of millions of years of tree trucks turned into solid, sparkling quartz-like rock.

petrified logs painted desert petrified forest national park

Evening — Dinner in Holbrook

End your time in Holbrook with a hearty meal to reward yourself for all the hiking you did today.

Many of the restaurants in Holbrook are located right next to Route 66 , so not only are you getting a classic American meal, but you’ll also get picturesque views of this historic road. 

clear day over Petrified Forest national park arizona

Day 4 — Drive to Tucson and Explore Saguaro National Park

  • Holbrook to Saguaro National Park: ~ 4 hours and 30 minutes
  • Stay: Hotel McCoy , The Tuxon Hotel , Hilton Tucson East  
  • Eat: Bobo’s Restaurant, Maynards Kitchen, 5 Points Market & Restaurant

Your final day of this Arizona trip itinerary ends with unbelievable views of giant saguaros, but you’ll have to wake up super early to have enough time to explore both the park and Tucson.

cactus in saguaro national park

Morning — Tucson Mountain District

The Saguaro National Park is split into two distinct regions. The Tucson Mountain District is more popular as it is more densely populated with saguaros. 

Spend your morning in this region, hiking or biking through scenic routes like the Valley View Overlook Trail. Also, hop into the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for a brief lesson on the ecology of this region and its towering saguaro cacti.

sunset over saguaro national park az

Afternoon — Rincon Mountain District

Head over to the other section of the park, the Rincon Mountain District, to spend the rest of your day in relative solitude as you wander around the sparse saguaros. This portion also has fantastic sunset spots, like Javelina Rocks.

You’ll need to take a moderately challenging hike to get to Javelina Rocks. Along the way, you’ll scramble up a few boulders for an excellent vantage point of the saguaro desert and the city. Keep your eyes peeled for the tiny pig-like javelinas, as they usually come out to play at dusk.

javelina rocks saguaro national park

Evening — Explore Tucson + Dinner in Tucson

For the rest of your day in Tucson, you should definitely head into the town to mingle with the locals and explore some of its hidden gems.

The town is jam-packed with interesting museums, botanical gardens, quirky theaters, and plenty of places to eat a wholesome dinner. And this will be a wrap on your trip!

sunset over tucson arizona with mountains in the distance

Wrapping Up Your Perfect Arizona National Park Road Trip

There you have it. From one of the deepest gorges in the world to colorful mineral-tinted landscapes and 60-foot-tall saguaros, Arizona’s national parks deserve to be on every American Southwest bucket list .

Whether you’re looking for great hikes below the Grand Canyon, want to see ancient tree trucks turned into solid rocks, or are just keen for a walk among giants, Arizona’s got you covered.

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!

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Ultimate Arizona National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

Are you ready to embark on one of the most scenic road trips in America? Arizona is home to some of the best National Parks in the USA, and on this Arizona road trip, you’ll get to see three of them!

The three Arizona National Parks are home to giant cacti, rugged mountains, petrified wood, badlands, and of course, one of the deepest canyons in the world.

hiking the blue mesa trail in petrified forest national park

In this Arizona National Parks road trip guide , I will map out your route, reveal the best time of year to take this trip, and share important visitor information for each National Park, including what to do and where to stay.

While this is an Arizona National Parks itinerary, I share some other public lands at the bottom of this guide that are worth adding to your Arizona road trip.

Table of Contents

Arizona National Parks Road Trip Map

How Many National Parks Are in Arizona?

hiking the blue mesa trail in petrified forest national park

There are 3 National Parks in Arizona. Petrified Forest National Park , Grand Canyon National Park, and Saguaro National Park are all in the state of Arizona.

On my map above, you will see five map dots.

One map dot is for Petrified Forest National Park .

One map dot is for the East side of Saguaro National Park while another map dot is for the West side of Saguaro National Park .

One map dot is for the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park while another map dot is for the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Where to Start Your Arizona National Parks Road Trip

The best place to start your Arizona road trip is in Phoenix .

Another option would be Las Vegas but expect to spend a little bit more time in the car.

When to Take an Arizona National Parks Road Trip

hiking the blue mesa trail in petrified forest national park

The overall best time of year to take an Arizona National Parks road trip is October through April. Summers can get excruciatingly hot in southern Arizona and under the rim of the Grand Canyon.

The only wrench that could be thrown into your plans would be snow and Grand Canyon’s North Rim closure. Northern Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, is susceptible to snow during the winter months. Also, the North Rim is closed from October 15 to May 15.

skeleton point at grand canyon national park

Must-Know Tips Before Embarking on Your Arizona Road Trip

  • Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings (except in the Navajo Nation).
  • Weather changes quickly in the desert.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • You’ll need to book your Grand Canyon lodging many months in advance.

PRO TIP: You’ll want to purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks pass before embarking on your Arizona road trip; it’s only $80! Entrance to Grand Canyon, Saguaro , and Petrified Forest alone is $85 total. Buy your pass on REI now !

tawa point near the painted desert visitor center in petrified forest national park

Disclaimer : This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks so much for your support !

Arizona National Parks Road Trip Stop #1: Grand Canyon National Park

🚗 Drive Time from Phoenix, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park South Rim: 4 hours

hiking the south kaibab trail in grand canyon national park

Looking over the rim of the Grand Canyon is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. If you are feeling ambitious, step into the canyon and experience what it’s like to be surrounded by one of the deepest canyons in the world.

There are two rims of the Grand Canyon: North and South.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular/crowded and the most accessible, and its services are typically open year-round.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is more remote and higher in elevation, and its services are only open from May 15 through October 15.

While you’re on the South Rim, walk, bike, or take the shuttle to different viewpoints along the Rim Trail. For the more adventurous, take the South Kaibab to Ooh Aah Point (1.8 miles roundtrip) or Skeleton Point (5.6 miles roundtrip).

While you’re on the North Rim, cruise the scenic drive and hike the Cape Royal Trail. For the more adventurous, take the North Kaibab Trail to Coconino Overlook (1.4 miles roundtrip) or Supai Tunnel (4 miles roundtrip).

⚠️ IMPORTANT: If you plan to visit both rims on your road trip, be prepared to drive three and a half hours from the South Rim to the North Rim. Or, you can walk from one rim to another in just 21 miles 😉

Where to Stay on the South Rim

  • Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins – Inside the park, this accommodation is located at the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail.
  • El Tovar Hotel – Charming hotel that is considered the “Crown Jewel of Historic National Park Lodges.”
  • Phantom Ranch – If you want to spend the night below the rim of the Grand Canyon (by the Colorado River!)

Where to Stay on the North Rim

  • North Rim Campground – The only campground on the North Rim.
  • Grand Canyon Lodge – The only lodge on the North Rim.
  • Kaibab Lodge – If you can’t get reservations inside the park, this one is only 5 miles outside of the park.

→ READ NEXT: 8 Best Weekend Trips From Phoenix, Arizona

sunset at grand canyon national park

How Long to Spend at Grand Canyon National Park

If you plan on exploring just one rim, plan on 1-2 days to see the highlights.

If you will be venturing to both the South and the North Rim, I’d recommend 2-4 days.

Arizona National Parks Road Trip Stop #2: Petrified Forest National Park

🚗 Drive Time from Grand Canyon National Park South Rim to Petrified Forest National Park: 3 hours

Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most underrated National Parks in America. From the rolling badlands and one of the oldest petrified forests in the world to the old Route 66 highway and Triassic fossils, Petrified Forest showcases rich examples of history and geology.

For this particular road trip route, I’d recommend starting at the north entrance and driving south, but you can certainly do either.

While you’re in Petrified Forest , drive through the park from North to South (or South to North), stopping at all of the overlooks. I’d definitely make time to hike the best trails in Petrified Forest: Blue Mesa and Crystal Forest . If you have extra time, hike the Painted Desert Rim Trail and Giant Logs Trails, located at each visitor center.

⚠️ IMPORTANT: Petrified Forest has strict hours. They are only open from 8 AM – 5 PM MST. Extended hours are possible during the busy season.

Where to Stay in Petrified Forest National Park

  • Backcountry camping – There is no frontcountry, car, or RV camping in the park.
  • Best Western Snowflake Inn (south of the park) – Budget option with an indoor pool.
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites in Holbrook (west of the park) – Chain hotel with a pool.

crystal forest trail at petrified forest national park

How Long to Spend at Petrified Forest National Park

You will only need one day in Petrified Forest National Park . This will allow you to see all of the highlights, including driving the entire scenic drive, stopping at each of the overlooks, and hiking the trails.

→ READ NEXT: One Perfect Day in Petrified Forest National Park 🪵

Arizona National Parks Road Trip Stop #3: Saguaro National Park

🚗 Drive Time from Petrified Forest National Park to Saguaro National Park: 5 hours

valley view overlook trail at saguaro national park west

Saguaro National Park is another underrated National Park in America. Though it contains the largest cacti in the country, the saguaros aren’t the only spectacle. I was amazed at the mountains and the quiet, remote feel of the park.

There are two sides to Saguaro National Park : the East side and the West side. The East side is known as the Rincon Mountain District while the West Side is known as the Tuscon Mountain District. They are a one-hour drive apart from each other, separated in the middle by the town of Tuscon.

While you’re on the East side, cruise the paved scenic drive (this is my favorite of the two scenic drives), stop at the overlooks (especially Javelina Rocks!), and hike Mica View and Bridal Wreath Falls.

While you’re on the West side, cruise the dirt scenic drive and hike Valley View Overlook, Desert Discovery, Signal Hill, and Gould Mine Trails.

Where to Stay in Saguaro National Park

  • Backcountry camping – There is no car camping allowed in the park.
  • Days Inn – Budget hotel with year-round outdoor pool and hot tub.
  • Country Inn & Suites – Mid-range hotel with a lit outdoor pool and fitness center.
  • Lodge on the Desert – Luxury hotel in Tuscon with a year-round outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub.

cacti on valley view overlook trail at saguaro national park west

How Long to Spend at Saguaro National Park

I’d recommend one full day at Saguaro National Park to see the highlights of both sides. Two days would be even better so that you can hike some of the longer trails!

❓Need help deciding which side of Saguaro is right for your visit? Read my Saguaro National Park East Vs. West Guide here!

Other Places to Add to Your Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

There are so many beautiful public lands sprinkled in between Arizona’s National Parks that you will probably want to add them to your Arizona road trip itinerary!

sedona red rocks with fog

  • Page, Arizona – Antelope Canyon , Horseshoe Bend , and Lake Powell
  • Havasupai – Havasu Falls
  • Lost Dutchman State Park
  • Organ Pipe National Monument


ultimate arizona national parks road trip itinerary

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Arizona’s 5 best national parks and monuments to explore

Janet  Gyenes

Jan 17, 2023 • 7 min read

Sunset over cacti in the Sonoran Desert, near Phoenix.

Here are the very best national parks and monuments of Arizona © tonda / Getty Images

Some people might think of Arizona simply as “the desert,” but visiting this state’s best national parks and monuments is a surefire way to discover there’s so much more than that to explore. You can wander in dense woodlands in Grand Canyon National Park; see Petrified Forest National Park’s grasslands blanketed in wildflowers; spot condors hovering over cliffs; or stroll among fossilized trees all in Arizona. 

Arizona’s national parks and monuments are also ideal places to learn about the historical and cultural significance of these sites in shaping this southwest state. To experience the diversity of the Grand Canyon state, explore these five national parks and monuments in Arizona by foot or by car . 

Condor bird in wild Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Best national park for families.

It’s easy to be absorbed by the wonders of Grand Canyon National Park . Stretching more than 1.2 million acres, the park’s outer edges include the South Rim (open year-round) and the North Rim (closed from mid-October to mid-May), which are 210 miles apart. If you don’t want to drive yourself, book a spot on the seasonal Trans Canyon Shuttle .

The busier South Rim offers easy access to panoramas, paved paths along the rim and hikes like the Bright Angel Trail, which zigzags to the Colorado River and historic Phantom Ranch at the base of the canyon. If you’re short on time, ride the free village shuttle (private vehicles are restricted during summer) to landmarks such as the geology museum and Yaki Point .

Visit the 1905 Hopi House designed by Mary Colter to see historical artifacts and shop for authentic Indigenous arts and crafts, such as Navajo rugs. At the eastern edge of the South Rim is another Colter structure worth seeking out: the 1932 Desert View Watchtower , also modeled on the architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people.

The Grand Canyon’s North Rim , which sits at 8000ft, offers a quieter pace, with scenic drives and trails leading to pictographs and dramatic sunset views. Get your legs moving on a 1.4-mile round-trip hike to Coconino Overlook or the tougher Redwall Trail. This 5.2-mile round-trip route rewards hardy hikers with views of colossal limestone cliffs. To experience a different aspect of the park, go for a horse ride through the Kaibab National Forest’s pines. 

A large spiral formation on a rock

Saguaro National Park

Best national park for experiencing the sonoran desert.

An instantly recognizable Arizona icon is the massive saguaro cactus. These giants are 125 years old on average (they grow arms once they’re around 60), can reach 50ft and weigh eight tons. The best place to see this protected species, which only grows in the Sonoran desert, is at Saguaro National Park . It’s divided into Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro East) and Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro West), and the city of Tucson sits smack in between. 

The saguaros tower over 25 other species of cactuses that thrive here, such as teddy bear chollas, fishhook barrel and prickly pear. Visit from April to June to see the behemoths in bloom. On the park’s west side, the paved Cactus Forest Drive loops through a Seussian landscape, connecting to hiking trails and picnic sites. See century-old limestone kilns on the Cactus Forest Trail, then drive deeper into the park to get to Signal Hill Trail. This steep 0.2-mile hike leads to petroglyphs created by the ancient Hohokam people in the 13th and 14th centuries. Keep your eyes open for desert tortoises and Gila monsters (the largest lizard in the US). 

