Things to Do and See on Phoenix to Albuquerque Road Trip
Taking the scenic route from Phoenix to Albuquerque is one of life’s greatest joys. Sure, it takes a little longer than the direct road, but it’s worth every minute of your attention. From the desert roads and canyons out of Phoenix to the rolling hills of cool green hues that signal the shift into New Mexico, ever landscape is its own postcard, begging you to take in the wild beauty around each curve.
Bring along a map to ensure that you won’t miss anything – from panoramic vistas of rolling hills to hidden meadows teeming with deer. Those wanting to make a night out of it can stay in their rental vehicle and enjoy campgrounds equipped with fire pits and bathrooms. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, pitch a tent beneath a starry sky for the full nature experience.
Of course, with any journey comes a few warnings, and this route is no different. But don’t let that dissuade you; if you have a large vehicle, all you need to do is drive cautiously and keep your eyes peeled! The lack of breakdown lanes and hard shoulders on some Arizona State roads can be tricky, so go at a slow speed and take your time – they’ll be just as rewarding as the vistas along the way.
If you’re looking for more than just transport between two states, the Phoenix to Albuquerque scenic route offers miles of an unforgettable adventure. Every glance of the horizon has its own quiet serenity and stories still untold – an invitation for you to slow down and enjoy the ride.
Day 1 – Tonto National Forest
Just outside of Phoenix lies Tonto National Forest, a sprawling protected area that spans nearly three million acres of breathtaking Arizona landscape. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore canyons, take in natural beauty, or simply lounge by one of the many rivers flowing through the area.
Leave the city behind you and head out east on the AZ 260 through the amazing Salt River Canyon towards Show Low and the Tonto National Forest. As you can imagine, the National Park has many trails, opportunities to encounter wildlife, and a lot of trees. The park covers three million acres and is one of the most visited urban forests in the US. If you want to explore, buy a map that shows the trails, lakes, and wilderness areas, so you don’t get lost! There are also special facilities for staying overnight in motorhome rental and campervan hire vehicles, so there’s no rush; take your time, and explore.
Tonto National Forest offers countless activities, making it the perfect spot for a break from your RV journey. There are over 2,000 miles of trails to explore, so you can choose your adventure and discover hidden gems along the way. If you’d rather stay on land, there are plenty of beautiful picnic spots and scenic overlooks – making it the ideal backdrop for an insta-worthy post. For those looking for a little more adventure in their life, rafting and kayaking trips down the Salt River run daily while trophy trout fishing awaits you at Roosevelt Lake.
El Oso Pass
As you make your way through the wide-open landscape of Arizona, be sure to take some time to explore the Tonto National Forest. From rolling ponderosa pine forests and cactus-studded deserts to towering cliffs and canyons, this unique area has something for everyone! Visit El Oso Pass in the Mogollon Rim foothills for a stunning view of the grandiose Tonto Basin and its winding Salt River. Further south lies Bartlett Lake, where you can go boating, fishing, swimming, or just spend a lazy day picnicking by the shore.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Continue on your journey east towards Gila National forest and make sure to stop at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park for a walk among plants from all over the world – including an impressive collection of cacti. You’ll also find hiking trails, camping areas, and bird-watching opportunities here; it’s a great spot to stretch your legs and take in the beauty of the surrounding Sonoran Desert.
Day 2 – Gila National Forest
Today you leave one forest and enter another. This time it’s the Gila National Forest. Follow the road that travels through Pinetop Lakeside, no points for guessing why it’s called that, over to Eagar. The roads can be rather winding, but the views really make up for that, and there are lots of places to pull over and admire the view.
If you’re looking for a place to camp and take in the beauty of the desert landscape, Gila National Forest is the perfect destination. Located in southwestern New Mexico, this forest is home to some of North America’s last remaining wild places. The 1.6 million acres of wilderness within the national forests span five designated wilderness areas, offering plenty of opportunities to explore on foot or horseback.
A popular hiking trail in the Gila National Forest is Pine Flat Trail, which takes hikers through pine forests, meadows, and onto an open mesa. Along the way, visitors can expect to see a variety of wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, coyotes, bald eagles, and even black bears. The stunning views are sure to take your breath away, with panoramic vistas of the Mogollon Mountains providing a stunning backdrop.
For those who prefer to stay off their feet and take in the scenery from the road, scenic drives abound in the area. From historic mining towns to high mountain roads, you can experience the best of New Mexico from behind the wheel.
After leaving Tonto National Forest, you’ll come across the stunningly beautiful Sonoran Desert. With its vast expanses of saguaro cacti and rolling sand dunes, the Sonoran Desert is one of the most diverse places on earth. The breathtaking views here will stay with you for years to come! As you travel south, make sure to explore the lakes and rivers that dot this landscape.
