The Ultimate LA to AZ road trip itinerary
LA to AZ
At the height of the Omnicron pandemic this past holiday, my family and I appeased our travel bug with the perfect road trip from LA to AZ. It was so fun and well-planned out that I wanted to share all the details. Moreover, it was the safest way to travel (our fully-loaded, 2022 Chevy Traverse provided by our travel partner was super clean, and a private mode of transportation). And all our pit stops/activities minus some restaurants were outdoors! This itinerary gave us great quality time while allowing us to enjoy the most spectacular scenery!
Disclaimer, I can’t take credit for all the amazing travel planning and plotting of pit stops. My brother and husband teamed up to do all the vaca research. And now I’m sharing everything so you too can simply hop in a car and GO!
Barstowe, Needles and Lake Havasu are the only popular pit stops along with the RTE 66 museum to help break up the long 8 hour drive. But the ever-changing scenery had us so wow-ed (as former Manhattanites who lived in a concrete jungle), that the time passed quite quickly. (Aand we didn’t even mind that the RTE 66 museum was unexpectedly closed during the holiday break). The roads treated us to grand mountain views , tons of exotic tumbleweed and seemingly never-ending pastures. It felt like the wild wild west and we were enamored!
Flagstaff, AZ (Grand Canyon)
This list of viewing sites was so efficient and masterfully planned. TIP make sure to research the weather before you pack because while you might think AZ is hot or a warm destination, you’ll be surprised to find that in the winter, the high altitude spots like the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff get SNOW!! Yes, it snows in AZ!
Next, we stopped in Sedona for the evening and happened upon the most beautiful Chipotle ever lol. Because all the other restaurants in the area seemingly had an over an hour wait, we gave up and randomly stopped into Chipotle only to find the most incredible viewing spots of the Sedona mountains. Plus there was this Instagramable moment.
Sedona is famous for its unique, red sandstone formations like Cathedral Rock, Coffeepot and Thunder Mountain. Wineries, art galleries, spas and spiritual retreats are also huge tourist draws. Also, if psychics, gem stores, Southwestern fashions and turquoise jewelry are your thing, you’ve come to the right place haha! It wasn’t ours but we still enjoyed window shopping and grabbing some ice cream in this Main St. bustling downtown area! If you have more time to explore Sedona, know that quirky UFO, and ghost tours are popular along with spiritual vortex tours too. I’m a curious person and may have to try these next trip!
Camp Verde, AZ (Montezuma Castle)
You won’t believe your eyes when you see this cliffside, cave house. They call it a castle but really, it’s a five-story structure of 20 rooms that looks more like and was probably used more like an apartment. Situated near Camp Verde about an hour south of Flagstaff, it dates back to the 12th century and was used by the Sinagua civilization. It immediately ignited the imagination of my 8 year old daughter who had a bunch of questions for the local ranger we found on the trail. How did they get back home? (A. They had to climb a ladder). Were there bathrooms in there? (A. there was no plumbing and they had to throw their waste out the windows). EW!
The short and very walkable path featured exotic trees and a pond and culminated in a visitor’s center/gift shop. It’s a trip down history lane and we all found it very interesting and worth the short visit. My favorite part however was checking out this miniature, creation depicting what the rooms inside were like! You can peek into this along the outdoor pathway.
Scottsdale, AZ (Arizona Biltmore hotel)
There were limited 4 and 5 star hotel options when it came to hotels along this road trip until we got to Scottsdale where we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria – owned, Arizona Biltmore. Its beautiful grounds and spectacular poolside featuring these huge slides, were a huge hit with the family so I thought it was worth a quick mention here.
Historic Old Town Scottsdale, is a fun place to visit. It’s a whole VIBE! Think Southwestern shops, restaurants jamming to live music, cowboy hats and a nightlife that didn’t even stop through the peak of Omnicron. While we were there, we witnessed tons of bars jam-packed with maskless people in fact (so we made sure to get our glimpses from a distance and decided to eat elsewhere.
Probably one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever had was at this Papago Park. Near the hugely popular, Desert Botanical Garden (which we decided to skip), was this “hole-in-the-rock” sandstone structure with almost comical looking undulations and large holes (created by the flow of water over millions of years).
If we can do this hike, in our embarrassingly, inappropriate fashions and ballet shoes, you can too! We were both unprepared for this surprise of a hike on our itinerary and also were unprepared for the glorious view! It is WORTH the trek!
Phoenix, AZ (Dobbins Lookout)
Speaking of views, also in Phoenix, is Dobbins Lookout -the highest accessible point in South Mountain Park. It’s 710 metres up! It faces north, features breathtaking views of downtown Phoenix to Camelback all the way to the north-east. We enjoyed the picturesque opportunities within their stone ramada and found the views awe-inspiring. Disregard my daughter’s unexcited face here..she just woke up from the road trip.
Where to eat in Phoenix, AZ? Try Wrigley Mansion for a fancy dining experience (Check their website for hours of operations because they are odd and they’re closed Monday and Tuesday)
Or go to Little Miss BBQ for a casual meal. (But try and go earlier because they do tend to sell out of certain items!) I’m salivating remembering our BBQ dishes!
Palm Springs, CA
I could write an entire separate post on Palm Springs, CA. But for this post, I’ll quickly mention the Cabazon outlets if you hadn’t had your fill of shopping yet and the Cabazon Dinosaurs across the way. We just HAD to stop for a pic by this Tyrannosaurus Rex who crazily dressed as Santa for the holidays. Note though that the other free-to-see dinosaur has a gift shop which is also a fun pit-stop for families! My daughter said it was as if the dinosaur had eaten a gift shop!
We hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful or inspiring! Everyone from nature lovers, hikers, outdoorsy travelers to family adventure seekers like us will all have something to love in AZ. There’s simply so much to see and take in. Next time, we’ll have to hit the other northern areas of AZ like: Havasu Falls, Monument Valley, Vermilion Cliffs and Antelope Canyon. If you have additional questions, please leave a comment or shoot me a message!
Click HERE for 6 stops you must see for an epic SoCal road trip
Click HERE for the wackiest Pasadena, CA pit stop