The road trip from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park takes you on a journey through rugged, desert landscape and is punctuated with great spas and dining, making it the perfect route for outdoorsy adventurers with a penchant for the finer things in life.
The 552-mile road trip from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park takes about 10 hours to drive. Key sites include Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano, Petrified Forests National Park, Flagstaff, Sedona and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
Opportunities for adventures abound on this road trip through America's West to the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Read on to learn about our favorite routes and things to see and do along the way.
How far is Grand Canyon National Park from Albuquerque, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Direct Route||550 miles||9 hours 50 minutes|
|The Phoenix Route||720 miles||12 hours 20 minutes|
The Direct Route from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park covers 550 miles and takes around 9 hours and 50 minutes of non-stop driving.
If you've got more time, the Phoenix Route will take you through this urban oasis and covers 720 miles, which would take you about 12 hours and 20 minutes if you drove straight through.
There is so much to see on both routes so we recommend taking a minimum of four days for the trip, but you may want to stretch it to a week to give yourself time to explore the incredible natural landscapes and pockets of luxury that you will encounter along the way.
Best road trip route from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park
Both routes include awe worthy scenery and plenty of opportunities to put your hiking boots to good use before passing through Sedona for some rest and relaxation and culminating your journey at the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon.
Chock full of desert scenery, ice caves, and volcanoes, the Direct Route offers the most variety of sights and attractions of our suggested routes.
But if you want to commune with nature and really explore New Mexico and Arizona's forests and nature preserves, then the Phoenix route may be right for you.
The Direct Route
Begin your journey in Albuquerque by taking Interstate 40 (I-40) West to North Acomita Village and head towards “Sky City,” one of North America's oldest continuously inhabited settlements.
The interstate will then take you to the Ice Cave and Banderas Volcano. Here, you can also make a detour to the Bluewater Lake State Park. After your visit, cross into Arizona and head towards Petrified Forest National Park.
Shortly after Joseph City, you can make a detour to Little Painted Desert County Park. Otherwise, keep following the interstate into the heart of Flagstaff.
Take Historic Route 66 and dip south straight into Sedona. You can visit Coconino National Forest while here. Afterwards, head back north and towards Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, which is the youngest volcano on the Colorado Plateau.
Head past Gray Mountain and exit onto AZ-64 West/Desert View Road, which will take you to your magical destination point, the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Phoenix Route
Begin by taking I-25 South out of Albuquerque until you reach the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, which you can make a detour to. Get back on the interstate afterwards and head towards Cibola National Forest.
Next, you will drive through Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and pass by the Morenci Mine in Clifton, Arizona. US-60 West will then lead you to Tonto National Forest.
Follow the state highways and the signs for Phoenix. I-17 will then lead you towards Sedona, from which you'll follow the same routing as above to wind your way to Grand Canyon National Park.
Best places to stop between Albuquerque and Grand Canyon National Park
With so much natural beauty to explore, whichever route you take you'll want to plan a few stops to enjoy the landscape and recharge. There are lots of great options for places to stay and we have included a few of our favorites below.
Soak in Phoenix's Urban Oasis Vibe
Phoenix is two-thirds of the way from Albuquerque and just 3.5 hours from the Grand Canyon. It's a great waylay point if you're taking the Phoenix Route, or you can add it on as a detour by continuing south past Sedona if you're taking the Direct Route.
Surrounded by red and brown desert landscapes punctuated by green cactus and blue sky, Phoenix is known for its amazing year-round sunny weather; is one of the world's premier golf destinations; and has some of the best Tex-Mex you'll find anywhere.
With its adobe-colored exterior and tile roofs, the gorgeous Royal Palms Resort and Spa nestled among citrus trees at the base of Camelback Mountain will make you feel like you're a guest at a sprawling Mexican villa, surrounded by stunning gardens and courtyards.
Close to all the sights and sounds that Phoenix has to offer, it's also an amazing place to recharge after driving. From here you're a short drive from downtown Phoenix and you're also well poised to visit Scottsdale.
We also recommend visiting the Desert Botanical Garden to admire a vast display of colorful flowers and plants that call the desert home. Spring offers the most blooms, but no season disappoints.
Relax and Recharge in Sedona
Just two hours from the Grand Canyon, a stop in Sedona works for either route and is the perfect place to pamper yourself after roughing it in the desert.
Renowned for its red rocks and sandstone vistas and replete with opportunities for outdoor adventures, Sedona also packs plenty of creature comforts like spas and fine dining.
The stunning Enchantment Resort is nestled amongst the red rocks with views of Boynton Canyon. Once you're here you won't want to leave, and with four restaurants; an amazing pool; firepits; and a standout spa, you won't have to.
It's laid out like a series of small adobe houses and blends seamlessly into its surroundings, making it the perfect spot to star gaze from your private balcony after sunset. Located a short distance from the heart of Sedona, this resort is also close to several trails to walk amongst the red rocks.
If you can tear yourself away from your luxurious accommodations, while in Sedona, be sure to visit Red Rock State Park where you can wonder at the diversity of nature and spectacular and colorful rock formations in this 286-acre nature preserve.
