The Scenic Road Trip Through This Southern State Promises Views You Won't Forget

If your dream road trip involves canyons, cactuses, and a splash of Americana, look no further than Arizona. The state's most famous attraction, the Grand Canyon, sits high on many people's bucket lists and offers truly awe-inspiring views. But the Grand Canyon isn't the only place in Arizona with breathtaking scenery — not by a long shot — and there's no better way to see it all than by hitting the road.

This wonderful trip, with stops suggested by Escape Campervans, takes in some of Arizona's most famous sights, from the otherworldly Monument Valley to Saguaro National Park, home to the world's most recognizable cactuses. As many out-of-state visitors will fly into Phoenix, we suggest a round-trip route from there. Start by heading north toward Seligman. Get off the main highway and roll into the city on the old Route 66. Spend a few hours in town immersed in Americana, visiting retro gift shops and restaurants. From here, get back on the road to the Grand Canyon.

Canyons galore

The Grand Canyon needs no introduction. You could spend days just gazing into the vast canyon, watching the colors of the ancient rocks change in the shifting light. The more-visited South Rim is open for visitors year-round, so make sure to take a trip along Desert View Drive and stop at the lookout points.

From the Grand Canyon, travel north to see three of the state's most stunning natural areas. First, visit Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, a vast and remote stop with incredible rock formations. You'll need to secure a permit in advance to hike in several parts of the Monument, including Coyote Buttes North, home to the famous Wave, a spot that hikers rave about.

After that, stop at Horseshoe Bend. This famous loop around a sandstone escarpment in the Colorado River is widely loved and highly photographed. Try to get there at sunset for the most colorful views of the rock walls. Your final stop in the area is at Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. These gorgeous slot canyons have walls up to 120 feet high and are painted by shafts of sunlight during the day. You must visit as part of a guided tour, and the canyons are popular, so book in advance. After this, head east toward Monument Valley.

North to South

If you haven't been to Monument Valley, you've undoubtedly seen it in movies. From "Once Upon a Time in the West" to "Forrest Gump," the Navajo Nation landmark is a star in itself. The sandstone buttes rising out of the desert make the drive up to Monument Valley as iconic as the site itself, though the 17-mile loop drive is pretty astonishing, with close views of the buttes and mesas.

From there, travel south to Petrified Forest National Park. The park is famous for its petrified wood and views of the Painted Desert. Driving between the park's north and south entrances will bring you past its finest landscapes, so make sure you hit some of the short hikes, too. The Giant Logs trail allows you to see some of the most colorful petrified wood, and the Blue Mesa trail gets a thumbs up from TripAdvisor user BurkeJohnC, who calls the views "awesome."

Your final stop is Saguaro National Park, where you'll see millions of mighty saguaro cactuses sprawling across the Sonoran Desert. Enjoy the balmy temperatures as you wander next to 50-foot-tall saguaros, some of which have been standing guard over this corner of Arizona for 200 years. Saguaro is divided into two — the east side and the west side. The east is more remote with varied vegetation; the west has a higher density of saguaros. Most people, including blogger Red Around The World, agree that the West is best for a short trip.

When and how long

Our first tip is about when to drive this spectacular route. Except for the sweltering summer when most of Arizona turns into a giant oven, there isn't a bad time to take this excursion. Spring is a glorious time to go — the weather is warm, and the saguaros bloom with white flowers. Winter is also a pleasant time to go, though be aware that the Grand Canyon and other places at high elevations can see snow!

One of the great things about this road trip is that the distances between stops aren't huge, meaning you have more time to spend at your destinations rather than behind the wheel. One of the longest stretches is from Petrified Forest to Saguaro, which takes under five hours. You could cover the trip in ten days if you're in a hurry, but we highly recommend taking at least two weeks to really explore each stop.