An Arizona Road Trip

by Christene

My family's fun journey through Arizona May 24th - June 1st 2010. I hope it inspires you to plan an Arizona road trip of your own.

Phoenix, Arizona

In May of 2010 my husband had to go on a business trip in Phoenix, Arizona. Having never been to Phoenix, or anywhere in Arizona I was looking forward to tagging along. We decided to extend his weekend trip another week or so, and to bring our daughter who was 8 years old at the time.

We'd been on many family vacations, but mostly just in Florida, or close to our home in Massachusetts, so this would be our first real adventure. Well, there was that trip to Brazil when she was only a year and a half, and that was pretty adventurous at times, but we had a whole heck of a lot of other family members with us, so this was our first for just-the-three of us.

We decided not to make any plans, or reservations. We were going to wing it and see as much of Arizona as we could. Our first few days while my husband worked my daughter and I hung out. We went swimming, and to the movies, and shopping. We stuck close to the hotel. Once that was done we got a few maps, got a rental mini-van, had our trusty iPad, and we hit the road.

Our Route

Our Route Through Central Arizona
Our Route Through Central Arizona

Tempe, Arizona

Wait, before we left that first hotel, we did take a quick trip out to Tempe to see Arizona State University, one of the colleges my husband had attended. He took us around campus and we went out to dinner downtown. Then we went back to get ready for our week in the wild west.

(Click images to enlarge.)

Phoenix & Tempe
Phoenix & Tempe

Goldfield Ghost Town

We knew we wanted to see a ghost town wile we were out there, we just didn't know where to go. We saw an advertisement for Goldfield Ghost Town and decided to check it out.

It's about 4 1/2 miles Northeast of Apache Junction right off of SR 88. It's a little town that was rebuilt for tourists. There are little shops, a museum, and a saloon along an authentic looking street.

We took a tour of the Goldfield Mine, looked at the Superstition Reptile Exhibit, and went "gold panning" at Prospector's Palace. Each of those had their own price of admission but aren't too expensive. The mine is cute. The reptile exhibit is just one room of tanks, I might skip that unless someone in your family really loves reptiles. My daughter really wanted to pan for gold so that was worth it even though it was just indoors. They have a water trough set up and give you a pan. You then take it outside and see what little gold specs you can find to keep.

Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town

The Apache Trail

After Goldfield Ghost Town we continued up route 88 along the Apache Trail. The views were amazing! We drove and drove, and got hungry. It was dinner time and we weren't seeing any food. Note to travelers: Bring food if you want to drive the Apache Trail. As soon as we thought we might starve to death we saw something that looked like civilization. A small civilization, but one none the less.

We had reached Tortilla Flat. Halleluiah. One problem, we actually got there 2 minutes before the restaurant was going to close. Luckily there were only 3 of us, and the littlest was awfully cute. They let us come in and eat. Note to travelers: Get to Tortilla Flat before 6:00 pm on a weekday in May if you want to eat. If you go you might see the dollar we left for them to hang on the wall. :)

With full bellies, and empty bladders, we were off again. More gorgeous views, and some nerve wracking spots. You are driving on rocks, through narrow paths, up mountains, and sometimes without guardrails. There were some spots I might have prayed for our lives. It was way cool. LOL

We drove all the way to the Roosevelt Dam. By this time it was pitch dark, so we didn't get to see much of it. From there we took SR 188 west. Remember we didn't have a plan. All we had was an iPad, and the idea that we would end up at the Grand Canyon at some point. So we kept driving along SR 188 and then took SR 87 north.

(The date in the blue pic is wrong and it bothers me. I hope you can ignore it. Or at least pretend it says 5.28.10. Thanks.)

The Apache Trail
The Apache Trail
The Apache Trail
The Apache Trail

Payson, Arizona

All right, we on SR 87 and decide we need to find a place to stay for the night. We see that Payson might be our best bet. I use the handy dandy iPad and find us a hotel there. We stayed at the Majestic Mountain Inn. I can't tell you much about the Inn as we literally just went to bed as soon as we got there, then left as soon as we were ready in the morning.

I have to check with my hubby, but I think we ate breakfast at Tiny's Family Restaurant before hitting the road again. SR 87 to SR 260 west to SR 89A west.

