Planning a Denver to Phoenix drive (or Phoenix to Denver drive) is one of the best ways to see the highlights of the American Southwest while hitting the open road. Though only spanning a small corner of the United States, there is so much diversity in the landscape and natural sites that you’re sure to be amazed at just how beautiful this region is.
Going from the heights of the Rocky Mountains to the hot, dry Valley of the Sun will take you through some of the most iconic landscapes and natural sites in the entire country. And while you could technically do this drive in one (very long) day, there is no way that you’d want to when you see all of the incredible places that are available to stop at along the way.
If you’re keen to embark on a Denver to Phoenix road trip (or Phoenix to Denver road trip!), you certainly won’t be sorry. One of the drives that you can do in the US, you’re sure to be awestruck at all of the incredible things the American Southwest has to offer.
Planning a Denver to Phoenix Drive
Before we get into all of the incredible stops on the Denver to Phoenix drive, it’s time to discuss a few logistics first. The drive from Denver to Phoenix is a long one, but both of the major routes covered in this article are along main highways, the roads are in excellent condition and there are numerous places to stop to fuel up or use the facilities.
If you need to rent a car while on this epic road trip, we would seriously suggest using RentalCars.com, an aggregator that will help you find the best price on a rental car across all major companies, saving you time and money with booking. It’s the platform that we use whenever we rent a car and consistently find the lowest prices in a fraction of the time.
How Far is Denver to Phoenix?
Denver to Phoenix is a long haul and there is no iteration of this drive that doesn’t go through at least one other state (in this case, either Utah or New Mexico). Regardless of which route you take, however, the drive time is, on the whole, the same. On average, the distance from Phoenix to Denver is about 850 miles and will likely take about 13 hours all in, if you don’t plan for any stops.
Where there is a variation in the Denver to Phoenix drive time is when you decide a)which route you’re taking and b) how many stops you want to make along the way. If you’re looking to have an incredible Southwest road trip while driving from Phoenix to Denver, then your best bet is to go on the route along the I-70 and I-17.
This route winds you through Utah and will take you through some of the most iconic landscapes and national parks in the entirety of the USA. There are so many incredible stops on this route that it’s worth planning a good amount of time to really do these places justice.
If you want an entertaining road trip but would rather do in less time, consider the route along I-25 & I-40, through New Mexico. There aren’t as many iconic stops on this drive, but there are still some very interesting places to stop over and explore that you’re sure to have a great time.
Best Stops on the Denver to Phoenix Drive: via I-70 & I-17
Your first stop on this route is in the lovely ski town of Vail. Though known for it’s capacity as a ski resort, it is well worth visiting Vail at any time of year, regardless of if you can hit the slopes or not! There are outdoor activities galore including gorgeous hikes coupled with incredible natural scenery.
The village in Vail is also quite charming and holds an Alpine vibe that is sure to impress. There are lots of interesting shops and things to do in the town itself along with the countless outdoor activities to keep you occupied for a short stopover outside of Denver.
Arches National Park, UT
One of the most iconic national parks in the Southwest, Arches is truly a sight to be seen and an absolutely worthy stop on the Denver to Phoenix drive. Known for its incredible natural stone arches, this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the region.
Located just a bit north of the town of Moab, this national park is filled with incredible hikes, stunning vistas, and gorgeous scenery that will make you feel as if you’re left the planet Earth. If you’re interested in being absolutely stunned with the beauty of this planet, then a stop in Arches National Park is absolutely essential on this drive.
This is a great place to plan to spend the night, especially when combined with the next stop on this list. Moab has a lot of great accommodation options and you can find some suggestions in the “where to stay” section below.
Canyonlands National Park, UT
Utah is home to some incredible national parks, however, Canyonlands doesn’t get the recognition that places like Arches or Zion get. This is such an injustice, however, and a visit to Canyonlands Nation Park is one of the best ways that you can spend your drive from Phoenix to Denver.
As the name of the park may suggest, Canyonlands is chock-full of incredible canyons, beautiful hikes, awe-inspiring rock formations and is really a nature lover’s paradise. Located just south of Moab, you can easily visit Arches one day, spend the night in Moab, and then spend the next day in Canyonlands before continuing on south to Phoenix or north to Denver.
All in all, if you want to see some of the most incredible landscapes that the American Southwest is known for, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a visit to Canyonlands National Park.
Monument Valley, UT
When you think of driving across the Southwest, undoubtedly images of Monument Valley will spring to mind. Located on the Utah-Arizona border, this is one of the most incredible places to stopover on a Denver to Phoenix road trip.
There are, of course, incredible places to go for hike or vista points to stop off in this beautiful corner of the world, but you can also enjoy the views from your car window, as the highway goes right through this incredible region and you’re sure to feel your jaw-dropping as you zoom by some incredible rock formations,
Absolutely make sure you take the time to pull over, snap some photos and really take in the gorgeous scenery.
