10 Best Stops on the Phoenix to Albuquerque Drive


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Going on a Phoenix to Albuquerque drive doesn’t have to consist of a long slog on the interstate through barren desert terrain — quite the contrary, in fact! Though there are stretches of the drive from Phoenix to Albuquerque that are long and boring, there is quite a lot to see and do on the route between these two southwest cities that you can make for quite the interesting road trip if you’re willing.

Driving from Albuquerque to Phoenix or vice versa can seem like quite a long haul with nothing really to see along the way, however, depending on which route you take, there are actually quite a few beautiful and interesting places to explore in Arizona and New Mexico that are sure to kindle some appreciation for these beautiful southwestern states.

So are you planning to go on a Phoenix to Albuquerque road trip and wondering what there is to see and do along the way? Well, these ten great stops are sure to have you entertained and excited to explore more of this wonderful region!

Planning a Phoenix to Albuquerque Drive

Before I get on to all of the best stops on this road trip, we need to discuss a few things when it comes to planing this drive. And first things first, it’s getting your vehicle sorted. If you’re not driving your own car while on your road trip, then its likely you’re going to need to rent on. For this, we suggest using RentalCars.com.

This platform aggregated all of the best prices for car hire across all major rental companies, ensuring that you get the best deal on your rental. Especially if you don’t intend to return your car in the same place as you picked it up, Rentalcars.com can help you find the best prices for the sometimes extortionately high one-way fee.

Another option for vehicle rental is to hire a campervan or RV from Outdoorsy – a great online marketplace for motorhomes.

The next thing you need to plan out is which route to take when driving from Phoenix to Albuquerque. There are a few different highways that make sense and it really depends on your preferences.

I’ll discuss more detail about the best route between Phoenix and Albuquerque in the next section, however, it is worth noting that both major routes are on major highways that are reasonably populated. That being said, there are significant instances where you may need to plan ahead when it comes to filling up gas or finding food facilities. A good rule of thumb for this drive is that if your tank is about half-full, it may be best to start looking for a petrol station!

Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque
Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque

How Far is Phoenix to Albuquerque?

When it comes to figuring out the best route to take, you’re also probably wondering about the distance from Phoenix to Albuquerque. Well, depending on which highway you end up taking, the driving distance between these two cities is about 420 miles and takes about six and a half to seven hours to drive, without stops.

There are, however, a few routes that you can take depending on what you want to see and experience on the drive. Both routes that I think are worth taking are about the same distance-wise, but one has a few more points of interest along the way.

The first route worth exploring is the way along the US-60. This will take you from AZ-87 out of Phoenix before joining up with the US-60 most of the way to Albuquerque. The stops along this route are barely detours and it is a great option if you want to make a few short stops but don’t want to take forever on your Albuquerque to Phoenix road trip. The US-60 route is ideal if you want don’t want to stop for the night and just want to take the whole day, leaving Phoenix in the morning and arriving in Albuquerque in the evening, or vice versa.

The second route is from the I-17 to the I-40 that takes you through some of the highlights of Northern Arizona before skirting off east toward New Mexico. This route is a great option if you want a bit more diversity to your stops and want to make the drive to Albuquerque a bit more of a classic Arizona itinerary while visiting lovely places like Sedona and Flagstaff.

Regardless of which route you decide to take, you’re sure to enjoy this long drive a bit more if you make some of the great stops along the way.

Arizona itinerary
A Saguaro cactus at the base of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix

Best Stops on the Phoenix to Albuquerque Drive: US-60 E

The route along the US-60 is the best choice if you are after a scenic drive to Albuquerque but aren’t necessarily looking to make it a multi-day trip. These are the best stops on this route:

Tonto Natural Bridge

About an hour and a half outside of Phoenix up the AZ-87 N highway, the Tonto Natural Bridge is one of the most underrated natural sites in Arizona and doesn’t get nearly the recognition that it deserves.

Located just a bit north of the town of Payson, the Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Formed of red rocks, you can gaze in awe at this beautiful feat of nature from one of the many viewpoints around the parking lot or, if you’re keen to be a bit more active, take one of the many hiking trails to the foot of the bridge in order to truly appreciate its vastness.

Surrounded by pine forest and babbling streams, this beautiful natural site seems a lifetime away from Phoenix despite being the distance of an easy day trip from the Arizona capital. So if you want to see one the best “hidden gems” in Arizona, make sure to head to the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Tonto Natural Bridge is the first stop on the Phoenix to Albuquerque drive along the US-60E
The Tonto Natural Bridge

Pinetop-Lakeside

Further east along the US-60, you will reach the small town of Pinetop-Lakeside and, as the name may suggest, it is surrounded by lush pine forest and has a distinct Alpine feel to it. Though the town itself is quite small, it is a popular “summer colony” for those that live in the Phoenix area to escape the extreme heat of the summer and cool off.

