Phoenix to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Feb 17, 2024

Tags:phoenixday tripscenic routesgrand canyonroad triptravelaz

picture of old school arizona license plate traveling in arizona phoenix to grand canyon road trip

The road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world, is a journey that promises breathtaking landscapes, intriguing stops, and an array of experiences that capture the essence of the American Southwest. Spanning approximately 227 miles, this route takes you through diverse terrains, from desert vistas to pine forests, making it a perfect adventure for travelers seeking beauty and exploration.

From route options depending on your preference for pit stops, a day trip itinerary, what to pack, to what to expect, this is your one-stop destination for everything you need to know before embarking on your road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.

For a more immersive experience, consider renting a motorcycle in Phoenix for your day trip to the Grand Canyon. 

Route Options from Phoenix to Grand Canyon

1. Direct Route via Interstate 17 and US-180

Distance: Approximately 227 miles

Route: Take I-17 North from Phoenix to Flagstaff, then switch to US-180 North directly to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Scenery: Travel through the Sonoran Desert landscape before ascending into the mountainous regions around Flagstaff, followed by the high plains leading to the Grand Canyon.

Time: Around 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

highway through the sonoran desert route options from phoenix to the grand canyon

2. Route via Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

Distance: Approximately 250 miles

Route: Take I-17 North to AZ-179 North to Sedona, then continue on AZ-89A through Oak Creek Canyon toward Flagstaff, and finally, take US-180 North to the Grand Canyon.

Scenery: Enjoy the stunning red rocks of Sedona and the lush, scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon.

Time: About 4 to 5 hours, allowing extra time for sightseeing.

picture of oak creek canyon in the winter route options for road trip from phoenix to the grand canyon

3. Historic Route 66 Detour

Distance: Varies, approximately 240 to 260 miles

Route: From Flagstaff, take the I-40 West to Williams, then head north on AZ-64 to the Grand Canyon. This route includes a stretch of the historic Route 66.

Scenery: Experience the nostalgia of old Route 66, with classic Americana diners and motels, before heading to the Grand Canyon.

Time: Around 4 to 5 hours, with additional time for stops along Route 66.

town of williams arizona route options for road trip day trip from phoenix to the grand canyon

4. East Entrance via Cameron (Desert View Drive)

Distance: Approximately 250 miles

Route: Take I-17 North to Flagstaff, then US-89 North to Cameron, and finally AZ-64 West to the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon.

Scenery: This route offers views of the Painted Desert and Navajo Nation, as well as the opportunity to enter the Grand Canyon via the Desert View Drive, which provides numerous viewpoints.

Time: About 4.5 to 5 hours.

picture of a mountain in the painted desert scenic route from phoenix to the grand canyon day trip road trip

5. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Detour

Distance: Varies, approximately 280 miles

Route: Head north on AZ-87 through Payson, visit Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, continue to Flagstaff via Lake Mary Road, and take US-180 North to the Grand Canyon.

Scenery: Explore Arizona’s high country, including the world’s largest natural travertine bridge.

Time: Around 5 to 6 hours, with additional time for exploring the park.

tonto natural bridge state park scenic spots enroute from phoenix to the grand canyon during road trip day trip

Preparing for the Trip

Temperatures in Arizona can vary depending on what time of year you’re traveling from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. Expect the temperatures to range based on elevation, between  70s to 100s°F (around 21-42°C)

What to Pack

  • Comfortable Clothing: Prepare for varying temperatures.
  • Hiking Gear: If you plan to explore the trails.
  • Camera: For capturing stunning landscapes.
  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Plenty of Water: Stay hydrated in the desert climate.

Phoenix to Grand Canyon Day Trip Itinerary 

5:00 AM - Departure from Phoenix

Start Early: To maximize your time at the Grand Canyon, it's best to leave Phoenix early. Grab a quick breakfast or pack something for the road.

9:00 AM - Arrival at Sedona

Short Stop in Sedona: Take a brief pause in Sedona to stretch your legs and enjoy the red rock vistas. A quick visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross or Bell Rock can be refreshing.

11:00 AM - Drive through Flagstaff

Pass Through Flagstaff: Continue your journey through Flagstaff. If you're ahead of schedule, consider a quick coffee break.

1:00 PM - Arrive at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Exploration: Arrive at the South Rim. Head to the Visitor Center to grab a map and plan your short visit.

Lunch: Enjoy a packed lunch or dine at one of the Grand Canyon Village eateries.

1:30 PM - Grand Canyon Activities

Viewpoints: Spend a few hours visiting key viewpoints like Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and Grand Canyon Village.

Short Hike: If time allows, take a brief walk on part of the Rim Trail for more stunning views.

4:00 PM - Departure from Grand Canyon

Head Back: Begin your journey back to Phoenix. It's a long drive, so ensure you're well-rested or switch drivers.

8:00 PM - Dinner Stop in Flagstaff

Dinner in Flagstaff: Stop for dinner in Flagstaff. The city offers various dining options to suit all tastes.

10:30 PM - Return to Phoenix

Arrive Back in Phoenix: Expect to return to Phoenix around 10:30 PM, depending on your dinner stop duration and traffic conditions.

Where to Stay Overnight 

If you want to stay inside the park…

  • El Tovar Hotel: This historic hotel is perched right on the rim of the South Rim, offering stunning canyon views. It's a great option for luxury accommodations and is perfect for those who want to experience the Grand Canyon's history.
  • Bright Angel Lodge: This lodge is also located on the South Rim and is a more affordable option than El Tovar. It has various room types, including cabins and suites, and is a good choice for families.
  • Maswik Lodge: This lodge is located on the South Rim and is the most affordable option in the park. It has basic rooms and is a good choice for budget travelers.
  • Image of Maswik Lodge Grand CanyonOpens in a new window
  • Yavapai Lodge: This lodge is located on the South Rim and offers stunning canyon views. It has a variety of room types, including cabins and suites, and is a good choice for those who want to be close to the action.

Other options…

  • Grand Canyon Village: Offers lodging within the park.
  • Tusayan: A nearby town with hotel options.
  • Camping: For those who prefer a night under the stars.

Ditch the Car and Rent a Motorcycle for Your Day Trip to the Grand Canyon with Riders Share

Transform your day trip to the Grand Canyon into an exhilarating journey by renting a motorcycle from Riders Share, from $25/day. Feel the freedom of the open road as you weave through the breathtaking landscapes of Arizona. With Riders Share, you can access a wide range of motorcycles suited for all experience levels, ensuring a seamless rental experience. This isn’t just a trip; it’s an adventure that connects you more intimately with the scenic beauty of your journey, making your visit to the Grand Canyon truly unforgettable.

Conclusion

A road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon is more than a journey; it explores the rich tapestry of Arizona’s landscapes and culture. Each stop offers its unique charm, from the red rocks of Sedona to the starry skies over the Grand Canyon. This trip is not just about reaching a destination, but about embracing the spirit of adventure and the beauty of the journey itself. So, pack your bags, fuel up your car, and set off on a road trip that promises memories to last a lifetime. Safe travels!