If you like trains, then you will love the Grand Canyon Railway. The train departs from Willams, Arizona, for a 2-hour, 65-mile trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim. Options for the train trip include Pullman Class to Luxury Parlor Car. Once you arrive at Grand Canyon Village, you have about three hours to enjoy the views. On the return trip, it’s not unusual for the train to be boarded by friendly bandits. It’s all part of the fun on the Grand Canyon Railroad. Williams, Arizona, is 30 miles west of Flagstaff.
15 miles north of Flagstaff along Highway 89, you will find the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The monument’s visitor center is near the entrance. Here you will pay your entrance fee and view displays about the area’s volcanic past. Several trails take you through the lava fields; however, the top of the cinder cone is off-limits. Admission to Sunset Crater also includes entrance to Wupatki National Monument. Both monuments can easily be visited on a day trip from Flagstaff. Website.
Wupatki National Monument is a fantastic place to visit near Flagstaff, California. There are impressive Ancient Pueblo ruins throughout the park. You can walk up to and into the ruins here, unlike other monuments. One of the larger ruins is a short walk from the Wupatki Ruins Visitor Center. From there, you can take Loop Road and stop at various sites. Loop Road ends at Highway 89, where you can drive to Sunset Crater or return to Flagstaff. Wupatki National Monument is located 44-miles from downtown Flagstaff.
Tuzigoot National Monument Arizona
Take a walk around Tuzigoot National Monument and explore 1000-year-old pueblo ruins. Located in Clarkdale, Arizona, this spectacular monument was first excavated in 1933. Today there is a museum, visitor center, and the most extensive Sinagua pueblo ruins in the Verde Valley.
Canyon De Chelly is a long day trip from Flagstaff. About a three-hour drive. After stopping at the visitor center, you have two choices. You can drive along the Rim Highway, pull over at the various canyon overlooks, or take a guided tour through the canyon. Tours usually last about four hours, so plan to spend one night if you plan to take a canyon tour. There is no entrance fee for the park. Guided Canyon Tours run about 250.00 dollars for up to four persons.
The sprawling deck of the Desert Belle is your gateway to scenic sights around you. Expect to be bowled over by spectacular views of the Sonoran Desert as you cruise along Saguaro Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of bighorn sheep, bobcats, and coyotes. Enjoy scenic deserts, mountains, and the awe-inspiring canyons as they stretch out tall before you—Desert Belle Crusis is about a one-hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona.
Petrified Forest National Park
With a landscape similar to Death Valley, the Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona. Route 66 (Interstate 40) runs right through the middle of this National Park, which is the heart of Arizona’s Painted Desert. At the visitors center, you can pick up and learn about the history of the area. From there, take a drive along Petrified Forest road and enjoy the amazing desert scenery. Be sure to stop by the Painted Desert Inn (it now serves as a museum) on your journey around the park.
Jerome Ghost Town was a once prosperous mining town halfway between Flagstaff and Phoenix. The town was built on the side of Cleopatra Hill and served as the center for the rich copper mines in the area. In its heyday, Jerome had a population of 10,000 people. Today less than 500 people call Jerome home, and the town’s main source of income is tourism. Sights to see include the Jerome Historical Park Museum, Gold King Mine & Ghost Town tours, the Bordello Restaurant, and Jerome’s Grand Hotel Asylum Restaurant. More info.
Just down the hill from Jerome, you will find the Verde Canyon tourist Railroad. The train takes passengers on a leisurely 40-mile round-trip through the Verde Canyon. The views of the Canyons red cliffs are spectacular as the train winds its way along the Verde River to Perkinsville, the halfway point. The return trip follows the same route back to Clarkdale. Excursion options include first-class, caboose, and coach. There are also open-air cars that everyone can enjoy.
Located 40 miles South of Flagstaff, the drive to Slide Rock SP takes a little over an hour. Popular activities in the park include hiking, enjoying the spectacular views, and taking a dip in Oak Creek. Also, in the park, you will find Frank Pendley homestead and an apple orchard adjacent to the creek. The main attraction here is playing in the creek and sliding down an 80-foot sandstone chute. Address 6871 AZ-89A, Sedona, Arizona. Website.
Grand Canyon Caverns is a famous roadside attraction along Route 66 midway between the California border and Flagstaff. Activities include cavern tours via an elevator that takes you 210 feet below the earth’s surface. Dining in the restaurant on the surface or the grotto restaurant in the cavern. Picking up route 66 souvenirs in the gift shop or staying overnight in the cave motel. Grand Canyon Caverns Peach Springs, Arizona. Website.
Museum of Northern Arizona
This destination is right in Flagstaff, perfect for a quick afternoon day trip. If you are interested in learning about the Native American people of Arizona, then the Museum of Northern Arizona is a great place to visit. Exhibits include artifacts from Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and the Apache tribes. There is a short nature trail on-site that cuts through a canyon adjacent to the museum. Address 3101 N Fort Valley Rd, Flagstaff, Arizona. Website.
