10 Best Stops on a Phoenix to Moab Road Trip

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by Kate Stewart

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Taking a Phoenix to Moab road trip is a great adventure through the desert Southwest. You’ll see some of the most incredible geologic features in the United States, including the Mogollon Rim, the Colorado Plateau, and the mysterious red rock formations in northeast Arizona and Southeast Utah that have made the area a sacred site for the Navajo and other tribes.

This area has drawn travelers from around the world to see the beauty of these sites while hiking and camping. You may be headed straight to Canyonlands or Arches National Parks—or maybe both—from Phoenix, but you should take the time to stop at some of these sites that are off the beaten path.

Whether you are looking for a challenging outdoor experience or you just want to sit back and enjoy the scenery, there is something for everyone on this journey.

Planning a Phoenix to Moab Drive

On this route from Phoenix to Moab, there aren’t a whole lot of places to stay and fill up your car, particularly when you are driving through sparsely populated areas like the Hopi and the Navajo reservations.

So be sure to stock up on food and know in advance where you are planning to stop for gas. This is not a trip you will want to do on the fly.

Monument Valley at Sunset
Monument Valley at Sunset

While you will not encounter a lot of traffic on this road trip, you will want to watch out for hazards such as rough, unpaved roads and extreme heat in summer.

If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com for great deals as they compare prices across major car rental providers. You can also rent RVs or campervans from Outdoorsy which might be a good option if extending the road trip on routes such as from Moab to Denver.

How far is Phoenix to Moab?

There are several different routes to get from Phoenix to Moab. The fastest route going on I-17 will give you a distance of 467 miles. But you can take a more scenic route off the interstate through the towns of Payson and Winslow on AZ-87 for an extra thirty miles.

The total drive time without stopping will be about seven hours, but you will surely want to break this trip up into two or three days to see these spectacular sites. 

The drive time from Phoenix to Arches National Park, which is north of Moab, will add another 20 minutes or so. If you are driving from Phoenix to Canyonlands National Park, expect to add on another hour.

Beautiful State Route 87 just outside of Phoenix
Beautiful State Route 87 just outside of Phoenix

Best Phoenix to Moab Road Trip Stops

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

Start out your road trip with a stop off of AZ-87 just north of Payson at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

The natural bridge is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and it is made from travertine, a kind of limestone. Visitors can hike on any of the four short trails to see the bridge up close, whether you want to see it from below or above.

You can also picnic at the state park, see the historic lodge and visit the gift shop. The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park charges $7.00 per adult and is open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Tonto Natural Bridge
The Tonto Natural Bridge

Standing on the Corner Park, Arizona

You’ve probably heard the Eagles’ classic song “Take It Easy” a hundred times and know the line, “I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” The city leaders of Winslow loved the song so much, they decided to dedicate a corner of the city to the song and called it Standing on the Corner Park.

At North Kinsley Avenue and 2nd St is a mural dedicated to the song a bronze statue of a man with a guitar named “Easy,” so you can decide if it’s Jackson Browne, who wrote much of the song, including the Winslow line, or Glen Frey, who helped him finish it and recorded it first with the Eagles.

The park also includes a red flatbed Ford, girl not included. It’s also on historic Route 66 and there are several themed stores and restaurants right across the street. One plays “Take It Easy” on a loop on a speaker for fans as they get their picture with Easy.

Historic Route 66 in Arizona
Historic Route 66 in Arizona

La Posada Hotel, Arizona

Just a block away from Standing on the Corner Park is one of the most historic hotels in Arizona. La Posada was founded by Fred Harvey, the famous entrepreneur who started restaurants and hotels across the Southwest as the railroads expanded.

La Posada, his crown jewel hotel, was built to service passengers who stopped in Winslow, the headquarters of the Santa Fe Railroad, likely on their way to the Grand Canyon or other points west.

