PHOENIX, Ariz. — When the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide meet in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship, it will mark Clemson’s first-ever visit to Arizona and will be just the second visit to the Grand Canyon State by Alabama, and the first since 1991.
With thousands of first-time Arizona visitors expected, there will be a great opportunity for fans of both teams to explore a new destination. While metropolitan Phoenix will be the center of activity for many of the events leading up to Monday’s clash, some fans will be looking for other things to see and do on their visit.
The Arizona Office of Tourism has compiled the following list of suggested day trips. More travel information about Arizona is available at VisitArizona.com.
10 Arizona Day Trips from Phoenix
Located approx. 110 miles southeast of Phoenix (Take I-10 east to Tucson, drive time is just under 2 hours)
Surrounded by five mountain ranges, set in the middle of the stunning Sonoran Desert and bordered by two segments of the Saguaro National Park, Tucson inspires a sense of freedom among all who visit. Tucson is a bit off the beaten path, but offers incredible outdoor experiences (whether you’re hiking, biking, rock climbing or stargazing), unique attractions and accommodations and arts and culture to stimulate your mind. Our culinary scene — with options ranging from street tacos to farm-to-table elegance — was recently recognized by UNESCO. Tucson’s multicultural, laid-back vibe welcomes you to Free Yourself. Experience an oasis from the unoriginal in Tucson. Tucson has unique attractions, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (one of the world’s best zoos) and the Pima Air & Space Museum (one of America’s greatest aviation museums). Stay here overnight and you have options for accommodations including funky boutique properties, destination spas at the height of luxury, ranches that reflect the history of the southwest or resorts from the biggest names in lodging.
East of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Allow several hours to complete this trip as the road past Tortilla Flat is unpaved.
One of the most popular day trips for anyone visiting is the historic Apache Trail through the mysterious Superstition Mountains and into the foothills of the Tonto National Forest — the fifth largest forest in the United States. The Apache Trail is the nickname of Highway 88. It also refers to a circular route or driving tour of 120 miles including Highways 88 and 60 between Mesa/Apache Junction and the Globe/Miami areas. Driving the full circle will take you through deserts, along the shores of several lakes and a dam, through canyons, near cliff dwellings and past old mining towns. The Apache Trail began as a path through country that was once used by the Apaches. Now, tourists love to drive along this scenic byway and stop at some of the attractions that help tell the state’s history and captures the true essence of Arizona such as the Superstition Mountain Museum, the Goldfield Ghost Town, Lost Dutchman State Park, the steamboat ride on Canyon Lake or dining at the once stagecoach stop of Tortilla Flat.
Located in the Verde Valley about 103 miles north of Phoenix, access by I-17 north and then left on Highway 260.
Located in the “heart” of Arizona, the Verde Valley is ideally situated above the heat of the desert and below the cold of Arizona’s high country. Surrounded by the red rocks of Sedona, Mingus Mountain elevating to 8,000' to the west, and the Mogollon Rim stretching north and east, its low elevation of 3,300 feet and moderate climate is enjoyed year-round. With its state parks, historic sites and attractions, the Verde Valley offers activities for all ages. There is an assortment of hotels, RV Parks, campgrounds and restaurants from which to choose, all within close proximity to the parks, attractions, wineries and Old Town Cottonwood. Scenic beauty and recreational opportunities will thrill the adventurer, and the many fine shops and galleries located in Old Town, will easily appeal to the shoppers and the five wine and spirits tasting rooms round out a perfect day trip.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Located approximately 100 miles northeast of Phoenix. Drive time is just under 2 hours. 10 miles north of Payson on Hwy 89.
Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder. Open daily from 9:00 am — 5:00 pm, with last entry at 4 pm.
55 miles northwest of Phoenix, take Grand Avenue or Highway 60 north.
Wickenburg lies in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, along the banks of the Hassayampa River, one hour from Downtown Phoenix. It boasts a rich Western history that lives on today. Wickenburg’s Old West ambiance takes visitors through the passage of time. The historic district offers unique shopping and dining experiences offering glimpses of Wickenburg as it looked at the beginning of the 1900s. Walk around the historic district to experience Wickenburg’s true Western hospitality. Take an adventure back in time while exploring the area’s attractions. Visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum (called “Arizona’s Most Western Museum”), which features Native American and 19th-century decorative arts, as well as 19th- and 20th-century Western American paintings and sculptures including many by Frederick Remington and Charles Russell. Outdoor adventures include Jeep and ATV tours, ghost tours, hiking, horseback riding or a challenging round at one of the golf clubs. Start at the Visitors Center on 216 N. Frontier St. in the restored Santa Fe Railroad Depot built in 1895.
Follow I-17 north to exit 289 (90 minutes north of Phoenix).