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
No drive along this route from Denver to Phoenix would be complete without a visit to the United States’ second-most visited national park — the Grand Canyon. The world’s largest canyon, words really cannot describe just how spectacular this incredible landmark is and it is really one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.
While countless people visit the Grand Canyon as a short day trip, stopping off at some viewpoints to take the obligatory photos, do try to spend at least a few hours here, if you can, and take the time to go for a hike. The walk along the rim of the canyon is accessible and easy enough for a wide majority of people and, if you want to bit more, even consider hiking a bit into the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is truly one of the most amazing places that you’ll visit in your entire life and it is one of the best places to stop on this Phoenix to Denver road trip.
If you’re looking for an ideal place to spend the night and are keen to explore a major Arizona city, then consider making a stop in Flagstaff while driving down to Phoenix. Home to Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff is a lovely city that has a thriving young population and a lot of interesting things to do.
Surrounded by beautiful pine forests, the city isn’t what one would typically associate with Arizona. If you’re visiting in the winter months, there is even a ski resort nearby (Arizona Snowbowl) where you can hit the slopes! Nearby Sunset Crater is also a fantastic place to visit if you would like to see more of Arizona’s diverse geological landscape.
The final stop before you reach Phoenix is the lovely town of Sedona. Located about 2.5 hours north of the Arizona capital and a short detour from the I-17, Sedona is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the state.
Known for it’s iconic red rocks, the scenery surrounding this lovely little town is some of the best and there are also countless things to do in Sedona that make it a worthwhile stop on your road trip from Denver to Phoenix.
Take the time go for one of the many day hikes in the surrounding area or, if you’re not too keen to stretch your legs, opt for a Jeep tour instead. There are also countless local artist’s shops to browse, great restaurants, and an overall fantastic vibe in Sedona that is sure to take you by surprise.
Best Stops on the Phoenix to Denver Drive: vis I-25 & I-40
Often overshadowed by the more well-known Colorado Springs, Pueblo makes for an excellent stop when heading south from Denver on the drive to Phoenix. Known as the gateway to Colorado’s high country, there are lots of great things to see and do in this lovely city that it is very much worth a stopover.
Once a mining town, now there are a lot of great cafes and outdoor terraces to enjoy in Pueblo, especially along the refurbished Arkansas Riverwalk. Take the time to stroll along this historic area and maybe take a boat tour to learn more about the history of this Colorado city.
A lovely New Mexico destination on the Denver to Phoenix drive, Taos is one of the top towns to visit in the state. Known as a haven for local artists, there is also quite a bit of Native American history in Taos that make it a very interesting place to stopover.
The main site in Taos is the historic Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an excellent place to visit to learn more about the history of the region while on your Denver to Phoenix drive. There are lots of interesting shops and cafes to browse in the town of Taos itself, incredible scenery to take in of the Taos valley and even a nearby ski resort if you’re interested in hitting the slopes!
All in all, you can’t go wrong with a stop in Taos on your road trip to Phoenix.
Santa Fe, NM
The capital city of New Mexico, Santa Fe is a compact little city that is artsy and very very cool. Known again for being a haven for local artists along with having a strong Native American history, Santa Fe makes for a very cool stop on the Phoenix to Denver Drive.
Located a bit north of New Mexico’s most populous city of Albuquerque, Santa Fe has a lot to offer including great shops to browse, a historic main street, a number of interesting museums, nearby hiking opportunities and much much more.
If you’re looking for a cool and unique place to stop off when trying to break up the long distance from Phoenix to Denver, then Santa Fe is a great option.
The most populous city in New Mexico, Albuquerque is perhaps most notable for being the setting of wildly popular TV series Breaking Bad. But it’s not all about Walter White here! Of course, you can go on a Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque where they will take you past a number of the filming locations of the show, but there is more to the city than just that!
Albuquerque makes for a great place to spend the night on your Phoenix to Denver drive and, with that, it will give you a bit of time to explore the city. Take the time to wander through the historic Albuquerque Old Town and learn about the Native American history here. You can also opt to take in the views from the Sania Peak Tramway, a cable car that will take you to the crest of nearby Sandia Mountains that is one of the longest in the world.
If the views from the tramway weren’t enough, Albuquerque is well-known for being the home of the International Balloon Festival and is also a great place to go for a hot air balloon ride any time of year.
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Moving into Arizona from New Mexico, another incredible stop on this route from Denver to Phoenix is the Petrified Forest National Park. Located in the east of Arizona close to the New Mexico border, this national park is home to an ancient forest of petrified wood.
It’s also been the historic home to the Hopi tribe for centuries and, along with offering incredible views and unique desert scenery, is a great place to learn about some Native American history, as well.
