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20 Best Day Trips from Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona, is a bustling city with many attractions. Still, one of the best ways to experience the state’s diverse beauty is by embarking on day trips from this central location. The surrounding areas offer a wealth of natural wonders, historic sites, and cultural experiences that make for memorable excursions. In this article, we will explore some of the most fascinating day trip destinations easily accessible from Scottsdale.

From the majestic Grand Canyon to the red rocks of Sedona, there are a plethora of landscapes that will leave you awestruck. Northern Arizona offers guided tours to iconic destinations like Antelope Canyon, known for its striking sandstone formations. Alternatively, if you’re seeking a more urban experience, head towards Phoenix or Tucson to discover the rich cultural heritage, shopping, and dining options available in these vibrant cities.

For those who prefer a combination of nature and history, destinations like Jerome or the Apache Trail will pique your interest. McDowell Mountain Regional Park and Saguaro National Park showcase the unique flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, while Kartchner Caverns invites visitors to explore underground wonders.

Top Day Trips from Scottsdale


Couple on a Vacation in Sedona

Sedona, located just 2 hours from Scottsdale, is a must-visit destination for its stunning red rock formations and vibrant arts scene. Take a drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway to marvel at the breathtaking landscapes, visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, or indulge in some local shopping in the Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village.

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Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon Sceneries

One of the most famous natural wonders in the world, the Grand Canyon National Park is approximately 3.5 hours from Scottsdale. Experience the awe-inspiring views of the canyon by making a day trip and consider taking a guided tour. Along the way, you can stop at historic Route 66 and explore the beautiful landscapes of the Sonoran Desert and Coconino National Forest.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon Rocks

Antelope Canyon, a 4.5-hour drive from Scottsdale, offers some of the most striking slot canyons in the world. Book a guided tour to witness the mesmerizing light beams and sandstone formations that make this destination a photographer’s dream. While in the area, consider visiting the nearby Horseshoe Bend for an other natural wonder.

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Colorful sky and a sunset in Prescott

Prescott, a charming town around 2 hours from Scottsdale, boasts a rich history and captivating landscapes. Take a stroll along historic Whiskey Row, visit the Sharlot Hall Museum, or hike the nearby trails in the Granite Dells. Prescott’s central location in Arizona provides a diverse range of natural surroundings.

Activities in Prescott
Historic Whiskey Row
Sharlot Hall Museum
Hiking in Granite Dells


Tucson Overview

Tucson, only a 2-hour drive from Scottsdale, offers a blend of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultures. Explore the energetic downtown area, visit the historic San Xavier del Bac Mission, or hike in Saguaro National Park to witness the incredible desert landscape. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a must-visit attraction, allows one to learn more about local flora and fauna.

  • Tucson points of interest:
    • Downtown Tucson
    • San Xavier del Bac Mission
    • Saguaro National Park
    • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

In summary, Scottsdale offers a variety of fantastic day trips just a short drive away. Whether you’re exploring the red rocks of Sedona, gazing at the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon, venturing through the surreal beauty of Antelope Canyon, delving into the history of Prescott, or embracing the cultural mix of Tucson, it accommodates various preferences.

Outdoor Adventures

Hiking Trails

Man hiking the City of Rocks
MeganBetteridge / Adobe Stock

Scottsdale, Arizona, is surrounded by incredible hiking trails that cater to all skill levels. The nearby Mogollon Rim provides a stunning backdrop for your outdoor adventure. Some popular trails include:

  • The picturesque trails in the Superstition Mountains, showcase panoramic views and unique geological formations.
  • Saguaro National Park, known for its iconic tall cacti, offers trails ranging from easy to challenging, allowing hikers to get up close and personal with these magnificent plants.
  • The Boyce Thompson Arboretum, home to various native and exotic plant species, has numerous trails winding through its lush, vibrant landscape.


Arizona’s rivers and lakes provide excellent opportunities for kayaking enthusiasts. Some popular destinations for kayaking around Scottsdale include:

  • Salt River, which offers calm and challenging stretches of water and stunning desert scenery, is perfect for a day of adventure.
  • Lower Verde River, where kayakers can enjoy the natural surroundings and diverse wildlife.

