Headed on a road trip from Phoenix to Sedona? Wondering what to see along the way? Here are the top spots to visit on your Phoenix to Sedona drive. Whether you have a one day trip to Sedona or a week for your visit, these stops will make your road trip unforgettable.
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I’ve mentioned this before on the blog – I used to live in Arizona. I didn’t move there for a job or for school or for family. I honestly moved there because I absolutely love the desert landscape.
While living there, I took so many road trips throughout the state, visiting Arizona desert parks, interesting cities, and obscure attractions. I can honestly say I’ve seen so much of what Arizona has to offer!
If you are making the Phoenix to Sedona drive, it’s true; you could easily do this in a short and straight two hour trip. But I’m here to tell you, that is a mistake! There is so much to see along the way.
I recommend taking an entire day to road trip from Phoenix to Sedona, allowing time for attractions, oddities, and photo stops. Some of what you see is likely to surprise you.
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Arizona is one of the most picturesque of all 50 states. I know, that’s a bold claim. But I promise, it’s the truth! From the tall and brightly lit cityscapes of Phoenix to the rugged mountains and desert terrain, Arizona sure is beautiful.
The cacti are what really make Arizona unique. Saguaro cacti are the unbelievably large and prickly cacti that you will see in many parts of the state. Saguaro are only found in the Sonoran Desert, which covers parts or Arizona, Mexico, and California.
That’s it! On the whole entire planet! Now you see what I mean – Arizona really is a special place.
The silhouette of the saguaros climbing up steep hillsides is an image you will never forget. You’ll see this, and much more, as you drive away from the city and into the desert brush, toward Sedona.
There are so many fascinating and unexpected sights to see along the way. Here are my 5 favorite stops worth making on the Phoenix to Sedona drive.
5 Can’t-Miss Stops on the Phoenix to Sedona Drive
I have to warn you. If you follow my advice and stop at each of these attractions, the drive more than doubles in time, jumping from two hours all the way to over five hours. This is why I say, allow a full day (or even more!) for this sightseeing road trip.
If you’ve never planned a road trip before, or are going it solo, I highly recommend checking out my post on how to plan a roadtrip.
And depending on how long you stop at each attraction, you will be adding even more time to your trip. Plan ahead and consider staying overnight if you have never been here. There is a lot to see on the drive from Phoenix to Sedona! Let’s get to it.
1. Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
The first stop, Camelback Mountain, is located just outside of the city of Phoenix. It’s a well-known sight for locals – a giant red colored rock rising out from the desert, shaped like a camel’s back.
I’ve included this mountain for two reasons.
One, it’s an incredible hiking opportunity, with many different trails that culminate at an over 2,000 foot summit. If you make it to the top, the views are spectacular.
The second reason I mention Camelback Mountain is that two parts of this camel have stumped geologists for years. Most of this mountain is composed of the red colored sandstone that dates 30 million years ago. Confusing as it sounds, sitting on top of the sandstone is a light colored granite that is a whopping billion and a half years older than the sandstone.
The older rock should theoretically be under the newer sandstone, not on top of it – and this granite sighting on the head and the camel humps has never been solved as far as I know.
In any case, the hikes are beautiful and it’s a wonderful way to begin your journey out of Phoenix.
2. Tonto Natural Bridge in Pine, Arizona
The second geological wonder on our tour is Tonto Natural Bridge, which will take under two hours to reach from Camelback Mountain. This naturally formed bridge is believed to be the largest travertine bridge on the planet.
Travertine is a type of limestone typically deposited by hot mineral springs. This particular bridge is located in an area that is unusually green in this desert-filled state, adding to the beauty.
The bridge is 183-feet high and is an astonishing sight. There are three hiking trails in the area if you are in the mood, and one that leads you all the way down to an increrdible 400-foot long tunnel.
If you are not in the mood to hike (or if you’re worn out from Camelback), not to worry. There are viewing points from above to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.
You May Also Like: A Complete Guide to Saguaro National Park
3. Arcosanti in Mayer, Arizona
Another 1.5 hours east, Arcosanti is a must see sight on your Phoenix to Sedona road trip. This experimental community was built in 1970 by an Italian architect named Paolo Soleri. In my opinion, Soleri was slightly before-his-time, as he was attempting to build eco-friendly dwellings in harmony with nature.
Arcosanti was originally intended to house over 5,000 people, but funding issues stopped the project before it ever really got off the ground. The construction of Arcosanti has a very sci-fi feel. The buildings are incredibly unique.
Today, students come from around the world to continue to build Soleri’s dream, not yet reaching completion even 50 years after it began. Tours are available, but every time I have been here, I’ve enjoyed exploring solo and at my own pace.
Learn more about Arcosanti and plan your visit here.
4. Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde, Arizona
Years ago, I was road tripping the entire state of Arizona and I came across this attraction in my research. It was unlike anything I’d seen at the time, and I have a very clear memory of my first visit.
This cliff dwelling is fascinating. It has remained mostly intact, despite being nearly 1,000 years old. Though named for the Aztecs, this secluded dwelling was actually built by the indigenous Sinagua people who lived in the Verde Valley.
The Sinagua built this type of dwelling for safety. Nearly vertical, this limestone cliff face offers maximum protection from anyone wishing to cause harm. The “castle” could only be accessed by ladders, which – once removed – made these structures nearly impossible to scale at 90 feet above.
Montezuma Castle is approximately 30 minutes from Arcosanti, and costs $10 to enter. If you have the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, you can get in for free.
5. The town of Jerome, Arizona
There is a lot to see in this once booming mining town. A little over a century ago, more than 15,000 residents lived in Jerome, but today only about 500 people remain.
Many Ghost Town type attractions remain, like the decaying abandoned post office and what’s now known as the Sliding Jail.
The town of Jerome is located on a steep hill. As a mining town, underground blasts were not uncommon. One of these blasts dislodged the foundation of the jail in 1938 and the rest is history. The jail now sits 200 feet lower than where it was originally built.
Even with all of the decay, the “living” area of Jerome is home to small-town restaurants and shops worth a stroll if you need a bite or want to stretch your legs.
Jerome is about 45 minutes from Montezuma Castle and in another 45 minutes you will reach your destination; Sedona.
As you drive north, towering red rocks will begin to rise out of nowhere, and the telltale signs of Sedona, Arizona will become visible. There is plenty to see in Sedona, Arizona, as well! But that’s a story for another day.
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Let me know in the comments below which of these stops you can’t wait to see! I highly recommend all five on your Phoenix to Sedona drive.