The hotel, which was restored after being in disrepair for many years, is a magnificent example of the work of Southwest architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who designed the hotel to be imagined as an old hacienda.

Whether you are staying overnight in one of the guest rooms named for one of its old-school celebrity guests of the 1930s, eating at its famed restaurant the Turquoise Room, or just strolling the hotel to see the art, the gift shop, and gardens, La Posada is definitely worth a stop on your itinerary.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

East of Winslow on I-40, stop at Petrified Forest National Park. The park is known for its petrified logs and fossils that dot this badlands high desert landscape, which can be very windy.

Start at the Painted Desert Visitors Center and stop at the historic Painted Desert Inn for amazing views of the painted desert. The Painted Desert Inn, which was built in the 1920s from petrified wood and stone, has exhibits on Route 66 and the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Then you can drive south to see more sites like the Route 66 cutoff, Newspaper Rock (a rock with hundreds of petroglyphs), and Agate House, a structure composed of petrified wood.

You can also see the remains of an ancient pueblo and visit the Rainbow Forest Museum to learn more about the paleontology of the area. The park has seven miles of maintained trails and more for backcountry hiking.

There is no overnight camping allowed. The entrance fee at Petrified Forest National Park is $25 per car. The park is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Head north on Highway 191 through the Navajo Nation reservation to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de Shay), a little-known national monument that rivals any natural attraction you’ll see in the Southwest.

In fact, if you are looking for an alternative to the Grand Canyon to avoid the crowds, Canyon de Chelly may be just what you’re looking for.

The Ancestral Pueblo people settled in the area thousands of years ago, building pueblos in the cliffs. Navajo people then inhabited the canyon until Kit Carson forced them to surrender the area in 1864. A few years later, the Navajo people were allowed to return, and some of them still live in the canyon today.

For a quick stop, you can view the canyon from the north or south sides. The drive along the south side has several overlook stops, including spider rock, two towering rock formations won’t want to miss.

For a day trip or longer, book a tour with one of the approved Navajo guides that can take you into the canyon on an open vehicle.

You’ll learn about the history of the canyon going back thousands of years, the geology, and the spiritual significance of the canyon today. Stops include pueblo structures and petroglyphs, and a chance to buy crafts and jewelry from Navajo merchants who sell their products inside the canyon.

Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

North on Highway 163, straddling the Utah-Arizona border, is a place you may have seen before if you’ve ever watched a classic western movie.

In the 1930s, director John Ford became captivated by Monument Valley and shot Stagecoach and The Searchers there. You may also know it from an endless number of other movies, commercials, and video games.

Monument Valley’s striking red buttes rise up out of the desert in cryptic formations that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen on earth.

After paying an entrance fee of $35 per car, you can stop at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park visitors center to learn more about the area and visit the restaurant and gift shop, which sells Navajo rugs, jewelry, and crafts, among other items.

Then you can tour the valley in your own car, if you wish, or pay for a guided tour to learn more about each of the buttes.

Four Corners, Arizona, Utah, Colorado & New Mexico

Head east on Highway 160 to a site that is more a formality than anything when you are in this region. Four Corners is the only place in the United States where four states meet.

The spot is located in what some people would consider the middle of nowhere, but who can resist the opportunity to stand in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado all at the same time?

After paying the $8 entrance fee at Four Corners Navajo Monument Park, you can wait your turn to get your photo op in the plaza that marks the spot where the four states meet.

Right outside the monument, you can stop at a few food stands to eat fry bread, and you can hike the Dancing Horse trail. On your way out, you can stop at each of the state line welcome signs to get more photos.

The Four Corners Monument
The Four Corners Monument

San Juan Café and Inn, Utah

If you need a bite to eat on the road on your Phoenix to Moab drive, stop by the San Juan Café in Mexican Hat, just over the border in Utah.

The town of Mexican Hat is right on the San Juan River and sits up against a huge red bluff for a dramatic backdrop.