On the park’s east side, younger saguaros dominate the landscape. Hike the one-mile Freeman Homestead to the site of an old foundation, and you might see great horned owls in the cliffs above the wash. At higher elevations, the cactus forests dwindle and oak-pine woodlands of the Rincon Mountains, which are part of the Madrean Sky Islands. These “desert islands” support 6000 plant species, second only in biodiversity to the Amazon rainforest. 

A petrified log in the middle of a desert landscape with the moon rising in a pink-hued sky

Petrified Forest National Park

Best national park for 200-million-year-old fossils.

Although the words “badlands” and “petrified” evoke harsh landscapes devoid of life, the Petrified Forest National Park is both beautiful and bountiful. Located about 110 miles east of Flagstaff and dubbed the “Painted Desert,” the park’s badlands and petrified wood (the world’s largest concentration) are composed of bands of blue, white and purple, which come from quartz and manganese oxides. 

More than 50,000 acres of the park are actually wilderness, mostly prairies and semi-arid grasslands. Arrive early in the day to watch for wildlife, from badgers and bobcats to kit foxes and porcupines. Plus, the cooler mornings are best for hiking. See fossilized trees and crystalized wood up close on the 0.75-mile Crystal Forest Trail or 3-mile Blue Forest Trail. Be sure to check out the park’s displays of fossils more than 200 million years old and visit Agate House. This eight-room pueblo is where ancestral Puebloan people lived between 1050 and 1300. The structure was built near agricultural fields and petrified wood deposits that were made into tools, such as knives and scrapers. 

For more modern examples of architecture and art, visit the 1940 Painted Desert Inn . Once made of petrified wood, the building was remodeled in Pueblo Revival style under the direction of Mary Colter, who designed the Grand Canyon’s Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower. The original murals painted by Hopi artists and a large mountain lion petroglyph are on display inside.

A hiker looks out to a desert landscape where the rocks are striped in orange, pink and sandstone colors

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Best national monument for backcountry exploration.

Situated between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Utah border, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument sprawls 280,000 acres across Marble Canyon. If you’re seeking solitude amid remote buttes, canyons and cliffs rising from 3100 to 7100ft, you’ll find it here. But you’ll need to plan ahead: many areas in the national monument require permits for both camping and hiking. A sought-after area to explore is Coyote Buttes North, home of the Wave , a swirled sandstone formation. It's a 6-mile round trip hike, plus there’s no trail, so you’ll need to do your own wayfinding (bring a GPS or compass and map). 

Not everything requires exploring on two feet. State Route 89A passes a couple of overlooks and connects to House Rock Valley Road. Just 3 miles along the dirt road is Vermilion Cliffs Condor Release Viewing Site. Look for the endangered California condors cruising overhead or on the cliffside; streaks of white guano signify roosting spots. Every year on the fourth Saturday of September, condors are released from the top of the cliffs.

A prehistoric pueblo in the side of a cliff at Montezuma Castle in Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Best monument for cliff dwellings.

Although Montezuma Castle National Monument is a small site, its history runs deep. Located in the Verde Valley 25 miles south of Sedona , it was established in 1906 to preserve Indigenous American culture. The compact site almost feels like a diorama of an ancient village built by the Sinagua people, who inhabited the valley as far back as 650 CE. A short pathway lined with sycamores and catclaw mimosa trees leads to the limestone cliff, where a 20-room building (likely occupied by several families, apartment-style) peeks out from above.

Built by the Sinagua people in around 1050 CE, the castle is a well-preserved example of architectural ingenuity. The placement of rooms on the south-facing cliff helps regulate summer and winter temperatures. Its elevated location provides protection from Beaver Creek’s annual flooding, plus it functions as a lookout. 

Drive 11 miles north to see the Montezuma Well , which is part of the national monument. Along with the limestone sinkhole, cliff dwellings and irrigation channels are characteristic of the prehistoric people who have lived in the area, dating back to 11,000 CE. The water in the well, which is 386ft across, has high levels of arsenic and other chemicals, but it still supports endemic species such as water scorpions, snails, mud turtles and leeches.

This article was first published August 2021 and updated January 2023

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12 Best National Parks and Monuments in Arizona

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Home to many of America’s most renowned and recognizable landscapes, Arizona boasts not only the majestic Monument Valley and cavernous Canyon de Chelly but the iconic Grand Canyon too. Set in the southwest of the States, its delightful desert scenery is a treat to explore, with beautiful buttes, rugged canyons, and breathtaking mountains wherever you go.

While Arizona’s national parks and monuments protect a plethora of astounding scenery and nature, they also preserve lots of archaeological sites and settlements left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans. As a quarter of the state is made up of Indian reservations, their rich Native American history, culture, and heritage is still on show today. With so many interesting historical sights to check out, and a wealth of incredible outdoor activities to be enjoyed, Arizona really is one of the best and most breathtaking states to visit.

Map of National Parks in Arizona

National Parks in Arizona map

12. Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument

Set right in the southeast corner of the state is the captivating Chiricahua National Monument, home to some of Arizona’s most arresting and awe-inspiring landscapes. Once called ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks’ by local Apaches, it boasts stunning stone spires and breathtaking balanced rocks.

Shaped and sculpted over the millennia by the wind and rain, its stunning hoodoos make for a spellbinding sight and seemingly stretch away forever. Among the sensational stone columns, visitors can find many fantastic features, with prominent pinnacles and natural bridges lying beside balancing boulders and rugged volcanic rocks.

Once used by the Chiricahua Apaches as a safe haven, the monument’s mesmerising mountains and landscapes now attract hikers and photographers. With some wonderful wildlife also on show and some great camping and stargazing to be had, Chiricahua National Monument is well worth checking out if you have the chance.

11. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Located just to the south of the state line with Utah, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument lies in a very scenic, secluded setting. Home to spectacular scenery, it’s sure to delight nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike and can be found not far from the Grand Canyon.

Established in the year 2000 by President Bill Clinton, the national monument is dominated and defined by the colorful cliffs after which it is named. While the enormous escarpments certainly look impressive, the park’s beautiful buttes and striking slot-canyons make for just as fine a sight.

In addition, there are many fascinating prehistoric petroglyphs to be spied among its swirling sandstone-colored scenery, as well as the remains of some age-old Native American pueblos.

10. Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Made up of two picturesque parts that lie either side of the city of Tucson , Saguaro is one of the most accessible and attractive national parks in Arizona. Named after the giant cacti that dot its delightful desert landscapes, the park offers an iconic image of the American Southwest.

Founded back in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover, it protects swathes of the Sonoran Desert, with the Tucson and Rincon mountain ranges also running through it. Coating its sweeping valleys are forests of spiny saguaro that tower up to 15 meters in height; they make for a distinctive sight with their prickly pears and blooming buds.

Meandering about its dazzling and dramatic landscapes are lots of terrific trails to hike, cycle, or horseback ride along, with some super scenic drives on offer among its cacti-dotted confines.

9. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Centered around the crumbling cinder cone after which it is named, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument lies in north-central Arizona, not far from Flagstaff . Formed around a thousand years ago during an explosive eruption, it is now a very peaceful and pleasant place to visit.

Rising above the foothills and lava fields that surround it, Sunset Crater is the youngest of a string of volcanoes that make up the San Francisco Peaks. Considered to be extinct, its barren and blackish slopes have been protected ever since 1930, when President Herbert Hoover deigned it a national monument.

Nowadays, visitors can hike around the lovely lava flows and forests lying at its foot. Access to its summit is banned due to the extensive erosion that was inadvertently caused by hikers.

8. Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

Set just 60 kilometers to the east of Flagstaff is the massive and majestic Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. Billed as the ‘best-preserved meteorite crater on Earth,’ it’s now a popular attraction, with sightseeing tours, a discovery centre, and 4D experience room all on offer.

Stretching over 1,200 meters in diameter and reaching a depth of 170 meters, the captivating crater certainly makes for an impressive sight. Formed around 50,000 years ago by a mighty meteorite, its rugged rim towers above the arid plains of the Arizona desert that lie around it.

Besides enjoying the fantastic panoramas of the crater while taking a tour along the top of it, visitors can learn about space and the Solar System through the discovery center’s interactive exhibits. In addition, there is a fascinating film to watch on the meteorite impact, and an exciting immersion ride to experience.

7. Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Home to an astounding array of scenery, landscapes and nature, Petrified Forest National Park can be found in eastern Arizona, not far from the New Mexico border. Famed for its fantastic fossils, it has excellent hiking for visitors to enjoy, as well as cycling, horseback riding, and camping.

Founded in 1906, the park preserves the remarkable remains of the ancient trees and logs after which it is named. Dating back a scarcely believable 225 million years, the kaleidoscopic colors of the petrified trees are bewitchingly beautiful, particularly when they shimmer in the sun.

While they are the park’s standout sight, there are also the beguiling badlands, home to incredible archaeological sites and pretty petroglyphs. At the Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum, visitors can learn about the area’s interesting history, geology, and nature.

6. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Located just under an hour’s drive to the south of Flagstaff, Montezuma Castle National Monument is home to one of the most impressive and important archaeological sites in the States. Mistakenly named after the famous Aztec emperor by early European explorers, the well-preserved pueblo is now a very popular tourist attraction.

Set in the side of a sheer cliff, the five-story structure has long been protected from the elements by its nature alcove setting that looks out over Beaver Creek. Made out of stone-and-mortar masonry, it showcases the Sinagua people’s exquisite engineering skills and ingenuity.

While entry to the ruins is prohibited to protect its delicate features, visitors can learn all about the pre-Columbian site at its magnificent museum. On top of this, some fabulous photos can be snapped of the captivating castle nestled away in its cliffside.

5. Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument

Situated next to Sunset Crater, the wondrous Wupatki National Monument lies in north-central Arizona, not far from Flagstaff. A fascinating place, it boasts a staggering array of archaeological sites and centuries-old settlements built by the Ancient Pueblo People.

While Wupatki has been inhabited since around 500 AD, the eruption of Sunset Crater led to a population boom as its volcanic ash enriched the surrounding soils. By 1225, however, the site was abandoned, with almost 2,700 structures and the remains of radiant red rock dwellings left behind.

Of these, the multi-story Wupatki Pueblo is the most impressive, with over a hundred rooms and a ball court on show. Visitors can take a short and scenic self-guided tour around the site, stopping off at other settlements such as Citadel, Lomaki, and Nalakihu as they go.

4. Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Another of Arizona’s astounding archaeological sites is Walnut Canyon National Monument, which can be found just to the east of Flagstaff. Set in the side of the steep canyon is a sensational Sinagua settlement, with 25 incredible cliff dwellings for visitors to check out.

Believed to have been built between 1100 and 1250 AD, the range of rooms lie under limestone ledges, nestled deep within the canyon. A lovely looping trail winds down the cliff face, passing the dwellings as it descends.

In the national monument’s museum, visitors can learn more about pre-Columbian culture and the Sinagua people themselves. Besides all the history on show, there is also the canyon and its verdant forest to explore.

3. Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Set entirely within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly National Monument lies in the northeast of Arizona, not far from the New Mexico border. Inhabited for over 5,000 years, the cavernous canyon is home to lots of prehistoric petroglyphs and age-old edifices built by the Ancestral Puebloans.

Hidden among the steep walls of the canyon are countless crumbling cliff dwellings, with the wonderful White House Ruin the most impressive. While there is a lot of ancient history on show, in the 1800s, the canyon was tragically the site of numerous massacres of Native Americans by the Spanish and US Armies, with the infamous Long Walk beginning here.

Besides taking a guided tour and learning all about the Navajo’s history, culture, and heritage, guests can head up to its rim and bask in the beautiful views of the canyon below.

2. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

One of America’s most iconic images and attractions is the majestic Monument Valley, which is set entirely within the Navajo Nation Reservation. Straddling the Arizona-Utah state line, its dramatic desert landscapes are instantly recognizable; they have appeared in countless films and TV shows.

Known to the Navajo as the ‘Valley Between the Rocks,’ its breathtaking buttes and massive mesas rise above the desert of the Colorado Plateau. While their radiant red and fiery orange hues look a treat, their striking silhouettes are just as stunning when viewed against the brilliant blue skies around them.

One the States’ must-see sights, Monument Valley’s breathtaking sandstone buttes will take you back in time to the days of cowboys and Indians and the old American West.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Famed around the world for its size, scale, and splendor, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. Protected and preserved as a national park, it sprawls over a huge swathe of northwestern Arizona, attracting millions of visitors every year.

Formed over billions of years, its dazzling dimensions almost defy description as you approach its rugged rim and see the cavernous canyon seemingly stretch away endlessly before you. Eroded over the aeons by the Colorado River, it reaches a depth of over 1,800 meters, with colorful cliffs, awe-inspiring landscapes, and phenomenal views wherever you look.

Besides basking in its beauty and exploring its extraordinary trails, the national park also has a great Geology Museum and terrific Trail of Time exhibition where you can learn all about the canyon’s lovely layered landscapes. Widely considered to be one of the Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is the highlight of many people’s visit to Arizona.

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Arizona Journey

Arizona National Parks and Monuments: All 31 Stunning Sites listed here!

Arizona National Parks & Monuments, USA-Saguaro cactus

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission at no extra charge to you.

Last Updated on March 28, 2023

With so many National Parks and Monuments in Arizona, it can be overwhelming when trying to plan a visit. This list breaks it down so you can choose the best sights for your interests.

