The desert is a fascinating place to explore, full of otherworldly landscapes, prickly plants, sweeping vistas, and creepy crawly critters. One of the best places to take a campervan road trip and explore the varying desert locales is Phoenix.
With multiple parks a stone’s throw from the city itself and the Sedona red rocks or Sonoran Saguaros a 2-hour drive away. Phoenix is the perfect home base for a long weekend and has an Escape rental location where you can pick up your campervan.
Here are a few places and other quick road trip ideas from Phoenix to get you on the best route to see cacti, wildflowers, and sunsets galore.
View of the flatiron from Lost Dutchman State Park
Parks Within One Hour Of Phoenix
There is a multitude of parks to choose from within an hour of Phoenix that have hiking and biking trails, scenic lookouts, scenic drives, campgrounds, and even river-tubing. Here are a few camper van road trip ideas and hikes near Phoenix to maximize exploring and minimize drive time:
Lost Dutchman State Park– 40 minutes East of Phoenix, this park offers camping (with water, bathrooms, and showers) as well as hiking trails into the Superstition Wilderness. Experienced hikers – check out the Siphon Draw trail to the Flatiron for a unique and challenging hike/rock scramble with scenic views.
South Mountain Park – 15 minutes from the Escape Campervans depot, this municipal park is over 16,000 acres, with 50 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and cycling. There are also park roads for road biking. Take a ride to the Dobbins Lookout for spectacular views of the surrounding area.
McDowell Mountain Regional Park– 45 minutes northeast of Phoenix, this Maricopa County park offers a campground, hiking and biking trails, and a Nature Center
White Tank Mountain Regional Park – 45 minutes west of Phoenix, this park is situated at the edge of the White Tank Mountains. There is a campground with RV and tent sites, as well as trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Lake Pleasant – 45 minutes north of Phoenix, Lake pleasant offers tent and RV camping with some walking trails and swimming areas; this is a great place to use as a basecamp or to cool off with a swim after a day of desert hiking
Cave Creek Regional Park – Another Maricopa County park located in proximity to McDowell and Lake Pleasant, Cave Creek has a campground as well as trails for hiking and mountain biking
Phoenix Sonoran Preserve – Heading north out of Phoenix? Stop for a leg-stretching hike at this preserve, 35 minutes from the Escape Depot.
Coon Bluff – Just 35 minutes west of the Escape depot in Phoenix, this camping and recreation area in the Tonto National Forest is a perfect base camp for paddling and tubing on the lower Salt River. It is also a short drive from Saguaro Lake.
Picacho Peak State Park – One hour southwest of Phoenix, Picacho Peak has camping and hiking and is halfway to the Tucson area (and Saguaro National Park).
Tucson's mural art
Take A 2-Hour Road Trip From Phoenix To Tucson
Two hours south of Phoenix, the city of Tucsonis a vibrant community full of colorful murals, bustling breweries, outdoor spaces, and unique shops. Saguaro National Park has two districts (East and West) just outside of the city, with miles of trails to explore among the giant cacti that are its namesake.
Nearby Mount Lemmon rises over 9,000 feet elevation and has a scenic drive (popular with local bicyclists looking for a challenge as well), camping, hiking, and a ski mountain. There are many options for camping in the area; Gilbert Ray Campground and Catalina State Park are two options for tent and RV sites (and stunning during wildflower season!).
Check Out The Rocks Of Sedona
Head North 2 hours from Phoenix to the land of red rocks and healing energy. Sedona is an outdoor lover’s dream with miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and jeep tours – just to name a few recreation ideas. There are websites with some hike summaries and a rating system to help choose the right hike for you. The Escape “Destinations To Explore” page offers many ideas about places to discover around Sedona!
In addition to “normal” hiking, many come to Sedona for the spiritual and healing energy of the famed vortexes. These specific red rock formations (there are 4 main sites) are said to possess intense types of energy and are a popular place for meditation. Sedona is surrounded by the Coconino National Forest with options for both dispersed as well as some nice campground camping along route 89A in Oak Creek Canyon.
Lockett Meadow, Flagstaff
Don’t Forget About Flagstaff
Just north of Sedona is Flagstaff. Situated at the base of the San Francisco peaks at 7,000 feet elevation (with the high point being Mount Humphreys at 12,633 feet), Flagstaff is a great place to beat the often-stifling heat of the summer with a cool mountain breeze. In winter, snow sports abound.
There is ample dispersed and campground camping on the surrounding National Forest lands. There are some amazing hiking trails here; in the Fall hike the Inner Basin trail through the aspen groves for gorgeous foliage and mountain views. Downtown Flagstaff has some great restaurants and breweries if you are looking for a break from the van kitchen! Check out the Escape Blog “Off The Beaten Path in Flagstaff” for ideas on things to do! You can’t go wrong with a brew from Dark Sky Brewing and a pie from Pizzicletta.
Mogollon Rim Is A Sight To See
The Mogollon Rim is a geographical formation rising 2,000 feet above the desert floor above it and stretching for 200 miles with scenic forest roads leading to lakes, hiking trails, and dramatic viewpoints.
Head out route 260 and turn onto Forest Road 300 (the Rim Road) to start a scenic drive with opportunities for hiking, biking, and camping along the way. Enjoy the cooler temperatures (and solitude) that the higher elevation and more remote location provides.
See The Grand Canyon South Rim
Three and a half hours from Phoenix will take you to perhaps the most famous landmark in the Southwest. The Grand Canyon’s south rim is open year-round for sightseeing, camping, and hiking. The weather at the top of the rim (around 6,000 feet elevation) can be much different than the weather further down in the canyon, so be prepared if setting out for a hike.
The south rim is the only part of the canyon accessible by vehicle during late Fall and Winter, and Mather Campground is also open year-round. The views are unparalleled. If you want a quick visit to the Grand Canyon in an Escape Campervan, the Phoenix location is the closest starting point for you!
Antelope Canyon, Page Arizona
Don’t Miss Out On Page, Arizona
About 4 hours north of Phoenix, Page is the closest town to the famed Antelope Canyon. These slot canyons are Navajo tribal lands and require guided tours to visit – they are absolutely stunning and a great way to safely experience a slot canyon. Nearby Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument are other scenic stops in the area.
Book Your Campervan For A Quick Road Trip To Phoenix Today!
These are just a few of the multitude of destinations within a (relatively) short drive of Phoenix. Other options include a scenic drive on the Apache Trail, a visit to Apache Lake, a road trip to Lake Havasu or Joshua Tree National Park; all of these are within a few hours’ drive!
We hope this gives you some inspiration. Book your campervan and plan your desert getaway to discover some hidden gems along the way.