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4 Days Through Northern Arizona

Phoenix to Monument Valley

By Susan Gleissner of This Big Wild World

Arizona has some of the most diverse landscapes in the US. In just hours, you can drive through stunning deserts, prairies, pine forests, and incredible canyons. It’s a place for endless adventure and ideal for camper van travel!

A close friend of mine lives in the Phoenix area and each year we chip away at seeing all that Arizona has to offer. This time, we headed northeast toward Monument Valley in an Escape campervan.

This route is a 750-mile loop, starting and ending at the Escape Phoenix Hub. Here’s how to spend 4 days exploring northeast Arizona with plenty of options to customize the itinerary along the way.

Escape Tip

Before heading off on your great adventure, head to a local grocery store to stock up and organize your camper van! You’ll thank yourself later for having everything put away before you get to camp.  If you didn’t add the Escape Kitchen Kit (perfect for short trips) or Bedding, you can find affordable options at places like Walmart or Dollar General.


Directions Tips:

Distance: 750 miles

Time:  14-16 hours driving over 4 days

Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ

4

Day 1 | Phoenix to Homolovi State Park

Start your adventure by picking up your Escape Campervan at the Phoenix location. After getting the keys and orientation to your campervan, it’s time to hit the road!

Drive northeast towards Homolovi State Park, which is just west of Petrified Forest National Park. For a more scenic route, consider taking AZ-87 N through Tonto National Forest and several small towns like Strawberry and Pine.

Campsite at Homolovi State Park

Best Camping

Homolovi State Park Campground is a small and peaceful campground overlooking a large Prarie. This campground offers both electric and non-electric sites and requires reservations.

Best Hike

In total there are around 5-6 miles of trails in total, which are broken into a number of shorter trails that mostly originate from the Visitor Center. Homolovi State Park also has two archaeological sites that belong to the ancestors of the Hopi people.

Best Side Trip

Just before Homolovi State Park, be sure to stop for a photo in Winslow Arizona! This small town was made famous by the song “Take It Easy” by The Eagles. Winslow has made their street corner along the historic Route 66 a destination in itself.

Total Drive Time: 3.5 Hours (if taking the scenic route)

 

Day 2 | Homolovi State Park to Monument Valley

Start the day bright and early as there’s a lot of ground to cover on day 2.

After fueling up, drive east to Petrified Forest National Park. I recommend entering the park where the main Visitor’s Center is located, though there is an alternative entrance much further to the south. Grab a photo at the park entrance sign before making your way into the park.

Stop in the Visitor’s Center for a map, advice from the park employees, or a souvenir. There are bathrooms here as well. From the Visitor’s Center turn right and drive on the main road that runs north and south through the park. Stop at one of several waysides overlooks to enjoy the incredible views. My favorite overlooks were: Tiponi, Tawa, and Lacey Point.

Lacey Point Overloook at Petrified Forest National Park

Best Side Trips in Petrified Forest National Park:
  • Blue Mesa for a short hike among rock formations
  • Agate Bridge
  • Crystal Forest

For the sake of time on this itinerary, I recommend eating lunch in the van at one of these stops and planning to be back on the road by 12-1 pm.

Next, drive to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This canyon is truly breathtaking! Since you’ll be arriving in the afternoon, drive along the south rim to enjoy the views. Unfortunately, there are no trails open to the public at this time. To hike, you need to hire a local Navajo guide.

Canyon de Chelly South Rim

Finally, drive further north to Monument Valley. If you arrive before sunset, go straight to the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center. Here you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sunset views of the towering rock formations.

Just outside of the park entrance is Hummingbird Campsite, which is a perfect place to relax after a long day on the road.

Total Drive Time: 4 hrs (note the timezone change)

Customize it! It would be easy to spend a full day at Petrified Forest National Park. To do that, consider a 2nd night at Homolovi State Park. This would allow more time the next day to explore Canyon de Chelly and do a guided hike, ATV tour, or horseback ride into the canyon.

Day 3 | Monument Valley to Sedona

Enjoy a slower start to the day with a beautiful view of Monument Valley from the campsite.

Make your way back to the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center, but this time head down into the valley on the dirt road. The 17-mile scenic drive winds through Monument Valley with numerous stops where you can get out and enjoy the view.

Driving through Monument Valley in a camper van

When you’ve had all of your oohs and ahhs, make a short detour to Forest Gump Highway to get an iconic photo from the movie. It’s located at milepost 13 on Highway 163 just over the border in Utah.

No Arizona road trip is complete without at least one stop at a trading post. Cameron Trading Post is one of the best, and it’s well-known for its fry bread tacos. The store has a large selection of Native American art, jewelry, and more!

From there, head south through Flagstaff to Pine Flat Campground. Located along Highway AZ89-A, this campground is just 10 miles outside of Sedona nestled in the forest along Oak Creek. If you are traveling during a time of year when the campground is not open (off-season), check out Chavez Crossing or Rancho Sedona.

Pine Flat Campground Along Oak Creek

Total Drive Time: 3.5-4 hrs (depends on the traffic on 89A)

Customize it! There are tons to see and do in Sedona, including excellent hiking, mountain biking, and wineries. This is a great place to add on an extra night.

Day 4 | Sedona to Phoenix

In order to return the campervan back to the Escape office in Phoenix by the 10 am deadline, you’ll need to get an early start!

Enjoy coffee and a light breakfast in town before hitting the road. The drive down the mountains and through Sedona is beautiful first thing in the morning.

Total Drive Time: 2.5 hrs

When To Visit

A road trip through this part of Arizona is ideal in fall or spring when the temperatures are more mild. Most of these stops have very little shade, which could make it more challenging in a campervan in the warmer months. This area is sparsely populated and there are very few stops between larger towns, which makes it perfect for exploring in an Escape campervan.

Have fun customizing this northern Arizona road trip itinerary to suit your needs, and book your adventure today!

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