Located in the Black Mountains overlooking the Colorado River Valley, Oatman Ghost Town was once a gold rush boomtown. The population grew to more than 3,500, but when the gold was gone, the miners moved on, and Oatman became a ghost town. Today the town depends on tourism and makes a nice day trip if you spend some time in nearby Laughlin, Nevada. Historic buildings, stores, burros roam the streets, and on weekends you can even see a western shootout on the main street.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Lake Pleasant Regional Park is situated about 40-miles northwest of Phoenix. The lake is an important water source for the Phoenix area, with most of the lake’s water coming from the Colorado River. Activities include water sports, hiking, camping, and fishing. On holidays and weekends, the lake is a nearby alternative to Lake Havasu. Website. 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd. Morristown, AZ. Website.
If you are looking for a family day trip in Southern Arizona, then the Rooster Cogburn’Ostrich Ranch is the place for you. Located 75-miles south of Phoenix in the town of Picacho, the ranch features a large assortment of critters in a petting zoo environment. They have donkeys, goats, ducks, sheep, rabbits, stingrays, birds, and many ostriches. Activities include feeding the animals, Ostrich Fishin’, Bunnyville USA, and Monster Truck Tours. 17599 E Peak Ln, Picacho, AZ. Website.
A 100-acre botanical garden, zoo, and museum surrounded by the Saguaro Forest. Situated 12 miles west of Tucson, the museum features native animals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. There are also several miles of walking paths through the extensive desert gardens. While most of the exhibits are outside, there is a mineral and fossil collection in the air-conditioned Earth Sciences Center. Finally, the Warden Aquarium is displaying fresh- and saltwater creatures. 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ. Website.
Old Tucson, Arizona, is a movie studio ghost town where hundreds of western films have been made. The town was originally constructed in 1939 for the movie Arizona. Old Tucson was used exclusively for filming until 1960, when it was opened as an attraction. Today it is more of a theme park than a studio, although it’s occasionally used as a filming location. Activities include a train, antique car rides, western shootouts, shows, Iron Door Mine tour, stagecoach rides, gold panning. Big Jake’s Bar-B-Q serves up a decent plate of barbecue ribs if you work up an appetite wandering around town. 201 Kinney Rd, Tucson, Arizona.
The Queen Mine Tour in the historic town of Bisbee, Arizona, is quite an adventure. After putting on a hard hat and vest, visitors board a mine train similar to Knott’s Berry Farm and head deep inside a real copper mine. The tour guides are former miners and explain what it was like working in the mine and how to operate the tools needed to extract the ore. Bisbee is such an interesting town you might want to spend a night exploring the area.
Salt River Tubing
The Salt River Canyon is a short day trip from Phoenix. Tubing trips run from below Saguaro Lake to the exit area is about six miles downstream. There are two options for tubing. 1. Bring tubes and at least two cars—Park one car at the entry point one at the exit. Throw your tubes in the river and have fun. 2. Rent a tube from Salt River Tubing Company and park your car at the exit point. Hop on their bus, ride to the river entrance point, throw your tubes in the river, and have fun. Tubing is best from May through Labor Day. Depending on the water level. Website.
Tombstone sits in the middle of what was the largest silver mining district in Arizona. In its heyday, the town boasted a population of nearly 15,000 folks and had over 100 saloons. As you can imagine, it was a wild place. Today Tombstone is mainly a tourist attraction with the center of activity at the Old Tombstone Western Town. There is a mine tour, cowboy shootouts, stagecoach rides, and lots of gift shops. Tombstone is the location of the Boothill Graveyard and the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” Website.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak Observatory features an impressive collection of optical and radio telescopes 7,000 feet above the Southen Arizona Sonoran Desert. The final 12-miles to the observatory twists and turns up the Quinlan Mountains offering scenic views that are worth the trip alone. Once you arrive, there is a visitor center where you can get a docent-led tour of three larger telescopes. The visitor center also has Interactive exhibits and a gift shop. Kitt Peak National Observatory is a 56-mile drive from Tucson, AZ. Website.
Saguaro National Park
The Saguaro National Park straddles Tucson with an east and west section. The excellent Tucson Mountain District Visitor Center is located in the western section. And the smaller Rincon Visitor Center is located in, the more remote eastern section of the park. We recommend stopping at Saguaro West if this is your first visit. Saguaro cactus are numerous here, and the visitor center is larger. There are several short trails to explore, or you can take a drive along Hohokam Road (dirt) to Valley View Overlook Trail for an amazing view. Website.
Seven Falls is a top-rated hiking destination made all the more famous by social media. The good news is if you don’t like hiking, you can travel part of the way via a tram. There are two different tram routes. The one to take for the falls is the Bear Canyon tram. It’s a two-mile ride to the Seven Falls trailhead. From there, it’s another 2 1/2 mile hike with several creek crossings before you get to the falls. A less strenuous option is taking the 45-minute guided tram tour through adjacent Sabino Canyon. Website.