The Unique Road Trip That Shows Off This Entire Southwestern State's Scenic Charm

If you're looking for an unforgettable adventure through the heart of Arizona, you should buckle up and hit the road along the winding 517-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 191 that runs north and south across the state. This scenic drive celebrates Arizona's breathtaking natural beauty with several picturesque locations. One of these is the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, which offers stunning views of the White Mountains. As you wind through this scenic byway, you'll witness the beauty of the Mogollon Rim and its breathtaking landscapes. 

The drive along U.S. 191, exploring these scenic byways, is an adventure that can comfortably be enjoyed in one to two days, depending on your pace and how much time you wish to spend at each stop. Every mile offers new opportunities to explore and discover the wonders of the Southwest. As you travel through historic towns, vibrant landscapes, and sights unique to the region, you'll experience the rich culture of the people who have called this land home for centuries. You'll also witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural wonders that make Arizona one of the most distinctive places in the U.S. That said, get ready to buckle up and head out on a journey through the eastern part of the Grand Canyon State.

Arizona's historic towns and natural wonders along the southern route

The journey starts in Douglas, a small city on the Mexico–United States border. This location played an important role during the Mexican Revolution. Moving north, you'll find the small community of Sunsites in the Sulphur Springs Valley. It offers breathtaking views of the Dragoon Mountains. Further north is Willcox, a larger town known for its warm-weather wineries and orchards. Once you pass Willcox, you will come across Safford, offering modern amenities and small-town charm. If you are a nature enthusiast, you cannot miss visiting the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, where the Gila River flows through different ecosystems.

Hannagan Meadow is a popular spot for outdoor activities and stunning views from the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Stop for a bite at the historic Hannagan Meadow Lodge restaurant, one of Arizona's oldest continuously operating restaurants. As you continue your journey, you can take in the breathtaking scenery of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. This vast area spans over 2 million acres and is home to countless plants and animals. In nearby Springerville, you can visit the ancient ruins of Casa Malpais or the meaningful art of the White Mountain Apache Cultural Center.

Navajo heritage and sights on the northern stretch

Continuing north on the highway, the Tse'nikani Flat Mesa Rock Scenic Road leads you through the mesmerizing red mesas of the Navajo Nation. This stretch promises captivating views and a deeper connection with the area's rich cultural heritage. As you head north, you'll discover some distinctive towns and landmarks that add unique flavors to your southwestern adventure. For instance, in Sanders, you can check out the R.B. Burnham & Company Trading Post, which has a variety of Navajo jewelry and crafts. 

Klagetoh is another Navajo community known for beautiful, authentic woven rugs. As you continue your journey, you'll pass through the community of Mexican Water, which is believed to be named after Mexican travelers who stopped by and took water from the area. Along the way, you'll enjoy breathtaking panoramas of grand mountains and valleys, remarkable plants, and impressive wildlife, such as towering saguaro cactus and desert bighorn sheep.

If you're planning a road trip on Arizona's stretch of 191, spring or fall is the best time. The weather is mild and comfortable, making for a delightful driving experience. After all, you'll want to avoid the scorching heat of desert summers and potentially dangerous winter road conditions, especially in the mountains. With some planning and attention, you can explore some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world with this road trip across a single state.