4 unbeatable trips in and around Phoenix

Phoenix's laid back vibe and central location to some of the countries most stunning natural landscapes in the country have turned it into a vacation hotspot.

The scenery of the surrounding area is simply gorgeous. Cliff faces of red rock butt up against clear streams near Sedona, snow-capped mountains can be found within an hour of the dry desert heat, and the Grand Canyon, with its striking beauty, speaks for itself. A day hike can take you through a desert, a valley, and along a mountain on one route.

This list is meant to serve as a resource for getting the maximum amount of adventure in the short time you have. Pick one or two of your favorites or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, combine them into a multi-day road trip. You won’t waste time on the roads either, the drives almost as pretty as the hikes.

  1. Saguaro National Park (2 hr drive from Phoenix)

    Visiting America’s largest cacti might not be at the top of your bucket list but honestly, it should be. The succulents, which are only found on a small stretch of land in Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico, can grow to be 60 ft tall and almost 5000 pounds over their 150-200 year life. Wandering down trails alongside these old, towering giants is mesmerizing.

    See the website for the Park Rangers trail recommendations, or show up early at the Parkhouse to ask in person. The friendly staff members are more than happy to give advice and opinions on which route to take through the park if you have limited time.

  2. Camelback Mountain (Downtown Phoenix)

    The best views in the city don’t come easy. The short 2.5-mile hike is often underestimated but don’t let its distance fool you. Echo Canyon Trail runs up the side of the mountain and is extremely difficult. Out of the 2,700 feet in elevation gain, almost 1,200 of them are rock scrambling and boulder hopping. Being in downtown Phoenix, the trail stays pretty busy, especially on the weekends. However, the 360-degree views stretching across the city, desert, and into the mountains make the crowded trek well worth it.

  3. Grand Canyon National Park (3.5 hr drive from Phoenix)

    The Grand Canyon is the furthest from Phoenix but this is the Grand Canyon, the thing that you’ve been hearing about your entire life. It is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, a title earned through its sheer size and gorgeous, diverse landscapes. It is not just a canyon in the middle of the desert, it is peaks and valleys of shaded reds, greens, and oranges dipping towards the almost turquoise colors of the Colorado River.

    Once you get there you can pick from the extensive network of trails and untouched backcountry. If you’re only there to view and wander a bit, stick to the rim trail, an easy flat route that goes as long as you’d like along the edge of the canyon.

    If you’re more of a hiker and only have time to do one trail at the canyon make it the South Kaibab Trail. A 6-mile loop from the rim towards the Colorado River and back, the trail has jaw-dropping views the entire way. The elevation gain and narrow switchbacks make for a challenging hike but it is well worth the climb.

  4. Red Rock State Park (2 hr drive)

    If you’ve seen pictures of Arizona, and they’re not of Saguaro’s, they’ve probably been of Red Rock State Park. The iconic sandstone cliff faces are only a small portion of the state, but their vibrant red coloring set against the flat, brown desert makes them a hotspot for photography and outdoor enthusiasts. Try catching the sunset or sunrise here, when the clashing of the light with the crimson cliffs makes them look almost as though they’re on fire.

    If you’re combining this with the Grand Canyon, spend a night in a ritzy Sedona spa--the town is famous for them--or in the more laidback city of Flagstaff. Both have gorgeous views of their surrounding scenery.

Other Destinations