Ultimate California to Arizona Road Trip in 3-5 days (+ Map)

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When I trace back the years and all of my trips, one of my favorite journeys was a California to Arizona road trip where I had the opportunity to stop at national parks, roadside attractions, and other points of interest.

As an east coaster, I am not used to remote places and feeling like a speck in the middle of the desert so I always welcome these types of landscapes because they humble me. This is exactly what the road trip from California to Arizona did to me.

This guide details how to take the ultimate California to Arizona road trip and the places you should stop at and stay in along the way

We are breaking it down day by day considering it is a 5-day trip, but also leaving the road trip open to take for 3-4 days.

California to Arizona road trip - Monument Valley
California to Arizona road trip – Hunts Mesa in Monument Valley

I think 3 days is way too short, but with the limited amount of vacation we Americans have, sometimes we don’t have a choice but to pack in as much travel as possible into a short amount of time.

We are also listing mileage and the approximate driving time between the places. If you have additional questions, please leave a comment or shoot us a message! Thanks!

CA to AZ Road Trip Map

You can check out this California to Arizona road trip map below. I have put all of the main stops on it, including a few highlights along the way which I detail throughout the post.

By removing some of the stops I mention, you can easily reduce driving time if you’re pressed for time or days.

California to Arizona in 5 days on Roadtrippers

For road trips, I use a map app called ‘Roadtrippers’. This app is brilliant and it creates maps like none other – you can see everything from times, points of interest on your route, estimated gas costs, accommodation options, and more!

This is one of my top recommended apps and I use Roadtrippers Plus to create maps for the trips I take. If you want to sign up and create your own, you can save $5 by clicking here and using my promo code BTR5QTP.

Accommodation on the Road

For each location and suggested overnight, we list a couple of options for accommodation. We list a few local hotels and some camping options.

We, personally, love camping and staying outdoors… and this is such a spectacular area that we think you might love doing the same!

Nipton Inn teepees in Mojave california
Nipton Inn teepees

Camping and Glamping

If you’re more into camping or glamping, we have listed some reputable campsites and areas throughout the guide. We love Hipcamp, a site that finds the best campsites in and around the destination you’re heading to.

Haven’t signed up for Hipcamp just yet?  It’s never too late to create an account! You can save $10 by using my referral code.

California to Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

I definitely don’t recommend this road trip unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time in your car on the first day.

If you’ve seen the California desert before, then it may not bother you, but if you haven’t, you will want to factor in an extra day to enjoy the sights along the way.

Day Destinations Approximate Mileage
1 Los Angeles to Kingman, AZ 334 miles (5 hours, 28 minutes)
2 Kingman to Grand Canyon 170 miles (2 hours, 47 minutes)
3 Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend 133 miles (2 hours, 32 minutes)
4 Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley 127 miles (2 hours, 10 minutes)
5 Monument Valley to Sedona 207 miles (4 hours, 2 minutes)

Day 1 – Drive from LA to Kingman, AZ

  • Distance: 334 miles
  • Time: 5 hours, 28 minutes
  • Attractions on the way: California Route 66 Museum (Victorville, CA), World’s Tallest Thermometer (Baker, CA), Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs (Laughlin, NV), Kingman Railroad Museum (Kingman, AZ), Historic town of Chloride (23 miles north of Kingman)
Route 66 in California Yucca Valley USA
On the road in California

On the first day of this California to Arizona itinerary, you will be doing a big distance getting from the Los Angeles area to Kingman, Arizona.

Due to this distance, it is not feasible to stray off a bit to Joshua Tree National Park, unfortunately, but the views from the Mojave Desert are insane, nonetheless.

The driving distance is around 5 and a half hours but it will likely take longer if you plan to make stops on the way.  Below are some highlights of the route from LA to Kingman, Arizona.

California Route 66 Museum (Victorville, CA): This museum is a can’t-miss attraction on your CA to AZ road trip. It is free to visit, wheelchair accessible, and some extremely knowledgeable volunteers working there.

This is the perfect place to learn about the importance of Route 66 in American history and there are heaps of exhibits and memorabilia inside.

Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs (Laughlin, NV): You will pass through a small portion of Nevada on this California to Arizona road trip and that is the perfect place to stop and check out the Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs.

They are listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places and the area is also referred to as ‘Christmas Tree Pass’. There are over 700 petroglyphs here.

Where to Stay in Kingman

There are a variety of places to stay in the city and many are near the best things to do in Kingman!  Here are some hotels, Airbnbs, and camping options in Kingman, Arizona:

Day 2 – Drive from Kingman to the Grand Canyon

  • Distance: 170 miles
  • Time: 2 hours, 47 minutes
  • Attractions on the way: Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn (Peach Springs), Prescott National Forest, Red Butte, Kaibab National Forest
South Rim Grand Canyon before sunset, Arizona, US
Grand Canyon’s South Rim

On the second day of your California to Arizona road trip, you will wake up in Kingman, Arizona, and start your journey to the world-famous Grand Canyon National Park.

