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The Best Scenic Drives in Arizona

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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 

scenic drives
The open road is calling. Photo by Henning Witzel.
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.

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