There is a whole lot of unexplored beauty in Arizona, for Arizona is more than just desolate desert and animals that may or may not what to poison and/or subtly sting you. It is a haven for some of the most amazing unobstructed views, incredible food, delightful locals, and in our opinion, the greatest sunsets in the United States (Hawaii, yes, you are a close second).
This fall, we double dog dare you to explore all that Arizona has to offer, since Arizona is literally full of some of the most amazing small towns and quirky, off the map sites that are must-see destinations.
Sure, the Grand Canyon is amazing, but have you ever seen a miniature version of Bedrock from the Flinstones? No? Us either. Let's go explore 19 spontaneous day trips that are less than 3 hours away from Arizona that you MUST see.
Time from Phoenix: 1 hr 45 minutes
Yes, here it is, in all of its magical glory...Sedona, Arizona. This is a place that is almost unbelievable to people who visit. Who knew that a mere 1 hour 45-minute drive from Phoenix would land you here in a lush, tree-covered, red rock city.
There is so much to do in Sedona you will want to leave as early as possible to take full advantage of the city. There is hiking, biking, pink jeep tours, tarot card readings, a tasty cuisine that won't cost you an arm and a leg, and, of course, lots of red rocks for that perfect hiking selfie.
Drop in for a morning hike, take a jeep tour through the afternoon, shop down along Oak Creek, and finish your day off riding into the sunset back to Phoenix. All in all, Sedona never disappoints.
Time from Phoenix: 2 hr 30 minutes
If you crave your pumpkin spice latte with a side of actual fall, welcome to Flagstaff. Snow came early this season, and last weekend alone some flakes fell surprising just about everyone in Arizona. Alas, there will be many a road trip to be taken in the near future because, well, it's Flagstaff.
What we love most about Flagstaff is the effortlessness of the city. Whether you are an avid hiker and want to hike to the tip-top of Humphrey's Peak or simply want to spend the day drinking locally brewed craft beer in the pines.
Whatever you end up doing, it is worth the road trip! Oh, and bring your dog because they are pretty much welcome, well, everywhere!
Time from Phoenix: 1 hr 25 minutes
Payson is somewhat of a sleepy town that at times is underrated for some of the really fun events that roll through. Payson is an area in Arizona where you come from south to north and all the sudden the Sonoran Desert turns into a pine tree paradise.
Whether you come here to fish or simply enjoy areas like Green Valley Lake, you must remember your cowboy boots for this rodeo town. We certainly don't want you to feel left out of the fun.
Time from Phoenix: 1 hr 50 minutes
Are you afraid of ghosts? Whether you answered yes or no, you need to take a road trip to Jerome where the spookiest town in Arizona lives. This once mining paradise is now a haven for road trippers looking to get their kicks in a ghost town atmosphere that still seems to be living in the past.
Head downtown and explore the city by foot, it really isn't that big. Visit the old mine, and take lots and lots of selfies next to old, rusted trucks and gorgeous vintage buildings. It is still considered vintage, right?
Time from Phoenix: 1 hr 50 minutes
Tucson is close to the border, but not too far from Phoenix making it a great quick road trip destination for those looking to get some of the best Mexican food in the state, tour historic buildings, and explore the vibrant, pseudo-hipster downtown Tucson.
Not only is Tucson infused with latin goodness but, it is also a college town, so some of the best recreational activities live here alongside nature walks, hikes, and U of A sports, which they take very seriously.
Fossil Creek, Strawberry
Drive from Phoenix: 2 hr 35 minutes
Fossil Creek in Strawberry, Arizona is a mini paradise surrounded by waterfalls, lush greenery, and just outside the desert. When you get here, spend the day splashing around and finding hidden springs.
Bring your friends, family, or your significant other and head out early in the morning with SPF 50, bathing suits and a sense of adventure. Afterward, grab lunch in the super quaint town of Strawberry and feel like you've really hit the jackpot for a spontaneous road trip.
Drive from Phoenix: 2 hr 15 minutes
Where else can you say to yourself, "I'm sick of city life, I want road trip back in time and head to an abandoned wild, wild, western town and watch a gun show and be driven around in a horse-drawn carriage." Nowhere, other than Tombstone.
Welcome to Tombstone, the town that hasn't changed since the 1800's. This was once a town full of gun-slinging, hangings, prostitutes, genuine cowboys, and bank robbers. Mostly abandoned now, there are still actors who dress the part and act as if the town is still stuck in 1890.