The visitor’s centre at the park does a great job at explaining the unique geology here and there are also countless walking trails that will give you incredible views and up-close interaction with the ancient petrified wood. There are also some museums where you can learn more about the people who have historically inhabited this land.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, AZ
And finally, our last stop on the drive from Denver to Phoenix is the underrated, but beautiful, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. This incredible natural site is located a bit outside the town of Payson and only about an hour to hour and a half north of Phoenix, so it is a great place to end you trip if you’re going by this route.
Consdiered to be the world’s largest natural stone archway, the Tonto Natural Bride is exactly what it sounds like — an incredible natural bridge surrounded by a babbling brook and beautiful, lush pine forest. There are lots of hiking trails in the state park that can lead you to the base of the bridge and all around it, or, if you’re strapped for time, you can just take in its beauty from the numerous viewpoints around the parking lot.
Unknown to a lot of people, including a number of Arizonans, the Tonto Natural Bridge is a fantastic hidden gem and a great place to end your Denver to Phoenix drive.
Where to Stay on the Denver to Phoenix Drive
Depending on which route you take, there are a number of great places to stay the night along the way. The nature of the route through Utah means that it’s better to plan for at least two overnight stops — I would recommend Moab, Utah (great for exploring Arches and Canyonlands national parks) and Flagstaff, Arizona (perfect for exploring the Grand Canyon and Sedona).
If taking the route through New Mexico, Albuquerque serves as a wonderful halfway point and makes for an excellent overnight stop!
Where to Stay in Denver
Airbnb — Airbnb is a great choice in Denver and on the majority of this Phoenix to Denver road trip. There are lots of properties in Denver and throughout both routes that will suit any kind of personality and budget, like this historic city centre apartment in Denver to affordable private rooms in local’s homes. Click here to browse Airbnbs in Denver
Holiday Inn Express Downtown Denver — If you’re looking for a solid, mid-range option with no surprises, the Holiday Inn Express is a good choice. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and a buffet breakfast included each morning in your nightly rate. Click here to see their availability
Westin Denver Downton — A fantastic luxury option in Denver, this hotel is a great choice for those with a higher budget to spend. Centrally located, it’s great for exploring Denver and also a great place to begin (or end!) your road trip. Click here to see their availability
Where to Stay in Phoenix
Econo Lodge Phoenix Airport — A good mid-range hotel that is centrally located near Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. Well-located to explore the main sites in Phoenix along with hopping over to the bars and shopping of Old Town Scottsdale, they also have a great breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
The Saguaro Hotel — A hip luxury resort in Old Town Scottsdale, this is one of the best areas and places to stay in the Phoenix area. They have a myriad of chic and trendy rooms available, an incredible swimming pool, and a fantastic location within close distance of some of the city’s best restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Click here to see their latest prices
Where to Stay in Flagstaff
Rodeway Inn & Suites Flagstaff — A great mid-range option in Flagstaff for those looking for a comfortable and affordable place to rest their head after exploring the Grand Canyon or Sedona. There are a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and a swimming pool to splash around in! Click here to see their availability
Little America Hotel Flagstaff — A trendy luxury hotel that’s a great option for those with a bit more money to play around with. They have great amenities including a delicious restaurant and large swimming pool. There are also a number of clean and comfortable rooms available that are sure to suit regardless of what you’re after. Click here to see their availability
Where to Stay in Moab
Adventure Inn Moab — A cute, classic boutique motel, this make for an excellent place to rest your head in Moab. Perfect for those travelling on a tight budget, the have a number of clean and inviting rooms, free parking and even some self-service laundry facilities should you need to do a wash after all that hiking!. Click here to see their availability
Comfort Suites Moab –If you’re budget is a bit higher and you’re looking for the consistency of a well-known chain, then this hotel is a great option for you. They have a number of rooms available, a swimming pool, free parking and a great location for exploring the town and nearby national parks. Click here to see their availability
Where to Stay in Albuquerque
Mauger Estate B&B — A cute, family-run bed and breakfast in central Albuquerque, this is a great place to stay in the heart of New Mexico’s biggest city. They have a number of cute, comfortable rooms available and a great breakfast included every single morning. Click here to check their availability
Holiday Inn Express Albuquerque Old Town — Another good option if you’d rather go for a consistent chain hotel, this one is located right next to the historic Old Town of Albuquerque. Well-located for exploring the city’s main sites, thy have countless clean and comfortable rooms and a buffet breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Regardless of which route you take, there is no denying that the Denver to Phoenix drive is one of the best and most beautiful road trips in the United States. Winding through iconic landscapes and historic towns and cities, there is no way not to fall in love with this incredible region while on this drive.
When travelling in the USA, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a Phoenix to Denver drive? Have you been to any of these stops before? Let us know in the comments!