Road Trip from San Antonio to Grand Canyon National Park
A road trip from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon is indeed an adventure of epic proportions. You'll cross three states and see some magnificent landmarks on the way, and these experiences will make this fantastic journey an unforgettable one.
The 1,110-mile road trip from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon takes over 17 hours to drive. Notable stops on the way include El Paso, Sedona, Big Bend National Park, Gila, Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino National Forests as well as the Meteor Crater.
If you need help with planning, you're in the right place. Keep reading for suggestions on the best route you can take and attractions along the way, plus where to stay and the best time of year to take this amazing trip.
How far is the Grand Canyon from San Antonio and how long will the road trip take?
|El Paso Route||1,110 miles||17 hours 10 minutes|
|Albuquerque Route||1,130 miles||17 hours|
The journey from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon is approximately 1,110 miles and will take over 17 hours of driving without taking any stops or detours into account and is the most direct drive between the two cities.
This route mainly follows interstates and main highways, making it a straightforward drive. You will drive through charming cities like El Paso and Sedona as well as some of the most gorgeous national forests of New Mexico and the mountains of Arizona.
This route choice is suitable for nature lovers, but visits to national parks would require making detours that could extend the trip's duration.
Alternatively, you can follow the Albuquerque Route, which will take you an extra 20 miles of driving and take you to your destination in about 17 hours. This route also takes place on interstates and highways, promising a smooth drive.
You will drive through the curious city of Roswell and vibrant Albuquerque as well as the Great Plains and some fantastic national parks on the way. You will also have the option to visit Santa Fe if you choose this route.
If you are pressed for time, it is best to keep in mind that there might be traffic congestion as you approach major cities such as El Paso and Albuquerque, so it is a good idea to avoid rush hour while driving into these areas.
You can do this road trip in 3 days on both routes, but we recommend at least 5 days to make the best of what both these routes offer.
Best road trip route from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon
When planning a road trip from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon National Park, you will notice that there are several route options. While most take about the same amount of driving, some are more scenic and therefore more exciting.
Therefore, the best route will depend on your preferences as to what to see and do. Miles and hours covered are similar, so, in order to choose, think of which landscapes are more appealing to your taste.
Both routes offer different attractions and landmarks to marvel at, so it is an option to follow one on your way to the Grand Canyon, and the other one on the way back to make the most of your time.
El Paso Route
Heading out of San Antonio, take Interstate 10 (I-10). You will have the opportunity to visit the Caverns of Sonora and Ozona Museum right on the interstate.
You can take a detour to the Big Bend National Park when you reach Fort Stockton by taking Exit 259A and following US-385 past Marathon.
Keep following I-10 if not making this detour, driving across the desert plains before arriving at El Paso. After your visit, you will enter New Mexico as you leave the city, following I-10 as you keep Franklin Mountains State Park on your right.
You will have the option to make a detour to White Sands National Park when you arrive at Las Cruces by following US-70. If not, you can keep following the interstate towards Deming.
Take Exit 82A to get onto US-180, which will take you towards Gila National Forest and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest before merging onto US-191 as you enter Arizona. Turn right to stay on IS-180 past St. Johns.
Drive past Petrified Forest National Park and merge onto Interstate 40 (I-40) in Joseph City towards Flagstaff, where you can take a detour to visit Coconino National Forest.
After your visit, continue on the interstate and take Exit 165 just before you reach Williams for AZ-64. Drive through Kaibab National Forest to reach your destination, the Grand Canyon National Park.
Follow I-10 out of San Antonio towards Junction and drive past Cascade Caverns and Stonehenge II at the Hill Country.
Take Exit 456 at Junction for US-377 and then US-83 towards Eden. Here, turn left onto US-87 towards San Angelo, where you can visit San Angelo Nature Center for a break.
Drive through Big Spring State Park and turn onto US-380 as you arrive at Brownfield. Here, you can take a detour to visit Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark by following US-62.
Keep following US-380 if not making this detour and cross into New Mexico. Follow the highway into Roswell, where you can visit its famed International UFO Museum before turning right onto US-285.
Turn left at Clines Corners to merge onto I-40 and enter Albuquerque. You have the option to visit Santa Fe while in this area if you aren't pressed for time.
Simply follow Interstate 25 (I-25) to reach this fantastic city, where you can visit Santa Fe National Forest as well as urban attractions such as Meow Wolf Santa Fe and Santa Fe Plaza.
Get back onto I-40 as you exit the city and drive past El Malpais National Monument and Bluewater Lake State Park. You will enter Arizona past Gallup.
