road trip

Top 5 Road Trips from Phoenix to Northern Arizona: Your Summer Escape

Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its scorching summer heat. When the temperature soars, the best way to cool off is to head north. Northern Arizona offers stunning landscapes, cooler temperatures, and a variety of activities perfect for a summer getaway. Here are five must-take road trips from Phoenix to Northern Arizona to escape the summer heat.

1. Sedona: Red Rock Wonderland

Distance from Phoenix: 116 miles
Drive Time: 2 hours


  • Majestic red rock formations
  • World-class hiking trails
  • Vibrant arts scene

Route: Take I-17 North directly to Sedona.

Experience: Sedona is a haven for nature lovers and spiritual seekers. The iconic red rock formations, like Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, are perfect for hiking and photography. Don’t miss the chance to drive through Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most scenic drives in the country. After exploring the natural beauty, stroll through the town’s many art galleries and shops, or unwind with a rejuvenating spa treatment.

Must-Do Activities:

  • Hike the Cathedral Rock Trail
  • Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross
  • Enjoy a sunset Jeep tour

2. Flagstaff: Gateway to the Grand Canyon

Distance from Phoenix: 145 miles
Drive Time: 2.5 hours


  • Cool pine forests
  • Historic Route 66
  • Proximity to the Grand Canyon

Route: Head north on I-17, then take I-40 West to Flagstaff.

Experience: Nestled in the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff is a refreshing retreat with an elevation of about 7,000 feet. Explore the historic downtown area, full of charming cafes and breweries. For a unique experience, ride the Sky Ride at Arizona Snowbowl for panoramic views or explore the ancient cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Flagstaff also serves as a convenient base for a day trip to the Grand Canyon, just a 1.5-hour drive away.

Must-Do Activities:

  • Stroll along historic Route 66
  • Visit the Lowell Observatory
  • Take a day trip to the Grand Canyon

3. Prescott: Old West Charm

Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles
Drive Time: 1.75 hours


  • Historic downtown with Wild West roots
  • Cool mountain air
  • Outdoor recreation

Route: Take I-17 North to AZ-69 West.

Experience: Prescott, with its rich frontier history and mile-high elevation, offers a cool respite from the desert heat. Wander around the historic Whiskey Row, where you can find lively saloons, unique shops, and local restaurants. For outdoor enthusiasts, the nearby Prescott National Forest and the serene Watson Lake provide ample opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.

Must-Do Activities:

  • Explore Whiskey Row
  • Hike Thumb Butte
  • Kayak at Watson Lake

4. Payson: Mogollon Rim Adventures

Distance from Phoenix: 90 miles
Drive Time: 1.5 hours


  • Access to the Mogollon Rim
  • Lush pine forests
  • Scenic lakes

Route: Drive northeast on AZ-87.

Experience: Payson sits at the base of the Mogollon Rim, a dramatic escarpment that offers breathtaking views and endless outdoor activities. Enjoy hiking or biking along the Rim’s numerous trails, or spend the day fishing and picnicking at one of the many lakes like Woods Canyon Lake. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to one of the largest natural bridges in the world, is another must-see in the area.

Must-Do Activities:

  • Hike the Rim Lakes Vista Trail
  • Visit Tonto Natural Bridge
  • Fish at Woods Canyon Lake

5. Jerome: The Cool Ghost Town

Distance from Phoenix: 110 miles
Drive Time: 2 hours


  • Historic mining town
  • Art galleries and shops
  • Unique ghost town experience

Route: Take I-17 North to AZ-260 West, then AZ-89A South to Jerome.

Experience: Perched on Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is a former mining town turned artist enclave with a quirky charm. Explore the narrow streets lined with eclectic shops, art galleries, and historic buildings. Learn about Jerome’s rich history at the Mine Museum or take a ghost tour for a spooky twist. With cooler temperatures and stunning views of the Verde Valley, Jerome is a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure.

Must-Do Activities:

  • Tour the Jerome State Historic Park
  • Visit the Gold King Mine Museum
  • Enjoy wine tasting at a local vineyard

Road Trip Tips

  1. Start Early: Beat the heat and the traffic by starting your trip in the early morning.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Northern Arizona is cooler, but staying hydrated is still crucial.
  3. Check Road Conditions: Especially during monsoon season, ensure your route is safe and clear.
  4. Bring a Map: Cell service can be spotty in some areas, so having a physical map is handy.

Northern Arizona’s diverse landscapes and cooler climate make it an ideal summer escape. Whether you’re drawn to the artistic vibes of Sedona, the historical allure of Prescott, or the ghostly charm of Jerome, these road trips offer a refreshing break from the Phoenix heat.

Happy travels!