Northern Arizona is a destination best explored by a road trip. Visitors flock to the Grand Canyon, but the northern part of the state is home to a wealth of other interesting cities and landmarks.
If you're planning a trip to Arizona, here are a few of the best road trips in the northern part of the state.
North Rim National Scenic Byway
While many people opt to visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the more remote North Rim is stunning. Located on State Route 67, the road is typically closed in the snowy winter months, so plan this adventure for the warmer summer months. Along the drive, you'll see Kaibab Plateaus forests and meadows, while a vista provides views of the Vermillion Cliffs. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the road as well.
Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Road
The Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Road is known as US 89A. It starts at Bitter Springs and extends into Kaibab Plateaus plains and pine forests. Be sure to hit this area at sunset as you'll find some of the best Arizona sunset backdrops here.
The Vermillion Cliffs were an important route for 19th century settlers traveling between Utah and Arizona. The cliffs are steep escarpments made from sedimentary rocks like sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and shale. There are no visitor centers or facilities here, but the Vermilion Cliffs are clearly visible from US 89A.
Oak Creek Canyon Road
Located in Sedona, this section of State Route 89A runs for nearly 15 miles and is a common shortcut for people traveling between Sedona and Flagstaff. Start off with the red rocks of Sedona and climb several thousand feet alongside pine-fir forests that extend more than a mile high.
If you're driving this route during the summer months, try to allot some time to stop off at Slide Rock State Park, a popular swimming spot for locals, especially for its natural water-slide (Slide Rock). West Fork Oak Creek Trail, one of Arizona's most popular hiking trails, is accessible all year round.
Monument Valley Scenic Road
The sparsely populated Navajo land of Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. Its popularity increased thanks to western classics like Stagecoach with John Wayne filming here. Younger travelers may recognize it as the backdrop for Forrest Gump's epic run. Take US 163 to check out the cool monoliths and hoodoos along the Arizona-Utah border.
The unmistakable sandstone buttes are a symbol of America, and visitors to Monument Valley can pay a fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile dirt road trail. There are several sections that may not be accessible as they are restricted to guided tours only.
Painted Desert and Petrified Forest Route 66
Head out on the old Route 66, or I-40, and take a road trip through both the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. If you're coming from the west, start at the southern entrance and work your way up. You'll start in the Petrified Forest first and finish off the day with the beautiful Painted Desert vistas.
Be sure not to miss Newspaper Rock, where you can view Native American petroglyphs from a distance, and Puerco Pueblo, the park's biggest archeological site.
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