You may have heard about the Pacific Coast Highway, but Arizona offers more rugged beauty. From stunning saguaros to gorgeous vistas, there’s something for everyone to appreciate. Road trips are always much more fun when you have the right vehicle for the trip to experience the best of the Sonoran Desert with these five routes to awe and amaze.
The Apache Trail
This trail ranges from Apache Junction in the Phoenix Valley all the way past Roosevelt and covers at least 45 miles of scenic views, according to arizonascenicroads.com. Start where Route 88 crosses Idaho Road, and you’ve begun a journey you’ll never forget. Bask in the desert beauty as you view the Superstition Mountains, The Theodore Roosevelt Dam and even the Tonto National Monument.
Along the way, you can stop in Goldfield, a former mining town. As you travel past Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains, you can stop for kayaking or paddle boarding in Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake or Apache Lake. Tortilla Flat continues onto a unpaved road, easily navigated by most vehicles. End in Globe, an old mining town from the copper and silver boom with historical buildings and shops.
Ironwood Forest National Monument
If you’re local to the Phoenix Valley, you may not yet have experienced the beauty of the Ironwood Forest National Monument in Tucson. Ironwood trees aren’t as famous as the saguaro, but they make up much of the vegetation throughout Arizona and can live for centuries with their hardened bark resisting decay even after they’ve died.
If you take Marana Road headed west along Interstate 10, you’ll cross the Santa Cruz River and turn right onto Silverbell Road. Along the way, you can see more than 200 pieces of Hohokam rock art. Once you reach Ragged Top Mountain, you’ll notice the strange peak that was created from an ancient volcano. Most passenger vehicles aren’t comfortable after Sasco Road, but any four-wheel-drive vehicle such as an F-150 can comfortably navigate onward to Picacho Peak where beautiful views also await.
Those who’ve seen the movie “Cars” might appreciate this scenic route, especially the kids. Bask in the nostalgia of the good old days when you take Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman, about a 27-mile drive. Located between Ash Fork and the Golden Shores, you’ll be able to see stunning landscapes and nature the way drivers used to see it before the big freeways came into the picture. Enjoy the straight shot and succeeding gentle curves of a road that is built with the land instead of through it, and you’ll get an idea for what traveling by car used to be like.
Several state highways can take you on plenty of adventures, but perhaps one of the most beautiful is Route 89A from Flagstaff down to Sedona and then Cottonwood. Bends and switching back and forth are normal to scale the 2,000-foot incline, which makes for perfect views of the changing scenery. Enjoy the bold colors of red dirt and green vegetation and feel free to take any of the many scenic turn-offs for pictures and some quiet contemplation.
This road remains busy as a tourist access road to the old mining town of Jerome, so if you want to take your time, drive it on a weekday. If your sense of adventure is only peaked by the end, feel free to go on to the Cottonwood Road near Lake Mead, but make sure you have a four-wheel drive vehicle.
The Beeline Highway
Using Route 87 from Fountain Hills to Payson, you can experience some of the most winding roads in the West. It’s likely for this reason that many residents of the surrounding area are retired millionaires with car collections for enjoying the terrain. Nature enthusiasts will also enjoy several different ecosystems throughout the drive including desert, forest and plateau, reports thrillist.com. Since you’ll climb about 3,000 feet along your journey, you’ll have plenty of the same on your descent as you slowly wind down through the mountainous region.
Most roads allow for any vehicle to navigate, so efficient ones like the Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta are good options. While a Ford Mustang might be the car of choice for iconic convertible summer drives, a F-150 may be the best choice for rugged roads. Whatever road you choose and the vehicle to get you there, make sure to enjoy the views and stay safe this summer.