Pinetop is surrounded by outdoor activities, a lovely lake, and countless hiking trails to keep you occupied. However, it also has a charming main street that is worth taking a stroll down, a handful of local restaurants worth getting a bite to eat at, and numerous little shops worth browsing.

A lovely little town to stop for a bit to stretch your legs while driving, make sure to include Pinetop-Lakeside on your Phoenix to Albuquerque road trip.

Show Low

A little further along from Pinetop, you will reach the city of Show Low, another popular summer destination for Phoenicians escaping the heat, Show Low is quite a bit bigger than Pinetop and has a fair bit to explore and see if you’re interested in making this stop.

Because of its location in the mountains and pine forest, there are lots of outdoor activities to do including hiking, horseback riding and other things. There is also a charming downtown area that feels very “lodge-like” that is very much worth exploring. Filled with local artisan’s shops and cool, quintessentially American restaurants, Show Low really makes for an excellent stop while driving from Albuquerque to Pheonix or vice versa.

Show Low, Arizona
Show Low, Arizona

Greer

Closer to the New Mexico border lies the small town of Greer, a beautiful forested town tucked up in the mountains. This is probably the least-visited stop on this list and it is worth exploring especially for those interested in getting a bit off the beaten path.

Greer has similar things to offer as Pinetop-Lakeside or Show Low, however, on a bit of a smaller scale and a more sleepy vibe. It is still a relatively popular place for people looking to escape the heat of the Phoenix or Tuscon areas or for those who want a secluded and remote mountain retreat.

There are countless outdoor activities to do, some of the best include horseback riding through the forest or just taking the time to stretch your legs on a short day hike through the surrounding mountains. There isn’t a lot left to see past this point before you get to Albuquerque, so enjoy your last stop before you reach the New Mexican city.

Best Stops on the Phoenix to Albuquerque Drive: I-17 N to I-40 E

The route along interstates 17 and 40 from Phoenix to Albuquerque has more points of interest along it than the route along the US-60, therefore, it is the most ideal way to go if you want to make a proper road trip of it and do the drive over a couple of days. Winding through historic towns and breathtaking natural beauty, this drive showcases some of the best things about the American southwest.

Prescott

About an hour and a half north of Phoenix and a bit of a detour from the I-17 lies the city of Prescott. Pronounced Press-KITT rather than Press-KOTT, this little town is a great place to explore and make for an excellent first stop on your road trip.

Nestled in pine forest, Prescott has an absolutely charming main square and historic buildings that give it a very good small-town vibe. There are countless shops on the main streets, great restaurants, beautiful green spaces, and lots of other things that make Prescott a worth stop off on the Phoenix to Albuquerque drive.

Visit in the warmer months (because of it’s more northern location, Prescott — and all of these Arizona towns on this list — experiences all four seasons), and you’re likely to find some kind of events taking place in the town square, including farmer’s markets, open-air concerts, etc.

Prescott is the first stop along the scenie Phoenix to Albuquerque drive
Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona.

Jerome

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Arizona, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Jerome. A former copper-mining town, this historic settlement in the Black Hills of Yavapai County makes for the perfect stopover on any road trip Albuquerque.

There is a lot of mining history in this town and it is still the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Jerome, despite the fact the mining ceased operation her in 1953. However, if you want to learn about how important the copper mining industry was to Arizona, then this is a great place to do it.

Today, Jerome is something of a haven to local artists, with countless studios and storefronts where you can browse through unique handicrafts and support handmade trades.

Sedona

Sedona is a stop that you can’t miss on any trip to the southwest, and that includes the Phoenix to Albuquerque drive. Notable for its incredible red rocks and psychic vortexes, Sedona is a beautiful place to explore for a day or two to break up your journey.

There is a lot to do in Sedona, including going for some short day hikes, hopping on a Pink Jeep tour of the surrounding nature, browsing the shops in Tlaquepaque village, or, in the summertime, getting an adrenaline rush at the natural waterslides at Slide Rock Park.

There are also countless great restaurants in Sedona and it makes for an excellent place to spend a few hours or even a few days.

Arizona itinerary
The beautiful red rocks of Sedona

Flagstaff

The largest city in Northern Arizona, Flagstaff makes for a great place to stop over for the night on the drive to Albuquerque because it operates as something of a halfway point. However, this compact has more to offer than just a place to rest.

Home to Northern Arizona University, Flagstafff is a bustling college town with a cool downtown area, lots of great restaurants and bars, and a number of cool and interesting things to do.