A wide array of Arizona National Parks and Monuments greet visitors throughout the state. The parks range from magnificent natural wonders to ancient historic sights. Therefore, there’s something for everyone. For example, there are sites of outstanding natural beauty, indigenous culture, and American history. Here’s our list of over 30 national sites to visit in Arizona.

The Grand Canyon gets most of the attention (and visitors)⏤but you probably know that already! However, take some time to discover the many other wonderful national sites in the state. The result will be worth it! These 30+ sites are scattered throughout the state. Because of this, you’re never far away from a national park or monument during your Arizona vacation.

arizona national parks tour

NOTE: You can use the table of contents below to jump directly to your site of interest. Or scroll through the list to browse the many Arizona National Parks and Monuments throughout the state.

In this post

How many national parks are there in Arizona?

There are 3 National Parks in Arizona: Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro. There is 1 National Historical Park: Tumacacori. In total there are 31 sites in Arizona with some type of “national” designation that are managed by the National Park Service and/or the Bureau of Land Management, or a combination of local authorities. The remainder of the sites are either National Monuments, National Historic Sites or National Recreation areas.

PRO TIP: Opening times and certain services at Arizona national parks and monuments may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check with each park prior to visiting.

1-Agua Fria National Monument

Petroglyphs of animals on rocks, mountains in background

Agua Fria is a large preserved area of mesa along with the canyon of the Agua Fria River. Additionally, the visitors can explore the stone masonry remains of Pueblo la Plata, a prehistoric site. The 70,000-acre monument spans elevations from roughly 2,100 to 4,600 feet. This means there is a wide variation in wildlife and vegetation, including the famous saguaro cactus at the lower altitudes.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 40 miles north of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Historic Ruins, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Hunting, Camping
  • Facilities & Services: None, bring all supplies
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • More information: Agua Fria National Monument

2-Arizona National Scenic Trail

Cactus blooming with mountains in background

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is over 800 miles long and runs from the Mexican border to the Utah state line. The Arizona Trail is divided into 43 passages, you can explore as much or as little of it as you like. (You don’t have to do all 800 miles . . . but you can if you’d like). The trail begins in the south with the Huachuca Mountains. It ends in Northern Arizona at Buckskin Mountain Passage. The trail passes through (or near) many Arizona National Parks and Monuments. Similarly, you’ll also get to explore as well as some National Forest land.

  • Location: Passes roughly through the center of the state, running 800 miles from North to South
  • Reason to visit: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding
  • Managed by: National Forest Service (NFS), in conjunction with agencies who manage the territories that the trail passes through.
  • More information: Arizona Trail Association

3-Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly with riverbed and trees

Canyon de Chelly is a special place. The monument encompasses a magnificent red rock canyon that has been inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years (yes, five thousand!). This is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that is fully contained within the Navajo Nation reservation. Due to this unusual configuration, 40 families still live within the park’s boundaries even today. Drives with multiple lookout points (many of which are wheelchair accessible) provide a peek into this special place. Hikes into the canyon must be accompanied by either a Park Ranger or Navajo Guide.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 100 miles southwest of Four Corners
  • Reason to visit: Scenic drives, hiking (guided), Navajo and ancient Pueblo culture
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, Guided tours, Accessible paths
  • Managed by: National Park Service & the Navajo Nation
  • More information: Canyon de Chelly

4-Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Great House ruins with canopy

Casa Grande is a collection of ruins from an ancient farming community of Sonoran Desert Peoples. The ruins date from the mid 1400s. Because little documentation regarding the structures exist, its overall purpose is still a mystery. But the extensive ruins make a fascinating visit.

Due to its location midway between Phoenix and Tucson, its one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that makes a nice detour while traveling between those two cities.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Tour ancient ruins
  • Facilities & Services: Guided tours, gift shop, picnic grounds
  • Managed by: National Park Service (NPS)
  • More information: Casa Grande Ruins

5-Chiricahua National Monument

Rhyolyte rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument

If you love rocks, Chiricahua is your kind of place. Nearly 27 million years ago the nearby Turkey creek volcano erupted. As a result, this valley is filled with towering “rock needles.” These giant rock towers look like giants were playing with building blocks 27 million years ago. The nearly 12,000-acre park has 17 miles of hiking trails and an 8-mile paved scenic drive. Because of its location in an avian flyway, Chiricahua is also terrific for birding.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 120 miles southeast of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Ancient rock formations, hiking, camping, birding
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms and drinking water; camping at Bonito Canyon
  • Managed by: National Park Service
  • More information: Chiricahua National Monument

6-Coronado National Memorial

arizona national parks tour

Coronado National Memorial offers a glimpse into two things: first, the history of the region. Secondly, Coronado showcases the area’s natural beauty. Many scholars believe that the  Coronado Expedition  of 1540-1542 passed through this region alongside the Mexican border. A visitor center explores the lasting impacts on the culture of northwest Mexico and the southwestern United States.

The park is also a nature lover’s paradise. The area incorporates four distinct ecological zones: Sierra Madre, Chihuahua Desert, Rocky Mountain, and Sonoran Desert. The flora and fauna are represented in the park’s diverse landscape. Explore hiking trails through oak woodands, piñon-juniper, grasslands, and riparian corridors. Spelunkers will love the natural  limestone cave , while drivers will appreciate the sweeping vistas from  Coronado Peak .

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 90 miles southeast of Tucson, along the Mexican border.
  • Reason to visit: Cultural history, hiking, birding, cave exploring.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms and drinking water.
  • More information: Coronado National Memorial

7-Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Ruins of Fort Bowie

Fort Bowie and Apache Pass was the site of nearly 25 years of conflict between the Chiricahua Apache and the US Army in the late 1800s. Learn about this turbulent history at the visitor center and nearby graveyard and fort ruins.

NOTE: For most visitors, the visitor center and ruins are only accessible via a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area at the trailhead. Consequently, visitors requiring ADA access can drive to the site by prior arrangement with the Park Service. See driving access to Fort Bowie for more information.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, about 120 miles east of Tucson.
  • Reason to visit: Native American and Old West history.
  • Facilities & Services: Interpretive visitor center, restrooms.
  • More information: Fort Bowie

8-Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Horseshoe Bend

Glen Canyon is a massive 1.25 million–acre (yes million! ) park that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah. The majority of the park is in Utah, however the main entrance is in Arizona, near the town of Page. From here you can visit Glen Canyon Dam . This engineering marvel damming the Colorado River creates Lake Powell to the north, where you can enjoy water sports aplenty.

Those looking for a terrific photo op can visit the now-famous Horseshoe Bend at the southern end of Glen Canyon. But there are other wonderful things to see and do in this vast recreation area, such as visiting the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook (for views similar to Horseshoe Bend with less crowds), and the soothing greenery on the Hanging Gardens Trail .

  • Location: Northern Arizona (near the Utah state line), about 275 miles north of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Water sports, hiking, stunning scenery, tour Glen Canyon Dam.
  • Facilities & Services: Multiple visitor centers, gift shops, restrooms, water, campsites, ADA accessible trails.
  • More information: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

9-Grand Canyon National Park

Long distance view of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is “the Big Kahuna” of Arizona National Parks and Monuments. And for good reason: it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World . [Full disclosure: this is the only place I’ve ever been that actually left me speechless. I couldn’t get over the vast beauty of it. I’m not sure which amazed my husband more, the grandeur of the scenery, or my inablity to talk. 😆]

The park encompasses over 1,900 square miles of land, including its namesake canyon. The Grand Canyon itself averages 1 mile DEEP, following 277 miles of the Colorado River. In some spots it’s almost 18 miles wide. No wonder they call it “Grand”!

The Grand Canyon is one of Arizona’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming approximately 6 million visitors per year. As a result, there are extensive facilities, including several options for lodging in Grand Canyon National Park . (Be sure to reserve early, as these get booked, especially during the summer.) Consider visiting the Grand Canyon in November , when the weather is still mild and the summer crowds have gone.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, about 225 miles north of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery, hiking, cycling, rafting, scenic drives, camping.
  • Facilities & Services: Multiple visitor centers, gift shops, restrooms, water, hotels/lodges, campsites, ADA accessible trails.
  • More information: Grand Canyon National Park

10-Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument is unique among Arizona National Parks and Monuments. It is located within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation. One of the largest known ancient Hohokam villages, Snaketown, is located there. Excavations have revealed that the area was inhabited from about 300 B.C. to 1,200 A.D, and include the largest scientifically excavated collection of whole artifacts from the Hohokam Culture are.

In order to protect the fragile site, the Gila River Indian Community has closed the Snaketown site to visitors. However, many of the magnificent artifacts are on display at the nearby Huhugam Heritage Center . Visit to see elaborately decorated whole pots, stone bowls, and bone artifacts, and to learn more about the Hohokam culture.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 20 miles south of Phoenix.
  • Reason to visit: Large display of ancient Hohokam artifacts, learn about ancient culture.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center/museum, restrooms.
  • Managed by: Gila River Indian Community
  • More information: Hohokam Pima National Monument and Huhugam Heritage Center

11-Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Old trading post building, Hubbell Trading Post

Hubbell Trading Post is unique among national historic sites: it is still active! The post was founded in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell as a place where local Navajo peoples could trade their wares for household goods. Hubbell operated several posts throughout the region, however this was his home.

Today Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest continuously operating trading post in the southwest. Visitors can shop for Native American arts and crafts, and even watch some Navajo weavers creating their masterpiece rugs. Tours of the historic family home and farm are available, and there are picnic grounds on site. *NOTE: Hubbell Trading Post is located on Navajo Nation lands, which observes Daylight Savings Time (unlike the state of Arizona).

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 150 miles northeast of Flagstaff.
  • Reason to visit: Historic “shopping” experience, Native American arts and crafts, historic homestead.
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, Active trading post with crafts, gifts, snacks, picnic area, restrooms.
  • Managed by: Western National Parks Association
  • More information: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

12-Ironwood Forest National Monument

Petroglyphs in desert, Ironwood National Monument

Ironwood is for those who like their parks and scenery “raw and uncut.” This massive (129,000 acres) site contains no facilities or services. As a result, be prepared to bring whatever you need.

 Most importantly, humans have inhabited the area for more than 5,000 years. For those who like a little ancient culture mixed in with their wildlife, Ironwood Forest National Monument has three areas of archaeological interest. The Los Robles Archeological District, the Mission of Santa Ana del Chiquiburitac and the Cocoraque Butte Archaeological District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 25 miles northwest of Tucson.
  • Reason to visit: Wildlife, native plants, petroglyphs, archaeological sites, hunting, camping.
  • Facilities & Services: None. Bring all supplies.
  • More information: Ironwood Forest National Monument

13-Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Men in historic dress in desert with saguaro cactus

In 1776, Spanish Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led more than 240 men, women, and children from New Spain (now Mexico) through Arizona to establish a settlement in California. The 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail follows the route of the first colonists to travel overland through the southwest to establish San Francisco.

Beginning in Nogales, Arizona, the trail travels approximately 350 miles through southwestern Arizona. After that, it turns north in California. The trail passes through several important historical sites along the way, including Casa Grande and Tumacacori (see below). Following this trail is an excellent way to see several historic sites in context; as a result, you can connect events of the past.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona, from Nogales, north through Tucson to Phoenix, then west to Yuma.
  • Reason to visit: Follow the trail of an historic expedition, see multiple historic sites.
  • Facilities & Services: Marked autoroute; detailed maps of each county the trail passes through
  • Managed by: National Park Service, in conjunction with local agencies and organizations at sites along the way.
  • More information: Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

14-Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Marina at Lake Mead

Lake Mead National Recreation Area straddles the Arizona and Nevada borders along the Colorado River. It was the first National Recreation Area created by the National Park Service, and it is HUUUUGE! The area encompasses 1.5 million (yep, MILLION) acres of both land and water. It is also the site of the famous Hoover Dam.

Of all the Arizona national parks and monuments, this is the one that probably has the most water. The area includes mountains, valleys, canyons, wilderness areas, and two large lakes (Lake Mead and Lake Mojave). Because of the lakes, this recreation area is terrific for boating and fishing, as well as camping and hiking and exploring. It also makes a great base for exploring much of northern Arizona, including the Grand Canyon.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona (the corner bordering Nevada)
  • Reason to visit: Boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, hunting
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, multiple campgrounds (both tent and camper), boat ramps, marinas, food and fuel services, shops (both gifts and provisions)
  • More information: Lake Mead National Recreation Area

15-Montezuma Castle National Monument

Cliff dwellin at Montezuma Castle National Monumnet

Montezuma Castle is one of the largest ancient cliff dwellings in the country. The structure was built by the Sinagua people over 600 years ago. It’s a massive 40-50 room “apartment complex” carved out of a rock face. The structure is fragile, consequently, in order to preserve the structure, visitors cannot climb into the dwelling. However, it’s still astounding to view it from the valley floor.

You can visit an additional cliff dwelling site is located about 11 miles north of the “castle.” Known as Montezuma Well , this structure is not as large as Montezuma Castle . However, the smaller size allows you to view the structure from a closer vantage point. Take this shady hike; it makes a nice change from much of Arizona’s desert landscape.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 90 miles north of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient culture and architecture.
  • Facilities & Services: Montezuma Castle has a Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, along with picnic grounds. Montezuma Well has picnic grounds and pit toilets.
  • More information: Montezuma Castle National Monument

16-Navajo National Monument

Cliff dwellings, Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument offers visitors the opportunity to see ancient cliff dwellings amidst spectacular desert sandstone scenery. Three distinct cliff dwelling sites that date to the 1300s are housed within the monument grounds. Two sites (Betatakin and Keet Seel) are available to visit. This is one of the Arizona national Parks and monuments contained within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, offering an excellent opportunity to seek out some Native American Frybread for a meal or snack.

