Planning a trip from Phoenix to Zion National Park? I’ve got you covered! It’s a drive I have taken a few times myself, and will share all the best stops in between.
A road trip from Phoenix to Zion National Park is a journey that offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Southwestern United States. This iconic trip spans over 400 miles and will take you through rugged desert landscapes, towering red rock formations, and pristine national parks.
Along the way, stop and explore historic towns, hike through stunning canyons, and witness awe-inspiring natural wonders. Whether you're an avid adventurer or simply seeking a scenic escape from city life, this unforgettable road trip will leave you with lasting memories.
How to get to Zion National Park from Phoenix?
The drive directly from Phoenix to Zion National Park spans about 400 miles and takes roughly 6 hours. But if you have extra time to spare, I highly suggest making a few stops along your way!
You will drive along two major highways during your route from Phoenix to Zion National Park: I-17 North and US-89 North.
How much time do you need on a road trip from Phoenix to Zion National Park?
You could drive straight through from Phoenix to Zion National Park in one day, but if you have more time, make a road trip out of it! There is SO much to see and do in between these destinations.
To hit every single stop I have listed below, you would need a solid two weeks, but obviously, we all don't have the luxury of spending a large amount of time.
I think with three full days to spare, you could hit many of the major stops to sightsee and do some hiking. Pick a few places that appeal to you most from the list below and see how it fits into the amount of time you have!
As someone who has traveled extensively throughout the Southwest, no matter how much time you have budgeted for, you will probably wish you had more time! There’s just something about the desert that leaves you wanting more.
What is there to do between Phoenix and Zion National Park?
It feels like there is a near-endless list of things to do on your drive from Phoenix to Zion National Park.
Some of the highlights are the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah. These are the most popular stops along the route, and there is much to do in each place.
But there are also some epic sights to see hidden down long, rutted dirt roads. Keep reading below for all the best stops!
17 of the best stops on a road trip from Phoenix to Zion National Park
Located less than 2 hours from Phoenix is the small town of Prescott, Arizona. With Wild West vibes and a beautiful lake to explore, Prescott is worth the stop if you have the time.
The best things to do in Prescott with a limited time is to walk down Whiskey Row, a main strip of Old West-style saloons and bars, and kayak or paddle board on Watson Lake. Head to El Gato Azul for incredible food. They serve tapas, entrees, and more in a beautiful creekside setting.
If you’ve taken the detour to Prescott and are headed to Sedona next, take the scenic route by way of Jerome. A once flourishing mining town that was partly destroyed by many fires and landslides in the 19th century turned into a ghost town.
Now you can explore the ruins of the forgotten parts of town or stop at the many art galleries that occupy the main strip. Eat at the Haunted Hamburger, a famous stop in Jerome. This eatery is rumored by its owners, staff, and guests to be haunted!
Sedona deserves a full day of your time if you’ve got it. And if you’ve never been here before, you’ll probably wish you had even more time.
This little town will inspire you with its towering red rocks with so many secret caves, arches, and incredible views. You can easily soak in the views from the town’s center, but try to hit some trails or go on a pink jeep tour.
My favorite hikes are: Merry Go Round Rock, Keyhole Cave, Bell Rock, Subway Cave via Boynton Canyon, Shaman’s Cave, Red Rock Crossing for sunset, and Cathedral Rock for sunrise.
Sedona is also known for its vortexes. These specific areas of supposedly high energy trigger many emotional, spiritual, and emotional breakthroughs and transformations. Some of the major vortexes in Sedona are Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon, and Airport Mesa.
Are the energy vortexes real? I guess you’ll have to go and find out for yourself! The one thing I know is that whenever I’m in Sedona, I always feel at peace.
Oak Creek Canyon
Taking the scenic route from Sedona to Flagstaff, you will pass through Oak Creek Canyon. There are a few vistas to pull over and stop along the way.
If you have extra time and are up for a hike, the West Fork Trail is a stunning, unique hike that takes you through tall canyon walls along a river. You’ll want to set aside a few hours for this trail.
Flagstaff is a really cute town that sits at the base of Arizona’s San Francisco peaks. There’s a cute downtown area with many great local shops, restaurants, and breweries.
If you’re lucky enough to be here during the month of October, you will be treated to the Aspen trees’ leaves, changing to golden and yellow. Hikers will enjoy the challenging climb up to Arizona’s highest point- Humphrey’s Peak.
Meteor Crater Natural Landmark
Meteor Crater is worth a stop for those that are interested in space and science. It is located about 37 miles East of Flagstaff, so you will have to take a bit of a detour to get here.
The meteor crater is huge- almost 4,000 feet across! There is a pricey admission fee here, though, at 27$ for each adult.
