Arizona Day Trips: 20 of the Best Ideas

man sitting on rock overlooking horseshoe bend in arizona

As health restrictions begin to ease, tourism is back on the rise. The United States is a big country with a lot to see, and Arizona is no exception. According to a 2021 Arizona Office of Tourism report, the state recorded 40.9 million statewide visits overnight.

Especially today, tourists from around the world are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities for a more intimate experience. However, many don’t have the time or money to commit to an extended vacation. This part is where day trips come in. And since Arizona is home to some of the country’s most incredible landscapes and attractions, it’s the perfect place to plan a day trip or two.

What’s the Best Month to Visit AZ?

You can take a day trip to Arizona any time of the year, but the best time to visit depends on what you’re looking for. The state experiences four distinct seasons, so if you’re hoping to make the most of what Arizona offers, plan your trip around the fall or spring.

Day trips from Phoenix or any southern Arizona area are best from October to May when the desert comes alive with color as the temperatures cool down. Arizona’s North and Central regions are ideal for day trips from September to November, as the cool, crisp air is perfect for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.

What’s the Number 1 Attraction in Arizona?

four people watching the grand canyon from the top
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According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, the number one attraction in the state is the Grand Canyon. Any Arizona trip won’t be complete without seeing this natural wonder. The majestic canyon is a sight to behold, and there are plenty of ways to experience it.

Many people hike to the canyon’s bottom, which takes about two days. Mule rides and jeep tours are also available for those who want to explore without all the effort. You can also drive to the canyon’s edge and take in the view.

No matter how you choose to experience the Grand Canyon, it’s sure to be a highlight of your Arizona trip.

Going to Grand Canyon National Park

Getting a glimpse of the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon is a must for anyone visiting Arizona. The Grand Canyon National Park is only a 4-hour drive from Phoenix, making it the perfect day trip.

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to stop at the Grand Canyon’s Visitor Center. Here, they can learn about the canyon’s history and geology through interactive exhibits. Ranger-led programs are also available, which are great for kids of all ages.

When you’re ready to see the canyon, there are plenty of viewing areas to choose from. The South Rim is the most popular and offers stunning canyon views. To get away from the crowds, head to the North Rim, which is less crowded and provides a more intimate experience. But no matter how you explore this place, it’s sure to be a day you’ll never forget.

Is Sedona a Good Day Trip?

The Red Rock Formations in Sedona are a must-see for anyone visiting Arizona. This iconic destination is only a 2-hour drive from Phoenix and offers plenty of things to do for a day trip.

For those looking for a good hike, there are plenty of trails to choose from. If you’re not up for a sweat, take a scenic drive through Sedona. You can also enjoy shopping in new-age shops. And no Sedona trip is complete without experiencing a red rock sunset.

While Sedona is a great day trip, it’s also a popular weekend getaway spot. So if you have the time, consider staying for a night or two.

What’s the Coolest Town in AZ?

There are many great places to visit in Arizona, but one of the coolest towns is Jerome. This former copper mining town is only a 90-minute drive from Phoenix and is now home to a thriving community. Transformed buildings, wine galleries, and great restaurants line the streets of Jerome.

This old west town is also home to some great stories. Ghost tours are offered year-round, and you can even go on a hunt at Jerome Grand Hotel. Whether you’re looking for a great place to eat or want to explore Arizona’s history, Jerome is the perfect place for a day trip.

What are the Best Things to Do in Arizona for One Day?

If you’re wondering what to do on your vacation, day trips from Phoenix are a great option. And aside from the famous Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Jerome, there are plenty of other great places to visit and activities to try. Other great day trips from Phoenix include the following:

1. Take Pictures at Saguaro National Park

cacti in saguaro national park at sunset

The Saguaro National Park is home to the largest cacti in the world. And these giant plants make for some great photo ops. Many visit the park to see these plants up close, and it’s worth a visit if you’re looking for things to do in Arizona.

The park has two parts, each with its own unique landscape. The Tucson Mountain District is home to desert plants and animals, while the Rincon Mountain District has a more forested feel.

Depending on where you’re staying, you can choose which part of the park to visit. But no matter which one you choose, you’re sure to be amazed by these giant cacti.

2. Be Amazed at Petrified Forest National Park

Phoenix day trips wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Petrified Forest National Park. This park is one of the world’s largest collections of petrified wood.

The wood comes from fallen trees that have been turned to stone over time. And while it might not sound like much, these petrified logs are indeed a sight to see.

3. Visit Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The desert scenery is one of the best things about Arizona. And at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, you can learn all about the plants and animals that call this place home.

This museum is also a desert botanical garden, so you can see the desert plants up close. There are also plenty of animals to see, including javelinas, tortoises, and Gila monsters. So if you’re looking for an educational day trip, this is the place for you.

4. Explore the Different Hiking Trails

people hiking up arizona national park
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Excellent hiking trails can be found all around Arizona. And whether you’re looking for a beginner or experienced hike, there’s sure to be a perfect trail. Many parks offer short hiking trails that are great for families. But longer courses are also available if you’re looking for a more challenging hike.

Just be sure to wear appropriate clothing and bring plenty of water. The desert sun can be brutal, and you don’t want to find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere.

5. Try the Mountain Biking Trails at Tucson Mountain Park

This scenic byway takes you through some of Arizona’s best biking trails.

The trail is about 8 miles long and takes you through canyons, washes, and desert landscapes. And while it is a challenging ride, the views are more than worth it.

You can also enjoy other activities, such as horseback riding, picnicking, and camping. So if you’re looking for things to do in Arizona, this is definitely a great option.

