Best Family Road Trip Spots in AZ
Have an upcoming weekend with no plans? Then pack the car, strap in the children and go on a family road trip. Arizona has several places to take in the earth’s natural beauty. From natural craters to the red and orange-tinted cliffs, there are several places to go for a day trip or a weekend adventure.
Flagstaff sits along historic Route 66, and the city is close to several national landmarks. The biggest one would be Grand Canyon National Park, which is about 1 ½ hours north. The park covers a total of 1.2 million acres, and it has been named one of the Wonders of the World. Many visitors head to either the North Rim or the South Rim of the park. The North Rim is home to the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, which dates back to 1927. Visitors can camp or bring their RV to Trailer Village.
Sunset Crater Volcano is a shorter road trip from Flagstaff at a 30-minute drive. The crater dates back to 1085 when a volcanic eruption changed the landscape. Visitors cannot hike to the summit because of erosion, but there is a 1-mile loop trail open to guests at the summit. Many people drive through a 34-mile loop down Highway 89 that passes both the volcano and the Wupatki National Monuments. The monuments date back to an ancient Native American population that lived there primarily after the eruption of the Sunset Crater Volcano. Visitors can still see a former dwelling made up of more than 100 rooms and a ball court.
Meteor Crater is a favorite road trip spot among children. It’s about 40 minutes from Flagstaff, and it is one of the best-preserved meteor impact sites. The crater is about 3,900 feet wide and 560 feet deep. Researchers believe a 160-foot meteorite that crashed to the earth about 50,000 years ago created it. NASA used the area to prepare astronauts for Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and 70s. Today visitors can go to the crater and learn more about asteroids and comets, while also seeing the American Astronaut Wall of Fame.
Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land about two hours north of Flagstaff. This area is great to view the unique slot canyons and learn more about the Native American culture. The canyon was created by thousands, if not millions of years of wind and water carving through the stone. Visitors can chose from sightseeing tours or photographic tours through Upper Antelope Canyon.
Many Arizona residents head to Slide Rock to cool off from the summer heat. Located about 40 minutes from Flagstaff, this park gets its name for the natural water chute people can slide down. The park can get busy in the summer, so it is recommended to arrive early. It is also fun to visit in the fall, as people can walk through the apple orchards and historic buildings. Frank L. Pendley planted the orchards in 1912. Today visitors can still see the original Pendley home and barn.
As the bustling capital of Arizona, Phoenix has plenty of things to do inside the city. But it’s easy to escape and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. One place to visit is the Phoenix Mountains Park right in the center of the city. The park is home to Piestewa Peak, which offers stunning 360-degree views of the city. It takes a one to two hour hike to get to the peak, and it can be very steep. Visitors are recommended to bring plenty of water and climb carefully.
It only takes about two hours to get to the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to the largest travertine bridge in the world. The bridge itself is a 400-foot-long tunnel that gets to a maximum width of 150 feet and a height of 183 feet. The bridge has existed for thousands of years, but the earliest known documentation was in 1877 by David Gowan. His original lodge still exists today. Visitors to the park have three walking trails to choose from, with the longest taking about one hour to complete.
Tucson is Arizona’s second largest city, and it has several family-friendly trips both inside and outside the area. There is Saguaro National Park, which is home to the densest forest of cactus in the West. The park is about 15 miles from city center, with 150 miles of hiking trails accessible by foot and by bike. The park is also a popular spot for photographers to get a view of the sunrise or sunset.
Head about an hour south of Tucson for the full Wild West experience at Tombstone, Arizona. A prospector founded this city in 1879, and the area was once the largest silver producer in Arizona. In its heyday, the town had a bowling alley, ice cream parlor and about 110 saloons. Visitors can now see some of the old saloons as well as a daily reenactment at the O.K. Corral called “The Gunfight.”