The Phoenix to Las Vegas drive is not a route that typically excites people. In fact, the fastest and most common route between the two cities along the US-93 highway doesn’t pass through anything of interest and can, at times, feel as if you’re just trudging along through barren, endless desert.
However, if you take the time to venture away from the quickest route ad decide to take a leisurely Phoenix to Las Vegas scenic drive and make a bit of a road trip out of it, you will have the opportunity to see and experience some of the most incredible natural and historical sites that the great state of Arizona has to offer. While there are countless things to do in Phoenix and we all know that Las Vegas is a stand-alone destination in itself, it’s time to make the drive just as fun and interesting.
So, if you’re interested in turning a typically boring drive into an epic Phoenix to Las Vegas road trip, make sure to include these stops along the way. While you don’t need to take the time to visit everything on this list in order to have a hell of a lot more fun on the Las Vegas to Phoenix drive than you would if you just stuck to the US-93, including a handful of these sites and towns is sure to leave you with a memorable trip that you’ll cherish for years to come.
Planning a Phoenix to Las Vegas Drive
Before I get into all of the amazing stops to make on the Phoenix to Las Vegas drive, we need to cover a few logistics first. First and foremost, we need to discuss how you’re going to go on this amazing road trip that you’re planning.
If you’re not taking your own vehicle, it is highly likely that you’re going to need to rent a car. And while you might be inclined just to take a look online at your favourite rental company, we would actually recommend finding your perfect car hire via RentalCars.com. This platform aggregates deals across many rental car companies to ensure that you get a great price on your car hire.
Alternatively, you can choose to hire an RV or campervan through Outdoorsy for more flexibility and to save on accommodation costs.
Now that you know where to get your car from, we need to talk about the route you’re going to take. The stops along this drive don’t like on the most direct route to Las Vegas, however, no great road trip ever came to fruition by following the most efficient way to go, did it?
If you want to make a fun and engaging trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas, then you’re going to need to ignore what Google Maps may tell you and decide which of these stops sound the most interesting to you.
The majority of these stops are located somewhere along (with a few detours) the Interstate-17 highway. However, if you want to visit a couple of stops (notably Payson and the Tonto Natural Bridge), you’re going to want to drive slightly northeast along the AZ-87 before heading back west and joining up with the I-17.
Distance from Phoenix to Las Vegas
The distance from Phoenix to Las Vegas along the US-93 N is only about 300 miles (or 482 kilometres) with the direct drive time taking about 5 hours. However as the scenic road trip is going to be a bit longer, I recommend that you spend a few days doing this trip in order to get the most out of it.
If you want to make a couple of stops along the way but don’t have time to include everything, then you only need one or two nights along the way (I share our top accommodation recommendations and where to stay at the end of this article). If you want to see everything on this list, then you’re going to want to spend may three or four nights (or more) on this road trip.
So how far is Phoenix to Las Vegas? Well, it really depends on how long you want to make your road trip and which of these amazing sites and towns you want to see!
Phoenix to Las Vegas Drive Stops
So without further ado, these are what I (born and raised in Arizona!) believe to be the best stops on the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas and have the best road trip possible!
1. Old Town Scottsdale
This first stop on your Phoenix to Vegas road trip doesn’t even have you leaving the greater Phoenix metro area — it is Old Town Scottsdale! Scottsdale is well-known as a getaway for many looking for some winter sunshine, great eats, fantastic shopping, good golf, and world-class nightlife and there is no better place to experience all of that than in Old Town Scottsdale!
The Old Town area isn’t large, but there is a lot to see and do there. If you love to shop, then you’ll enjoy checking out all of the boutiques in the area. If you’re a fan of nightlife, then this is the area to go out in. If you are after a great meal, then you need to head to some of the area’s top[-notch restaurants.
Modelled like an old western town, Scottsdale is an eclectic mix of old-world charm and modern amenities and it is the perfect place to begin any road trip to Vegas.
Spending the night in Phoenix? This centrally located 2 bedroom apartment in Scottsdale is a great option!
If you want to take your time as you get to Vegas from Phoenix and don’t mind making a pretty big detour, then make sure to work your way north along the AZ-87 instead of sticking to the interstate-17 from the get-go.