The Sonoran Desert stretches from southern Arizona to northwest Mexico, and it’s home to cacti, coyotes, and a variety of other unique plants and animals. The landscape reflects its diverse climate—from prickly deserts to oases, high plains deserts to rocky riverbeds. In this beautiful and rugged terrain, you can find everything from hot springs to mysterious petroglyphs carved into ancient rocks by early Native American cultures. You can also explore miles of old pioneer trails, visit historic trading posts, take a ride into the sunset on horseback, or even spot a javelina or two!
Any RV road trip from Phoenix to Albuquerque should really include a stop at Sabino Canyon. Located on the outskirts of Tucson, this spectacular desert canyon offers visitors an unforgettable experience.
The lush flora and fauna make Sabino Canyon a paradise for nature lovers. The rugged terrain and vibrant plants create a vision of beauty that is hard to forget. Towering cacti and fragrant wildflowers line the trails that wind their way through the canyon’s towering cliffs providing breathtaking views.
Visitors can choose from several hiking trails with different lengths and difficulty levels so that everyone can enjoy the canyon. And as if all this wasn’t enough, Sabino Canyon is also home to some of Arizona’s most colorful wildlife, including birds, lizards, and other interesting creatures.
Whether you’re looking for a challenging trek or just want to take in some majestic vistas, Sabino Canyon definitely won’t disappoint!
One of the highlights of this Arizona road trip is Gila National Forest. Be prepared for desert canyons, mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and deep river gorges – all of which offer spectacular hiking opportunities. You’ll find a number of camping spots here as well, so make sure to plan ahead. The Mogollon Rim, which runs through the forest, offers one of the most magnificent sunsets in the country. Keep an eye out while driving or take a break and pay homage to the raw beauty of nature.
You’ll then re-join the I60 and civilization, well, almost because the next stop is El Malpais National Monument, southeast of Gallup. The monument shows some of the world’s oldest Douglas Fir Trees, lava tube caves, a massive natural stone arch, and some interesting lava fields.
When you travel through the Gila National Forest, there will be no shortage of places to stop and explore. From Pinetop Lakeside to Eagar, you’ll take in the beauty of this unique landscape – rolling green hills dotted with evergreen trees, trickling streams, and open meadows that look like something out of a painting. Stop off in Eagar and visit one of the many recreational areas where you can go fishing, swimming, horseback riding, and more.
El Malpais National Monument
No trip to the Gila Forest is complete without visiting El Malpais National Monument. Here you’ll find some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees in the world, as well as lava tube caves, massive stone arches, and other breathtaking natural wonders. The lava fields are especially impressive – as far as the eye can see it’s an unending expanse of desolate yet strangely beautiful rock formations sculpted by ancient volcanism. It’s an experience unlike anything else!
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Once you make it out of the Gila National Forest, your journey to Albuquerque will take you through some truly incredible sights. Along the route, you’ll have the chance to explore the historic Santa Rita copper mine and Museum, navigate the winding roads of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and tour the beautiful ghost town of Steins. Spend a night or two in the quiet desert town of Silver City and don’t miss the opportunity to see one of Arizona’s most beloved rock formations: The Organ Pipes.
Of course, no road trip would be complete without taking in some breathtaking views along the way. Get ready to be blown away by the stunning continental divide running through the Chiricahua Mountains, and breathe in the fresh scent of pines as you drive beneath the Mogollon Rim forest. No matter where you stop along your journey, a Phoenix to Albuquerque RV road trip will provide you with stunning views and unique experiences that you won’t forget!
As soon as you pull into Albuquerque, you’ll be in awe of the city’s stunning landscapes. From rolling hills to dramatic mesas, the views are truly breathtaking. After setting up your RV campground, you’re ready to explore.
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the day, we suggest checking out the ABQ BioPark. One of their most popular attractions is the Rio Grande Zoo, which has more than 250 species of animals, including giraffes, gazelles, kangaroos, and elephants. If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, the ABQ BioPark also has a waterpark perfect for splashing around and having a great time.
For those who prefer a tamer experience, Albuquerque has plenty of cultural attractions. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center offers an impressive collection of artifacts and educational programs about Native American traditions and culture. Or stroll through Old Town Albuquerque, an area full of galleries and museums showcasing local artwork, music, and history. And if all that exploring has made you hungry, get ready for some delicious New Mexican cuisine – from spicy chiles rellenos to mouth-watering biscochitos, you can indulge in all the flavors Albuquerque has to offer.