Self-guided trails provide a tour of the canyon and an overlook of the Betatakin cliff dwellings. Those interested in seeing cliff dwelling sites up-close must sign up for a ranger-guided tour. Tours to Betatakin involve 3-5 hours hiking over steep terrain. Keet Seel is more remote: tours are by reservation only, and involve a 17-mile round trip hike. Camping is available near the trailhead. More information is available at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument .

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona, about 140 miles northeast of Flagstaff
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings, camping.
  • More information: Navajo National Monument

17-Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail

Dry riverbed in Virgin River Canyon, Old Spanish Trail, Arizona

The Old Spanish Trail commemorates the trading route that connected goods and people between Mexico and the fledgling United States. The trail begins in Santa Fe, New Mexico and splits into a few branches through Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada before rejoining near Los Angeles, California. Due to its connection with other states, the branch of the trail in Arizona ambles very near the state’s northern border with Utah.

Following the Trail is an excellent way to string together several Arizona National Parks and Monuments in the southwest since it connects multiple sites. Use this interactive map of Arizona sights on the Old Spanish Trail to help plan your route through this historic and scenic countryside.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah
  • Reason to visit: Follow historic trade route, connect multiple Arizona National Parks and Monuments and parks
  • Facilities & Services: Distinctive National Trail Signage ; see related listings for facilities at sites along the Trail
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Old Spanish National Historic Trail

18-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe cactus silhouette in sunset

The magnificent cacti of the Sonoran Desert are on spectacular display at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. There are 516 square miles of territory to explore the flora and fauna of this unique landscape, which has been designated and International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Because of this Biosphere designation, it’s a popular spot for birding as well as spotting other types of wildlife and desert plants, including a gorgeous display of Arizona wildflowers in Spring. There are also some remains of abandoned mines and ancient cultures that are accessible via hiking trails.

This is an excellent park to visit if you’d like a fair amount of land to yourself. Organ Pipe has a similar landscape to Saguaro National Park near Tucson, yet gets only 1/4 the number of visitors annually. No matter what level of “outdoorsy” you are, Organ Pipe National Monument has you covered. Since this is such a vast park, there are scenic drives, hiking trails and spots for both RV and tent camping.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona, about 125 miles west of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Explore a the unique ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert, hiking, camping, horseback riding
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center with displays, bookstore, restrooms; scenic drives, hiking trails, RV and tent campsites, backcountry camping
  • More information: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

19-Parashant National Monument (Grand Canyon)

SUV in desert at Parashant National Monument

Parashant National Monument is one of several Arizona National Parks and Monuments located in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. This is a terrific destination for those who love the rough and rugged outdoors amid stunning scenery. The million square miles that make up Parashant border the northern boundary of the Grand Canyon in the extreme northwest corner of Arizona. Although the monument is in Arizona, there are entrances from Nevada and Utah. Due to its location north of the Grand Canyon, the information center located in St. George, Utah.

NOTE: There are no paved roads in Parashant. Most roads that do exist require a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. Check here for a list of scenic drives at Parashant National Monument , which includes descriptions of vehicle requirments.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah and Nevada
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery, very few people, off-roading, backcountry camping
  • Facilities & Services: No services within the monument boundaries. There is an information center in St. George, Utah
  • More information: Parashant National Monument

20-Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified tree trunks in foreground, with badlands peak in background

Anyone taking a road trip through Arizona along historic Route 66 should plan to explore a few Arizona National Parks and Monuments. Petrified Forest National Park is probably the the most convenient. The park is super-easy to access: it straddles Interstate 40, and there’s an exit right into the park! Route 66 and I-40 are combined along this stretch, so if you’re road-tripping Route 66, you will literally pass through the park on our drive.

Sure, you can come here to see the petrified logs that made the park famous. But there’s also a lot more to see here. Petrified Forest National Park is full of badlands, buttes and mesas that contain ancient petroglyphs, fossils, wildlife and wildflowers. If you only have an hour or so, you can see some spectacular view from your car, with a few stops at overlooks. Stretch your road-trip legs by walking one of the short maintained trails. Or hike into the backcountry along for some desert solitude one of the “Off the Beaten Path” routes.

PRO TIP: Petrified Forest National Park is pet-friendly, and gives your fur babies a chance to get some exercise too!

  • Location: Eastern Arizona, along Interstate 40, about 125 miles east of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Startling “other-worldly” landscape, hiking, biking, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center (2), with museum, gift shop, snacks, restrooms; hiking trails, pet-friendly
  • More information: Petrified Forest National Park

21-Pipe Spring National Monument

Stone homestead of Pipe Spring National Monument

Life was tough for travelers passing through the high desert in the 1800s. Temperatures were extreme and water was scarce. Therefore, when Mormon settlers discovered the fresh water oasis at Pipe Spring, they knew it was something special. Native Americans (the Kaibab Paiute) had been using the oasis for hundreds of years already. As you can imagine, the arrival of the newcomers caused some conflict.

Today, you can get a glimpse into oasis life at Pipe Spring National Monument. This is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that offers live demonstrations. Tour the historic Mormon homestead and (still working!) farm. You can purchase heirloom fruits and vegetables in season, which also includes Native American corn, beans and melons.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona, near the Utah border
  • Reason to visit: Visit historic spring and ranch site; learn about Native American and Mormon cultures
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center with museum, bookstore, restrooms; historic ranch with animals, fresh heirloom fruits and vegetables (in season)
  • More information: Pipe Spring National Monument

22-Saguaro National Park

Multiple Saguaro cactus in the late afternoon sun, with mountains in the background, one of many Arizona National Parks and Monuments

There is probably no plant more associated with the American Southwest than the giant Saguaro cactus. You can find these magnificent spiny structures growing at specific altitudes throughout southern Arizona. See these beauties, along with cholla, ocatillo, prickly pear, and other desert wildlife at Saguaro National Park.

The park is unique among Arizona National Parks and Monuments in that it is divided into an East and West section, with the city of Tucson in between. It makes a great day trip if you’re visiting Tucson. You can take a slow drive through each section. But the cacti are so beautiful. Therefore, we recommend one of the many hikes to really see the cacti up close. 🌵

  • Location: South central Arizona, immediately east and west of Tucson (2 separate branches of the park)
  • Reason to visit: Explore the Sonoran Desert, hiking, drives, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center (2) with exhibits, bookstore, restrooms, drinking water; hiking trails, scenic drives, camping
  • More information: Saguaro National Park

23-Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

Tumacacori cemetery with trees overhead

The watershed of the Santa Cruz Valley has been home to settlers for thousands of years, making it an area rich in history and culture. In 2019 the National Park Service connected three national sites along the Santa Cruz river and created the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area. This newly-formed area helps put the vast and varied history of the area into context.

The National Heritage Area includes JUAN BAUTISTA DE ANZA NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL ,  SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK ,  TUMACÁCORI NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (all listed here in this post). Information about how the sites relate to one another is available at each of them. Since this is a relatively new (and creative!) entity among Arizona National Parks and Monuments, look for many new and exciting programs in the coming years.

  • Location: Southern Arizona, between Tucson and the Mexican border
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic Spanish and Native American Sights and desert landscapes
  • Facilities & Services: See individual sights for more information
  • More information: Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

24-Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert with saguaro cactus in foreground, mountains in background

If you love saguaro cactus and a desert landscape, but want something a bit more rough and rustic than Saguaro National Park, try Sonoran Desert National Monument. The nearly half-million acre area has limited facilities, but lots of desert beauty.

You can hike or ride horses on trails in one of three designated wilderness areas. Hunters will enjoy the vast acreage dedicated to that sport. And a side note to history lovers: the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (listed above) passes through this park.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 65 miles southwest of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: Explore desert landscape; hiking, horseback riding, camping, hunting
  • Facilities & Services: Limited restroom facilities
  • Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
  • More information: Sonoran Desert National Monument

25-Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The cinder cone of Sunset Crater

There’s a whole lotta geology going on throughout Arizona. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument gives you a chance to glimpse some of that up close and personal. You can view the cinder cone of Sunset Crater, an extinct volcano that erupted about 1,000 years ago. (That’s practically “last month” in geology terms!)

Hike the Lava Flow Trail, which takes you along some other-worldly landscapes that make you feel like you’re in a Star Wars episode. Then plant yourself in the cinder-coated center of nearby Lenox Crater, the park’s smaller volcano and stare off toward Sunset Crater in the distance. Because of this juxtaposition, you can imagine what it must have been like with the lava rumbling and ready to explode.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 20 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore remains of ancient volcano, hiking, scenic drives, camping
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, restrooms, picnic grounds, campgrounds
  • More information: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

26-Tonto National Monument

Ancient cliff dwelling with scrub in foreground, Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument is an excellent place to learn about the Salado and their culture. The Salado were a society who lived approximately 700 years ago. They blended multiple Native American cultures and developed sophisticated cliff dwellings. Tonto preserves two of these remarkable building complexes. Many cliff dwellings elsewhere are only visible from a distance, however at Tonto you can get right in or near the structures.

There are two sets of dwellings at Tonto. Because they are perched in cliffs, you must walk a fairly steep path to reach them. You reach the (smaller) Lower Dwelling via a half-mile hike. To reach the (larger) Upper Dwelling, you must book a tour with a park ranger for a guided 3-mile (round trip) hike.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 115 miles east of Phoenix
  • Reason to visit: See ancient cliff dwellings
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • More information: Tonto National Monument

27-Tumacacori National Historical Park

Tumacacori Mission with scattered clouds above

Tumacacori is located on the Santa Cruz River. Because of this irrigated location, it has been a site of settlement for multiple cultures for centuries. Of all the Arizona National Parks and Monuments, it is probably the one that provides the most insight into how civilization developed in the region. Today the historic Mission and surrounding community are preserved at Tumacacori National Historical Park.

The heart of the Mission is the beautifully preserved 16th century church, surrounded by many outbuildings. As a result, there are many buildings to visit. Be sure to explore the historic convento . Despite its religious-sounding name, the convento was a sort of 16th-century shopping arcade.

  • Location: South central Arizona, about 45 miles south of Tucson
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic church and mission grounds; learn about two unique cultures: Spanish and Native American.
  • Facilities & Services: Museum, Visitor Center, gift shop, restrooms, cultural events and demonstrations
  • More information: Tumacacori National Historical Park

28-Tuzigoot National Monument

View of stone tower remains at Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot gives us insight to the Sinagua peoples that inhabited the Verde Valley nearly 1,000 years ago. Remains of a stone pueblo are perched on a ridge overlooking the Verde River. At one time this large pueblo contained between 80 and 160 rooms! As a result, you can still see the outline of many of the pueblo rooms today. Be sure to look for the “tower room,” which is perched atop the center of the pueblo structure.

Tuzigoot is one of the Arizona National Parks and Monuments that makes a nice day excursion when touring the Sedona area.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 110 miles north of Phoenix
  • Nearest town: Cottonwood
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient Sinagua pueblo
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms, picnic grounds
  • Managed by: National Park Service, Western National Parks Association
  • More information: Tuzigoot National Monument

29-Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Man looking out over rock formations at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Want to go off-roading amidst some eye-bending scenery? Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is for you. This 280,000-acre chunk of northern Arizona is chock-full of weird and wonderful rock formations. Think “Dr. Seuss in the American Southwest.” You’ll see cliffs with squiggly stripes of white and orange and peaks that look like giant melting sand castles. It’s the sort of place you’ll use up an entire film card taking photos!

Be advised that among Arizona National Parks and Monuments, this is one of the most rugged: you MUST have high-clearance four-wheel drive in Vermillion Cliffs. There are no paved roads, and lots of potential places to get stuck. Check the website for info on permits and recommended driving routes. And bring LOTS of water!

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah, about 125 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore stunning rock formations, hiking, camping
  • Facilities & Services: None; nearest services are 40-50 miles away in Kanab, UT and Page, AZ
  • More information: Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

30-Walnut Canyon National Monument

Cliff dwelling alongside hiking path in the forest, Walnut Canyon National Monument

Imagine taking a hike in the forest and coming upon an ancient dwelling tucked into the rock face along the trail. That’s what it’s like at Walnut Canyon National Monument. You feel like an explorer who’s just made a historic discovery!

Small ancient cliff dwellings are tucked into a forested canyon. You hike along the 1-mile Rim Trail, admire nature, and BAM! There it is, a row of rooms tucked under a rock ledge. You can even enter some of the dwellings. It’s awesome.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 12 miles east of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore historic cliff dwellings
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms
  • More information: Walnut Canyon National Monument

31-Wupatki National Monument

A view of Wukoki pueblo on the plains at Wupatki National Monument

Waupatki National Monument showcases a collection of red stone pueblo remains. The Waupatki pueblos are out on the open plain. As a result, these pueblos are very different from the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon.

You can take a series of short ( 1/4-1/2 mile) hikes to explore six different pueblos. Join a Ranger-guided hikes to explore more distant sites. Ranger hikes are 2-3 miles and 2-3 hours long. The truly intrepid can sign up for an 18-20 mile overnight hike. Submit your name to a lottery for these limited capacity hikes, held in the spring and fall.