While there, you can take a guided tour around the crater’s rim, take in the view from various viewpoints, walk through the museum, and watch the 4D movie.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is an obvious must-stop on your way from Phoenix to Zion National Park!
Located 3 ½ hours from Phoenix and 4 ½ hours from Zion, the Grand Canyon is just about halfway between the destinations.
See the best viewpoints of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim including Mather Point, Hopi Point, Yavapai Point, Lipan Point, and Yaki Point.
Sunrises and sunsets at the Grand Canyon can’t be beaten, so I highly recommend planning your day around catching either one.
If you have half a day to spare, hike down into the canyon a bit. The best half-day hikes are the South Kaibab trail to Cedar Ridge and the 1.5 or 3-mile Resthouse via the Bright Angel trail. Be sure to not hike in the middle of the day due to extreme heat, and carry lots of water.
Driving from the Grand Canyon to Zion, you can make a slight detour to go to Lees Ferry before hitting Page, Arizona.
Lees Ferry is off the radar but still very accessible, making it a fantastic hidden gem.
From Lees Ferry, you can kayak along the Colorado River to camp around at the bottom of the infamous Horseshoe Bend.
Or hike the 3-mile trail, Cathedral Wash, that leads you through a slot canyon onto the shores of the Colorado River.
Make a quick stop on your way from Phoenix to Zion National Park by hiking to Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.
This hike is 1.5 miles roundtrip and features a picture-perfect view of Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.
Antelope Canyon is also located in Page, Arizona. Most of this slot canyon is on Navajo land so you must go on a guided tour to see it.
You can choose between Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon; they are both equally as beautiful!
These tours typically last about 1 hour so it makes the perfect pit stop on your drive from Phoenix to Zion.
I’ve explored many slot canyons throughout Arizona, Utah, and California, but Antelope Canyon stands in a league of its own.
It truly looks like an art piece that has been hand sculpted instead of created by the elements.
You can also kayak to a part of Lower Antelope Canyon via Lake Powell, that is open to the public. This is a fantastic and unique experience that I highly recommend.
Lake Powell is a place of beauty and wonder. The way the canyon walls glow orange and yellow next to the lake's blue and green waters is spectacular.
If you have an extra day to spare on your road trip, renting a boat for the day on Lake Powell is the perfect way to spend it. Those on a tight budget will want to rent a kayak or paddleboard for the day instead, as the boats can get pricey.
Lone Rock Beach along the shores of Lake Powell makes for an epic camping spot and is first come, first serve. It is a great spot for stargazing, so leave the rainfly off your tent and look up at the sky before going to sleep!
Heading out to Alstrom Point requires a 4x4 high-clearance vehicle. Alstrom Point is an incredible overlook of Lake Powell.
To get to Alstrom Point, you will come from Page via US- 89 North and get to the town of Big Water. Then take Glen Canyon Recreational Road to Recreation Roads 230 & 264. It is a rough drive with large boulders and ruts. The last few miles to the overlook, you will also be driving along slick rock.
The drive from Page out to Alstrom Point will take 1-2 hours, depending on your driving speed and familiarity with driving off road.
You can camp for free out here and wake up to the most glorious sunrise over Lake Powell!
Find the Buckskin Gulch trailhead 1 hour Northwest of Page, Arizona. The trail is 2 hours away from Zion National Park. The hike starts at the Wire Pass trailhead.
This hike is a total of 11 miles round trip with 1,200 ft of elevation gain, but you don’t need to hike the full 11 miles to get your fill of this trail.
The Buckskin Gulch trail to Wire Pass really has it all. See rock formations that resemble The Wave, a slot canyon, and petroglyphs. You will need to set aside half a day if you plan to do this hike.
Be aware that the road gets impassible when wet, and never hike in slot canyons when there is rain in the forecast.
The Wave, or Coyote Buttes North, is a highly coveted hike that requires a permit. The trail for the Wave starts at the same parking lot that the above Buckskin Gulch trail does at Wire Pass trailhead.
You can enter an advanced lottery or a daily lottery if you’re in the area. Permits to The Wave are notoriously hard to get. However, I applied for the first and only time for a January date and got it, so there are months that the permits are easier to get. Or I’m just really lucky!
Once you’ve obtained your permits, the hike to the Wave is about 7 miles round trip with 1,200 ft of elevation gain.
The Wave features sandstone rock formations with red, orange, and yellow striations that almost look hand painted. One of nature’s many incredible natural phenomena!
Venture further off-road by visiting the hidden gem of White Pocket. This stop requires a 4x4 high clearance vehicle and a driver comfortable going through deep sand.