Bedrock City Yabba-Dabba-Doo
Drive from Phoenix: 2 hr 50 minutes
Fancy a trip to see Bedrock? Yabba-Dabba-Doo we say! Just under three hours will take you to Bedrock City, a reenactment of the beloved tv show The Flinstones. This amazing, fictional paradise is a campground (and it's for sale!) that has been converted for your viewing pleasure.
This is is a must see, bucket list destination because no one is certain just how long it will stick around. Go now before someone purchases the $2 million dollar lot and converts it into a Wal-mart.
Drive from Phoenix: 2hr 30 minutes
Just a stone throw from Nogales, Mexico sits Tubac, a wonderfully vibrant, Spanish-inspired town that has a hearty arts district, tons of festivals, and even better food. Take a trip down here and enjoy the quaint, quiet, life that residents enjoy here. Don't forget to get that guac.
Drive from Phoenix: 45 minutes
Cave Creek is a town that is somewhat of a fusion between the old world and new. There are rodeos here, but they also have swanky, modern restaurants serving fine wine and bruschetta at happy hour. Truly this short road trip is worth experiencing both worlds.
Cowboys, cowgirls, and hipsters are all welcome here! So grab your cowboy boots and camera, you're in for a good time!
Drive from Phoenix: 3 hours
You might think you've gone back in time when you arrive in Bisbee, but really, this small town is a thriving and progressive town with amazing food, LGBTQ Pride Parades, old west shopping, and a hidden art scene that is totally worth exploring.
We love Bisbee for many reasons, but above all else, Bisbee has come really far in its history. Balancing the natural preservation of the Old West, with new ideas that keep people flocking to this destination.
Drive from Phoenix: 1 hr 35 minutes
Prescott is a little town with a big personality! It has a forest landscape, with pines towering over amazing areas like Watson lake, and also has a perfect blend of a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.
Surprisingly, Prescott also has a mean, lean, progressive eating menu! If your palate requires a special diet, you will find awesome, locally harvested, organic, sustainable dining experiences and cuisine just about everywhere. Take a look for yourself at The Local, a favorite among Prescott residents and visitors, alike.
Drive from Phoenix: 3 hours
Winslow Arizona is a town that is a small speck on the map, yet embodies so much more. Smack dab along the famous Route 66, Winslow embodies old vintage cars, quaint shops, and an important archeological meteor impact site.
Head 60 miles north and enjoy The Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, or simply stay in town and enjoy the vintage vibes.
Salt River Canyon
Drive from Phoenix: 2 hr 30 minutes
TLC told us in the 90's to not go chasing waterfalls, but we encourage you to go chase these in Salt River Canyon. Nestled deep inside the Tonto National Forest this must-see destination is a bit of a hike, but well worth the drive and the walk.
You can find some of the most amazing, fresh waterfalls here in addition to the Sedona-esque red rocks and miniature pools. I mean come on, how could you not?
Drive from Phoenix: 40 minutes
Why is this city outside of Scottsdale called Fountain Hills? Well, quite obviously it is due to the giant 560-foot fountain situated in the city center. You can go hiking around in the preserve or kick it in the park and watch the fountain pop off every hour.
Drive from Phoenix: 50 minutes
Wanna get out of the city and explore the country? Queen Creek is as country and farm as it gets. Queen Creek is relatively less than an hour from Phoenix, but you will feel like you are in central California. Enjoy a day of wine tasting, cooking classes at The Olive Mill, and hiking the San Tan Mountain Preserve.
Big Woods, Mund Park
Drive from Phoenix: 2 hours
Big Woods inside Munds Park is a little-known destination but has an enchanted forest feel to it. Hang out by the lake, take a hike through the woods, or rent a canoe or paddleboard all afternoon.
Drive from Phoenix: 3 hours
Days on the lake, Snowbowl, cooler weather and beautiful hiking trails make Williams the perfect spontaneous day trip for you to grab some friends and get outta dodge. The best part? If you really want to stay, you can take a train from Williams up to The Grand Canyon.
And if you really want, you can pretend it's the Hogwarts Express...just throwing it out there. All aboard!
Drive from Phoenix: 25 minutes
Honestly, this wouldn't be a list without including the glowing and glamorous Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a town full of glitter, luxury, and resorts that will make your jaw drop. Sure, there aren't any waterfalls or forest views, but you can't beat a poolside margarita at the Princess.