Arizona is beautiful thanks to the unique and stunning scenery everywhere you look. To get a good taste of what the state has to offer, consider taking a short road trip from Phoenix to Sedona. You'll drive through remarkable desert landscape highlighted by towering red rocks and plunging canyons. Bask in the warm, dry air and get 360-degree views of the countryside with a convertible you can rent right from the Phoenix Airport or one of 25+ neighborhood branches around town. Be prepared for the open road by visiting our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive Time from San Francisco to Seattle: approximately 2 hours
Distance from San Francisco to Seattle: approximately 116 miles
Recommended car for this road trip: Convertible
Phoenix, an oasis in the midst of a gorgeous desert backdrop, is the most populous state capital in the U.S., and has something for everyone from professional sports and incredible golf to exquisite shopping, thrilling entertainment and world-class spas. Kids will enjoy the exciting water parks as well as the zoo, a children’s museum, and The Hall of Flame Fire Museum – a museum dedicated to showcasing firefighting equipment from around the world from the 1700s to present day.
On the morning of your road trip, fill up with a delicious breakfast to give you the energy and stamina needed for the trek ahead. Fàme Caffe offers farm-to-table meals with a French and Spanish twist. On your table, you may see a croque monsieur or a Parisian omelet next to some chilaquiles or huevos rancheros. And, should you wake up on the late side, breakfast is served all day.
Once you're feeling full and ready to start the road trip, head north on Interstate 17 to Black Canyon City. The longest stretch between gas station is about 20 miles, but it’s worth remembering, considering you’re driving through the desert and would be in quite an uncomfortable predicament should you get stranded.
This small desert town sits 46 miles and about 45 minutes outside of Phoenix and hugs the western edge of the Tonto National Forest. Black Canyon City’s picturesque location makes it an excellent stopping point. The town has some fascinating history, part of which includes the first ranch house in the area built by Jack Swilling, known as one of the founders of Phoenix, and his wife, Trinidad. The walls of this oldest building in the community are still standing today.
Another great part of Black Canyon City to explore is Black Canyon Trail. This 62-mile trail dates back to the 1600s when farmers and ranchers used it as a livestock route. In 1919, the Department of the Interior gave the trail official recognition as a livestock driveway. Today, it's a great way to see more of the Sonoran Desert and Bradshaw Mountains. The trail is open to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, and you'll find several stops along the way where you can picnic or simply relax and take in the scenery. There are multiple trailheads along its path, but the Black Canyon City Trailhead will be the easiest to access. From I-17, you’ll take exit 242 and follow the signs for trail parking.
When you're done exploring Agua Fria National Monument, continue driving north on Interstate 17 for 38 miles and about 45 minutes to reach Montezuma Castle National Monument. This national monument protects well-preserved cliff dwellings built and used by the Sinagua people. The primary structure of the cliff dwellings is a five-story building that has twenty rooms. The houses were developed over the course of three centuries and inhabited from around A.D. 1100 to 1425.
Interestingly, both parts of the monument's name are incorrect. When the first explorers discovered the long-abandoned ruins in the 1860s, they assumed the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma had a hand in the construction. However, archeologists believe the structure was abandoned 40 years before Montezuma was born. Additionally, the structure isn't a castle. It's more like an apartment building.
Travel the last 26 miles and approximately 40 minutes north on Interstate 17 to reach Sedona. Once you're in Sedona, you'll discover a variety of things to see and do. One of the most popular attractions in the area is Red Rock State Park. This 286-acre park features stunning red sandstone cliffs, mesas, and canyons. The park has a five-mile network of trails that take you by everything from red rock overlooks to the lush greenery of Oak Creek.
If you arrive in Sedona hungry, you'll find a city brimming with dining options. For something unforgettable, head to Cress on Oak Creek. This fine dining establishment offers a prix fixe menu featuring locally grown and hand-selected ingredients. Highlights include the trout cured in juniper berries, kurobuta pork belly, and mole-rubbed venison loin. Of course, the most impressive part of the meal might be the setting because the outdoor dining terrace sits right against the banks of the Oak Creek.
In a city known for spiritual healing, you should absolutely devote time to a spa day and melt away any stress and tension. You'll find many spas in the area, all with their own unique settings and offerings. What better way is there to wrap up a spa day than enjoying some wine on the Verde Valley Wine Trail? Sedona is all about relaxation and healing. Plan a little R&R into your trip and experience what make Sedona a special place.
To see all the beauty and unique history between Phoenix and Sedona, load up your rental car and follow this road trip plan for a journey you'll never forget.