  • Location: North central Arizona, about 30 miles north of Flagstaff
  • Reason to visit: Explore ancient pueblo ruins
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms
  • More information: Waupatki National Monument

No matter where you go in the state, Arizona National Parks and Monuments are not far away. Be sure to seek them out and see some of the truly stunning natural and historic sites preserved in the landscape!


arizona national parks tour

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Voyages with Val

7 Day Utah Arizona Road Trip- Southwest National Parks Itinerary

7 Day Utah Arizona Road Trip- Southwest National Parks Itinerary

When you think of an  American Southwest road trip  what comes to mind? My mind instantly goes too long stretches of highway surrounded by the beautiful desert landscape. America’s stunning natural beauty is on display all around you, and there is a feeling of pure freedom that can only come from being on a road trip with endless possibilities for adventure. Utah and Arizona contain some of the best and most unique views in all of North America, and a road trip is the best way to experience them. Plan a  7-day Utah and Arizona road trip  from Las Vegas through National and State Parks unlike anywhere else. This week-long Southwest road trip itinerary will take you from  Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Moab, Bryce Canyon,  and  Zion National Park. The itinerary below has a list of the best hikes, things to do, and places to stay near each of these National Parks and towns.

Map of Utah and Arizona National Parks Road Trip

Map of Utah Arizona Road Trip

The  Utah Arizona road trip map  above begins in Las Vegas and travels through the iconic sites of the Southwest. Travel from  Las Vegas  to the  Grand Canyon  to watch the sunrise over the canyon. You will then travel to  Page, Arizona  to hike through Antelope Canyon and view Horseshoe Bend. You can take a detour through Monument Valley on your way to  Moab  to spend some time in the  Arches and Canyonlands National Parks . Finally, you will head back West through  Bryce and Zion National Parks. 

The whole 7-day trip will take over  1000 miles  and  20 hours of driving , averaging around  1 to 5 hours  of driving a day. This will leave you plenty of time to hike and sightsee at each stop.  Rent a car or van  from Las Vegas to make sure you can make your days flexible.

7 Day Arizona Utah Road Trip Itinerary

utah arizona 7 day road trip itinerary

Day 1: Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon National Park

arizona national parks tour

  • Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Distance: 279 miles
  • Drive Time: 4 hours 24 minutes

Begin your Southwest Road Trip heading from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park . You will likely want to head to the South Rim which is more accessible and better for a short trip than the North Rim. On your way to the Grand Canyon, you will drive parallel or on the Historic Route 66 for sections leading up to Williams, Arizona. Williams is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” It is the last major town before you take AZ-64 the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon.

The entrance fee for the Grand Canyon is $35 per vehicle , valid for 1 week. However, if you will be visiting more than three National Park in a year (and you will be visiting 5 on this itinerary!) it is worth it to buy the $80 America the Beautiful Pass which allows entry to all National Parks and Recreational Land for one year.

Most of the parking is near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center if you are not staying at one of the lodges near the Grand Canyon Village. There are a variety of bus routes to take you from the Village and Visitor Center to the trailheads along the South Rim and the nearby community of Tusayan which has hotels and places to eat if you are not staying inside the National Park.

Sunset and Sunrise Spots at the Grand Canyon

view from Mather Point in the Grand Canyon at sunrise

Depending on when you arrive at the Grand Canyon you can watch the  sunset along the South Rim . If you arrive too late for sunset, you can also check out these places early in the morning to watch the  sunrise over the Grand Canyon . 

  • Mather Point – This is the most popular place to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. However, this place can get extremely crowded due to its proximity to the Visitor Center. If the actual point is crowded you can walk further along the South Rim Trail until you find a spot that catches your eye. 
  • Yavapai Point – There is a small parking area near Yavapai Point, but you can also hike a little over half a mile from Mather Point along the Rim Trail. 
  • Yaki Point – Yaki Point is another viewpoint for sunset or sunrise at the Grand Canyon. You will need to take the Kaibab Rim Shuttle Route from the Visitor Center to the overlook, which starts at 4:30 AM and runs until just after sunset. 
  • Hopi Point – Hopi Point is one of the overlooks on Hermit Road. In the winter you can drive your own car to the overlooks on Hermit Road. However, from March through November, there is a shuttle route you must take along the road. 

Grand Canyon South Rim Day Hikes

view from ooh aah point the best day hike in the Grand Canyon

The most obvious thing to do in the Grand Canyon is to go hiking! Walk along the rim or hike down partway into the canyon to see some of the best views in the US and take in the majesty of the canyon. Below are a few  trails at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim . 

  • Ooh Aah Point – 1.8 miles, 684 feet
  • Cedar Ridge – 2.8 miles, 1,102 feet
  • Skeleton Point – 5.8 miles, 2027 feet
  • Grand Canyon Rim Trail – The entire Rim Trail is  13 miles long , but many hike for just a short section to take in the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. The Rim Trail is paved and  allows leashed dogs . 
  • Bright Angel Trail –  15.3 miles, 4478 feet, Difficult – The Bright Angel Trail starts at the Grand Canyon Village and continues down to the bottom of the canyon. Like South Kaibab Trail you can hike just part of the trail and turn around. A popular route is to hike to the  1.5 Mile or 3 miles Resthouse . 
  • Shoshone Point Trail –  2.2 miles, 154 feet, Easy – This is a short, easy trail that leads to a fantastic view of the Grand Canyon with some picnic tables. There is some parking right near the trailhead right off  Desert View Drive . 

Other Things To Do in Grand Canyon South Rim

view from the Grand Canyon South Rim

There is more to do in the Grand Canyon than hiking! Below are a few more things to do on the South Rim including places to see that you don’t want to miss!

  • Hermit Road Viewpoints – Take the shuttle to more jaw-dropping views including  Maricopa Point Powell Point, Mohave Point,  and  Pima Point . December through February you can drive your own car to these viewpoints. 
  • Bike Along Hermit Road – Don’t feel like hiking or taking the shuttle? You can rent a bike or eBike and bike along the  7 mile  Hermit Road instead. You can bike one way and take the shuttle back. Rent your bike right next to the Visitor Center at  Bright Angel Bicycles .
  • Yavapai Museum of Geology – Located in Grand Canyon Village, Yavapai Geology Museum has large panoramic windows that allow you to look out and learn about the geology of the canyon. 
  • Desert View Watchtower – This  7 story watchtower  is an icon of the Grand Canyon. The parking for the tower is just past the East Entrance to the park off Desert View Road. The upper levels of the tower are closed to the public but you can take in the views around the tower and visit the trading post and market nearby. 

Where To Stay Near the Grand Canyon

Hotels near the grand canyon.

  • Bright Angel Lodge
  • El Tovar Hotel
  • Red Feather Lodge

Camping Near the Grand Canyon

  • Mather Campground
  • Grand Canyon Camper Village
  • Ten-X Campground

Day 2: Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona

girl hiking through antelope canyon in Page, Arizona

  • Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona Distance: 139 miles
  • Drive Time: 2 hours 26 minutes

On the second day of your Utah and Arizona Road Trip, get up early to watch the sunrise at one of the great viewing locations along the Grand Canyon mentioned above. You can either spend more time at the Grand Canyon or head to Page Arizona to have more time to spend during your one day in Page .

To get to Page from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon , head East on AZ-64 before continuing North on US-89 for a total of 139 miles. Page, Arizona is not a large town by any means, but what it lacks in size it makes up for by the sheer number of things to do and see in the area. This is one of the only days on your Southwest Road Trip not spent primarily in a National Park, but you will still see many iconic Southwest formations from slot canyons to the iconic Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell, you will not soon forget your day in Page.

Antelope Canyon

red rock slot canyon in Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon should be at the top of any  itinerary for Page . There are two sections:  Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon . Upper Antelope Canyon is the more well-known one and what many prioritize in a short time frame. 

The  Upper Antelope Canyon  is located within Navajo Nation and access is only allowed with an  authorized tour guide . Tour companies include  Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours ,  Antelope Canyon Tours ,  and  Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours . Most tours are an  hour and a half  long, although some may be longer. Prices for a tour are typically around  $100  per person (as of 2022). However, the price is well worth it to see and hike among the iconic wavy slots and gaze on the light beams that streak in.

Lower Antelope Canyon

If you want to see Antelope Canyon a little different or more adventurous way you can instead plan on visiting  Lower Antelope Canyon . Much of the Lower Canyon still is part of the Navajo Nation and requires a guide. However, there is another less-known section that can  only be accessed by a kayak  or other small boat. 

Kayaking into and then hiking the Lower Antelope Canyon is a great experience if you want to explore at your own pace with  fewer crowds . In total transparency, the views are not known for being quite as iconic as the Upper Antelope Canyon, but it is still a beautiful and unique slot canyon! This is what we did upon visiting Page, and I don’t regret it one bit. 

You are not required to book a tour guide for this, but it is still recommended if you are not experienced with the area and possible dangers.   Lake Powell Adventure Company  is one such tour company that will rent you the kayak and guide you through kayaking and hiking portion of the canyon. These tours do tend to be longer than the Upper Antelope Canyon tours (around  4 hours ) so reserve ahead of time and plan accordingly. 

Horseshoe Bend

the view from Horseshoe Bend's lookout in Page, Arizona

On your way into Page from the Grand Canyon, you will drive right past  Horseshoe Bend . Stop on your way in, or backtrack later in the day to witness this Southwest landmark. The parking lot is only  5 miles  from Page so it is a quick drive from the town. 

It is important to know that there is a  $10 fee  for the parking lot to help keep the trail and viewpoint clean and maintained. The trail to the bend is only a  0.7-mile hike  on a wide, mostly paved path. There are even several small spots with overhangs if you need a short break. Despite the short distance you should still protect yourself from the sun and  bring plenty of water  since this trail is completely exposed to the elements. 

While Horseshoe Bend is worth visiting at any time of day the best time will be sunrise or sunset . At sunset, the canyon will be going into the shade, and you can see the sunset to the West. At sunrise, it will still be cool out and the bend will slowly light up. 

Other Things To Do in Page, Arizona

If you have a bit more time, there are many other things to do in Page Arizona.

  • Lake Powell-  Lake Powell was formed by the  Glen Canyon Dam  and there is any number of water activities you can participate in on the lake. 
  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument – The Vermillion Cliffs are 40 miles from Page. The most famous trail here is  The Wave , which requires a lottery to obtain permits. However, there are still plenty of other hikes and trails to see. 
  • Rimview Trail – The Page Rimview trail encircles much of the town of Page and is an easy  10-mile loop  that you can hike, bike, or run around. 

Read More: Best Things To Do with One Day in Page

Where to Stay Near Page

Hotels in page, arizona.

  • Best Western- View of Lake Powell
  • Lake Powell Resort
  • Country Inn & Suites

Camping near Page, Arizona

  • Camping near Glen Canyon Recreation Area
  • Wahweap RV and Campground
  • Page Lake Powell Campground

Day 3: Page to Moab

view of dead horse point state park canyon in Utah

  • Page, Arizona to Moab, Utah Distance: 269 miles
  • Drive Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Get an early start to the third day of your week-long Southwest road trip. Today you will head North from Arizona into the equally scenic Utah. The fastest route from  Page to Moab  is to head South on AZ-98 before taking US-160 and US-191 for the remainder of the drive. 

However, if you can spare a few minutes, you can take a detour on  US-163  to drive through  Monument Valley . Monument Valley is located right on the Utah-Arizona border as part of the  Navajo Nation . You may recognize this place from the iconic Forest Gump scene filmed right on US-163. 

The  17-mile long  Valley Drive   is a dirt road with many overlooks that you can stop at and enjoy the scenery. There is a small fee to take the drive, and it takes  2 to 4 hours  to complete. If you can’t make the drive, you can still get quite the view of the monuments along US-163 as you drive through. 

Once you make it to Moab, Utah, you can spend your time adventuring around Moab or hiking nearby. If you only have time for one thing in the afternoon in Moab, I would recommend heading to  Dead Horse Point State Park . Here you can hike part of the rim trail or just watch the sunset from the viewpoint. 

You can also head straight to one of the National Parks. Read below for more  things to do in Arches National Parks, Canyonlands National Park, and Moab . 

Best Moab Hiking Trails

view from dead horse point state park in Moab a road trip from Canyonlands

Moab is a hiker’s paradise . Some of the best trails are obviously within the nearby Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, but there are also plenty of other hikes to explore near Moab. 

  • Dead Horse State Park Rim Loop –  5 miles, 908 feet, Moderate-  This may well be the best trail near Moab not in a National Park. Dead Horse State Park is 33 miles from Moab, not far from Canyonlands. The rim trail encircles the plateau of the park. You can also drive to the overlooks for views that rival any National Park. 
  • Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail –  2.4 miles, 482 feet, Moderate – This trail leads to two magnificent arches near Moab. This is slightly less crowded than some of the other arches within the National Park. Enjoy this arch at sunset for an especially beautiful view.
  • Mill Creek Trail –  1.8 miles, 65 feet, Moderate –  This trail is not far at all from Moab, a bit to the South of the town. This trail follows along Mill Creek through a canyon to a small waterfall and swimming hole.

Other Things To Do in Moab

Road through Utah with rock formations in the background

If you’ve had enough hiking on your trip, Moab has endless other outdoor activities to explore. If you leave Page early in the morning, you should have just enough time to spend an afternoon experiencing one of these other things to do in Moab .

  • Off-Roading Tour–  There is so much great off-roading in Utah and the Southwest it would seem a shame not to experience it.  Highpoint Hummer   and   Moab Tour Company  are just two of the many companies in Moab that offer  rentals and guided tours  on 4WD vehicles.
  • Mountain Biking – If two-wheel vehicles are more your speed, then instead go for a mountain bike ride on one of the many biking trails in Moab. Moab has everything from   easy to extremely challenging mountain bike trails for whatever your skill level.
  • Drive along the Colorado River – Utah State Route 128 goes along the  Colorado River , starting near the entrance to Arches National Park. This  45-mile road  is also known as the  Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway . Drive part or all of this scenic drive and take in the red cliff walls and scenic desert views.
  • Rafting – If you have had enough driving on your road trip, you can also experience the Colorado River by rafting down it!  Moab Adventure Center  has several trips from multiple days to half-day adventures.  Red River Adventures  also offers several rafting options.

