Sedona, Arizona, USA downtown and mountains.
Sean Pavone/

Road Trip from Santa Fe to Sedona

Updated by Pat Dorri on February 28 2024

Are you looking for a unique way to discover the red rock formations and spiritual energy of Sedona? Then embark on this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona which is teeming with breathtaking views, natural wonders, historic landmarks, and recreational outdoor activities.

The 520-mile road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona, Arizona takes almost 9 hours to cover weaving through Holbrook, Sunrise Park Resort, Woodland Lake Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Show Low, Payson, White Mountain Nature Center, and Jerome.

So, are you ready to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings of the American Southwest? Then keep reading to discover the best routes, things to see them, places to stay overnight and the best times for this trip.

How far is Sedona from Santa Fe, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Santa Fe and Sedona
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Flagstaff Route420 miles6 hours 40 minutes
The National Forests Route520 miles9 hours

Giving you a shorter drive, The Flagstaff Route is 420 miles long and takes 6 hours and 40 minutes to cover with highlights including the Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon which has been nicknamed as the 8th wonder of the world.

The National Forests Route is longer, covering 520 miles and taking almost 9 hours to cover. Filled with scenic areas and national forests, this route will give you several frame-worthy pictures.

As this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona is abounding with awe-inspiring views and invigorating outdoor activities, we suggest you take at least 4 to 5 days to thoroughly immerse yourself in it.

Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park
Journey along the impressive Flagstaff Route and be rewarded with a stop at the unique landscape of Petrified Forest National Park.
Michael Kaercher/

Best road trip route from Santa Fe to Sedona

Offering similar vibe, both the routes on this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona are equally exciting, which means that your decision comes down to how long you want this trip to last.

With direct and fast roads, well-maintained highways, and stunning scenic views, the Flagstaff Route takes you through the Petrified Forest National Park. It also gives you a chance to take a detour to the Grand Canyon. The overall vibe of this route is laid-back and relaxed.

In addition to scenic beauty, this route will also take you through historic and quaint towns, including Flagstaff which is known for its Route 66 nostalgia and charming downtown area. It also includes higher altitude areas.

The National Forests Route will take you through the stunning White Mountains of Arizona where you can explore the natural beauty of the region and have a more secluded experience. This route has fewer iconic landmarks with fewer towns and amenities. You will also get limited cultural experiences.

The Flagstaff Route

For the longer route, get on Interstate 25 (I-25) S from Old Santa Fe trail and Old Pecos Trail. Follow this interstate to Locust St NE in Albuquerque. Explore a blend of Southwestern and Native American cultures here before heading north.

Get on I-40 W from 4th St NW and follow it to Park Rd in Petrified Forest National Park. Marvel at the awe-inspiring petrified trees before following I-40 W to Butler Ave in Flagstaff. This is the perfect place for you to stay overnight and relax before covering the second leg of your journey.

Once you've caught your breath, follow Historic Rte 88 to I-17 S. Keep driving on this Interstate to reach Yavapai County. From there, take AZ-179 N to your destination in Sedona.

Very popular in New Mexico chile peppers are dried in a private yard in the Old Town Albuquerque
Meander through the historical old town of Albuquerque, where traditional chilli drying and local customs can be spotted throughout the town.
Victoria Ditkovsky/

The National Forests Route

To weave through national forests on this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona, get on I-25 S from Old Santa Fe trail and Old Pecos Trail. Then follow this interstate to US-180 BUS S in Springerville. Then follow AZ-260 W to W Summer Haven Ln in Pinetop-Lakeside.

Stop here to a day and explore the stunning natural beauty that it offers before hitting the road again. Take AZ-260 W to W Deuce of Clubs in Show Low. Then keep following this highway to reach Payson.

From there, you will have to change the interstate and get on I-17 N in Camp Verde. Follow this interstate to your destination in Sedona.

Pecos National Historical Park, located within New Mexico on the Old Santa Fe Trail.
Travel across the Old Santa Fe trail and stop off at incredible sites such as Pecos National Historical Park.
Robert Waltman/

Best places to stop between Santa Fe and Sedona

Offering a blend of natural beauty and spiritual experiences, with a focus on outdoor activities and sightseeing, this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona will give you tons of stories to share. Continue reading to discover the best places to stop overnight and our recommendations for hotels.

Answer the call of the wild in Flagstaff

On the Flagstaff Route of this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona, Flagstaff sits 2 hours into the drive. This place boasts stunning natural scenery, with the San Francisco Peaks and Coconino National Forest offering a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

Located in northern Arizona at the base of San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff has a charming downtown area with historic Route 66 landmarks, local shops, and restaurants. The city has a diverse community with a rich history and culture.

Arizona, Sedona, Cathedral Rock mountain range; in the Coconino National forest.
Make sure to visit the beautiful Coconino National Forest, taking one of many amazing trails to explore some of the 1.8 million acres of lush forests.
John Charboneau/

A must-visit attraction in Flagstaff is the Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered in 1930. It offers visitors a chance to view the night sky through its state-of-the-art telescopes.

If you are looking to spend time outdoors, Walnut Canyon National Monument contains well-preserved cliff dwellings that were once home to ancient Puebloan people.

Located just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona Snowbowl is an amazing ski resort with plenty of skiing and snowboarding opportunities, so you are in luck if you are an adventurous soul visiting in winter.

Our vote for accommodation goes to Little America Hotel. This hotel provides comfortable rooms with modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and premium bedding. It also has several on-site dining options, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and a spa with excellent customer service.

The location of this hotel is a major advantage as it is in close proximity to the city center and Interstate 40. This allows easy access to several attractions including the historic downtown area of Flagstaff with its numerous shops, restaurants, and breweries.

