With its picturesque canyons, winding rivers, impressive peaks, desert landscapes, and national forests, there is a lot of diverse ground to cover in Arizona, which makes it a great road trip destination. I’ve put together a sample itinerary for how to spend 4 days exploring the Valentine State (AZ became a state on Feb 14, 1912) by car, which you can watch on the vlog here. I’ve also included a cost breakdown at the end.
Day 1: Fly into Phoenix Airport and grab your rental car. Prepare for your longest drive of the trip–318 miles to Monument Valley (~5 hrs). To break up the journey, stop in Sedona for pizza with a view at Hideaway House. Continue onto Goulding’s Lodge just across the border in Utah for your first night. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Monument Valley but half the cost of staying at the hotel on the reservation. Get a good night’s rest because the next 2 days are full of exploration.
Day 2: Wake up before the sun to tour Monument Valley with Navajo Spirit Tours. Take in the sights and learn about the Navajo way of life from your local guide. I recommend paying for a tour if you want access to the restricted sections of MV and if you’re interested in talking to a native. Learning about the Navajo culture added a lot of depth to my visit and was definitely worth the cost. Our guide could trace his ancestors back 18 generations (~500 years), and we saw ruins that were about 3,000 years old! Give yourself approximately 3 hours for this part of the day.
Next, make the 2 hour drive to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Both these sights are better to photograph when the sun is higher in the sky, so definitely keep that in mind. My friend and I went in February when the sun doesn’t get high enough to cause the famous sun beam in Upper AC, so we opted to tour Lower Antelope Canyon instead. Give yourself an hour and a half total for AC and at least an hour for HS Bend. After an exhilarating but exhausting day of sightseeing, check into your hotel to prepare for day 3! I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Lake Powell.
Day 3: It’s time to head to the Grand Canyon, which will take about 2.5 hours. I recommend stopping by the visitors center upon arrival to chat with the park rangers. They can help you decide on the best plan for you based on your interests. My friend and I were all about the views, so we spent most of the day admiring the canyon from the various lookouts. We did make some time to learn a little bit about the fascinating geology to help us comprehend what we were seeing. I’ve posted my Grand Canyon photos and review here. We stayed in the park at Yavapai Lodge which was nice but not necessary if you have a car.
Day 4: Before heading back to Phoenix, catch a final glimpse of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then you have 3.5 hours to reflect on the awesomeness of Arizona as you drive back to the airport to fly home. Unless you’ve decided you’re never going home 😉
Cost Breakdown (we went in late February): Accommodation = $126 each, Rental Car = $180 each, MV Tour = $95 each, AC Tour = $26 each, Gas = $18 each, Souvenirs = $30, Navajo Entrance Fee = $20 per vehicle up to four people, Grand Canyon Entrance Fee = $30 per vehicle, and I spent $76 on food.
Where else would you add on to this Arizona road trip??