Marvel at the 1,000 year old legacy of the Sinagua as you explore the ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Montezuma Castle is a two-unit National Monument in Verde Valley. The main unit contains one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the U.S. The ruin is five stories high, has 19 rooms and is 90 percent original. The Montezuma Well unit, 11 miles northeast of Montezuma Castle, features a large natural limestone sink. Extensive surface and cliff ruins surround this sink, where natural outflow waters were harnessed for a network of canals used to irrigate farmlands. The visitor center at the castle provides exhibits showing the human history of the area. Self-guided tours and limited picnic facilities are available at both sections. Winter, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission: Adults $10, under 16 free.
Route 66 (Williams and Flagstaff)
Williams is 175 miles north and west of Phoenix, drive time is. 2.5 hours on I-17 north and left onto I-40/Route 66. Flagstaff is 144 miles north of Phoenix on I-17, just two hours away.
ExperienceWilliams.com or FlagstaffArizona.org
Route 66, celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2016, crosses northern Arizona and with a couple of days should definitely be considered. However, if you just have a day, the easily accessible downtowns of Flagstaff and Williams will allow you to get a few “kicks on Route 66.” Route 66 is an experience, a feeling, a perception, a taste of sight and sound and a mystery that can only be resolved by driving the pavement itself. Begin in Williams, known for one-of-a-kind attractions, such as a scenic railway tour, a drive-thru wildlife park and wild west entertainment. Flagstaff, at an elevation of 7,000 feet in the midst of the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, is a hub of activity where an eclectic mix of small town charm and endless outdoor adventure beckons. Pick up a self-guided downtown walking tour map at the Flagstaff Visitor Center to use for exploring the area on your own. The Flagstaff Visitor Center answers all questions about Flagstaff and its many wonders and historic downtown Flagstaff offers unique shopping opportunities, restaurants, art galleries, Native American culture, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts and more — perfect for those looking for the spirit of Flagstaff.
100 miles north and west of Phoenix, about 2 hours north on I-17 and west on Highway 69
Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level amongst the largest stand of ponderosa pine forests in the U.S., Prescott’s breathtaking landscapes are complete with granite mountains, lakes, streams, and rolling meadows filled with wildlife. Here you’ll find many things to do including horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, local breweries, restaurants, shopping, and a hometown feel that keep visitors, young and old, coming back year after year. Once the territorial capital of the state, Prescott is rich with history embodied in its world famous Whiskey Row and abundant historical landmarks. Whether you’re seeking to relax in a natural environment filled with beauty and wildlife, or the history of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and cowboy forays in the most famous saloons of the Old West, check out the True West and Real Adventure.
Located 116 miles north of Phoenix about 2 hours north on I-17 and then turn left at Highway 179.
Located two hours north of Phoenix, and 30 miles south of the Flagstaff peaks, Sedona’s mild four-season climate and high desert terrain assure good year-round weather for vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts. Oak Creek Canyon, a spectacular 16-mile gorge with streams and waterfalls between sheer rock walls, beckons hikers, campers and fishermen. It has been termed by Rand McNally as one of the eight most scenic drives in America.
Located 228 miles north of Phoenix, drive time is approx. 3.5 hours
The grandest of all canyons, this mile-deep canyon, carved by the Colorado River, makes a dramatic 277-mile-long slash through the terrain. Driving along the rim, hiking on trails, riding mule back, floating down the river, flight seeing in a helicopter, and even the IMAX tour of the Canyon all present different perspectives of this spectacular chasm. Outdoor exhibits provide information about Grand Canyon National Park and what to do when you arrive. Watch the IMAX film, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder. It is 20 minutes long and starts on the hour and the half-hour. Exhibits include interactive trip planners, a large 3-D relief map with videos featuring a variety of canyon experiences and a bookstore. Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Bonus Overnight Suggestion: Page/Lake Powell
Located 273 miles north of Phoenix on I-17 and US-89, about 4.5 hours by car.
Page, Arizona is awe-inspiring with its geographic, cultural and historic marvels to explore. Page was pieced together on a desert mesa on land acquired in a trade with the Navajo Nation (a cultural part of Page even today) as home to hundreds of construction workers in 1957 who would build, in seven years’ time, the country’s second largest dam at Glen Canyon.
Page has two bodies of aqua offering all the beauty and adventure you could want. Two marinas can launch you onto Lake Powell and Colorado River rafting begins at the base of the towering Glen Canyon Dam. Kayaking and paddle boarding are available too and don’t forget to bring your fishing gear!
If you’re prone to stay on land there are the Antelope Canyons, Secret Canyon & Canyon X. Tower Butte has recently become available to tour via helicopter and internationally famous Horseshoe Bend is two miles away. Page’s Rim Trail encircles the town for an eleven mile hike or mountain bike workout.
In town, the John Wesley Powell Museum and Visitor Center gives great area information or play golf on one of the nation’s most unique courses at the Lake Powell National Golf Course. And nighttime entertainment can be found at various restaurants or Into the Grand!
For more information on this topic and others see the official Arizona travel and vacation guide from the Arizona Office of Tourism at VisitArizona.com. Find in-depth AZ visitor information and videos about visiting the state of Arizona, including comprehensive directories of Arizona hotels, dining and shopping, as well as things to do and places to visit throughout the Grand Canyon State.
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