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Enjoy breathtaking scenery in Pinetop-Lakeside

If you have decided to take the National Forests Route, Pinetop-Lakeside is the perfect place to stop overnight after covering approximately half of the drive. This place is known for its beautiful scenery with nearby forests, lakes, and hiking trails to explore the White Mountains of Arizona.

If you enjoy recreational outdoor activities like camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, and boating, this place will be your wildest dream come true.

A reflecting pool along Billy Creek on the Moonridge trail in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona.
Navigate through the lush woodlands and pretty waterways across Pinetop-Lakeside.
Dennis Swena/

The area is also known for its winter sports such as snowboarding, skiing, and tubing during the winter months. Visit the Sunrise Park Resort which offers over 800 skiable acres and is perfect for winter sports enthusiasts.

If you are looking for something less strenuous, you can also yourself in nature at Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. This is a vast forest that covers over 2 million acres and offers endless chances for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

For a comfortable and relaxing stay, we recommend WorldMark Pinetop with spacious and fully equipped condos which offer plenty of room to stretch out and unwind. The outdoor pool and hot tub peel away your exhaustion after a long day of driving.

Additionally, this resort is conveniently located just off of Highway 260, making it easy to access and a good choice for those looking to continue their journey the next morning.

Where to stay when you reach Sedona

Once you reach Sedona, we recommend you ease off at The Wilde Resort and Spa, Sedona. This boutique hotel offers spacious and comfortable rooms and suites with modern amenities, making it a great place to relax and unwind after exploring the area's natural beauty and attractions.

The on-site restaurant, Reds serves delicious American cuisine if you have worked an appetite after your drive. You can also enjoy the outdoor pool, hot tub, and spa for additional relaxation before or after your meal.

This hotel boasts a convenient location in the West Sedona area with easy access to the Red Rocks and hiking trails. It also offers a complimentary shuttle service to and from downtown Sedona, so you don't have to navigate the area on your own.

Things to see on a road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona

From historic districts and space observatories to stunning national forests, this road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona is teeming with adventure. Whether you are a nature lover, a history buff, or both, you will find yourself enjoying the places on both routes for this trip.

The Flagstaff Route

  1. Old Town Albuquerque, Albuquerque – Explore beautiful adobe architecture and vibrant culture in this historic district with over 150 shops, restaurants, and galleries.
  2. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona – Visit the rich cultural history of this unique national forest with colorful petrified wood, ancient petroglyphs, and stunning desert landscapes.
  3. Painted Desert, Arizona – Tour this striking landscape located within the petrified national forest to take in its colorful rock formations and badlands.
  4. Meteor Crater – Discover fascinating geological history in this massive impact crater, created by a meteorite strike over 50,000 years ago.
  5. Walnut Canyon National Monument – Featuring ancient cliff dwellings and stunning canyon views, this national monument is a must-see for its rich cultural history and beautiful natural surroundings.
  6. Lowell Observatory – Unleash your inner space explorer in this historic observatory that played a key role in the discovery of Pluto.
  7. Grand Canyon National Park – Make a detour to one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world to enjoy breathtaking views of nature.
Striking colorful rockfaces at Painted Desert, Arizona
Explore the colorful and mesmerizing layers of rocks that are dotted throughout the Painted Desert.

The National Forests Route

  1. Sunrise Park Resort, White Mountains – Offering some of the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in Arizona, this resort has over 800 skiable acres and a variety of runs to suit all skill levels.
  2. Woodland Lake Park, Pinetop-Lakeside – This scenic park is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors with a picturesque lake, picnic areas, and hiking trails.
  3. White Mountain Nature Center, Pinetop-Lakeside – Interactive exhibits and educational programs on the wildlife and ecosystems of the White Mountains make this a great place for nature lovers.
  4. Jerome – Explore this historic mining town that has been transformed into an artsy, bohemian community with a mix of history, culture, and art.
  5. Montezuma Castle National Monument – Featuring well-preserved cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua people over 800 years ago, this national monument is a must-see for its fascinating history and architecture.
Montezuma Castle National Monument and ancient cliff dwellings
Marvel at the Montezuma Castle National Monument nestled into the side of the cliff face, with its jaw-dropping architecture.

Best time to go on a road trip from Santa Fe to Sedona

Sedona is a year-round destination, but the weather and availability of outdoor activities can vary depending on the season. It offers outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming as well as indoor activities such as art galleries, museums, and spas.

Summers in Sedona are hot and dry, with average temperatures ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Tourism tends to peak during these months due to the amazing opportunities for outdoor activities.

Downtown Tourist Marketplace, Sedona
Take time to wander the traditional and eclectic Sedona downtown shops and amusements.
Lynne Neuman/

Sedona in winter is generally mild and pleasant with fewer crowds and lower hotel rates. Average temperatures range from mid-50 degrees Fahrenheit to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit but can drop as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night with occasional snow, so check ahead for weather and road conditions.

Additionally, some of the major attractions may have reduced hours or be closed during the winter months.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit Sedona due to the mild weather, beautiful scenery, and numerous outdoor activities. Average temperatures are between mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit and mid-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Tourism during these times is high and you may find increased hotel rates.

Spring in Sedona offers a chance to take in jaw-dropping views of wildflowers in bloom while fall foliage and outdoor activities such as hiking and sightseeing make the fall scenery appealing.

Sedona is known for several events and festivals throughout the year. Sedona International Film Festival takes place annually in late February or early March and features a wide range of film workshops, panels, and other events.

With yoga classes, workshops, and lectures from world-renowned teachers and practitioners, Sedona Yoga Festival is held in March annually. Sedona Arts Festival in October features over 125 artists showcasing their work in a variety of mediums as well as live music, food vendors, and other activities.

If you are visiting in the fall, Sedona Winefest takes place in late September with over 20 wineries from the Verde Valley region, food vendors and live music.