Arizona & New Mexico

One Week American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary – 21 Best Things To Do in Arizona & New Mexico

To really explore the American Southwest, you’d need weeks or months to see it all. However, doing a road trip in a 4-day weekend or a week is a lot more doable, and that’s how I’ve been able to make it happen. There’s no need to quit your job or have a huge saving, doing a road trip like this, I think, is the best way to explore America.

In this post, I am sharing 21 best road trip stops and things to do in Arizona and New Mexico. This is just a very small part of the American Southwest road trip itinerary, but along with my older American Southwest trips (listed below), I hope this can serve as a good resource and inspiration for you to start planning for one in a near future.

Read Four Day Grand Circle Road Trip & Tops Stops in Arizona & Utah blog post if you’re planning to visit:

Read 8 Day Road Trip Itinerary – Kansas City to Seattle blog post if you’re planning to visit:

ARIZONA

1. Stay, Eat, & Shop in Phoenix, AZ

We started and ended our trip at Phoenix. Phoenix has the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and is closed to well-known cities such as Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

WHERE TO EAT IN PHOENIX:

  1. Cocina Madrigal Tacos + Tequila (4044 S 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85040): This is by far the best Mexican restaurant that I’ve ever been to. I loved everything I ordered and still dream about the thin handmade tortillas. Chef and owner Leo introduced himself to us, and that explained a lot as to why the restaurant has gotten so many 5-star reviews on Yelp.
  2. The Parlor Pizzeria (1916 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016): Great atmosphere, service, and
  3. Taco Boy’s (620 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85004): Taco Boy’s is only 7 minutes away from the airport. I love that they cook their meat in an Open fire of Mesquite Charcoal wood, full of tasty smoky flavor!
  4. Jin Shabu (2055 N Dobson Rd #C5, Chandler, AZ 85224): All-you-can-eat shabu-shabu with great beef and seafood options and a veggie buffet. Hot pot or shabu-shabu makes a great place for groups and to satisfy any soup cravings. Note that this is in Chandler, 30-minute drive Southeast of Phoenix.
The Parlor Pizzeria

PLANT SHOPS IN PHOENIX:

I’m sharing my list of plant shops that I’ve visited during the trip since some of you have asked about it. I did purchase some cacti and brought them on the plane home. In case you’re curious, I got two big cacti on the plane without any questions asked. Plant shops in Arizona are not normal plant shops, and they’re huge nurseries, growers, and suppliers.

  1. Plant Stand Arizona (6420 S 28th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042): 10-acres, 4 green houses and a huge pottery selection
  2. Whitfill Nursery (2647 E Southern Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85040): located next to plant Stand Arizona that is specializes in desert landscaping. They have some houseplants in-stock, so make sure to ask the staff.
  3. Pueblo (1002 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85006): Pueblo is a boutique plant shop that is just a few blocks from downtown Phoenix. Great houseplants and cute gift selection.
  4. Dig It Garden (3015 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016): They have a great variety of unique cacti and indoor plants. I bought 2 cacti here!
  5. Phoenix Desert Garden (3525 E Southern Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85040): Huge cactus selection at great price.

WHERE TO STAY IN PHOENIX:

Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West  (860 N Riverview, Mesa, AZ 85201-3605)

2. Stay, Eat, Shop in Tucson, AZ

WHERE TO EAT IN TUCSON:

  1. Serial Grillers (5975 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712): They’re known for cheesteaks, pizza, burgers and calzones. I got a salad and a Vanilla agave drink, super refreshing!
  2. Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue (5250 E 22nd St, Tucson, AZ 85711): They were out of ribs since we stopped by right before they were closed for the day. Regardless, their briskets and BBQ sauces are some of of the best I have ever had.
  3. Ni Hao Tea (4726 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711): A solid boba tea shop, highly recommend if you’re in Tucson.

PLANT SHOPS IN TUCSON:

  1. Green Things (3384 E River Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718): Green Things is the best nursery out of all of the nurseries I’ve been to in Arizona.
  2. Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery (8005 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85715): There are a lot to see here. I loved walking around and discovered lots of roses, citrus plants as well as cacti.
  3. B & B Cactus Farm (11550 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85748): 2-acre farm specializing in cacti and succulents. Kind people working here, and I did buy a big cactus at a really good price!

WHERE TO STAY IN TUCSON:

Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites (5151 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ, 85712)

Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery
Green Things
B & B Cactus Farm

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ

Saguaro National Park has 2 districts: Saguaro East and Saguaro West that are geographically separated by the city of Tucson. West District has a higher concentration of saguaro cacti, but I think exploring the East District is equally as fun.

