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The Perfect 5-Day Road Trip

by Red Hunt

Sunshine and the great outdoors are two things Arizona has in abundance, making it an ideal destination for a road trip. Buckle your seatbelt and let’s take a sunny five-day adventure through Arizona!

Day 1: Figuring out Phoenix

However long you have in Arizona, you’ll want to spend a couple of days exploring Phoenix.

Maybe grab a bite to eat at Matt’s Big Breakfast or head down town to Cityscape, a popular area packed with shopping and dining options. If you’re the adventurous type then my suggestion is to head to Phoenix Mountains Preserve and hike around Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain.

If family-friendly fun is more your style or you just want a Wild West fix, head to nearby Chandler and check out the Rawhide Western Town, complete with gunfights, mechanical bulls and stagecoach rides.

Day 2: Get on the road to the Petrified Forest

For a great five-day road trip from Phoenix, start on day one with a scenic drive through the Tonto National Forest. Winding your way towards Holbrook you’ll pass desert canyons and spot some of the famous ‘armed’ saguaro cacti. It’s about a four hours drive to get to Holbrook.

This is a rustic, motel-type town so don’t expect luxury. No matter though, as you’re here to explore the amazing colours and landscapes of the nearby Painted Desert and Petrified National Forest. Expect oddly coloured rock formations and plenty of hiking trails —  perfect for exploring in the afternoon and at sunset.

It is illegal to take any petrified wood from within the park, so be sure to stop at one of the roadside rock seller shops on your way out of town if you want a souvenir.

Day 3: The glorious Grand Canyon

After your day in the Painted Desert, it is another four-hour drive to one of the world’s great natural wonders, the Grand Canyon.

To get the most out of your time here, book a cabin or room inside the park village – don’t stay in Tusayan or Flagstaff. For comfort and nostalgia consider the El Tovar, where Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein once stayed. For value, the Bright Angel Lodge is my top pick.

Take two days to explore the Canyon and give yourself enough time to take a mule ride or hike some trails. South Kaibab Trail gets my top pick. Photo tip: Head to Hopi Point at sunset and Yaki Point at sunrise.

Even if you don’t stay at El Tovar, their dining room is the place to go for a nice meal. During the heat of the day, stop for some ice cream at the Bright Angel Fountain.

Day 4: Serenity in Sedona

After your active adventures in the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, by day four of your Arizona road trip it is time to relax and slow things down. Sedona is the perfect place.

There are nearly as many B&B’s in Sedona as there are hotels, and with names like Boots and Saddles, Canyon Wren and Sedona Dream Maker you know you’ll be treated to some great local hospitality.

Sedona itself has a fun main street, ideal for strolling. It’s chock-full of souvenir shops, restaurants and pigs. Pigs? Well, they’re actually funny pig statues called Javelinas that have been artfully decorated.

The city is surrounded by a beautiful red rock desert setting, too. Whether you’re craving a day at the spa or a big steak dinner (or both), you’ll find plenty of options here.

Day 5: Road trip Finale

Day five of your road trip is a short two-hour drive back to Phoenix. Consider stopping in at the Wildflower Bread Company before leaving Sedona and picking up some fresh bread for a picnic lunch in the desert.

Take some time to drive along the short Red Rock Scenic Byway and enjoy some of the best Arizona views outside of the Grand Canyon. Then, for a fantastic finale to your adventure, hop into a hot air balloon and rise above the desert outside of Phoenix. A sunset balloon ride is both adventurous and romantic and it will cap off your Arizona road trip in style.