Top 10 Scenic Drives In Arizona, USA

scenic drives in arizona
Edip
Edip 
Updated

Arizona is located in the Southwest region of the United States and is one of the most ideal destinations for enjoying the scenery offered by its open and vast landmass. The Arid climate defines the majority of the state, giving it a certain character. Being one of the Four Corners States, Arizona shares its borders with Utah, New Mexico, California, and Mexico. The Grand Canyon, situated in the wondrous Grand Canyon National Park is an astonishing sight to see - it is a breathtaking natural canyon overlooking the Colorado River and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Aside from The Grand Canyon, Arizona offers mountains, plateaus, the Barrington Meteorite Crater and much more! Explore the top 10 scenic drives in Arizona for yourself.

1. The Apache Trail

Apache Trail 06
Source: Photo by user Bernard Gagnon used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Apache Trail drive is a 40-mile (64.3 kilometers) drive that takes off from the Apache Junction and travels until the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. The trail gets its name from the Apache Indians that once lived in this land. It combines all of the desert’s offerings, while also featuring snapshots of surrounding lakes and forests. Be on the lookout for the Tonto National Monument, Goldfield Ghost Town, Lost Dutchman State Park, Canyon Lake, Tortilla Flat, and Fish Creek Hill. Do note that The Apache Trail follows a winding route and is only partially paved. Thus, travelers should be cautious while appreciating all of the natural beauty.

2. The Beeline Highway

2016-366-237 Driving Into the Storm (28593807824)
Source: Photo by user cogdogblog used under CC BY 2.0

Our second stop is The Beeline Highway drive, which is spread over a 65-mile (104.6 kilometers) road that runs parallel to the Tonto National Forest. It also follows a curvy form and has lots of turns - so, do not expect a straight drive here. The Beeline Highway ranges between Fountain Hills to Payson, where it ascends from the scenery of the desert to that of the pine forests. This mountain ride eventually reaches the Painted Desert by traveling north on State Road 87. The last stop Payson is a place where one can take time to relax and escape the heat. It is also an ideal spot for some hiking.

3. Coronado Trail Scenic Byway

Apache national forest
Source: Photo by user Geographer used under CC BY-SA 2.5

Coronado Trail Scenic Byway is a stretch along US Route 191 that ranges from Springerville to Cliffton. This narrow road has lots of turns and twists throughout, which one should be well-prepared for in advance. There is an entirety of 123 miles (197.9 kilometers) to cover and a total of 460 turns to be exact - an experience that resembles the sight of a car commercial. The cliffs throughout Coronado Trail Scenic Byway eventually lead to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests grace your visage along the way. The region is especially important for a better understanding of the effect mining has played in Arizona.

4. Route 89A

US Route 89A
Source: Photo by user Dene' Miles used under CC BY-SA 2.0

State Route 89A is an excellent way of getting to cover the Colorado Plateau on road. It is recognized as an official historic road that extends for 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) between Clarkdale and Cottonwood. The drive takes one back in time, as it has remained strongly connected to Arizona’s past. Route 89A is framed with particular rock formations and the presence of wildlife. The route also includes - national monuments, state parks (Slide Rock State Park), municipal parks, and birding areas. It is a fitting destination for all kinds of outdoor recreational activities like biking, hiking, fishing, visiting historic districts, and wine tasting.

5. Monument Valley

Forrest Gump Point Monument Valley
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user King of Hearts used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Monument Valley is situated along the border of Arizona and Utah and is located within the limits of the Navajo National Reservation. The region gets its name from the Navajo tribe, who were the original settlers of the land. You can spend up to an entire day exploring the area. Being part of the Colorado Plateau, the drive features many landmarks - Tribal Park Loop, Forrest Gump Point, Mittens and Merrick Butte, John Ford Point, Artists’ Point, Mystery Valley, Teardrop Arch, Hunts Mesa, Three Sisters, Camel Butte, and several totem poles that represent the history of the native settlements in this part of Arizona.