The driving distance from Kingman to Grand Canyon is just under 3 hours and you will have plenty of time to explore the park once you arrive, pending you don’t make too many stops along the way.

If you are keen to make a few stops, here are a few recommendations that are situated close to the main highway that you will take to the Grand Canyon.  Please note that any stops will decrease the amount of time you will have at the Grand Canyon!

Grand Canyon Caverns (Peach Springs): The Grand Canyon Caverns are the largest dry caverns in the US and one of the highlights of Route 66. It is also home to the deepest hotel room in the world.

Kaibab National Forest: This large national forest is situated south of the Grand Canyon and has more than 1.5 million acres of gorgeous landscapes.

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon

You will find a variety of great places to stay around the Grand Canyon. Here are our top picks for hotels, camping, and Airbnbs.

Day 3 – Drive from the Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend

  • Distance: 133 miles
  • Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes
  • Attractions on the way: Grandview Point (Tusayan), Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks (Tuba City), Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Highway (Marble Canyon), Waterhole Canyon (Page), Upper Antelope Canyon (Page), Lake Powell
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend

This is one of my favorite stretches of land in the world.  The road trip from Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend takes you past scenery that will blow your mind and when you arrive at Horseshoe Bend, you’re still going to be mind-blown.

Horseshoe Bend is a natural phenomenon near the Utah border that offers a natural vista and a horseshoe meander of the Colorado River. It sits near Page, Arizona, and within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. You can also see Lake Powell from above when you’re at Horseshoe Bend.

If you have an extra day, stay in this area!  You will be near Lake Powell, the Upper Antelope Canyon, and so much more that you can stay here for a week and still be mesmerized by the landscapes.

The following places are worthy stops on your way from the Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend:

Grandview Point (Tusayan): On your way from the Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend, you will pass by one of the most epic views of the Grand Canyon at Grandview Point.

It will give you panoramic views from east to west and you’ll get to see several bends of the Colorado River. This is also where Grandview Trail begins but beware- it is very steep and can be dangerous in winter!

Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks (Tuba City): On the way to Horseshoe Bend from the Grand Canyon, you will pass near Tuba City, Arizona, and the city is home to dinosaur tracks that date back to the early Jurassic Period (200+ million years ago).

It is a great pit stop, especially if you’re traveling to Horseshoe Bend with children.  This is also a fantastic place to put on your Colorado to California itinerary if your final destination is not Arizona.

Where to Stay in Page, AZ & Nearby

You will find a variety of great places to stay around Horseshoe Bend. Here are our top picks for hotels, camping, and Airbnbs.

Day 4 – Drive from Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley

  • Distance: 127 miles
  • Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • Attractions on the way: Upper Antelope Canyon (Page), Inscription House Ruin Spring (Nitsie Canyon), Agathla Peak, Mystery Valley
Monument Valley, Arizona, USA
Monument Valley, Arizona

If you’re loving the area around Horseshoe Bend or want to opt to stick around and visit Lake Powell, it is totally understandable!

However, if you want to see another one of Arizona’s incredible sights, I recommend jumping in the car and driving from Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is one of the most iconic drives in the United States and it will BLOW.YOUR.MIND. You have undoubtedly seen this 17-mile valley drive in Forrest Gump and other cartoons and movies in the US. This is Navajo native land and the sandstone monuments throughout range from 400-1,000 feet in height.

For the best view of Monument Valley, head to ‘The View Hotel’ located in the heart of Monument Valley.

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It is recommended to hire a local Navajo tour guide to show you around the roads because many of them can’t be accessed by a personal vehicle. You will also have a chance to see petroglyphs along the way.

The following places are some of the highlights on the drive from Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley:

Inscription House Ruin Spring (Nitsie Canyon): Nitsie Canyon is where the Inscription House is located and you will be astonished to find a bunch of deep canyons and adobe brick homes located inside.

Agathla Peak: This peak is situated a bit south of Monument Valley and it protrudes 1500 feet above the surrounding landscapes. It is just north of Kayenta and can be seen easily from Route 163. This rock and mountain are considered sacred to the Navajo.

Mystery Valley: Technically part of Monument Valley, this structure is often overlooked as it is a bit south of the famous monuments. It is very off-the-path and features ancient ruins, rock art, arches, and insanely beautiful views. Definitely opt for a quick stop here!