Where to stay when you reach Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is a spectacular destination. You will be amazed at the variety of ways you can explore the canyon's rim and floor, including hiking, biking, rafting, and by helicopter or donkey.
However you choose to soak in the majestic scenery of this wonder of the world, the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon offers the perfect perch.
Only a five-minute drive from Grand Canyon National Park, this rustic, southwestern lodge-style hotel offers an indoor pool and hot tub; gym; restaurant; and bar. Within walking distance of other restaurants in Tusayan, it's also on the park shuttle route making it a good base camp for exploring the Grand Canyon.
Things to see on a road trip from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park
There is so much to see and do between Albuquerque and Grand Canyon National Park! We've included our favorites below to make your trip a memorable one:
The Direct Route
- Sky City / Sky City Cultural Center & Haak'u Museum - Enjoy dramatic, otherworldly views while exploring Acoma Pueblo (known as “Sky City”), one of North America's oldest continuously inhabited settlements. You can only see the village as part of a guided walking tour from Sky City Cultural Center and book your tickets in advance to avoid long waits.
- El Malpais Monument - Whether you are looking for solitude or recreation, the volcanic landscape of El Malpais Monument won't disappoint. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try lava tube caving here.
- Bluewater Lake State Park - Boasting views of the Zuni Mountains, this peaceful and scenic lake offers perfect opportunities for recreation. You can camp, hike, horseback ride and fish here.
- Land of Fire and Ice (Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano) - Hike a volcano and into an ice cave at the same location! The hike is not long but does include stairs. Wear good shoes since the rocks can be jagged.
- Petrified Forest National Park - Ponder the vast quantities of petrified food in this expansive and colorful park. Don't forget to bring your camera to take photos of these unique trees.
- Little Painted Desert County Park – With its pastel colors and “soft” rocky landscape, this easy pit stop doesn't disappoint. You can take a break from the road here and stretch your legs.
The Phoenix Route
- Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge - Enjoy an easy hike through the desert landscape and keep an eye out for hummingbirds, blackbirds, ravens, quails, road runners (beep beep!), collared lizards, mountain lion tracks, and more.
- Cibola National Forest - With 1.9 million acres of forests and grasslands and elevations as high as 11,301 feet, you will have no shortage of options for stretching your legs at Cibola National Forest. If you want to test your endurance, try the La Luz trail, which climbs 3,300 feet in just nine miles. This is a haven for hiking, biking, ATVing, and camping. And as a bonus, the high elevations will allow you to (temporarily) escape the desert heat! The sunset here is just spectacular.
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest -You can step up your hiking with its challenging and staggeringly beautiful topography and, with eight cold-water lakes to choose from, it's also a great place to break out your fishing rod. Hike to the top of the Mogollon Rim and get rewarded with the great views of the lowlands below.
- Butterfly Lodge Museum - This quirky roadside museum used to be the hunting lodge of the Indian adventure writer James Willard Schultz. You will feel like you have been teleported back to the 19th century during your visit.
- Tonto National Forest - This three-million-acre park is the largest of Arizona's six national forests. Take a dip in the stunning lake and see if you can spot any of the wild horses that roam that area.
- Phoenix, Arizona - Surrounded by red and brown desert landscapes punctuated by green cacti and blue sky, Phoenix has amazing weather year-round. A literal urban oasis in the desert, Phoenix has great dining and cultural attractions.
On Both Routes
- Flagstaff, Arizona - Surrounded by ample natural beauty, Flagstaff is a year-round destination. You can hike, camp, or bike in the summer and ski or ice stake in the winter. The city also has plenty of cultural offerings to keep you busy no matter what the weather.
- Sedona, Arizona - Known for its red rocks and sandstone vistas, Sedona is renowned for its amazing landscape. Sedona offers spectacular natural beauty; outdoor adventures; and plenty of pampering and find dining.
- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument - Check out this enormous crater, which is the youngest volcano on the Colorado Plateau. Take an easy hike to see the lava flows and the formations they leave behind.
Best time to go on a road trip from Albuquerque to Grand Canyon National Park
Though it gets colder in the winter and can snow, you will enjoy the Grand Canyon and the astounding natural beauty of its surrounding areas at any time of the year.
Temperatures vary from rim to rim and there's a 15-to-20-degree difference in temperature between the top and lower Grand Canyon, so plan accordingly. The West Rim is the warmest year-round and is where you'll find the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
The South Rim is the most popular since it has moderate temperatures and can be accessed year-round. Since it is more remote and gets snow, the North Rim is only open seasonally from May 15 to October 15.
Summer is the peak season for the Grand Canyon. But if you can brave the crowds, the summer weather is perfect for rafting and other sports in the Canyon. Temperatures range between 80 degrees Fahrenheit at the South Rim and 100+ degrees at the bottom of the canyon between June and August.
Contrary to what you might think, it can get fairly cold and even slow in the Grand Canyon, so if you decide to go in the winter plan accordingly. That said, you could end up having the place virtually to yourself!
Spring and fall are the perfect time to visit the Grand Canyon since the weather will be excellent and the crowds greatly reduced from their summer swells.
If you visit in the late summer or early fall, you might be able to catch the area's most well-known festival, the Grand Canyon Music Festival, which happens annually in late August or early September.