Where to Stay Near Moab

Hotels in moab.

  • Red Cliffs Lodge
  • Sunflower Hill Inn
  • Castle Valley Inn

Camping Near Moab

  • Kayenta Campground  
  • Wingate Campground
  • Horsethief Campground

Day 4: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks in One Day

Mesa arch at sunrise glowing red with sun starburst

  • Moab to Arches Distance: 5 miles
  • Arches to Canyonlands Distance: 26 miles
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

The fourth day of your week-long Utah-Arizona Road Trip will be one of the busiest. You can either plan to spend one day in Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park, or you can split your time and see both  Arches and Canyonlands in one day . 

To see both parks in one day, plan on  starting at sunrise .  Delicate Arch  is one of the most popular trails, so if this is a must-see on your itinerary, plan on getting to the trailhead as soon as possible. Afterward, visit as many of the other trails on the list as you can before heading to Canyonlands.

Canyonlands National Park is less visited than Arches, but still quite popular, so be prepared to wait in a line to enter if you are visiting during a popular time of year. It is a  26-mile drive  of scenic Utah land between the parks. Below are some of the  best hikes in Canyonlands National Park  to check out. You can also drive to a lot of overlooks in the park that don’t require much hiking including  Orange Cliffs Overlook, Green River Overlook, and Shafer Canyon Overlook . 

Read More: Canyonlands vs. Arches: One Day in Arches or Canyonlands National Parks

Best Hikes in Arches National Parks

red sandstone Double Arch in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the most recognizable National Parks in Utah. It is full of great hiking trails that lead to amazing arches in the park. Below are some of the best hikes for just one day in Arches .

  • Delicate Arch –  3.2 miles, 629 feet, Moderate – Delicate Arch is undoubtedly the most popular and iconic hike in Arches National Park. Hike  Delicate Arch at sunrise  to ensure you can get a parking spot and to see the beauty of the arch. 
  • Double Arch –  0.6 miles, 95 feet, Easy – You can’t miss Double Arch in Arches National Park. This is an easy trail to two of the biggest arches in the park. you can climb up between the two arches. 
  • Windows and Turret Arches Trail –  1.2 miles, 154 feet, Easy-  In the same parking lot as Double Arch is the trailhead to Windows and Turret Arches. You can hike the entire loop or just the 0.5 miles to the arches. 
  • Sand Dune Arch –  0.3 miles, 108 feet, Easy – Sand Dune Arch is a quick hike to one of the most unique arches in the park. 
  • Landscape Arch –  1.9 miles, 252 feet, Easy-  This is part of the much longer Devil’s Garden Trail, but if you are planning to visit both Arches and Canyonlands in one day, you will likely not have time to hike the entire trail. Instead, you can hike the 1 mile each way to Landscape Arch, the longest Arch in Arches National Park

Best Hikes in Canyonlands

view of mesa in Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands has some of the best views near Moab . There are several sections of this National Park, but the area most people visit is Island of the Sky , a plateau overlooking the surrounding canyons. Check out some of the hikes in Canyonlands for great views.

  • Mesa Arch –  0.7 miles, 88 feet, Easy –  This is a great sunrise alternative to Delicate Arch if you want to start your day in Canyonlands instead of Arches. 
  • Grand Viewpoint Trail  – 1.8 miles, 160 feet, Easy-  This is easily one of the best hikes in Canyonlands. The entire trail has jaw-dropping views over the canyon. 
  • White Rim Overlook Trail –  1.8 miles, 160 feet, Easy-  This trail leads to a gorgeous overlook of the canyon. There are also several day-use areas at the parking lot with picnic tables for a lunch spot.

Read More: Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands & Arches

If you are staying near Moab, you can stay in the same hotel or campground for two nights. In addition to the locations above, below are a few more campgrounds near Canyonlands and Arches .

Camping Near Canyonlands & Arches

  • Willow Flat
  • Devils Garden Campground
  • Campgrounds along the Colorado River

Day 5: Moab to Bryce National Park

view of bryce canyon at sunrise

  • Moab to Bryce Canyon Distance: 249 miles
  • Drive Time: 4 hours 13 minutes

After your day in Moab,  road trip over to Bryce Canyon National Park . This drive will take you a little over  4 hours to complete . Start early so you can maximize your  one day in Bryce!

My recommendation would be to choose a hike inside the canyon and head straight there upon arriving. For a not too long or difficult hike with amazing views, I would strongly recommend the  Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop . If you are looking for a longer hike there are a few alternatives listed below. 

After your hike, if you have time, you can drive down the  18-mile Scenic Drive  and stop at the viewpoints that take your interest. Bryce is not a very big park, so this itinerary will let you see a lot of what the park has to offer in just one day. 

Stay for sunset  to watch the evening light make the orange and red hoodoos glow. Stay even longer to stargaze in this  International Dark Sky Park . The stars will dazzle you, uninterrupted by any significant source of light nearby. 

Read More: One Day in Bryce Canyon

Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon

Peekaboo Loop is one the best hikes in Bryce

Bryce is a park you absolutely must hike in. The hoodoos are beautiful to see from the viewpoints, but infinitely more impressive when you hike between them. Here are some of the  best hikes to viewpoints  and  trails into the canyon . 

  • Navajo & Queens Garden Loop-   2.9 miles, 646 feet, Moderate-  This loop begins at either Sunset or Sunrise Point and travels down into the canyon. This trail features an iconic Bryce photo spot of the switchbacks leading down into the canyon and a view of  Thor’s Hammer .
  • Peekaboo Loop –   5.3 miles, 1453 feet, Moderate – If you want a slightly longer hike, do the Peekaboo Loop. This starts at Bryce Point or Sunset Point. The trail ascends and descends several times and takes you through several tunnels in the rock so the views “Peekaboo” out at you. 
  • Fairyland Loop –  7.8 miles, 1545 feet, Moderate – Fairyland Loop is even longer than Peekaboo Loop, beginning at Fairyland Point or Sunrise Point. This trail descends into the canyon and follows along the rim for 8 miles total.
  • Lower, Mid, & Upper Inspiration Points –  0.6 miles, 134 feet, Easy – It is a stretch to call the walk to these viewpoints a hike, but the path is quite steep. You can drive or take the shuttle to the drop-off for these three lookouts, each slightly higher than the next. 
  • Sunset to Sunrise Point –  1.1 miles, 82 feet, Easy – Only half a mile each way, this hike along the rim is an excellent option if you or your family members cannot hike and are limited to  paved roads . There are also several benches along the rim that you can stop at and enjoy the view. 

Scenic Drive in Bryce Canyon

arizona national parks tour

After hiking, take a  scenic drive  down the length of Bryce. A shuttle will go as far as Bryce Point in the summer, but you will need your own vehicle to drive the entirety of the road. Below are a couple of the popular spots on the scenic drive. 

  • Sunrise & Sunset Point
  • Inspiration Point
  • Bryce Point
  • Swamp Canyon
  • Piracy Point
  • Natural Bridge
  • Agua Canyon
  • Ponderosa Canyon
  • Rainbow Point

Where to Stay Near Bryce

Hotels near bryce.

  • Stone Cany on Inn
  • Bryce Canyon Lodge

Camping Near Bryce

  • North Campground
  • Sunset Campground
  • Under Canvas Bryce Canyon

Day 6: Bryce & Zion National Parks

view of Zion Canyon including the angels landing hike in the early morning

  • Bryce to Zion Distance: 72 miles
  • Drive Time: 1 hours 19 minutes

This day on your  Arizona Utah itinerary  is light on driving and heavy on hiking. Get up early and complete any last hikes or views you want to see in Bryce before driving to Utah’s most popular National Park.

The drive from  Zion to Bryce  takes about an  hour and a half  and is a distance of  73 miles . You will enter Zion through the East Entrance, and travel through the  Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel,  a one-mile tunnel through Zion’s canyon. After the tunnel, there is a series of steep switchback roads to drive down to reach the base of the canyon. 

Spend the remainder of your day hiking in Zion! There is a shuttle that travels through the canyon to a series of shuttle stops with trailheads located off them. See below for some of the best trails in Zion Canyon to hike including  Angel’s Landing, Canyon Overlook,  and  the Narrows . Choose one long hike or several small ones to trek on your first day in Zion. Alternatively, book a  horseback riding tour  or  bike rental  to travel through the canyon.

Read More:  2 Days in Zion National Park Itinerary

Best Trails in Zion Canyon

canyon overlook in Zion National Park with the Mount Carmel scenic highway

Zion is one of the best National Parks for hiking. There are so many great trails in Zion , below are just a few to consider during your two days in Zion.

  • Angels Landing   Trail –  4.4 miles, 1604, Difficult – Angel’s Landing is the most popular trail in Zion. Well known for its dangerous section at the summit that requires holding onto chains. Starting in 2022, this last section will require a  lottery permit . Without a permit, you can still hike to the scenic Scout’s Landing lookout. 
  • Canyon Overlook Trail –  1.0 mile, 187, Moderate – This short hike has a great payoff with a lookout over Pine Creek Canyon and Zion Canyon. 
  • Riverside Walk –  1.9 miles, 193 feet, Easy – Riverside Walk is an easy paved path through the canyon, alongside the Virgin River. 
  • The Narrows –  Varies, Difficult – The end of the Riverside Walk trail leads to steps down into the Narrows. This trail involves walking on the bed of the river, wading through the water. Unfortunately, it is not accessible all year round and must be hiked when the river is low and calm. Make sure to check conditions before you go, as  flash floods are very dangerous  and have the potential to kill unaware hikers.
  • Watchman Trail –  3.1 miles, 1636 feet, Moderate – Watchman Trail leads to an overlook over Springfield. The trailhead is near the Watchman and South campgrounds, and it is a great hike for sunset. 
  • Observation Point via East Mesa Trail –  7 miles, 702 feet, Moderate – This is an alternative to Angel’s Landing if you want the views down the canyon similar to Angel’s Landing but without the terrifying chains section. 4WD or AWD is recommended to get to the trailhead.
  • Lower Emerald Pools –  1.4 miles, 127 feet, Easy – This is another easy trail that leads to some pools that have small waterfalls during the rainy season. 

Other Things to do in Zion

view of the three patriarchs in Zion

This is towards the end of your National Parks Road Trip, so your feet may be getting tired of hiking. In which case, check out one of the other  things to do in Zion National Park !

  • Horseback Riding in Zion Canyon – For a true Western experience, reserve a  horseback riding tour  through the canyon along the Virgin River. 
  • Zion Brew Pub – This is a great spot for lunch or dinner, right outside the park. You can have a beer and burger on the patio next to the river. 
  • Biking the Pa’rus Trail – You can rent a bike from  Zion Outfitters  or in Springdale and bike along the 3.5-mile Pa’rus trail that follows the Virgin River from the Visitor Center.

Where to Stay Near Zion

Hotels near zion.

  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Flanigin’s Inn

Camping Near Zion

  • Watchman Campground
  • Lava Point Campground
  • South Campground

Day 7: Zion to Las Vegas

view of Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing Trail in Zion National Park

  • Zion to Las Vegas: 166 miles
  • Drive Time: 2 hours 41 minutes

On the last day of your Utah Arizona Road Trip, you will head out from Zion back towards Las Vegas . This drive is 166 miles and takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes , so you will still have plenty of time to spend in Zion or checking out other sites on the way.

Begin your day by finishing up any last hikes you want to do in Zion. If you can get the permits, this would be a great day to hike Angel’s Landing . Start early and finish your trip strong with one of the best hikes in Utah!

There are several interesting stops between Zion and Las Vegas. Snow Canyon State Park and Valley of Fire State Park are two great stops to your itinerary and don’t add too much extra distance to the drive. Leave early to give yourself plenty of time in these State Parks.

Of course, you can also get back to Las Vegas early, and spend the day at the many restaurants, casinos, and attractions in this iconic US city. No matter how you spend it, make the most of the last day of your Southwest Road Trip!

Things to do Near Zion & Las Vegas

view from scouts landing down the canyon

Zion and Las Vegas have many other scenic places between them or nearby, only requiring a slight detour. Stop by a few of these other beautiful, natural places on your road trip to Las Vegas.

  • Snow Canyon State Park-  The beauty of Utah is not just limited to its National Parks. Utah’s state parks are a sight to see as well and Snow Canyon is one of the best. Snow Canyon is  only an hour  from Zion, making it a  great last stop on your   Southwest National Parks Road Trip. Admire the steep canyon walls and hike, climb, or ride on the many trails and  slot canyons  in the park.
  • Kolob Canyon – While technically still part of Zion National Park, the Kolob Canyons are a much  less visited  portion of the park. It is a  43-mile drive  to get to this portion of the park from the main entrance, but well worth your time. The hikes here and nearby offer some amazing canyon views.
  • Valley of Fire State Park-  The Valley of Fire State Park has some of the best views in all of Nevada. This State Park is only a short detour from the route from Zion back to Las Vegas. Some of the best trails include  White Domes Trail and Fire Wave Trail.