6. Have a Tour of Historic Towns

Historic buildings are also a must-see on your Arizona vacation. And what better way to learn about the state’s history than to tour some of its most famous towns?

Mission San Xavier del Bac is one of the state’s oldest buildings and is an excellent example of European architecture. The historic town of Tombstone is also a great place to visit, as it was once a booming mining town.

7. Swim Through Saguaro Lake

boat with jetski on saguaro lake arizona
Photo by Jeremy Alford on Unsplash

This lake in Salt River is a man-made reservoir perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating. And with stunning views of the nearby mountains, it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular day trips from Phoenix. If you want to know more about the area, there is also a narrated tour, like in Dolly Boats at Canyon Lake.

Saguaro Lake is the perfect place to escape the desert heat and enjoy some time in the water. Make sure to add it to your list of things to do in Arizona.

8. Discover the Beauty of Chiricahua National Monument

This national monument is also known as the “Wonderland of Rocks.” And it’s easy to see why. The park is home to unique rock formations, as well as plenty of desert wildlife.

With monolithic pillars and towering spires, the landscape looks like something out of a fairytale. And it’s definitely a place you won’t want to miss.

9. Enjoy the Wine at Cottonwood

Wine tasting is one of the best things to do in Cottonwood. And with several wineries in the area, you’re sure to find the perfect bottle of wine. You can combine this trip with a food-tasting adventure at Jerome, Clarkdale and Camp Verde.

The Verde Valley Wine Trail is a great way to sample the best that the area has to offer. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Cottonwood, so make sure to add it to your list.

10. Go on a Space Adventure at Titan Missile Museum

If you want to know what it’s like to live during the cold war, visiting the Titan Missile Museum is a must. This space museum gives you a behind-the-scenes look at one of the largest nuclear weapons ever built.

However, the place can be a bit crowded, so it’s best to plan your visit and get your tickets in advance. This way, you won’t miss out on this unique experience.

11. Have a Relaxing Day at Picacho Peak State Park

This state park is perfect for enjoying wildflowers, cactus gardens and the desert landscape. It’s going to Tucson from Phoenix along the way, making it an excellent stop for a picnic or hike.

Several trails lead to the top of the peak, where you can get a stunning view of the surrounding area. Adding this to your trip from Tucson is a must.

12. Go Rock Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park

This national park is a mecca for rock climbers. With more than 8,000 routes to choose from, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, you’ll find the perfect challenge here. And with stunning views of the desert landscape, it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.

13. Do Some Spelunking at Kartchner Caverns State Park

This state park is home to one of the longest caves in Arizona. And with its stalactites, stalagmites, and beautiful formations, it’s easy to see why.

The cave is also home to various animals, including bats, jackrabbits, and squirrels. So if you’re looking for an adventure, this is the perfect place to go.

14. Go Back in Time at Walnut Canyon National Monument

Ancient ruins, petroglyphs and cliff dwellings make this national monument a must-see. It’s also one of the best places to see the sunset in Arizona.

It is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of the area. And with its stunning views, your eyes will be in for a treat as well.

15. Be Fascinated with Montezuma Castle National Monument

view of montezumas castle in arizona
Photo by b minnick on Pixabay

This national monument is home to one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America. The castle was built by the Sinagua people and served as a home for them for over 400 years. Today, 20 rooms are still intact, and you can explore them on a guided tour.

16. Enjoy the Outdoors at Coconino National Forest

This national forest is a great place to hike, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. With over 1.8 million acres of forest to explore, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to relax.

There are also plenty of activities to keep you busy, such as horseback riding, mountain biking and fishing. So if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, this is the perfect spot.

17. Have Some Water Fun at Slide Rock State Park

This park is a great place to cool off in the summer. It’s a giant water slide that’s been carved out of red rocks. And with a swimming hole at the bottom, it’s the perfect place to take a dip.

As one of the top 10 swimming holes in the US, this is a must-visit if you’re in the area. Just make sure to bring your swimsuit and towel.

18. Drive Along Red Rock Scenic Byway

Oak creek canyon is one of the most scenic drives in Arizona. And the best way to experience it is by driving along the Red Rock Scenic Byway. This byway takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the state, including red rocks, canyons, and forests. Don’t forget to use sunscreen, though, as it can get pretty hot in the summer.

19. Visit the Historic Apache Trail

This trail is one of the most historic roads in Arizona. It was once used by the Apache tribe to travel between their homes and the lands they hunted. Today, it’s a famous scenic drive.

The trail is full of twists and turns, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’re up for the challenge, it’s a great way to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.

20. Soak at Verde River Hot Springs

Camp Verde is home to several hot springs, including the Verde River Hot Springs. These springs are open to the public and offer a great relaxing place.

There are a few different pools to choose from, so you can find the perfect one for you. And its scenic views make it the ideal place to unwind after a long day of exploring.

What Do I Need to Bring on a Day Trip to Phoenix?

people with backpacks walking through joshua tree park in arizona
Photo by Brandon Kaida on Unsplash

Packing light for day trips should be easy since you won’t be gone for more than 24 hours. But there are a few essential items you should always bring, no matter where you’re going.

First, make sure to pack sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. The desert sun is no joke; you don’t want to be sunburned. You must also bring plenty of water. It’s essential to stay hydrated in the heat, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

You can also pack snacks and lunch to save money. And lastly, don’t forget your camera! With the incredible views around the state, you’ll want to take plenty of pictures.


Spending a day in Phoenix is the perfect way to experience all Arizona offers. From stunning desert views to historic sites, there’s something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to explore all that this state has to offer.

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