Road Trip Profile: For the city slicker beating the heat, the road from Phoenix is a reprieve of side-of-the-highway small towns and scenic desert driving. Winding canyons, incremental elevation, and an iconic saguaro send-off, this drive is a simple straight-shot up I-17 North.
Pro-tip: With only 2 hours and 15 minutes of drive time, this trip is made for sightseeing. Don’t be afraid of the stop-and-go of a leisurely trek. Experiencing the in-between is half the fun of great road tripping.
Stop #1: Black Canyon City—Rock Springs Café
Pay homage to the travelers of the past with a stop at this locally loved landmark. Only 40 miles outside of Phoenix, and unmissable from the freeway, Black Canyon City is famous for the Rock Springs Café. With an origin dating back to the turn of the twentieth century, Rock Springs was a haven of gasoline, water refills, and tire repairs, as the brand new car technology struggled to make it up the impending canyon. For generations, the café has been serving classic American fare and, of course, their world-famous pies.
Must-see’s & do’s: Stretch your legs on the nature walk around the historic property. Shop for Western ware and local fare at the Mercantile. Take a world-famous pie for the road.
Stop #2: Arcosanti
23 miles down the highway, you’ll come upon an alien-looking structure standing tall in the center of a desertscape. Built in the 1970s as a prototype of a theoretical micro-city, it was intended to blend architecture and ecology in a way that could nurture a hypothetical city’s inhabitants. Arcosanti is a sightseeing and architectural wonder in the heart of the Sonoran desert.
Must-see’s & do’s: Tour the community buildings, bronze foundry, and ceramics studio. Shop for handmade art and artifacts at the Gallery & Gift Shop and grab some quick refreshments at the café.
Stop #3: Camp Verde – Montezuma Castle National Park / Monument
Another half hour of driving on the I-17 and you’ll come upon a window into the past and into a unique part of this land’s history. Montezuma’s Castle was incorrectly named by European-Americans who first came across these ancient architectural remains in the 1860s, who believed that they had found remnants of Aztec dwellings. This monument is actually a portion of pre-Columbian cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. Beautifully preserved, this ancient landmark is just a short nature walk from the informative visitor’s center.
Must-see’s & do’s: Attend a Ranger talk. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the shore of Beaver Creek. Explore the museum and roam the trails through a scenic sycamore grove at the base of towering limestone cliffs.