This drive outside of Phoenix is one of the most scenic that you will encounter, with an entire forest’s worth of Arizona’s iconic Saguaro cacti through your windows – a site you can only get in the American southwest.
About 90 minutes driving outside of Phoenix. you will reach the small town of Payson. While Arizona towns may draw images of tumbleweeds, cacti and desert dust, Payson is situated in the mountains and as a distinctly alpine feel to it. The small town is worth exploring for a few hours and you can even enjoy some of the surrounding forest for a hike if you choose.
Though it isn’t infinitely exciting, Payson is a popular retreat for Phoenix locals in the summer months looking to cool off from the oppressive heat in the Valley of the Sun and there are lots of outdoor sports offerings that are sure to please.
3. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Not far from the town of Payson lies one of my favourite and one of the most underrated natural sites in Arizona, the Tonto Natural Bridge. This incredible piece of natural scenery tucked within the lush Ponderosa pine forest is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge (stone arch) in the world and it is absolutely incredible to see.
Entry into the state park is $7 per person and from the car park, you can walk to four different viewpoints where you can see the bridge from numerous angles. If you’re up for a bit of a hike and weather permitting, there are also a number of trails that you could take that bring you down under and around the bridge so you can truly experience the magnificence of this force of nature.
If you forgo the detour to Payson and the Tonto Natural Bridge, then one of the best first stops on the Phoenix to Las Vegas drive would be the town of Prescott. Located a bit of a detour off of the I-17, Prescott is a charming small town that is very much worth exploring.
If you don’t want to stand out like the tourist that you are, make sure that you pronounce this town correctly — it’s Press-KITT, not Press-KOTT. Other than that, Prescott also has different things to offer than what one would typically assume of a town in Arizona.
Also situated in pine forest, Prescott is home to a charming town square and numerous picturesque small-town streets. There are lots of shops to browse and some great restaurants to grab a bit to eat at, as well.
If you want to spend a night here, make sure to head out to the bars on Whiskey Row and you will be greeted by traditional Western-style saloons along with some modern-style bars, as well.
Prescott has a lovely small-town vibe that you can’t get in a lot of places in Arizona and it makes it a great place to visit on a drive from Las Vegas to Phoenix or vice versa.
5. Montezuma Castle National Monument
The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is actually quite a diverse one and it’s not only filled with picturesque towns or natural sites. No, you can also visit some incredible historical sites as well! And one of the top historical sites to see on the drive is Montezuma Castle National Monument.
This pre-Columbian dwelling situated in a cave just outside of the town of Camp Verde, not far north of Prescott, was first discovered in the 1860s. It was called Montezuma’s Castle after the Aztec emperor because it was believed to be connected to that people group of Mexico (it wasn’t).
Archaeological findings since then have determined that the “castle” acted as something of a prehistoric apartment complex for the Sinagua people. In fact, many people in Hopi clans (a tribe native to Arizona and other southwestern states) can trace their lineage to the people who once inhabited Montezuma’s castle.
Entry into the monument is $10 for adults and free for children under the age of 16. There are also a handful of public holidays throughout the year where entry into the monument is free.
6. Verde Valley
So far on this Phoenix to Las Vegas scenic drive, we’ve stopped at charming small towns, incredible natural sites, and fascinating historical monuments. If all of that is not enough, it’s time to add another unexpected thing into the mix — wine!
While Arizona may not be the first destination that springs to mind when it comes to grape cultivation, there is actually some incredible wine country located in the Verde Valley in Northern Arizona, near to the town of Cornville.
In the town of Cornville itself, you can visit a number of tasting rooms that offer up wines made from nearby wineries, or you could visit some of the vineyards yourself. One of the most popular and highly acclaimed is Oak Creek Vineyards, a family-run boutique winery located just outside of Cornville.
Just keep in mind that Arizona has some of the strictest drink driving laws in the country, so make sure you’re sober enough to take the wheel after you have a wine tasting!
One of the absolute best stops on a road trip from Phoenix to Vegas is the inimitable town of Sedona. Known for its iconic red rocks and incredible natural scenery, there are a lot of things to do that could easily keep you occupied for a couple of days in Sedona.
