Hit the road and take in the views — from scenic highways to lesser-traveled back roads, here are our favorite scenic drives in the Grand Canyon state
By Blake Hemmel
1. Oak Creek Canyon
Road: Highway 89A
Length: 14.5 miles
Whether you’re descending down highway 89A towards Sedona or ascending up to Flagstaff, this road is one of the most scenic routes in the state. The lush greenery of Oak Creek Canyon provides a canopy of pine and oak, occasionally opening up for some epic views of red rock. Want more than just the drive? Stop at Harding Spring to fill up on some fresh spring water, or take a dip in Oak Creek at Slide Rock State Park.
2. The Apache Trail
Road: State Route 88
Length: 41.5 miles
Following the Salt River through the Superstition Mountains, the Apache Trail offers an authentic Sonoran Desert experience. If you start from Apache Junction, only about half the trail is paved, making it one of the more rugged drives on the list. It features stunning views of Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes.
3. Sky Island Scenic Byway
Roads: Forest Service Road 833, 10 and 11
Length: 27.2 miles
Also known as Catalina Highway, this scenic road climbs steeply out of the desert floor to the heavily forested Mt. Lemmon. With a 6,000-ft. elevation gain, the variety of vegetation on the ascent is surreal. Beginning with classic desert vistas, the drive takes you to a lush, cooler forest of conifer and ponderosa pine. The temperatures drop dramatically as you climb, making it perfect for escaping southern Arizona’s heat in the summer months.
4. Coronado Trail National Scenic Byway
Roads: Highway 191 and 180
Length: 103 miles
Highway 191 is one of the lesser-traveled scenic drives in the state, perfect for solitude-seekers. With a 4,300-ft. elevation gain and some winding switchbacks, this road rises up from desert scrub to the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona. In addition to heavy pine forest, there’s an abundance of Aspens along this road, making it a golden spectacle during the fall.
5. Kaibab Plateau
Road: Highway 67
Length: 30 miles
Highway 67 is a gentle byway traveling through a variety of forests, small ponds and subalpine meadows on the Kaibab Plateau. The road winds 30 miles south down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which sees significantly less traffic than the popular south rim. Deer and wild turkeys are not rare sights along this road, so keep an eye out for some wildlife. Note: highway 67 is generally closed from November through mid-May due to heavy snowfall.
6. Monument Valley Scenic Road
Road: Highway 163
Length: 27.7 miles
Monument Valley is perhaps one of the most iconic landscapes of the American West. What better way to enjoy it than to drive right through it? Highway 163 does just that, traversing through the sparse open spaces, which are sporadically broken up by the towering structures of sandstone that comprise this alien landscape. You can get an even closer look by entering Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park and driving the additional 17-mile loop.