You’ll find White Pocket off of the same road you have to drive to get to the Wire Pass trailhead, but you have to keep going another 26 miles. Expect the drive to take 2 hours from the main road.
While you have to put in some work and time to get out there, White Pocket is truly an out of this world place. Pastel colors of the sandstone are swirled all around the rocks painting a truly magical scene.
I highly suggest setting aside an entire day for this adventure and going to White Pocket for either a sunrise or sunset- or both! You can camp for free right at the trailhead.
Seeing White Pocket during sunrise or sunset means those true pastel colors of the rocks won’t be washed out from the sun.
Kanab Sand Caves
The Kanab Sand Caves are found right on the side of the highway, directly on your route from Phoenix to Zion National Park.
This unique cave features two arches with a view of red rocks in the background, which makes for the perfect quick photo stop.
The trail is only 1.2 miles roundtrip with 100 ft of elevation gain. Park along the pullouts on the road or at the Moqui Cave Museum to access the trail.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The last stop on the drive from Phoenix to Zion to consider is Coral Pink Sand Dunes, State Park. This state park is located 25 minutes outside of the town of Kanab.
You can hike and walk along the dunes here or let the adrenaline junkie inside of you loose on an ATV tour. You can also sandboard here! Rent a sandboard for $20 at the visitor center.
Tip: To get that ‘coral pink’ color at these sand dunes, visit during sunset. That’s when the color really pops!
The drive from Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to your final destination of Zion National Park is just 1 hour.
How to drive from Phoenix to Zion National Park on a budget
- Go camping: There is a ton of free, dispersed camping in Utah and Arizona. These areas have no amenities where you can set up camp for free. If you do this a few times on your trip, you’ll cut a lot of costs! Find dispersed campsites on apps such as the Dyrt and iOverlander. Even campgrounds that have amenities like showers, toilets, and laundry will be much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
- Make your own meals: Other than accommodation and gas, food will be your other biggest cost factor on a road trip. Try buying groceries as much as possible and preparing your own meals and snacks. My favorite road trip meals and snacks are PB&Js, protein bars & shakes, apples, bananas, nuts, chips, dried fruit, granola, jerky, pretzels, and rice cakes.
- Plan ahead: Last-minute trips are always going to be more expensive than those planned out ahead of time. To get the cheapest prices on excursions and accommodations, make your reservations as far in advance as you can.
- Book your trip on the shoulder or off-season: In general, the peak tourist season in Arizona and Utah is March- October. If you can book your trip on the shoulder season or off-season, your lodging prices will be much cheaper. But keep in mind some excursions and activities may not be available in the off-season.
- Limit your excursions: Luckily, most of the activities on this list are free, such as sightseeing and hiking. But if you want to do some extra activities such as kayaking, renting a boat, or guided tours, pick 1 or 2 of your ‘musts’ and leave out the rest!
Planning tips for your road trip from Phoenix to Zion National Park
- Stay up to date on trail and road conditions: The desert is full of extremes so things like flash foods, rockfall, and high heat can cause trail and road closures.
- Keep your gas tank full: While driving from Phoenix to Zion National Park there may be times when you won’t see a gas station for 100+ miles. I always try my best to ensure the gas tank is at least half full at all times during a drive like this.
- Have a first aid kit & roadside kit: It is always a good idea to have these kits on hand, especially when traveling through the desert. If you’re down a dirt road without cell phone reception, having some supplies on you in a pinch will prove helpful.
- Reservations & permits: Reserve your camping & lodging accommodations far in advance, especially during peak season. Permits are required for some hikes, so be prepared on how to obtain them.
- Know the road conditions before driving & your car’s capabilities: Does this road require 4x4, AWD, or high clearance? Also, be aware of rain in the desert. Those dirt roads can become mud quickly and be completely impassible, even in the most equipped vehicles. And flash floods can make slot canyons deadly.
Wrap up: Phoenix to Zion National Park
In conclusion, Phoenix to Zion National Park is an incredible road trip that offers travelers a chance to explore some of the most stunning natural wonders in the American Southwest.
From the towering red rocks of Sedona, the rim of the Grand Canyon, and the shores of Lake Powell & the Colorado River; this road trip is sure to please anyone.
While you could easily spend two weeks hitting each and every stop, pick out a few ‘musts’ for your trip with the time you have.
So pack your bags, hit the open road, and get ready to experience the beauty of Phoenix to Zion National Park for yourself!
Kate did travel nursing for two years all over the West Coast, taking many road trips in between assignments. She's lived in California, Colorado, Arizona, & Washington. Now she’s based out of Philadelphia but still travels every chance she gets. When she's not traveling or working as a nurse, she writes for her travel blog, Kate Roams the World.
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