Where to Stay at Monument Valley

You will find a variety of great places to stay around Monument Valley. Here are our top picks for hotels, camping, and Airbnbs.

Day 5 – Drive from Monument Valley to Sedona

  • Distance: 207 miles
  • Time: 4 hours, 2 minutes
  • Attractions on the way: Abandoned Standard Oil Products Building (Tube City), Battle of Mount Gray, Wupatki (Flagstaff), SP Crater (Flagstaff), Sunset Crater Volcano Monument
Chapel of the Holy Cross set among red rocks in Sedona, Arizona
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona

If you want to end your trip in this part of Arizona, that is fantastic and you can make one final stop somewhere in Utah like Arches National Park or over to the Four Corners National Monument.

However, if you need to make your way back to a city, I recommend you start making the trek toward Flagstaff and spend the day in Sedona.

This is a four-hour drive, unfortunately, but the drive is spectacular and there are a few stops along the way to feast your eyes on some of Arizona’s best sights.

Wupatki (Flagstaff): This area is located between the Painted Desert and the highlands of the northern part of Arizona and it is a very special place to make a stop at. It is one of the best places to visit in Arizona!

You will find historic pueblos across miles of prairie land. This place just seems so uninhabitable and barren that it will blow your mind to know that people were able to build homes and raise families in a place with little to offer.

Sunset Crater Volcano Monument: This national monument is located just north of Flagstaff and was formed from a volcanic eruption that happened about 900 years ago. Dogs are not allowed on the trails. Go here for the scenery and landscapes.

Where to Stay in Sedona

You will find a variety of great places to stay in Sedona. Here are our top picks for hotels, camping, and Airbnbs.

If you’re making your way further south toward Phoenix, you can opt for a stay in Prescott. There are many things to do in Prescott and fantastic options for accommodation!

Don’t Have 5 Days for Your CA-AZ Road Trip?

No worries, this California to Arizona road trip can actually be done in a shorter amount of time if you cut out a few landmarks and don’t make as many stops.

California to Arizona Road Trip in 3 Days

If you have merely three days to make it from California to Arizona while seeing some of the highlights, I recommend foregoing the stop in Kingman, AZ on the first night, and driving all the way from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon. This will make for a very, very long day and about nine hours of driving.

However, it will eliminate a day from the trip.  In addition, I recommend knocking off the trip to Sedona in the end if you do not have additional time.

Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, California
If you have more days- you can detour to Joshua Tree

You will also have to compromise some of your time at the Grand Canyon and other sights in order to make it all work. It will be tough, but definitely not impossible.

California to Arizona Road Trip in 4 Days

Four days is far more manageable than the three days listed above. With four days to make the drive from California to Arizona, you can either choose to have a long first day of driving from LA to the Grand Canyon, or you can opt out of the final part that heads to Sedona.

I think everything will truly depend on your schedule and where you’re flying out from.

More Than 5 Days for Your California to Arizona Road Trip

If you have more than five days and want to see additional sights, you are free to stray off the path a bit more and it’s an excellent idea!

Here are some amazing sights and US National Parks worth venturing to in the area:

Joshua Tree National Park: This California National Park will detour you on the first route of your journey, but it is so worth it! This is one of the best US National Parks to visit in December and the winter months, too.

Havasu Falls: This famous Arizona waterfall is in the northwestern corner of the state and actually requires a bit of time to hike to. This is not an overnighter! But, it is worth it if you have extra time in Arizona and want to see one of the most beautiful sights in the state.

Havasu falls in arizona
Havasu Falls

Arches National Park:  If you have more time, definitely consider popping up into Utah for a bit and checking out Arches National Park close to Moab

You will also be located close to Canyonlands National Park, another worthy spot! And, there are some affordable Airbnbs in Moab you can stay at.

Saguaro National Park:  Are you flying in and out of Tucson? If so, Saguaro National Park is a must-see! This US National Park is famous for its saguaro cacti and views. There are also some amazing hikes in Saguaro National Park for active travelers. It really is a wonderful Tucson day trip.

We hope that this guide on how to have an epic California to Arizona road trip helped you plan your trip around the southwestern states. Many of these are great US National Parks to visit in January, February, and the cooler months!

While we have an affinity for US National Parks and included as many as we can, there are still plenty of other sights, museums, and landmarks to check out if parks aren’t your thing! Have a great trip!

Additional Arizona Travel Resources

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3 thoughts on “Ultimate California to Arizona Road Trip in 3-5 days (+ Map)

  1. Andy B says:

    Thanks for your CA – AZ road trip guidance. Would you recommend visiting Monument Valley in late Dec – early Jan. Same question I have for visiting Sedona in winter.
    Does it snow in those 2 parks?

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