If you’re a nature lover, this is the stop for you! Encompassed by countless hiking trails providing beautiful vistas of the surrounding area, there is a hike for all kinds of fitness levels in Sedona. If you would rather see it on four wheels, maybe opt for an iconic Jeep tour of Sedona’s red rocks.
The town of Sedona itself is also worth exploring, with lots of independent shops and great restaurants abounding. Take the time to browse the boutiques in Tlaquepaque village or even get your palm read in one of the many new-age centres in the town!
Want to spend the night in Sedona? This lovely peaceful cottage is a great option!
8. Slide Rock State Park
Just a bit north of Sedona lies one of the most fun stops on the Phoenix to Las Vegas drive — Slide Rock State Park! This state park is located in Oak Creek Canyon where a natural water slide has formed from years of Oak Creek eroding the red rocks.
If you’re visiting in the warmer months, make sure to pack your swimsuits and get sliding as the current propels you along some of the smoothest rocks that you will ever see. The water can be very chilly, but if you’re visiting on a hot summer’s day, it will be a welcome respite. The natural water slides may be unique, but the beautiful scenery surrounding the park is what makes this an incredible stop on this road trip.
The biggest city outside of the Phoenix metro area on this Las Vegas to Phoenix drive, Flagstaff makes an excellent stop on the road trip and is certainly no ghost town. Home to Northern Arizona Unversity, Flagstaff is reminiscent of an alpine town and, if you visit in the wintertime, you will find the city buried beneath a thick layer of snow. In fact, Flagstaff is home to Arizona’s only ski resort — the Arizona Snow Bowl!
Because it is a university town, there are a lot of cool hangouts, bars and restaurants in Flagstaff, making it a worthwhile stop on this road trip. It is also a stop on the historic Route 66 — a driving route that was opened in 1926 (before the introduction of the interstate system) that connected Chicago to Los Angeles. You can find lots of Route 66 nostalgia and history in Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is also a popular place to visit for outdoor lovers and makes a great jumping-off point to visit the Grand Canyon, as it is the largest city in Northern Arizona.
10. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Located about 30 minutes driving north of Flagstaff lies another of Arizona’s underrated natural sites — Sunset Crater Volcano.
This dormant cinder cone volcano is an incredible place to visit no matter the season (it’s particularly beautiful in the winter months buried underneath the snow) and makes for a unique stop on the Las Vegas to Phoenix drive. When the volcano last erupted around 1085 CE, the environmental and cultural impact shaped the landscape and ethnological makeup of Arizona today.
Entry into the National Monument is $25 per passenger vehicle (so if you have 4 people in your car, it is $6.25 per person) and it is valid for one week upon purchase. There are a handful of free entry days throughout the year, so make sure to check their website to keep abreast of them.
11. Grand Canyon National Park
No list of stops on the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas would be complete without including the most defining landmark of Arizona — the Grand Canyon.
As one of the most popular side-trips from Las Vegas, one of the most visited national parks in the US, and honestly one of the most breathtaking natural sites in the entire world, visiting the Grand Canyon is one of the things that you have to do at least once in your lifetime.
Though many people will drive to a viewpoint, take a few photos, and then get back in their cars and get on their merry way, there is so much more that the Grand Canyon has to offer than this. So please make sure that you take the time to properly do your research before visiting and plan your time at the canyon well. It is truly one of the most spectacular things you will ever see in your life!
If you’re driving from Phoenix to Las Vegas, the easiest place to visit in the Grand Canyon is going to be the South Rim. This is the most developed part of the canyon and has the most amenities, and therefore has the most tourist crowds. If you want to escape the crowds, we recommend heading a bit further afield and visiting the North Rim, however, note that it is only open from May 15 to October 15 every year.
Regardless of which rim you visit, entry into the National Park is $30 per passenger vehicle and there are also a handful of free-entry days throughout the year. Check their website for details on the dates.
Want to spend the night near the Grand Canyon? Consider this peaceful forest cottage located nearby in Flagstaff.
12. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The final stop driving towards Vegas from the Grand Canyon is situated on the border of Arizona and Nevada and is the perfect place to visit for lovers of watersports — Lake Mead!