Drive through Petrified Forest National Park and past Apache Death Cave towards Flagstaff. Passing through Coconino National Forest, take Exit 165 as you approach Williams to get onto AZ-64, which will take you to the Grand Canyon.
Best places to stop between San Antonio and the Grand Canyon
You can do this road trip in 3 days on both routes, but we recommend at least 5 days to make the best of what both these routes offer, given that you will have a lot of attractions to see and detours to make.
Here are our suggestions for some of the best places where you can make a stop to have a comfortable night and explore the nearby attractions.
Listen to the call of the mountains in El Paso
El Paso is located about 8 hours from San Antonio, making it a perfect stop during the first leg of your trip. Lovingly called "Sun City" due to the fact that the city has an average of 302 days of sun, El Paso is the largest American city on the Mexican frontier.
Franklin Mountains State Park borders the city and is a must-visit for all nature lovers. Here you can enjoy great opportunities for hiking, biking and rock climbing if you are feeling outdoorsy.
The best place to refresh and revitalize during your stay in El Paso is undoubtedly SpringHill Suites by Marriott El Paso. This hotel will become your home away from home with its larger than average rooms, serving as a great base for exploring the gorgeous surrounding wilderness.
El Paso Zoo and the El Paso Museum of Art provide fantastic opportunities to spend a day out in the urban center of the city, both of which are located a short drive away from the hotel. If you have the proper paperwork with you, you can also travel across the border to visit Mexico.
If you would rather just relax and reenergize for the trip ahead, you can opt to stay in and enjoy the hotel's outdoor pool in the sunny city and sport a fabulous tan for the rest of your trip.
Explore the urban heart of Santa Fe
Located about 7 hours from the Grand Canyon (via the Albuquerque Route), Santa Fe is a slight detour off the interstate, but one well worth making because this city has so much to offer from urban adventures to the scenic outdoors.
There are many accommodation options in the city, but none of them can quite top the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. This lodge-style luxury hotel boasts stylish rooms with fireplaces as well as a stellar location downtown.
New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe Plaza, Georgie O'Keeffe Museum and IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts are a walking distance away.
If you are looking for a unique experience, you can visit Meow Wolf Santa Fe, one of the most popular attractions in the state let alone the city. This mysterious house, a short drive away, is designed to tell a story through unique and immersive art installations with multimedia elements.
Santa Fe National Forest is located nearby as well, where you can admire rolling hills, lush greens and crystal clear waters. After your activities, you can head over to the hotel to enjoy a cocktail or a much-deserved meal at the bar or the restaurant on-site.
Overnight Stay in Flagstaff
About 1 hour and 20 minutes away from the Grand Canyon, whichever route you are taking, Flagstaff has attractions for all types of visitors: climbing, hiking, skiing are all popular activities in the city, in addition to a vibrant nightlife and local culture.
Situated conveniently just off the interstate, the luxurious 4-star Little America Hotel is one of our top choices for a stopover in Flagstaff. The hotel sits on 500 acres of stunning Ponderosa Pine Forest and features stylish and comfortable rooms.
You might have your eyes set on the Grand Canyon experience, but Walnut Canyon National Monument is a hidden gem and a must-visit scenic location in the area, located about 10 minutes' drive from the hotel.
The Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Coconino National Forest are all well worth visiting during your stay. If you are feeling adventurous you can also hit the slopes of Arizona Snowball, one of the most scenic skiing areas in the state.
There are great attractions for those who prefer to stay in the city; Lowell Observatory is one of the most popular nighttime destinations in Arizona that is located nearby the accommodation. While there you can also visit the Historic Downtown and Railroad District.
Upon your return, cocktails and appetizers await you at the hotel's Little America Restaurant and Bar, which also serves delicious meals as a perfect way to wrap up your day.
Things to see on a road trip from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon
The road is long and so is the list of possible stops that you can make along the way. This is a great opportunity to take things slow and enjoy all of the beautiful sites you find on your path.
Here are our top suggestions for what to see on the route from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon.
El Paso Route
- The Caverns of Sonora, Sonora - Internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet, these must-visit caverns mark the halfway point between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park.
- Ozona Museum, Ozona - Also known as the Crockett County Museum, you will embark on a historical journey of West Texas settlers as you walk through exhibitions of fossil corrections and Native American artefacts.
- Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale - Bring your snorkeling gear to dive into the crystal-clear water of the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool. You can also swim or relax under the trees in this park.
- Big Bend National Park, Texas - Big Bend National Park is one of the most beloved and iconic national parks in the USA which offers opportunities for hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding, as well as biking and vehicle tours.
- White Sands National Park, New Mexico - A favorite destination among locals and tourists alike, these pure white sands are known as one of the world's great natural wonders.