6. Route 66

Route 66 Mohave Valley, AZ
Source: Photo by Flickr user Mobilus In Mobili used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Route 66 drive is the right choice for those that are looking to encounter the real face of the United States. It is a perfect way of bonding with the locals as well as taking in the culture that has remained strong along Route 66. There are many old towns to consider visiting, such as Sedona, Holbrook, Flagstaff, Williams, Jerome, and Kingman. There are many natural attractions as well - such as Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater, Petrified National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon Caverns. Route 66 combines old-school American culture with Arizona’s outstanding natural charm for an experience of a lifetime.

7. Red Rock Scenic Byway

Utah State Rt 12 near Red Canyon
Source: Photo by user Aneta Kaluzna used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Red Rock Scenic Byway encompasses a 14-mile (22.5 kilometers) drive within the impressive Sedona County, along Arizona Highway 179. It is an excellent choice for several outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and golfing as well. The red rocks make this area a notable stop for any travel enthusiast. Take in all the natural beauty of the Bell Rock Highway, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Bell Rock Vista, as well as Cathedral Rock. The organically forming features define the Red Rock Scenic Byway that comes to an end at the Oak Creek Village - where you can enjoy local art at galleries and come across several dining options. Proceeding northward from this byway leads to the marvelous Grand Canyon.

8. Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon 02
Source: Photo by user Postdlf used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Oak Creek Canyon is an excellent way of getting acquainted with the Native American culture that still runs strong throughout the region. Located on State Route 89A, it runs from Sedona to Oak Creek Vista. Oak Creek Canyon presents the distinct ecology of Arizona through rock formations, cliffs, naturally-forming pools, and unforgettable natural scenery. Some of the highlights of this drive are Midgley Bridge, Oak Creek Canyon Vista, Courthouse Butte, Slide Rock State Park, and Bell Rock. There are many opportunities for swimming, hiking, and fishing if you want to take a little pit-stop. Oak Creek Canyon is painted with numerous overlooks, picnic areas, and trails.

9. Sky Island Scenic Byway (Catalina Highway)


Sky Island Scenic Byway (Catalina Highway) stretches for a total of 24 miles (38.6 kilometers) and can be covered in about 43 minutes. Beginning in the Sonoran Desert and ending in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The undulating landscape creates an atmosphere of changing climate zones. There are numerous stops packed into this drive, such as Babad Do'ag Viewpoint, Babad Do'ag Trail, Tucson Basin, Tucson Valley overlook, Geology Point Vista, Rose Canyon Lake, San Pedro Vista, Windy Point Campground, Molino Canyon Vista, Molino Basin Campground, Butterfly Trail, Crystal Spring Trail, Mt. Lemmon Sky Center Observatory, and Bean Canyon. Sky Island Scenic Byway is perfect for those that are looking for a compact, yet remarkable adventure.

10. Kaibab Plateau

Kaibab Plateau 100 2838 0225 edited-1
Source: Photo by user David Jolley used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Kaibab Plateau is defined by the national forests that surround its path. The route travels along the northern side of the Grand Canyon. As you glide through the Saddle Mountain National Forest, there will be all kinds of greenery - such as conifer forests, sub-alpine meadows, montane grasslands, ponds, and limestone outcrops. Kaibab Plateau drive is one of the best ways of reaching the Grand Canyon. It begins at Jacob Lake and continues until what is known as the Northern Rim. Be on the lookout for the scenic Cape Royal Trail, Point Imperial Trail, and make a possible side trip to Zion National Park.

Fruits of the desert

Driving across various scenic routes of Arizona is a remarkable way of traveling through the state while discovering this unique region. There are countless phenomena to ponder on throughout this journey such as valleys, plateaus, state parks, craters, national parks, forests, old-towns and much more! Arizona’s desert climate has made this part of the United States a novelty to experience. Though much of the state has been shaped by the heat, there is still the presence of a strong ecosystem that preserves a rich wildlife. Travel through the scenic drives in Arizona and feel all that sets it apart.

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My name is Edip Efe Ulucay - I am a designer and writer currently based out of Istanbul, TR with an academic background in architectural design. Through sharing articles, I hope to inspire others...Read more

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