Arizona adventures: 10 awesome day trips from Phoenix

(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

So, you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, but long-term trips and global jaunts are, for whatever reason, not an option. Don’t despair because there are plenty of amazing things to see in Arizona. You know what’s even better? Some of these sites require little more than a full tank of gas and a free day to explore. (Check out the map at the bottom of this story.)

Some destinations, of course, are farther than others. It all depends on how much time you want to spend in the car and how much stamina you have.


A couple of years ago, April Warnecke and her family spent a summer day at Lynx Lake, which is about 10 minutes outside of Prescott. It’s about a 90-minute drive.

Lynx Lake

They enjoyed a day of kayaking, enjoyed some relaxed time – and ice cream -- at Granite Creek Vineyards, played football on the lawn of the Prescott Courthouse, and then embarked on a sunset hike around the lake where they saw a bald eagle.

Talk about a day full of fun!

Lake Pleasant

A little closer to home – about an hour’s drive – is Lake Pleasant. In addition to all kinds of water fun – fishing, cruising, wakeboarding, jet skiing, paddle boarding and even hydro-flying -- you have to check out Wild Horse West, which is one of Scott Pasmore’s favorite burger joints.

Make sure you leave some time to check out the Desert Outdoor Center at Lake Pleasant. It’s recognized as one of the top environmental education centers in the state and well worth the visit.


If you’re looking for a trip back in time, look no farther than Jerome.

While it was at one time a booming copper mining town, Jerome is far from a ghost town. It’s is very much alive with writers, artists, artisans, musicians, historians and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.


Titan Missile Museum

Speaking of bygone eras, the Titan Missile Museum is a must-visit for any history buff. I've been there and I can tell you it's completely fascinating.

Nestled underground about 30 minutes outside of Tucson, it’s the only facility of its kind in the country and one of two in the world. It's the only remaining Titan II site open to the public, a stark reminder of a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was all too real.

One visitor described the museum as a "Smithsonian-worthy piece of history."

Kartchner Caverns State Park

No list of day trips could be complete without a mention of Kartchner Caverns. After all, USA Today readers did recently name it Arizona’s best attraction.

Located outside Benson, the drive from Phoenix is about 2.5 hours. Now I’ve never been there myself, but it is absolutely on my Arizona adventure must list.

WHAT'S IN A NAME: Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns


Only three hours from the Valley (and 30 degrees cooler), Javier Soto insists that Summerhaven is one of Arizona's hidden gems.

Summerhaven, which is located on Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains about 30 miles north of Tucson, is the perfect escape from the summer heat. It's a place for all seasons, though, and the winter skiing is hard to beat.


Montezuma Castle National Monument

If you're driving to Cottonwood from Phoenix, you'll pass Montezuma Castle about 19 miles before you hit Cottonwood.

It's a cliff dwelling that was discovered in 1933, but the 20-room high-rise apartment structure is more than 600 years old.

Visit one of the national monuments around Cottonwood

Montezuma Castle National Monument (Source: National Park Service)


Sedona is always a winner when it comes to day trips.

The photo opportunities are almost endless! And there's one spot in particular that's insanely popular! People come from all over the world for this shot.


Bearizona Wildlife Park

Bearizona is another one of my must-do Arizona adventures. This place has been a hit with families since it opened near Williams, which is about 30 minutes west of Flagstaff, several years ago.

Two words: Bear. Cubs.

But if that's not enough, I don't know what to tell you.

Bearizona bear cubs

Seriously though, not only can you drive through a 3-mile trail (a gravel road) and see animals in their natural habitats -- keep your windows up and doors closed -- but there also is a 20-acre walk-through area that is more like a traditional zoo.

Bearizona says the animals tend to be more active in the morning and then the late afternoon hours during the summer. But you won't miss out if you choose to visit in the winter. Park officials say most of the bears "remain active throughout the winter and are easily viewed."

Fun fact: A jaguar at Bearizona saved the life of one of her brethren at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo in December 2016.

Verde Canyon Railroad

The Verde Canyon Railroad has been a popular attraction since 1990, and has carried more than 2 million passengers since then.

It's a four-hour journey that takes you through 100 years of Arizona history.

Verde Canyon Railroad

Verde Valley is not just historic, it's also home to one of Arizona three primary wine regions.


CLOSE TO HOME: 10 things to explore while in old town Scottsdale

GAS UP YOUR CAR: Most scenic drives in Arizona

AND THIS! 19 Arizona destinations to catch an amazing sunset

RELATED SECTION: What's in a name: How some of Arizona's most famous locations got their names

CHECK OUT: Good Morning Arizona's Field Trip Friday

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