- Meteor Crater, Winslow - This national landmark is also known as the Barringer Crater and is the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth with guided tours.
- El Paso, Texas - Known for its beautiful sunny days and incredible food culture, El Paso is home to the Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso Museum of Art and El Paso Zoo among many other exciting attractions.
- Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture, Las Cruces - This off-beat and quirky landmark was constructed using cast-off materials such as old sneakers and electronics.
- Gila National Forest, Silver City - This forest boasts impressive and rugged mountain scenery and a well-known wilderness area. You can enjoy recreational activities all year round here.
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville - A physically challenging and rewarding recreational landscape, this national forest is home to hiking trails of all levels.
- Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona - This forest park is a recommended stop for hiking and camping in the wilderness. You can also check it out and see the famous petrified logs and parts of the painted desert.
- Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos - Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site which is a huge and vast site that offers numerous trails.
- Roswell, International UFO Museum, Roswell - inspired to the UFO incident of 1947, a museum dedicated to extraterrestrial events and sightings.
- Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff - This national forest is rich in different landscapes, such as deserts, pine forests, mesa or volcanic peaks. Its most peculiar site is the suggesting cinder cone of Red Mountain, which is of volcanic formation.
- Cascade Caverns, Boerne - You can encounter endangered species in this historically, geologically, and biologically important limestone cave system.
- Stonehenge II at the Hill Country, Ingram - Created as an art project by the late Al Shepperd, this quirky concrete sculpture is built in homage to the original Stonehenge monument in England.
- San Angelo Nature Center, San Angelo - A collection of animals, along with related exhibits and information, that are native to the Southwest, you can see bobcats, skunks, a porcupine, and many species here.
- Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark, Lubbock - This important site is an archaeological preserve containing evidence of peoples on the Southern High Plains for almost 12,000 years.
- Roswell, International UFO Museum, Roswell - Inspired by the UFO incident of 1947, this museum is dedicated to extraterrestrial events and sightings.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico - A diverse and dynamic city which is also a top arts destination, full of theaters and cultural centers, and is also famous for hosting the Hot International Balloon Fiesta.
- Santa Fe, New Mexico - A culturally rich city in food, architecture and art, thanks to its Creole Native-American and Spanish heritage. There are many urban attractions you can enjoy in this city such as Meow Wolf Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe Plaza, Georgie O'Keeffe Museum and IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.
- Red Rock Park, Gallup - Ten miles out of Gallup, this state park is famous for its red-colored earth that rivals the Monument Valley.
- Acoma Pueblo (Sky City), New Mexico - It's a cultural milestone for New Mexico, as the home of the Anasazi people, and now popular destination to experience Native-American culture and produce.
- El Malpais National Monument, Grants - You can explore amazing geologic features such as lava flows, cinder cones, lava tube caves, and sandstone bluffs in this richly diverse volcanic landscape.
- Bluewater Lake State Park, New Mexico - Enjoy camping, hiking, birding, horseback riding and fishing in this oasis in the rolling grasslands.
- Sedona, Arizona - Known for its mysterious endemic energy with the environment, the city is the perfect place to combine your journey with a spiritual one, taking advantage of numerous trails and outdoor activities.
- Flagstaff, Arizona - A recommended starting point to explore the Grand Canyon, its culture and local food will make it a perfect stay. It an also be used as a base to explore The Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Coconino National Forest.
- Apache Death Cave, Winslow - Said to be the site of a tragic massacre of the Navajo by the Apache, this cave offers insight into the history of Native American tribes.
- Walnut Canyon National Monument, Flagstaff - Marvel at remarkable geological rock formations and ancient cliff dwellings across curved canyon walls.
Best time to go on a road trip from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon
Better be ready for everything on a road trip, and this also applies to what weather to expect and how it will affect your journey.
As it is a peculiar site, the Grand Canyon itself influences weather; the North Rim is expected to have the heaviest snowfall in winter with temperatures that can drop below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
The driest season is late spring until the beginning of summer, while late summer is usually “monsoon season”, which diminishes in mid-September.
Summer is the peak tourist period as well as the weather being hot with temperatures around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit depending on where you are on the route. This makes spring or autumn the best time to fully enjoy your trip.
Another element to keep in mind is how to embrace the local energy of so many destinations, and festivals are a perfect opportunity to seize it. The most recommended one is the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, a nine-day event held the first week of October.
Make sure not to miss out on the famous Fiestas of Santa Fe which aim to honor the town's citizens and their descendants, celebrated with parades.
Having said that, where you choose to stop and personal preference will make a significant difference in deciding the right time to go, so keep an eye on the various attractions and how to better enjoy them at different times of the year.