A man-made lake as a result of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead was first flooded on 30 September 1935 and is also the very first National Recreation Area inscribed and protected by the National Parks Service.
Lake Mead acts as a reservoir and serves water to the states of Nevada, Arizona, and California as well as parts of Mexico. However, due to some severe drought in recent years, the lake is only at about 40% capacity as of 2019.
Entry into Lake Mead National Recreation Area is $25 per vehicle and the entry is valid for one week following purchase. You could also stop at Hoover Dam and see how Lake Mead was created.
Where to Stay on the Phoenix to Las Vegas Drive
Although you can drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas in about five hours, if you want to get the most out of the scenic drive between these two desert cities, you’re going to want to find a place or two to spend the night along the way.
While you’re certainly going to be looking for accommodation in Phoenix and Las Vegas, ideal places to stop for the night along the way include Sedona and Flagstaff.
If you’re wondering where to stay anywhere along the Las Vegas to Phoenix drive, have a look at our top recommendations:
Where to Stay in Phoenix
SureStay Hotel Phoenix Airport — This hotel is an excellent option if you’re travelling on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice cleanliness or comfort while in Phoenix. They are conveniently located in the city’s downtown and breakfast is also included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices
The Saguaro Hotel — This luxury resort located in Old Town Scottsdale is an excellent place to stay in the Phoenix area, especially if you want to be close to some of the best nightlife and restaurants in the city. They have a number of cool and chic rooms available and numerous other amenities to make your time in Arizona’s capital a great one. Click here to see their latest prices
Private Vacation Rental – If you want to stay in your own place in Phoenix, then there a number of excellent options for you such as this centrally located 2 bedroom apartment in Scottsdale. Click here to see the best private rentals in Arizona!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Phoenix!
Where to Stay in Sedona
Sedona Village Lodge – This hotel is an excellent option for those looking for a simple and affordable room in Sedona. Located close to the city centre and also within easy reach of many hiking trails, they come very highly rated and have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available. Click here to see their latest prices
Sky Ranch Lodge — If you are travelling on a slightly higher budget, then this romantic hotel is a fantastic option in Sedona. Centrally located, they have a range of comfortable rooms available and a bar and restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
A Sunset Chateau — This luxury bed & breakfast is the ideal place to stay if you’re looking for a romantic escape in Sedona. Ideally located for hiking trails and exploring the town of Sedona, there are numerous amenities on offer and a great breakfast included in the nightly rare. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Sedona
Where to Stay in Flagstaff
Hotel Elev8 Flagstaff — This hotel is a great mid-range option if you’re stopping in Flagstaff en route to Las Vegas or Phoenix. Located within easy reach of the downtown area, there are a range of comfortable rooms available and the hotel also has a swimming pool and even a sauna on site! Click here to see their availability
Little America Hotel Flagstaff — This is an excellent high-end option if you’re looking for a place to stay in Flagstaff. This hotel has numerous amenities — including a lovely swimming pool and a great restaurant that serves breakfast lunch and dinner — and also has a range of spacious and comfortable rooms available. 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 Las Vegas
Sin City Hostel — If you’re looking to save money on accommodation when visiting the oasis in the Mojave Desert (Las Vegas), then this hostel is a great choice for you. They have a range of dorm beds available, an involved staff, great common areas, and social events organised most nights of the week. Click here to see their availability
Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino — If you’re looking to stay in a nice hotel on the strip without breaking the bank, then this is a great option for you. They have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available, numerous restaurants, bars, and a swimming pool on site, along with a casino and breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their availability
Bellagio — If you want to splash the cash in Las Vegas, then you cannot go wrong with booking a room at the iconic Bellagio. Located directly on the strip, this is one of the most famous hotels in Vegas and it includes countless amenities, a world-class casino, and even one of Sin City’s most famous Cirque du Soleil shows. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Vegas hotels!
The Phoenix to Las Vegas drive doesn’t have to be a boring trek through an uninteresting desert. If you take the time to detour from the typical 93 highway route, you will find that there are numerous worthwhile stops along the way.
Are you planning a Phoenix to Las Vegas road trip? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!