Jerome, Arizona

Still hoping to find a real Ghost Town we stopped in Jerome. If you want me to be honest Jerome was my least favorite of our destinations. I was really in the rugged west searching mindset and Jerome is artsy. I love artsy, I do, it's just not what I wanted for this trip. They call it the "Largest Ghost Town in America", but it's really a functioning town. The drive up to it and back was nice, but walking around it felt too much like home.


Sedona, Arizona

"There is no Arizona. No Painted Desert, no Sedona. If there was a Grand Canyon..."

There is a Sedona! And I absolutely love it!

From Jerome we went back on SR 89A and this time drove East right into Sedona. We found another hotel via the iPad, Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel. Stay here! You look out onto Sedona's Red Rocks. I'd never seen anything like it before. You're also able to walk right downtown. We walked around, had dinner at Open Range Grill & Tavern, and then went swimming at the hotel.

The next day I wanted to go hiking and we chose Devil's Bridge Trail. You can read all about the trail and our hike, and see some of our photos at that link. If you aren't afraid of heights I totally recommend going to Devil's Bridge. It was a-mazing.

The Grand Canyon

After the hike we headed back to SR 89A north to I-17 north into Flagstaff, on to US 180 west, and up SR 64 north into Tusayan, Arizona. We were just outside the Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. We tried to get a hotel inside the park, but they were all booked up. Note to travelers: If you want to stay inside the park, do not wing it. Make reservations in advance.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

We ended up finding a reasonably priced room at Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn.

The next day we head out for our second hike of the trip. We finally got to see the Grand Canyon! We took Bright Angel Trail. The tough thing about hiking here vs in Sedona is- your way back is all up hill. It was mid-day, at the end of May, so it was hot. I was so worried about the return trip I didn't want to go down too far. Suffice it to say, we did not make it to the Mile-and-a-half Resthouse.

We had a nice lunch at Bright Angel Lodge and took a look around the gift shop. We also went to Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio before leaving Grand Canyon Village and driving off to the next adventure.

SR 64 south, to I-40 west (part of Historic Route 66), to SR 89 south, to SR 93 south into Wickenburg, Arizona.

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Stretching Our Legs

Arizona Drive
Arizona Drive

Wickenburg, Arizona

With the next destination in mind we stopped for the night in Wickenburg, Arizona. We stayed at the Wickenburg Inn in this quaint western town. We were here because I wasn't ready to give up my search for a real ghost town. My last chance was a place called Vulture Gold Mine which is just outside of Wickenburg. You can read all about our time there, and see some of our photos at that link. It was exactly what I wanted! All three of us loved exploring the site and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a relatively untouched, abandoned mining town.

Scottsdale, Arizona

After leaving Vulture Gold mine we hit the road east on SR 60.

We drove through Surprise, Sun City, Peoria, and Glendale. I think we took I-10 to SR 202 to SR 101 into Scottsdale for our final destination, Taliesin West. We just made it in time to go on the last tour of the day. :) Check out that last link for all of the wonderful details. Both my husband and I went to school for architecture and we wanted to see the house and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright.

After the tour we went to find a hotel, and have dinner. We stayed at Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Scottsdale.

That was our last night in Arizona, in the morning we went back to where we started, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to fly back to Boston. This was one of our favorite vacations ever.

This is an indispensable travel companion.

We could not have taken this trip without our iPad.

We found our way through Arizona without taking major highways, as well as where to sleep, where to eat, and where to visit all using our iPad on the road. We could switch between WiFi and 3G depending on where we were.

We would have been lost without it.

The End
The End
Updated: 07/11/2015, Christene
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Have you been to Arizona?

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david on 08/29/2015

Arizona has lot to explore. I love rafting and this would be a great place...

paperfacets on 12/02/2013

Yes, I have been to Arizona, but I like your thorough route and all that you saw. I want to try it again.

barbarab on 09/05/2011

my favorite ghost town and it really is..deserted, broken, creaky Ruby Az south west of Tucson...but your trip sounds like a treasure!! so glad you love my desert!

tandemonimom on 07/08/2011

Sounds like you hit most of the high spots! Sedona and Taliesin West are some of my favorite spots in Arizona too.

WebWriter on 06/09/2011

Arizona has a lot to offer. I love warm weather so this would be a great place for me to visit.

Jimmie on 06/09/2011

I love the personal tidbits you added to this travel article. The photos are fantastic (and the scrapbooking layouts, of course).

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