Summer is meant for fun, carefree escapades beyond your backyard. So, if you can brave the heat, here are four day trip ideas — all within two hours of Phoenix — that might just rekindle your summer spirit.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Time to destination: 2 hours
Cost: $7 for adults, $4 for children ages 7-13, free for children 6 and under
Hours: Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with last entry at 5 p.m.
Address: Hwy 87 north of Payson, 85547
Said to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, the striking landmark just north of Payson stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long, 150-wide tunnel. Several overlooks offer outstanding views of the natural wonder, or bring hiking shoes with good traction to journey down the steep trails and experience the beauty below.
Apache Trail Scenic Drive
Time to destination: 45 minutes to reach the start of the historic road in Apache Junction
Teddy Roosevelt’s alleged obsession with Arizona may have been spawned on this road. The historic highway, now known as AZ-88, winds through a stunning spectacle of saguaros and mountainous desert wilderness. Stop at Canyon Lake for a 90-minute scenic tour aboard the Dolly Steamboat, then journey up to Tortilla Flat if you’re hankering for saloon days and prickly pear gelato. Drivers who aren’t squeamish about precipitous inclines and hairpin turns should proceed past Apache Lake for jaw-dropping canyon views. If finding a spot for boating, hiking and picnicking is your day trip mission, the 22-mile-long Roosevelt Lake makes for an ideal stop toward the trail’s end.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Time to destination: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cost: $10 per person
Hours: Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Address: Montezuma Castle Road, Camp Verde
Impressive high-rises might not be the first landmarks that come to mind when you picture Arizona, but one of the first national monuments in the United States was in fact a 20-room high-rise apartment embedded in a limestone cliff outside Camp Verde. Built by the Sinagua people in the early 1100s, Montezuma Castle National Monument remains one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America. While the ladders that lead inside the ruins were closed to tourists in 1951, today’s visitors can explore the museum, picnic at Beaver Creek, and admire lofty cliffs while wandering through the sycamore grove.
Time to destination: 2 hours
Courthouse Square’s early 1900s architecture ensures the Old West’s lasting legacy in this town. Once frequented by miners and cowboys seeking refreshment in one of its 40 saloons, the town’s Whiskey Row still charms tourists with its taverns, but also boasts a series of antique shops, art galleries, candy shops and cafes. You’re bound to encounter a festival or art walk nearly every weekend of the year, and history buffs can take walking tours to learn about the former capital city’s historic buildings (many on the National Register of Historic Places). Outdoor lovers can rent a canoe or kayak at Watson Lake, the granite-lined photographers’ paradise on the northeast edge of town.
As a travel resource, AAA offers a variety of travel tips and information. Learn more at highroads.az.aaa.com.