Fun facts about saguaro cactus: Saguaro is pronounce as Sa – WAH – ro, and its scientific name is Carnegiea gigantea. It’s native to the Sonoran Desert and has a long lifespan, up to 250 years. Inside Saguaro National Park, there is no specific saguaro recognized as the tallest, and in fact, lots of young and small ones. It’s a slow-growing cactus, and saguaro’s white waxy flowering season is late April through June.

TIPS TO EXPLORE SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK SAFELY & RESPONSIBLY:

Saguaro National Park East aka The Rincon Mountain District (RMD) 

Start your adventure at the Rincon Mountain Entrance Station/visitor center and follow the park map (available at the visitor center). Saguaro National Park East has older saguaro compared to the West side.

3. Do the Cactus Forest Drive, Saguaro National Park East, AZ

Javelina Rock

4. Hike Mica View Trail, Saguaro National Park East, AZ

Saguaro National Park West aka Tucson Mountain District (TMD) 

The Red Hills Visitor Center is a pretty nice place to start your Saguaro West adventure. Saguaro National Park West has higher density of saguaro than the East side with younger saguaro forest.

5. Do the Bajada Loop Drive, Saguaro National Park West, AZ

6. Catch the sunset on Gates Pass, Tucson Mountain Park, Tucson, AZ

these are the chollas, and they will jump at you and stick on you! Stay away from them!

7. Visit Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Tucson, AZ

Mission San Xavier Del Bac

8. Stay, Eat, & Shop in Sedona, AZ

WHERE TO EAT IN SEDONA:

If you’re planning a Sedona trip in advance and have a restaurant in mind, I recommend reserving a table at least a day in advance. Most places get a lot of hype on Google and reviews on Yelp due to such a large amount of tourists. If you want to come in anyway, you might get lucky or certainly feel free to put your name down for the table. There are tons of shops within walking distance, so have a plan.

  1. Hideaway House (pizza, Italian): I decided to put my name down for a table and waited nearly an hour and a half for a table that night here. It’s t night, the restaurant looks normal, nothing really special except the sunflower logos seen everywhere. I had their famous Brick chicken, Peach pizza, French onion soup, and a margarita, and I enjoyed everything. Our waiter is also super nice!
  2. Layla’s Bakery-Cafe (3190 W State Rte 89A #200, Sedona, AZ 86336): We went in for a quick coffee and bakery right after the Devil’s Bridge Trail because I was so hungry. I don’t recommend getting coffee here, and the bakery is just ok. It’s nice at least because of the location.
  3. Wildflower (101 N, AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ 86336): Ok, this place is surprisingly amazing and fresh! The place gives me the Panera Bread vibe, but it is way better! I love that they take orders at the counter or online, and food comes out pretty fast. The place is big enough, so people can get in line indoors. Think desert Sedona heat, and waiting outside is something you don’t want to do, especially when you’re hungry.

WHERE TO STAY: We slept in our car for the night at the Devil’s Trailhead parking lot and started the hike at 4:30 am. Sedona is a very busy and popular town, so I’d say to pick a hotel or a place to stay in a nearby town so it’s cheaper.

9. Hike Devil’s Bridge, Sedona, AZ

Devil’s Bridge at sunrise
Devil’s Bridge at around 7:30 am (Mid-October)
love my new RUMPL blanket!

DEVILS’ BRIDGE OUTFIT: blanket I used for the morning sunrise hike: RUMPL | long-sleeved shirt: LULULEMON Swiftly Tech| leggings: LULULEMON Align leggings | backpack: FJALLRAVEN | bra: GIRLFRIEND Float Lola | shoes: KEEN

10. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Chapel of the Holy Cross

11. Hike Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

Cathedral Rock, AZ

CATHEDRAL ROCK OUTFIT: tank: LULULEMON | bike shorts: GIRLFRIEND | shoes: KEEN

12. Shop at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, Sedona, AZ

Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village is such a charming shopping area with restaurants and lots of unique shops, definitely one of the best I’ve been to. It’s designed after a Mexican village in the 70s, and Tlaquepaque means ‘best of everything.’ I love the stucco walls, cobble-stoned walkways, arched entryways, artsy doors, and live music.

TLAQUEPAQUE OUTFIT: jumpsuit & matching cardigan: FREE PEOPLE | sandals: LUNA SANDALS Retro mono | sunglasses: CELINE | watch: NORDGREEN the Native| ALL JEWELRY: MEJURI

13. Visit the Biosphere 2, Oracle, AZ

Biosphere 2

Rainforest inside the Biosphere 2

kitchen used to be used by the Biospherians

BIOSPHERE 2 OUTFIT: sport bra: GIRLFRIEND Float Juliet |jeans: LEVI’S Made & Crafted Column| linen jacket: thrifted | shoes: DR. MARTENS | mask: GRAF LANTZ

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Located in the Northeastern Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park (1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028) is known for expansive vistas, colorful badlands and moon-like landscapes. It’s named after the petrified wood found in the park. Part of the park also contains a segment of the Historic Route 66 and the National Old Trails Highway.

