Best Day Trips from Phoenix

From vast deserts to peaceful lakes, Arizona offers plenty of day trips from Phoenix. Print out this guide before you even think about hitting the road.

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Phoenix is a gorgeous desert city located just a stone’s throw from some pretty cool small towns. When you can’t wait to leave all the city slickness behind and hit the open road, a day trip to die for is always only a few hours away. Gas up and head out for new sights and thrills on one of these awesome day trips from Phoenix.

Sonoran Desert

A quick 50 minutes away — yes, that’s pretty darn quick to a city dweller — the wide open spaces of the mighty Sonoran Desert are tailor made for outdoor adventure on a day trip from Phoenix. Spreading across more than 100,000 square miles, the Sonoran Desert ‘s landscapes range from desert to grasslands and are overflowing with native plants and wildlife.

From hiking, biking, driving, and tours — you can have it all! Listen up because experts say you need to knock back about a liter of water per hour in this climate. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of H2O. It’s also a great idea to keep snacks on hand to fuel your fun.

Boats docked at Saguaro Lake Marina near Phoenix, Arizona, with the Goldfield Mountains in the background on a sunny, clear day.

Saguaro Lake

Located about 50 minutes outside of Phoenix, Saguaro Lake is like a cool oasis in the middle of the desert. This manmade lake came about after the Stewart Mountain Dam was built as part of the Salt River Project. With an average depth of 90 feet, it’s the perfect watering hole for everything from boating and fishing to swimming.

Rent boats, kayaks, and jet skis at the marina, or hop on a paddleboat tour to see the sights and do a little learning. Lakeshore Restaurant is the ideal spot to grab a snack, lunch, or dinner and take in the awesome views of the lake and nearby Goldfield Mountains.

View of the Casa Grande ruins, prehistoric structures left by the ancient Sonoran Desert dwellers, seen under clear skies about an hour outside of Phoenix.

Casa Grande

If you’re hankering for some small-town charm, head one hour south of Phoenix to Casa Grande for a break from the bustle. There’s nothing sleepy about this little burg, though. It has a splash of sophistication with artifacts and photos in the Museum of Casa Grande and the Casa Grande Art Museum, hidden away on a side street. Check out the sculpture gardens or one of the local artist shows held by the museum every year.

If think ruined things aren’t fun, think again. The Casa Grande Ruins are all that’s left of the ancient Sonoran Desert dwellers who took off in 1450 C.E., leaving behind a network of irrigation canals and prehistoric structures. Tours come in self-guided and guided versions, and the Visitor Center Museum takes you on a dive deep into the culture and history.

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When you roll into the small city of Prescott, less than two hours from Phoenix, you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This small stretch in downtown Prescott looks almost exactly like it did 100 years ago when miners and locals hung out there to chow down and relax. Check out the Sharlot Hall Museum, founded by a local gal who wanted to preserve Prescott’s Old West history. She did just that with the museum’s historic buildings, pretty gardens, and cool exhibits. Don’t miss the Native American culture on display at the Smoki Museum and the American cowboy-inspired art at the Phippen Museum.

Red rock sign for Sedona, founded 1902, with shrubbery and mountains in the background, just a short drive from Phoenix.


About two hours away in the Verde Valley, Sedona and its famous red rocks top the list of day trips from Phoenix. The wild natural attractions lure hikers to hit the trails, which just so happen to be some of the most popular trails in the country. After all, there’s a reason so many folks call Sedona the “day hike capital of the U.S.” More than 120 trails back up the claim to fame.

Got a little hippie in you? Check out Sedona’s artsy side by making a beeline for Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, an outdoor shopping center that looks like an old-timey village in Mexico. You just might find some cool art or a crystal with your name on it in one of the galleries and New Age shops lining the cobblestone streets.

If you’re into old stuff and trains, boy, did you come to the right place! You can see historic ruins while you ride the rails on the Verde Canyon Railroad. Stop for grub at canteens like Cork and Catch in Cottonwood, known for its fusion food, or Up the Creek Bistro in Cornville, where you can dig into daily wild game specials.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Kicking off in Sedona, the Red Rock Scenic Byway is the spot for eye-catching scenery and tons of adventure, including hiking, biking, and two public golf courses. As you motor along the only National Scenic Byway in the state, you travel about 7.5 miles through Coconino National Forest and past amazing red rock formations. One trip and you will never again ask why so many people are wowed by these natural wonders.

Awesome sights are waiting, no matter which day trip from Phoenix you pick. Ready to pack your suitcase? Get more tips and ideas for cool day trips and vacations on our Pinterest.

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