Alternative Itinerary- 5 Day Utah Arizona Road Trip

map of a 5 day Utah and Arizona road trip itinerary

If you have less time you can still see a lot with only 5 days in the Southwest . Plan of leaving from Las Vegas and visiting the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion on this week-long road trip. This shortened itinerary gives you one day in the Grand Canyon, and two in both Bryce and Zion. You can also make a quick stopover in Page 

  • Day 1:  Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
  • Day 2:  Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon
  • Day 3:  Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Day 4:  Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park
  • Day 5:  Zion National Park back to Las Vegas

Alternative Itinerary 2: 5 Day Utah National Parks Road Trip

map of road trip drive through Utah's National Parks

Another option for just a 5-day trip is to road trip to all of Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks . You will see so much of Utah’s beauty and be able to make a second trip to visit Arizona. See below for a week-long Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary : 

  • Day 1:  Visit Canyonlands & Arches National Parks
  • Day 2:  Moab to Capitol Reef National Park
  • Day 3:  Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon
  • Day 4:  Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks
  • Day 5:  Zion National Park to Las Vegas

Tips for Planning a Utah-Arizona National Parks Road Trip

A purple car in front of factory butte in Utah at sunset

  • Download your maps ahead of time or print them off. There is not much service in or between many of the Southwest National Parks.
  • Stay updated to park conditions!  Each National Parks website has up-to-date information on trail closings, park facilities, and health and weather warnings.
  • Make your reservations ahead of time!  These National Parks are popular tourist destinations, so expect accommodations to book early, especially during the late spring, summer, and fall. Most campsites take  reservations 6 months in advance .
  • Leave No Trace!  This is essential when hiking in any wilderness area, but it is especially important in National Parks, which are some of the most heavily trafficked hikes in the United States. Wandering off-trail can also  harm delicate desert landscapes  that can take many years to grow back.  Carving or vandalizing rock  is becoming increasingly common, and should not be done under any circumstance. Behavior like this leads to  increasing restrictions of national land  and damages the landscape in ways that cannot be undone,  destroying centuries-old formations .
  • Enter the park early in the morning!  This is a jam-packed itinerary and entering the National Parks early will allow you to see and do as much as possible. Entering at or before sunrise is also a great way to beat the crowds and enjoy nature in relative solitude, a rarity in some National Parks. 

How Many Days for a Southwest Road Trip?

girl in blue jacket and white hat looking up at sand dune arch standing in sand in Arches national Park on a Southwest Road Trip

You may be wondering- How long should I plan for a Southwest National Parks Road Trip? 

I would recommend  at least a 5-day or 7-day itinerary  for your Utah and Arizona road trip, but stay longer if you can! Of course, if you only have a long weekend, you can still make a quick journey to one or two of these parks and have a great time. No matter how long you spend, you are sure to want to come back for more!

Read More: Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks

When to Road Trip to Utah and Arizona

chart of average highs and lows per month in Moab, Utah

Spring and Fall are the best time  to visit Utah and Arizona if you are wanting the  best weather . In Fall and Spring, the temperatures average in the  50s to 80s , with some variation depending on elevation. Because the weather is good at this time, you can expect  large crowds  during these times as well. 

A  winter road trip  through the Southwest will be cold, but you will also have more solitude than other times of the year. Some parks may have  areas closed based on snow , so make sure to check park conditions regularly if you visit in winter.

Summer  in Utah and Arizona is hot with temperatures exceeding  over 100 degrees ! The National Parks can also get crowded since kids are out of school for summer. If you visit in summer, be prepared for the sun and heat with lots of water and knowledge of how to avoid heatstroke!

Arizona & Utah National Parks Packing List

girl in coat, hat and backpack hiking in Bryce National Park

Below see my packing list for a Utah and Arizona Road Trip! The weather can change in an instant in the desert, and you’ll want to make sure to have clothes and equipment for all-weather, so pack properly.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

  • Water-  Water is your best friend in the desert! Make sure to bring enough and then some for your group.
  • Snacks – If you will be hiking all day and burning a lot of calories, make sure to bring some protein-packed snacks and lunch as well.
  • Sunscreen – It is always a good idea to use sunscreen to block the harsh sun!
  • Sun Shielding Hat – My hat is my favorite hiking gear. A wide-brimmed hat will help keep the sun off you.
  • Winter Hat-  Morning can be cold in the desert at any time of year. A   knit hat  is great to have in your bag for early mornings or windy days.
  • Moisture-Wicking Shirts – Any shirt will do, but the best  hiking shirts  are made of natural or synthetic moisture-wicking material that is breathable and dries quickly.
  • Athletic Shorts/Pants – I personally tend to wear   hiking leggings   more than shorts. If you are hiking in the winter,  Carhartt  makes great thick women’s leggings.
  • Lighter Jacket or Wind Jacket – Layering is always a good idea when hiking, and I put a  spare windbreaker  or   light jacket  in my backpack in case the wind picks up.
  • Winter Coat – This may depend on the time of year you go, but I was glad to have my  puffy coat  when waiting for sunrise at the Grand Canyon and Bryce, even in late March.
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Runner –  Hiking boots  help keep your footing on rock and reduce the impact on your feet.
  • Hiking Socks – Also, bring  good socks  to reduce the risk of blisters!
  • Backpack – A  good daypack  can make your hike so much more enjoyable. Properly distributing weight can ease your trip and allow you to bring all the essentials above!
  • Headlamp – If you are going to be camping or hiking for sunrise, be sure to bring a  headlamp  and batteries.

You May Also Like

  • How to Plan a National Parks Road Trip
  • Best Canyonlands Hikes
  • Sunrise at Delicate Arch
  • Utah National Parks Ranking


7 Day Utah Arizona Road Trip- Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, and girl hiking in Antelope Canyon in Utah

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Exterior image of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West pool in Scottsdale

Arizona's Must-Do Guided Tours

Forget everything you know about tours. In Arizona, guided adventures not only offer a behind-the-scenes look at the state's treasures—winemaking, dark skies, ghost towns—but they also range from quirky to epic, cheap to extravagant, one-hour to multi-day. This handy guide helps you pick the tour that's right for you.

Lowell Observatory Lunar Legacy Tour

Go where a select few have gone before. Here, you'll learn about the observatory's role in astronaut science training, instrument development and lunar mapping in preparation for the historic 1st Apollo mission. Tour also includes access to Lunar Legacy exhibits.

Quick Facts

• Nearest city: Flagstaff • Perfect for: Families, history buffs, outer space junkies • Adventure level: Safe to move about the cabin • Duration: 1 hour • Cost: $22 adults, $20 senior/military/college, $14 ages 5-17 • How to book: (928) 774-3359,

Tucson Bike Tours

Pedal on lightweight city bikes alongside knowledgeable guides as you pass through historic and revitalized neighborhoods and vibrant barrios in downtown Tucson. See a restored train depot, a Spanish fort, colorful adobe homes, spiritual shrines, a historic farming center, artful murals, quirky shops and collegiate life all on this informative, casual 9-mile to 11-mile bicycle ride for all ages.

• Nearest city: Tucson • Perfect for: Active families and urban sightseers • Adventure level: Easy rider • Duration: 2.25 hours • Cost: $60 per person • How to book: (520) 488-4446,

Arizona Fresh Foodie Trail Tour

Experience agritourism and scenic landscapes on the Arizona Fresh Foodie Trail Tour, a culinary expedition highlighting local flavors in the neighboring towns of Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek, in the greater Phoenix area. Think olive oil sampling and a tour of the family-owned Queen Creek Olive Mill, organic lunch at urban farm Agritopia, and a pitstop for "new wave Mexican soul food," barbecue and salsa tastings at Jalapeño Bucks.

• Nearest city: Mesa • Perfect for: Foodies, chefs, agricultural enthusiasts • Adventure level: Huge appetite for farm-fresh dining • Duration: 6 hours • Cost: $185 per person, ages 13 and older • How to book: (866) 438-6877,

Queen Mine Tour in Bisbee

Arizona owes a great deal to its mining past. Travel 1,500 feet below the surface on an ore train with your hard hat, headlamp and yellow slicker into the famous copper mine of Bisbee, a town literally built on mineral production. Retired miners turned tour guides share the history, techniques, dangers and drama of working in subterranean tunnels in this historic mine experience.

• Nearest city: Bisbee • Perfect for: Families, Old West fans, historians • Adventure level: Adrenaline lite • Duration: 1 hour • Cost: $13 adults, $5.50 ages 6-12 • How to book: (866) 432-2071,

Sedona Pink Jeep Tours

Buckle up in a famous, state-of-the-art Pink Jeep® Wrangler for an off-roading adventure amid the craggy backdrop of the Sedona red rocks. The backcountry tours provide diverse day trips to ancient tribal ruins and other scenic outposts. You'll have opportunities to hike, observe wildlife and native plants, view panoramic vistas and visit vortex sites.

• Nearest city: Sedona • Perfect for: Families and outdoorsy folk • Adventure level: Scenic outing meets bumpy, winding roads • Duration: 1.5 hours to 6 hours • Cost: Starting from $65 adult, $58 child • How to book: (800) 873-3662,

Page Springs Cellars' Vineyard Tour

Series of three images depicting a young tour guide leading visitors through a vineyard

Learn about winemaking at the source—literally—during this viticulture-focused tour at Page Spring Cellars' House Mountain Vineyard in the small town of Cornville near Cottonwood. Guests get a ground-level lesson in terroir wine operations: what soil types are the best for grape growing, canopy management, pruning and farming practices. Tour fee covers ground transportation to the vineyard from Page Springs' tasting room, a peek inside the cellar and barrel room, flight of five select wines and gourmet food.

• Nearest city: Cottonwood • Perfect for: Wine connoisseurs, wine newbies, lifelong learners • Adventure level: Leisurely • Duration: 2 hours • Cost: $68 - tour, food, glass of wine; $44 - tour, food, no wine; $44 under age 21 - tour, food, no wine • How to book: (928) 639-3004,

Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Tour

Greet the morning with a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the majestic Sonoran Desert, plus incredible aerial views of Phoenix, Tucson and surrounding landscape. Pilots are FAA-certified and your post-flight celebration may include a Sonoran sunrise breakfast with a signature prickly pear mimosa and local Arizona treats. Bonus: The fly-over comes with a commemorative flight certificate.

• Nearest city: Phoenix and Tucson • Perfect for: Couples, wildlife-spotters, early risers • Adventure level: Thrilling with a side of relaxation • Duration: Varies • Cost: $158-$199 per person • How to book: (800) 725-2477 / or (800) 831-7610 /

Chiricahua National Monument ranger-led walking tour

The 12,000-acre wonderland of unusual rock formations and amazing plant and wildlife is a hidden gem in southeastern Arizona. The national park is home to a ranger-led tour of the pioneer homestead Faraway Ranch, a 1800s cabin at the mouth of Bonita Canyon where Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson raised their family. The house contains authentic artifacts and provides a glimpse into life on the Western Frontier.

• Nearest city: Willcox • Perfect for: Families and nature-lovers • Adventure level: Parks-and-rec meets the Old West • Duration: 1 hour • Cost: Free • How to book: (520) 824-3560,

Grand Canyon West Rafting

Shoot the Colorado River rapids in an exciting whitewater rafting adventure with experienced guides from Hualapai River Runners. As an alternative way to see the Grand Canyon, the one- or two-day rafting trips offer activities such as hiking Travertine Cavern Falls, seeing local wildlife, dining on the banks of the Colorado and camping at Spencer Canyon. Fees include transport to the Skywalk, lodging at Hualapai Lodge and a helicopter ride out of the Grand Canyon to Hualapai Ranch. There, you can take part in additional activities like ziplining and horseback riding.

• Nearest city: Kingman • Perfect for: Fitness buffs, active families, once-in-a-lifetime vacations • Adventure level: Adrenaline squared, times 10 • Duration: 1-day or 2-day trips • Cost: Starting from $470 • How to book: (888) 868-9378,

Ghostly Hunting

Look for signs of paranormal activity in quirky Jerome, (unofficially) the world's largest ghost town. A blend of history and mystery, the walking/shuttle tours include readings done with ghost detection meters and visits to unsolved murder sites, as well as tales of haunted hospitals, ghostly guestrooms and present-day spirit sightings in the "West's Most Wicked Town." Should you fail to encounter any apparitions you can still get your fill of spirits at any one of the tasting rooms serving award-winning wines.

• Nearest city: Jerome • Perfect for: Ghost-chasers, thrill-seekers, dare-devil families • Adventure level: Ready for mountain elevations and meeting strangers with a past • Duration: 1 hour to 2+ hours • Cost: Starting from $34.95 adult, $17.48 child • How to book: (928) 634-6118,

Insider Public Art

View installations from one of the best public art programs in the country on this walking tour in the greater Phoenix area. You'll start from the iconic Hotel Valley Ho and be guided by art expert Ace Bailey. The walking tour features several permanent works by noted artists including two pieces by Paolo Soleri—the Goldwater Bell and the Soleri Bridge and Plaza—as well as the photo-worthy LOVE sculpture created by Robert Indiana. Your ticket includes a discount at Hotel Valley Ho's ZuZu restaurant and VH Spa.

• Nearest city: Scottsdale • Perfect for: Patrons of the arts, artists, couples • Adventure level: Cultural pedestrian • Duration: 2 hours • Cost: $25 • How to book: (480) 376-2600,

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

Nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, discover Frank Lloyd Wright's desert laboratory, architectural studio and winter home, Taliesin West. Scottsdale's only National Historic Landmark is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for visitors to the Valley of the Sun. Special exhibitions, events, guided tours and programming are offered, and reservations are strongly recommended.

  • Nearest city: Scottsdale
  • Perfect for: Architecture and design enthusiasts, couples and families with older children
  • Adventure level: Relaxing and cerebral
  • Duration: Varies
  • Cost: $35 - $54
  • How to book: (480) 627-5375,
  • Walking tours and guests with special requests and needs should contact - (480) 627-5375

About the Author

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Sally J. Clasen

Sally Clasen is a Phoenix-based writer who thrives on coffee, world-class sunsets and meeting colorful characters along the travel path. Her work appears in local and regional publications celebrating Arizona and southwest living.