In the summertime, temperatures are remarkably cooler than what you will find in Phoenix, meaning that is is pleasant to stay outside even in the peak hours of the day. In the wintertime, Flagstaff gets buried under a layer of snow and there is even a ski resort nearby (the Arizona Snowbowl) for those who are interested in hitting the slopes.

Flagstaff is also surrounded by astounding nature with ample hiking and horseback riding opportunities should that interest you. If you’re interested in detouring just a bit further, consider visiting the incredible Sunset Crater, a dormant cinder cone volcano located a bit outside of the city.

Want to spend the night in Flagstaff? This stunning mountain cabin in a forest is a fantastic option!

Spending the night in Flagstaff is a good option on a Phoenix to Las Vegas drive
Entering Flagstaff, Arizona

Winslow

Headin easy along the I-40, you will reach the town of Winslow, which is perhaps best known due the line in the Eagles song, “Take it Easy.” In fact, there is even a Standing at the Corner Park to fully immortalise Winslow’s presence in such a famous song.

Winslow is a charming place to stopover and exploring for a little bit of time, especially if you are an Eagles fan and want to check out the park. It also has a vibrant main street, local artisan shops to browse and a fascinating railroad history that can be worth learning about, as well.

Petrified Forest National Park

Far too often overshadowed by Arizona’s other national park (that being the Grand Canyon), the Petrified Forest National Park is a truly spectacular and fascinating place to visit and is one of the most underrated national parks in the country.

Home to incredible desert vistas and what is known as the Rainbow Forest, this national park is known for its vast array of petrified wood and also for it’s history as the home of the Hopi tribe, who still live in this area of Arizona today.

There are countless walking trails to explore the park that are suitable for all levels of fitness and a visitors centre that can teach you more about the science of petrified wood. There are also some museums that are dedicated to learning about the Hopi people and the history for those native to this land.

This national park makes for an excellent final stop en route to Albuquerque, especially considering that there isn’t much left until you reach the New Mexican city.

Stunning petrified wood in the Petrified Forest National Park
Stunning petrified wood in the Petrified Forest National Park

Where to Stay on the Phoenix to Albuquerque Drive

As mentioned above, the route along the US-60 highway is best for those who want to do the Phoenix to Albuquerque drive in just one day. However, if you’re taking the I-17 to I-40 route and want to make a number of these stops, your best bet is to stay the night somewhere along the way. Flagstaff is an excellent place for this and makes for a decent halfway point between the two cities.

Where to Stay in Flagstaff

Airbnb – There are a number of great options for private rentals on Airbnb in Flagstaff such as this stunning mountain cabin in the forest. Click here to browse other Airbnbs in Flagstaff.

Rodeway Inn & Suites Flagstaff — A fantastic mid-range option for those looking for a comfortable place to stay the night while on the Phoenix to Albuquerque drive. Located close to downtown Flagstadd, 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 — If you want a bit of luxury on your road trip, then this Flagstaff hotel is a great option. Packed with countless amenities including a great swimming pool and excellent restaurant, they have a number of comfortable rooms available that can suit everyone from couples to families. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Flagstaff!

Where to Stay in Phoenix

Econo Lodge Phoenix Airport — A great hotel located near Sky Harbor International Airport, this is a solid budget-friendly option in Arizona’s capital. Conveniently located to explore the city, there is also a great breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices

The Saguaro Hotel — A trendy luxury resort in Old Town Scottsdale, this is one of the best areas and places to stay in the Valley. They have countless chic rooms available, an incredible swimming pool, and a location within a stone’s throw from some of the city’s best restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Click here to see their latest prices

Airbnb – Airbnb is a great option if you’re looking for your own apartment, house, or even a private room in a local’s home in the Arizona capital. There are countless options available in Phoenix and throughout the stops on this road trip that will suit any budget (such as this cosy desert oasis apartment!) Click here to see the best Airbnbs in Arizona!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Phoenix!

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

Mauger Estate B&B — If you want to stay in a wonderful bed and breakfast while visiting Albuquerque, then you can’t go wrong with this place. They have a number of comfortable room available, friendly staff, and a great breakfast included every morning. Click here to check their availability

Holiday Inn Express Albuquerque Old Town — If you’re looking for the consistency and familiarity of a chain hotel, then the Holiday Inn Express is a great option. Located within easy reach of Albuquerque’s Old Town, they have countless clean and comfortable rooms available and a continental buffet breakfast each morning included. Click here to check their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Albuquerque!

Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Planning to go from Albuquerque to Phoenix driving (or vice versa) doesn’t have to be a boring trip! There is so much to see and do along the way that all you’ll be wondering is how many more southwest road trips you can take!

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 to drive from Phoenix to Albuquerque? Have you been to any of these stops before? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie Turansky

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

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