TIPS TO EXPLORE PETRIFIED NATIONAL PARK SAFELY & RESPONSIBLY:

14. Drive through the Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

The best ways to enjoy and explore the park are to drive from one end of the park to the other and take on a hike. The drive takes about an hour, and there are plenty of pull-outs as well as historic stops along the way. Make sure to acquire the park map or ask a ranger for more information.

We started from the North End and exited the park at the South End. After learning about some must-stops at the Painted Desert Visitor Center, we headed to the Painted Desert Inn and hiked the Desert Inn trail, entrance is right to the left of the Desert Inn. We then followed the park map and drove South. Most of the trails in the park are very short and easy, so I’d call it walking, not actual hiking.

15. Visit Desert Inn & Hike Painted Desert Trail, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

the historic Desert Inn
Painted Desert overlook viewed from Desert Inn

PAINTED DESERT OUTFIT: silk shirt: thrifted | bike 3″ shorts: NIKE thrifted, similar from NIKE & ADIDAS | water bottle: HYDRO FLASK | shoes: KEEN

16. Hike the Blue Mesa Trail, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Blue Mesa Trail

PETRIFIED FOREST OUTFIT: long-sleeved shirt: LULULEMON | hat: LULULEMON | shorts: same 3″ shorts from NIKE | sandals: LUNA SADALS | backpack: FJALLRAVEN

17. Walk the Hike Crystal Forest, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

NEW MEXICO

White Sands National Park, NM

White Sands National Park is in the heart of the Tularosa Basin. It is the world’s largest gypsum dune field that spreads 275 square miles of desert, located in New Mexico.

Fees & permit. We have the America the Beautiful pass.

Sunset at White Sands is the best sunset I have ever seen in my entire life! Camping is not permitted inside the park, so we stayed in Alamogordo, a small but pretty established town nearby, and woke up early for sunrise in the park the next day.

TIPS TO EXPLORE PETRIFIED NATIONAL PARK SAFELY & RESPONSIBLY:

18. Take on a stroll at Interdune Boardwalk, Playa Trail, or Dune Life Nature Trail, White Sands National Park, NM

You can stop by Interdune Boardwalk to learn more about the science, geology, plants, and animals in White Sands National Park. Other easy trails include Playa Trail and Dune Life Nature Trail are great stops, kid-friendly and pet-friendly, too.

Interdune Boardwalk
coolest picnic tables and chairs

19. Hike the White Sands Backcountry Trail, White Sands National Park, NM

watching sunrise at the Backcountry Camping Trail
PENDLETON WHITE SANDS BLANKET

20. Hike the Alkali Flat Trail, White Sands National Park, NM

We did not to the full loop! In fact, we had to climb quite a few high dunes and walked off trail a little bit where there weren’t a lot of footprints on the sand. Our plan was to follow our own footprints back and head back right away at sunset since we were here early fall. Early fall means the sun would set much earlier! 8 pm was the time that the park was closed. Note that it wasn’t a windy day either, so we felt safe and decided to wander off trail for clean sand dunes.

Alkali Flat Trail

ALKALI TRAIL OUTFIT: tube top, short, and shirt: thrifted | hat: MUJI | sandals: LUNA SANDALS

21. Ship Rock, New Mexico

aerial shot of Ship Rock at sunset

SHIPROCK OUTFIT: bra: GIRLFRIEND Paloma | sweater: thrifted | shorts: PATAGONIA | shoes: KEEN

We did make a lunch stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and would love to come back and explore more of what the city has to offer next time.

Guava Tree Cafe (118 Richmond Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106): The best Cuban sandwiches, highly recommend!

Watch my IG-stories for trip highlight, HERE. Thank you for reading, and leave me a comment with any questions about the trip. I’d love to help you out. Have fun and be safe out there!

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2 responses to “One Week American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary – 21 Best Things To Do in Arizona & New Mexico”

  1. Bongo says:

    Wow what a beautiful trip. I’ve been to AZ but I guess I need another roadtrip to hit all those amazing locations. Thank you for sharing.

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An Trieu

Currently based in Seattle, Style & Senses is my digital life and style journal of all things that inspire my senses and beyond. Hope you stay inspired, as always! - An Trieu.

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