Mountain Biking

The Scottsdale area is renowned for its mountain biking destinations, which cater to riders of all skill levels. Known for their challenging terrain and scenic beauty, some popular mountain biking spots include:

  • South Mountain Park, an ideal road trip destination, features over 50 miles of trails to enjoy.
  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park offers various trails, both technical and fast-paced, with something to suit every rider.
  • In the Mogollon Rim area, cyclists can tackle various trails that pass through dense forests and offer panoramic views.

Horseback Riding

Scottsdale is home to various horseback riding trails that showcase Arizona’s diverse and picturesque landscape. Riders can choose from numerous providers for guided horseback outings or even embark on their adventures. Some popular horseback riding destinations around Scottsdale include:

  • Trails within the Sonoran desert, where riders can witness cactus forests and experience desert beauty.
  • The Mogollon Rim area, where dense forests and mountain landscapes combine, for an unforgettable ride.
  • Saguaro National Park, where guided tours provide a unique perspective on the majestic cacti that pepper the landscape.

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Historical and Cultural Attractions


Art Museum in Jerome, AZ
Jeff Schultes / Adobe Stock

Jerome, AZ, located in Yavapai County’s Black Hills, is a historic mining town that offers visitors a glimpse into its rich past. As you wander through its charming streets and storied buildings, you can learn about the area’s mining history and role in Arizona’s development. While visiting Jerome, don’t miss out on attractions such as:

  • The Verde Valley: With its stunning views and serene landscapes, it is a great escape from city life.
  • The Mining Museum: Discover Jerome’s mining heritage by exploring this fascinating museum, which displays artifacts and shares stories about the town’s past.
  • Art galleries and studios: Jerome is home to numerous art galleries and studios showcasing the creativity of local artists.


Tubac historic town center aerial view
Wangkun Jia / Adobe Stock

Tubac, located south of Tucson, is another unique destination for history and culture enthusiasts. Established in 1752, it is known for its vibrant arts scene and rich heritage. Some key attractions in Tubac include:

  • Tubac Presidio State Historic Park: This park encapsulates Tubac’s past, featuring a museum that displays artifacts from various periods of the town’s history.
  • Old Town Tubac: Wander through the historic district, exploring unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
  • The Apache Trail: An opportunity to venture into Arizona’s beautiful landscapes and glimpse the Salt River, Horseshoe Bend, and the stunning vistas surrounding this scenic drive.

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Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument
jon manjeot / Adobe Stock

Located near Prescott, the Tuzigoot National Monument offers insight into the lives of the ancient Sinagua people, who inhabited the area between the 12th and 14th centuries. Here are some points of interest to explore during your visit:

  • Tuzigoot Pueblo: A restored 110-room pueblo that showcases the living quarters and daily lives of the Sinagua people.
  • Visitor Center: Learn more about the history of the Pueblo and the Sinagua people through interactive exhibits and displays.
  • Short hiking trails: Experience the beauty of the surrounding area by walking along the trails that offer breathtaking views of the Verde Valley.

These historical and cultural attractions are just a few destinations you can explore on a day trip from Scottsdale, Arizona. Enrich your knowledge and appreciation for the region’s history by visiting these fascinating sites.

Scenic Drives and Train Rides

Apache Trail

Natural landscape in Apache Junction, Arizona
CheriAlguire / Adobe Stock

The Apache Trail is a historic road that offers a remarkable experience with its spectacular desert landscapes and scenic views. This drive extends approximately 40 miles, starting in Apache Junction and ending at Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Along the way, adventurers can immerse themselves in the beauty of the surrounding nature, spot various species of cacti, and indulge in outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking at Canyon Lake.

Mogollon Rim to Payson

Scenic Mogollon rim, Payson Arizona
Pritha_EasyArts / Adobe Stock

Heading northeast from Scottsdale, nature enthusiasts can take the scenic drive towards the Mogollon Rim and Payson. This route features remarkable views of the surrounding Tonto National Forest, lush greenery during the spring and summer, and awe-inspiring fall foliage during the autumn months. Payson, a quaint town nestled among the beautiful landscapes, offers a fantastic spot to stop for a bite to eat or explore its charming downtown area.