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From the abundance of Saguaro cactuses and unique wildlife in the Sonoran Desert to the high country and forests of the White Mountains to the breathtaking Grand Canyon, Arizona’s regions are full of experiences that don’t disappoint.

US National Parks Tours & Vacations

Photographer standing on top of Horseshoe Bend overlooking Colorado River at sunset, Arizona, USA

Embark on an unforgettable adventure in the United States' most spectacular national parks.

As far as national parks go, the  USA  has it all. From lunar-like deserts and striated canyons to snow-capped mountains and alpine valleys teeming with wildlife. With a local leader by your side, you'll explore the most iconic sections of the parks, as well as lesser-known gems you won’t find in the travel guides. Our United States national park tours offer something for all kinds of adventurers. Hike through slot canyons in  Zion , join a real-life wolf tracker in  Yellowstone , tick off bucket-list-worthy hiking trails in  Yosemite  or witness the most beautiful night skies you've ever seen in  Denali . It’s time to dust off those hiking boots... the parks are waiting! 

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Popular US national parks

Us national parks travel faqs, do i need a covid-19 vaccine to join an intrepid trip.

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

How many national parks are there in the US?

The US has 423 national parks, monuments, and protected sites. Of this number, 63 are classified as national parks.

What is the best time to visit national parks in the US?

The best time to visit a national park depends on what you want to experience on your trip. The US is a huge country with diverse weather, foliage, and wildlife. Most parks change quite dramatically from season to season. Our trips run all year round but spring through to early fall is the most popular time to go when the weather is mild, crowds are smaller, and hiking conditions are good.

What are the top 10 most visited national parks in the US?

The 10 most visited national parks (The National Park Service, 2020) are:  

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park  
  • Yellowstone National Park  
  • Zion National Park  
  • Rocky Mountain National Park  
  • Grand Teton National Park  
  • Grand Canyon National Park  
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park  
  • Acadia National Park  
  • Olympic National Park  
  • Joshua Tree National Park 

What is mobile/cell phone service and internet access like in US national parks?

Mobile phone service, Wi-Fi, and internet access vary, and some parks will have coverage while others may be completely cut off.

Most visitor centers, lodges, and restaurants will offer free internet access, but it’s worth reading up on coverage or checking with your guide before your trip begins so you can be prepared.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance before traveling?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Does my trip support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partners, Eden Reforestation Projects and World Bicycle Relief. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe. Find out more or make a donation World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief provides people in low-income communities with bicycles to mobilize school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas – giving them access to vital education, healthcare, and income. Donations help provide Buffalo Bicycles – specifically designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh environment of rural regions – to those who need them most. Find out more or make a donation

Cosmos | Affordable Touring

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National Park Tours

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Into the Wild

Cosmos provides unique guided tour experiences in America's most spectacular national parks, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Bryce, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rainier, and many more must-see national treasures. We're proud of our unmatched commitment and focus on keeping our wilderness areas wild and wondrous. Choose from our great collection of escorted national park tours that feature overnights and/or significant visits inside the spectacular protected areas of the U.S. national parks.

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Best of Utah & Arizona National Parks

  • Fully Guided
  • Hiking & Trekking

Places You’ll See

Zion National Park

  • Introduction
  • Day 1 Las Vegas/Zion National Park
  • Day 2 Zion National Park (1B)
  • Day 3 Zion National Park/Bryce Canyon National Park (1B)
  • Day 4 Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley (1B, 1L)
  • Day 5 Monument Valley/Grand Canyon National Park (1B, 1L)
  • Day 6 Grand Canyon National Park (1L)
  • Day 7 Grand Canyon National Park/Las Vegas

Want to read it later?

Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start tour planning offline

What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Additional Services

Where You'll Stay

Customer photos.

arizona national parks tour

Operated by G Adventures

G Adventures gives you the opportunity to explore interesting and unusual places at a great price. The G Adventures reviews show high ratings from satisfied customers for all aspects of the trip, so you can be assured that you will be in good hands. If you have any questions at any time during your trip, 24 hour support is offered, so there will always be someone to answer your queries. There are various styles of trip on offer to cater for different tastes, along with a wide range of destinations and departure dates. If you look at the G Adventures reviews you will see that you can travel far and wide, with enthusiastic and helpful guides to assist you during your trip.

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Customer Reviews

  • Overall Rating Excellent 5.0
  • Itinerary Excellent 4.8
  • Guide Excellent 4.5
  • Transport Excellent 4.2
  • Accommodation Excellent 4.3
  • Food Excellent 4.5
  • Tour Operator G Adventures 4.8
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G Adventures

Dates & Availability



Take advantage of our 0% interest instalment plan on selected departures. Learn More

  • Upcoming departures
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Frequently Asked Questions

We are there for you! If you have any questions about this tour, then please don't hesitate to contact us 24/7 and we will get back to you latest within 2 hours!

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Good to Know

  • Currency $ US Dollar USA

As a traveller from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa you will need an adaptor for types A, B.

  • Unfortunately we cannot offer you a visa application service. Whether you need a visa or not depends on your nationality and where you wish to travel. Assuming your home country does not have a visa agreement with the country you're planning to visit, you will need to apply for a visa in advance of your scheduled departure.
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  • For any tour departing before 12th May 2024 a full payment is necessary. For tours departing after 12th May 2024, a minimum payment of 20% is required to confirm your booking with G Adventures. The final payment will be automatically charged to your credit card on the designated due date. The final payment of the remaining balance is required at least 45 days prior to the departure date of your tour. TourRadar never charges you a booking fee and will charge you in the stated currency.
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Best of Utah & Arizona National Parks

7 days, las vegas to las vegas.

arizona national parks tour

  • Full itinerary
  • Tour details

If you’re looking for an adventure that is short, but immersive then this 7-day trip from Las Vegas is perfect. Visit three National Parks and some of the best scenery in the west as you awaken your inner explorer. From hiking through Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, to marvelling at the Navajo Sandstone giants of Zion from below, there’s no shortage of excitement. Take in the sheer scale of the Grand Canyon, set out on a Navajo guided jeep tour in Monument Valley, and bask in the sun atop Horseshoe Bend on this action packed week of adventure.

Las Vegas to Las Vegas

Special offers, is this tour for me, travel style: classic.

All of the highlights, culture, access, and I-can’t-believe-we-did-that moments, all at a great price.

Service Level: Standard

Comfortable tourist-class accommodations with character; mix of public and private transport.

Physical Rating: 3 - Average

Some tours may include light hiking, biking, rafting, or kayaking in addition to walking.

Trip Type: Small Group

Small group experience; Max 13.

Age requirement: 12+

All travellers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Check Your Visa Requirements

Before booking, use our handy entry requirements tool so you know which documents you need to enter and travel through the countries on your trip.

See how your trip uplifts communities

In a number of impactful ways, your adventure directly benefits the local people and places we visit.

Help us spread love around the world — with trees! Together with Planeterra, we'll plant one tree in your name for every travel day.

Trees planted for this trip: 7

Map of the route for Best of Utah & Arizona National Parks

Places visited

  • United States

Day 1 Las Vegas/Zion National Park

After a brief welcome meeting with your CEO, hit the road from Las Vegas and drive to Zion National Park. Get settled into your hotel and opt to explore the area a bit or enjoy dinner at your leisure. Then, rest up for tomorrow’s full day of exploring.

Exclusive Inclusions:

Day 2 zion national park.

It’s all about Zion today as you get a chance to wander this beautiful national park in Southwest Utah. Take the shuttle into the park and spend the day exploring and hiking with your fellow travellers.

Admire the monumental sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that tower into the sky and remember you can choose to turn around on these hikes at any point. In the evening, relax at your hotel as you reflect on your day in this wonderful piece of paradise.

Meals included:

Day 3 zion national park/bryce canyon national park.

Depart Zion in the morning and travel with the group to Bryce Canyon National Park. Once in the park enjoy free time to hike through the wild and weird rock formations fondly known as hoodoos. Visit Inspiration Point, hike the rim trail. Opt to hike the Queen’s Garden and Navajo loop trails or take in the incredible view with a walk along the rim. Head back to the park after dinner for sunset. At night look up and see the magic of the stars in a place that has been designated an International Dark Sky Park.

Day 4 Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley

We'll jet off this morning to Page, Arizona, the gateway to famous Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Join a local Navajo guide and explore Antelope Canyon; a stunning natural sandstone slot canyon located on tribal lands. Admire the blue sky above from the bottom of the canyon and make sure you bring your camera to take loads of photos.

Afterwards, visit Horseshoe Bend for a short hike to stand atop the steep cliffs overlooking the natural bend in the Colorado River. Today’s adventure will end in Monument Valley where you will have time to relax and unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

Day 5 Monument Valley/Grand Canyon National Park

This morning you’ll be treated to a sunrise Navajo guided jeep tour of Monument Valley. Admire the majesty and magnetic atmosphere of this special place before continuing on toward the Grand Canyon. En route, stop for lunch at a family-owned Navajo food truck, before arriving at the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon just in time for a spectacular sunset.

Day 6 Grand Canyon National Park

Marvel at the out-of-this-world views as you get up close and personal with the Grand Canyon today. Spend a full day exploring and hiking from the South Rim. There are a variety of hikes to choose from that will take you deeper into the canyon where you can really appreciate the size and depth of this national park. Choose whichever trail you wish or do short bursts of multiple hikes, just make sure you bring plenty of water and take your time.

If you wish to see this natural wonder from a bird’s eye view with an experience you’ll never forget, opt to book the Grand Canyon helicopter tour.

Day 7 Grand Canyon National Park/Las Vegas

Wave good-bye to the Grand Canyon as the group drives back to Las Vegas along the famous Route 66.

Tour ends on arrival in Las Vegas.

What's Included

  • Your G for Good Moment: Native Grill Food Truck Experience
  • Your Welcome Moment: Welcome Moment - Meet Your CEO and Group
  • Hike to The Narrows
  • Bryce Canyon National Park visit
  • Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon visits
  • Navajo guided Monument Valley jeep tour
  • Sunset along the rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Full day hiking in Grand Canyon National Park
  • Drive along Route 66
  • Entrance fees to all national parks and monuments with hiking and walking excursions
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities


Hotel (6 nts).

4 breakfasts, 3 lunches Allow USD250-325 for meals not included.


Air-conditioned private vehicle, hiking, walking.

Staff & experts

1 CEO (Chief Experience Officer) throughout.

Available extras  (Add these to your tour when you book)

Grand canyon helicopter tour - from $350.00.

The Grand Canyon helicopter ride is a must! Enjoy a bird's-eye view for 45 to 50 minutes as you fly over the canyon, taking in the stark contrast of the blue-green Colorado River against the thousand shades of red rock found in the canyon. From above, you can fully appreciate the greatness of the gorge and see why it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

My Own Room - From $1549.00

If you're travelling solo and would prefer to have your own private room throughout your trip, select this option during the online booking process.

Make it a private tour

Book this tour as a private departure, with your own CEO and all the benefits of a G Adventures group tour.

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arizona national parks tour


Thing to Do

Visit the USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial program is free, but tickets are required.  The walk-in first-come first-served ticket distribution program is no longer available. is the only official reservation website for Pearl Harbor National Memorial’s USS  Arizona  Memorial Program. If you used any other website to reserve a tour, please read the fine print. Please know that the USS  Arizona  Memorial Program is free, charges and keeps the $1 non-refundable program reservation fee. Step-by-step guidance on booking through : Beginning on Monday, May 3,’s primary booking window for USS  Arizona  Memorial tickets will increase from 1-week in advance to 8-weeks in advance. This means that on May 3 at 3pm HST, tickets will release for up to 8-weeks (56 days) in the future through June 28. Going forward, new tickets will release on this long-range rolling schedule, one day at a time. The secondary booking window,1-day in advance will remain the same. Click  Sign In  or  Sign Up  to log in to your account or create a new one Visit the  page  for USS Arizona Memorial Program reservations Click the  Calendar Icon  button under the Date field. Update the number of tickets you are reserving under the  Quantity  field The current limit is 5 tickets per reservation per day. Everyone needs a ticket, including infants and small children. You may have to make multiple reservations to reach the desired number of tickets. Select your program time from the available  Tour Times .

  • If specific dates and times are gray, those dates and program times have either been fully reserved or we are not within the window to preview availability.
  • If dates are gray & yellow, tickets for those dates have not been released yet, but are within the window to preview availability, an alert will pop up on the bottom of the website informing you when the next release will be.
  • Blue dates and program times are available.

Click  Add to Cart  and check out as directed. There is a $1 per ticket non-refundable program management fee. This fee is not collected by the National Park Service, it is collected by Check your e-mail and print your QR Code for check in at the Ticket Validation Desk at the Pearl Harbor Theater. It is strongly recommended that you arrive on site at least 1-hour prior to your scheduled program time. Your program time is when your US Navy provided vessel is scheduled to depart the shore side dock. If you do not arrive and check in early for your program on time, your seats may be given to those waiting in line for standby availability. Park Rangers cannot create, modify, rebook, refund, or cancel any reservations. Need assistance? Pearl Harbor National Memorial Park Rangers do not have access to program inventory, nor can they create, modify, or cancel reservations made via or by third party booking sites and vendors. You can  contact for additional help via any of the options listed on their website , or your third party sale site directly.

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Last updated: May 3, 2021


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  24. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial

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