At the café, you can eat bar food as well as Navajo favorites like fry bread and red chile. If you have time to spare, you can drive a few minutes west of Mexican Hat to see Goosenecks State Park, a dramatic bend in the San Juan River.

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

There are many archaeological sites within Bears Ears National Monument including pueblos and petroglyphs, hiking trails, scenic drives, and campsites.

Bears Ears includes the Bears Ears mountains, of course, and other sites like Fry Canyon (a narrow slot canyon), Jacob’s Chair, Big Kachina Panel (a petroglyph site), and River House, a cliff-side multi-room pueblo.

You can stop on the way there at the Bears Ears Education Center in Bluff, Utah, a visitors center maintained by the Friends of Cedar Mesa, to learn more about the area.

The Bears Ears Education Center also offers tips for visiting Bears Ears with respect towards indigenous communities and their sacred sites.

Fry Canyon Ruins in Bears Ears National Monument
Fry Canyon Ruins in Bears Ears National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

South of Bears Ears is Natural Bridges, another National Monument. The three stone bridges were Utah’s first National Monument in 1908. After paying the entrance fee of $20 per car, you can drive the loop road to see each bridge, which are named Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu.

There are four hiking trails to explore around the park. One of them, the loop trail, goes by all three bridges as well as the Horse Collar Ruin, a well-preserved ancient pueblo under a cliff.

You can also camp overnight at Natural Bridges National Monument. It is a designated dark skies area and a great place for stargazing.

From Natural Bridges, you can drive back to Highway 191 and north to complete your Phoenix to Moab road trip, where more adventure awaits you nearby at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Owachomo Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument
Owachomo Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument

Where to Stay on the Phoenix to Moab Drive

If you’re looking for a great place to stop for the night to break up you road trip, then staying near the town of Winslow is a good option. The town and area is a fantastic jumping-off point to exploring Petrified Forest National Park along with being a good gateway to the Navajo Nation.

Where to Stay near Winslow

La Posada Hotel & Gardens – Already featured as a stop on this road trip, this lovely hotel in Winslow is also a great place to spend the night if you’re willing to splash the cash a bit. They have comfortable and stylish rooms available and countless amenities to ensure you have a great stay.

Best Western Plus Winslow Inn – If you’re looking for a predictable and comfortable option in Winslow, then this is a great choice for you. They have countless clean and comfortable rooms available, good facilities, an indoor swimming pool and there is a breakfast buffet each morning.

GreenTree Inn of Holbrook – Another basic but predictable accommodation option, this hotel is located in the town of Holbrook. They have clean and comfortable rooms available, facilities that include a fitness centre, and a great location for exploring the stops on this incredible road trip!

Where to Stay in Moab

Comfort Suites Moab — If you’re traveling to Moab with a bit of a higher budget, this hotel is a fantastic choice for you. They have a number of great amenities, including a heated swimming pool, and countless great rooms available.

Adventure Inn Moab — If you’re looking for a great mid-range place to stay this boutique hotel in Moab is an excellent option for you. They have a number of comfortable and clean rooms available, self-service laundry facilities available, and free parking on site.

Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own private home when visiting Moab than stay in a hotel there are a number of fantastic options available to you. For instance, this beautiful home is located within easy reach of both Moab and the nearby National Parks.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Moab hotels

Beautiful Canyonlands National Park near Moab
Beautiful Canyonlands National Park near Moab

Planning a road trip from Phoenix to Moab is never a bad idea as the drive will take you by some of the most iconic landscapes in the entire American Southwest. There are so many incredible places to stop on this drive that make going this distance absolutely worth the time it takes.

Are you planning a road trip to Moab? Have any questions about the drive? Let us know in the comments!

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Kate Stewart

Kate Stewart is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an archivist specializing in oral history who is based in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in the Midwest. Kate loves driving across the country and exploring the oddities of American and Southwest culture. In her spare time, she is a political activist, country music junkie, and baseball fan.

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