Verde Canyon Railroad

Verde Canyon Railroad train cars
Jeff Schultes / Adobe Stock

For those seeking a unique and memorable experience, the Verde Canyon Railroad provides a relaxing and enjoyable way to explore Arizona’s beautiful landscapes.

Departing from Clarkdale, just a two-hour drive north of Scottsdale, the four-hour train journey showcases the stunning Verde Valley and the cottonwood-flanked Verde River. The Verde Canyon Railroad offers travelers a comfortable experience with spacious seating, panoramic windows, and excellent onboard service, allowing you to sit back and soak in the magnificent views.

Unique Experiences

Group of smiling friends traveling by tour bus

Pink Jeep Tours

Pink Jeep Tours offers an exciting and adventurous way to explore the beautiful landscapes surrounding Scottsdale. These guided tours take you on a thrilling ride through rugged terrain, allowing you to experience the stunning desert vistas of the region up close. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the area’s local flora and fauna, geological formations, and history.

Local Wineries

The Scottsdale area is home to a number of local wineries, making it a fantastic destination for those who enjoy indulging in wine tasting. Visit nearby wineries such as:

  • Aridus Wine Company
  • LDV Winery
  • Carlson Creek Vineyard

Each offers a unique and intimate experience, where you can sample wines made from locally grown grapes, enjoy delicious food pairings, and even participate in fascinating vineyard tours.

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, located only a short drive from Scottsdale, is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. This 140-acre garden features over 50,000 plants, showcasing the incredible biodiversity of desert flora from around the world. The garden hosts several events and exhibitions annually, making each visit a unique experience.

Some highlights include:

  • Wildflower trails: Explore the stunning display of native wildflowers in bloom
  • Cacti collections: Discover the mesmerizing beauty and variety of cacti species
  • Art installations: Admire the garden’s fusion of nature and art through seasonal exhibitions

Japanese Friendship Garden

Located in downtown Phoenix, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a tranquil oasis that provides a serene escape from the bustling city. This 3.5-acre garden, designed in collaboration with Phoenix’s sister city Himeji, Japan, features traditional Japanese landscaping, a teahouse, and a variety of authentic Japanese plants.

Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll through the garden, admire its beautiful bridges and Koi ponds, and participate in cultural events such as tea ceremonies and festivals. The Japanese Friendship Garden offers a unique and calming experience that invites contemplation and appreciation of nature.

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Practical Information

Getting Around

Group of hikers exploring

When visiting Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s important to plan for getting around. Renting a car is the most flexible option, as it allows you to easily explore the surrounding areas and take day trips at your leisure. Alternatively, you can use the public transportation available in Scottsdale and nearby Phoenix.

The Valley Metro system includes buses and light rail that connect Scottsdale to other parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area. For those staying in resorts, many offer shuttle services to and from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as well as nearby attractions.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Scottsdale depends on your preferences and weather tolerance. Here’s a brief seasonal overview:

  • Spring (March-May): Spring is an ideal time to visit, as temperatures are comfortable and the desert is in bloom. This is also peak tourist season, so attractions may be more crowded.
  • Summer (June-August): Summers in Arizona can be very hot, with temperatures regularly exceeding 100°F (38°C). You’ll find lower hotel rates and smaller crowds at attractions if you can tolerate the heat.
  • Fall (September-November): Fall brings cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage, making this another great time for a visit. Remember that October and November can still be quite warm in Scottsdale.
  • Winter (December-February): Winters are mild in Scottsdale, but nighttime temperatures can drop. This is an excellent time for hiking and golf, but be prepared for occasional snowfall in northern Arizona destinations like Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

Packing Tips

When packing for your day trips from Scottsdale, consider the weather and planned activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Light and breathable clothing for hot summer days
  • Layers for cooler mornings and evenings, especially in the winter months
  • A hat and sunglasses for sun protection
  • Comfortable walking shoes for hiking and exploring
  • A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated in the desert climate
  • A waterproof and windproof jacket if you plan to visit higher elevations or Northern Arizona, where snow is possible

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